Awe Matters to Spiritual Warfare

Awe of God Matters  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  41:34
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Awe Matters to Spiritual Warfare

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Introduction

Never underestimate your opponent. Whether you are in the sports arena or the battlefield, a come principle is to never underestimate your opponent. It is when we take our eyes off the opponent that they receive the upper hand. They more easily see the weaknesses in our defenses. They can more easily exploit those found weaknesses. A common historical and sad illustration of this is the “Battle at Little Bighorn.” The U.S. 7th Cavalry, a force of 700 men, suffered a major defeat while commanded by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer. Five of the 7th Cavalry's twelve companies were wiped out and Custer was killed, as were two of his brothers, a nephew, and a brother-in-law. The total U.S. casualty count included 268 dead and 55 severely wounded (six died later from their wounds). Custer underestimated his opponent and it cost him and many others their lives.
Each and every day every Christian is under spiritual attack. Not a day or week goes by that sin does not attack. It attacks in a variety of methods. It may attack subtly, overtly, loudly, directly, or even patiently. Sin attacks through using our own flesh, our own sinful nature. It is not always a direct attack from Satan or demonic beings but rather their influence seen in the printed and electronically released materials. It can be seen through entertainment and sports. It can be seen in the reporting of current news and opinions. The avenues of attack all to often seem endless. This is the world we live in and we must choose to respond biblically. In order to respond biblically we must have not allow our awe capacity to land anywhere but on God, God’s character, God’s nature, and God’s work.
If we are to stand against sin; if we are to when necessary flee and run from sin; if we are to preach truth and righteousness; and, if we are to live holy before God while in the war for our lives we must live in awe of God!

Big Idea: Living in awe of God strengthens your stand against sin’s attacks.

As we look into God’s Word this morning and see that living in awe of God strengthens our stand against sin, we are going to look at three separate texts. These texts are not an exhaustive amount of scripture on standing against sinful living and fighting for righteousness in spiritual warfare. The texts we are going to look at are found in Genesis 3:1-7, Galatians 5:13-26, and Ephesians 6:10-20. It is in these texts that we will see that because of sin we have a awe problem that directs our heart and mind to be predisposed to living with an awe that lands nowhere near God (Genesis 3:1-7). In these texts we will see that the battle with sin can be won when not dependent on our own(Galatians 5:13ff). It is this dependence on God that we see God has given to us what we need to fight back(Ephesians 6:10-20).

I. Living in awe of God understands one’s own sinfulness (Genesis 3:1-7)

In this narrative of the first days and weeks of creation we see the two people God created, Adam and Eve, poised with a decision. This decision was a deception to Eve and direct sin in the case of Adam. God had established Adam as the ruler of creation on God’s behalf. Adam as the leader was held responsible for sin and it was through Adam that sin entered into the world and subsequently death as well. Adam and Eve had an awe problem. Paul Tripp coined the word awe wrongedness. They unfortunately allowed an awe of having knowledge like God and something they did not have over all that God had given them. Their awe blinded them from the beauty of God and the importance of obedience. What they looked at in awe resulted in painful consequences. They had sinned against God and now the wonderful fellowship they enjoyed with him daily was broken.
The pattern of sin and its consequences set in the garden is replayed throughout Genesis in the accounts of Cain, the generation of the flood, and the men of Sodom. The fall means that we humans are predisposed to sin. Though God punishes sin, sin does not thwart God’s ultimate, gracious purpose for His human creation. Embedded in the curse was the gleam of a promise that the offspring of the woman would someday lead the human race to triumph. (David S. Dockery, ed., Holman Concise Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 9.)
We see this in Romans 5:12 “12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—” explains how through the sin of Adam all of humanity was and is born in sin. We are not naturally good. Temptation and the persuasiveness of sin is not because of any one person’s heritage or past experiences and circumstances. The sinfulness of a person is not based on the sins their environment. Everyone is a sinner because they were born a sinner. Everyone is born with an awe wrongedness, a filling up of one’s awe capacity wrongly. Men and women, Fathers and Mothers, Grandparents, Uncles and Aunts, children of all ages place their awe in something and/or someone outside of God. They do not view their awe problem as a sin problem or any problem for that matter.
Living in awe of God truly results in understanding your own sinfulness before God. Apart from God, our awe of Him and our view of sin will be wrong. Romans 3:23 “23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” tells us that we, humanity, have fallen short of God’s standard, of being able to show the right opinion of God. We fall short of God’s glory. It is sad when you attend a funeral and you see family members mourning without hope because they have placed their awe in the temporal and fail to view their sin as God views their sin. They fail to live in awe of God. Sin makes life difficult. It makes it hard to be the husband or wife God prescribes in His Word. Sin hinders our ability to be the godly parents he desires from us. Sin gets in the way of our work relationships, our daily thoughts and actions. Sin just muddies up life. Sin grieves God and His Spirit (Ephesians 4:30 “30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”) In Genesis 6:5-6 (“5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.”) God shares with us the sadness of his heart to see the wickedness of his creation, of humanity that he desires greatly to have a close and growing relationship and fellowship. Only one solution works to ease the difficulty in the spiritual warfare we find ourselves every day—Jesus Christ(John 14:6 “6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”)!
It takes Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death and supernatural resurrection to provide the perfect way to reconcile to God amid our horrible sin—sin that keeps one from true fellowship and familial relationship with God as his child. Christ exchanged his perfect, righteous account for my and for your filthy account of sin (Romans 5:19 “19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.”). If we are to have the proper awe of God and live with an awe of God in the midst of spiritual warfare it is imperative that we live in awe of the gospel as we looked at a couple weeks ago but also within that having an awe that sees our sin as God sees our sin. We cannot fall prey to justifying our sin! We must be honest before God!
Adam and Eve failed to live with a proper awe of God! They placed it elsewhere. The beauty of God’s love, mercy, and grace is—God did not leave us to our own inclinations and will power but provided a Comforter, his Spirit! Our lives need to be controlled by the Holy Spirit! We cannot give room for sin and Satan to creep into our lives (Ephesians 4:27 “27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.” ).

II. Living in awe of God lives controlled by the Holy Spirit, Galatians (5:13-26).

As Christians we are to be controlled by the Spirit of God. If we are to have a properly directed awe toward God, amid the battle for our spiritual lives, we must let the Holy Spirit control our lives. If we do not, our flesh and sin nature will fill the void. Where we ought to be giving God the awe we will be replacing with our own selfish desires.
Paul in Galatians 5:13-26 discusses the truth that we are not under the power of law but are free to serve God. We are free to live righteously under the power of God. The truths in this passage are important for us as we seek to live in awe of God and controlled by the Holy Spirit.
Because of our redemption in Christ we are free to serve Christ. Paul begins this passage and repeats it later with the truth that we are not under law but free from the law!
The Law and the Believer, 13 & 18 (freed and not under the power of the law!)
We are no longer under the law. The Mosaic Law was given to Moses and the nation of Israel and was fulfilled by Christ’s death on the cross. It was not given to the Gentiles. Therefore it is not binding to the Gentile. The impact of the OT Law on the NT believer is simply put is showing us the character of man and the character of God. Some commands are trans-dispensational. This means that in each different period of time or dispensation there are commands that have been consistent in each one. Commands to Abraham are still true for us though even pre-Law as they have been reiterated through time and for the NT believer today.
So, how do we then read the Law and get truth from it as it is scripture. What can we learn about God from the law and what can we learn about humanity. The Law does reveal truth about each. The Laws themselves though we are free from as NT believers because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
(License) 5:13-15 - Verse 13 marks an important transition from the theology of freedom, which Paul explicated in the previous two chapters, and the ethics of obligation, his primary concern in what follows. Our analysis will follow the natural division of the verse into three parts: the call to liberty, the temptation of license, and the service of love.
The Call to liberty, 13a
the one who called them was God himself. The freedom to which they had been called, then, was not the result of some natural right or the product of a human campaign for liberation. Christians are free because they have been called by God—affirmed and loved and elected by God. This means that Christians are known by God before they know him just as they are loved by God before they love him (4:9; 1 John 4:10). Thus Paul could say, “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor 15:10).
Paul’s ringing declaration of freedom in this verse recalls his earlier statement in v. 1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Yet the disjunction between the two verses is also noticeable. In 5:1 freedom in Christ was threatened by a relapse into legalism, and so the apostle warned against assuming again the yoke of slavery. However, here in 5:13 Christian freedom is in danger of being undermined by presuming on the grace of God through licentious living resulting in moral chaos.
Liberty/Freedom not only takes place at salvation but also in our sanctification. “We are no more made Christlike by following the law then we are counted righteous by following the law.” – Steve Pettit
All too often we abuse our liberty and it results in wounding others and consuming others to uselessness. Liberty is abused when we focus on our own personal rights and freedom from restraints. This is placing an awe of selfishness at the priority of our lives. We are in a spiritual battle and living and fighting that battle according to our own understanding is only setting us up for spiritual failure. We must rather use our liberty in love and serve one another thus fulfilling the law of ChristMark 12:30-31Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and also love others as yourself.
Our liberty is freedom from a life of serving self to a life of serving God and others! Walking in the Spirit is how this freedom is lived out!
The Temptation of license, 13b
“Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh” (RSV). Here for the first time in Galatians we have a positive indication that the freedom for which Christ has set his people free can be horribly perverted and misused.
License or antinomianism (against law) sets aside the law and implies that freedom in Christ is a permit to do as one pleases. (Romans 6:1)
License – law is the problem (5:13)
Legalist – law is the answer (5:1)
Freedom can become a pretext or opportunity (Greek: aphormē, lit., a “springboard” or “base of operations”) for throwing off all moral restraints and indulging the lusts of the flesh. When this has happened, freedom has been corrupted and liberty turned into license. The result is a fearful delusion, a “bewitching” every bit as spiritually paralyzing as a lapse into legalism.
However, throughout Gal 5–6 flesh is used as an ethical term with a decidedly negative connotation. Flesh refers to fallen human nature, the center of human pride and self-willing. Flesh is the arena of indulgence and self-assertion, the locale in which “the ultimate sin reveals itself to be the false assumption of receiving life not as the gift of the Creator but procuring it by one’s own power, of living from one’s self rather than from God.”56 Thus we cannot restrict the term “flesh” to human physicality, although the “works of the flesh” Paul will shortly describe (5:19–21) seem to find their most lurid manifestations in connection with bodily life
Paul warned the Galatians that they must not turn their freedom into license or use it as an occasion to gratify their fleshly desires.
The Service of love, 13c
And, surprisingly, that which links freedom and love is the very thing Paul earlier said Christ has delivered us from: slavery. The English word “serve” does not adequately translate the Greek verb douleuete behind which stands the common Greek noun for slave, doulos. Through love, Paul said, you should make yourselves slaves to one another. Thus freedom and slavery are not simply mutually exclusive terms; they stand in the closest possible relationship to one another and can only be adequately defined in terms of object and goal: what we are slave to and what we are free for
The Spirit and the Believer (16-18)
The Control of the Spirit, 16
Each of these verbs suggests a relationship of dynamic interaction, direction, and purpose. The present tense of the imperative peripateite, “walk,” also indicates a present activity now in progress. he was exhorting them to continue the walk they had begun on that occasion. If they continued to walk in the Spirit, they would not be halted by the fleshly appeals of the Judaizers, their own libertine tendencies, or the debilitating disputes within their churches.
the word “walk” is used in this sense, it is a common Pauline designation for one’s daily conduct or lifestyle.
The verb peripateite is a present imperative and is literally translated, “keep on walking.” As a believer walks through life he should depend on the indwelling Holy Spirit for guidance and power. But the Spirit does not operate automatically in a believer’s heart. He waits to be depended on. When a Christian does yield to the Spirit’s control, the promise is that he will not in anywise (the double negative ou mē is emphatic) gratify (telesēte, “complete, fulfill” in outward action) the desires of the sinful nature. Thus, while no believer will ever be entirely free in this life from the evil desires that stem from his fallen human nature, he need not capitulate to them, but may experience victory by the Spirit’s help.
In Paul’s vocabulary, to walk in the Spirit or be led by the Spirit means to daily go where the Spirit is going, to daily listen to his voice, to daily discern his will, to daily follow his guidance.73 emphasis is mine
The Battle of the Spirit and the Flesh, 17-18
Constant Battle - Here in 5:17 flesh and Spirit are portrayed as two warring forces locked in mortal conflict within the life of the believer. No Christians are so spiritually strong or mature that they need not heed his warning, but neither are any so weak or vacillating that they cannot be free from the tyranny of the flesh through the power of the Spirit.
Power of the Spirit, 18 –The result of this sinister interference in the life race of the Galatians is that they had not continued to obey the truth. Earlier in the letter Paul had summarized his entire message under the rubric the “truth of the gospel” (2:5, 14). This was precisely what the Galatians were on the verge of deserting through their dalliance with the unbelieving theology of the false teachers. Here Paul was calling them back from the brink of disaster.
In summary, Paul emphasized that a godly life is not lived under the rules of the Law but is a life led by the Spirit. It was important for the Galatians to know that just as justification is not possible by works so sanctification cannot be achieved by human effort. This of course does not mean that a Christian is totally passive in either case for the response of faith is necessary—faith in Christ to save and in the Holy Spirit to sanctify
Life in the Spirit stands in irreconcilable conflict with existence “under” the law. It is not that the moral law has been abrogated or that the Ten Commandments have become antiquated. Rather believers are now energized to fulfill the true intention of the law precisely because they have been set free from the law by the possession of the Spirit. Paul expressed the same thought later in Rom 8:3–4: For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
The “truth of the gospel” is not only something to be believed but also something to be obeyed. The Christian life is not about trying harder to obey the Law but that we are enabled by the indwelling Spirit of God to obey Him. Trying to keep the law of God will only result in failure and falling into sin.
The Flesh’s Deeds We Battle, 19-21
Sexual Sins, 19a (Some manuscripts add μοιχεία ‘adultery’ before πορνεία ‘sexual immorality’. GNT does not mention this variant. Μοιχεία ‘adultery’ is read by KJV.)
Adultery (μοιχεία) – various acts of marital infidelity
Fornication (πορνεία) – all types of sexual immorality
Uncleanness (ἀκαθαρσία) – filth or rubbish; morally dirty or defiling; it involves thoughts, desires, words, fantasies, and actions of the heart and life
Lasciviousness (ἀσέλγεια) – lack of restraint and shamelessness of immorality; It means the total loss of limits
Religious Sins, 20
Idolatry – offering worship to created things; man is a being of worship and worships something or someone every moment of every day
Witchcraft – sorcery; the greek word φαρμακεία is where we get our word pharmacy; this not only detailed magic arts/black magic but also dealt with drug use. Mind altering drugs were common practice among pagan religions. Faith in magic and drugs replaces a faith in God.
Relational Sins, 20-21
Hatred - ἔχθρα; active hostility toward another individual;
Variance/Strife (ἔρις) – a contentious attitude toward others; hard to get along with
Emulations/jealousy/envy – self-serving passion for one’s own interests
Wrath – outbursts of anger; conveys the idea of heavy breathing; seen in physical and verbal explosions
Murder - Following φθόνοι ‘envyings’ some manuscripts add φόνοι ‘murders’. GNT omits φόνοι ‘murders’ with a C decision, indicating that the Committee had difficulty making the decision. Φόνοι ‘murders’ is read by KJV, NET. Culmination of hatred, strife and wrath
Strife or selfishness(ἐριθεία)-seditions-heresies – gives a progression of individual strife(selfish ambition) leading to seditions(disunity and division) and finally to heresy (factions) groups selfishly divided over differing opinions
Intemperance Sins, 21 – both speak to a lack of self-control
Drunkenness - people intoxicate themselves
Revellings – carousing and wild parties
Fruit of the Spirit’s Control, 22-23 –
When the Galatians first received the Spirit of God, they also received the gift of freedom, as Paul made clear in 2 Cor 3:17, “The Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” When Paul listed the various graces included in the “fruit of the Spirit” (5:22–23), freedom was not included among these desirable virtues. This is because freedom is already presupposed in each one of them. Thus the fruit of the Spirit is freedom—freedom to love, to exude joy, to manifest peace, to display patience, and so on. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. This means that Christian liberty is freedom for others, freedom that finds its true expression not in theological privatism (“I am free to believe anything I choose”) or spiritual narcissism (“I am free to be myself no matter what”) but rather freedom to love and serve one another in the context of the body of Christ
the purposeful design and equilibrium of a life filled with the Spirit and lived out in the beauty of holiness. Each of the nine qualities flows into one another, mutually enriching and reinforcing the process of sanctification in the life of the believer.
Reaffirmation of a Spirit-controlled life, 24-26
In these verses Paul asserted the sufficiency of the Spirit to deal with the flesh by pointing the way to Christian victory. That way is the path of sanctification Paul described here in terms of the dual process of mortification, daily dying to the flesh, and continuous growth in grace through the new life of the Spirit.
Crucifixion of the flesh is described here not as something done to us but rather something done by us. Believers themselves are the agents of this crucifixion. Paul was here describing the process of mortification, the daily putting to death of the flesh through the disciplines of prayer, fasting, repentance, and self-control.
These verses show us the true nature of repentance. Repentance is a way of life where you are daily dying to self. The basic demand of Christian discipleship is that we take up our cross daily and follow Christ (Luke 9:23). Paul stretched this metaphor further by saying that “we must not only take up our cross and walk with it, but actually see that the execution takes place.”106 The mortifying work of self-crucifixion is a continuous, lifelong process, for this side of heaven we dwell in mortal bodies and are bound by inordinate desires.
The verb translated “keep in step with” is a military term meaning to “be drawn up in line,” to “stand in a row. Since we live by the Spirit,” an accomplished fact, “let us keep in step with the Spirit,” an exhortation to obedience.
v. Verse 26 - “Let us keep in step with the Spirit … let us not become conceited.”

Conclusion

Going back to the Battle of Little Bighorn. The US Cavalry did not take the Indian tribes as serious as they should have. They underestimated them and it resulted in defeat. In the OT we have a story of the Israelites underestimating the power and strength of a small nation called Ai. They did so, so much they failed to go to the Lord in prayer and ask for wisdom on how to conquer the city. They went into battle on their own laurels and self-confidence only to be humiliated and defeated.
You and I and all Christians fight a battle on a spiritual battlefield. It is a battlefield that we cannot see physically but nonetheless is present every day we get out of bed. It is vital then to each Christian that they live with an awe of God with which strengthens our stand against sin! We must understand the sin in our life and place ourselves in a place of allowing the Spirit of God to control our lives!
Paul describes for us in Ephesians 6:10-20 our spiritual armor we need in this battle/war we are a part of and one day will be witness to an eternal victory that will happen as God always knows.
Ephesians 6:10–20 NASB95
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
The armor of God stand vitally important to you and I as Christians persevering to the day of our rapture or death! We have a battle that is always raging against an enemy that we cannot totally see ahead of time. Yet, with God’s help when we do see the spiritual battle being engaged the armor God has given us is a blessing. Our lives need to be filled with truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation (relationship with God), God’s Word, and prayer.
Ephesians 6:19 speaks to an attitude toward each other as Christians which should be lived in our daily lives. This attitude is one of constant prayer among and for each other that the gospel will be boldly proclaimed.
Cancel culture has no room in the church, yet we tend to shut down talking to certain people because we disagree with them on something. We cancel the political left and the unrighteous yet God himself never cancelled those who differed with him or hated him. He never condoned sin but always showed the love of Christ which at times leads to showing that His love is intertwined with his holiness—sin cannot go unpunished.
Let’s live seeking to understand before we cast judgment and show mercy and grace as God has chosen us as his ambassadors!
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