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This sermon is the third of 3 delivered at the 2023 Academy of Theology Conference hosted at Christ Church Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa earlier this year.
“When we pray God listens. When we pray hope gets rekindled.” These stirring words are spoken by John Ndhlovu in this sermon. He continues, “When we pray strength is renewed.” While few Christians would question the importance of prayer for the life of faith, John’s exhortation is directed at those engaged with the spirit world, in spiritual warfare. Over the course of this series we’ve seen that not every bad occurrence in our lives is the result of spirits; yet, at the same time, this isn’t to deny that reality, but a reminder that there is one, great king over it, the Lord Jesus. In this, the final talk, John points us again to the ascended Lord Jesus and the access we have to his power through prayer.
The Spirit World and Spiritual Warfare
In Ephesians 6, Paul describes the armour of God, which Christians are to put on in order to fight against evil spiritual forces. We are only able to fight and stand firm against the devil, and the forces of the spirit world, in the strength that comes from the victory that Christ himself has already won for us by his death and resurrection. But how does this work? What does that mean? In his sermon, John unpacks how Christians can engage in spiritual battles, in light of Ephesians 6.
Paul calls us to be sure we are on the right foundation, wearing the proper spiritual garments and fighting the right enemies.
As John says, “Paul challenges us to open our eyes to the spiritual warfare in which we are engaged. He calls us to be sure we are on the right foundation, wearing the proper spiritual garments and fighting the right enemies. Being strong in the Lord has nothing to do about the number of years you have been in the Church. It has nothing to do with that. People who have been in the Church for a very long time, they are the problem. They hinder the new ones to come, they will take you through a memory lane history of the church. I have seen people fighting – physical in the church, in Africa. We do not get this power, where do we get this power? It comes from simply being in Jesus.”
The final piece in the armour of God is prayer. So John calls all believers to invest in their relationship with God as their father and cultivate a humble attitude of dependence if they are to engage with the spirit world. In his own words, “Friends, the question that I might ask you today is that, how is your prayer life? How is your prayer life? Never underestimate the power of prayer.” Indeed, prayer rekindles hope and renews strength. For when we pray we do so confidently that God hears us.
If you can’t listen or watch this sermon, you can always read the transcript below. You also might want to check out a few related articles:
Can the Ancestors Take Away My Pain and Suffering?
3 Step Casualty Care for Wounded Christian Soldiers
God’s Holy Stewards Of Truth // Faithfulness in Prayer
Spiritual Powers, Witchcraft & Christianity // Africa Study Bible
Date: 19 August 2023
Location: 2023 Academy of Theology Making the Invisible Visible Conference, Christ Church Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
So, bazalwane, I greet you all in the wonderful name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, amen. (Amen!) I just want to acknowledge Pastor Sbu and Pastor Bafana and also thank you for inviting me to this great event. Sho, this is something that we really need in our, in our time and also in our generation: the platforms that addresses the challenges that you are going through as the continent of Africa.
And I also want to thank you, Pastor Charlie, for laying such a solid foundation – you and Pastor Conrad Mbewe. And then I will, I’m just going to affirm the truth of what you have mentioned this morning.
So I want us to go to Ephesians chapter 6. Pastor Charlie touched on this passage. Immediately, he started saying Ephesians 6:10-20, I said, “Yoh! ” I am out of job now!” (Laughter)
Yeah, yeah, yeah immediately he started transcending to -what what is the other passage? Yoh, John, yeah, John chapter 8. I said, “Oh at least I have something to share!”
Spiritual Warfare in Ephesians 6
So I’m just going to affirm the truth of what he really said. I’m given this topic to treat how the saved sinner related to the world. Basically, it speaks about the spiritual warfare, so the appropriate passage to speak about spiritual warfare is Ephesians 6:10-20. I want us to go there and then follow along from your own Bible. Yes I read from my translation – ESV translation. It says from verse 10 it says, the whole armour of God, verse 10,
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10-11)
Some other translations says “wiles” and then some other translations is “tactics” and other translations is “tricks.” And then we usually say, when a person plays some other games with you, you will say hey…. So some other translations says “tricks.”
And then verse 12. It says,
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Verse 13) Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Verse 14) Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.
(Verse 16) In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; (Verse 17) and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, (Verse 18) praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also 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 it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:12-20)
May the Lord bless the reading of his Word, amen.
Beliefs and Practices
In Africa, in general, we live in a world that is so immersed by mystical beliefs and practices. Ancestral Spirits are believed to influence our daily life. attempts such as “Unesnyama, unesnyama.” (You are cursed. You have a bad spirit over your head.)
Those are words that we hear a lot when people are going through the challenges in their lives. Repeated of chronic diseases, especially if they are here hereditary; repeated miscarriages; breakdown of marriages; continual financial insufficiency or poverty; history of suicides that sometimes happen on the same month or on the same day. And then it’s something that we grapple with in our context of Africa.
We have seen the teaching of generational curses becoming more popular and even acceptable by many Christians. There is also a false teaching in the so-called “Deliverance Ministry.” Some people went through unending deliverance sessions and still feel bound. Understanding the teaching about deliverance and generational cases is so vital to every one of us who are living in Africa because these teachings have robbed so many Christians of their confidence in the gospel.
It has prompted others to shift blame of their spiritual obligation to generational curses and even their upbringing. And that this is something that I often hear when we do counselling. People will always shift the blame about their upbringing. And something that we need to understand and to know as Believers is that God expects everyone to account for his own sins, instead of putting blame on the situation that you might be going through.
A classical example of that is in Genesis 3:14-22 when Adam and his wife and also the Serpent sinned against God. God wanted each and everyone to come clean, to be accountable for what they did.
Biblical Accounts of Interactions with Demons
And same on the note of generational curses. Jesus’ deliverance was instant. It didn’t involve a lot of praying or rituals or holy water or anointing oil and causing the demons to confess. This is something that we hear about (where pastors take microphones and claim to interview the demons in church. “Who are you? What do you want? Who have you killed?” It’s a joke!)
You can imagine this; Jesus was not doing that. He was casting demons instantly. Paul in Acts 5:16, Acts16, I want us to go there – Acts 16. I want us to see how Paul dealt with a young girl who was possessed with demons.
Acts chapter 16. Verse 16, it says,
“As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying it out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” (Verse 18) And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed…” (Acts 16:16-18)
I like this one! I know it. He was annoyed about this girl and the utterances she was mentioning. In IsiZulu, “Wacasuleka/wamcasula” (annoyed)
He was greatly annoyed.
“…turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very same hour.” (Acts 16:18)
The very same hour.
And this is what the Bible explains when Jesus was always meeting with people who were possessed with demons, not the dramas that we see in our day and age.
The Importance of the Gospel
The preaching of the Gospel – all the more – is very, very important. Through the first Adam, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God in Romans chapter 3:23. And through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, atonement offered for all sins, as we see in Romans chapter 5:18. So friends, God offered deliverance from mankind’s greatest dangers: sin, evil, death and also judgment. All aspects of deliverance are available through the person and work of Jesus Christ. The Bible is very clear, in second Corinthians chapter 5:17, if a man is in Christ he is a new creature.
And this is the truth that I’m affirming that Pastor Charlie mentioned earlier on: that the gospel is the all means of deliverance from the bondage of the devil. Colossians chapter 1:13 says,
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption (through his blood), the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)
Friends, we are also delivered from the trials of life. We are also delivered from the influence of the evil spirits and we are sustained by using the armour of God that he has provided for us. We must fully believe the sufficiency of Christ’s finished work on the cross for our own redemption.
Supremacy of Jesus
And then, here is a fascinating question that we usually hear from people who are entrenched from ancestral worship: they will always say that Jesus was also an ancestor. My question is: can Jesus be called an ancestor? Can Jesus be called an ancestor? Friends, the moment Jesus is equated with an ancestor, the divinity, the incarnation of Jesus Christ is ignored. An ancestor cannot simultaneously be God and also a human.
The Nicene Creed is part of the profession of faith required of those undertaking important functions within the Bible believing churches. So the Nicene Creed states that Jesus is fully God and fully human simultaneously. Not only the Nicene, also the Bible affirms that. So then, I’ve seen, I mean, to accept Jesus as an ancestor would include accepting a specific worldview that is unbiblical. It would be difficult and even unwise to portray Jesus as an ancestor. Jesus, friends, is different from merely a deceased human family.
Portraying Jesus as an ancestor, according to an African understanding of ancestors, goes contrary with the teaching of the Bible. The principle presented is that nothing, not even ancestral spirits, can be placed above Jesus. And this is what Pastor Conrad Mbewe mentioned earlier on, that Jesus has been given all authority in Heaven and also on Earth.
It is about an understanding of Christology, the doctrine of Christ and consequently, an understanding of Soteriology, the doctrine of salvation. God forbids us to consult the dead spirits, as we see in Leviticus chapter 19:31, Deuteronomy 18:10, Isaiah chapter 8:19-20. So friends, we read that God rejected King Saul for consulting the dead.
Power for the Spiritual Battle
So this morning friends, our topic is how the saved sinner relates in the world. How does the saved sinner relate in the world? Or how does a Christian fight spiritual battles? How does a Christian fight his spiritual battle? How does this a Christian fight his spiritual battle?
Ephesians chapter 6:10-20 Paul, devotes a whole section to guide us about spiritual warfare. The Bible recognized the presence and the existence and the influence of the demonic world.
So, Paul wants us to see three ways of engaging in spiritual warfare. He wants us to see three ways in engaging in the spiritual warfare, from the passage that I have read. I want us to take in small small chunks, Ephesians chapter 6:10-20, in small chunks.
From verse 10 to 11, the Bible tells us that about obeying the command for the warfare. Look at verse 10. It says,
“Finally my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his mind. Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” (Ephesians 6:10)
Paul challenges us to open our eyes to the spiritual warfare in which we are engaged. He calls us to be sure we are on the right foundation, wearing the proper spiritual garments and fighting the right enemies. Being strong in the Lord has nothing to do about the number of years you have been in the church. It has nothing to do with that.
People who have been in the church for a very long time – they are a problem. And they hinder the new ones to come. They will take you through a memory lane history of the church. I have seen people fighting – physically – in the church in Africa!
We do not get this power… where do we get this power? It comes from simply being in Jesus. “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might…” It comes from being in Jesus. When you are in Jesus by faith, saved by his grace, you become a partaker of his power, his strength and also his ability.
The Armour of God
Look at verse 11. It says,
“Put on the, put on the whole armour of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes, against the tricks, against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11)
The purpose of the armour is to protect the soldier’s body from the enemy’s weapons. The same applies to us as Believers. We are called to, or we are commanded to, put on the whole armour of God so that we may be safe and protected from the devil’s schemes.
Listen to the purpose statement. It says,
“…that you may be able to stand against the schemes of their devil.” (Ephesians 6:11)
And this should answer the question, how does a Christian fight his battles, his spiritual battle? And Ephesians is so clear. Paul says that God will give us power to cause us to stand against the schemes of the devil, the schemes or tricks are manipulations designed to deceive us.
Sho! I like this statement by David Jeremiah. He put it so, so, so nicely for everyone to understand. David Jeremiah says, has interesting thoughts on Satan tricks and schemes. He says, listen to this quote, he says,
If you could sneak into Satan’s office, wherever that might be, and take a look into his files, you might be surprised to find a file folder with your name on it.
Listen what he says,
He keeps a file on you and inside that file are all the strategies he has tried on you: the ones that have worked and the ones that have failed. The devil has your file.
He doesn’t waste his time with the ones that didn’t work anymore. Instead, he uses variations on the strategies that have caused you to stumble in the past.
As long as they keep on working, he keeps on using them. Somewhere in that file cabinet, there is a file labelled (and then he mentioned this name. I want you to mention your name on this one.) And then somewhere in the file cabinet, there is a file labelled John Ndhlovu, David Jeremiah, Bafana Shabalala.
Yeah and in this file I wouldn’t be surprised at all if there was a notion that reads something like this: “Make sure he stays very busy and discouraged about serving the Lord. At all costs, keep him away from Bible reading and prayer.”
And how many of us have fallen a trap of the devil based on those two-spiritual armour of God that we are ignoring so much? Ignoring studying the Bible and also ignoring prayer. Friends, don’t fool yourself, he knows very well where your vulnerabilities lies. The devil strategizes always. The Bible tells us so clear in 1 Peter that he is like a roaring lion seeking for whom he may devour. And something that we need to know is that it’s all in the file, it’s all in the file.
The truth is that Satan hates you and he has a plan and strategy to destroy your walk with Jesus Christ. That’s one big reason why you experience struggles, discouragement in your Christian experience. To combat the tricks of the devil, we must stay clothed in the armour of God. We must stay immersed in his word so that we recognize his deception.
Know Your Enemy
And then, number two, look at Ephesians 6:12, you need to know your enemy, you need to know your enemy. This is my second point in Ephesians 6:12, the Bible says, ” … We wrestle not against flesh and blood.” We wrestle not against flesh and blood.
And this is not an ordinary battle, this is not an ordinary battle. Listen how Paul lists the kind of enemies that we are fighting against. He says, “We wrestle against principalities …” Principalities are high ranking governing authorities who are under Satan’s control. “We wrestle against powers …” The power of the devil encourages lust, greed, hate, fear, selfishness and pride. “We wrestle against the rulers of darkness of this world. We wrestle against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
And these are the enemies that we are wrestling with and that gives us a reason why we need to put on the whole armour of God. Look at Ephesians 6:13, it says,
“Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:13) Paul uses the military term, ‘to stand’ – attention!
Weapons of Warfare
My third point, you need to know the weapons of your warfare. Look at Ephesians 6:14-20, you need to know the weapons of your warfare. Number one, Paul in Ephesians 6:14a, he speaks about the belt of truth, he speaks about the belt of the truth. Pastor Charlie mentioned John 8:31- 34, ” … you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” You will know the truth and the truth shall set you free. Paul in Philippians 3, one of the major things that he meditated on, he mentioned in Philippians 3:10, “… that I may know him.” That I may know him. The belt of the truth.
Are you a faithful true servant of God? Does your daily walk bring glory and honour to Christ? And Ephesians 6:10 – 18, if it is taught well in our churches and we as Christians internalize it, live by it, always revisit it and make an inspection out of it, we will stop having hopping Christians in our churches.
Number two, Paul mentioned the breastplate of righteousness – the breast the breastplates of righteousness. The purpose of that armour was to protect the heart, lungs and other important organs. Because Satan attacks the heart so we need the breastplate of righteousness.
And then Ephesians 6:15 he speaks about the gospel shoes, referring that Christians are equipped to go and be on the rescue mission in the community where God has put us in.
Two blocks away from the street in our church there’s a lady who is initiating sangomas, “AboGogo abancane” (Young/teenage) sangomas, from the age of 10 even, 10, 15. Hey! The world is changing! Aged 10, 15, 18…
And then later on she started to blend this thing and turn it to a church. So, on Thursdays she is training those who want to be pastors and then doing syncretism – mixing the sangoma and then and also with the gospel, something like that. And then, this is the kind of world that we are living in – in Africa.
A recent study revealed that 95 percent of those who consider themselves evangelicals had never shared their Christian faith with anyone. Shame on you.
Faith and Assurance
The fourth weapon is the shield of faith, the shield of faith. In Ephesians 6:16, “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;” We are told, above all, to take the shield of faith. It is essential to the Christian soldier. You cannot please God without faith, you cannot please God without faith.
And then look at Ephesians 6:17a, the fifth armour of God – the helmet of salvation, the helmet of salvation. The fifth piece of armour that a Christian is to use is the helmet of salvation. And this refers to the assurance of salvation that a Christian can and must have if he is to win the spiritual battle.
I was going through the book of Acts 2:1-47, I did a nine series out of those 47 verses. Sho, it was such a wonderful journey. And then coming to Acts 2:47 the Bible tells us that the church was added with those who were saved. We don’t find that even today in our churches.
Fight with the Truth
Number…Ephesians 6:17b, the Bible speaks about the sixth weapon, the sword of the spirit, the sword of the spirit. Charles Spurgeon says, “The good soldier of Jesus Christ must not expect to find ease in this world: it is a battlefield. Neither must he reckon upon the friendship of the world; for that would be enmity against God. His occupation is war.”
The occupation of a Christian is war. Not just war, war! I’m not scaring you, it’s war! It’s war! It’s war.
Friends, to those who are preaching, don’t try to be something that you are not called to do. Don’t try to be something that you are not called to do. There’s a book called; ‘The power in the pulpit’ about preaching, Vines and Shaddix. He says, he wrote a wonderful book on expository preaching called; ‘Power in the pulpit’ And then, in that book he asserted that, referring to those who are preaching, to pastors he says,
“If you give yourself to Bible exposition, you will find yourself in a field with no competitors. If you try to discuss politics with your people, someone else will be more knowledgeable. If you attempt to be an expert in the social questions of the day, you will discover your knowledge is limited. If you play the philosopher, you will find yourself speaking to an empty building. But if you give yourself to being a Bible expositor, you will be pleased to discover that people from all walks of life will come to hear you.”
Beautiful. Don’t try to play something that you are not. If God has called you to preach the gospel, do it with all diligence.
I have seen the Pentecostals despising the study of God’s Word and also the study of the Bible and those who are going to Seminary. They mock a Christian education by saying “seminaries are cemeteries.” The ignorance of man.
And then this man he says in his quote,
“When people from all walks of life come to church, they want to hear from a man who has been with God in his work during the week, they want to hear a preacher who can proclaim from the word the realities of life and answer for the deepest needs of their hearts.”
And this is what our people need when they visit our church. God has given you pastors a unique role and also a unique ministry: excel in that for the glory of God. No one should intimidate you, excel in that. I know many pastors when a rich person comes to church, he tries even to change his sermon. Excel in what God has called you to do.
And then, Paul gives us the last armour of God which is prayer, which is prayer. Acts 2 speaks about the early church that they devoted themselves to prayer, they devoted themselves to prayer. Prayer should cultivate an attitude of humility and establishes our relationship with God. I know we are all coming from that background, we were taught to pray the prayer that is commanding God or claiming, demanding things right now. “God, I want it right now.”
I’m a parent. If my child can come to me with that attitude, there’s this thing that we call in Africa ‘blue eye’. Instead of receiving from me, he will receive a blue eye. We need to come to prayer with an attitude of humility. But if you come with this attitude, you are; ‘claiming, demanding things, declare and decree, I want it right now’, You will go back with a blue eye.
Friends, the question that I might ask you today is that, how is your prayer life? How is your prayer life? Never underestimate the power of prayer. When we pray God listens. When we pray hope gets rekindled. When we pray strength is renewed. Anyone can pray, anyone can pray.
There are some people, they get so offended if you can call them to come and pray without telling them in advance. They get so offended because they wanted to go through their “Valley of Visions”, the prayers of the puritans and come and recite them here. You sound more spiritual because you have copied prayer.
Anyone can pray, why are you not praying? Prayer is simply talking to God like a friend and should be the easiest thing we do each day. Do you go to the “Valley of Visions” when you want to speak to your father? God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love and of sound mind. We should realize that we have no hope apart from the gospel. I like what Voddie says, he says, “The church must not compromise the gospel of Jesus Christ in order to win favour with the surrounding culture.”
Trust in Jesus
My heart’s cry when I was doing my doctoral thesis – I wrote on syncretism; ‘Guarding the church against the syncretism’ – this is the book that I have there. ‘Guarding the church against syncretism.’ Syncretism is blending Christianity with other elements that are not compatible to Christianity. I can feel the heart cry of these brothers, they want the church to go back to the pattern of the church in Acts 2. And the problems of Africa will be resolved by African pastors and people who live in Africa.
I’ve seen three girls coming this morning to receive the books and then they were saying they have recently accepted the Lord. So, I want to send the same challenge to you, to you and to you, if you are here, you have not yet accepted the Lord. John 1:12 says, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
If you are here, you have not yet accepted the Lord to Jesus Christ, I’m inviting you to his Lordship. He wants to embrace you, he wants to welcome you, he wants to call you one of his own. May the Lord bless us. Let’s stand up on our feet.