Walking through Ephesians, 9

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 rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. ~Ephesians 6:10-13

The armor of God – I remember as a little girl being told in church and Bible classes to say it/pray it every day before I went to school. The implication was that if I “put it on” by saying it, I would have a much better day, things would go better, I wouldn’t have the tough times against these evil spiritual forces (and who wants that?!!). In fact I still hear people talking about praying the armor on as if it is some mantra you can recite and boom, you’re covered and safe. I have heard people say they pray it over their kids for their school days as they are leaving them in car line. But I really wonder if I understand what Paul is teaching?

The first time I really studied Ephesians, the whole passage about the armor of God caught my attention. Now I may be the only one who has walked through childhood into adulthood with the idea that I could just pray the armor over myself, in recitation, and I would be safe from the scheming devil and all his terrible arrows. But sitting with you at coffee, I feel compelled to make sure that you see just a glimpse of what Paul is really talking about because you may be like me. It may just make your heart race, your spirit sing, and your mind rest to understand this is no mantra or chant to put on some dress up clothes. This is what it means to truly be a warrior for the Lord on the battlefield of this life. Paul has walked us through great theology in Ephesians as to who we were and who we are now as redeemed:

  • we were chosen, made holy and blameless, redeemed and forgiven to the praise of His glory
  • we are walking in good works prepared for us
  • identity – in Christ Jesus- brought near, reconciled, a dwelling place for the Spirit of God who is our seal for salvation
  • we are granted boldness and confident access to Him because of the faith He’s given to us
  • out of our new redeemed, forgiven, renewed selves we live out the Gospel with those around us- dependent on the Gospel – it’s not a behavior checklist – it’s a constant return to the truth of the Gospel for me in order to renew my mind and therefore live out in the details my reverence for Christ

The list could continue, but you should be the one to make the list. God will teach you much! But here at the close of Ephesians, Paul has been teaching about the importance of understanding what Christ did in love for us and responding to this Gospel with our lives and relationships. So we have just read the passages about submission and obedience/leadership.

And now he emerges into a “Finally”- Finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Seems a little repetitive at first glance, but surprise! it’s very purposeful. The first phrase “be strong” means to receive strength, be strengthened or increase in strength, but it is passive and internal, meaning I am not mustering up the strength, I am receiving the strength. This strength is contingent on union with the Lord, and He is empowering or imparting ability to me. And then the second phrase “and in the strength of his might” – the power of his strength or the dominion of His combative strength over external things — His ability to dominate in His strength over all things. My strengthening is from Him as well as my deepening knowledge of how strong He is. In order to walk out any of the relationships in love the way Paul has just discussed, I need to be empowered by the Holy Spirit and understand the vast power that is for me in His might.

Back in Ephesians 4:20-24, Paul says that because we learned Christ, we are renewed in the spirit of our mind and put on the new self. We enduo (in the Greek) which means to clothe ourselves in His likeness in both righteousness and holiness. Then here in Ephesians 6:10-11 I need to know the strength pouring into me because of salvation and the strength that stands behind me in God Himself, and so I enduo or clothe myself with the armor of God – the new self. The armor is the essence of what has been given to me as a believer to walk here on this earth in newness and salvation until I stand in His presence.

My life isn’t about hard things with kids, others, circumstances. My battle is with an enemy who will throw everything at me to make me forget who I am, whose I am, who strengthens me, and who is in me.

My standing and withstanding depend on whether I use that which I have been clothed in. I need to know my armor, all that I have been given, and take up these truths. I am perpetually entering, leaving, or engaging in a fierce battle.

So just like the soldier knows his armor, I need to know what I have been given – in part and in whole. Just as a soldier becomes more valiant and wiser the more he battles and trusts his armor and weaponry – so do I. The more I walk in the Gospel, the more ready I am. The more I read, know and wear Truth, the easier it becomes to recognize it and prefer it. Truth will become the belt that holds all my armor securely in place. The more I understand His righteousness imparted to me, the more my emotions are guarded from the wicked raging of this world. The more my feet are firmly rooted in the Gospel, the more sure footed I am when anything that opposes His gospel tries to topple me. My shield of faith is always protecting me – in all circumstances. The shield is not the small hand held piece of armor that we see superheroes use in movies. Paul is referencing something larger than my body, behind which I stand, fully guarded and protected. Throughout the Old Testament God call Himself my Shield, and He is the source of faith, of dependence for strength in battle. The ability of condemning, evil, or discouraging thoughts to pierce through to my mind becomes less as I understand all that was granted me with His salvation. And the sword of the Spirit – His word, my only weapon. Praying at all times again is sourced in the Holy Spirit who is our guarantee for eternity.

So my role with myself and with my kids isn’t to recite pieces of armor but to walk through what these pieces actually represent and how they are THE sustaining requirements for the battlefield of this life. We are all doing battle everyday, little ones included. So to speak words of gospel truth and remind them of the strength, power, and protection freely given to them through Jesus Christ is paramount.

As we walk out of Ephesians, I want my walk with my children to be reflective of Ephesians 6:19-20, “that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

 

 

Walking through Ephesians, 8

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. .. now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. ~Ephesians 5:1-2, 8-10

Imitation. The thought of it fills me with longing on the one hand and dread on the other.

When I see it with my children, it often delights me because for my child to imitate, they have studied, observed, internalized and then pulled back out that desirable action. My 10 year old yelled my name yesterday in such a tone of voice that my eldest son and I thought he was very hurt. We both rushed to him, expecting to see blood/tears, something. Instead there stood a grinning, eyes sparkling, proud young man holding a fly up as a trophy, “Look! I killed my first fly just like Daddy does!” And he proceeded to explain how he took every step his daddy ever does in order to kill this fly with only a flick of his hand. Gross but a somehow a manly achievement!

My almost 2 year old studies everything his daddy does to get ready in the morning. We have to now hide all of Troy’s things because he will try to act out what he has seen (dangerous with qtips and razors!) He loves to tromp through the house in Troy’s shoes and daily seeks to wear Daddy’s socks all day long. Hats are a special trophy but only Daddy’s favorite one.

I admit when I realize how much observation I am under in any given day, it is bone wearying. Someone is always asking me why I am doing something or just watching the way I do something to make sure I do it the same way I have before. I am always amazed at the “you always” and “you never” comments that are attributed to actions/things that I didn’t know I had set patterns for. But my children do, because they observe and study.

God does not possess undesirable attributes, there is nothing in Him I should avoid imitating as there is in me. And He never tires of displaying Himself, teaching me more and more deeply about His attributes. But do I study Him, experience time with Him that I know His way, His actions, His love? or do I do it my way?

In our “use it quickly, buy a lot” culture, imitation often has a cheap, inferior connotation. The object is knowingly inferior and lacking something but affordable so as to make it mass marketable. It’s easily produced. We can carry this false copying concept into Christianity with a list of behaviors that everyone would agree makes a “good Christian,” and don’t get me started on the list for a good mom. Kindness, goodness, grace giver, patience, forgiving, and then the unwritten list for motherhood. The list can be endless and paralyzing. And I think we can see this false or cheap copying of a list of behaviors for what it is – hypocritical and self promoting.

But when I look at Jesus Christ, the list falls away.

My childlike toddling after Jesus increases my understanding of His Gospel to me and will fuel my imitation of Him. But my imitation can’t be sourced by me, my abilities or temperament. As we walk as children of light, we are light in the Lord. When Paul tells me to walk as a child of light with fruit, he is not leaving all that he has presented before this passage in Ephesians. But sometimes I will read these verses and forget this. I will see an imperative sentence and immediately add it to my list of cheap, me driven imitation. But I am in Christ Jesus, with access to the Father through the Spirit, and my true imitation will be Spirit driven. It will be the Holy Spirit in me replacing my old self with His new self, day by day, little by little, a laying down of me spurred on by my growing love of Him that comes through time with Him.

When I begin to follow Him around, observe Him, watch His interactions, experience His love and forgiveness, my heart will long and yearn to be more like Him. My little man didn’t claim an original fly killing technique, yet he was thrilled to have done it just the way he had seen it done countless times before. Imitation is really a reflection of the original. And in the case of us in the world as His dearly loved children, we are to be the clear reflection of God’s love.  There is no claim of originality; imitation points to the Original.