Lake Wisconsin Evangelical Free Church

January 7, 2024

Battling the Deceiver – Ephesians 6:12


“Battling the Deceiver” Ephesians 6:12 One of our elders, Matt VanderKool, preached this message on January 7, 2024.

It’s wonderful to be here with all of you.

I’m so thankful that we have Hunter, that he can fill in and do such a great job preaching when I’m gone.

I’m happy and blessed that we have elders that love the Lord, and Matt’s going to be sharing today a message for you. He ended up in the book of Ephesians last year on spiritual warfare, and at that time he brought a devotional to the elders meeting that I felt was something the church needed to hear, and it’s been on his heart, and then it was on Tom’s heart to start the new class on spiritual warfare that started yesterday. It’ll meet once a month on Saturdays.

Feel free to join us next month on that, but I’m happy that Matt’s going to be sharing with us on that today. John Klingbill is home, and he’s resting. Thank you for prayers for him. I wanted to give you an update. Tom and Tim shared that today, and I want to remind you that we’re continuing with a new Bible reading plan, and this year the numbers are 115, okay?

Five days a week, one chapter in the Old Testament, so you finish going through the Old Testament, and then we’re going to read one chapter each day for five days so you can get through the New Testament again.

So with that, Matt, come up and share with us today.

Good morning, would you pray with me?

Dear Father, thank you for the opportunity to be in your Word this morning. I pray that the words that people hear are words inspired by the Holy Spirit, in Jesus’ name, amen.

We’re going to be talking this morning about battling the deceiver, and what I’m going to share with you is something that I need to hear as well. It’s been on my heart because I’ve been in the battle, and we’ve been in the battle. So what I share with you this morning is something that I need to hear as well. Anne and I will often talk about being humbled when we hear somebody talking after they receive an award.

They will say, I’m humbled to receive this award. I never understood that. How are they humbled when they receive an award? It’s kind of weird. But I feel very humbled to be sharing with you this morning because I’m going to try to handle the Holy Word of God appropriately, and I’m going to do my best to handle the passage in context, and I’m going to be talking about a lot of different passages and bringing those forward.

So I encourage you to write down the passages, that you can look them up on your own, and I’m going to share with you the passages and these words as best I can. Now, if I do say something that I don’t get quite right, if I offend you, feel free to email me directly at robert at, or you can reach me at hunter at In truth, my email is mattvdecoy at, so you can email me as well. But truth be told, I only added my email address in the last day or two. But I did think, I was convicted, I should put that in there.

All right. So we’re going to start talking this morning about waking up on the golf course. So I had a golf course awakening. So I’ll explain to you what that golf course awakening was. Every year, as a part of our business, New Life Physical Therapy, I’m part of a chamber of commerce golf outing. And I ask three people to golf with me every year, and the reason I ask them to golf with me is, I realize that in leadership, your goal is to surround yourself with people that are much better than you, and that’s what I try to do in every golf outing.

These people are great golfers, and I love to watch them golf. But even better than that, they’re wonderful believers, they’re wonderful Christian people. And one of my golf partners that day was sharing with me that they’d really been struggling over the last year. And then she went right into, but I need to remember, and she went right into this. She had this verse memorized.

She said, 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.

She had that verse memorized, and bam, came right out, and I was like, whoa.

And I have to ask you, how many of you have thought about being in a battle against the devil and his minions in the last week? How many of you have thought about that in the last week? Yeah, some of you have. That’s great. I gotta tell you, I don’t think about it nearly enough.

And I was awakened in the golf course to be thinking about this more, and over the last year plus here, I feel the battle more, and I’ve recognized the work of the deceiver more. And I wanna share with you about this this morning, and we are going to talk a little bit about the book, this passage in its context. So the book of Ephesians, it was written to a group of churches, likely in and around Ephesus. A lot of Paul’s letters are written directly to a church. This one is more of a book for more churches.

And the message in the book of Ephesians is very similar to the message of Colossians, which was written to the church in Colossae. In Ephesus, Paul’s teaching comes into dramatic conflict with the idol trade, and that idol trade was associated with pagan occult worship. So spiritual warfare was right in Paul’s face. And in this background, Paul calls to expose deeds of darkness, and to prepare for war against spiritual forces. Also in this passage, the passage is in the context of the book of Ephesians, and in the book of Ephesians, Paul talks a lot about the church, and how important the church is.

And when I’m talking about the church, I’m talking about the church universal, the body of believers, of which this local church is a part. And the church is the community where God’s power to reconcile a people to himself is experienced. The church is the mechanism that Jesus chose to bring his message of reconciliation to the world, the church.

It’s a place of transformed relationships. The body of believers is considered the new temple. Something that’s important to remember, that stewardship to the church is serving Christ. The church is an outpost in a dark world, and this is really, really hits home for me. The church is the body of Christ.

Christ is described as the head of the church, and we are the body. So if Jesus calls the church his body, how important should the church be to us? Pretty important, right? Not only that, the church is described as the bride of Christ. So again, the church, how important should the church be for us?

But how needed is the church for us? When we’re battling the deceiver, the deceiver likes more than anything to get us alone. Think of a lion, or the lions in the Sahara, and think about the water buffalo. A water buffalo on its own in the Sahara, what’s going to happen? He’s toast.

That same water buffalo, in a herd of water buffaloes, a pride of lion doesn’t have a chance against that herd of water buffaloes. They’re not going to be able to attack them, or touch them, unless they’re able to isolate one. And that’s how the deceiver works, and that’s why we need this body of believers. We need a body of believers in community, so that we can battle the deceiver. We’re going to talk a little bit more in depth about that, but one more thing about the church.

The church is a place of unity. The wonderful thing about the church is it should be a place of unity between every tribe, every nation, every culture, every race, male, female, every socioeconomic status should all be here, all together. I was worshipping in Grand Rapids with my niece and nephew there, and they had a church like that. It was just awesome. I had a chance to go on a mission trip to Honduras, and worship with a Honduran congregation, and they couldn’t speak a lick of English, and I can’t speak Spanish very well, but it was incredible.

That’s what we have to look forward to someday, when we can all worship together, but a church should be the place of unity. In the book of Ephesus, the division between Jew and Gentile was the biggest division imaginable, and the church is what brings that division together. Now let’s get into the passage a little bit deeper here, 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.

There’s a word in that first sentence that I want to focus on here, wrestle. We can so often go through life and just think that we’re just dealing with people, or just dealing with worldly things, we can float, but we’re gonna be wrestling against the powers of darkness. We’re gonna be struggling against it, we’re gonna be straining against it. It’s not going to be easy. A church that’s doing what God wants it to do, there’s gonna be conflict, it’s not gonna be easy, it’s gonna be a struggle, but we’re gonna wrestle.

And who are we wrestling against? It’s not against flesh and blood, as it says here. We’re wrestling against authorities, rulers, cosmic powers. These are the devil’s dominion. These things, we’re talking about demons here.

We’re talking about demons that are being led by the devil. These spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places, heavenly places is referred to, that is another dimension, that is the spiritual dimension. We so often think we’re just dealing with the here and now, but there’s a spiritual dimension. There’s a battle that’s occurring right now for your soul. There’s a battle that’s occurring for our church.

How are we going to fight that battle? It’s a struggle. It’s a wrestle. Let’s talk a little bit more about that battle, Ephesians 2, 1, 3. And you are dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work and the sons of disobedience, among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desire of the body and the mind.

So what this is saying is when we are following the course of the world passively, just going along after the world, after culture, we’re being deceived. We’re following the deceiver. If we’re just following and carrying out the desires of our body and mind, and we’re not in a struggle against sin, again, the deceiver is at work, and make no mistake, it’s the power of the air. It is the devil. He is in the dimension.

The air is referring to the other dimension. We are in a battle. Now let’s dig a little deeper. Let’s go over some other passages that describe this spiritual battle. We’re going to go to 2 Corinthians 10, 3 through 5.

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. Again, that metaphor of waging war, warfare. And we’re not just to be following this.

If the world is saying things that are not true, if somebody you’re talking to is saying things that’s not true, we’re not just to be passively going along with that. We’re not supposed to just passively take that. We’re supposed to destroy those lofty opinions and those arguments. We’re supposed to have a reason for the hope that we have. In 1 Peter 3, 15 says, but in your hearts, honor Christ, the Lord is holy.

Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. That is how you destroy strongholds and lofty opinions that are not of Christ. But you do it with gentleness and respect. We can destroy arguments lovingly. That’s the paradox here, but we are called to do that.

Let’s look at 1 Peter 5, 8. Be sober minded, be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, pours around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Again, water buffalo alone, not good. Water buffalo in community, very good.

But we have to be watchful. We have to be alert that the devil, the deceiver, is working.

James 4, 7 says, submit yourselves therefore to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you. When we talk about spiritual warfare, when we talk about battling the deceiver, can be kind of intimidating, can be a little bit scary, but we don’t have to be afraid. My point this morning is not to make you afraid of the devil.

Be afraid of the deceiver. But it’s to help you be aware of him. And we are more than conquerors. We don’t have to worry about him if we are in Christ. We are more than conquerors, Romans 8, 37 to 39.

No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I’m sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, the devil, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. We do not need to be afraid, but we need to be alert. Second Thessalonians 2, 9 and 10 says, the coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan. With all power and false signs and wonders and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing.

They’re perishing because they refuse to love the truth and so be saved.

The deceiver wants to pull you away from the truth and we’re going to talk about that. He wants you to not be in the truth. He wants you to follow the world.

He wants you to follow your own heart. He wants you just to follow your own desires. But we cannot do that.

We cannot refuse to love the truth and so be saved. Second Corinthians 11, 14 says, and no wonder for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. The deceiver, sneaky, unless you’re alert, you won’t see him, he disguises himself.

And I want to get kind of practical here and I want to share with you five ways that the devil will put thoughts in your minds, will put thoughts in this church that will seek to divide us, will seek to pull us away and deceive us from the God we love and from each other. He will work on isolating ourselves, pulling us out of the community. So I’m going to share with you five tools of the deceiver and these tools, these five D’s are from a book by John Gordon, it’s called The Garden.

John Gordon is a Christian speaker and a Christian leader and these D’s, he says, were placed on his heart to share.

And he’s very open in the business world. He says, the devil, the deceiver will put these thoughts in your mind and you need to fight them. Pretty awesome to hear in the public space. But these five tools are doubt, distortion, distraction, division, and discouragement. And we’re going to dig into these, each one a little bit.

So let’s talk about doubts. Some of the doubts that you may have come into your mind or some doubts that may creep into the church. What are some of the doubts? One doubt could be, has science determined there is no need for God? Another doubt could be, is the Bible true?

Is it really the inspired word of God true in all it proclaims? Are our teachers here, are they teaching and leading appropriately according to the Bible? Another doubt, am I needed in this church? Am I even appreciated? Another doubt, isn’t that view old, out of touch, out of date, no longer relevant?

Those doubts can lead to distortion. Some of the distortions that happen that we’ve all heard, I’m sure. I don’t like the God of the Old Testament, I’m a New Testament Christian. I was in a Sunday school class at a former church that I was attending, and the Sunday school teacher said, I’m a New Testament Christian, I don’t like the God of the Old Testament. That’s a distortion.

Another distortion could be, I don’t follow Paul, I follow Jesus, I just like the red letters in the Bible. Well, Paul was given the authority by Christ to share Christ’s words. God is only a God of love is another distortion, forgetting about the holiness and justice of God, distortion. My understandings and social context need to inform how I interpret the Bible.

That’s a distortion. The Bible needs to inform our social context and our understandings, not the other way around. If I follow my heart, that’s most important. Just follow your heart. The Bible says the heart is deceitful above all things, distortion.

I don’t need church. I have my personal relationship with Jesus. We’ve already talked about that with the water buffalo thing. Truth is relative. Different religions are just different paths up the same mountain to God.

Another distortion. Distortions, they can lead to distractions. Distractions, what are some of these distractions? Oh, the problem is those Democrats, those Republicans, those libertarians, those independents, all our problems can be solved if we just add. The songs are just too fast this morning, they’re just too slow, they’re just too repetitive, too much guitar, too much piano, too much organ.

I’m speaking to myself here too, stop it. What words are we singing? That is the important thing. What words are we singing? Those words are praising God and those words are what we should be listening to.

Those are the words that we should be having on our mind in the weeks to come. It’s the words. Now if the words that we’re singing on a Sunday morning are not the words that are in line with this, then we’ve got a problem.

Come talk to us. And again, email Robert directly. Sorry, sorry. Anyway, other distractions. The pastor does blank when he preaches.

This church policy is unfair, I don’t like it. Can you believe we got that color carpet? Who put that there anyways? It doesn’t go there. All distractions that can pull us away from what we should be focusing on.

Distraction can lead to division. Division comes all the time in churches if we’re not on our mark here and we also, again, that’s how the deceiver wants us, isolated, that he wants division. So and so didn’t clean up after themselves.

So and so didn’t even consider me. So and so didn’t appreciate me. So and so didn’t care that I was. Anytime you find yourself thinking about us and them in the church, it’s the deceiver working. Don’t let it happen.

Okay, we’re going to talk about how to fight these things in just a minute. Discouragement. That’s another D.

I sinned again. If you’re like me, you screw up every day. And that can be discouraging. I’m not making a difference. I’m not good enough.

I’m the only one doing all discouragements. The devil wants all these things going around in your brain. And he wants them to live there because it will divide. But we have to be on guard against these things. And this is how we are on guard.

We come after doubt with truth. First and foremost, we come at it with truth. The belt of truth is described in Ephesians. I heard Stephen Hawking’s or actually read that Stephen Hawking, the scientist, said that by the end of this century, we’ll have everything explained. We won’t need God.

Psalms 19 one says the heavens declare the glory of God. The skies proclaim the work of his hands. And Romans, it talks also about we have no excuse to not know that there is a God and we see his creation around us. And I tell you today, science has explained so many things that we have no excuse to ignore that there is a God. Let me tell you about some.

Science has discovered that the universe is expanding. The universe is expanding. It had to have a beginning. Even atheists talk about a designer. I’m sorry, they don’t talk about design.

They talk about design. Atheists talk about this being designed. You cannot have a design without a designer. Philosophically, it doesn’t work. They may not use that term.

You should tell them that. Other things. Science has discovered that the complexity of amino acids in DNA is so complex, it could not have happened statistically, mathematically by chance. Impossible. Impossible.

How atoms come together with the electrical charge is so precise, it could not have happened by chance. The earth being in exactly the position it is in, if it was a mile one direction or another, life couldn’t be sustained here. We know so much now that shows that the heavens declare the work of God. There is a creator and there’s a designer. Who is God, then?

Who is God? Can we all define who He is? Well, Colossians 115 says that Jesus Christ, He is the image of the invisible God. John says, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. We know who God is.

He’s written about in our Bible as Jesus Christ. It’s God the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. We know that is who God is because we have the Bible. Now, the Gospels. Let’s talk about the Gospels here a minute.

Can we trust the Gospels? In the Gospels, with textual criticism, with looking at historicity of historical documents, the Bible has the highest historicity of any historical document out there, which means that we have sources that are closer to the original source than any other historical document out there. And they’re so accurate. The accounts that we have today are so accurate compared to those original sources. It’s absolutely astonishing.

We can trust the Bible. But let’s say, yeah, but it’s the Bible. Let’s talk about extra biblical sources here a minute, okay? Josephus, Jewish, Jewish historian. Tacitus, Roman historian.

They describe a Jesus of Nazareth that performed miracles and that was crucified. The Talmud, that’s a Jewish document, describes the fact that there’s an empty tomb. Now, they claim that the empty tomb was empty because the body was stolen, but there is no doubt there was an empty tomb. 500 witnesses then saw the risen Christ. How do we know this?

How do we trust this? Well, 500 people were willing to die without fear of death, over 500 people, when the Gospel started to spread. Why is that? It’s because we serve a risen Lord. Jesus rose from the dead.

And if Jesus rose from the dead, has victory over death, we should be following him for our truth, right? Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. There is no way to the Father but through me. That’s Jesus talking. If Jesus says it, I better follow it.

Jesus said, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me. Jesus said, if you love me, you’ll keep my commandments. The deceiver wants you to think that, also, that if you just believe in Jesus, you can do your own thing for your morality. He wants you to deceive you that way.

We saw in that passage of Ephesians, Ephesians 2, a little earlier, that following your own heart, your own desires, the world is following the deceiver, not Christ. What do we need to do with this truth? A little bit more. What is the truth? Jesus defines truth for us further when it comes to morality.

He says, do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. For truly, I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the law until everything is accomplished. Jesus is talking here about the moral law. He’s talking about the commandments that are in the Old Testament, how we should live.

He’s also describing what Paul talks about later in how we should live. Jesus is describing to us the law in the Old Testament, how we should live. What are the commandments that we should be following? Why is it so important that we follow this law, this morality that Jesus told us about?

It’s because we serve a God as a God of love, but He’s also a holy and just God, and He is perfection and He is pure. He’s described for us in Isaiah, in Isaiah 6, 3 through 5. This is Isaiah experiencing this, and what he saw was, And what he saw was, And he knew he was toast. There is no hope for us in our sin, in the presence of a holy God, if we are coming on our own. And we’re going to talk about how to come in just a little bit.

But that is our holy God. And following the world, following the morality of the world, in your heart and your own desires, that is unholy, that’s sin. 2 Timothy 3.6 says, John 10.35 says, Now what do we do with this truth? What do we do with this truth? If we just know this truth, but we don’t do anything with it, we are still in our sins.

And in our sins, we do not want to come into the presence of a holy God. What do we do with the truth? We trust it. We believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again for our justification. And then we go on to work on sending home more.

If we trust in this truth, we are saved. We can come into the holy presence of God with confidence like that Romans passage. But we need to trust. We need to move from the doubt, we need to move from the distortion to truth and trust it. Proverbs 3.5-6 says, Isn’t that a powerful verse just for living your life on a daily basis?

Don’t think it’s here or here, it’s there. It’s in God. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, Christ’s grace is sufficient for you. Trust it. His power is made perfect in your weakness and in mine.

Isn’t that awesome? We’d also ask for trust here at Lake Wisconsin, the leaders here. We’d ask for your trust that we are putting our faith and our hope in Jesus Christ first and foremost and in the truth. And we’re going to screw up all the time too, but trust that we are looking for truth as our God. And how you can know more about the truth that this church trusts in, the EFCA Statement of Faith.

You can go to that, you can find that online. That can let you know what the foundational principles of our church are. What else with trusting? What else do we need to trust as a church that we are doing? What are we doing?

What are we trying to unite around? It’s Matthew 28:19-20. So we need to move from, we need to move and focus on truth. We need to trust it and then we need to be unified around what our mission is. And our mission is this, Matthew 28:19-20.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age. Our job as a church is to go make disciples and as disciple people. That is what we are unified around here. So it is trust the truth and we’re unified and we have unity in the gospel.

So let’s talk about unity a bit. We are unified around the gospel of peace. And how do we show unity? How are we unified with one another? Ephesians 4.32, we focus on the truth and then we’re kind to one another.

We’re tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God and Christ forgave us or forgave you. Make sure we’re forgiving each other. We’re going to screw up. Leaders are going to screw up. Your brothers and sisters in Christ are going to screw up.

Be quick to forgive and also love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Love is patient and kind.

Love does not envy or boast. It is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. Okay, you don’t have to raise your hand on this one. How many of you with a significant other have gotten distracted around a distortion that you thought your significant other did or your brother or your sister, your mom or your dad got distracted and had your brain going around, around that issue? How many of you have had that?

Don’t raise your hand. You can fight that by focusing on this passage. Meditate on it.

Get your mind focused around unity and focus on this passage about what love is. John 13:34 says, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another just as I have loved you. You are also to love one another. So in love, we need to be unified in love around the truth and entrusting it. And then we need to also…

Actually, let me go to unity one more time. So we are unified around the truth. Go to our church website here.

We are unified around our values and our mission. And I mentioned the Great Commission. That was the passage I gave you earlier for Matthew.

And we basically have our Great Commission, our church’s mission, right here on our website. We are to be unified around connecting people to Jesus, making disciples and reaching the world. Everything else is a distraction. So when you have that stuff going around through your mind, come back to here. What are we unified around?

Love one another. Forgive each other. Come back to our vision and our mission.

And focus there. Focus. We are going to be distracted. We are going to be pulled away with division. But we need to focus on that, what we’re truly trying to accomplish.

And we need to focus on this. This is the sword of the Spirit. Ephesians 6:17-18 says, The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication to that end. Keep alert, again that alert thing, with all perseverance.

So in the Word, in the Word in prayer, we can focus on the truth and trust. And we can be unified. Philippians 4, 3-8 says, If anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things. Talking about those thoughts spinning in our head. How can we think about what is pure?

Pray. Read. Meditate on scriptures like the loved one. And then lastly, we need to encourage. We need to encourage each other.

If you see a leader in this church, or a participant in any ministry, just thank them. I can tell you from giving the message this morning, how difficult it is to be a pastor. I can’t. I don’t know how you do this every week. Thank our pastors.

Thank our worship leaders. Thank our tech team. Thank our Sunday school teachers. Thank our men’s leaders, our women’s leaders. Encourage each other.

There’s so much that happens here. Encourage each other. And also in our church, let’s read Hebrews 10, 24 a minute here. Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. Not giving up meeting together.

Division, discouragement, distraction wants you to stay home. Don’t let it happen. Do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the day approaching.

Also in church, in this church, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. This church is a hospital. We serve the great physician. We are here for people to come that are sick.

We don’t ignore sickness. We don’t say, come here with your cancer and then we’ll smile at you and say, oh, don’t worry. Don’t have cancer. Don’t worry. We don’t deny sin.

We don’t shirk away from it. Sin is real. We call it for what it is. We call all people. And it doesn’t matter what sin you have.

It does not matter what sin you struggle with. You are welcome here. You are welcome here to hear the gospel preached and to be called to the great physician. So we ask you to come. We hope that you come.

And we will share with the gospel unapologetically because that is what saves a fallen world from the deceiver. We are always going to come back to truth. We are always going to come back there. Romans 10:9-10. If you declare with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

You will be saved. One thing I can guarantee you is that you will die. Guaranteed. You will come before the judgment seat of Christ. Guaranteed.

How many people do you no longer see that you used to see here on a regular basis? They passed away. They’ve died. But they were saints. I know many of them.

And I know that when they were in front of the judgment seat of God, what they heard was, Well done, my good and faithful servant. Why did they hear that? Because they went in front of the judgment seat of God, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, that you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 4.22.25 says, To whom God will credit righteousness. That’s all of us.

We believe in Christ. For us who believe in him, who raised Jesus, our Lord, from the dead. Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins, and he was raised to life for our justification, so that we can live forever with him. As we struggle against the deceiver daily, when you leave here, maybe in the first five minutes, I would encourage you to come back to the truth. Trust it with your whole heart.

Be unified with the fellowship of believers in community. Be unified with one another. Do not let division and distraction get in the way.

Focus on Christ. Focus on our mission. And let’s encourage one another all the more as we see the day approaching. Let’s pray. Dear Father, thank you so much for sending your son, for dying for our sins on the cross, that we may live eternally with you.

I pray that we would be alert as a church in the upcoming year, that we would be alert as a fellowship of believers against the work of the deceiver, that we would be united around the truth of what you’ve revealed to us in your word, that we would be united in prayer, that we would encourage each other. I pray for our church. I pray for each person here. Thank you so much for what you’ve done for us. Thank you for encouragement.

In Jesus’ name, amen.