Tuesday, June 20, 2006

#51 "Prepare for Battle"

June 20, 2006
"Put on the full 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: 13)

The legions of the Roman Empire were equipped with some of the best arms and armor of the ancient world. These superior weapons, coupled with the highly trained and committed Roman soldiers, ensured the Roman Empire that they possessed one of the most dominant military organizations the world had ever known. St. Paul gives us a vivid description of this armor most likely because he was quite familiar with it. When he was in prison and tied to a Roman soldier, he got a pretty good look at that armor. (See Acts 28:16, 20)

The devil has been scheming against God's people for thousands of years. We are without a doubt in a battle. There is a battle for our families, our marriages, our finances and our own lives. It is being waged against us by "rulers, authorities, powers of darkness and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6: 12) One of my commentaries says we are in a spiritual conflict against the spiritual "Mafia". Opposition in the spiritual realm is real. Don't dismiss it...don't think it's just crazy talk. The Bible says it's real. We are at war!!

Paul tells us that in order to be ready and able to stand in defense we must make all of the necessary preparations and "put on the full armor of God." God does not put the armor on for us. It is the Christian's responsibility to put it on. Just as we put the various articles of our physical clothing on each morning, we should also put on our spiritual clothes (armor) as well. God gives them to us...it is up to us to put them on. I have started a habit each morning of literally putting on the armor. No, I didn't buy a costume. I imagine each piece, visualize putting it on and confess with my mouth that I am putting it on and what it means to me for my day ahead. First thing in the morning, I don't have a clue what my day holds. But God does. He's already been there. He goes before me and knows each conversation, each circumstance and each situation that I will find myself in. I prepare for battle so that I am prepared for anything that may come my way and I believe that God hears my confession and will remind me throughout the day about the pieces of His armor that I am wearing. I can testify to that truth specifically in so many ways. Once the battle is raging it's too late to grab the armor and try to put it on. You'll be defeated. Defense...preparation beforehand..that's what protects the soldier in battle. Now let's look at the pieces of that armor.

The first thing we are told to put on is "the belt of truth." God is truth. Jesus is "the Truth". Satan is the father of lies. He has been lying since the Garden of Eden when he told Eve, "You shall not surely die." (Genesis 3: 4) And he is lying to you today. He says, "go on, everybody is doing it, just a little won't hurt." He tells us, "no one will know." He lies to get us to sin. He lies to make us doubt ourselves and our standing with God. He attacks our self-esteem. And don't be fooled. His specialty is subtlety. But we also know that God's word is truth. If it doesn't line up with the Bible...it's a lie! This is why it's imperative to know the Word of God. To be in the Word each and everyday without fail. You can't identify a lie if you have no knowledge of the truth. So, "gird your loins about with truth". Just like the Roman soldier you will be prepared for activity. You will be able to identify a lie quickly and cast it down.

We are told next to put on the breastplate of righteousness. We have received a righteousness from God through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ if we believe (Romans 3:22). We have the imputed righteousness of Christ. But part of this breastplate is also holy living. Righteousness being practiced in a believer's life. Satan also loves it when we lead unholy lives. Our natural flesh gravitates toward sinful behavior. But the Bible tells us that sin is no longer our master. We are to offer the parts of our bodies as instruments of righteousness, not wickedness. Offering ourselves to wickedness never produced one good benefit...it leads only to death. But the benefit of righteousness is that it leads to holiness and eternal life. (study Romans, chapter 6) A soldier's breastplate protected his chest and all of his vital organs from enemy attack. Righteous living guards our hearts against the assaults of the devil. Proverbs 4:23 says,"guard your heart, for out of it flow the issues of life." Protect the vital, most precious parts of yourself with righteous, holy living.

You need the right kind of shoes as well. Have your "feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace." There are many varying opinions on the meaning of this verse of scripture. I prefer to agree with the one that says we have peace with God through our Lord, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1) The good news of the Gospel is that I am at peace with God. The Roman soldiers' shoes had iron hob-nails on the bottom as treads. Much like football cleats. This is sure footing. No one can tell me that God has rejected me or that I have sinned too much to be accepted. I have peace with God because of the shed blood of Jesus on the Cross. Because of this truth, I can dig in my hob-nails and stand in the battle.

"Take up the shield of faith." That means the "shield which consists of faith, or is faith." Hebrews 12: 1-2 tells us to "lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, (there's that righteousness stuff again) and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith." We must believe God. Believe that He loves you. Believe that He cares for you. Believe that He has a great plan for your life. Believers for centuries have conquered giants, kings and won the fiercest battles, literal and spiritual by having faith. Just read Hebrews 11, the "Hall of Faith." Just as they overcame by faith, so can you. When we take up this shield of faith and use it the Bible tells us that we can extinguish ALL the fiery darts of the enemy. Not some, ALL. The enemy is Satan and you, the believer, with resolute faith in the Lord can stop all of his flaming arrows.

"Take the helmet of salvation." Again, this is the "helmet which is salvation." The helmet is one of the last two pieces a soldier takes up. A helmet is hot and uncomfortable and would be put on by a soldier only when he faced impending danger. When your head is guarded by a helmet you have a sense of safety. Therefore the helmet of salvation refers either to present safety from the devil's attacks or to a future deliverance. Some translations say, "the hope of salvation." Tell the devil that you are saved and bought with a price, the blood of Jesus. Nothing can take away your salvation. Nothing can separate you from the love of God. Nothing. No Thing. Jesus said that nothing the Father gave Him could ever be snatched from His hand. (John 10: 28-29) You are saved, set apart and on your way to Heaven.

Finally, a Roman soldier would take his sword in hand. This was his only offensive weapon. We are told to take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Literally, this means the sword supplied by the Spirit. God reveals Himself to us by the Holy Spirit through His Word. Even Jesus needed this "sword" to combat the enemy's assaults when the devil tempted Him three times in the desert. (see Matthew 4: 1-11) If Jesus needed this sword to defend Himself, how much more do we need to take it up? We need to meditate on the Scriptures and make them a part of our lives (Joshua 1:8). When the enemy comes in like a flood we don't have the time to go running to find our Bible. It's too late. You've already been hit. Just as the psalmist said that he hid God's word in his heart (Psalm 119: 11), we must hide that word in our hearts so that we can speak it and wield it around like a sword when the enemy attacks. The soldier's sword was for hand-to-hand fighting and was meant to deliver cutting or stabbing blows to the enemy. Know the word and speak the word. Cut and stab the enemy and send him to flight with the Word of God.

The purpose of all this armor is to stand against the schemes, strategies and methods of the devil, our adversary. We are not to attack him, but he sure will attack us. We do not advance toward him, but we are stationary and we "stand" and hold our territory when he attacks. Our territory includes everything that Christ has conquered. It includes our marriages, our children, our jobs, our ministries, our finances, our very sanity at times. Our enemy attacks in order to steal, kill and destroy. But Jesus died so that we could have life, in abundance, until it overflows. (John 10:10) Satan is trying to rob us of every spiritual blessing God has given us (Ephesians 1:3). Are you willing to take this lying down? I'm not. I want to be prepared for battle each and every day. I never want to be caught off guard. I want to have all that Jesus died to give me. I don't want to miss a thing.

God has given you everything that you need. He has supplied all the armor for you. You have the truth of His word. Remember Jesus is the Truth. You have the righteousness of Christ and His strength to live a holy life. You are at peace with your Heavenly Father. You are saved and nothing can separate you from God's love. He has given you a measure of faith to use as a shield and His Word to wield like a sword. The rest is up to you. Are you dressed and ready for battle? Do you have your armor on?

Donna Schultz

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