Peaceful Spiritual Warfare in Philippians

Sermon thoughts for Sunday, September 18, 2011
Proper 20 Year A

Isaiah 55:6–9
Psalm 27:1–9
Philippians 1:12–14, 19–30
Matthew 20:1–16

I did a google image search for cover art for the bulletin this Sunday. I wanted to find an image that would go with how Paul battles his imprisonment with the confidence of the good news of Jesus.

I searched with the terms “spiritual warfare.” I should not be surprised, but the images were remarkably violent in design. There is apparently an attractiveness to flames, swords, and armor. I know that some of these images are influenced by Ephesians 5 and putting on the full armor of God. But even there in Ephesians Paul redefines all the violent tools of the armory and shows us how we have in the spirit of Christ a victory of peace and good news.

I want us to think of spiritual warfare from the perspective of St. Paul, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

We are in a battle with evil but we are on the side of the victors. Faith in this battle does not arm us with weapons to fill the battlefield with even more violence. Faith arms us in this battle with confidence that we stand fast on the side of mercy. I am a child of God, baptized and redeemed. The devil will find victory if he turns my gaze away from the goodness and sufficiency of the mercy of God in Jesus Christ.

“Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise against me, yet I will be confident” (Psalm 27:3).

When putting to death sin, I drown the old Adam. I trust that I am somebody apart from my wickedness. I do not need to persist in my sin to persist as a person. I persist in my identity in Jesus. In the body of Christ I am somebody.

Guys…if you think emotional-less and relationship-less sex is inevitable because you are a guy, drown that identity. That is not who God has made you to be. You are a child of God, loved and redeemed. By the power of the Spirit of God, stand fast in his mercy and let him be your light and life.

It is evident from the book of Philippians that St. Paul wrote to the people of Philippi while he was in prison. This could be the time when he was under house arrest for two years in Rome. Paul is confident that God’s grace would be at work through him no matter his circumstances. He does not want the pride and joy of the Philippians to be dashed because he is in prison. Our hope is not built on our worldly goods but on the good news of Jesus.

Our spiritual warfare is against all the forces that would take our eyes away from the good news of Jesus. When struggling with the devil, we look to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.

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