The Gates of Hell Cannot Withstand….those standing firm in Christ!
“The Gates of Hell Cannot Withstand Us”
† In Jesus Name †
As we are engaged in spiritual battle, may we find the strength, and His might, which enables us to focus, not on the Evil, but on His Love and Mercy! AMEN!
St. Peter’s Confession!
In one of his better moments, right after putting one foot in his mouth and perhaps seconds before placing the other one there, St Peter proclaims to Jesus (and to the others) “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16 (NLT)
Jesus response there in Matthew’s gospel affirms Peter’s words.
16:17 Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. 18 Now I say to you that you are Peter which means ‘rock’, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not stand against it. Matthew 16:17-19 (adapted from NLT/ESV)
We shared this same hope we in the words of the Nicene Creed, They remind us that we are in a spiritual war, that we were once hostages that were rescued by Jesus, that there are still many that need to be rescued, and the gates of hell are powerless against the cry of faith in God.
It is a spiritual war, and spiritual warfare, though simple in words never seems to be so easy.
Most people, facing spiritual warfare and our epistle today take one of two actions. One they see themselves as a spiritual super-hero, Captain America or Superman – ready to take on the world if need be! Or having common sense, they run faster than the Enterprise going into warp
Often, we come often back from such spiritual warfare bruised and battered, as I have to admit, I did this week. The challenge is to realize that taking such a beating…isn’t always a bad thing. For it drives us to Jesus…
A Confession of Failure
As Vicar Mark and I went to St. Louis this week, we had some incredible moments. Some of the lessons were great, as we heard that the seminary process is as much about forming Mark as a pastor, not just a theologian. They left him a bit in awe, and somewhat in fear of the next four year’s work they demand. They did the same for us “mentors”. They told us of the burden we will bear – opening our lives us to share and model and help mold th making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
em as men of God, as leaders of their church.
I failed the very first test as Mark’s mentor, as we struggled through the week, and as frustration eventually got the best of me. I didn’t model very well being strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might, and in remembering that flesh and blood are not our enemies – but forces of much more conniving and forceful and yes diabolical nature.
It started with a rental car which our 5’7 inch 150 pound friend found quite snug with the seat all the way back! (So you can imagine Mark and I trying to wear it!) Then there was the perfect weather – well the numbers matched perfectly – 95 degrees and 95 percent humidity. Add in every class we moved from was on the 2nd or third floor with the stairwells without any airflow. Toss in a number of irritating moments, like losing paperwork and forms multiple times. And cap it off with a mind-number eleven hour journey home including a challenge with TSA, weather delays, missed connections, and airport staff who seemed to delight in causing us problems! One of us, on a conveyer belt bringing us from one terminal to another mentioned the passage in James… “count it all joy when you endure..” except we couldn’t even find that quote funny. We were done, we were beat, and we lost sight of God’s incredible blessings of the week, or the people He brought us into contact with…including the divorced doctor going to see his son, and the foreign student who Mark and I had the opportunity to share God’s love with, on the first leg of our journey.
I have to confess that I struggled not to see the ticket agent as my enemy. Knowing I was preaching on this very passage, I gave up the opportunity to be a blessing to her, and to be an example on dealing with frustrations for Mark.
I had lost the war… or so I believed, as I shared with Vicar Mark that we needed to remember the incredible blessings, even as Satan and His demons, NOT DELTA, was trying to distract us from the grace we know so well! The goal isn’t to beat us up, but to do whatever is necessary to pull us away from Jesus, and then into the bondage of sin!
So where is our armor?
I am convinced that a great deal of spiritual warfare begins and ends with simply distracting us from Jesus. Whether it is causing us frustration or anxiety, getting us to be burdened by guilt or shame, causing us to repress our feelings, or giving into sin, the goal is the same – the people of God will struggle if we are weakened by forgetting the presence of God in which we dwell! That’s why one of the first tactics is to indicate that we don’t need to be gathered together around God’s mercy and love, poured out on us through His word and Sacrament.
Look at the weapons we are to take up – they lead us – each and every one of the weapons, to Jesus – and His work in our lives.
We start the belt of Truth! Back then a belt girds and strengthens us for the run, think of the kind of belt a weight lifter or stockroom worker uses.. John 14:6 tells us Jesus is the Truth – and so our first weapon, strengthening our endurance is given to us, as we dwell in Christ!
The Breastplate of Righteousness – as we read Romans 3-5, and we find that which protects our heart is Jesus. The second tool of the battle is the righteousness, for in Him and through Him we are found righteous, and free from the sin which so easily subverts us!
The shoes, the incredible shoes that were put on, ready to go out and share the gospel of peace! Again, the focus is on being in Christ, for in Him, there is the peace that passes all understanding!
The helmet that keeps our mind safe and secure, just as the breastplate kept our heart safe- our salvation – which is found again, as we live in Jesus Christ, it is His work in our lives! Does it sound familiar that our heart is guarded and our head is guarded as we journey in peace? This is a common theme for Paul, the blessing of our being united in Christ Jesus!
Lastly the sword, the Word of God, the words which cut open our sin-plagued heart and exorcises the sin – not just a weapon to attack and stab with, but a tool to use for healing as well! What an incredible thing Jesus does in our lives!
It is amazing, that as Paul focuses us on these weapons, the tools of our faith, the emphasis isn’t really on the war, but on realizing that we dwell in Christ! That is why he naturally moves from realizing what God has done, to communicating with God in prayer and supplication!
You see, that’s where we find our strength – not in our own maturity, but rather in communion with the Creator of all! That means, trusting in Him, we do lay every burden down, we bring Him into every situation! We trust Him not only with our life, but with the people we pray for! We trust Him with the lives of those for whom we “intercede” as we bring before the God that loves us. We know that as He takes them from our hands into His heart, the care will be there… that all things will work for good for them, for those who are loved and called into the very relationship we have with God!
A war against principalities and the cosmic powers of the present darkness means we realize that so many are still held in bondage – bondage to that which causes fear and guilt and share and anxiety!
Our war isn’t with them, it is to free them, as it was Paul’s vocation and prayer as well.
Think about these last verses,
“making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel!
As we consider where we are in Christ, we realize they mystery is revealed completely! What we’ve been saved to, the peace, of heart and mind! The peace of knowing real truth that God has cleansed us and freed us of that which poisons our lives! We realize our battle is to free those who were bound as we have been, whose life is missing that peace.
The funny thing, I said above that I was shocked at what a poor example I was, but perhaps the example that was needed is not that I reacted badly to the stress of the day and the burdens of the week – but instead that having sinned, I found the strength that cleanses our sins, and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus….
For that is our combat lesson. AMEN?
Posted on September 2, 2012, in Sermons and tagged adversaries, combat, confessions, creeds, Enemies, gates of hell, God, jesus christ, Life in Christ, love, Messiah, nicene creed, son of the living god, Spiritual Warfare, spirituality, theology. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.