Sermons from Lone Rock Bible Church
Stevensville, MT
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October 29, 2006

Dress for Success:   The Basics
Ephesians 6:10-20

Now we will look at Ephesians 6, where the apostle tells us exactly how to apply the tremendous truths of God to our walk day by day. The first two verses introduce background which we need to understand:

  1. Understanding our place
  2. Understanding our power
  3. Understanding our opponent

Ephesians 6
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Arguably, the most thoroughly trained individuals in the military world are the U.S. Navy SEALS (Sea, Air, and Land). They are deliberately trained commandos who are able to encounter the enemy in just about any conditions and escape with their lives. The SEALS endure 25 weeks of intense training, the likes of which most of us would not even want to begin to endure. The first eight weeks are strictly physical fitness. It is a test, so they say, of the individual’s ability to endure and keep his spirits up. After that, seven weeks of diving experience, handling explosives, being underwater, followed by 10 weeks of land warfare.

I heard a SEAL instructor one time say that those who participate might fool you. Many try to be a Navy SEAL. The list is long of those who want to do it. He says it is interesting how those who want to be among the best commandos in all the world oftentimes are the strong, buff, ripped, cocky types. They show up to be a SEAL and, this instructor said, they tend to be the first to wash out.

Those who often are the ones who make it all the way through – the attrition rate is incredibly high – are not the brawny, beefy guys, the tough guys, the street fighters. They are the fellows who you would not likely even notice because of their physique, but he says they are the ones who have it on the inside. They have emotionally and volitionally internally prepared themselves to meet the challenge and to prevail. It is not an external thing at all, he says, nearly as much as it is on the inside. Success is primarily mental, emotional, even spiritual.

There is a group of folks who have a ministry, called the Strength Team. The Strength Team is a bunch of Christian guys, body builders. They work out and go to school assemblies where they bend rebar and tear telephone books and share the gospel of Jesus. There is absolutely nothing wrong with these individuals and certainly there is nothing wrong with the gospel of Jesus, but there is a possibility that the gospel could be misunderstood under those circumstances as though our strength were external, as though the power to do what God wants us to do is really of us.

I got about three words into these verses in Ephesians 6 before I had to stop. They are these: “Finally, be strong.” That is where the rest of these verses are going. I ask myself what is it anyway to be strong in the Lord. How do you do that? How was it that we are to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might?

Before we go any further in Ephesians 6, I want us to gain something of an understanding of what the Bible means by spiritual strength. What it is not and hopefully, what it is. I am suggesting that these three points of understanding are those with which we need to begin. We want to understand what the Bible means by spiritual strength.

We first need to know where we are, what is our place. That is indicated for us by that first word, at least in this Bible translation, the word “finally.” It is translated in other versions of the Bible “henceforth.” It is a modified form of “therefore.” What Paul is saying is: Knowing what we now know, knowing what I have taught you, what I have reminded you, knowing these things, do this in the future.

There is a whole lot in the book of Ephesians. Ephesians is a deep, rich book. It is theologically powerful and practically applicable. It is a great book. I think Ephesians is thorough. It is like Colossians. Those two of Paul’s epistles are the two that seem to go the deepest theologically. I think it’s because he spent so much time with them. Remember, in Acts 19, he taught in the hall of Tyrannus for over 2 years and he had people coming to him from all over Asia Minor. Surely he is able to take them in that amount of time fairly deeply into the things of God. That’s what we are seeing here. That’s what Ephesians represents.

Knowing what you know, he says, you have to put the armor on. As if to say, what good is it to plumb the depth of the richness of the person of God, to have a handle on the will of God, if in fact you are not equipped to walk with God. In many ways, these verses we are covering are going to be the capstone of the book.

I divide Ephesians into two parts. I am going to do a hopscotch with you this morning through the book. The first three chapters I call “eternal truth highlights.” I would say “theological highlights,” but that is so dry. Eternal truth highlights – what is God like and what has He done. Then chapters 4, 5, and 6 I call “application highlights.” In light of who God is and in light of what God has done, what is in it for us? That’s where Paul goes.

Turn to Ephesians 1. I want to take a few minutes to try to help us appreciate the depth and where it goes. It is amazing. In the first part of chapter 1, Paul discusses with us the breadth of God’s plan. Look what God is about, beginning in verse 3.

 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world,

Is that not amazing? Begin to think of God’s position unlike ours in space and time. We see the parade from along the side of the road, one event at a time going by in which we participate. God sees the parade from the Goodyear Blimp. He sees the end from the beginning. His choices are made. His plans are set. He did not have to wait for creation for all that to come about. When God wants something, it is a done deal.

The Bible says He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. I hope we get a taste of the amazing because it is. The breadth of God’s plan!

7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace


Verse 17 – the blessing of God’s power. He is praying for these people in Ephesus. We’ll jump into the middle of His prayer in verse 17.

17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.
18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.

After all, it is that power that reached into the tomb and raised Jesus from dead. Beyond that it is made available to anyone who will come to Him by faith. Fantastic! Life from the dead. Spiritual! Eternal! Supernatural power! The Bible says all things are in subjection under the feet of the One who was raised.

If you are a Christian; that is, you have put all your trust only in Jesus for eternal life, this is your heritage. It boggles the mind.

 Paul talks, beginning in chapter 2, of the beauty of God’s grace. He talks about us. He says you were dead in your trespasses and sins. He does not say wounded. He does not say sick. He does not say unhealthy. He does not say sleepy or absent. He says dead, a pretty final word. You were dead that way. He says I was with you. We all formerly walked according to the lusts of our flesh. We did what we pleased. We were self-centered people. The cadence to which we were marching, whether we knew it or not, was being pounded by the drum of the devil.

He says we were by nature children of wrath, just like everyone. Here it is – the beauty of God’s grace:

Ephesians 2
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

The days are done where you and I need to think that we can work our way to heaven somehow. Go to church, impress God, get baptized, give money. It’s gone. It’s done. It’s junk. We are not saved by that stuff. We are saved by the grace of God through faith plus nothing. Isn’t that great? This is our heritage. This is what God has done for us. Paul continues. From Ephesians 2:11 to 3:12, three times the apostle mentions the mystery of God’s church. All of these ruffians, all of these ragamuffins who were dead in sin whom God has made alive, who God is reworking and changing, they constitute a unique fraternity – the church. An amazing institution, if you ask me. And Paul says that’s been a mystery, but we are learning and we are seeing.

In chapter 2, verse 12 he is talking to the Gentiles, those who were not of the Jewish heritage and says:

 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

By the blood of Christ! Not by your own insight and ability to get educated and culturally sophisticated and politically correct so that everybody suddenly is one. No. The ground is level at the foot of the cross because Jesus has leveled it and there is no longer any reason for any barrier between people who come to faith in Christ. The church is a glorious hodgepodge, thanks to the blood of Jesus.

14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,

He abolished it with His flesh. It doesn’t matter who you are, what color you are, man or woman, young or old, rich or poor, sick or healthy – it doesn’t matter. The ground is level at the foot of the cross.

Finally, he finishes the first section of the book in chapter 3 with verse 20 with this benediction, closing out his discussion of eternal truth highlights. He says:

Now to him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

He moves from there deliberately. This being the case -- God being so wonderful, Jesus being so powerful, the gospel being so true -- how does that affect our lives? That’s what chapters 4, 5, and 6 are about – “application highlights.”

We have to appreciate the fact that Ephesus was a lot like our country is getting to be. It accommodated all kinds of different people from all manner of different backgrounds. A lot of them had strange ideas about religion and thanks to the gospel and the faithful preaching of individuals like Paul, many people came to believe. They found themselves sharing common ground with one another.

The city of Ephesus was a melting pot. Unity would hardly characterize the place. But Paul says in the church, unity is available. He talks about being diligent to preserve the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace. This is that famous passage, “There is one body, one spirit, one hope of calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. One Lord.”  He is saying unity is available in the church. Why? Because the ground is level.

He goes on in Ephesians 4:17 to say not only is unity available, purity is possible. These people were living awful lives. Ritual prostitution was the order of the day. Immorality was not only expected, it was encouraged. The culture was a mess. Paul is saying in Jesus Christ it does not have to be this way and it hadn’t ought to be this way in the church. Not only is unity available, he says, purity is possible.

He talks about that beginning in verse 17. He says don’t walk as the Gentiles walk in the futility of their mind. They are darkened in their understanding. They are excluded from the life of God. They have become callous. They are into sensuality. He says it is not that way with you any longer. Why? Because Jesus Christ, by His Spirit, has come to live in you. He will change you. Does that mean I turn over a new leaf? No, He will change you. It is His to do. It is His work.

Here is the formula, beginning in chapter 4, verse 20. If ever there is a place for behavioral change therapy in all the Bible, it is here. You put off the old and you put on the new. He talks about being renewed in the spirit of our minds (verse 23). Put on the new self, he says, after laying aside the old self. It is a mindset. It is a way of thinking. It is a series of habits to be developed. But he says speak truth, each one of you with his neighbor. You used to not speak truth. Put that away. Start speaking truth.

Replace the lying with the truth speaking. Verse 28 – If you used to be a thief, quit being a thief, he says, and replace it, put off the old – the theft – and put on the new. Labor with your hands. Do something good. Put off the old and put on the new.

Verse 29 – You have a problem with your mouth? Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth but replace it with words that are good. Does this happen overnight? Not normally. But this is the process. This is the grace that God gives for Christian people to grow. This is how change is done, a day at a time. But it is sure and it is God’s way.

Ephesians 5, beginning in verse 22 right up to where our text is, Paul talks about relationships. Can you imagine in a place like Ephesus, the way they lived and the values they had and the differences between the Jews and all the different kinds of Gentiles – can you imagine their married life? Can you imagine the way they related to and taught and reared children? It had to have been a total mess.

So the apostle takes time to address those issues because they needed them to be addressed. Husbands, love your wife. Wives, submit to your husband. Children, obey your parents. Parents, don’t provoke your children. Servants, obey your masters. Masters, treat your employees right. All of these are relationships which the apostle argues because of new life in Christ, all of these relationships are supposed to reflect God’s grace.

Then we come to verse 10 of chapter 6. Finally, he says, be strong in the Lord. How else will any of this stuff happen? How possibly can we put off the old and put on the new without being strong in the Lord? How else possibly can we put behind us barriers that previously hindered us with other people unless we are strong in the Lord? How is it that husbands can love their wife, wives submit to their husband without strength in the Lord?  Children-parent relationships and employer-employee relationships have to do with what we call the Christian life and requires that we be strong in the Lord.

Paul is going to tell us how to do that. He is going to say it is not just because of this grand theology, although that ought to be enough, it is not just because you can have unity in the church and purity in the church and a changed life and godly relationships; that is only half of it. The other is you have an enemy who wars against your soul. You have an enemy who applauds your failures and rejoices in your disasters. He is alive. He is powerful. He is very smart. He has an agenda. Furthermore, he is doomed, so he has nothing to lose.

Paul says in light of the fact that we have an enemy, you had better be wearing your armor. You had better know something about the power that is available or he will, as he prayed that he might do with the apostle Peter, he may grind you up and sift you as wheat. The apostle wants us to understand our power.

Look at Ephesians 6:10. Now we are going to talk about “Be Strong.” It’s an interesting word – be strong. It is used elsewhere in Scripture and Paul uses it himself several times. The form of the word makes us wonder if “be strong” means we are to be out there pumping iron, spiritually? Is that why the more spiritual Christians have the bigger Bibles? No. What the word actually means is “be strengthened.” It does not say “make yourself strong,” as though we can somehow make it happen, but he is talking about “be strengthened in the Lord.” It changes things a bit, doesn’t it?

Let me illustrate from the fourth chapter of Romans. Romans 4 is all about Abraham. It tells us that Abraham got right with God the same way you and I do. Abraham was there before there was a Jew and he got right with God simply by trusting God. How did it work for him? Well, God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, yet Abraham had a serious problem – age. His wife’s problem was that she was barren, had never been able to have children.

God had promised that this is something that is going to happen. He would see to it that it would happen. That’s why Abraham laughed and why Sarah laughed and why they named this miracle son “He laughs.” From the standpoint of the world, barren means barren and dead means dead. When God says I think I’ll change things, we go OK. And He did!

Look at Romans 4:19 and 20, where God has repeated the promise in verse 18, you will be father of many nations, “So shall your seed be.” You’re the man, Abraham. Sarah, you’re the woman. Abraham, without becoming weak in faith does a quick overview. He looks things over, it says he contemplated his own body. That means he thought about it. 

Then he thinks about Sarah. She’s just a kid, only 90, but she’s never been able to have children. So he contemplates his own deadness and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He is thinking it through. Then he registers God’s promise. With respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but was strengthened in faith.

So Abraham knows whose power is responsible for what we know today as the nation of Israel. God did come through and Abraham was strengthened in the faith. Paul is telling us here be strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of His might.

Let’s look a little more close at what this means. There is some confusion here. We love verses like Zachariah 4:6, where we are counseled – God is going to do this great work, but he says, “Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit.” God says “Watch Me work.”

There is a secret, and I am going to repeat myself intentionally, having to do with this power we are talking about. It is not ours. Think about that. This being strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of His might – it is not our power under discussion, it is God’s. What we do is simply position ourselves to receive it.

I am going to go through biblical examples of this. There are many. I had trouble narrowing it down. Remember Gideon? In the book of Judges beginning in chapter 6, the Ammonites had invaded the land. The Bible says there were as many Ammonites as the stars of the heaven and the sands of the seashore. Later on we see that the numbers amounted to the tens of tens of thousands.

God raised up Gideon in order to get rid of the Ammonites. How did He do that -- by telling Gideon hey Gideon, I know where there is a lot of money? You can go hire yourself some mercenaries and you can go duke it out with these guys and eventually put the run on them. Oh, no. God said gather me all your warriors and 22,000 showed up. God said that’s too many and narrowed it down.

Now the odds are like 12 to one. At that point God said 10,000 is too many. You know why 10,000 is too many, Gideon? Because in this victory I want it to be very clear whose power it is. That’s when he took them down to the stream and said everybody get a drink. Whoever drinks one way, you’re out of here. Whoever drinks the other way gets to stay. Three hundred! Three hundred against 100,000 plus.

How are we going to do this? Three hundred against 100,000 – Custer’s odds were better by many fold. Here is your armament, gentlemen – pitchers, torches, and trumpets. All three hundred of you surround. The pitchers are to hide the light from the torches so all the light shows at once. The pitchers are broken, making a loud noise, and we blow the trumpets, making more noise, and watch what happens. God wrought a great victory. Why? Because Gideon was such a brave and tough guy? No, but Gideon positioned himself to be that channel of the power of God so that when the Ammonites scampered off over the hillside over to the east with Gideon in chase, everybody understood this was God’s victory.

That was Old Testament. How about New Testament? Turn to Mark 9, a very interesting passage. In Mark 9, we have Jesus and three disciples, Peter, James, and John, coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration having just seen a wonderful thing. They get back down to the valley, where life is lived day by day and there they see an interesting sight. The Bible says in Mark 9 that there is a crowd gathered around the disciples and there is an argument going on (verse 14).

They run over to Jesus and say we are going to need your help. He said what’s going on? A guy said, Teacher, I brought you my son. He’s possessed with a demon that makes him mute and whenever it seizes him it does this and does that. I brought him to your disciples to cast out and they couldn’t do it! Can you imagine this?  Jesus and three are gone so that leaves nine. You would think nine disciples, pretty godly men, ought to have plenty of power. Just a kid with a demon. You would think they would be able to do it. They couldn’t do it.

What were these guys doing, winding up and gyrating, and telling and commanding and yelling and getting louder and louder? Meanwhile the kid is still going through seizure. The father is wondering, why did I even bring him to these people? The disciples had done demons before, and they are frustrated. They think that because they are the disciples, they can do this thing. But not this demon.

There are certain things about the demonic world we will never know, I trust. But Jesus is in the know. They brought the boy to Jesus and as soon as the spirit saw Jesus he throws the kid into a convulsion and so forth. Jesus asked how long this had been going on. The father tells him and:

 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again."

 26 After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, "He is dead!"

He was not dead. Jesus raised him up. This is the point (verse 28). The disciples questioned him privately. This had to have been just killing them. Why couldn’t we cast it out? Jesus said, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.” He is saying this kind can only come out by complete dependence on Me. It’s My power, not your power.”

In Acts 2, those men were sitting around in the upper room. They did not call down the Spirit. They did not invite the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. They had been told to wait, tarry in Jerusalem until you are clothed with power from on high. God did the clothing. God send the Spirit. They didn’t gin him up, God sent Him down. The apostle said it this way: “God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness, not in my strength.”

In Ezekiel 36 the salvation experience is described in repetitive terms. God said I will wash you. I will clean you. I will change you. I will take your old heart. I will give you a new heart. All of this is God’s doing. It is His power. The Bible goes there over and over again. The power secret – it’s not ours. We simply position ourselves to receive it.

Here is the position I am suggesting. The first posture we look at is that of humility. It is all about Him, not about me. When we face life as Christians, our number one consideration ought to be how can He look good through me, not how can He make me happy. What a difference. It is about Him, so we begin with humility. We move from there to trust, and then we act on the direction He sends us.

This is how we tend to do things. A noted Chinese pastor came to the United States, having been a prisoner in Communist China, having seen the front lines of the faith, if you will, and when asked, “Brother, what do you think of the church in the United States? He replied, “I am amazed at what Christians can do without the Holy Spirit.

We do, because our strength, our resources become our power so readily. We talk about own pedigree. “I’m experienced here.” “I come from a long line of Christians. My daddy was a preacher and his daddy before him. Of course I must have the answers.” “My track record – I’ve always been good at this.” “My education – why, I have advanced degrees in this. I must be capable here.”

No, humility first of all. It is all about Him. Say to Jesus, “It’s all about You, when it’s my marriage, my children, my church, my relationships, my business, my employees, whatever. It is about You. I want to see God’s power work. We want to see God’s blessing and we start there. Always start there.

Lord Jesus, how can you look good here? We start with humility and then we learn to trust. We remind ourselves your way, Jesus, is best. It’s best for Jesus. His way is also best for me. He designed me, He created me, He sustains me, He guides me. His way is best and I trust that.

Where should I stand then, Jesus, to make You look good? We sometimes think it’s time for change in my life. I need to be in the Bible more. It’s very difficult, folks, to be in the Bible more and make that decision with the TV remote in your hand.

Jesus, I need new friends – and then my calendar remains full of appointments which don’t do me good. We’re in the wrong position for His power.

I need to pray more, or I know God is calling me to do this particular ministry and yet, I’m so busy, I’m just so busy that Jesus’ agenda will just have to fit in somewhere. Maybe my family, maybe my marriage is in trouble. Maybe it’s in trouble because I’m not there. I’m not in position.

That’s where the Bible calls us -- being empowered. You want the strength? Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His strength. We need to be humble and in the right place and trusting Him. It is all about Him, seeking to make Him look good. Being empowered is connected to dressing for success. We are getting to put the armor on. We need to. We are going to need that armor because we have an adversary. It is the devil and his schemes are plural. We’ll go there in a week, Lord willing.  

"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®,
Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995
by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Jim Carlson 2006, Lone Rock Bible Church, Stevensville Montana, USA