Dress for Success

Can you remember a book that you read the year you turned
16?  Did you read any books the year you
turned 16?  As most of you know, I am a
reader.  My parents read to me as a
child, then I graduated into comic books, anything from Casper the Friendly
Ghost and the crew from Archie to any number of war comics, super hero comics
and spooky comics.   And then I started
reading western novels and spy novels. 
I’ve slowed down in my reading, it wasn’t that long ago that I tried to
read three novels a week, and then it was two novels a week and now I no longer
count the books but my goal is 500 pages of fiction a week.  Not bragging, it’s just a reality in my life.
I love to read.  And because I read so
much it’s not so easy to remember what I read and when I read it.  The upside of that is that it’s no problem
for me to read a novel and enjoy a novel that I’ve already read. 

There are a few that I do remember.  In 1968 Action Comics had a five part series
where Lex Luther infected Superman with Virus X and we thought he was going to die.
I remember reading that, I was eight.  I
remember staying up all one night in 1988 and reading “The Silence of the
Lambs” in one sitting.  In the fall of
1990 I read an excerpt from a book in Readers Digest and ordered the book,
which was really tough and expensive in Australia, but it became a favorite of
mine it was written by Robert Kriegel and is “If it Ain’t Broke Break it”  I remember reading “User Friendly Churches”
by George Barna in 1991 and “Inside the Mind of Unchurched Harry and Mary” in
1993, they were two of the books that redefined my ministry and how I viewed

But the book I remember reading in 1976, the year I turned
16 was “Dress for Success”, it was written by John T. Molloy about the effect
of clothing on a person’s success in business and personal life.  “Why” you might ask “was 16 year old Denn
Guptill reading Dress for Success”?  
That year I started working part time for Tip Top Tailors and I wanted
to be the best that I could be, I wanted to know what I was talking about and
do the best possible job for my clients. 
I didn’t consider myself a retail clerk or a men’s clothing salesman, my
business cards said that I was a fashion consultant.  And I figured unless I wanted to go back to
pumping gas in the cold that I better be good at what I was doing at Tip Top.
Three years late I became a Christ follower and as I started
reading through the bible I discovered a section in the New Testament called
“Dress for Success”, well not really.  It
was the portion of scripture that was read for us earlier, it is often referred
to as The Armour of God.  But Paul is
really telling the early Christ followers how to dress for success.  
Last week my message focused on the battle that was being
fought daily in the lives of Christians.  
And so last week I walked you through this passage and noted a few
things.  We Need to understand There is a
Battle, We Need to Know Who The Enemy Isn’t, We Need to Know Who The Enemy Is, We
Need to Dress for Battle and finally We Need to Remember Our Secret Weapon.  And while we were on the fourth point I said
that we would come back and revisit it, and here we are. 
Now understand Paul wasn’t teaching a lesson on Roman
armour, it was just a convenient illustrative device.  2000 years ago everyone knew what Roman
armour looked like, and as a testimony to the strength of Paul’s illustration
2000 years later people still know what Roman armour looks like.  When Sajonna found this gentleman in Rome
three years ago she didn’t think he was a bus driver or a waiter, she knew that
he was a Roman soldier.
But it wasn’t Paul’s intent to teach about Roman armour,
instead it was his intent to use Roman armour to teach about Christian
character.  But instead of taking Paul’s
advice about the armour we are supposed to wear too many Christians agree with Francis
Bacon who wrote “The best armour is to keep out of gunshot.”  In that same vein, John Sedwick was a Union
Army General during the US Civil War, his unit had come under fire from
Confederate sharpshooters and were ducking for cover, in an attempt to rally
his troops Sedgwick strode around in the open and was quoted as saying, “What?
Men dodging this way for single bullets? What will you do when they open fire
along the whole line?” When his men continued to hide from the shooting the
General said, “Why are you dodging like this? They couldn’t hit an
elephant at this distance.”  Just
minutes later Sedwick was fatally shot. 
Sometime I think that Christians feel that they are immune
to the battle that Paul says is raging around us. Like Sedwick we feel that we
are far enough away that we are safe, and then we aren’t.  Through the years I’ve talked to Christians
who have failed in their faith, sometimes in spectacular ways who have said “I
never saw it coming, I thought I had it all under control.”
But Paul was under no such illusion, he said very plainly, Ephesians
6:10-13  A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
 Put on all of God’s armour so that you will be able to stand firm against
all strategies of the devil.  For we are not fighting against
flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen
world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in
the heavenly places.  Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armour so you
will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you
will still be standing firm.
In those three verses Paul warns Put on all of God’s armour,
why?,  so that you will be able to stand
firm against all strategies of the devil. 
And he adds For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but
against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers
in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.  And in case they missed it he adds Therefore,
put on every piece of God’s armour so you will be able to resist the enemy in
the time of evil.  You might remember
that cardinal rule of bible study: 
Whenever you see the word therefore you go back to see what it’s there
for.  So, why are we supposed to put on
every piece of God’s armour?  So we can
stand firm against the strategies of the devil, because we are not fighting
against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the
unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits
in the heavenly places.
And as a result, if you put on every piece of God’s Armour
Paul promises that after the battle you will still be standing firm.
So what do we need to know about this armour of which Paul
Ephesians 6:11  Put on all of God’s armour . . .  It’s Not Some it’s All   Paul doesn’t suggest that we put on some of
God’s armour, or most of God’s armour, or the parts we like.  Instead he tells us to put it all on.  And there’s a reason for that, it works best
when it’s used together.   
I love food and I enjoy cooking, and sometimes I want to try
something different and I end up at a recipe site on the interweb thingy.  And I love reading the comments when people
complain about how the recipe turned out because they usually mention how they
changed the recipe.  Instead of ½ a cup
of this they only used a ¼ cup, and they didn’t have maple syrup so they used
honey and they didn’t have reindeer so they used zebra.
And sometimes in our Christian walk it seems inconvenient to
be dragging around all that armour and we are tempted to leave some of it
behind.  And I would suspect that those
in our church family who are in law enforcement would agree that some days body
armour seems hot and bulky and uncomfortable, but they know that if they need it
that it won’t do them any good hanging in their locker. 
And then Paul tells his readers,  Ephesians 6:14  Stand your ground,  . . .
Stand Your Ground  In
every situation that we encounter we will choose how we will respond.  In some cases the very best option is to
retreat or stand down.  There are times
that Christians get sucked into discussions and conflicts that do nothing but
harm the kingdom.  They aren’t about
anything more than personal preference and traditions. I’m not saying that we
shouldn’t have preferences, but fighting over them is just dumb.  Sure we should talk about them and discuss
them, but they shouldn’t be fought over. 
At the end of the day we need to embrace the philosophy of John Wesley.
Through his ministry he was sometimes in disagreement with George Whitfield,
another prominent preacher of the day. 
When Whitefield died Wesley wrote a memorial sermon that said “There are
many doctrines of a less essential nature… In these we may think and let think;
we may ‘agree to disagree.’ But, meantime, let us hold fast the essentials…”   Paul was writing to Timothy, a young
preacher that he mentored, and basically said the same thing in 2 Timothy 2:23  Again
I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start
fights.  Or as I was wisely counselled
when I accepted my first positon as a full time solo pastor “Choose carefully
the hill you want to be crucified on.”
But there are things that we need to stand our ground on:  Paul isn’t talking about the issues that
affect society and the world, he is talking about us personally.   Sometimes we talk about spiritual warfare we
link to the ills of society, especially south of the border.  Prayer being taken out of schools, the Ten
Commandments being taken out of the court rooms, same sex marriage and people
voting for the wrong party.  But that
wasn’t what Paul was talking about.  He
wasn’t speaking about what was happening in society as a whole but what was
happening in the life of the individual believer.  Let’s go back to his analogy of the
Historians tell us that when the Roman army advanced in
battle each soldier was responsible to defend their position.  They weren’t responsible for the entire
battlefield, just their little square but they were expected to fight and die
before they gave that up.  And that was
the strength of their army, each soldier defending what they had been entrusted
If every believe was victorious in their spiritual battles
the local church would be stronger and if the local church was strong than the
church as a whole would be stronger and if that was the case than society would
be affected.
And so the battle for us is the attacks that endanger our
souls and our relationship with God.  And
that will be moral issues, whether or not we are obedient to what God requires
of us and theological issues, how we see and view God.  And these are where we will be attacked, at
the point of our personal integrity and beliefs.  Because if the devil can convince us that it
doesn’t matter how we live or what we believe then he already has won the
initial battle.  So don’t give in, even
on the little things.  You don’t reserve
a patch of your garden for weeds and you don’t reserve a part of your life for
sin.  Or as the Arab proverb says, “If
the camel once gets his nose in the tent, his body will soon follow.”
The question then is how do we keep the camel out of the
tent, how do we “Stand our Ground”?
Glad you asked, Paul continues  Ephesians 6:14  Stand your ground,
putting on the belt of truth . . .     Put
on the Belt of Truth  While I was working
on this point I asked myself “what is the main purpose of a belt?”  And my immediate response was: It keeps my
pants up.  Now I know that some people
never wear a belt or if they do it’s simply a fashion accessory. 
But as a person with no butt let me tell you that the main
purpose of a belt is to keep you pants up. 
And that is important because it keeps me from being distracted with the
thought “I wonder if my pants are going to fall down.”  Our modern translations tend to use the
analogy of a belt, in the NIV it says Ephesians 6:14 NIV Stand your ground,
putting on the belt of truth . . .
And while that seems to make sense for us today that isn’t
the picture that Paul was drawing we he wrote this.  The problem is that culturally what Paul had
told those early believers make little sense to us 2000 years later.  The King James Version is pretty close to
what was written in the original Greek in this passage, it’s just doesn’t make
sense to us in 2015, because in the KJV Paul tells us  Ephesians 6:14 KJV Stand therefore, having
your loins girt about with truth,
Having your loins girt about with truth.  Has a nice ring to it, but what does it
actually mean?  Well 2000 years ago folks
didn’t need a belt to hold up their pants because they didn’t wear pants.  They all wore long robes, which were probably
really comfortable but really awkward when you were involved in things that
required mobility, like battle.   I went
to the website: The Art of Manliness and found instructions.  I told Angela that I was going to find a robe
to wear this morning so I could show people how to gird their loins and she
looked absolutely horrified.  In our 33
years of marriage I’ve learned that in situations like this it’s best to trust
Angela on things like these.  So instead
of a robe I got pictures.    So here is an illustrated guide.
So what does that have to do with anything?  Well Paul is telling us that we need to have
a firm grasp of the truth.  When I was in
high school we learned about situational ethics that is the concept that what
is true depends on your circumstances. 
And that makes life difficult.  In
2015 in Canada there are very few absolutes, what society knew was wrong
fifteen years ago, well not so much today. 
Someone said that we have narrowed the Ten Commandments down
to “Thou shalt not kill” but even that is open to interpretation according to
the pro-choice abortion proponents and those who promote assisted suicide. 
Listen to what Jesus told those who rejected him in  John 8:44  For you are the children of
your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a
murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no
truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a
liar and the father of lies.
In contrast Jesus told his followers John 14:6  Jesus
told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father
except through me.”  And when he stood
before Pilate on the day he would be crucified we read this account,  John 18:37-38  Pilate said, “So you are
a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came
into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that
what I say is true.”  “What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out
again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime.
Are you settled on Jesus as the truth?  If not than the battle becomes much more
difficult, you will be hindered by other thoughts and claims, and worried that
your pants will fall down.  And if you
aren’t convinced that Jesus is the way the truth and the life than you aren’t
ready for the spiritual battles that lie ahead of you, because you will be
lacking the authority that you need.
So once we have established the truth we are told  Ephesians 6:14 Stand your ground, putting on
the belt of truth and the body armour of God’s righteousness and that’s where we will pick up next week.