Sharper than a two-edged sword (Message 2018-0826)

. 6 min read

Basis:          Hebrews 4:12    The Word as Two-Edged Sword                                 
Ephesians 6: 10-20      The Whole Armor of God
With school beginning, what is the
thing most child caregivers start thinking about?
No, I’m not talking about having the
house to yourself for 3-4 hours a day. Although that certainly is enticing!
At this
beginning of the school season, what is our primary task? : Get the kids ready
for school! As parents, grandparents, custodians of children of any kind, …we
will prepare them with the supplies they need to get the year rolling, right?
And not just the update in wardrobe; if our children are in sports, or music,
or any of the arts, we will make sure that they are ready to begin the season –
equipment, instruments, and supplies… all the “stuff” they’ll need.
As children
of God, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians lays out God’s preparation for us, indeed
the laying out the equipment WE need!
In first
portion of the epistle, Paul makes the argument for the new ONENESS of a
“Christian” society – of course, it had not been designated Christian as yet,
Gentiles and Jews, people of all strata of society, had the opportunity of a
new life in Christ where unity,  diversity,  purity, and  harmony prevailed.
But in today’s passage, Paul advises
… Don’t get too comfortable. For there is evil lurking just beneath this glossy
exterior. He warns us of the hostility of the devil and teaches us how to
overcome this force.
Although we won’t all agree on one
single image of a devil, what we can agree on, however, is Paul’s assertion
that there are ‘powers of darkness’ in our environment that manifests as
physical evil, injustice, and discomfort in our lives.
We live among economic inequality,
racism, abuse of children, distrust in government, natural and human disasters,
and on and on and on, and that is so very
hard on us.
Furthermore, on a more personal level,
we encounter the real, in-your-face tribulations of divorce, addiction, disease
and loss of loved ones, conflict and violence, …  challenges we meet as a part of our daily lives.
I’ve been doing a little weeding this
week in the garden, not something normally in my wheelhouse, but I decided to
try to help with something new. And as I am thinking about today’s scripture it
doesn’t cease to amaze me how weeds not only grow strong, thick, and tall among
the shrubbery, but they also have the capability to kill off the plants that
were intended to grow in those areas.
Trials in our life are very similar
to these weeds; out of control and harmful, and we need a weedwacker to clear
them out and allow the intended
plant life to flourish.
A lot has been written about the “powers
and principalities” in Paul’s description on evil.
I believe that through Paul’s
reference to these majestic
positions of power, he is urging us to take notice, not turn our backs or deny
they exist.
This emphasis on admitting evil is
pervasive reminded me of Step One the Recovery 12-Step Program:  To admit we are powerless over something, and
that our lives have become unmanageable.  

As illuminated by Anglican priest and
commentator John R.W. Stott:  “In our
lives there are indisputable, unstoppable
forces acting to defeat the vision for which Jesus laid down his life for us.”

Jesus not only believed in the power of the devil, but was confronted by, dealt
with, and won the battle against demonic influences, every time!
The forces Paul refers to that affect
our lives are (quote) “powerful, wicked
and cunning
, They can sneak up on you if you are not aware and leave you,
therefore, unprepared. How do we do battle against this with our meager,
inadequate human powers?” states Scott.
Apostle Paul closes his epistle with this
encouragement to do two things:
First, verse 10 10 Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength
of God’s might.
Followed by, 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may
stand against the wiles of the devil. 
So let me briefly lay out the
equipment on the table.  

1 Belt of Truth:

This truth has been known to mean the
truth of the revelation of God through Christ and scripture. Many agree it
consists of both the formal doctrine
(the Word) and a sincerity of action
on our part.

2 Breastplate of

Righteousness is the idea of getting
right with God. Certainly no spiritual protection can be greater than a
righteous relationship with God.

3 Boots as Gospel
of Peace:

Having the correct footware is
essential. This equipment is necessary for long marches. Christ’s Gospel of
Peace marched a long way through the lives of the apostles.
Also, boots were critical for
standing firm. Paul mentions standing
three times in our passage alone, which echoes
If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not
stand at all.

4 Shield of Faith: refers to a full body shield
not the round Captain America variety.

This is the faith necessary for
shielding against the darts of evil. Reverend Stott describes these evil darts
as taking the form of thoughts of doubt,
rebellion, lust or fear, or anything that inflames
our consciousness destructively.

5. Helmet of
Salvation: is …The Hope of Salvation that defends us.

It is, as Charles Hodge
wrote: That which adorns and protects Christians, enabling them to hold up
their heads with confidence and joy knowing that salvation will be perfected in
the end.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – Admittedly, I ran
through those pretty fast – in fact each is a sermon onto itself.

really want to emphasize the sixth item.     

6 Sword of the
Spirit which is the Word of God:

Or from Today’s
English Version. Bible “Accept the Word of God as the Sword the Spirit gives

We heard
from the 4th chapter of Hebrews: The Word of God is living and
active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul and
spirit, …
Now of all
the stuff we are going to need to defend ourselves, the sword is the ONLY piece
of equipment that has BOTH a defensive and offensive purpose.
understanding of the duality of The Word as a two-edged sword, other than its
quality to defend and attack, is that it is both
Doctrine, law, or wisdom from which to learn as well as a source of comfort,
Difficult to understand at times, and easier to grasp elsewhere,
Old (written a long time ago) and New to us (offering fresh Christian perspectives)          
I am
convinced that knowing scripture provides one of the quickest, simplest ways to
defend ourselves from the debilitating effects of the difficulties that happen
in life.
Although I was not, many people are
raised with the practice of memorizing scripture. I understand that so much
better now. I am making up for it now, however, through my preparation of
Sunday School or by simply taking a quiet minute to read the scripture email
put out by a friend (and I know many of you are on that distribution as well).
I have been often been surprised by some
of my crew at work who, although they may not be able to spell in either
English or Spanish, many of them can quote relevant scripture for a specific
Jesus used
scripture to defend against evil at his times of temptation.
This Sword
of the Spirit has that ability to pierce you or move you, into
more about God,
more self-reflective, and learning about yourself,
(thoughfully) to your troubles, instead of merely reacting
soothed through imagery and reverence,
better understanding the world around you, and more importantly, understanding the
world God has laid out for your through the works of Jesus and his apostles.
There IS no
longer any need to feel defenseless: all the pieces of armor are available but
There is a
bible in every pew. But there is no longer a need to carry the book – it’s
right here in your phone. There is a downloadable version of the Bible suited
to your style and tone. Big and small if you prefer a book. Study Guides to the
bible are worth looking up in the internet or purchasing-there are hundreds
perhaps thousands of them!
So whether
it’s your sense of helplessness with world turmoil, disgust with politics, anger
at the guy that just cut you off, or just plain frustration with cousin Edith,
The Bible is your weedwacker, allow it to clear your garden of weeds. The Word
of God is your offense and your defense, sharper than a two-edged sword.
to our Advisor Paul – Be prepared to defend yourself!
Holy Provider and Redeemer,  
Our lives are complicated; sometimes
to the point that we forget you are there. We are grateful for your armor and
yet, need your help in putting it on every day. Inspire us to seek your Word
often, and through it remind us of how to share Christ’s love, compassion, and
faith in You.
We pray this as your children through
our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen