THE GREAT ESCAPE – Stand Firm in Freedom
• Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIV)
 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor 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.  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.  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.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  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.
In the autumn of 1944 and Germany had been beaten back behind its borders. The Nazi war machine was in nearly destroyed. The repeated bombing raids of the Allies all but assured that Hitler’s forces would never rise again. Around the perimeter of Germany’s borders, the Allies spread a thin line of forces. One person observed that Allied forces were so scattered that a man could slip between its lines without being observed.
All across Europe, there was celebration rejoicing in Germany’s defeat. The war was effectively over. The only problem was . . . somebody forgot to tell Germany.
Even as his forces were being shattered and driven back Hitler was devising a plan for one last onslaught. Underground factories churned out more weapons, armament and ammunition. More of Germany’s young and old men were conscripted and trained for war. And as Europe rejoiced, Hitler planned.
Hitler’s goal was not to drive back the Allies into the sea, as much as it was to divide the British to the North and Americans to the South, so demoralizing them that they would seek peace on his terms and not theirs.
On Dec. 16, 1944 Hitler’s army began The Ardennes Offensive, also known as The Battle of the Bulge. Over 1,000,000 men fought along an 85 mile front; when the fighting ended Jan. 25, 1945 hundreds and thousands of men died because somebody forgot that the enemy still lived and that the war was NOT over.
Similarly Satan has been utterly defeated. What appeared to be Satan’s greatest victory was actually his ultimate defeat. Christ disarmed Satan and his demonic forces; the enemy was totally humiliated as Jesus triumphed over them at the cross (See Colossians 2:15).
While Christ has won the victory, the war is not over. Void of power Satan continues to lead a covert battle of deception. The devil seeks to convince us that he still has power over our lives, that he deserves to take back territory Christ has won. The battle rages on! Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security; Satan wants to destroy you. But don’t be afraid; GREATER IS HE WHO IS IN YOU THAN HE WHO IS IN THE WORLD. Jesus has made The Great Escape possible; we can “Stand Firm in Freedom!”
“In its entirety, the “Battle of the Bulge,” was the worst battles in terms of losses to the American Forces in WWII;” the winter battle of 1944-45 led to 81,000 American casualties, including 23,554 captured and 19,000 killed (http://www.mm.com/user/jpk/battle.htm). No one will ever know how many of these could have been spared if the Allies had reinforced their positions instead of celebrating an early end to the war across Europe.
This morning we are going to look at what it means to STAND FIRM IN FREEDOM. Jesus has done everything necessary for us to make “The Great Escape;” you are personally responsible for your spiritual condition! It is up to you to live in the freedom Christ has provided for you.
To stand firm in freedom, we are going to look at  the main line of power,  being dressed for battle, and  the protective power of prayer.
1. The Main Line of Power
• Ephesians 6:10 (NIV)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Who are you going to depend upon?
Will you fall back into the old patterns of thinking you developed before you came to Christ? You grew up independent of God; you did things your way. You followed the blueprint of the natural mind; I CAN DO IT MYSELF—I DON’T NEED ANYONE OR ANYTHING TO HELP ME! Don’t make that mistake!
We must not return to the independent mindset we had before we came to God. We must depend wholeheartedly upon God. Only Jesus can keep us free from the bondage of the enemy; only the Holy Spirit can lead us in truth to keep the chains of deception from entangling our mind.
Now does depending totally upon Jesus for your spiritual freedom sound contradictory to you being personally responsible for your spiritual condition? Jesus has finished the work at the cross to make you free from the power of the enemy; however you must walk in that truth depending upon Him. Jesus has set you free, but you must choose to daily abide in Christ. Depending daily upon Christ and making God our main line of defense against the enemy is a choice we must make; God won’t force us into submission.
• James 4:7 (MsgB)
So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper.
It’s our choice to submit to God; we must choose to resist the devil. It’s impossible to resist the devil without first submitting to God. If you think you are strong enough to beat the devil on your own, then God will be there to pick up the pieces, but God will let you fall because you chose to go into the fight without Him. God only empowers those who depend upon Him to stand and not fall; only those who humble themselves and trust God completely will overcome the enemy. When you submit to God the devil is defeated and runs away.
ILLUSTRATION: Demons are like germs. At one time people lived with no knowledge of germs that are all around us. Doctors would not wash their hands or wear masks when treating patients; therefore diseases were easily transferred from one person to another often by the doctor! But by with the simple steps of washing hands and wearing masks the spread of germs was reduced; the hand of the doctor brought healing instead of death and disease. However, if patients or doctors didn’t believe in germs then they would be less likely to do these simple things that we now know really does save lives. Furthermore, while germs are all around us we don’t have to be afraid of them (only the hypochondriac is afraid of germs); if we eat right, get enough rest, our immune system will protect us, and when we wash our hands and cover our mouth when we sneeze or cough we further reduce the risk of spreading germs.
Demons are like germs looking for someone to infect with their lies. You don’t have to be afraid of demons; no where in the Bible are we told to be afraid of the devil or demons. In Christ we have all the protection we need against Satan and evil forces. It’s like washing our hands; when we depend upon Christ and His Word our minds are cleansed from the lies of the enemy and the devil has no power over our lives. It’s when we think we can make it without the power of Christ that we are susceptible to the attack of demons. We need to depend upon Jesus to give us victory over the enemy in the same way we wash our hands to keep germs away.
YOU MUST TAKE AN ACTIVE ROLE. Jesus won’t defeat the devil without your involvement; you must do your part to depend upon God for His help. Notice Paul doesn’t tell us to sit and watch as Satan is defeated. No! If we are going to have spiritual freedom we are commanded to take an active role, to take our stand in freedom.
• Ephesians 6:10-14 (NIV)
 Finally, BE STRONG in the Lord and in his mighty power.  PUT ON the full armor of God so that you can TAKE YOUR STAND against the devil’s schemes . . .  . . . 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.  STAND FIRM . . .
These are not things God will do for us; THESE ARE OUR MARCHING ORDERS! “Be strong in the Lord . . . put on the full armor of God . . . take your stand . . . put on the full armor of God . . . stand your ground . . . stand firm!” We depend upon God; Jesus is our main line of defense, and then we are to move forward having put on the armor of God to take our stand in freedom. We advance against the lies of the enemy in Christ with the power of His Spirit within us.
Satan’s attack does not come because you have done something wrong. It is not a sin to be attacked. You may be undergoing a spiritual attack because you are doing something right. In fact, if you are not experiencing some spiritual opposition, it’s a safe bet that the devil doesn’t see you as a threat.
We are engaged in an ongoing struggle; “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers.” We are to engage the enemy in Christ knowing that Satan cannot harm us. We are to expose His lies with the truth of Christ going from victory to victory because God is our main line of power.
• 2 Corinthians 2:14 (NIV)
Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.
Satan is defeated! We have the victory in Christ. Jesus said that not even the gates of hell itself would be able to stand against us (See Matthew 6:18). Now the last time I checked gates are not an offensive weapon. If the gates of hell will be unable to stand against the Church of Jesus Christ, then who is on the offensive; Satan or the Church? The Church is not huddled together to defend itself against the attack of the enemy; we take the offensive against Satan because in Christ we have the victory!
Make God your main line of power. Submit to God; resist the devil and he will flee because Satan is defeated. Take an active role to stand firm in freedom.
2. Be Dressed For Battle
• Ephesians 6:14-17 (NIV)
 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.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Paul tells us to stand firm prepared and ready to do battle because we are fully dressed in the armor of God.
The Belt of Truth
The belt holds all the other armor in place; without the belt a warrior would lose all the rest of his protective covering. If the belt of truth is lost then the rest of the armor of God falls off and we are defenseless; the belt of truth is an essential piece of armor.
• John 14:6 (NIV)
[Jesus said,] "I am . . . the truth.”
• John 16:13 (NLT)
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.
As believers we are in Christ and His Spirit lives in you. Therefore, you are in the truth, and the truth is in you! The belt of truth defends us from Satan’s primary weapon which is deception. Jesus said whenever Satan speaks “he speaks his native language for his is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 NIV). SATAN CONTINUALLY ATTACKS THE TRUTH WITH LIES.
James Patterson and Peter Kim, authors of The Day America Told the Truth, estimate that 91 percent of us regularly embroider the truth. According to Patterson and Kim, "We lie and don’t even think about it." People lie today to protect themselves; they fear being exposed by the truth. Yet Paul tells us that TRUTH IS OUR FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE. It is truth and not the lie that protects us.
• Ephesians 4:15 (MsgB)
God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do.
Paul wants us to speak the truth, to follow the example of Jesus who is the truth. Everything we do and say should be marked by truth. Living by the truth simplifies life; whatever is true we embrace while anything that is not true we reject. If a thought comes into our mind that is not in agreement with God’s word, then we dismiss it. If we have an opportunity to do or say anything that compromises or conflicts with the truth we avoid it. Adopt a simple rule for living: if it is true act upon it, build upon it, make it part of your life; if it is not the truth eliminate it, turn your back on it.
The Breastplate of Righteousness
• 1 John 1:9 (NIV)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
God cleanses us from all unrighteousness and puts the righteousness of Christ upon us.
• 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Putting on the breastplate of righteousness means two important things in our lives.
 The breastplate of righteousness puts us in agreement with God about our sin.
We put on the breastplate of righteousness as we confess our sins to God. Confession is not simply saying, “O God I’m sorry.” Some of us are only sorry because we got caught.
Confession comes from the Greek word “homologeo” which is made up of two Greek words: “homo” meaning ONE or THE SAME, and “logos” meaning WORD. So literally confession means to SPEAK THE SAME WORD. We agree with God about our sin; we don’t try to rationalize or make excuses for our sin, but we agree with God and say, “Lord what I have done or said is sin, now come and forgive me; wash me and make me clean again.”
Putting on the breastplate of righteousness does not mean you will never sin again. Rather it means you recognize sin in your life and turn from it immediately; when you sin you are quick to agree with God that He might again clothe you with His righteousness.
Likewise the breastplate of righteousness does not give us an excuse to continue in habitual sin. God wants us to become more and more like Jesus to live in victory over sin.
• Philippians 3:8-9 (NIV)
 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
• 1 Corinthians 1:30 (MsgB)
Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ.
Satan does not want you to live a victorious life. “Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous” (Psalm 118:15 NIV). Sin robs you of daily victory; sin takes away your joy. Satan wants you to focus on your sin; he knows if he can keep you from agreeing with God that he has rendered you ineffective and in time can take your life. The only way to overcome the enemy and restore your victory and joy in the Lord is to agree with God about your sin.
 The breastplate of righteousness protects us from the accuser of the brethren.
If Satan cannot keep you from agreeing with God about your sin, he will try to defeat you by continually reminding you of your sin and unrighteousness. Satan will remind you of your past sin, right up to the point you agreed with God about it and received God’s forgiveness.
When Satan reminds you of your past, that’s the time to remind him of his future. The breastplate of righteousness protects you from Satan’s flaming arrows of accusation. You can continue to agree with God about your sin saying, “I’m forgiven for God has cleansed me of all unrighteousness.”
• Romans 8:33 (NIV)
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
The breastplate of righteousness protects you form Satan finger pointing; the devil’s indictment holds no authority. Christ has purchased your pardon on the cross of Calvary! Don’t live in continual defeat; agree with God and have victory over your sin, past and present!
The Shoes of the Gospel of Peace
• Colossians 3:15-16 (NIV)
 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
The shoes of the Gospel of peace defend us from Satan’s counter attack as we seek to reconcile man to God and man to man. The devil’s plan is to divide and conquer. The way he divides is through deception. We however can bring peace between God and man, as well as maintain peace and harmony within the body of Christ by bringing God’s word. The message of the gospel is the Good News that establishes peace with God and man.
The Shield of Faith
ILLUSTRATION: There are two Greek names for shields used by soldiers at that time. One is a small round shield called an “aspis.” The second is called a “thureos” which is a full-length shield made of wood and covered with padding and leather. The “thureos” shield protected the whole body. Do you know which shield is used to describe our shield of faith? “Thureos!” The shield of faith protects you from head to toe. With this shield we can extinguish all the flaming darts of the enemy.
Our faith is in God; the more you know about God the greater your faith will be. How can we come to know God and increase our faith?
• Romans 10:17 (NIV)
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Faith comes by the Word of God. Therefore if you want your shield of faith to increase in its size to give you better protection from the attack of the enemy, then dig into God’s word; study it, memorize it. Let your faith in God grow as you come to know Him more through His word.
The Helmet of Salvation
The battlefield is about six inches wide; it takes place between your ears. The battlefield is your mind. However, the helmet of salvation covers your mind; where you are most vulnerable to the attack of the enemy God has placed His salvation to protect you.
• 1 Thessalonians 5:8-9 (NIV)
 But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.  For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our salvation is not simply a wish; it’s more than a dream. Our hope of salvation is an absolute certainty. Your salvation is a reality in Christ Jesus that no one can take away. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ” (Romans 8:35 NIV)?
The Sword of the Spirit
The sword of the Spirit, the Word of God is the only offensive weapon listed as part of the armor of God. The “word” Paul uses is not the “logos” word; rather he uses the “rhema” word! The “Rhema” word of God is not simply the written word, but THE SPOKEN WORD! Taking up the sword of the Spirit is more than just reading your Bible; it’s more than memorizing scripture. Taking up the sword of the Spirit is to declare God’s word, to speak it with your mouth. Again that’s why I can’t defeat the enemy for you; you must speak God’s word and become skilled at using His word as a weapon.
ILLUSTRATION: When Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted by the devil, how did Jesus defeat the enemy? Jesus did not overcome temptation by picking up a scroll and waving it back and forth at the devil. JESUS SPOKE THE WORD OF GOD. It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” It is written, “Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” It is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” (See: Luke 4:4, 8, 12)
If we are going to make the great escape to stand firm in freedom, we must make God our main line of power, we must be fully dress with the armor of God, and finally we need:
3. The Protective Power of Prayer
• Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)
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.
In modern warfare prayer would be your communications equipment, a walkie-talkie or satellite phone. Through prayer we can receive direction from our great Commander and Chief, the Lord Jesus Christ. We can also call heaven and request an angelic fly over to drop “smart bombs” on the enemy to ensure our victory.
Two way communication with God—God talking with us as we listen and God listening to our requests—prayer is vital to making the great escape; only by prayer can we stand firm to live in freedom.
Portions of this sermon are adapted from The Bondage Breaker, Neil T. Anderson. Chapter 5 “Jesus Has You Covered”