Summary: In these last days, we are a church under siege by the powers of darkness, but we will prevail because we are armored by God.
By Pastor Jim May
On May 23, 1863, nearly 30,000 Union soldiers were camped in a semi-circle around one of the most unlikely places in the country. Just 35 miles north of where we are right now there was a fort built on a high bluff overlooking a sharp bend in the Mississippi River. From the earthen walls of that fort bristled a multitude of cannon, most of them aimed at the river itself. Nearly 7000 men called that fort home. Their mission and purpose was to keep the river open for the Confederacy. The river was the main artery into the heart of the South and it must remain free at all costs.
For 48 days the siege went on. Day after day, artillery would rain down on the defenders. Time and again waves of blue uniformed men would throw themselves against the defenders of Port Hudson, but they never penetrated the walls.
After many days, the defenders became weak because of lack of food. They were forced to eat anything that they could find including dogs, horses, mules, cats and even rats.
Their last stand was made at a point of the defenses called Fort Desperate.
Finally, the siege came to an end as Vicksburg fell. The defense of Port Hudson was no longer important.
I know that not all of you like Civil War history and perhaps you tire of hearing about it but I went to that area this week with my grandson’s class from school. I was reminded of the price that many have paid as they made their last stand for what they believed.
The soldiers, from both sides of this siege, knew what their objective was and they were prepared to pay the price.
There are stories of men who made their last stand throughout history and nearly every one of them have given us the names of heroes that live on beyond their lifetime. Men like Davy Crocket at the siege of the Alamo and General McAuliffe at the siege of Bastogne in World War II. When the German’s surrounding the 101st Airborne in that little French town demanded that the American’s either surrender or die, McAuliffe’s answer was short but pointed. All he said was, “Nuts”. That “eloquent speech” forever wrote his name in history.
Why do I being these things to your attention? It’s all because of something that the Holy Ghost inspired Paul to write in his letter to the Ephesians.
The city of Ephesus had once been a great city. It was called “the light of Asia”; the largest center of population in this part of the region; it was the very center of worship for the idol goddess Diana; and it was a place of great superstition and idolatry of all sorts, worshipping every god but the True God.
Inside its walls great orators, philosophers, men with great wisdom and the educated elite spoke and taught the ways of the world to people would gather at every opportunity to learn some new thing. It was a city that had been once known for its great wealth and power, and had flourished with trade among the nations of the world.
But this great city of Ephesus has been reduced to a poor, desperate little village. It has fallen to its own demise because of the corruption that filled its people and it’s place in history as a grand city was forever lost.
But God had plans for this once great city. Ephesus would be one of the focal points of God’s plan for the spread of the gospel and the establishment of His Church. But God had revealed to Paul that the church at Ephesus would also be a church under siege from the moment it was founded.
From Ephesus false teachers would rise among the ranks of the church, spread their interpretations of the Word of God and lead many astray.
Paul knew that the greatest danger to the church was not from the attacks that came from the idolaters and philosophers. Worldly powers, demonic attacks, and the forces of hell are powerful enemies, but their greatest danger to the church doesn’t come when they try to invade from without. Their greatest danger is when they have infiltrated the church itself and then, through charisma and flowering speech, persuade Christians to follow them, bringing destruction from within.
Paul’s purpose in writing to the Ephesians was to encourage them to stand in the face of the onslaught from hell. They would be surrounded by the forces of evil, besieged by the false teachers and idolaters around them, and would often feel like they were alone in the fight for right. Though they would have false teachers and false prophets that would hurt the cause of Christ, they could still stand.