Putting on the
Whole Armor of God
For our struggle is not against flesh and
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 whole armor 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.
(Ephesians 6:12-13 NIV)
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Therefore let him
who thinks he stands
take heed lest he fall.
(1 Corinthians 10:12 NAS)
The movie, A Knight's Tale, is the story of young William Thatcher, who was actually not a real knight at all. Poor and lacking an acceptable pedigree, he boldly supported himself and his friends by forging genealogy papers to create his own knighthood. With his newly-minted genealogy in hand and his rag-tag group of men and one platonic woman, young William set out to prove himself a worthy knight at the closest jousting competition. He not only won the match, he won the heart of the fairest maiden in all the land.
William already had the energy and bravado of youth and skill on his side. He had something else going for him as well. The lone woman on his team had developed a sleek new, "high-tech" metal for his armor. It was lightweight, resilient and easy to maneuver in. His horse was more agile and swift of foot. His opponents were at a definite disadvantage.
William succeeded beyond all expectations. And he also succeeded in getting away with his phony knighthood for awhile. He was galant, "good," handsome and skilled above all those who came up against him. There was a bit of a swagger in the way William walked. In addition to being good, he was also proud. Very proud.
Count Adhemar, the current holder of all tournament titles across Europe and Great Britain, was all that stood in the way of William's great ambitions. He would not be taken lightly or go quietly. Complicating the story even more, Count Adhemar was a highly unscrupulous man. Common to all stories of good and evil, this knight always dressed in black. A dark scowl veiled his brooding face. He was willing to do anything to win—not only the jousting matches but the hand of the fairest maiden in the kingdom. His only problem was that as soon as she set her eyes upon William and he set his eyes upon her, love burst into full bloom. Adhemar seethed with murderous rage and jealousy.
Dark clouds loomed over the landscape of William's hopes and dreams. After a year of great success, William's counterfeit genealogy was exposed. He was after all only the son of a poor commoner. And, of course, it was Adhemar who uncovered the deception. The penalty for William's lie was death by public flogging while bound in stocks in the public square.
As loud and hard as the crowd had cheered William on in his success, they were now just as eager to see him die a brutal death. The onslaught began suddenly. One vicious blow followed another. And just as quickly as it began it was over. A hush quickly fell over the crowd as Prince Edward, the much loved and admired future King of England made his way through the throng. The crowd bowed in respect for their much loved Prince who had himself long admired William's jousting skills. To the dismay of everyone, he commanded that William be freed from the stocks. As William approached the Crown Prince of England, he instructed him to kneel and drew his sword, not to kill William but to dub him a knight of the royal realm. William and Prince Edward both departed quickly for the most important tournament in all of Europe.
A smoldering Adhemar lurked in the shadows as William arrived. Envy and murder flooded his dark heart. Tension lay over the entire crowd like a blanket on a hot summer day. It was as if William and Adhemar were the only two warriors at the tournament. They were suddenly center stage.
Looking for every advantage against William, at the last moment Adhemar violated the code of a knight by illegally sharpening His lance to a fine point. Mounting his steed, he rammed his flanks with all the force he had and raced headlong toward William. The sharpened lance pierced the seam of William's armor, penetrating deep into his right shoulder, wounding him seriously.
A pall smothered the cheers of the crowd. From all appearances the match was over. Stunned and severely injured, William's men rushed to his side, prepared to carry him off the field in humiliating defeat. By the time they reached him, William had already dismounted his horse and stripped off all of his fine man-made armor. Against the protests of his men and to the shock and amazement of the crowd, William climbed back up on his horse. His arm too weak, his injury too severe and the pain too intense to even hold his lance, his men lashed it to his arm. Prepared for honor in death if not victory over the evil one, William raced armorless into a face-to-face confrontation with Adhemar. In grimacing pain and fierce determination, William sped toward his destiny. In the face of impossible odds, Sir William jolted Sir Adhemar off his steed in a single blow. The roaring crowd leapt to their feet in awe of the courage they had just witnessed. Evil was defeated before their very eyes.
Young William is all of us. When we pretend we are something or someone we are not, we become fodder for the devil. Not even the highest-tech armor in the land can save us from deep wounds and certain doom. Inauthentic Christianity cannot thrive in such an environment. If we are not a real knight—a committed Christian—or if we are believers pretending to be someone or something we are not—make no mistake—we are in grave danger. No matter how slick and high-tech our defenses are, they cannot compete with the dark knight of the soul. They are no more effective than worthless fig leaves. We would certainly be better off not entering the battle at all. If we have not put on the armor of the one and only faithful and true Prince of Peace and King of Kings with sincerity and integrity, the devil will devour us in a heartbeat. He will steal, kill and destroy any chance we have for the abundant life—the rich, full, joy-filled life that is ours through authentic faith in Christ.
"Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about
like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8 NAS).
Rejoice not, that the spirits
are subject unto you;
but rather rejoice,
because your names
are written in heaven.
Putting Everything and Everyone in the Right Perspective
Embarking upon this boundless study of not just the armor of God but the putting on of it, it is essential that everything be put in perspective. It has been my own experience that we can easily get carried away with waging war against the devil and forget that we are called into a living and vibrant relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This seems to be what Jesus was addressing when the seventy disciples returned from ministry all a-twitter about how the devils were subject to them because of His Name. He was not impressed. Listen to what he said to them.
"And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning falling from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:17-20 KJV).
The temptation to be overly fascinated with doing battle against the devil is obviously universal, otherwise Christ would not have spoken so directly and immediately to the issue. Jousting at windmills seems on the surface to be a lot simpler than embracing a relationship with anyone, much less the daunting notion of getting our arms around a relationship with the Creator of the universe. Just as the seventy disciples learned, however, fighting battles, whether it be with windmills or dragons, puffs up our sense of self-importance. And just as William's story illustrates, without the help of Christ, our Great High Priest, King of Kings and Prince of Peace, not only is it all in vain, but we will also be pummelled to a pulp by the devil.
Once we establish that we are, in fact authentic Christians of authentic faith, there are several more very important principles to establish right up front regarding putting on the whole armor of God.
First, we need to recognize that Satan's primary mode of attack is lying about scripture. This manifests by 1) distorting scripture, 2) misquoting scripture,
3) misrepresenting scripture, 4) promoting the presumption of scripture,
5) creating doubt and unbelief about scripture and 6) blinding our eyes to the whole counsel of scripture. It's always the same old question. "Hath God said?" This is all he's got. And the goal of this tired old tactic remains ever the same—to call God's excellent character, perfect will and purest motivations for us into question. Reprehensible, isn't it? Perhaps the better question is, Foolish, aren't we? The majority of us fall prey to this temptation every day.
Satan's primary mode of attack
is to distort, misquote, misrepresent,
promote presumption in and create doubt about God's Word.
Second, we need to know that putting on the armor of God is not just going through a ritual of merely saying the words of Ephesians 6:11-18 every morning. It is more than this. Much, much more. Putting on the whole armor
of God, as we will discover, means learning (Matthew 11:29), understanding (Colossians 1:9), trusting (2 Corinthians 1:9), believing (2 Corinthians 5:7), applying (Ephesians 2:10), heartily submitting to (Romans 12:1) and being indelibly transformed by (Romans 12:2) the truths of God by faith (Romans 3:27-28). These principles are the only real protection we have against the wiles of the evil one.
Third, we need to remind ourselves that Satan attacks us the same way he attacked Adam and Eve. "Hath God [really] said?" opened the door to the downfall of mankind. These three little words provoked unbelief and distrust in the Creator, infecting all of mankind with the terminal disease of sin. To choose the knowledge of good and evil—to walk by sight and not by faith—to walk in the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law—is the single greatest temptation every Christian faces every moment of every day of our lives.
A more contemporary term for the knowledge of good and evil is "legalism." This deadly trap turns the truths of God into a set of rules to live by which becomes a means to an end rather than a revelation of the true and living God.
A. W. Tozer once said, "The whole world has been booby-trapped by the devil, and the deadliest trap of all is the religious one." The religion of legalism is much more comfortable to the natural man than is faith. Wonderful people trust in rules more than they do in the finished work of redemption Christ accomplished on the cross. It "feels" safer, but it is literally playing with fire, because it makes us vulnerable to and participants in the schemes of the devil.
The news gets worse from here. The very tantalizing bait on the hook of the temptation to choose the tree of knowledge of good and evil appeals to the pride of man. The allegation was and still is, if mankind partook of the knowledge of good and evil, "that [they would] be as gods, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5). This is precisely what legalism is—playing god by living according to what is good and/or what is evil. In other words it is idolatry. It is self-idolatry, and the entire world plays by these rules—living by what is right in their own eyes.
Some of the nicest people
I know and some of
the most evil people
I know of are legalists..
Abiding in the tree of life—opting for a free and loving relationship with The Living God of the universe is just too simple for the legalist. It's an odd thing though. No two us will ever agree 100% on exactly what is good and what is evil, and some of the nicest people I know and some of the most evil people I know of are legalists. And all who live under the letter of biblical law are law breakers, no matter how good or how nice we are. The temption to be as god appeals to our lowest nature. The natural man wants to be his or her own god and often everyone else's god too.
The fifth thing we need to know is that Satan is a servant of the Most High God. The original legalist is constrained to abide by the letter of the law that God has laid out for him. John Piper has written in his book, Desiring God, that " . . . God rules over Satan and gives him no more leash than can accomplish His ultimate purposes."
Satan can only operate
within the parameters
God has given him.
Satan can only operate within the parameters God has given him. He cannot touch us except:
1) by God's permission or invitation and even then he can do no more than God allows:
"And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand" (Job 1:12).
"And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life" (Job 2:6).
"And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat" (Luke 22:31).
Jesus—By Permission—Perhaps Even by Invitation:
"And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Being forty days tempted of the devil" (Luke 4:1-2).
There is no clearer example of Satan's eternally losing hand than the above scripture. The devil did not lead Jesus into the wilderness to be tested. The Holy Spirit led Him there to be tested by the devil.
It seems to me that the more righteous we are, the more likely it is that God will invite the devil to test us. Job was the most righteous man in all the earth, and Jesus, of course, was God in the flesh. When I actually think about it, why would God bother to test someone's faith who is already obviously committed to going his or her own way and doing his or her own thing? It certainly doesn't take a test to learn what is already obvious. Then again, perhaps examples such as these have only become evident through testing. I guess we'll have to wait until we get to heaven to know for sure which comes first, the chicken or the egg.
Satan is holding
an eternally losing hand.
2) We ourselves give Satan permission to touch us when there is conscious, intentional, chronic, willful sin in our lives:
"All that found [Israel] have devoured them: and their adversaries said, We offend not, because they have sinned against the Lord, the habitation of justice, even the Lord, the hope of their fathers" (Jeremiah 50:7).
3) It is the letter of the law (legalism) that gives Satan access to our lives:
" . . . without the law, sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died" (Romans 7:8-9).
4) Satan cannot touch us as long as we are vigilant—watchful—not of him but of our own hearts:
"Be sober, be vigilant [watchful]; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak" (Mark 14:38 NIV).
"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong"
(1 Corinthians 16:13 NIV).
"Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you." (2 Timothy 1:14 NAS).
It is important to be aware of the open doors that give the devil access to our lives. It is even more important to be focused on God, not the devil. In other words, we need a God mentality, not a devil mentality.
" . . . greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (I John 4:4).
5) Satan cannot touch us without God's permission as long as we are submitted to God and are resisting the temptations of the devil.
"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).
It is far more important to focus on submitting to God than it is resisting the devil. It will be well with our souls when we do.
Satan lies in wait
to catch us off guard.
Ephesians 6:11 tells us to "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes."
The word schemes means to lie in wait [to catch off guard], cunning arts [slick tricks], deceptions.
Our perceptions of everything in life are totally impacted by what we believe and do not believe. These two things determine our responses, which in turn affect our peace and well-being. The devil's schemes are first and foremost intended to deceive us—to impact our perceptions—to cause us to doubt the truth of God's word just as he did Eve—and to tempt us to play god in our lives and the lives of others.
"The serpent was more "subtil" [crafty] than any other creature" (Genesis 3:1).
Subtil (subtle) means delicately skillful or clever; not open or direct; crafty; sly; delicately suggestive, not grossly obvious; working insidiously; not easily detected.
"Subtil." The devil is delicately skillful and clever. He is not open and direct. He is sly, not always grossly obvious, delicately whispering, "Hath God said?" questions in our minds. Hath God really said that I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21)? Hath God really said that nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:34-29)? Hath God really said that He loves me with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3)? Hath God really said that our lawless deeds have been forgiven and are not even taken into account unto those in Christ Jesus (Romans 4:7-8)? Hath God really said that He will forgive our wickedness and will remember our sins no more (Hebrews 8:12 NIV)? Hath God, in His divine power, really given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by his own glory and goodness (2 Peter 1:3)? Is God really good? Hath God really said? Is all this just too good to be true?
The devil operates insidiously—which means he operates in a slow or not readily apparent manner—like mold rotting out the foundations of a house—
a manner which is far more dangerous than all of Hollywood's high-tech images and portrayals of evil.
The devil is sly,
"Hath God said?" questions
in our minds.
As already stressed, the greatest danger for a Christian is the temptation to live by pride in the knowledge of good and evil—by codes and rules instead of living hidden with Christ in the life of God.
"For our life is hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3).
Here I go again, harping away at legalism. And exactly why do I carry on so? I do it, first, because legalism is the desire to "be as god" and the lie that the knowledge of good and evil is the means to that end. This is the original sin that opened the door to all other sin; and it always will be the sin that opens the door to all other sin. Second, I do it because there is so little written or said about this subject in comparison to everything else that is on the shelves of the Christian bookstores. Third, I do it because legalism is so insidious and our eyes are so blinded to it that we don't realize that when we live a life committed to keeping the rules, we have "fallen from grace" (Galatians 5:1). This does not mean we are once again lost. No. We are still saved but living under the letter of the law, which makes us vulnerable to sins and bondages of all kinds—especially the root sin of pride. Fourth and most important of all, I do it because legalism robs God of His glory, and I hate that. I hate it when I do it, and I hate it when others do it. So here comes more of my rant on what the Bible has to say on the subject of legalism.
"Religion" is the devil's primary entrapment. "The knowledge of good and evil" is nothing more than a strict adherance to rule-based, performance-based living as opposed to a faith and relationship-based life with God through His Son Jesus Christ. The former dupes us into measuring our own righteousness instead of standing in the righteousness of Christ. The devil's grandest scheme and his only scheme is legalism. Legalism is the religion of the devil, and it is all downhill from there. All evil derives its many ugly names from this. The law creates both presumption and doubt. It promotes lust for all kinds of things. It opens us up to sin. It often propels us into rebellion.
Legalism opens us up to sin.
It often propels us into rebellion.
Romans 7:8-11 (The Message) cuts deeply into the heart of this crucial subject.
"Don't you remember how it was? I do perfectly well. The law code started out as an excellent piece of work. What happened, though, was that sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of 'forbidden fruit' out of it. The law code, instead of being used to guide me, was used to seduce me. Without all the paraphernalia of the law code, sin looked pretty dull and lifeless, and I went along without paying much attention to it. But once sin got its hands on the law code and decked itself out in all that finery, I was fooled, and fell for it. The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong. So sin was plenty alive, and I was stone dead."
Here is how the NIV says it.
"But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and
I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death" (Romans 7:8-11 NIV).
The letter of the law (legalism) is the rigid and unforgiving adherence to a set of rules that we impose upon ourselves and others. These rules focus on the things of the flesh—the outward behavior and appearance. They cause us to question our faith. They cause us to question God. These outward focuses and inward questions may or may not have anything to do with religion or the Bible, but be sure that legalism is the true definition of religion.
The legalist's heart and mind
are bound up in rigid rules.
The legalist's heart and mind are bound up in rigid rules. These regulations and expectations extend to everything we do. The "rules and regulations" may be God's laws or they may be man's rules, having little or nothing to do with God. The rigidity of legalism forms a structure for controlling the behavior, appearance and attitudes of ourselves and others. Control is the operative word, and it is doomed to fail. It is certain to produce all manner of rebellion, not only in the legalist but most certainly in those who live with him or her.
Religion is a quid pro quo mindset—a calculated, "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine" mentality. "If I do this, then God will do that [what I want]." "If I don't do this, then God will not do that [what I want]." Or "God will get me." Or how about this? "If I do this or that then he, she, they will be obliged to do this or that." It is a "you owe me because I . . . " mentality, and the legalist is a very good scorekeeper.
Legalism can and often does produce lawlessness. Under legalism, when God doesn't do what we want even when we are doing what we think He wants, we lose faith and grow angrier and/or more stubborn by the day. There are many variations on these themes of the devil's religion, and many have fallen prey to his "schemes". In fact all of us are dealing with this temptation daily.
It is really important to remember what Jesus said to the Pharisee's, the best rule-keepers of all time. "You are of your father the devil" (John 8:44).
Religion is a "gotcha" mindset. One word for "enemy" in the Old Testament means "watcher".
I attend Grace Community Church in Tyler, Texas. There everyone is a potential leader. There are no power struggles. There is no elite group. We have Pastors with a capital "P". We also have a superb group of elders. Their responsibility is greater. They are guardians of the flock, but power is not exclusive to them. Our leaders work very hard to make pastors with a little "p" out of all who are willing, able and committed. We are trained often, and we are guarded and watched over in a caring, sincere and non-legalistic, grace-filled protective way. Mistakes are expected. Accountability is also expected. This is the difference between the watcher-gotcha mindset and the extraordinary constant mentoring, training, sharing of power teamwork that is ongoing in my church.
Contrarily, the watcher-gotcha mindset is never more evident than what we see in the Pharisees. They watched Jesus like a hawk and were always trying to trap Him in some violation of the law. His answer to them was always that love was the real issue. One clear example of this can be found in Luke 13:10-17 (NIV). In this passage we see what gives the appearance of Jesus actually "breaking" one of the ten commandments. At least the Pharisees— the watcher-gotcha crowd—thought so. Was He? He says not.
"On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity. Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the [gotcha] synagogue ruler [the watcher] said to the people, 'There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.' The Lord answered him, 'You hypocrites! Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?' When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing."
Religion is a
Paul described the law as holy, just and good (Romans 7:12). So where are we going wrong here? I like the way Eugene Petersen says it in The Message.
"But I can hear you say, 'If the law code was as bad as all that, it's no better than sin itself.' That's certainly not true. The law code had a perfectly legitimate function. Without its clear guidelines for right and wrong, moral behavior would be mostly guesswork. Apart from the succinct, surgical command, 'You shall not covet,' I could have dressed covetousness up to look like a virtue and ruined my life with it."
Clearly the law of God is holy, just and good as a moral guide for our behavior. It's how we use God's laws to condemn, control and abuse ourselves and others that creates the problem. When those holy, just and good laws turn our hearts to stone we are in deep trouble. When this occurs, we lose our vital connection to God and join the "watcher-gotcha" crowd. The New Covenant assures us that the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin. The devil can only condemn us or puff us up, and neither of these comes from God.
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Romans 8:1).
Legalists are "watchers" of themselves and others and are quick to point the finger at the smallest violation. They strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. The gnat is the violation. The camel is legalism.
The condemnation of self and others comes straight from the flesh and hell, and it is plainly called sin. It is another spirit and another gospel, and our hearts and hands are never 100% free of it in this life.
"But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him" (2 Corinthians 11:
Another Jesus, another spirit
and another gospel
come straight from the devil—
that is, straight from hell.
Another Jesus, another spirit and another gospel come straight from the devil—that is, from hell.
"But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods [legalism/rules], which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer" (1 Timothy 4:1-5 NAS).
We can only continue to grow from grace to grace into less and less legalism as we die to ourselves, our flesh and the law. It is as God said to Moses regarding dispossessing the enemies of the Israelites and possessing the land. "I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land" (Exodus 23:30 NAS). Proverbs 4:18 promises that the path of the righteous grows brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.
Once again in this next passage we see how Satan is ever so connected to ruleskeeping:
"And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement . . . and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God. If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles [rules] of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, ‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!' (which all refer
to things destined to perish with the using)—in accordance with the command- ments and teachings of men?" (Colossian 2:13-22 NAS).
Hold onto this truth. Remind yourself of it often. "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1 NAS).
And especially hold onto this great passage replete with promise for the diligent and sincere seeker of truth.
"For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Romans 7:18-8:4 NAS).
It was the legalists
who sent Jesus to the cross.
Jesus was speaking to Pharisees when he said, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light" (Matthew 11:28-30 NAS). In this passage we see one of the few if not only times Jesus ever spoke gently to them. Generally He was quite harsh toward them. Their belief system was His enemy. It was they, the legalists, who sent Jesus to the cross, and legalism is without question the yoke of slavery from which all other slavery derives its many ugly names.
Recognizing the Real Enemy
Anything other than the freedom of Christ (Galatians 5:1) is a yoke of slavery straight from the devil and hell.
Ephesians 6:12, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
None of the battles we face in this life can be waged in flesh and blood alone. Anger, yelling, throwing things, manipulating people, shutting people out or beating people up never really wins any battles. Our enemies, the authorities, the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil, dwell in the unseen world. Our battle is a spiritual one and the weapons and efforts of the flesh can never win it.
None of the battles we face in this life
can be waged
in flesh and blood alone.
Choosing our weapons carefully
"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds)" (2 Corinthians 10:3-4 KJV).
God has equipped us with everything we need to wage a decisive victory against the forces of darkness. Faith, understanding, knowing, applying and living the truths of the armor by the grace and power of God are the only effective means of waging triumphant battles against the evil one. In the armor we find God's truths of rest and salvation. Failing to live them in love and grace will lead us into all manner of problems.
Most of all, we need to know that we are not in this battle alone.
" . . . for the battle is not yours but God's" (2 Chronicles 20:15 NAS).
Putting on the Whole Armor of God
So how do we put on the armor of God? The significant key to the answer to this question is found in the two little words, "put on". These words mean in their root form "to sink down". In both the Greek and Hebrew, words that translate "to humble" also mean "to sink down, to bring oneself low". These words clearly describe the spiritual posture of humility.
This brings to mind a woman who attended a meeting where I was speaking about fifteen or twenty years ago. Just as I was leaving, she asked if she could speak to me. She said that several women in her church were telling her that God wanted to take her higher, but she felt that God was wanting to take her lower. She asked what I thought.
We have to go lower
to go higher.
Immediately the phrase, "Humble [lower] yourselves, and he will lift you up" came to mind.
Both James and Peter tell us to humble ourselves and God will lift us up.
"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up" (James 4:10 NIV)
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time" (1 Peter 5:6 NIV).
The message here is that both were right. God did want to take this woman higher. He actually wants to take all of us higher, but the way He takes us higher is by taking us lower—by leading us into humbling ourselves under His mighty hand.
In the case of putting on the armor of God, humility is acknowledging that every piece of it represents a free gift from God. The preparation of the gospel of peace, the belt of truth, the sword of the spirit, the shield of faith, the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation are unquestionably gifts of God to His children through the birth, life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We cannot do one thing to earn any of them. We can only embrace them by faith and acknowledge our dependence upon God for them all. Even praying in the spirit at all times cannot happen apart from the presence of His Holy Spirit in our lives. So it's not what's to be proud of but Whom.
" . . . Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:31 NAS).
"Some boast in chariots, and some in horses; but we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God" (Psalm 20:7 NAS).
" . . . let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things, declares the Lord" (Jeremiah 9:24 NAS).
Here is a parable from the lips of the Savior illustrating the obvious distinction between pride and boasting in ourselves and our achievements and affirming the words of Jesus that apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:3).
"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, 'God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner! 'I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted" (Luke 18:10-14 NAS).
Humility is the essential key
to putting on
the whole armor of God.
So humility is the essential key to putting on the whole armor of God that we may stand against the wiles of the devil. If pride is the fruit of living a rules- based, performance-based life, which it is, then humility is the fruit of a life lived in total dependence upon the faith, grace and Spirit of God. And if we won't or don't humble ourselves, in God's grace, He has obliged Himself to help us out with the process.
Ephesians 6:14a (NAS), "Stand firm then . . .".
In a recent interview with Tom Hanks a young drama student asked him how he kept going during the long stretches without work in the early stages of his career. Tom quickly replied, "Perseverance." Pausing only briefly, he contin- ued, "It's the difference between being an actor and a being a professional."
The same principle applies to Christianity. Perseverance is the difference between being a carnal Christian and a committed Christian, between being a nominal Christian and an authentic Christian, between living a defeated life and an overcoming life.
Persevere in times of trial! Never give up! Be resolute! Abide in the Vine! Continue in the Faith! Hold onto the truth in every affliction, every trial and every fire that comes your way! Don't give up! Hang on! Trust! Believe! Obey! In the words of Jesus, "Pray and faint not" (Luke 18:1). Pour out your heart to the Lord. Read the Psalms, Jeremiah and Luke 7:36-50. It's not only perfectly biblical but its also completely necessary to let your eyes flow like a fountain of tears in the presence of the Lord. It brings repentance from sin, cleanses the sting of sin and clears away the agony of fear and doubt. And it enables us to stand firm.
Let your tears flow freely
when your calamity comes.
Weeping and tears also enable us to bear and stand firm in the face of trials.
John Piper put it this way. "Let your tears flow freely when your calamity comes. The sobs of grief and pain are not the sign of unbelief. And let the rest of us weep with those who weep."
"Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death" (2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV).
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power." (Ephesians 6:10 NIV).
Gird Your Loins with Truth
Ephesians 6:14b, " . . . with the belt of truth buckled around your waist . . .".
In biblical times, warriors wore long flowing robes. The belt was needed to bind the robe so that they could move freely without tripping over or getting tangled up in the robe itself. The word "buckled" or "girt about" at its root means "to yoke". I like the image of yoking ourselves to the truth, because Jesus said He was the truth. I particularly love it as I "yoke" it with the verses below, because:
Jesus said HE is the truth:
"I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me" (John 14:6).
Jesus also said the Word of God is the truth:
"Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth" (John 17:17 NIV).
We can never be sanctified by or yoked to the truth of God's word under legalism. Octavius Winslow has said that, "Unaccompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Bible is inactive, inoperative; a mere dead letter!"
Unaccompanied by the power
of the Holy Spirit,
the Bible is inactive,
a mere dead letter!
What Winslow means is that apart from the Holy Spirit revealing the truth, the Bible is nothing more than a dead letter—a rule book on how to curry favor with God—which is doomed to fail. We may or may not be saved and we may or may not be going to heaven, but if we are saved we will never really develop a deeply intimate relationship with Jesus apart from the enabling help and instruction of the Holy Spirit.
" . . . for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Corinthians 3:6 NIV).
It is the truth that sets us free, not rules and laws. In fact, rules and laws only create more bondage in our lives.
"Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, 'If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free'" (John 8:31-32 NAS).
God's word is a living letter. Only when we experience it as such with the help of the Holy Spirit can we be free.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV).
There are only two yokes. Christ's yoke brings the freedom of grace, hope and the obedience of faith. Satan's yoke brings the bondage of legalism and/or license and the dead works of self-effort, none of which are pleasing to God, no matter how good they look.
"So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage [the law]" (Galatians 4:31-5:1 KJV).
The yoke of bondage to which Paul refers is mentioned in the context of his discussion with the Galatians about flesh and promise, flesh and spirit, law and grace. For further enlightenment on this, the entire passage can be read in Galatians 4:22-5:1.
Faith is the foundation
—the birthplace so to speak—
of everything in the spirit-filled life.
"And without faith it is impossible to please Him for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6 NAS).
Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us that faith is a gift from God, that faith is not the result of our good works but that good works are the results of our faith. But the Lord does not stop there. The word tells us that true faith cannot possibly come from the flesh. We cannot work it up. It comes straight to our hearts from the heart of God—imparted to us through His Word.
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV).
God imparts faith to us
by His Spirit
through His word.
John Piper wrote in his book Future Grace, "The role of God's Word is to feed faith's appetite for God. And, in doing this, it weans my heart away from the deceptive taste of [sin]".
God imparts faith to us through His word—not merely from reading it academically but from the hearing of the it—the taking of it in as the Holy Spirit brings it alive to us. Piper describes it this way. "God, from time to time, causes the preciousness and power of a biblical truth to penetrate the heart." It is particularly in moments like these that our faith is strengthened and the fiery darts of the evil one are extinguished.
"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17 NAS).
Sometimes what is believed to be faith is nothing more than our own legalistic efforts at pleasing God. Sometimes it is nothing more than trying to get our way with God through bravado. This is, after all, one of Satan's greatest ploys.
Faith is not mere intellectual belief or mental assent. It cannot be worked up. It cannot be asserted. Faith comes to us supernaturally from the throne of God. It is nurtured, fed and increased by abiding in God's Word, but the fact is that it can only be embraced and leaned upon. For the true believer, faith simply is reality.
Feeding on the Word of God
Hearing the Word of God is sometimes referred to in the bible as "eating" the word. This reminds me of something I heard in the 70's, and it is still widely proclaimed today. "You are what you eat." I don't know who said it, but the saying has been around for as long as I can remember. It always makes me smile. If I eat beef, does that make me a cow? If I eat licorice, do I turn into a licorice stick? The answer to these and similar silly questions is a thundering "OF COURSE NOT!" There is only one exception. It's the Word of God. The more we partake of it, the more authentic faith we develop and the more we become like Jesus.
Eating, ingesting and digesting the Word of God are metaphors for studying it and studying it and studying it some more. We are what we eat when it comes to the Bible.
"O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day" (Psalm 119:97).
"How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Psalm 119:103 NIV).
"O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him" (Psalm 34:8).
David wrote a love song about the Word of God.
"The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The Lord are sure and alto- gether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward" (Psalm 19:7-11 NIV).
NOTE: In case there just might be a legalist reading this—and the odds are 100% that there is to one degree or another—the word "law" used in the above-referenced scriptures does not imply the letter of the law but rather the spirit of the law. All of the men and women of faith in the Old Testament, much like you and I of the New Testament, walked in the spirit of the law much of the time (see Hebrews 11).
Those Who Walk in Faith Trust in the Finished Work of the Cross
and Not in the Works of the Flesh
The Apostle Paul tells us in the passage below that he was not only born with an outstanding pedigree from the Hebrew point of view but that he excelled at the fine art of rule-keeping. He was a Pharisee of Pharisees, and yet after his conversion to Christ, he considered all of those things to be of no more value than rubbish—than dung. He thoroughly understood that the only truly excellent One is Jesus Christ—that it is only through faith in His pristinely pure life, tragically vile death and astonishingly powerful resurrection that we can please God.
"Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh [those keepers of the rules]. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 3:2-11 NIV).
Watch out for those dogs,
those men who do evil,
those mutilators of the flesh
[those keepers of the rules].
Those Who Walk in Faith Trust the Holy Spirit to Teach Them
It is only as we allow the Holy Spirit to impart the truth to us—to write it on our hearts—that God is glorified. He is not glorified when we try to live by rules and laws—even the rules and laws of the Bible, for that would only glorify us, not Him.
"But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you" (John 16:13-14 NIV).
Those Who Walk in Faith Trust God to Convict Them of Sin
"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment . . . " (John 16:8).
Those Who Walk in Faith Trust God for Sanctification
"For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren" (Hebrews 2:11 NAS).
Those Who Walk in Faith have Learned to Lean
Anyone who was in church before the mid-sixties and early seventies will remember the words to this great old hymn by Elisha A. Hoffmann.
What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.
O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.
What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.
There is no finer word picture of faith than "leaning"; and what we most need to learn is this fine biblical art of leaning.
The particular word in English, "leaning", is only used three times in the Bible. In each case, the word gives us a picture of what it means to walk in faith.
The Reluctant Bride
The first mention of leaning occurs in Song of Solomon 8:5.
"Who is this coming up from the wilderness leaning on her beloved? . . . ".
Here we see a picture of the bride in Song of Solomon as she comes up from wandering in the wilderness of trial and testing. She has learned to lean on her beloved for her needs after spending some time running from him. She has been transformed from a rule keeper to a God lover.
What we most need to learn
is the fine biblical art of leaning.
The Manipulative Jacob
Jacob is another one who had to learn to lean. We know a lot more about his story than of the bride in the Song of Solomon.
"By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff" (Hebrews 11:21 NIV).
Jacob's name means "supplanter" which means "to take the place of, especially through force or plotting". Generally in the Bible, one's name reflects one's character. If you are familiar with the Old Testament, you well remember that Jacob, though he was his mother's favorite son, was bent on having his own way in his own time. Over and over again he "took the place of others through force and plotting" to get what God had promised and always planned for him from the very beginning. This is the perfect picture of legalism. Jacob was the heir of promise even though he was not the accustomed heir in biblical times. He was always a usurper, even struggling and fighting in the womb to be born before his twin brother Esau. He failed to be the first through the birth canal, though this in no way nullified the promise of God.
When the time came for his father Isaac to "bless" his son, it was not Jacob, a mama's boy he called but Esau. Rebecca, Jacob's mother, and her boy quickly devised a wicked plan to usurp the blessing from Esau. All manner of problems ensued and, though he managed to manipulate the blessing away from Esau, once his artifice was discovered, Jacob was forced to leave home in a hurry. Esau was understandably irate and intent on Jacob's destruction.
After Jacob fled, he was separated from his family for many years. There are O so many of these stories about Jacob. Too many. He was constantly manipulating and supplanting to get what God had graciously promised him all along.
Just listen to God's promise to Jacob and then listen to Jacob nickling and diming God after He had already promised him the blessing and inheritance of the first born son.
Listen to Jacob
nickling and diming
God after all
He had promised.
"Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place. And he had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, 'I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. Your descendants shall also be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Andyou wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.' Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, 'Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.' And he was afraid and said, 'How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.' So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on its top. And he called the name of that place Bethel [House of God]; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, 'If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, and I return to my father's house in safety, then the Lord will be my God. And this stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God's house; and of all that Thou dost give me I will surely give a tenth to Thee'" (Genesis 28:10-22 NAS).
Wow! God had already promised Jacob everything He promised his grand- father, Abraham, and here he is feathering his nest and firming up his security just like a two-year-old instead of a fully grown man.
It was only years later when Jacob came face to face with Jehovah at the Jabbok River that he became a real man and a real man of God. It was there that, once again, Jacob wrestled with God for what was already his. The wrestling match culminated with a transformed Jacob. Even his name was changed from Jacob ("supplanter and thief") to Israel (Prince with/of God). Jacob left the Jabbok with his hip out of joint walking with a limp, the result of his wrestling match with God (Genesis 32:26).
We do not learn the end of this story that began in Genesis until we read the book of Hebrews in the New Testament.
"By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff " (Hebrew 11:21 NAS).
It takes a hard lesson
for most of us
to come to the end of ourselves.
It takes a hard lesson for most of us to come to the end of ourselves—to be broken. Jacob was leaning on his staff, most likely something he needed to help him with his displaced hip to the end of his life.
Jacob learned to lean the hard way, just as most of us do.
The Son of Thunder and Commotion
And finally we come to John of the gospel and epistles of John. John was the son of Boanerges, which means "thunder" and "commotion". John was a fisherman, and his personality was coarse and unrefined (Mark 3:17). He committed more than his share of blunders, and they are recorded in the gospels for all the world to see. Sometime after he began to serve Jesus, however, he was "tamed"—broken, transformed—because he is called John in the Gospels, which means "grace". He also referred to himself numerous times in the Gospel of John as the one "whom Jesus loved".
The word love appeared 60 times in both the Gospel of John and the three Epistles of John. I'm absolutely certain that Jesus loved all of His disciples, but I'm equally convinced that John was loved uniquely by Jesus. Like Jacob, he too had a name change—from "son of thunder and commotion" to "Grace". On the last day of Jesus's life, we find John "leaning on Jesus's bosom". He couldn't get any closer to Him than that.
"There was reclining on Jesus' breast one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved" (John 13:23 NAS).
Leaning implies dependence and need. It implies love and devotion. It alludes to humility and brokenness as well. Like the Bride in Song of Solomon, like Jacob, like John, we all need to give up our efforting and learn more about leaning on the everlasting arm of the Lord in devotion to and dependence upon Him for our every need, including and especially for our faith.
love and devotion,
dependence and need.
The Sword of the Spirit
Ephesians 6:17b, "and [take up] the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God".
The sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon we have in our arsenal. Every other piece of armor is defensive. The sword of the Spirit is, according to this verse, the word of God. And let's look at it in reverse. The word of God is the sword of the spirit. It is sufficient for every battle we encounter as we will see later as we study the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness.
Sit, Walk, Stand
There are three physical postures discussed in the book of Ephesians. They are sit, walk and stand. Sit implies rest. Walk implies application and obedience. Stand implies perseverance and endurance.
The word stand is used three times in Ephesians 6. Though it is not used in this particular verse, nowhere are we given more authority to stand than in and through the Word of God.
Putting on the armor involves enduring and persevering through the fiery trials and afflictions that come through the principalities and powers in the high places of our lives.
It is written! We can sit in perfect rest with the sword of the Spirit held firmly in our right hand. We can walk in faith, wielding the sword of the spirit against the wiles of the devil. We can persevere and stand on the Word of God with full authority when we know the promises of God by faith. Anything else is presumption. It is, after all, called "the sword of the Spirit". Just as Jesus withstood the temptations of the devil in the wilderness, we not only can but are commanded to do so as well.
We can sit in perfect rest
with the sword of the Spirit
lashed to our waist.
So how do we take up the sword of the spirit?
Have a Love Affair with the Word of God
"Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee" (Psalm 119:11 NAS).
David wrote a serenade of love about the Word of God.
"The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward" (Psalm 19:7-11 NIV).
Meditate on the Word
"This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success" (Joshua 1:8 NAS).
Be a Doer the Word
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall" (Matthew 7:24-27 NAS).
I have hidden your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
Let the Word Transform You
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrew 4:12 KJV).
Be Cleansed and Sanctified by the Word
"That he might sanctify and cleanse [the bride] with the washing of water by the word" (Ephesians 5:26 KJV).
Memorize the Word
"I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11 NLT).
Live the Word
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16).
Speak the Word
When Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, the devil perverted scripture or perverted the use of scripture to tempt Him into selfish gain and/or selfish motives. Or in the verse below, he tempted Jesus to perform a miracle to prove He was the Son of God.
Jesus responded to the heart of every challenge, "It is written."
"And the tempter came and said to Him, 'If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread'" (Matthew 4:3 NAS),
"But He answered and said, 'It is written, "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."'" [Deuteronomy 8:3 NAS]
Next the devil used scripture to tempt Jesus to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple. Jesus responded once again, "it is written" and a second time, "it is written".
"Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 'If you are the Son of God,' he said, 'throw yourself down. For it is written, "He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone [Psalm 91:11-12]." Jesus first answered him, 'it is also written: "Do not put the Lord your God to the test"'" (Matthew 4:5-7 NIV [Deuteronomy 6:16]).
is one of the devil's
Presumption is one of the devil's strongest ploys. Here we see him inviting Jesus to do something outside of the will of God. We always need to pray as the Psalmist prayed,
"Also keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins let them not rule over me; then I shall be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression" (Psalm 19:13 NAS).
When the devil offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if only He would fall down and worship him, Jesus said, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'" (Matthew 4:10 NIV/ [Deuteronomy 6:13, 10:20]).
We need a rich store of promises in our arsenal to stand in the battle. This means we need to know the Word of God.
Coming from a family of severe abuse and conflict, I lived all of my life with
a tormenting set of false beliefs. First, I falsely believed that no one really understood or cared about what I had lived through and no one ever would. Second, I falsely believed it didn't matter to anyone how devastated, pained and empty I was and it never would. Third, I lived with the loneliness and despair of always being on the outside of things looking in. I had no sense of belonging anywhere and never would.
This was my inner reality. I often spent hours in a darkened closet crying my eyes out in despair and hopelessness. Those lies followed me into my Christian walk, haunting and taunting me every moment of every day. In one dark lonely night of my soul while taking a shower with tears streaming down my face, I cried out to the Lord. I could bear the torment no more. Almost instantly this scripture came to my mind. I'm certain the Lord gave it to me. He confirmed it over and over again to me for years and still does occasionally. Once I heard these words I was never the same.
"Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10 NAS).
From that moment on, I heard this scripture everywhere I turned and all the time without it particularly being addressed to me, without anyone knowing what it actually meant to me. I am completely healed today, and this verse remains one of my favorites.
Once I heard those words
I was never the same.
But the Lord went way beyond this to strengthen my faith. Everywhere I went for years, no matter how far away from home I was, every flight I took, there was always a Christian next to me. In time, the Lord completely healed me of the lies the devil buried deep in my soul as a child.
Praying in the Holy Spirit
Ephesians 6:18, "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."
Incense is compared with prayer in Revelation 8:3-4. In the Old Testament, the priest offered up fresh incense on fresh fire at the altar in the holy place everyday. We do this in New Testament times by coming into His presence with a pure heart and mind set on the things above and not on the things of this world—by preferring Christ and His word to all other things. It is always a sweet aroma to the Lord, and its lovely scent will be with us wherever we go.
It is possible to pray at all times when our mind is centered on the Lord. The maturer we become in Christ the easier this becomes, but if you're expecting this to happen in any formal kind of way, forget it. It is more like carrying on a running conversation with your best friend.
by prayer and supplication
let your requests
be made known to God.
Philippians 4:6-7 (KJV) tells us, "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
These words do not imply always getting on our knees or entering into some formal time of prayer. I have learned that even my thoughts are heard as prayer to God. He has responded so often to me as I'm simply thinking, even when I'm not consciously thinking of Him. It has been a powerful revelation that I am in a non-stop relationship with God, even when I am not consciously and formally praying. This is in no way meant to imply that set aside times of prayer are unnecessary. They most definitely are. But it is intended to comfort you as it has comforted me. We cannot physically be on our knees 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. What we can do and as committed believers do actually do is carry around within us the precious presence of the true and living God who is listening and responding to us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. My ambition for God is to do the same for Him—to listen and respond to Him in the same way. I have to admit that I fall short of this all too often.
My ambition for God
is to listen for and respond
affirmatively to Him
I fall short of this all too often.
As we grow from grace to grace we obviously grow farther and farther away from legalism. Prayer no longer has to look a certain way, feel a certain way or sound a certain way. The clock is no longer the tyrant in my prayer life that it used to be. Questions about whether I'm praying long enough and often enough no longer taunt me. There is a greater freedom and rest in just being aware of the very real presence of the Lord in my life. I would definitely say that legalism makes prayer either a burden or something of which we are very proud. I have learned that it is not how long I pray, how loud I pray or how piously I pray that matters. The only thing that does matter is a Person and He is the One two whom I pray.
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts [affections] on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:1-3 NIV).
For more on my prayer life, click here
The Helmet of Salvation
Ephesians 6:17a, "Take the helmet of salvation . . . "
We must have salvation before we can put on any of the armor. The helmet represents that salvation which only comes through faith in Jesus Christ. He is our head, our helmet and He Is our salvation.
Acts 4:12 tells us, "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved" (NAS).
1 Thessalonians 5:8 tells us to put on the helmet which is the hope of salvation—actually the hope of all that salvation promises.
"But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation" (KJV).
The hope of salvation. If we have it, why do we need to hope for it? I think the words "hope of salvation" here means that we need to hope for and take hold of all that salvation implies. The very word "salvation" in Hebrew means health, deliverance (freedom), victory and welfare (well-being). In the Greek, the root and its derivatives for salvation mean healing, safety, preservation, wholeness and deliverance (freedom). These are the things that salvation brings to us. In these we can most surely hope.
Feet Shod with the Readiness of the Gospel of Peace
Ephesians 6:15 NAS, "and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace."
The very good news
of peace with God
to live the Christian life.
The very good news of peace with God prepares us to live the Christian life. Until we have surrendered our lives to the Prince of Peace and embraced the good news of peace, we cannot live the Christian life, nor can we say that God reigns in our hearts or that we have any real peace at all.
The Gospel/good news is that Jesus opened the way to peace with God.
"Therefore, since we have been justified through God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand" (Romans 5:1-2 NIV).
We cannot sing of the feet that bring the good news until Christ reigns in our lives. These are just a handful of the many promises of peace in Him. This is the good news. It is transforming truth.
"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!" (Isaiah 52:7 NIV).
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6 KJV).
"Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased. I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety" (Psalm 4:7-8 KJV).
"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:11-13 KJV).
The breastplate of righteousness
covers our heart.
The Breastplate of Righteousness
Ephesians 6:14b, " . . . with the breastplate of righteousness in place."
I saved this one for the very end because the breastplate of righteousness is the trickiest piece and the most important piece into which we must "sink". This is where most of us miss the good news, so please pay close attention, because this piece of armor covers our heart.
" . . . We have been saying that Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness" (Romans 4:9 NIV).
Paul was quoting an Old Testament verse here.
"Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness" (Genesis 15:6 NIV).
Paul wrote a few verses later in Romans 4:13 (NAS), "For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law [rule-based religion], but through the righteousness of faith" (Romans 4:13 NAS).
These verses are telling us that faith is the only basis for righteousness that we have. And the righteousness that we have is not our own but Christ's. May we learn, lean, embrace and rest in these many rich promises of God.
"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20 KJV).
"For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes" (Romans 10:4 NAS).
This is how Paul could say, " . . . that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith" (Philippians 3:8-9 NAS).
We can never put on (sink into) the breastplate of righteousness without understanding this central truth of the gospel. And how vulnerable we are without this protection over our hearts. Joined with faith, understanding this truth will protect us from legalism as no other will.
is nothing but filthy rags.
How wonderful to learn that our faith is based not upon our own righteousness but only upon the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Isaiah 64:6 tells us that our own righteousness, no matter how good it looks to us or to the eyes of others, is nothing but filthy rags. And Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:6 that faith works through love and not legalistic rules-keeping.
A Few Reminders
1. Hebrews 7:19 tells us "the law made nothing perfect . . . ". Even so, many of us attempt to prove ourselves by obedience to rules of all kinds.
"There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 16:25 NAS). That way is the way of legalism—the letter of the law—the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
2. Never forget that no matter who or what you are reading, no matter who is speaking, John 16:13 tells us that the Holy Spirit is our teacher. He will impart to each of us exactly the truths from the Word of God we each uniquely need when we need them and when we are ready for them.
Our confidence must not be in
what we have done,
nor in what we have resolved to do,
but entirely in what the Lord will do.
3. One of my favorite quotes of all times is this one from my favorite writer, Charles Spurgeon. Memorize it.
"If there be one stitch in the celestial garment of our righteousness which we are to insert ourselves, then we are lost, but this is our confidence. The Lord who began will perfect. He has done it all, must do it all, and will do it all. Our confidence must not be in what we have done, nor in what we have resolved to do, but entirely in what the Lord will do." Don't you just love it?
4. Read the words of Martin Luther's great hymn, A Mighty Fortress is our God, carefully. They concern spiritual warfare. They are awesome!Testing your Qualifications for the BattleA mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe,
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow'r are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we, in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God's own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly pow'rs
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Thro' Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God's truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Are you a real knight or are you like the blustering and deluded Don Quixote who jousted with windmills, mistaking them for the enemy? Or maybe you are like William and have fake spiritual genealogy papers and have not yet been dubbed an authentic knight. There are actually five possibilities for us to consider. One, we may actually be an authentic Christian living in all the fullness of God. Two, we may be a real Christian but pretending we are something or someone we are not. Three, we may be a Christian who is holding out on God. Four, we may think we are a Christian and not actually be one. And five, we may actually know that we are not a Christian at all.
I shall never forget when I gave my testimony at a James Robison crusade many years ago. I was astounded that that very day his organist surrendered her life to Christ. She had been in church all of her life and thought that was all she needed to be a Christian. That very day the Lord convicted her of her true lack of and need for Him.
And there was the woman who attended a conference where I was not a speaker but an attendee. She had been the children's minister in a very large church for many years. At the end of the conference, the woman confessed that she had never been a Christian. She had only pretended to be one to get the man she wanted to marry her. She knew he would never marry her if she wasn't a believer.
Have you put on
the whole armor of God?
And there is the very recent story of a young woman who works at our church. She is not a member, but she has been actively involved in another church in our community all of her life. One evening at an event at our church, by the grace of God this precious young woman surrendered her life to the Lord, astonishing herself and the rest of us as well. She realized that she had been a faithful, dutiful, religious person, but had never been authentically saved. She told me she wept for hours after the meeting was over. Long after everyone had gone home, she was still there basking in the newly imparted love, grace and embrace of God.
Have you put on the whole armor of God? Specifically are you wearing the helmet of salvation? Are your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace? Are you clothed in the righteousness of Christ? Can you say as it is written in Isaiah 61:10 (NIV) "I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels"?
Have you embraced Christ as your Lord and Savior? Have you welcomed Him into your heart and said, "Come on in and take over, Lord. Reign supreme in every area of my life. Have your own way."
Revelation 3:20 (TLB) quotes Jesus saying, "Look! I have been standing at the door, and I am constantly knocking. If anyone hears me calling him and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him and he with me".
And if you have already embraced Him in your heart, has God convicted you of living more by rules than trusting in the finished work of the cross? If so, will you ask Him to set you free? Will you ask Him to teach you how to rest in Him?
Lord Jesus, hear the cry of our hearts for you. Help us put on your armor. Teach us to apply truth to our lives from your word. Instruct us in how to walk in peace, to rest in your righteousness, to bask in your salvation, to wield the sword of the spirit and to grow from faith to faith. Help us to remember that you are with us 24-7. Thank you that you promise that if we call upon you you will answer and show us great and mighty things that we do not yet know (Jeremiah 33:3). Thank you that you have given us precious promises that we might be partakers of your divine nature (2 Peter 1:4 ). Teach us how to apply all diligence to our faith, to supply virtue to faith, knowledge to virtue, temperance to knowledge, patience to temperance, godliness to patience, brotherly kindness to godliness and to brotherly kindness, love (2 Peter 1:5-7). What tall orders Lord, but not impossible, for not only is nothing impossible for you. All things are possible with you. In Your Name, Jesus, we pray.
"The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident. One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord. Hear my voice when I call, O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, 'Seek his face!' Your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence. I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord" (Psalm 27).
"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.' Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you make the Most High your dwelling—even the Lord, who is my
refuge—then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. 'Because he loves me,' says the Lord, 'I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation'" (Psalm 91:1-16 NIV).
Armor of God
(c) 2002 by Anne Murchison
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