You Were Made for a Mission (Ephesians 6:10-18)

This weekend is an auspicious one in history. In 1919, Benito Mussolini formed the Fascist Movement in Italy. In 1933, the German Reichstag granted Adolf Hitler dictatorial powers. In 1956, Pakistan declared itself an Islamic Republic and in 1983, during the Cold War with Russia, Ronald Reagan announced the Star Wars initiative. Today we live with the lingering consequences. This week the tragic atrocity in Tunis involving European tourists visiting a museum has made the headlines. But if you visit, you will discover that there are at least 68 other countries where it might be unwise to take your Summer holiday, because they are presently experiencing armed conflict. There are in fact over 600 different militias, guerrilla, anarchist or separatist groups involved in violent struggles. As a young adult I once visited a friend serving with the US military on Lakenheath Airbase. As I left the base, before reaching the checkpoint, on the perimeter wall, hidden from the main road and the gaze of British civilians, I saw a large sign, about 40 feet long with lettering two feet high. Intended for US military personnel only, it read “Danger – you are now entering a war zone.” Although probably intended to improve their survival rates on British roads, I’ve thought a lot about that message.

“Danger – you are now entering a war zone.” I’ve even been tempted to place a similar sign over the entrance to Christ Church. I just couldn’t decide whether to put it on the inside for those leaving or the outside… For the truth is, whichever way we turn, we are indeed living in a war zone. Our Bible reading this morning explains why. God insists there is another war, a far more insidious, destructive war, which engulfs the whole world. A war with cosmic as well as eternal consequences. And rather than flee to somewhere safe, God insists we have been called up.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)

During Lent we have been recommending Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life, available from the church bookstore. Rick He focuses on our 5 God-given purposes.

We were planned for God’s pleasure – Worship
We were formed for God’s family – Fellowship
We were created to become like Christ – Discipleship
We are shaped for service – Ministry
We were made for a mission – Evangelism

Today we are focusing on our 5th purpose. We were made for a mission in a world that is occupied territory, a world under the influence of the evil one, a world that is literally a war zone. That is why we need to understand our purposes, live them and share them with others. That is your mission. This is not an exercise. As Rick Warren says, “There are many ‘good’ things you can do with your life, but God’s essentials you must do.” Its vital therefore we remember, we are living in a war zone. How we think, how we act, how we live, will, humanly speaking, influence our part in this war and the future destiny of others. Lets look at Ephesians – chapter 6. I want us to discover, the enemy God tolerates (6:11-12); the armour God provides (6:13-20); the victory God assures (6:13).

1. The Enemy God Tolerates
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:10-12)

The first step in warfare is to know and respect your enemy. When we demonise other people we make a tactical mistake. Muslims are not the enemy. Just as Communists are not the enemy. Or before them, the Germans, or before them the Irish, the Scots, the French or even our beloved Colonies who wanted their independence.
Satan’s strategy is to deceive us into thinking that other people, people with different coloured skin, people speaking strange languages, people with different customs or religions or political systems, they are the real enemy. That’s the devil’s strategy. To deflect us from our real enemy.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)

But there’s worse. Far too many of our armed forces are killed or injured by so-called ‘friendly fire’, not by the enemy. What a misnomer that is – ‘friendly fire’. And if truth be told, far too many Christians are disabled in mission or defeated in ministry because of so called ‘friendly fire’ – snipped at and cut down by gossip or criticism from misguided Christians. The Baptists or the Roman Catholic Church is not the enemy any more than the Church of England. That’s Satan’s strategy. To get us to attack other believers. To deflect us from our real enemy. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood…”
Our first purpose in life is that we were planned for God’s pleasure, not Satan’s pleasure. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” (Ephesians 6:10). God’s pleasure is that we be strong in his mighty power and withstand the evil one.
So, first, recognize the enemy God tolerates. Second put on:

2. The Armour God Provides
Therefore put on the full armour of God… Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:13-17)

Besides being planned for God’s pleasure, these verses mention our 4 other purposes in life.

2.1 We were formed for God’s family = Fellowship
How did the Roman army conquer most of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East? Superior weaponry? Stronger armour? No. They fought in legions of about 3,000 soldiers.
They succeeded because they fought as one man with rigid discipline and mechanical precision. That is the only way we can withstand the evil one as well. Together. That is why our fellowship together on Sundays and mid-week in our home groups and on First Wednesdays for prayer is so vital if we are to stand against the evil one. Do you regard yourself as a member of Christ Church family?

Then check the Electoral Roll. If you are not listed, please complete an ER form.
Place it in the box provided. Sign up today! We were formed for God’s family.

2.2 We were created to become like Christ = Discipleship
Each part of the armour – the belt of truth – the breastplate of righteousness – the gospel of peace – the shield of faith – the helmet of salvation – the sword of the spirit – each of these is the armour of God. They describe Jesus Christ. Think about it. He is our truth, He is our righteousness, He is our peace, He is our faith, He is our salvation, He is our Word of God.

God’s will is that we become like Jesus Christ. Putting the armour on is what discipleship is all about. William Gurnall was the pastor of Lavenham in Suffolk. In 1655, he wrote, The Christian in Complete Armour. It became a best seller and was the 17th Century The Purpose Driven Life. In it he says this:

“In heaven we shall appear not in armour but in robes of glory; but here they (the pieces of armour specified) are to be worn night and day; we must walk, work and sleep in them, or else we are not true soldiers of Christ.”

We were formed for God’s family, we were created to become like Christ.

2.3 We were shaped for serving God = Ministry
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18)

What do you pray for when you pray for the saints? Your brothers and sisters? Your church leaders? Our mission partners? Pray that together we will serve God’s purposes using our talents, giving our energy, investing our resources in His service. The Roman army won so many victories because they were disciplined and they were coordinated. Our strength likewise comes from serving one another with our gifts and talents – deploying the armour God has provided to protect and support one another. And please be in prayer about whom you would nominate to serve on our Church Council. Who are the people you respect and trust, who demonstrate by their Christ like behavior, their servant heartedness, their maturity, that God has prepared them to serve on our Church Council also? We were formed for God’s family. We were created to become like Christ. We were shaped for serving God.

2.4 We were made for mission = Evangelism
“Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” (Eph 6:19-20).

Paul models our fifth purpose. Elsewhere in the NT we are called to be “Ambassadors” (2 Corinthians 5). How? By learning to love lost people the way God does. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us: God doesn’t want “anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance.” God never made a person he didn’t love. That is why we must care about doubters, seekers and unbelievers – because God cares. Love leaves no choice… As long as you know one person who does not know Christ, keep praying for them, serving them in love, just like Jesus.

As long as there is one person in our community who isn’t in the family of God, keep reaching out…” You know which sentence I found to be the most challenging in the book The Purpose Driven Life? “The church that doesn’t want to grow is saying to the world ‘You can go to hell.’” Do you want our church to grow? I do. As we review the findings of the NCD Survey (at the back – and yes we want your feedback)

Here are some personal diagnostic questions: What are you willing to do so that the people you know can go to heaven? Share your story? Give them a Christian book? Give them a meal? Invite them to Church? Pray for them every day until they are saved? Is anyone going to be in heaven because of you? Will anyone in heaven be able to say to you ‘I want to thank you. I’m here because you cared enough to share the Good News with me?” You see, God made you to be a member of his family, a model of his character, a magnifier of his glory, a minister of his grace, and a messenger of his Good News to others.
Of these five purposes, the first four you will keep doing in some way for eternity. The fifth can only be done on earth. Leading people to Jesus Christ is the principle reason God has left us on earth. This is how we ultimately defeat Satan, by leading lost people out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light (1 Peter 2:9). We have considered the enemy God tolerates and the armour God provides. Lastly, notice,

3. The Victory God Assures (Ephesians 6:13)
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13)

The outcome of this war is not unknown. It is not undecided. Between the resurrection of Christ and the return of Christ, Satan is a defeated foe but still a dangerous foe.
Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose victorious that you can stand your ground so that in the day of evil, you might not fall. Your share in Christ’s victory is assured if you recognize the enemy God tolerates; if you stand your ground in the armour God provides; and if you fulfil your purpose as a “good soldier of Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:3). Although today is auspicious in the history of the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany when did the tide turn against the Nazi Third Reich?

Tactically speaking, probably on June 6th 1944 on D-Day. A whole year before VE day 8th May 1945, the tide turned with the Normandy landings. But it might just have been three years earlier still that the tide turned, in the hearts of the nation. On October 29, 1941, Prime Minister Winston Churchill visited Harrow to give a speech to the students. Lasting just 4 minutes and 12 seconds, he ended with those words:

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished… and liquidated… But instead our country stood in the gap. There was no flinching and no thought of giving in; … we now find ourselves in a position where I say that we can be sure that we have only to persevere to conquer… Do not let us speak of darker days: let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days; these are great days–the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.”

The tide of war turned first in the hearts of those who resolved to stand their ground. Those who were willing to sacrifice their lives for a just and noble cause that would outlast them. God has privileged us to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our world also.

The battle has been won, the victory is assured. But we must endure what the New Testament describes as “the Last Days” – the days between D-Day and VE Day – we must hold the line until Jesus returns and Satan is finally destroyed. In this concluding look at Ephesians, we’ve considered our mission in life. We have discovered the enemy God tolerates; the armour God provides and the victory God assures. While you still have breath, never, never, never give up, stand your ground, live out your purpose, complete your mission, fulfill your destiny, to the glory of God.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13)

Lets pray.