Summary: God calls us to go beyond just spiritually surviving our even flourishing within our souls. He calls us to go out and make a difference.
We return to Ephesians, chapter 6, for our sermon text this morning. Now hear the word of God, from the Apostle Paul
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
This morning we are looking at the third piece of armor which God gives us to enable us to stand firm in the crazy world we live in. It is the readiness to proclaim the gospel of peace. When we are ready ‘to proclaim the gospel of peace,’ it’s like when a soldier can wear good foot protection for a battle. Their footing is solid. They don’t have to worry about stepping on the sharp wooden spikes that some armies dug into the ground in places where they figured their opponents would step on. Scholars differ one whether these are boots or more like shin guards, but either one makes the point. Good foot protection is essential. Any serious athlete knows how important your shoes are. If you aren’t working on a solid foundation, you’re in trouble.
And just what does it mean to be ready to proclaim the gospel of peace? The battleground in which we live is a veritable minefield, seeded with resentments, selfishness, outright lies, bitterness, prejudice and false accusations. You never know when you’ll step in the wrong place and BOOM, you’re in trouble. This is a world where an awful lot of people are hurt very badly. Look at the way that Lebanon and northern Israel, parts of Iraq and Afghanistan are being devasted today. It can be awful intimidating. It can make you want to lock the door and never come out. It can make us feel as if the world is hopeless and nothing can change.
When we are faithful to proclaim the gospel of peace, we are like those crews that clean out all those terrible mines. The gospel of peace brings reconciliation in the place of hostility. It replaces selfishness with servanthood. It replaces bitterness with forgiveness. It replaces lies and deception with the truth. The more faithfully we proclaim this gospel, the less ammunition the devil will have to cause harm.
The gospel of peace can change our world. The prophet Isaiah described Jesus as “the Prince of Peace.” And that he is! The Bible talks about the good news of Jesus Christ as not just some words written on a page, but as living words, alive, able to cut like a two-edged sword through the lies and mixed motives around us, bringing the truth out into the light. The gospel is like seed that a farmer plants and will some day produce a crop . The prophet Isaiah said that once it has been sent out it will not return without having accomplished its purpose . It's a living word. It changes things.
So many people have no vision of any other world except the way it is now with all its foolishness. It's the only life they can see so it's the only life they will live. And if we sit on the good news of Jesus Christ, keep it to ourselves, nothing will change. As Edmond Burke said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." When that happens we just abandon the battlefield for the devil to do with it whatever he wants.
But God offers us the readiness to proclaim the gospel of Christ. Mohammed rode into Mecca on a war horse, with a sword in his hands. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt, with tears in his eyes. Our world needs to meet this Jesus. We are to present to the world a new vision, a new hope. This part of the armor goes on our feet so that it gets us going, moving forward, carrying his light into the darkest places. And when the light of the gospel shines in the darkness, the lies and accusations and tricks of the devil lose their power. Light conquers darkness every time. Do we believe that? Light conquers darkness every time.