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February 19, 2017
Pastor Jeff Struecker
We’re studying through the book of Luke and today we’re in chapter 22. Let’s say that you’re new to Christianity and you’re still trying to figure out what is it means to follow Jesus. If you started reading the Bible for the first time in your life and began at the New Testament with the book of Matthew, you’re going to read a parallel account of what we see today. As you continue through the New Testament when you get to Mark you’re going to see something very similar to what Matthew describes today. When you get to the book of Luke, if you pay close attention, you’re going to notice that Luke omitted some things that Matthew and Mark included. Luke added some things that Matthew and Mark didn’t add to this story. Even if you just casually read these three stories side-by-side, here’s what I think you’re going to be overwhelmingly convinced about. Luke is using battle language today. Luke is preparing his readers and us for a war. The thing about the war that Luke is describing for us today. This is a spiritual battle. This is the kind of war that you can’t win with bombs, guns, and bullets. This war takes place inside the human heart; inside your heart and inside the hearts of people around you. This means you really can’t kill your way to victory in this war. That’s been tried by every major religion and it’s failed miserably. From the time that the Crusaders went back to reconquer the holy land because they believe God commanded it. From the Islamic Jihad that began in 600AD that continues to this day. From the Zionist movement, Hindu extremism, Buddhist uprising, and the Huguenots at war with the Roman Catholics. Even in our country people bomb abortion clinics trying to kill their way to victory in this war but that’s not the kind of war that we’re talking about today. The kind of war that Luke wants to prepare us for is a war that starts inside you. It happens inside your soul.
I. Be ready to fight for your soul
Be ready for the fight. You need to at least know that there’s a war that’s happening and it’s happening inside at your soul level. When our first parents, Adam and Eve, were created in the Garden of Eden the Bible tells us that God breathed into their nostrils the breath of life. Adam and Eve became a living soul. That soul was made pure, holy, and perfect by God until Adam and Eve committed the first sin. Then war began in the Garden of Eden but it started inside the heart inside the soul of Adam and Eve. That war has spilled into every human soul after them. All of us, because we were born to our parents Adam and Eve, have been born with this holy war going on inside of us. The only way to kill your way to victory in this war is to kill the sin that’s inside of you.
If you were here last week, we took a look at this temptation that Judas Iscariot went through. I said last week that I’m tempted you’re tempted all of us are tempted because of this war inside our flesh. If you were thinking last week “Jeff, what Judas did would never happen to me! I could never do what that guy did!”, congratulations! You just fell into the very same trap that Simon Peter fell into. Simon Peter was trusting himself and trusting his own abilities. By default, he could not have then been trusting in Jesus.
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. 32 But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.” 34 But Jesus said, “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
Notice the language and the names that you see. When Jesus met this fisherman by the name of Simon. He changed his life, his occupation, and his name. He was no longer Simon now he was Peter this great rock. The testimony of Peter is the message that will change the world. By mentioning the name twice Jesus is using great emphasis to drive this point home. He is saying, “You are acting like the old Simon before I met you. In fact, before this night is over with you are going to go back to the old Simon that you were not the Peter that I created inside of you. You’re about to fall. You’re about to enter into temptation and you don’t even see it.”
Judas Iscariot was Satan’s easy target. Simon Peter was Satan’s prized target and so are you, if you’re willing to stand up, speak out, and share your faith in Jesus with other people. You are a target from the enemy just like Peter was a target for the enemy. It’s something that Luke wants all of us to be prepared for today. He wants you to know there is a battle and it starts inside of you. It is you at war with you. This holy war begins inside of you. Here’s the thing. Peter’s very point of strength was ironically his actual weakness. Peter thinks he’s strong enough, “Jesus, I can handle whatever comes next. The rest of these guys may run away from you and abandon you but that won’t happen to me.” Jesus says, “Peter, you don’t even know. You think you’re so tough and strong but before the sun comes up tomorrow morning you will deny that you even know me three times.” Jesus is warning Peter. We’ll see next week that even with all of this warning Peter doesn’t see it coming, is completely caught off guard, and stumbles bad.
Luke is saying, if you pay close attention to the pronouns, in verse 31 Jesus is saying, “Satan’s asked for you, Peter.” In verse 32 Jesus said, “By the way, he’s asked for everybody else too.” He’s going to do to you what he’s going to do to Peter. Now, if I’m Peter, I’m freaking out right now because I’m thinking, “Okay Jesus, if Satan is asking for permission to sift me, certainly you have the power to prevent this from happening. So why would you allow him to do this to me? Why would you allow this to happen to me?” Jesus is saying, “Peter, when you stumble and fall get back up, dust yourself off, and get back into the fight. When your brothers and sisters see you get back up and see you dust yourself off they’re going to be encouraged by the way you get back in there and continue to tell people about me.” Think about what would’ve happened if Peter stumbled, fell and stayed on the ground. On the day at Pentecost when he boldly stood up and preached thousands gave their life to Christ in one sermon.
Church, I want you to listen very carefully to what I’m going to say next. You have a very real enemy who will do whatever he can to destroy your faith. If he can’t destroy your faith, he will do what he can to discredit your faith. Luke is challenging us to at least to be aware of the battle. Don’t go blindly dancing through a minefield. At least know that you’re in a battle and it happens the moment that you get up. It starts inside your chest in the human heart. Jesus said, “Peter, it’s going to get bad and you’re going to stumble. Peter, let me remind you of something, I’m praying for you.” The language that Luke uses here is the exact same language from the prodigal son who turned his back on dad, ran away, and wanted nothing to do with him. The dad was longing and wanting the son to return. Luke says, “Peter, when you return again to Jesus, he’s longing and waiting for you. In fact, he’s praying for you while you’re stumbling to prevent you from falling away completely.” Judas fell away because he really never belonged to Jesus to begin with. Peter is going to stumble and fall because he’s trusting in himself and his own abilities. He thought he was tough enough to handle this battle but he’s not. By warning Peter and the rest of the disciples, Jesus is warning us too. “The exact same thing is going to happen to you, if you call yourself my follower. The only way this doesn’t happen to you is if you stop telling people that you belong to me.”
Two weeks ago I had a member of our church who was in my office meeting with me and one of the elders. He is right now going through cancer and is really struggling. The treatments, the chemotherapy, and the radiation have taken a great toll on him. He said this profound statement, “Jeff, this has really put things into perspective for me. All the stuff that I thought was important I’m realizing now it really wasn’t that important. This treatment and this diagnosis is showing me what’s really important.” If you want to know what exactly did Satan ask Jesus, Satan asked Jesus’s permission to sift the disciples. This is a word that describes what happens with wheat. You put wheat through a sieve and on the other side the pure the worthwhile stuff comes out. The worthless part that has no value is left on top of the sieve. The sieve is used to separate what’s really valuable from what has no value. Let me ask you, is cancer sifting you right now? Maybe it’s finances and your being tested to your very core. Maybe it’s your marriage. Maybe it’s a boss at work and no matter how hard you try no matter how much you give they can’t let up and life is miserable for you right now. Maybe it’s teenage children. Maybe it’s a professor at college or a teacher at school and your saying, “I don’t know how much more I can take.” Perhaps the Lord is allowing you to be sifted because he wants to show you what’s really important. He may also want to teach you that you don’t try to go through this on your own. You’re not strong enough. You’re not tough enough. You need the help of the Holy Spirit.
If you’re going through that sieve right now and you’ve stumbled or fallen down and it’s been a long time since you’ve been in church and you’re just now coming back, Jesus has been praying for you. He’s praying but you don’t throw in the towel and walk away completely. What’s most important in this battle is that you’re strapped in and ready, and you at least know there is a war inside of you. If you don’t get up in the morning and fight the battle inside of you, you’ll be AWOL on the battlefield. That’s only half of the story.
II. Be ready to fight for the souls of others
Once you’re ready to fight the battle inside of you, now you’re able to fight the battle that’s going on outside of you. Now you’re ready to fight for the souls of other people. This holy war that we’re talking about today is a battle in your flesh first of all and then for the faith of other people. We should be fighting for the souls of others as well as fighting each morning for our own soul. Alicia Keys perform the song Holy War. In the song she said the way you fight this holy war is by loving somebody and caring a little bit more for them every day. That’s the way to victory in this holy war.
Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you out to preach the Good News and you did not have money, a traveler’s bag, or an extra pair of sandals, did you need anything?” “No,” they replied. 36 “But now,” he said, “take your money and a traveler’s bag. And if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one! 37 For the time has come for this prophecy about me to be fulfilled: ‘He was counted among the rebels.’ Yes, everything written about me by the prophets will come true.” 38 “Look, Lord,” they replied, “we have two swords among us.” “That’s enough,” he said.
Jesus is sending his disciples in to enemy territory. Did you notice that he’s not trying to protect them? He’s not trying to keep them from going into battle. In fact, what he’s saying is, “I’m sending you into battle and I’m going into battle with you. I’m not sending you on the defense. I’m not sending you there to protect the territory and to make sure that you don’t lose anybody. I’m sending you out to attack. I’m sending you into enemy territory. I’m sending you out to make a difference. When I first sent you out everything was great. People loved you. They wanted to hear the message that you were telling them. When I send you out this time it’s not going to be like that. If they persecuted me, they’re going to persecute you. When you go out this time it’s going to be rough. When you go out this time you’re going to suffer. The only way to not have to suffer is to not be sent in the first place. If I’m sending you, I’m sending you out to suffer.”
My spiritual goal was for the rest of my life is to make an impact in the Chattahoochee Valley. It is my goal before the Lord to spend the rest of my life invested in this city until every single person in the Chattahoochee Valley hears the name of Jesus Christ. When the Army sent me here as a teenager in the late 80s I hated it here. I couldn’t wait for the Army to move me away until I got a chance to know some people in our community. By the time Dawn and I left in the mid-90s we loved this place so much I kept asking the Army to send me back. In the last 30 years our community has changed significantly. The spiritual condition of this city is radically different today than it was in the late 80s. In fact, the best statistics that we can find from 2016 in the Chattahoochee Valley on the average Sunday roughly 17% of our city was in church. This means on an average Sunday 83% of the city said they don’t want church, don’t need anything to do with church, and don’t care. Barna research group just concluded some research that said over the last 10 years more people left church in America then the entire populations of the countries of Canada and Australia combined. More people checked out of church and said they don’t need church then the entire population of both Canada and Australia in a 10 year period. Those numbers are picking up steam. When you get up and go to work tomorrow, you are working behind enemy lines. You are in school behind enemy lines. God is sending you out as his messenger to make an impact and to make a difference for Jesus Christ.
Did you know in the Bible most of the time in the New Testament when Jesus uses the word sword it’s a metaphor but not today? In fact, today the word sword that he uses in the book of Luke is literally, “Go sell your stuff and buy a sword because the battle is about to get tough. I want you to carry a sword with you when you go out.” For all you rednecks in the room thinking, “Okay, this is it. This is my excuse.” You go home and try to convince your wife, “Jesus wants me to buy that new shotgun.” For all of you ladies in the room who are paying close attention to the Bible, you’re going to be smart enough to say, “Jesus said, ‘You already had two guns and two guns is enough. That’s enough! We have enough guns.” This is simple math. Two swords are not enough to go to battle with eleven people. Two swords are barely enough to protect two of you. In fact, Jesus is probably saying most of you don’t know what to do that sword so put it down. What he’s saying is, “I’m not sending you out to start a revolution. I don’t need every one of you carrying a sword. I’m sending you out to make an impact not to start a revolution.” By the way, it’s the message not the messenger that will transform the world. It’s not the method. It’s not the messenger. It’s the message of the Gospel that turns the world upside down. Jesus is saying, “I’m sending you out with the most powerful weapon I can give you. I’m sending you out with a sword that cuts all the way to the bone. I’m sending you out with the sword of my spirit. I’m sending you out with my message. I want you to do something with it.”
The only way to get out of this battle is the stop living for Jesus and to stop living like Jesus. The only way to avoid the battle is to go AWOL. Jesus is saying there’s a battle that’s raging inside of you. There’s no escaping it. It’s happening inside your soul because it’s happening inside my soul. Jesus is saying, “There is a battle that’s raging around you and I want you engage in both of them.” How many of you remember that story from 2015 of the Atlanta Fire Chief whose name is Calvin Cochran? He was fired for a men’s Bible study that he wrote. Do you remember that story in the newspapers? Did you know that wasn’t a one-time occurrence? In fact, last year the city of Atlanta hired somebody and then turned around and fired them immediately because of their faith. Listen to Dr. Eric Walsh’s story.
Nobody enjoys suffering. It’s even worse when you’re suffering and you didn’t do anything wrong like Dr. Eric Walsh. I wish I could say that this happened in Nazi Germany in 1941 or in Communist Moscow in 1970 but this is 2016 in our state. This means tomorrow morning when you wake up, you can’t miss the implication that you are in a battlefield and there is a spiritual war raging around you. There’s no escaping this war. It happens inside of you and all around you. Luke Is preparing you for the war that’s happening in your spirit for the souls of people around you. What gave Peter and the other disciples the ability to get up after failing miserably, after stumbling and falling, dust themselves off, and get back in the fight? Jesus the Commander-In-Chief, Jesus the Great High Priest, the book of Hebrews teaches us is praying for you right now in Heaven. He is interceding for you like he was praying for Peter and the disciples. This Is the prayer that Jesus prayed over his disciples in the Book of John Chapter 17 before he got ready to leave them. Hebrews tells us he is still praying and interceding for his people today.
9 “My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. 10 All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. 11 Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. 12 During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.”
Jesus knows it’s a battle and he is preparing us for that battle. I want you to take away from today four very powerful weapons. Don’t get up and go to war without these four weapons.
Four Powerful Weapons in a Holy War:
- Your Prayers Jesus is praying for you. Jesus commands us to pray for one another and to bear each other’s burdens by praying for one another. When you combine our prayers with Jesus’s prayers you have great power in this spiritual battle. The first thing you should do before your feet hit the floor and you start your day is to prepare yourself for the battle by praying.
- Your Witness For everyone in this room who claims the name of Jesus Christ, you have a witness. Though we come from very different backgrounds and though Jesus probably met us at very different points in our lives, all of us have basically the same story. I was dead in my trespasses and sins. There was nothing that I could do to make myself right, to make myself clean, to make myself holy to God. So, he reached down and snatched me out of my sin, cleaned me up, and made me right through the blood of his Son Jesus Christ. Here’s how the story goes for every believer on planet earth. The person that I am now is not the person that I used to be. God made something new. He turned me into a new man or a new woman through the blood of Jesus Christ and what you see before you is not the person that I used to be. That’s a powerful story! People in our city are asking the question, “If Jesus can do that for you, can he do the same thing for me because I need that? I’m trying on my own and it’s not working.” Can I remind you your story, your witness, your testimony, not only shows you the power of Jesus in the past in your life but it’s supposed to remind us when stuff gets hard, when it is difficult, when you’re suffering, when you’re being sifted that power is available for you today too.
- God’s Word You have your prayers and your witness but you also have the Word of God which the Bible describes as the sword of the Spirit. The sword cuts deep to the human soul and reveals what’s really happening inside a man or woman. I’m not asking you to go to work tomorrow with the Bible and beat people over the head with it. Church, get into the Bible every day and get the Bible into you every day. Then you’re ready to give a witness for the hope that’s within you when somebody asks.
- God’s Spirit All three of these things are worthless, if you don’t have the fourth. The fourth is that the Holy Spirit of the living God is working in you and through you. Since he’s working in you and through you he uses these other three things to use you to be a very effective tool and very powerful witness for Jesus Christ.
That’s what it looks like to be strapped and ready when you get up tomorrow to fight this battle to go to war inside your flesh and then go to war for the faith of the people that are around you.
Each week we make a really big deal out of this thing and I think each week it goes over people’s heads. We want to challenge you to take the Next Steps. Don’t just hear from the Bible. Put what you hear into practice. I’m going to give you some possible next steps today. There’s many ways that the Holy Spirit could be speaking to you. Here’s some possibilities. For some of us in this room maybe today you walked in the door and you realized, “I need Jesus. Today it’s become clear I am no different. I’m the same person struggling with the same sins.” Maybe today is the day you need to nail this down once and for all. If that’s you, today I challenge you to surrender your soul to Jesus Christ. Maybe you’re struggling right now. Maybe Satan is sifting you right now and you’ve stumbled and your struggling. Maybe you need the prayers of believers around you. Maybe you need the power the Holy Spirit. Maybe you need your church family to be praying for you. If that’s you, would you let us know. Maybe this week you’ve been trusting like Peter in your own power and not trusting in God. Whatever you hear from the Lord right now would you respond by taking the Next Step?
• I need to start a relationship with Jesus. Today, I commit my life to Jesus for the first time.
– I am being “sifted” by hardship right now. Pray for me.
+ I have been trusting in my own strength too much. This week I will trust Jesus to give me the power to represent him well.
- What has been “sifting” you this week?
- How can God use your past mistakes or struggles to strengthen someone else’s faith?
- Have you ever had a conversation with someone who was hostile toward your faith? How did you respond?
- Jesus is in Heaven praying for you right now. What do you think is his prayer request for you?
- Be honest- share with the group a struggle in your flesh or in your faith that you are wrestling with right now.
- Pray for each other to be ready to do battle for our faith this week.