Armour of God
2003-01-20 – “Resistance!”
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 1Pe5:8-9
Over the next two or three weeks I want to look at the reality of evil in our world and the need for us understand evil and how we can resist it.
CS Lewis argued the Christians often make one of two serious mistakes: They either take the devil too seriously or they don’t take him seriously enough! In our mainline churches we often tend toward the latter – we don’t see demons behind every bush, but we tend to ignore the reality of evil and our need to resist evil.
Peter gives us a very clear warning and some very good advice. As Christians we are to be alert, the evil one is looking for opportunities to destroy. Jesus warned His disciples that Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy. We should understand that we will encounter opposition. This doesn’t make Satan responsible for everything that goes wrong or that we do wrong – sometimes we only have ourselves to blame! But we should not lose sight of the fact that we have an enemy who will stop at nothing to limit our effectiveness as Christians.
This does not mean that we should live in fear, but we must not be ignorant…
Peter’s advice is valuable:
- Be self-controlled: The devil easily tempts those who are self-indulgent. Self-discipline leads towards Godliness.
- Alert: We should always understand that there is a spiritual dimension to life. Someone once said to me: “It is easier to organise a tennis tournament than it is to organise a Christian camp!” Why? Because the devil doesn’t mind tennis!
- Resist: I encounter many people who think it is their job to go out and defeat the devil. This is not our job! Jesus has done it on the cross, and He will complete the mopping up when He comes again. Our job is to resist. Not to advance against the devil. We advance with the gospel, we advance with love. We are not to be focussed on evil but on those who are lost without Christ.
- Stand firm in the faith: We don’t have to stand firm on our personality or our own goodness. We are not playing spiritual “cowboys and crooks,” we put our trust in God and stand on His strength, His goodness, and His love.
Over the next few days we’ll look at how the Bible helps us to resist evil.
2003-01-21 – “Understanding our position”
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Col2:15
The Second World War was won on D-Day when the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy. However some of the toughest battles were fought after this as the Allied troops consolidated their victory and advanced toward Berlin.
For us as Christians our D-Day is the crucifixion. It is there that the war was won. There that Christ overcame sin and death. For the last 2000 years we have been spreading the light of God’s victorious love throughout a world where Satan desperately holds on to what he has left.
We do not have to live in fear of evil and we never have to cower before the darkness for we are on the side of the One who has defeated and triumphed. Yes, we may experience resistance as we advance in victory, and the resistance should be taken seriously, but we do not have to be afraid!
Christ has already defeated Satan and Revelation teaches us that the Lord Jesus will consign Satan to his final punishment at the Second Coming. In the meantime, it is not our job to beat the devil or his demons, that’s God’s problem! Our task is spread the victory that Christ gave us. We need to share the hope, love, and forgiveness of God with those in darkness.
How do you defeat darkness? Put it in prison? Put it to death? No! We defeat darkness by letting the light shine!
2003-01-22 – “Our weapons and our battle”
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ. 2Co10:4-5
On of the big mistakes that Christians and the Church make is that we forget that we are different from the world. We march to the beat of a different drum. This is especially true when we go to war with evil. Ours is not the way of deception, cruelty, violence, and hatred: – we have a different route.
Our battle is different too – Paul indicates that much of the battle is in our minds: Do we trust God or believe the world around us? The battle is won when we allow Jesus to be Lord of our lives and it is lost when we go our own way.
Our weapons are not from here – they have a Divine origin. God does not leave us to cope with evil on our own – He provides the resources we need to overcome. He fills us with the Holy Spirit so that we are not alone. We can become the people He wants us to be. We can overcome our doubts, fears, and temptations because He is with us. He helps us to bear fruit and He gives us the gifts we need to overcome.
We can even break down the strongholds of bad habits and old temptations – we can overcome obstacles in the way of our growth.
And when we have overcome the resistance inside us, we can begin to overcome the resistance out there.
2003-01-23 – “Stand!”
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 evil 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. Eph6:10-13
There are church buildings in Europe that withstood the bombings during the second world war. The buildings did not fight, they did not mount an offensive, they simply withstood and their standing was a mute testimony to the power of God.
Many people get caught up playing “spiritual cowboys and crooks.” Paul describes a relentless enemy with a multi-faceted attack. Our task: To spy on the powers of evil? No! To sabotage the forces in the heavenly realms? No! To attack the rulers and authorities? No! Our task is to stand firm. If we advance in any way it is with the gospel.
Billy Graham is a very good example! Where many others have failed morally or through corruption, Billy Graham has maintained his integrity and stood the test of time. What is his secret? His secret is his focus. When it comes to evil, he stands firm. When it comes to the gospel, he advances. It is interesting that when people become obsessed with evil and doing battle with the devil, the first thing they forget is to reach the unreached. Disaster will surely follow.
God will sort out evil. It is our task to stand. And God will make us strong!
2003-01-24 – “The Armour revealed”
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around 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 of 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. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Eph6:14-18
Before we look at the individual pieces of the armour, let us get a feel for the whole:
- The armour is primarily about defense – there is only one offensive weapon.
- There is no protection for the back: This armour is not really designed for retreat.
- The armour has to do with character, attitudes, and spirituality. These are things that take work from us.
- It is a diverse armour: There are various aspects we need to master.
- The parts that this armour protects represent important aspects in our lives.
It is quite possible that Paul wrote this while under house arrest in Rome where he was guarded by a Roman guard. He had time to study the soldier and the armour. The image of a well-trained disciplined soldier is an image that permeates Paul’s thinking. As we consider each piece of the armour, we should not forget that the effectiveness thereof depends on the training and discipline of the one using the armour.
The parts of the armour are complementary – they depend on each other and overlap each other.We cannot just have good swords or good shields, we need the whole lot!
The armour should be put on with prayer.
We’ll look at the pieces of armour in more detail next week…
2003-01-27 – “The Belt”
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist Eph6:14
The belt is the first piece of armour to put on. Many other parts of the armour actually attach to the belt. It was broad, tight-fitting, and protected the stomach, kidneys, and other vital organs.
The belt is truth. I believe there are two sides to this:
1. The Truth of God’s Word about us and about the world. Our worldview and self-view should be defined by God’s truth and not by the media or by those around us. Our foundation on which everything hangs is God’s Truth as opposed to the world’s lies.
2. Truth in ourselves: Integrity is a critical element to succesful warfare. If we lack integrity; if we break our word; and if we compromise by trying to lie to God, ourselves, or others then we will find it difficult to withstand the attacks of evil.
For most of us the problem is not that we are totally dishonest, it is that we are not entirely honest! The more we learn to stop pretending that we are better than we are, the more we give up trying to impress each other by exaggeration, the more we admit our failures without trying to cover it up the broader and better our belt will be.
The belt protects the soft inner organs. Truthfulness stops the rot on the inside. It really is a critical piece of armour!
2003-01-28 – “The Breastplate”
with the breastplate of righteousness in place, Eph6:14
In Hebrew thinking the heart was not only the center of the body, but the control-centre of life.
According to Paul we need righteousness at the control centre of our lives.
But what righteousness is this? Our righteousness or God’s righteousness? If it is our righteousness then I’m in trouble and so are you because no one of us is perfect. If it is God’s righteousness, then why do we need to put it on? Surely God’s righteousness is a gift that He gives us when we give our lives to Him and does not have to be repeated!
So, how do we understand what it means to wear this breastplate of righteousness? I believe that it works like this. The reality of the breastplate (a hard, shaped piece of metal, leather, and wood) is the fact of the righteousness that God has imputed to us. Our _wearing_ of the breastplate is our decision to live like someone who has been made right and one with God.
Put another way: I don’t try to live righteously because I am trying to _become_ righteous, but I live righteously because God has alreadt planted His righteousness in me. The one is motivated by fear, the other by gratitude.
We will never be able to stand against evil if we simply accept God’s gift of righteousness without allowing it to transform us. When we allow God’s goodness to transform us, we become more like Jesus and more effective in
The decision to put on the righteousness of God is that we choose to live RIGHT (This is more than just obeying rules.) And God’s armour is not like the Emperor’s new clothes. We shall not be embarrased at wearing them.
2003-01-29 – “At the risk of sounding repetitive…”
and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Eph6:14
You will recall that I emphasised that the armour is for standing – that we don’t advance against the enemy, but that we advance with the gospel. Paul’s counsel to the soldier who stands for Christ is that we should always be READY to share the gospel of PEACE.
Do you see the contrast? Our stand against evil is about war, but we advance in peace. No matter what we are going through and no matter how tough the opposition may be, we are always to advance in peace. We must always be ready to speak a kind word and to share God’s love with those around us.
We can never only stand against evil and not share our faith – that would be to go into battle without a vital piece of armour. Helping others to know Christ – either through our words or our example is incredibly important and it is part of resisting the darkness.
We have all met people who have advanced the gospel in a warlike manner – they’ve Bible-bashed or threatened or been insensitive. They’ve managed to confuse standing and advancing. The Gospel is a Gospel of peace and we should share it freely and gracefully.
But we must be ready, prepared, and willing to do it!
2003-01-30 – “Shields and Arrows”
In addition to all of this, take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Eph6:15
The enemy fires many arrows at the believer. Doubt, temptation, despair, confusion, opposition, ridicule, and prideful self-reliance are just some of the barbs that he would use to push us back and damage the cause of Christ.
Let us not be mistaken: When we talk about Satan and the reality of evil, we are not talking about a “Hot Stuff” with a forked tail and little horns. We are talking about a relentless enemy whose attacks are very real.
But we have a shield. One of the reasons the Roman army was so sucessful was their use of shields, especially in the tight disciplined formations that they formed making them impervious to the attacks of the enemy. A Roman soldier would learn to carry and use a shield until it became part of him – an extension of his arm so that he would instinctively raise the shield to ward off an arrow or a blow.
Our shield is faith. When we choose to trust God – to believe that He will work things out – it quenches the fire in the arrows. The arrows still come but their effectiveness is diminished. Faith is a perspective – it chooses to look at God instead of looking at the problems – it chooses not to be defined by circumstances, but to be defined by God’s love for us.
And the more we use it, the more adept we become. And when we share our needs with others and put our faith together like the Romans did in their formations, we will be able to resist.
2003-01-31 – “The Helmet of Salvation”
Take the helmet of Salvation Eph6:17
The helmet protects the head. For the Christian this is symbolic of the mind. It is in the mind that a great number of battles are fought. Why would it be that _Salvation_ is the thing that protects the mind?
To better understand this we should understand that Christianity came from Jewish roots, and that if someone converted to Judaism they would be baptised (This was called “Proselyte Baptism”.) There were three things that went with this baptism:
- The convert was given a new name – Jewish names were linked to their identity in God.
- He/She was considered a Jew who was one day old.
- She/He was given a new set of clothes.
For Christians, being “saved” meant that one went from being a Jew, Greek, or Roman to being a Christian.
- Their identity was found in Christ.
- They had begun a new life in Him.
- They would “wear” a new set of character traits
It is in the mind that temptations lurk, where doubts linger and fears abound. It is in the mind where the enemy would wreak havoc. What is the answer?
The answer is to constantly remind ourselves that we have been saved by God.
- He _is_ at work in us to make better people of us. He doesn’t see the old: He sees the new
- Our Salvation is not something we earn. A baby doesn’t make itself born. In the same way our salvation depends on God and not on us.
- We have a right and an obligation to wear the character traits of God: ie The Fruit of the Spirit (Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control)
Try and wear this helmet today!
2003-02-04 – “Our offensive weapon”
and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. Eph6:17
This isn’t the only place where God’s Word is described as a sword. In the book of Hebrews the writer notes that the Word of God is a double-edged sword so sharp that it can divide between thoughts and motives.
This is the only item in the armour that is for attack, although it is also used as defense. Jesus demonstrated His mastery of Scripture as He quoted from the Old Testament to parry the attacks of Satan who was trying to tempt Him in the wilderness.
The battle, as we have seen so far, is a battle about Truth. Truth is the first piece and foundation of the armour, and now as we get to the last piece of the armour, it is clear that it is truth that is at stake once again.
God’s truth is the only grounds on which we can refute Satan and the world’s lies and deceit. It is God’s standards, God’s ethos, God’s ways that must form the basis of our outreach to the world. It is His light that we must shine into the darkness.
But one has to know how to use a sword. Someone who does not know how to use a sword may grasp it by the blade and cut their hand. Someone who swings a sword recklessly may injure an ally. The same is true for the Bible – we should become people who know Scripture and use it correctly.
When we ran a Christian outreach at the Grahamstown Festival, someone talked about how they wrote Bible verses in the toilet cubicles and inserted small pieces of paper with Bible verses between the bricks in the walls at some of the show venues because the Word of God was a sword and they believed that this would break the power of the evil influences at the Festival. As far as I am concerned, this was misuse of God’s Word – to be blunt: they were defacing and littering!
Good use of Scripture is to read the Bible regularly and apply it’s principles to our lives, and not use it as a random set of magic spells.
2003-02-07 – “The armour’s companion”
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly as I should. Eph6:18-20
Although prayer is not considered a piece of the armour, it is inseparable from the armour. There are three aspects to this kind of prayer:
1.It is prayer in the Spirit – in other words it is prayer that is guided by God. A famous theologian once remarked “The wonder is not only that God _answers_ prayer but that He _inspires_ prayer!” The more we pray, and the more we allow ourselves to become sensitive to the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit, the more we will discover that God actually shows us things to pray for. And we can bring it all to God: Our prayers for ourselves, family, friends; our groans about the things that cause us pain; and our longing to see His righteousness revealed in our broken world.
2.It is prayer for others – particularly that they will be effective. In what? Fighting the devil? No! But in spreading the Gospel. This is a passion we have lost and a hunger we no longer have. When last have you prayed for yourself or someone else to be effective in reaching out to others? It is crucial!
3. It is prayer for Paul. Paul was considered the shepherd of the Ephesian church. It is vital that we pray for those in leadership positions in the church. My I be as bold as Paul and ask you to pray for me? Pray that words will be given me that I may make known the mystery of the Gospel for although I am not in chains, the Gospel must still be preached.