How to Whup the Devil:
When Evil Comes Knocking at your Door
a sermon based on Ephesians 6:10-20
by Rev. Thomas Hall
I wanted to arrive this morning in a stunning
ancient Roman guard costume. Thats what youd call "embodying" the
sermon. No words would have needed to be spoken-I could have proudly walked down the
catwalk of the center aisle displaying the belt of truth, the breastplate of
righteousness, the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit.
However, the topic requires a more serious look. As one translation puts it, "This
is no afternoon athletic contest that well walk away from and forget about in a
couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the devil
and all his angels."
In the life that God blesses, followers of Christ must know their enemy, know their
equipment, and above all, know their commander. This morning, several truths have emerged
through the drama and Bible lesson that I would like us to consider.
First, make no mistake about it, there is an enemy that we must face. Paul describes a
hierarchical arrangement of malevolent power at work to undo us. The real enemy is not a
pointy-eared devil running around in red leotards, making mischief. As long as we believe
that myth, as long as we laugh at the caricature, the real Enemy goes unnoticed.
Have you noticed that though some of us are reluctant to believe in a personal devil,
playwrights are quite convinced that something very sinister and very intelligent walks
our earth. Let me comment on just two recent films. "The Blair Witch Project"
broke all attendance records for a film produced on such a low budget. The film reflected
Americas belief that evil is an intelligent being. Loosely based on a real story,
three college kids try to track down the legend of the witch that lives in the Blair
Forest. These researchers are never seen or heard from again. What was recovered were some
articles of clothing and some pieces of film. Enough evidence to suggest that they saw
something that instilled unbelievable fear in them. In the movie, this ugly, old hag in
never seen, nor presumably do the teens see her, yet the sheer terror of evil around them
in the dark woods probably drives them insane.
In "The Storm of the Century," a visitor comes to a little fishing village
and almost immediately takes a life. Treated as a murderer, the visitor is incarcerated in
a makeshift jail while the village rides out a powerful snowstorm. Yet, the visitor has
unusual powers and one by one people of the village are driven to become their worst
selves, some taking their own lives, others venting anger and violence. In the end, the
village realizes that this visitor is none other than Legion, the evil power that
possessed a man back in Jesus times. Jesus casts out Legion with a word, and so
Stephen King imagines this powerful demon still walking the earth, still tormenting
people. In the end, the village realizes that the powers of darkness are infinitely more
powerful than they are.
Now place next to those imaginations true words:
For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the
evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, and against wicked spirits in the
Paul saw an intelligent, powerful network of evil powers seeking to do us harm. Peter
also saw Satan as a powerful enemy: "Be careful!" he says, "your great
enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for victim to devour." Jesus says
nearly the same thing of this malignant power, " The thief comes only to steal, kill,
and to destroy, but I have come to give you life in all its fullness."
So, first of all, just know that there is an enemy bent on evil, chaos, destruction out
there - much more powerful than we. We will never whup the devil by own ingenuity or
Second, know how the enemy operates. We have a clue as to how evil works on a personal
level. The word is "Satan." This term means literally, "the accuser,"
or "one who accuses." The Bible speaks of Satan as the accuser of brothers and
sisters. How does the powers of darkness operate in personal life? A major way is simply
to accuse us of our weaknesses. Shaming us for our sins and shortcomings. In the drama
this morning, the demons wanted to pull Willie away from God by so shaming him because he
struggled with alcohol. They knew that if they could isolate Willie from other Christians
and make him feel guilty enough, they would strip him of his faith. Theres a lot of
truth to that. Dont tell me you can make it on your own. That you dont need
church. Even Jesse Ventura wished he hadnt said that. "The church is full of
hypocrites!" True. But the fact that we even show up says that we cant make it
on our own. That we need strength, healing, and encourgement from others and from God.
Those kinds of thoughts are exactly what the word, "satan" means, to be accused
or to accuse others. Know how the enemy operates.
Third, know Gods victory over the powers of evil. This passage is not about
demons. We dont have a Ying / Yang arrangement here. Satan is not an evil but equal
power to God. The Bible tells us that Satan was unseated, undone, ruined, unmasked,
vanquished, de-fanged, and completely and forever defeated by Christ. Christ is the first
one, the only one ever to look Legion in the face, eyeball to eyeball and to command him
to be gone. Every time you say, "Jesus Christ was crucified, dead, and buried; on the
third day he rose from the dead," youre joining 1,000s of Christs
followers in proclaiming Gods victory over Evil. Sure Satan continues to work but
mostly in damage containment. The Scriptures portray him now as trying to distract us from
hearing and believing the truth that Evil has been defeated, that Jesus Christ is Lord,
that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the
glory of the Father.
So how do we whup the devil? Paul says, "Be strong with the Lords mighty
power. Put on all of Gods armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all
strategies and tricks of the devil." Using Gods resources is a lot like getting
dressed for battle. Dont be like the Roman Emperor Julian who thought himself
invulnerable. His horoscope assured him that he would die of natural causes, that no spear
or sword could kill him. So he left for battle without his armor on! He must have thought,
why go out there and sweat? That was Julians last battle. You can probably guess
what was listed in the classifieds the next week: "Complete set of armor-like new,
half-price, or best offer."
God provides us with truth, integrity, peace, faith, salvation, Gods Words.
Thats all Jesus used when he personally undid all the work of the evil one. Of Jesus
it is said in Acts, that Jesus "went around doing good and healing all who were
oppressed by the Devil, for God was with him."
John Calvin reminds us not to wrack our brains trying to figure out why these
qualities-truth, peace, faith, etc.-are connected with the various pieces of armor. Calvin
says, "nothing is more idle than the extraordinary pains which some have taken to
discover the reason why righteousness is a breastplate instead of a girdle." What is
important is that we embody these Christ-like qualities in our life.
Finally, Paul tells us to put on Gods armor. This week I got a box in the mail.
"From the U.S. Navy." I looked inside and discovered the clothes my son had worn
when he enlisted in the Navy! He now wears the uniform of the Navy! He isnt allowed
to do the business of the Navy in his frayed jeans and tee shirt! (I might add that the
Navy attire certainly will be an improvement!) God doesnt want us to wear our own
feeble uniforms and run out there to fight the enemy. If we go out in our own strength, we
might as well call ourselves "Julian," the emperor who wore no clothes into
battle, and didnt live to tell about it.
Ever wonder where Paul comes up with this strange analogy of armor? He actually was
reading Isaiah 59 where the prophet describes God. But guess what God is wearing? The belt
of truth, the breastplate of righteousness . . . This is Gods uniform! This is the
armor that Jesus wore when he defeated Satan!
Now, Paul says, you put it on-on loan from God-and wear Gods truth, integrity,
Good News, faith, salvation, and Words.
Special assignment this week: "Operation Coffeebreak." (Please refer to your
Ephesians 6 insert.) This week when you are on break-at school, in the office, at home
with friends-try wearing Gods armor! When you detect accusations, blaming,
discouragement, or despair, jump into action! Bring words of faith, encouragement,
Scripture, peace, integrity that will change the scene into one of hope. Mentally put on
Gods pieces of armor, pray with each piece in place and then let God do the
fighting. For the battle belongs to the Lord! Amen.