“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against … the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places … Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:10-12, 18).
In the first five chapters of his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul recognized the wonderful things the Holy Spirit had accomplished and rejoiced at the spiritual growth that had taken place in their lives. In this concluding chapter, he issues a word of caution to them about the opposition coming their way — and their need to be prepared.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul very carefully instructed the Ephesians in spiritual warfare. First, he warned them that the powers of darkness would come against them to rob them of their inheritance — and he repeated the word against several times. It was not if the enemy would come against them, but when and how often and how hard. So, he told them to be strong in the Lord and depend on him because trying to fight in one’s own strength is never sufficient.
In Ephesians 6:14-17, Paul describes the whole armor of God that would fully equip them:
You need to understand that you are fighting against spiritual forces of evil. You are a citizen of heaven, a Christian who believes in the truth, and will fight for the truth. To live the life of an overcomer, put on “the whole armor of God” and prepare for conflict. Study God’s Word, pray in the Spirit, and you will be able to stand as the victor after the battle, giving all glory to the Most High God.
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
It is a blessing to worship together with other believers. Singing songs to the Lord, hearing his precious Word expounded, lifting our voices in prayer with other Christians, loving and being loved — these are the means the Lord uses to strengthen our hearts.
In Paul’s day there were people who shunned public worship for one reason or another. Likewise, their modern counterparts have little desire to be in God’s house with his people. This is a bad thing, no matter what the rationalization. When a believer begins to attend church less frequently or only sporadically, it could be a sign of spiritual trouble. There are a lot of rationalizations; “I work so hard that I’m just too tired.” “We need more family time.” “I can worship God in my kitchen.” Or the ever-popular, “The church is filled with hypocrites.”
Do not let disappointment or church politics keep you from experiencing spiritual renewal. Folks who have little appetite to be with other believers have, in fact, little appetite for Christ. To be a healthy part of the church body always implies two things: a desire to stay connected and the humility to admit our need for other believers. If the apostle Paul asked for prayer and longed for fellowship with believers, we should, too. We all need the encouragement of brothers and sisters in Christ to help us along our way.
Attending church regularly is not a matter of legalism but spiritual logic, especially as we see “the Day” approaching. Soon Jesus will come again and all the cares of life that bog us down will disappear in a millisecond. What matters most is our faith in Christ, our growth in grace, the fruit we produce for his glory, and the fulfillment of his will for our lives. Much of our spiritual development happens as we interact with other members of the body of Christ on a regular basis, so be diligent in gathering together with fellow believers.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.
There is a thrilling Old Testament story that best illustrates what it means to be kept by the power of God. We find it in 2 Kings 6.
Benhadad, king of Syria, declared war on Israel and marched against them with a great army. As his forces advanced, he often called his war counsel into his private chambers to plan the next day’s strategy. But the prophet Elisha, moved by the Holy Spirit, kept sending word to the king of Israel, detailing every move of the enemy troops. On several occasions, the Israelites escaped defeat because of Elisha’s warnings.
Benhadad was furious and he called his servants together. “Show me this traitor! Who is revealing our plans to the king of Israel?” “One of his servants said, ‘None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak” (2 Kings 6:12).
Benhadad immediately dispatched forces to capture Elisha. They went to Dothan by night and surrounded the city, intending to take the old prophet by surprise. But Elisha’s servant awakened early and saw that “there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots.” Terrified, he ran to Elisha and asked what they should do. “[Elisha] answered, ‘Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, and said, ‘Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:16-17).
Elisha, like the psalmist, could stand in the midst of crisis and say with absolute assurance, “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around” (Psalm 3:6).
Let your prayer be that of Elisha: “Lord, open my eyes that I may see the mountains filled with horses and chariots of fire — the Lord of hosts!” Beloved, there is hope! The Lord of hosts is with us. He alone is our keeper. He will not let his children slip or fall. We are held in the palm of his hand. Be assured that he is with you to protect, guide, and refresh you in a new way today.
Jeremiah was a thundering prophet of the Old Testament. Every word he preached was like a sword cutting into the flesh. He angered politicians and church leaders so much they threw him into prison.
But all the time, this weeping prophet looked forward to a day when God would visit his people and change their hearts. Jeremiah knew that God pitied His people and loved them with an everlasting love.
As predicted in Jeremiah 24, Christ was sent by the Father to fulfill the New Covenant. He sealed the agreement with His very own blood and put it into effect the day he died. This means God is not dealing with our generation as he did with Jeremiah's. We have new agreement based on better promises. Jeremiah's message of Law has been fulfilled now in the finished work of Jesus Christ. And what a difference between the thunder of Jeremiah, and the mercy of Jesus.
In our Lord’s final hour, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to his heavenly Father about his disciples. Remember, Peter would betray him within hours, Thomas would doubt him, and all the disciples would forsake him and return to their homes. But Jesus would not condemn them, as we see in this fantastic prayer in John 17:
“[Father], You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word … I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them …They are not of this world … The glory You gave Me I have given them … You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17: 6, 8, 16, 22-23).
We say, “But, Jesus, don’t you see what is in Peter’s heart? He’s going to betray you! And Thomas is full of fear and trembling. How can you pray for them to be loved when they’re so weak?”
Oh, yes, their sin grieved Jesus but the New Covenant was being ushered in and it would feature forgiveness, mercy and grace. “I will forgive their iniquities; I will remember their sins no more.” Jeremiah, under the Old Covenant, preached, “Your sins have cut Him off from you,” but Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
Things are different now. Sin is still hated by God, but we have a living Savior, seated at the right hand of the Father, still praying for us. Jesus is trying to say to us, “You do not need a thundering Jeremiah to keep you from sin and the world. You need only to accept me, repent, and draw closer to me. No condemnation. No fear. Simply love me completely and you will forsake all your sins.”
God wants to break through to his people. As Scripture predicts, the devil has come down with great wrath, knowing his time is short. Right now, God’s people need a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit; a supernatural touch even greater than the one at Pentecost. The cry that is called for today was heard in Isaiah’s day: “Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! … For since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, who acts for the one who waits for Him” (Isaiah 64:1, 4).
On the Day of Pentecost, the 120 disciples gathered in the Upper Room. They had come together as one body for one purpose: the hope of seeing Jesus’ promise fulfilled: “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Their cry was the same as in Isaiah’s day: “Lord, rend the heavens and come down. Let all opposition, human and demonic, melt at your presence, so the lost may be saved.” And we know what happened! The Holy Spirit fell, with visible fire appearing on the disciples’ heads. They emerged from that room forever changed and thousands of lives were transformed as a result.
Consider what God was doing in that moment. All around the world there was great darkness, yet God’s focus was on 120 humble, praying saints gathered in a small, rented room. And now, today, God is preparing a people who have stirred themselves to lay hold of him. In small churches and gatherings all over the world, a cry is rising and it is getting more intense: “God, tear open the heavens and come down. Send your Holy Spirit fire and manifest your presence.”
The only thing those 120 disciples in the Upper Room had to hold onto was a promise from Jesus that he would come. And he did come, with power unseen in all of history. Likewise today, all we have to hold onto is a promise from our Lord. He pledged to all who would follow him, “I appoint unto you a kingdom” (Luke 22:29).
Right now, the Lord is hearing his people’s cry, all over the world. As the Spirit falls and stirs our hearts, let this be our cry also: “Behold, Jesus is coming. Let us go out to meet him!”