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October 3, 2011 @ 9:13 am

St Michael and All Angels

Dear Friends and fellow believers in Christ,

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Our text for this morning tells us that there was a war in heaven. St Michael – the chief of the angels, fought against the devil and his angels. And we are told that the devil was defeated and thrown down, thrown out of heaven because there was no longer any place for him.

The question I would like to consider today is this: what were they fighting over? What was this battle in heaven for and what was Satan hoping to achieve? Was it for power or control? Was it for possession of the heavens? The answer is no. The war was not for heaven. The war was not even for control of the earth. It wasn’t about territory or space or power or wealth. The war was over you. Over people, God’s people, specifically Christians. Those who have received Christ’s message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins, who have believed that message and who have eternal life. God wants you to have that gift, Satan wants to take it away. The battle, the war in heaven was over your salvation.

This fact requires of us two things. The first is sober reflection.

Our text tells us that Satan was cast down out of heaven because there was no longer a place for him there in heaven. Dear friends this is good news for you. You need to understand what this means. Satan’s chief goal is to slander and accuse Christians. He is like a corrupt prosecuting attorney who loves putting people in jail. He sets traps to catch us in disobedience to God and his law and then he slanders your good name before God in heaven. God, did you see what your Christian just did? How he behaved, the things that she said? Looks like this one deserves to go to hell.

And that’s why Satan was cast out of heaven. That’s why St Michael threw him down, that’s why Jesus said he saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven in our Gospel text. Jesus came to forgive sins. The sins that the slanderer used to entrap God’s people have been washed away. They have been forgiven. The accusations can’t stick to us any longer. The blood of Jesus has made us like Teflon; the accusations and slanders of Satan come but they just roll right off because Jesus has already paid the penalty and suffered the punishment for that sin.

But, and this is important. The devil has not given up. And this is what requires from you sober reflection. The devil has not given up. He has been cast down from heaven because he can no longer accuse. So he has come to make war on the church one Christian at a time. The very last verse of this chapter God tells us that Satan became furious with the woman (that is to say the Church) and he went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

It is for this reason that St Paul, speaking by the inspiriation of the Spirit in Ephesians 6 tells us that we are not fighting against flesh and blood but against the rulers and authorities and lords of this dark world.

And so dear Christians, take note of this. Satan has been thrown out of heaven. He no longer has the authority to accuse you. So he has come to earth to attack you directly. He has come to attack the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus.

I said that this text requires two things from us; the first is sober reflection. Here is the second: the second thing this text requires of us is that we faithfully hold to the pure word of God. And here’s why. When Satan comes to attack, Hollywood movies would have us believe that he sneaks around in the dark and jumps to grab us. That is certainly terrifying, but not very effective. Satan doesn’t just want to scare you. He wants to destroy you. And the only way he can do that is by undermining God’s promises in his Word. And so that is what he does. It is what he has always done, from the very beginning. In fact, every time we see Satan active in attacking God’s people he is always attacking God’s Word.

Look at the Garden of Eden. God gave a command about the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. Satan came and attacked that word. “Did God really say you shall not eat from any tree in the garden?” And later, when he came to attack Jesus in the wilderness after he had been baptized. God had spoken at Jesus baptism. God said, This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased and so Satan came and attacked that Word of God. “If you are the Son of God, then turn these stones to bread, then cast yourself down from the temple.” Satan attacked the Word of God.

St John refers to Christians as those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus, that is to say Christians are those who hear and obey and believe the Word of God, and therefore when Satan comes to attack us he does to us what he did to Eve and what he did to Jesus. He tries to take away from us the Word of God.

Did God really say, “You shall not commit adultery”. God knows that human beings were not made to be monogamous. Marriage is an outmoded out dated structure. And besides sex is fun.

So goes the attack on the commandment of God.

But the Lord comes with his knockout punch.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:25-33 ESV) Christian marriage is far from outdated. Instead it is a picture for us of God’s love and faithfulness for us. He is not a pig of a husband who uses us up and then casts us aside. Instead he loves us and cares for us even onto death! The commands of God stand firm.

But Satan does not just attack the commandments. He also attacks the testimony of Jesus. He attacks the Gospel itself. Jesus testifies, “Take eat, this is my body. Take drink, this is my blood given for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

But then Satan comes to rob Christians of this blessed testimony. “Bread can’t be body. Wine can’t be blood. It can’t forgive your sins.” And so Christians are robbed of the clear testimony of Jesus and they lose the assurance of Christ body and blood, given and shed for me, as sure and certain as the bread and the wine in my mouth.

But then comes the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus. “This is my body. This is my blood. Given for you. Shed for you. For the forgiveness of your sins.”

Dear Christian friends, be sober minded, we watchful and alert. Because your enemy the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

Dear friends, take up the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Grip it tightly. Hold to it faithfully so that Satan not wrestle it from you. Instead believe it with all your heart and that faith will be for you a shield that will put out Satan’s fiery darts. (Eph. 6:16-17)

Today we are celebrating the feast day St Michael and All Angels. In our text for today we see Michael and the angels doing battle with Satan in heaven and casting Satan out of heaven. Today we give thanks to God for his angels.

I wonder if we are not often tempted to believe that God and his angels are much like Charlie and his angels. God is like Charlie, aware of what’s going on but distant and unseen. Instead he sends his angels, beautiful and empowered, to do his dirty work.

Not so.

Certainly God has seen our fight, he has seen our battle and our struggle with the attacks of Satan. But he has not left us alone. Instead, he, God himself, Jesus the Son of God, has come to fight for us beside us and among us as one of us. He fought off the attacks of the devil who lured us into sin so that he could turn the tables on us and accuse us. Jesus paid for those sins so that they are powerless to condemn us.

So now Satan comes to undermine our faith by attacking the testimony of Jesus – getting us to doubt God’s forgiveness and God’s promise. Getting us to believe that forgiveness must be earned or deserved or somehow maintained. So God still fights with us.

As the angels battle Satan in heaven, our text gives us a clue as to how Satan is defeated. When I read this Revelation text, it draws all kinds of pictures in my brain. I picture a great war with powerful angels armored and armed, swords drawn, powerful, emanating light. And hordes of demons, dark and terrifying. Two sides grappling in a fight to the death.

But the text says different. Instead of this war being won with swords and spears and shields and military strength and prowess, it is a battle won with prayer. The angels defeated Satan by the Word of their testimony and the Blood of the Lamb.

The thing that undoes all the strength and the power of Satan, the thing that overthrows him and renders him utterly powerless is exactly what happens here on Sunday mornings. Christians come to Church. They hear God’s Word preached. They hear the absolution. They receive the Body and Blood of Jesus. They sing and pray and worship and the work of Satan is undone. The strength and the power of hell come unraveled and Christians are preserved.

Christians are preserved because of Jesus. Jesus is here. Jesus is with us. Jesus has given his word and his testimony that he is with us to the close of the age, that wherever two or three are gathered in his name, there his is in the midst of them.

Dear friends we are engaged in a battle. But God has given to us angles that fight with us, that fight alongside us, who pray for us and pray with us. And Jesus hears those prayers. He answers those prayers and like a champion, like a hero, he comes to clear away the darkness and defend those he died to save.

Amen.

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