If you brought a copy of scripture with you, you can find Ephesians chapter six as we continue with the Church at War and the Apostle Paul winding down this great epistle here.
And before we do that, just praising the Lord here this morning. My mind has been on the 17 young people, middle and high schoolers who are following the Lord in believers baptism, having trusted Christ. What a wonderful thing… Amen? All throughout the morning and tonight as well. And I was just thinking about the ramifications of their testimonies and the potential they have in this world. And thinking about we as parents and grandparents and our responsibility to these kids to rear them for God.
I was thinking about this when I was reading in Proverbs several years ago, in Proverbs, chapter 4. I thought to myself when I read this verse, Proverbs 4:11,
I have taught you the way of wisdom;
I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
I thought every parent, every single parent can look at their kids someday and say, “I have taught you and I have led you.” Every parent without exception could do that. But not every parent can say, “I have taught you in the way of wisdom. I have led you in right paths.” Only godly parents can do that. And I thought about that today as I thought about these kids and may God raise up a mighty generation of fearless warriors for Jesus and parents who back them up… Amen?
God, we pray that today as we open up Your Word here and look at the church at war and we think of all these kids, Lord, we’re raising them, Lord, to be champions for Jesus. And we pray that it would start in the homes as well. Asking your blessing upon every single family, every single individual in this room, young and old alike, we ask in Jesus name. Amen.
We are talking about the Church at War here… Okay? The Apostle Paul has been telling us that every piece of armament has to be put on in prayer. Colton Willie did a great job of laying this out with that acrostic here last week. And I also thought of the old gospel hymn. Anybody remember the old hymn, “Stand up, stand up for Jesus?” Remember that one? And there’s a line that says,
“…Put on the gospel armor,
Each piece put on with prayer;
Where duty calls or danger,
Be never wanting there.”
So prayer is important and the Apostle Paul is still talking about his need for these Ephesians to be praying for him as it pertains to making the gospel clear, both in his life and with his lips.
And so with that, we have verses 19 and 20 and here they are.
“Pray, (Paul says), for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains that I may declare boldly as I ought to speak.”
So Paul, here, describes himself as an ambassador in chains. So much for diplomatic immunity! You know, here he is. He’s an ambassador for Jesus, but he’s in prison. And he’s asking the Ephesians to pray for him because he’s not asking to be released. He wants to be used of God. I really thought this was interesting. I was thinking about all of Paul’s prayer requests in the New Testament. He prays for many things, but he only asks requests from others six times, just a half a dozen times. And really, what he doesn’t ask for is just as insightful as what he [does] ask for. You think about the Apostle Paul. He suffered a lot of maladies. He was stoned, for crying out loud! His words to the Galatians lead us to think he had an eye issue. And so here he is… and by the way, he had healed others, but never does he ask anybody for prayer for his personal healing. Now, we have that famous line where he talks to Jesus and he says, ‘Hey, Lord, I’ve got this thorn in the flesh. Would you take it from me?’ And Jesus said,
2 Corinthians 12:9
“My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”
In fact, Paul never even asked to be freed from prison. Just the opposite. In Philippians one, he says, ‘I’m in prison, (Remember, Philippians is also a prison epistle, just like this one is. So Ephesians and Colossians… we’re going to kind of be putting these together.) But to the Philippians, he said, ‘Because I’m in prison, the Roman Praetorian guard is hearing the gospel!’ In other words, Paul looked at whatever circumstances he was in as an opportunity to bring Jesus to bear. It’s almost like his focus was on heaven so much so that everything else took a back seat. That isn’t the way we pray. Is it? We pray for our personal healing. We’re asking people to pray for healing for us.
My wife, as many of you know, had major surgery a couple of weeks ago, and she’s healing up. And she got a lot of cards, letters, visits from many of you, and thank you so much. And from some of your kids. I mean, they’re precious! Here’s one card that came. “Dear Marilyn… Hope you get better… You will when you get to heaven.” (Laughter) Truer words were never said! So, out of the mouth of babes… huh?!
My personal favorite prayer request of Paul’s is to the Thessalonians, when he says to them,
2 Thessalonians 3:1
“Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may run [swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you.]”
The word means to be speedy, swiftly and be glorified just as it is with you. I love that! What a prayer request. I want the word of God to run and be glorified.
But here, and in Colossians… remember, Paul was in the same Roman prison, and he wrote probably from the same desk as his letter to Colossae and to Ephesus. So they parallel one another, those two epistles. And so we’ll be drawing from Colossians as well. So here and in Colossians he’s asking for prayer for his gospel witness to be twofold; to be clear and to be courageous. That’s it. Clear and courageous. You see that in the text we just read. So we’re talking about the clear gospel… Okay? And so the clear gospel is first of all presented with clarity. Makes sense… Right? Clarity involves both my life and my lips.
If you’ve ever changed the water filter in your refrigerator for your water dispenser, you know that the first several glasses are just nothing but charcoal… Right? You wouldn’t drink that! You’ve got to keep running that water until it’s clear. Then, and only then will you drink it.
I thought about this, about clarity, and I thought about what Solomon said, in Proverbs 25, he said [in Proverbs 25:26]
“When the righteous give way to the wicked they become like a murky spring and a polluted well.”
And we wouldn’t drink from either one of them. So, no one wants to drink from a murky, polluted life. Our lives should be clear, both to our children and in this world.
That’s why in Colossians chapter 4, the parallel passage Paul says,
“Walk in wisdom…”
Pray that I’ll walk in, and I want you to walk in wisdom. Remember, we said, “Every parent can say, ‘I have taught you,’ but not every parent can say, ‘I’ve taught you in the way of wisdom.’ Every parent can say, ‘I’ve led you,’ but not every parent can say, “I’ve led you in right paths.” A clear life… And a clear word. Look at [Ephesians] verse 19.
“…making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel…”
He says, ‘I’m praying, pray that words may be given to me in opening my mouth.’ Now, the word, “words” here, is not the one we looked at a few weeks ago. It’s not… we’re in verse 17, he says,
“…take the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.”
That’s the Rhema of God. That specific word, that’s picturing that soldier in battle. This is the more familiar word. This is the word Logos. And right here, what it means is thoughts put together that make sense.
Have you ever talked to somebody who made some kind of presentation to you, whether it was the gospel or just… And I always think of an insurance agent, explaining insurance to me. I’m going like this. I don’t understand anything that’s coming out of his mouth! (congregation laughing) Paul says, “Don’t be that way when it comes to the gospel!” Those who share Jesus need lives and lips that match up. And Paul is asking the church to pray that the actual words that proceed out of his mouth will make sense. And again, the parallel passage in Colossians,
He says, [Colossians 4:4]
“Pray that I will make it… what? Clear…”
There’s our word. I want it to be clear. In fact, this is a really cool word. It’s the Greek word for “clear.” It literally carries the idea of something that’s held up to a light. And the idea is something that’s graspable. When I share something that makes sense… After all, we are talking about the church at war here… Put on the whole armor of God. Paul said to the Corinthians, [1 Corinthians 14:8]
“If the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?”
That’s a rhetorical question… Right? I mean, I don’t get that sound, so I’m not getting ready for battle.
Just the other day, I sat with a brand new Christian. He had a great testimony. It was wonderful to hear his testimony. He only had one thing missing… the gospel. It just wasn’t there. He didn’t talk about Jesus dying and rising. Now, he believed all of that, but when he shared it, he didn’t include all of those things. And so I shared with him what many of you learned. We shared this in our membership class. When you share your testimony, what…? Don’t gloss over the crossover! Very good.
So pray this way for me, brethren! Pray this way for one another… for clarity with our lives and with our lips. That’s all Paul asked for prayer.
And then secondly, a clear gospel is proclaimed with courage. Look at the text again,
“Also pray for me that words may be given to me in opening my mouth” Here’s the word, “boldly, to proclaim the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains that I may declare it” again “boldly.”
The word “boldly” just simply means “to speak freely.” And of course, when somebody does speak freely, they’re being bold, right? And Paul is asking for prayer for his courage.
I did a funeral just the other day. And the deceased saint, as she was dying, grabbed ahold of an estranged brother. And she literally grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him close to her on her deathbed. She said to him, “You know, I love you… Right?!” And she said, “I know where I’m going. Do you know where you’re going?” You talk about boldness! Better late than never.
Do you know where you’re going? I’m concerned for some of you. You’re hearing these testimonies… young people trusting Jesus, giving testimonies…. Do you know, if that gal … on the cusp of going into eternity [grabbed you by the shirt] and said to you, “Do you know where you’re going?!” How would you answer?
Look at the last part of verse 20, something almost everybody overlooks. He says, “I want to do it. I want to declare it boldly.” Then here’s the last five words “… as I ought to speak.” See it? The word “ought” carries a moral obligation with it. That’s what it means to “ought.” You need to do this. As their spiritual father, Paul was morally and spiritually obligated to present a clear life and a clear witness before his spiritual children and the world. John MacArthur commenting on this passage and this line here says,
“If the guy in the the lead falls, many of the people following him are going to fall with him.”
That’s true in the church. It’s also true in the home.
Remember, I started off the message with the comment to every parent. Every one of you, every parent here can say to their kids someday, “I have taught you. I have led you.” Every one of you can do that. But only those of you with a clear testimony and a courageous testimony can say to your children someday, “I have taught you in the way of wisdom. I have led you in right paths.”
I was absolutely slain just the other day when the Associated Press came out with a story about a sunken vessel that was discovered in the Thunder Bay area around Lake Huron, one of the Great Lakes. It’s not a surprise that a sunken ship was found. There are over 200 sunken ships in this area. I mean, this place is notorious for its wicked gale-force winds that just come out of nowhere, sinking ships. Many of you remember the Gordon Lightfoot song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”Remember that song? There’s even a gospel hymn called, “Let the Lower Lights be Burning.” Again, it’s about a ship that goes down in the Great Lakes. So, nothing terribly newsworthy about the fact that this ship went down and was discovered. But there was something about the article that grabbed my attention and made it newsworthy. A couple of things. One, it happened almost 130 years ago. The Ironton is the name of the ship that went down in 1894. And so here’s how they knew how the ship went down. There were two survivors [out of] six crew members. The ship was making its way into the harbor and it hit another ship. It started taking on water right away. And as the crew members hurried and scrambled in gale force winds, they jumped into the lifeboat. It did have a lifeboat and they jumped into the lifeboat. There was only one problem. They couldn’t get the lifeboat untethered from the ship. And so it went down with the ship and it’s crew. Only two of the six survived and that’s the testimony that they shared. So when the ship was just recently discovered, intact on the bottom hundreds of feet below in that Great Lake, look what else they discovered right next to the ship… the tethered lifeboat… still there.
And when I read that, thinking about this… all these kids getting baptized… Paul’s words, a moral obligation that we all have to have a life that matches our lips, I thought to myself, some of you parents are [like] The Ironton. Your life is wrecked with sin. You’re going down. Your kids are jumping into the lifeboat, still tethered to you. God help them if they don’t get the tether detached from the boat. You’re dragging them down with you. Why not admit this morning that your ship is taken on water and it’s going down? Why not repent of your sin… really repent… that God might plug the hole in your hull so that neither you nor your lifeboat with your kids in it will go down with you. You don’t have to go down. Jesus will plug the hole. Amen?
And my prayer this morning is that this image and the story behind it will be forever etched in every conscience and mind in this room. Because some of us are [like] The Ironton and we’re going down. But praise God, Jesus can plug the hole, save the ship, save your life, save your kids for the glory of God. Amen?
I want you to think about this as we go to the Lord’s table this morning. That image, that story, that tethered lifeboat. Examine yourself before the living God who sent his Son to die for you and rise again. And these elements at the Lord’s table are powerful and precious. The perfect life of Jesus depicted in the bread. The sacrificial blood of Jesus depicted in the juice. You must be a Christian… a real Christian… to partake of these elements. And if you’re a Christian, you need to be one who is willing to confess and forsake their sin. And then partake of the elements. If you’re not willing to do that just sit there. That’s fine, nobody’s going to say anything. But take this moment seriously for God’s glory. Let’s pray.
Our Father, we love You and bless Your name. We thank you for Your Word. We thank You for the challenge today for a clear gospel with both our life and our lips. And we have seen today that we are morally obligated to that end. I pray that every person that’s a true born again Christian in this room, Lord, would take it so seriously the way they present themselves to their children and to the people around them to have a clear testimony with their lives. God, we ask your blessing as we go to the Lord’s table and that of your Son. May He be glorified as we remember Him as we ought, for it’s in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.