Preparing for Battle

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INTRODUCTION: Our message series is called “Overcoming Sin and Temptation.” Jesus said in John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) And that’s really what this study is all about. We want to learn what the Bible says about overcoming sin and temptation so you can avoid the traps of the enemy and walk in the full and abundant life that God desires for you and that Jesus came to bring for you.

Last week we looked at taking care of the basics. Today we will look at preparing for battle. What do you need to do each day to prepare yourself for the attacks of the enemy? (Pray for message.)

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This world is full of traps and snares. You know that sin brings negative consequences to your life. You know that you are going to face temptation to sin every day. You probably even know what some of those specific temptations are.

You have an enemy who comes only to steal, kill and destroy and who is prepared to do battle with you every day. If you want to experience victory, then you also need to prepare. The soldier who enters battle unprepared will experience defeat rather than victory.

If you want to overcome sin and temptation, you need to prepare for battle. And so that’s what we are looking at today. How do you prepare yourself for battle with the enemy? We are going to look at three things today: 1) praise and worship; 2) preventative prayer; and 3) putting on the armor of God.

I. Praise and worship

The first way you prepare for battle is to engage in praise and worship of God. Now that may seem strange to you at first, but it makes sense once you think it through.

   A. The power of praise (2 Chronicles 20:15,21-22)

There is power in praise. When you praise the Lord, you are acknowledging that he is God, that he is sovereign, that he is the one who will ultimately give you victory.

We see this with Israel in the Old Testament when they went into battle against their enemy. In the book of 2 Chronicles we read how a vast army came out to make war against King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah. Judah was outnumbered, and Jehoshaphat knew that they had no power to face this vast army attacking them.

So, what did he do? He went to the Lord in prayer, and God sent him a prophet with instructions. The prophet told him: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chronicles 20:15)
And then what happened next is truly amazing. We read in verses 21-22: “Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.’ 22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.” (2 Chronicles 20:21-22)

When Jehoshaphat went into battle, the praise team went first! There is power in praise. When you praise and worship God, you acknowledge the battle belongs to the Lord, and you allow him to lead the way.

   B. The power of God’s presence (James 4:8)

There is also power in God’s presence. The Bible says in James 4:8: “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” (James 4:8) When you draw near to God in praise and worship, you invite God’s presence into your life. There is power in God’s presence to protect you from sin and temptation. Satan doesn’t want to be anywhere near God and walking closely in God’s presence will protect you from many temptations.

   C. The power of positive affections for Christ (Matthew 13:45-46)

And then, there is also power in developing positive affections for Christ. When you spend time in praise and worship of God, you will grow in your love and affection for Jesus. And the more you love Jesus, the less attractive sin will be to you.

Two hundred years ago a man named Thomas Chalmers preached a famous sermon called, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” In that message he basically said that there are two ways to make a person abandon their love for the world. One way is to show that the world is not worthy of your affections. The other way is to show that God is so much better than anything the world has to offer.

This second way aims not simply to remove your love for the world, but to replace that love with a greater love – your love for God. Thomas Chalmers wrote: “We know of no other way by which to keep the love of the world out of our hearts than to keep in our hearts the love of God – and no other way by which to keep our hearts in the love of God than building ourselves up on our most holy faith.” In other words, how do you grow to love sin less? Only by growing to love Jesus more!

Jesus taught the same thing in his parable of the pearl merchant. We read in Matthew 13: “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46) Here was a merchant who loved his pearls! But when he found the pearl of great price, he willingly sold all the rest in order to gain the one pearl of great value. When you praise and worship God, you grow in your affections for Jesus, and your positive love for Jesus replaces the love that you once had for the things of this world.

And so, the first way you prepare for battle seems strange at first, but it makes sense, doesn’t it? Spend time praising and worshiping God. There is power in praise. There is power in God’s presence. And there is power in developing positive affections for Christ.

II. Preventative prayer

And then, the second way you prepare for battle is to practice preventative prayer. Too often we wait to pray about our sin until after we have committed it. Now, it is important to pray prayers of confession and repentance when we have given into temptation and sinned. But how much better to pray prayers of prevention before the temptation comes. You know that temptation is coming, so you need to pray accordingly. Here are five ways you can pray preventatively against sin.

   A. Pray against temptation (Matthew 6:13, 26:41)

First of all, pray against temptation. Jesus instructs us to pray against temptation twice in the gospels.

First, we read in the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:13: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13) Now, most of us can find temptation just fine all by ourselves. We don’t need anyone leading us there. But this is really just a prayer asking God to protect you from temptation. And then we read Jesus’ words to his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” (Matthew 26:41)

Jesus obviously put a priority on prayer in fighting against temptation. And so, we need to as well. That’s the first way to pray preventively against sin. Pray against temptation.

   B. Pray for wisdom (Proverbs 13:14; James 1:5)

Secondly, pray for wisdom. Wisdom includes both knowing right from wrong and knowing why the right is better than the wrong.

Proverbs 13:14 says: “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.” (Proverbs 13:14) That phrase, “the snares of death” refers to the cycle of temptation where sinful desire leads to temptation which leads to sin which leads to death. Wisdom will protect you from the cycle of temptation, so pray for wisdom.

James 1:5 says: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5) Ask, pray, cry out for wisdom from God. Wisdom will guard and protect you from sin and temptation.

   C. Offer yourself to God (Romans 6:13, 12:1)

Thirdly, offer yourself to God in prayer. Romans 6:13 says: “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God.” (Romans 6:13) Romans 12:1 says: “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1)

Commit yourself to God for godliness. We have spent enough time offering these bodies of ours to sin. Offer your whole body, every part of yourself to God and for his glory. Make it an everyday prayer to offer yourself to God.

   D. Pray for God’s Spirit to fill you and lead you (Galatians 5:16-18)

And then, fourthly, pray for God’s Spirit to fill you and lead you. Remember, what we said last week about taking care of the basics: get saved, get the Spirit, and get strong. Part of preventative prayer is praying for God’s Spirit to lead you.

We read in Galatians 5: “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” (Galatians 5:16-18)

The Holy Spirit is absolutely essential for victory over sin. God gives you the Holy Spirit to make you holy. But you need to yield yourself to the Spirit and pray for God’s Spirit to guide you and lead you through life.

   E. Confess and forgive (2 Corinthians 2:10-11)

And then a fifth way to pray preventively against sin and temptation is to confess your previous sins and extend forgiveness to others. Confessing your sin will help you in praying for victory. Why? Because when you confess your sins, you are less likely to repeat them.

And then make sure you forgive others when they sin against you, too. When you don’t forgive others, you give Satan a foothold in your life. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 2: “If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him … in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” (2 Corinthians 2:10-11)

So, those are five ways you can practice preventative prayer. 1) Pray against temptation. 2) Pray for wisdom. 3) Offer yourself to God. 4) Pray for God’s Spirit to lead you. 5) Confess and forgive.

III. Put on your armor (Ephesians 6:10-18)

How do you prepare for battle? 1) By engaging in praise and worship. 2) By practicing preventative prayer. And then finally 3) You need to put on your armor.

We read in Ephesians 6:10-13: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:10-13) You are in a spiritual battle, and only a foolish solder enters the battlefield without his armor.

Notice Paul says to put on the full armor of God. There are seven components to the Christian’s armor, and you need all seven of them to overcome sin and temptation in your life. Notice also that the armor is designed specifically so you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. So, let’s take a closer look at the armor now and see how each piece is designed to protect against the various strategies or schemes of the enemy.

The first three pieces of armor are found in verses 14-15: “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6:14-15)

   A. The belt of truth protects against the enemy’s lies (14a)
      – John 8:44

First up, we have the belt of truth. The belt of truth protects against the enemy’s lies. One of Satan’s most effective means of attacking us is through lies. The Bible calls Satan a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44) He lies about God, he lies about sin, he lies about the desirability of sin, he lies about the consequences of sin.

What is your defense against the enemy’s lies? The belt of truth! Truth is found in God’s word which is why one of the things we looked at last week in taking care of the basics was spending time reading and learning God’s word.

Now it’s time to put it into action. The soldier’s belt is what holds all the other pieces together. When you put on the belt of truth you commit to believing the truth of God’s word over the lies of the enemy, no matter what. When Satan tells you this is what you should do, this is what everyone else is doing, or this is the easy way, you respond by pointing to Scripture and telling him, “That is a lie. God’s word says different. I am going with God’s word.” That’s how you put on the belt of truth.

   B. The breastplate of righteousness protects against the enemy’s accusations (14b)
      – Revelation 12:10

Next, we have the breastplate of righteousness The breastplate of righteousness protects against the enemy’s accusations. The Bible not only calls Satan a liar. He is also called the accuser. (Revelation 12:10) In fact the word “devil” means slanderer or accuser. The enemy loves nothing more than to accuse you of sin and weakness and constantly failing God.

The soldier’s breastplate covers the heart, and the Bible identifies the heart as that part of us which is especially vulnerable to accusatory or condemning thoughts. (Romans 2:15; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Hebrews 4:12; 1 John 3:19-20) But as a believer you have a defense against those accusing thoughts. The defense is not your own righteousness, but the righteousness you have in Christ. When Satan accuses you of sin, you can reply to him, “Yes, I am weak, and yes, I do often fail God. But I am covered in the righteousness of Jesus, and God views me as he views his own Son. Go away, Satan, and take your accusing thoughts with you!”

   C. Gospel shoes protect against the enemy’s distractions (15)
      – Matthew 28:18-20

Next, we have what Paul calls “your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15) – what I like to call “gospel shoes!” Gospel shoes protect against the enemy’s distractions. This world is full of distractions. The enemy likes nothing more than to distract you from what really matters in life.

We have been given a commission from Jesus to go into all the world and share the gospel. (Matthew 28:18-20) Your shoes are what allow you to go! Each morning you need to put on your gospel shoes and ask Jesus how you can help fulfill his commission today. Putting on your gospel shoes will help you to focus on Christ and the gospel and will protect you against the many distractions the enemy wants to throw your way.

   D. The shield of faith protects against the enemy’s spiritual attacks (16)
      – 1 John 5:4

Next up, we have the shield of faith. The shield of faith protects against the enemy’s spiritual attacks. We read in Ephesians 6:16: “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:16)

These flaming arrows or darts are the temptations that suddenly come at you out of nowhere. The enemy knows that it’s often the little things that bring us down – a sudden temptation to lust or to doubt or to worry or to envy or to anger.

The enemy loves to throw these fiery darts at you all day long. So how do you protect yourself against them? You take up the shield of faith. 1 John 5:4 says: “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4)

You commit your way to the Lord, trusting him to help you stand against temptation. And then as those fiery darts are directed your way throughout the day, you use the shield of faith to extinguish them one by one as you trust God to give you strength against the enemy’s attacks.

   E. The helmet of salvation protects against the enemy’s physical attacks (17a)
      – 1 Peter 5:8-9; Luke 12:4

Next, we have the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. Ephesians 6:17 says: “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17)

The helmet of salvation protects against the enemy’s physical attacks. We read in 1 Peter 5: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Peter 5:8-9) 1 Peter 5 talks about the enemy’s physical attacks on the believer. The enemy not only wants to drag you into sin. He wants to knock you down and take you out.

We often pray for persecuted Christians as a church. But what about when you become the persecuted Christian? Are you prepared to suffer for Christ? You will be when you put on the helmet of salvation. The soldier’s helmet protects against the enemy’s kill shot. The helmet of salvation reminds you that no matter what happens, your eternal destiny is safe and secure.

Jesus told his disciples in Luke 12:4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.” (Luke 12:4) When you take the helmet of salvation, you need not fear the enemy’s attacks. Let the enemy do his worst – you are safe and secure in Christ.

   F. The sword of the Spirit forces the enemy to retreat (17b)
      – Matthew 4:11

Verse 17 also tells you to take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17) We call God’s word the sword of the Spirit, because Scripture comes to us from the Holy Spirit. (2 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 1:21) The sword of the Spirit forces the enemy to retreat. Notice that the sword is your only offensive weapon listed in the armor. Trust me, you don’t want to go into battle without your sword.

This is another reason why you need to be reading and learning God’s word daily. The first reason we saw was that you need God’s word to grow strong as a Christian. That was part of taking care of the basics. The second reason was so that you can put truth into action. You put on the belt of truth to protect against the enemy’s lies. But now we see that God’s word is also your main weapon in the fight. Without your sword you can only defend against the enemy. But with God’s word in your had, you can go on the offensive and attack.

Be sure you use Scripture when you are tempted to sin. Quote the truth of God’s word back to Satan even as he is tempting you. That is exactly what Jesus did when he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Every time the enemy tempted him, Jesus fought back with the word of God. And how did the enemy respond? He retreated! He backed off! He withdrew! We read in Matthew 4:11: “Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” (Matthew 4:11)

People sometimes say, “The devil made me do it,” but that’s backwards. The devil can’t make you do anything, but you can make him do something. You can force him to retreat when you use the sword of the Spirit to attack.

   G. Prayer reminds us that the battle is the Lord’s, that we can’t do any of this on our own (18)
      – Zechariah 4:6

And then finally we come to prayer. We read in Ephesians 6:18: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18) Prayer reminds us that the battle is the Lord’s, that we can’t do any of this on our own.

Prayer is dependency. When you pray, you go into battle not relying on your own strength but depending on the strength of the Lord. As God says in Zechariah 4:6: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6)

How do you prepare for battle? You put on your armor. Don’t leave it lying on the floor. Don’t leave it hanging in the closet. Put on the armor of God. Put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness and your gospel shoes. Take up the shield of faith. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. Pray in the Spirit on all occasions.

CONCLUSION: So, those are the three ways you prepare yourself for battle. You engage in praise and worship. You practice preventative prayer. And you put on the armor that God has provided for you.

God has given you everything you need to experience victory. The only question is: will you use what he has given you, or will you walk into battle unprepared and exposed to the enemy’s attacks?

If you want to overcome sin and temptation, you need to prepare for battle. I pray that as a result of today’s message you will be encouraged to prepare for spiritual battle every day. And I pray that you will take advantage of these tools God has given you to fight the enemy and win the victory against sin.

© Ray Fowler

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