The Armour of God

“Paul’s purpose in writing is not that we become obsessed by every little detail either of Satan or our armour, but that we realise that while we are in a war and need to be  protected, we also must also be ready to fight.”

Last Sunday, Keith Cooper gave us a thorough look at our spiritual armour as we begin to wind down our journey through Ephesians. (Many thanks to Keith for providing his own notes for this post!)

As Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesian Christians, it’s important to note that he has spent long nights and days chained by the wrist to a Roman soldier. It’s this image right before his eyes that incites him to draw the parallel – as a Christian, we also have armour!

As we look at the vivid imagery of a fully-equipped Roman soldier, it’s important to remember that this is God’s armour. Every item of armour is important because it is centred on what God has perfectly done through Jesus at the cross.

Our passage for the week: Ephesians 6:14-19:

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

1) Belt – Truth (v14)

A roman soldier always wore a loose-fitting tunic. In hand to hand conflict a loose tunic was not just a potential hindrance, but a danger. So before battle he would tuck the tunic into his heavy belt. The belt held everything securely together and demonstrated readiness for war.

In the same way, Satan will do his best and worst to trip you up and lie to you.  He attacks believers by lying to them and deceiving them. This is why God’s truth is essential for a Christian. We must also guard the truth of God’s word. Satan will always try to get us to take our eyes of Jesus and try to confuse us about who Jesus is – everything from his birth to his resurrection to his return has been questioned over recent years.

We must watch out for false teaching. Test everything you hear – we should always be asking the question – Is it what the Bible teaches? Is it God’s truth? Does this take my eyes of Jesus? If the answer is, “yes,” then it is a lie!

Being girded with truth is also to do with our total commitment to Jesus. A Christian needs to be disciplined and prepared, just like a soldier for battle or athlete for a race.

2) Breastplate – Righteousness (v14)

No Roman soldier would go into battle without his breastplate. The purpose of it was to protect hearts, lungs and other vital organs. In Jewish thinking the heart represented the mind and will and the bowels were thought to contain our emotions and feelings.

The mind and the emotions are the two main area where Satan attacks.

  • He seeks to undermine pure living, he wants us to make light of sin so that we become so used to it that it no longer bothers our conscience.
  • Satan attacks our minds and plays on our own insecurities – which can often cause emotional and relationship problems within church life.

How do you counter Satan’s accusations of sin and failure? You look to Christ. Jesus’ righteousness is yours by faith and you take this righteousness and wrap it around your whole being.

It’s worth mentioning that there is a practical aspect to righteousness. We have a responsibility; it is a life lived in obedience to God’s word and Spirit. The call is to live as holy people in moment by moment obedience to our Heavenly Father and this is what we must use to protect ourselves when Satan fires darts of guilt or failure at our vulnerable hearts.

By living holy lives we put on the breastplate of righteousness.

3) Shoes – Gospel of Peace (v15)

Sore feet make us reluctant to get going. For a soldier, footwear was even more important than an athlete’s – a Roman soldier’s shoes had to cover large distances over rough terrain with great speed and then still feel ready for battle.  As a Christian, spiritual footwear is also important. Gospel boots are what we need to keep us fresh and ready for battle and keep us moving; without them we will stumble and fall, suffering many defeats. Like soldiers on active duty sleep with their boots on, so we must keep our spiritual boots on, as well.

Remember:

  • We are at war. But what Jesus has done for you is good news! Because He rose again, he won the battle. He is victorious – Satan is defeated, but not yet destroyed.
  • So although battles rage on, the outcome is certain. We must keep looking outward, not down at our feet and focusing on our problems and needs, (that is how Satan would want us to live) instead we have a job to do to take the gospel of Jesus to those who have not heard.

4) Shield – Faith (v16)

Roman soldiers would have used several kinds of shields, but the shield that Paul refers to here was a large one, 0.75m wide x 1.2m high which would protect the entire body and was made of solid wood often covered in metal.

  • Soldiers would carry these to the battle line and stand side by side form a huge barrier (also called a Testudo or tortoise formation). Anyone who stood or crouched behind it would be protected from enemy arrows or spears.

    Image by Neil Carey | Courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons

This is faith:

  • Faith in God that he saves us and keeps us
  • He is immeasurably reliable and dependable
  • Christian faith is powerful and effective because the object of our faith, Jesus Christ is infinitely powerful and absolutely reliable.

When John Paton was translating the Bible for a south seas island tribe, he discovered that he had no word for trust or faith. One day a native who had been running hard came to the missionary’s house, flopped himself in a large chair and said “It’s good to rest my whole weight on this chair.” “That’s it,” said Paton. “I’ll translate faith as ‘resting one’s whole weight on God.'”

Using the shield of faith:

  • Satan’s most lethal weapons are often darts of rejection, arrows of dashed hopes and temptation to give up, causing us to question whether we can really trust God.
  • When we face challenges, tragedy or suffering, often it raises doubts and questions that can easily end up with us blaming God.
  • We combat Satan’s seducing lies by clinging on to God’s promises and what we know of God’s character.
  • We can extinguish fiery darts of doubt by picking up the shield of faith and by putting our trust in Jesus Christ.

5) Helmet – Salvation (v17)

A Roman soldier would never enter battle without a helmet to protect his head and face. With all these missiles flying about there is only one way to hold up our heads with confidence and face the battle that is going on all around us: We need our helmets on.

The fact that the helmet is connected to salvation shows where Satan wants to attack – our assurance that Jesus has saved us. Without the full confidence of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we will never be able to fight effectively. Therefore, Satan’s most disturbing attack against believers is in tempting them to believe they have lost their salvation – this fear paralyses and fills many Christians with insecurity and dread.

But we have a certain hope, a living hope. Peter says:  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5).

6) Sword – Word (v17)

A soldier does not simply stand in the middle of the battlefield thinking he is well protected, and then wait for the enemy to run out of ammunition. He goes on the attack with his sword always at hand and ready for use.

  • The origin of this sword is the Holy Spirit – it is God’s word driven home by God’s spirit. The power of this cannot be resisted.
  • We need God to make us skillful in knowing how to use it.
  • The sword of the spirit is both a defensive and offensive weapon. It will defend against the onslaught of Satan, as well as inflict blows against him.
  • This is why we believe that preaching is still so important. God’s word proclaimed is powerful because it transforms lives. It changes sadness into joy, despair into hope and childishness into maturity. (But it is also the responsibility of every Christian to study God’s word. After all, we have the best teacher within us, the Holy Spirit.)

Which one are you?

  • Some Christians are like butterflies; they flit from one Bible study to another or from sermon to sermon or even book to book and gain little more than a nice feeling.
  • Others are like a botanist; they study carefully and take copious notes and gain much information, but little truth.
  • Still others are like a bee; they go deep into scripture and the Holy Spirit to be taught by God and to grow in Him, and like the bee they will never go away empty.

We must be filled with the word and spirit, using them effectively to both defend and advance God’s Kingdom against the powers of Satan.

Are you putting on all of God’s armour? What pieces are you leaving off or are in need of repairing? Eat and drink deeply from God’s word and Holy Spirit with your head up and your eyes on Jesus.

In the Cheshire area? We at Freedom Church Chester would love to have you with us this Sunday! Click here for information and directions.

Spiritual Warfare

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors . . .” – C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Last Sunday, Matthew Price brought us a timely word for the next installment of our journey through Ephesians. (Many thanks to Matthew for providing his own notes for this post!) If you didn’t catch his helpful Ephesians summary up to chapter 6, verse 9, be sure to check it out.

Spiritual warfare, battle, Ephesians
Image courtesy of Jennifer Ellison

Our passage for the week: Ephesians 6:10-13:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

While the New Testament makes many references to the devil and to demons, the intention was not to have everyone go home with an unhealthy fear by making too much of the devil. However we don’t want to make so little of him that we aren’t wise to his schemes, tricks and motives.

Who is the devil?

  • A created but fallen angel, who sinned against God in heaven
  • Painted in the Bible as a serpent, a dragon and a roaring lion to show his cunning, hatred and cruelty against the people of God
  • Jesus called him the ruler of this world, as when he tempted Jesus, he was able to offer Jesus kingdoms and power.
  • The word, “devil” is Greek for “slanderer” or “accuser.”
  • “Satan,” in Hebrew means “adversary.”
  • He is mentioned in the New Testament as a tempter, the evil one, a liar and a murderer.

He is at war with you and with us and against God. Even now, he hates this church plant for the good it will do. Even now, he will be working against it.

He is against your marriage, against your family life, against your friendships.  He wants you to not have to faith, or maybe a faith with no actual life to it. He wants you to be ineffective. To keep you from praying, from reading your bible. From knowing God’s truth.

Matthew likened him to a glorified graffiti artist. God has painted us clean in his pure white righteousness, but his enemy comes and tries to spray lies on us. And God just keeps wiping us clean as in Zechariah 3. Jesus has rescued us from hell and a life at the mercy of the devil and his schemes.

Ultimately Satan has failed and all of history is drawing towards that day when Jesus returns to restore all things. But in the meantime, the devil has a big influence.  Even now, as children of God, we still live in a fallen world. People around us sin. The devil still carries authority over spiritual forces we don’t see, and governments and powers that we do see .

People, all people, including David Cameron when he passes laws that clearly contradict the word of God, are not our enemy. We are called to love people, to serve them, forgive them and pray for them. Our enemy is the devil.

And so as Christians we are at war. The devil is at war against us and by being in Christ, we are at war with him. That’s why the Christian walk can be so difficult.

The devil is subtle. He twists the word of God. John Stott points out that the devil is as happy when you compromise in your faith or when you are in error just as much as if you are sinning. He will tempt you with pride, the source of his own personal anger. He encourages unhealthy self-esteem (we think it’s all about us and how good we feel), personal fulfilment (when we make it about our own kingdom and not God’s) and independence.

The devil would much rather see us concerned for our own needs and wants and pleasures – to think only of ourselves because it keeps us from seeing or relying on God. On the other hand, God asks us to seek Him and love and serve others before ourselves because those things make us LESS focused on ourselves.

The devil doesn’t want you to feel close to God. He doesn’t want you to feel part of this church plant. He WANTS you to feel left out – like God is blessing everyone but you. He wants you trapped in a particular sin. He wants you to stop praying, He wants to wreck your marriage. He wants you to walk off the battlefield.

It takes an army to win a war, so together we achieve far more for God. WE are an army. However, the devil seeks to divide us. If the forces against us are united, then how much more united do we need to be? Together, we give up our own ambitions to serve the King.

In Ephesians 6:10-13, Paul tells us to be strong in the Lord, put on the full armour of God (which Keith will be looking at next week), and to stand.

Put on your armour; you wouldn’t walk into a battlefield without it. A policeman doesn’t go to work without his stab vest on. You don’t walk onto a cricket pitch to have balls thrown at you at a hundred miles an hour without all the gear above to protect you. Put it on!

And finally, stand. Sometimes that’s all we can do. James 4 says: “resist the Devil and he will flee from you.”

Stand!

Your spouse may be difficult to live with and you don’t see how they will ever change. Stand. Keep loving. Be strong in the strength of the Lord. Stand.

Your kids may be going through a horrible stage and it takes all your effort not to throw them out of the window. Stand. It will change. Stand.

You may hate your job and everyone at it, but God doesn’t seem to give you a way out. Stand. Be faithful. As hard as it is. Stand.

Your exciting church plant that you joined isn’t quite what you expected and no one is who you hoped they would be. Stand. Stick with it. God has great things planned.

Each time you come to church even though you don’t feel like it, you win a victory.

Each time you love a spouse or a  friend even though they certainly don’t deserve it, you win a victory.

Each time you get through a day with a toddler and don’t throw them out the window or run off screaming, you win a victory.

Each time you resist joining in gossip, or losing hope, or losing your temper, you win a victory.

Each time you thank God for things, despite your disappointments, you win a victory.

Matthew finished his message with: “We are sons and daughters of God. We have God’s word to us in the Bible. We have his Spirit living within us. We are on the winning side. In the book of Revelation, we see the devil tossed into a pit forever, a reminder that on the cross, Jesus defeated all the power of the devil forever. We can choose to believe in Jesus’ victory and live a life as God’s children – to fight against the devil, or we can choose to be defeated by his lies and wily ways. We can fight. We can fight together. We have the tools, and we have God on our side.”

 

 

A Christ Central church, part of Newfrontiers