WRAPPED in the SPIRIT (Our Shield of Faith)

Psalm 78: 1-7
Selected Verses from Ephesians Chapter 6
MATTHEW 25: 1-13

November 8, 2020

And, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Messiah, Savior, Prince of Peace, Immanuel said “I tell you the truth … but I don’t know you.” And, he was speaking to those who were trying to get through the door; to enter the narrow gate to be with Him but due to how they had chosen to live their lives … their choice of every day living … their embracing of the world … their refusal to put faith into their actions … because they really rejected Him … Jesus declared that he didn’t know them as His.

Immanuel, GOD IS WITH US … but is he? Are you open to having God with you? Are you making the choice to live a life so that at its conclusion when you approach that door … you will be known as a person who has lived a life belonging to God and Jesus Christ or will the narrow gate be so narrow that Jesus will say, “I don’t know you.” And, you will be left out?

Church, as we are in the season of the harvest and are approaching the celebration of Thanksgiving. Advent is getting closer and soon we will be focused on the babe in the manger but today … on this second Sunday of November in 2020 … have you made the active decision to walk with God in your daily life? Have you embraced the guidelines of this sermon series focusing on Dressing for Success in that walk? Did you look in your faith mirror and make adjustments? Have you changed your diet adding in the daily reading of the Gospels of Jesus Christ to your schedules? Are those you come in contact with in person or virtually noticing that love for all and love for God is on your sleeves and is the very first thing people notice in you? We know from Paul the value of the belt of truth and how God’s protection plan comes from our standing up for justice, and last week we talked about those shoes of peace we should be wearing. In these times we are living through … we are moving FORWARD … no returning to our yesterdays nor our yesteryears or our dreams of what we think those times might have been like … tomorrow is our challenge and our yesterday’s our learning moments.

In our reading this morning from Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, we again heard his call out to those early Christians. Christians whom Paul wanted to insure understood what their life choice was all about. Early Christian men, women, and young people whom Paul was trying so hard to teach the means of a walk in life that would push aside the world’s darkness so that they could thrive in the Light of Jesus Christ. “LIVE AS PEOPLE WORTHY of the CALL … the CALL YOU RECEIVED FROM GOD! CONDUCT YOURSELVES with PATIENCE, GENTLENESS, and HUMILITY ACCEPTING EACH OTHER WITH LOVE!”

Right there in those simple words from our Bible perhaps a defining moment as to who the world should see when they see a Christian … perhaps a defining moment as well as an expectation from God because after all Jesus did clearly state in the Gospel of John, “If the world hates you, know that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Everyone will know that you are my disciples WHEN YOU LOVE EACH OTHER!”

Now when you think about living a life that is loving of all neighbors aren’t the words … PATIENCE, GENTLENESS, and HUMILITY fitting with the added element ACCEPTING EACH OTHER WITH LOVE because friends after all if we are truly followers and disciples of and believers in JESUS CHRIST; OF COURSE we are accepting ofeach other with love; ALL of OUR NEIGHBORS because that’s one of two basic commandments of GOD! Or should I say expectations from the CREATOR? We have heard that the Lord God expects actually requires us to DO JUSTICE and EMBRACE FAITHFUL LOVE. Not doing so rejects God’s commands.

But in today’s lesson for DRESSING for SUCCESS in our WALK with GOD it is time to pick up our shield. Actually, it’s time to be protected behind our shield of faith because the EVIL POWER of the world that I believe is real and active is daily slinging what Paul called flaming arrows in our direction. It’s a constant stream of evil ready to set us on fire for everything that contradicts God. Our morning’s reading again reminded us that “We are fighting against forces of cosmic darkness and the powers of evil.” Of course we need a proverbial shield for our protection. Paul tells us to be “strengthened by the Lord and His powerful strength! Put on the armor of God church!” And, what is the one element in that armor that Paul says is the most needed element? “ABOVE ALL, CARRY the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

Now, we aren’t about to walk out on Crown Point Road with a steel or wooden shield in one hand nor are we going to drive our cars with a shield between ourselves and the dashboard but the truth is God has given a shield of protection to each person who is a true believer. To every person who is a disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus made the promise … Paul references the gift and again God has given us the choice to accept the SHIELD of FAITH for our daily protection or we can reject God’s gift so that the world can have its way with us.

God gave us choices but through God’s grace; God’s love … God has provided clarity for us and a rather easy means of finding that open door when life here ends. We need to believe in Jesus Christ, follow His teachings, be active in our faith, and yes DO JUSTICE, LOVE OUR NEIGHBORS, and WALK HUMBLY with GOD who loves us and whom we love.

So where is that shield of protection? It certainly is not something that you can purchase nor is it something that some specific church organization can hand over to you. The purchase price was paid by Jesus Christ on the cross but friends Paul hints at it and Jesus declares the truth for us. Paul wrote, “Make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together.” The Spirit of God … COME HOLY SPIRIT … the SPIRIT of God that launched the church of Jesus Christ on Pentecost. The SPIRIT of GOD whom Jesus told us God was sending, “I will send, Jesus said, the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father – He will testify about me. He will show the world it was wrong about sin because they don’t believe in me. He will show the world it was wrong about righteousness. He will show the world that it was wrong about judgment. The Spirit of Truth will guide you in all truth. He will glorify me. The Spirit will take what is mine and proclaim it to you.”

Friends … our shield against the evil forces of the world is God’s Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit that is ready to show us the truth … to clarify why the world’s way is the wrong way. To guide us … reminding us of the glory of Jesus Christ … Friends, if we are to hold the SHIELD of FAITH to protect ourselves from evil’s flaming arrows then we must be WRAPPED IN THE SPIRIT of GOD. We must make the decision to follow the directions in life we have each sensed when there is a choice to be had between something good and something we inherently know is wrong … we have heard the voices and sensed the nudges and if you are like me there have been times when even with the Spirit’s direction you have made the other choice.

But, these are challenging times … we can no longer deny the Spirit of God. Last night, if you heard the speech, a man whose ongoing church attendance is well documented used a powerful yet simple hymn of the church as a teaching moment reminding those around the world as to what matters if we are to be people who care for each other. “And he will raise you up on eagles’ wings. Bear you on the breath of dawn make you to shine like the sun and hold you in the palm of His hand.”

God’s Holy Spirit is the guide we need … the psalmist in today’s lesson reminded us that God declares, “Listen, my people, to my teaching. Tilt your ears towards the words of my mouth.” At times that seems so difficult and challenging because the flashy neon coated gobbledygook grabs our attention pushing us away from the light of simplicity and a life focused on God’s teaching.

I find Richard Foster to be a challenging teacher of faith and in his book ‘Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth’ he expresses concern that our collective failure to embrace the Holy Spirit of God has a direct impact on the church’s denigration because the church needs God’s Holy Spirit direction too. The corporate church as Foster calls it since he is not identifying one specific church but rather all of us. He writes, [1]God does guide the individual richly and profoundly, but He also guides groups of people and can instruct the individual through the group experience. With quiet persistence, Jesus showed them what it meant to live in response to the voice of the Father, He taught them that they too could hear the heaven sent voice and most clearly when together.” Foster then quotes Matthew 18 verses 19 and 20, “If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

I am mentioning Foster because our walk for success with God during our time here on earth also needs to be connected with the church. God’s technology allows us the virtual connection but our children need Sunday School to discover God’s teaching … families need Jesus to discover morality and the direction for eternal life … our seniors need the Holy Spirit to embrace them and take away their fears. And, so the church of Jesus Christ needs to allow the Spirit to direct us … to call us into mission for justice caring for the poor.

Together friends, we need to wrap our lives up in the Holy Spirit … we need to make an active decision to be held in the palm of God’s hand and lifted up on eagles wings so that the Holy Spirit of God can wrap us up and blind us from the world’s darkness because of the bright light of Jesus Christ.

People who truly have the Spirit of God … accept the prophet Micah as a simple guide, choose to follow the lesson of the Good Samaritan when we see people who have been harmed … realize that Jesus has the truth so that even if the world’s loud voices hate us … we are doing the will of God. There is evil in the world … we need to be protected by God’s shield but today in the season of the harvest … as Thanksgiving approaches … and then Advent … and Christmas … and 2021 … are you wiling to step forward boldly with me to be a difference maker for God … to bring back the children … to care about the youth … to declare love for all neighbors so that young people will see the church of Jesus Christ as reflecting His teaching rather than succumbing to political power?

So, in these moments we need to call on God’s Holy Spirit … we need to stand up and walk alongside our God … dressed for success in that walk, which means we will be Christians reflecting Jesus Christ in our lives.

I wish I could read all of the Gospels to you right now but I am going to read the Psalm you already heard one more time … but as I read I want each of us to quietly be praying COME HOLY SPIRIT COME … WRAP ME UP and PROTECT ME from the WORLD. LET MY DAYS REFLECT YOUR LOVE to ALL I MEET … CHANGE ME and MOLD ME FOR YOU …

Again , here’s the Word of God for the people of God:

“Listen, my people, to my teaching; tilt your ears toward the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a proverb. I’ll declare riddles from days long gone— ones that we’ve heard and learned about, ones that our ancestors told us. We won’t hide them from their descendants; we’ll tell the next generation all about the praise due the LORD and his strength— the wondrous works God has done. He established a law for Jacob and set up Instruction for Israel, ordering our ancestors to teach them to their children. This is so that the next generation and children not yet born will know these things, and so they can rise up and tell their children to put their hope in God— never forgetting God’s deeds, but keeping God’s commandments—”

WITH GOD’s HOLY SPIRIT wrapped around you and me … we will never forget and we will be the teaches and the leaders and the world changers!

[1] CELEBRATION of DISCIPLINE: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J Foster; Harper and Row Publishing

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