Over the years I have had the blessing of listening to gifted men of God both in person and over electronic medium. Before the advent of the internet in India, I started off listening to taped messages. This was before the smart phone era. The only option to listen to them was over a cassette player and there were no headphones. So to get some privacy, I would hop into my father’s old NE118, shut the door and turn the volume up and listen to those tapes in the solitude of the vehicle. As time progressed I have listened to many many men of God and the media has changed from the iPod shuffle to a powerful smart phone. One thing about listening to good messages is that it leaves you with a lasting impact. The following list of messages are those which have influenced me. A sermon is only as good as the preacher’s life. The following men of God are those who have showcased a life of faithfulness. It is not an exhaustive list, there are many more like these. I hope you will see the outworking of the Spirit through these men. Some are with the Lord, but with the powerful medium of the internet they though dead still speak. You can access the message by clicking on the title. Hope you too are blessed by listening to them.
- Repent by John Kurian – John Kurian is a man of God whose godliness is worth emulating in this generation. For those who know him, he Is someone who shuns the limelight and is thoroughly given over to bringing glory to God’s name. In this sermon he takes his listeners through the message to the churches in Revelation in general, and the message to the church at Ephesus in particular. He uses the time and tested tiny word of the gospel – Repent! Most Christians assume that repentance is a one-time affair which people have during their conversion. The power with which he preaches this sermon is unprecedented in anyone I have personally known. Note: The sermon is bi-lingual.
- Holiness by R C Sproul – This sermon and the book of the same name, are a landmark among fundamentalists. The master teacher, R C Sproul demonstrates from Isaiah chapter 6 on what God’s holiness is like. It is here that Sproul points out that God’s attribute of holiness permeates his entire being. It is here that we learn why God is thrice holy. Paul Washer says this is one of his favorites.
- Keys to Bible Study by William MacDonald – The wise and godly William MacDonald speaks about the keys to his own personal bible study. MacDonald had years of experience in handling, dividing and teaching God’s word. His greatest legacy is the single volume Believer’s Bible Commentary which is concise and adequate for a layman to understand any passage in the bible. Although not a preacher who can summon thunder and lightning, I like this man’s humbleness when he handles each passage of the bible. You can glean a lot of wisdom in the way he approaches bible study.
- Hacking Agag to Pieces by John MacArthur – MacArthur here does what John Owen does in his seminal work The Mortification of Sin. As believers our greatest conflict on this side of eternity is in dealing with remaining sin. John uses the analogy of the Amalekites, the ancient enemy of Israel, to demonstrate how sin must be dealt with in the life of a believer. He also warns believers about the consequences of not dealing with your sin properly through how the descendants of Agag became perpetual enemies up to the time of Haman.
- Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions by David Plat – This is one of those sermons which you hear and want to immediately pack your backs and go to the Sentinelese. David Platt was the president of one of the largest mission sending bodies in the world and is still a mission facilitator. David Platt starts with the responsibility of pastors to encourage and drive missions without compromising local outreaches within communities. He lays the onus of missions on leadership within local churches rather than laying it on mission bodies and organizations alone. Then he moves on to the crux of his message “The Sovereignty of God is what should drive missions”. He gives four theological truths from Revelation which will help drive missions. Platt gives an Important distinction between unsaved and unreached. That was a real eye-opener. This is one of those mission sermons in recent memory which should motivate local church bodies to send and support missions to the unreached.
I hope you take time out to listen to these men of God. Also comment with the messages that have shaped you over the years.
In the previous two posts we saw the preparation that is needed for spiritual warfare and from whom we must derive our strength. In the concluding post we will look at the weapons issued for our warfare. These are not mere weapons. They are called the “armor of God”. This implies that they are no forged by human wisdom. The Captain at the head of the battle has designated a set of armor, the ownership of which belongs to him. In any standing army, there is a “standard issue” of all equipment, from the helmet to the boots. Most of the equipment goes thru hours of R&D to make them fit for battle. A soldier cannot fight with implements from his home like a pitchfork or knife. If he would, he would not be a professional solider! This calls to mind how organized and planned the mind of God is. He does not leave his men on the battlefield with bad equipment. His weapons have the power to bring down strongholds (2 Cor. 10:4). Even if these strongholds are physical, they can be brought down by spiritual weapons. Physical weaponry only brings down strongholds by brute force. But in spiritual warfare, both the spiritual and the physical strongholds can be brought down. That is the potential of the weapons at our disposal.
We see six different items in the divine panoply. There is a seventh, which we will see at the end. But before that, Paul gives us a glimpse of the enemy. In verse 12 he lists down a set of four different types of enemies: rulers, authorities, cosmic powers & spiritual forces. All the four types of enemies have one common theater of warfare – The Heavenly Places. This informs us of the sheer scale, extent and power of the enemy in the invisible world.
Each equipment has an attribute to it. The attributes themselves are the graces of God. A good and holy God has given us good weapons of warfare. He does not use subterfuge or trade-craft in engaging with the enemy. He does not believe in superstition and luck. Although his enemies (and ours) use every scheme and tact possible to bring us down. I am reminded of the lines from Luther’s great hymn – A Mighty Fortress
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
We must fight not with what we think is best for the conflict, but what God has given. His own strength, his own manifold grace, flowing to us one by one in its entirety and in its abundance.
Most of us are already aware of what each equipment signifies. Here is a list of what they are:
Belt of Truth: This is the doctrine/teachings of the word of God. This is the foundation of the armor. All our truth comes from the teaching of God’s word. It cannot be derived from within ourselves nor can it be derived from outside of the bible. This shows the importance of understanding the truths that the bible teaches. These are the non-negotiable truths or “the fundamentals”. These must be known and taught by all men of God engaged in spiritual conflict.
Breastplate of Righteousness: This is God’s own righteousness. Anyone who holds to the truth of Justification by Faith understands, that they do not have a righteousness of their own. We simply have put on the righteousness of Christ. When the enemy calls into question our former state, we have this shiny breastplate embossed with the dying lamb of God. The enemy can assault our past, but he cannot assault our present standing as those justified by grace.
Shoes of the Gospel Peace: This is almost always interpreted as evangelism. But the gospel is not only for evangelism. The gospel is a daily reality for those who have been saved by its power. We must not preach the gospel to unsaved people alone. We must preach it quiet often to ourselves. This way we will keep its pristine form, devoid of any mixture with the false gospel. This equipment has the attribute of peace which is for both the believing and the unbelieving. Only the ones who have experienced the power of the Gospel in their personal lives can actually effectively share it to others.
Shield of Faith: The largest piece of armor in the Roman soldier’ s arsenal was the shield. It was huge! It almost covered his entire body. It was tough and could stand the beatings of a battle-ax. It is fitting for Paul to connect the attribute of faith to the massive shield. When we are faced with the darts of the enemy in various forms, it is the exercise of our faith that will help us to counter the attack.
Helmet of Salvation: The head is very important for a soldier. He needs to see and hear clearly in the heat of the battle. He must have good solid protection from a direct hit to the head. In the same way, during spiritual conflict, the first ploy of the enemy is to question and attack your salvation. Many doubt their salvation because of shallow repentance. Many question their salvation because of a lack of assurance. Many try to add something to their salvation by legalism because of a wrong understanding of saving faith. But salvation is secure, since it is by grace. Any questions of salvation must be immediately sought and clarified by the potential warrior. A soldier cannot prance into battle thinking that he will be saved by his performance. Rather a soldier goes into battle to showcase the truth of his salvation. A man who has tremendous assurance of his salvation and a clear ongoing repentance will be very effective in battle.
Sword of the Spirit: The final weapon is the word of God. The more l talk about this precious armor the less it will be. The Word is a must have for the spiritual conflict. The Son of God himself used the word to counter the attack of the devil in the wilderness. All three times!
In every war effective communication is very important. Effective communication is essential to supply front-line troops with equipment and reserves. Communication has to be both ways for it to be effective. The communication from our Captain is clear and documented. We have his battle manual – The Bible. When it comes to the communication from the warrior to his Captain, there is a tool which he has given us – Prayer. Notice in v. 18, Paul implores us to pray at all times. This is our communication up to HQ. The Christian warrior prays prior to the battle, he prays before the battle and he prays in the thick of the battle. He not only prays for himself, he also prays for his fellow soldiers (v. 18b & 19). No battle can be won alone. You need good soldiers with you. Men who when called upon to defend the realm, will immediately rise up to fight shield to shield.
So we conclude our Study of the Armory I hope and pray that this will be a blessing to all my fellow soldiers.
Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth His Name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
“The Christian’s armour is made to be worn; no laying down, or putting off our armour, till we have done our warfare, and finished our course. Our armour and our garment of flesh go off together. In heaven we shall appear, not in armour, but in robes of glory.”
̶̶̶ The Christian in Complete Armour, William Gurnall (1617-1679)
In the last post, we saw that in any spiritual conflict the believer’s first response is to draw his/her strength from the Lord himself. The post did generate some traffic in terms of comments and encouragement. Thanks for that. I believe that there is an adequate awareness of spiritual conflict. But whether everyone has a right perspective of the daily spiritual conflict that we engage in is something which remains to be seen. Most people do not like the terms of warfare much less medieval instruments of battle like the sword and shield. The reality is that there is indeed a great conflict in the life of a believer. It can be at a personal level for most. For the rest, especially those who are engaged in shepherding and teaching in a fellowship, it can be at different levels. There are very few Christians who engage in that battle wholeheartedly and according to the Lord’s commands. I hope this post will increase their kind. Consider the perspective of the apostle in 2 Tim. 2:3-4 and let’s get our priorities straight.
In this post we will see the preparation that is needed before you get into the conflict. There is a saying in the army – “The more you sweat during peace, the less you will bleed during war”. Preparation for war is not something which can be done overnight. It takes time to get a fighting force ready. It takes large resources to arm vast columns of troops. And if that is not challenging, a soldier who is equipped is no good in the battle field if he has not seen action. That is what happened during the Second World War. As soldiers died on the battlefield they had to replace them with able bodied men. So all nations in the conflict recruited younger inexperienced men. Most of the men who stormed the beaches of France during D-Day were hardly soldiers. They were men engaged in some other professions while they were drafted into the army, sometimes against their will.
The operative words in Eph. 6: 10-19 are really just these little words – put or take, resist and stand. Many times in our Christian life, we rush to put on the armor without having the preparation that is so much needed. Of course most of us know what the meaning of the elements of warfare are! But it’s the method of warfare that is important than knowing the weapons themselves. The significance of these words is found by the fact that some of them are repeated more than once.
Firstly, notice the apostle telling us what must be put on and what must be taken up. In v. 11 & 13, he says that the Christian must be arrayed with all the panoply (armor). This is a very important instruction that he gives us. No armor is significant or insignificant. We Christians sometimes take up some elements of the armor that suits us or the ones we are most comfortable in. Some only take up the shield and are unable to resist because they do not have an assault weapon. Some only take up the sword thinking they know their bibles but forget that there is a girdle of truth which is the doctrine that constitutes the word. The warrior prepared for the battle is the one who is armored from head to toe. Even neglecting one of these pieces will make us ineffective in the conflict. You cannot take a combination of weapons based on circumstance either. It is all the armor of God or none of it. David was unable to wear Saul’s armor, because he was not used to it. But once he became a trained warrior, David had to fight his battles not with his slingshot, but with the armor befitting that of a King. In fact his weapon of choice was the sword of Goliath himself! (1 Sam. 21:9). This stage of putting on or taking up the armor of God is the most important. This is the sweat part of the preparation for war. This is where 90% of our efforts should be put. A familiarity with all the graces of God is what this implies. Our foundations must be firmly girded with the truths of the word of God. We must be aware of the basis of our righteousness. The daily application of the gospel in our lives, a life of constant faith in God, assurance of salvation and familiarity with the word of God thru right division & application is what the panoply implies.
Secondly, comes the part of the conflict called resistance. If we are adequately prepared in the first stage, then when the time comes to the actual conflict, we will be able to resist and stand firm. Every day is not a day to resist. There are some days when the Lord gives us respite from our warfare. During the First World War, both sides of the conflict stopped all hostilities on Christmas Day. They even played football against each other! Such breaks from regular warfare, that God gives us must be a time for us evaluate where we have failed in using the armor of God improperly. We must take time out to think about those situations in which you fell into temptation; where you did not mortify your flesh; decisions that you took without consulting the Lord which led to failures. So the next time the evil day approaches, and it will, we must be ready to resist better than before.
Finally, the last stage in the conflict is taking a stand. In the original, resist and stand come from the same group of words. In fact resist (withstand) is a military term used in the Greek. It is said that the Roman legionnaire had spikes in his shoes. This would give him a strong footing in the battlefield. Similarly, only when the Christian is able to stand up in the heavy armor is he really prepared for battle. If he is unused to the armor because of lack of training in it, then he will not be able to win his battles. The word in the original has also a sense of anticipation. The warrior of Christ is not one who lazes around and indulges in mirth and gladness of heart. He is similar to an ancient Spartan warrior, who’s only profession was that of a soldier and best interest was to die honorably in battle. All Christian’s must anticipate conflict. They must not be happy when one conflict is over. The Israelites must have rejoiced when the walls of Jericho had fallen and when Ai had been conquered. While they were taking a breather, the stratagem of Gibeon was forming to counter their invasion. Always be alert, always be ready to take a stand (1Pt. 5:8). Even if it is your last stand.
I wish Paul would have told us one important instruction. That of whether I can remove some of my armor and lay it aside for a brief period. The lack of instruction in this area forces me to think, that when the great apostle told us to take up the entire armor he also meant that we must also not take it off. At least Paul did not take if off for a moment. Unfortunately many of us do. Many great warriors fight the battle in their Christian life well and honorably. And then suddenly, as if because of a lack of focus or loss of heart they lose a small skirmish here or there. Paul was not of that kind. He fought his battle well and he could say with confidence that his was a good fight. Let us therefore take up the whole armor, stand firmly in anticipation of any conflict and provide the best resistance possible.
In the final post next week we will see the implements of warfare. There is a surprising weapon in our panoply, which we will see next time.
(I know that some of my readers may be thinking of v. 12 the enemies of the Christian. Perhaps I will dwell on that some other time since it needs to be treated separately)
Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
stand in his strength alone;
the arm of flesh will fail you,
ye dare not trust your own.
Put on the gospel armour,
each piece put on with prayer;
when duty calls or danger
be never wanting there.
“Put on therefore the armor of light.” What a grand expression! Helmet of light, breastplate of light, shoes of light—everything of light: what a knight must he be who is clad, not in steel, but in light, light which shall flash confusion on his foes! – Charles Spurgeon, Sermon No. 1894, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit
One of the most familiar pictures, to the modern Christian is that of the armor of God mentioned quiet often in the bible. There have been many sermons preached on these familiar passages as well many books written on the subject. Although, this grand picture of the Christian warrior in all his armored glory is very familiar to the Christian mind, when it comes to actual spiritual warfare it is also the least practiced. Church goers sometimes neglect the imagery because of the repetition it offers, as it is a favorite among many preachers. Most are not even aware that they are in the middle of a raging conflict of spiritual proportions. In all honesty the fact is – Christians hardly wear the battle armor provided for their spiritual warfare, leave alone battle in it.
It is in four passages that we find about the armor. In Eph. 6: 10-20 & 1 Thess. 5: 8 we find the armory; 2 Cor. 10:4 speaks about the weapon’s potential power and Rom. 13: 12 the forge in which the armor is made. We will look at Ephesians more than the other portions
I can imagine what went thru Paul’s Spirit-inspired mind, when it came to present spiritual warfare in a humanly understandable way. He was in prison at the time of writing this epistle. He would be chained to a soldier. And not just any, for Paul was chained to a Roman solider. There before him, stood the most efficient fighting machine of his day. A warrior who’s class and caliber generals and kings have tried to emulate for their armies. And so from that visible sight of a Roman legionnaire, would have been born the fitting analogy of the Christian’s armory.
Most often, while observing the weapons of warfare, we tend to forget the exhortation prior to the entry into the Lord’s armory. Our fellow soldier Paul, exhorts us that we must first and foremost derive our strength from the Lord himself. Even if you would put all of the armor of God, and even if you would fight day and night in them, it would be useless if you do not find your strength and draw your might from the Captain himself. That is the first and most essential truth – all of the warrior’s strength and might are drawn from his master’s quality. If we must become effective warriors we must receive this truth in humbleness. Many a time we draw our battle lines without thinking on this truth. We become rogue, we try to win our own personal battles when our master and Captain wants us to spar over greater matters of importance. There are some issues in the Christian life which are not worth sweating over leave alone spilling a drop of blood. But there are some hills, for which it is worth fighting and dying on.
So therefore warriors prepared to battle, let us draw our strength from our Captain. It is in his name we go out to battle. It is in his strength that we must abide. Be inspired by his exploits, assured of his great promises. When the battle is thick and you are losing, remember his promise – “I will not leave you nor forsake you”. Let us fight the good fight even if it means we lose the battle. For our Captain prepares for battle. He will win the war and vanquish our foes.
In the next post we will enter into the armory where a particular instruction is given. Don’t miss that.
The Son of God goes forth to war
A kingly crown to gain.
His blood-red banner streams afar;
Who follows in His train?
Who best can drink His cup of woe,
Triumphant over pain,
Who patient bears his cross below–
He follows in His train.
I have always been intrigued by the warning passages in the epistle to the Hebrews. No single interpretation of the passage is shared by bible teachers. Sometimes these passages can cause confusion in the minds of many a believer, especially those who have not had an assurance of their salvation. Others ignore it since it applies to apostates. The exact number of warning passages are debatable. However, there is one passage which stands out from the rest – Heb. 10:26-31.
Recently, I was having a conversation with a good friend on the sacrificial system in the Old Testament (Lev. 1-4). That’s when he pointed me to a fact we hardly notice in the five types of sacrifices. Out of the five sacrifices, two are meant for sin an the guilt associate after having a knowledge of sin. Both the Sin Offering and the Guilt Offering covers unintentional sin. But, there is no mention of intentional sins. A further digging into the verses associated with the sacrificial system unearthed a verse in the book of Numbers 15:30. It is only here that “high handed” (NASB) sins are mentioned. The sacrifice for intentional sins seems non-existent. How then, does the Old Testament deal with sins of a deliberate and intentional nature?
From the onset, what we can understand is that intentionally disobeying God’s law for a Jew under the covenant was not encouraged. The ancient covenant people of God were called to holiness and therefore had to be careful in their righteous living. Even David, in his now infamous “sin with Bathsheba”, and the subsequent penning of Psalm 51 writes that the sin he committed cannot be atoned for through a sacrifice (Psa. 51:16). Through this we can understand that the Old Testament sacrificial system lacked a provision for deliberate, high-handed and intentional sin.
But, when we come to the New Testament which in itself is a better covenant (Heb. 8:6), the very reason for the covenant to be better is because of the excellency of the High Priest who offers it. So the question arises – Has Christ died for our intentional sins? The scriptures answer this question with a – Yes! Christ has died for all our sins. Not just sins of the past but all sins. Not just sins done in your ignorance but also in your high-handedness – willfully. Oh let us be assured of the better sacrifice of our savior which can cleanse away all our sin and let us press on to perfection.
There is no doubt in my mind that the sacrifice of Christ is a superior one. I deny any type of works-based salvation. It is only in Christ that I have my sins atoned. But when it comes to the question of remaining sin, Heb. 10:26-31 hit me like a thunderbolt. This is a warning passage. Some of these passages are actually referring to apostasy. However the author’s intention was not just to address the apostates. Notice, it says about “willfully sinning” & about “sacrifice for sins”. It is taking the reader of the Hebrews back to the sacrificial system. The passage is a clear indication that although the covenant that Christ established is superior in its effect of removing sin, it is not a license to sin as many have assumed it to be. In other words “willful sins” are looked at as severely as it was in the previous covenant. In fact I must say, the crux of the warning passage is found in verse 29. The question is open ended – the punishment to willful, persistent, unrepentant sin is deemed even more severe that the old covenant. Therefore my dear brothers let us not take assurance that Christ sacrifice is a convenient license for sinning (conf. Rom. 6:1-2; 1 Jn. 2:4).
The bible is clear on a continued habit of sinning. There are no two ways to the argument. No true, genuine believer continues in his sin. He may struggle with it, but he will mortify the sin (Rom. 8: 13). He will not allow it to outgrow him nor will he allow it to overpower him. Let us therefore be careful with what sins we are allowing to fester in our flesh. Let us keep a check on every intention of our heart, the sights we behold, the pleasures we illegitimately enjoy for a while and realize they were fleeting and overburdening. And when we see that these sins were what made the savior become a sacrifice for us, we will have a greater aversion to these sins and an ever increasing faith in the work and excellency of Christ. It did for me, I hope it does for you.
At this time of the year, I keep hearing the alternate view of Jesus being crucified on a Wednesday. The primary reason some people hold to this alternate view is to satisfy a literal 3 days and 3 nights that Christ had prophesied (Matt. 12:40). This view is very convincing to those who hear it for the first time. However a careful reading of the scriptures, especially surrounding the timeline of the passion-week, one can arrive at a conclusion that Jesus was indeed crucified on a Friday. I have listed some of the known facts surrounding the Passover feast:
- The Passover was the first of all feasts. It was to be kept on the 14th day of Nisan between the evenings. Which meant the Passover actually started on a Thursday evening and continued till Friday evening (Ex. 12:6). This was to accommodate the large number of pilgrims visiting Jerusalem at the time of the year.
- The feast of unleavened bread started immediately after the Passover. That would be 15th of Nissan. The 1st day of the unleavened bread would be a Sabbath. (Ex. 12:16; Lev. 23:6)
- The feast of first fruits was the following day after the 1st day of the feast of unleavened bread. (Lev. 23:11). In the year the Lord was crucified this would have to fall on a Sunday.
- The Jews kept a lunar clock. Keeping in line with the order of creation found in Gen. 1:5, a 24 hour day began in the evening. They did not keep a midnight to midnight time like us.
Much of the confusion arises because of the phrase 3 days & 3 nights. This phrase is idiomatic to the ancient middle-eastern culture. Any part of the day would be counted as a full day as demonstrated by other portions of scripture. (Esth. 4:16 & 5:1; 1 Sam. 30:12-13; 1 Sam. 9:20a). Also, the Lord himself alluded to His resurrection as being – “in three days” (Jn. 2:19-21) as well as Matt. 16:1-4 where the sign of Jonah is given without the phrase “3 days & 3 nights”.
Next let’s look at the events during the day that Christ was crucified and its fulfillment of OT prophecy:
- All four gospels allude to a day of preparation. This is the day before the regular Sabbath. Christ was brought to Pilate’s praetorium early in the morning on the day of preparation. Jn. 18:28 says that it was also the day the Passover was being held.
- The high day mentioned in John 19:31 is a coinciding of the regular Sabbath (Saturday) and the 1st day of unleavened bread which was also a Sabbath.
- Christ died on the day of preparation which was also the Passover (Luk. 23:54). This was very important, since we believe Christ is the fulfilment of all the law especially the feasts of the Lord. So it was very important that he die on the day of the Passover.
- The feast of first fruits had to be the day after the 1st Sabbath day of unleavened bread (Lev. 23:11). Christ had to fulfill this feast (1 Cor. 15:23). This causes a great difficulty to the Wednesday theorists. If you go by this theory Christ had to rise on a Friday, since that would be the day the feast of the first-fruits had to be celebrated. The theory of a Wednesday crucifixion is simply not plausible.
- Finally, the appearance of the risen Lord on the road to Emmaus is very important. The disciples said it is the third day since he died. If it was a Wednesday crucifixion they would have called it the 4th day (Luk. 24:21, 29). Harmonizing this verse with the flawed theory is extremely difficult. In fact none of the Wednesday crucifixion theorist ever quote this verse!!!
With these proofs the view of a Wednesday crucifixion cannot be harmonized from the passion-week timeline given in the bible. The length of days and pin pointing the exact minute and second he was buried and rose again is not the point of the gospel narrative. The fact is he died, was buried and rose again. None of his disciples or even his enemies cried foul – that it was cheating on his part to rise within three days or after three days. They were all gripped with fear for the first time in history someone had come back from the dead by his own power. That my dear friends is what Resurrection Day is all about.
Soli Deo Gloria