Putting on the Full Armor of God, Part 3

Title: Putting on the Full Armor of God, Part 3

Text: Ephesians 6:16-18

Date: November 17th, 2009

 

A couple of weeks ago I started the message series “Putting on the full armor of God,” I’ve covered about one-half of the instructions contained in Ephesians 6:10-18 in dealing with spiritual attack. This morning I’d like to conclude by explaining the remaining four points included in the verse. I’ve already explained the importance of standing on the truth, of being righteous, and in keeping our hearts at peace through the gospel in dealing with evil, spiritual opposition. Today I’d like to talk about the importance of faith, talk more about salvation, explain God’s Word and finally, talk about the importance of prayer in connection with defending ourselves from evil and winning our battles with the devil and demons. As I mentioned before, lots of people think you are crazy if you mention the devil or demons with any degree of seriousness. For modern people today, the devil and demons departed from any intelligent belief hundreds of years ago. Now, the only discussion involving them is in measuring the results of how these beliefs effect the behavior of those who still believe in them, but as far as most people are concerned in our modern world, the devil and demons don’t really exist. Now at this specific point we each have to make a personal decision – am I going to follow the majority of popular opinion and dismiss the devil and demons as mythology or am I going to follow the Bible’s teaching on the subject — which is that they certainly do exist and because of this we must be prepared to resist them and defend ourselves against them when they oppose us in life. I hope you choose to follow the Bible because it gives us the only line of defense against evil spiritual attack. If we don’t take evil seriously, like I said before, we’ll be sitting ducks; we won’t be able to defend ourselves in the battle for our soul. So this is serious stuff and we must be prepared to take it seriously even if most people in our modern culture don’t take it seriously. Ephesians 6:16-18, “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 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.” Here we see four more items that make up the “full armor of God.” We are told by the Apostle Paul to “Put on the full armor of God” and it would be well for us to listen to that advice because without the full resources of God in our battle against spiritual evil, we’ll probably lose. Some Christians utilize some of the spiritual resources God provides but fail to use all of them. For example, some Christians have prayer devotion every day, but don’t read from the Bible much, while others read more from the Bible but neglect prayer. If we want to be “strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” as we are commanded, we must implement the full resources of God in dealing with spiritual opposition. Let’s look at a few more resources.

 

First, we are to take up the shield of faith. Ephesians 6:16, “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” The point here is that Satan or “the evil one” or the devil – whatever name we want to call him — attacks us from time to time in many different ways. He utilizes different schemes or “methods” as the Greek word literally says against us. What can stop those spiritual arrows from hitting our heart or soul? Only God’s spiritual resources acting on our behalf. A big defense against Satan’s attack is what Paul calls “the shield of faith” – or in other words, our faith in God and God’s Word. It’s our confidence in God that helps us defeat the devil. What does 1 John 5:4-5 say? “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” And we know that “the whole world is in the hands of the evil one,“ because “the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers,” (1 John 5:19, 2 Corinthians 4:4). But with faith – faith in God through Jesus Christ – we can win the victory over spiritual evil because as long as we trust in God we’ll be capable of withstanding the assaults of the devil. A lot of Christians are living defeated lives because they really don’t trust in God very much, they don’t really trust in God’s Word all that much either. They have nothing to stand upon in the day of battle except their own weak resources. And the truth is, and it’s confirmed again and again in real life experience, nobody is capable of defeating evil on their own from their own human resources. I mentioned the movie The Exorcist before, but I bring it up again because even though the movie is fairly accurate in describing the types of things that happen during a full-blown exorcism based on past accounts, the most inaccurate part occurs at the very end. Instead of winning victory over the demons by casting them out of the little girl, the priests bids the demons come out of the girl and into him; he then jumps out the window, falls, breaks his neck and dies. The problem with this conclusion is that it has no biblical support. We are never told to bargain-away our soul in order to remove a demon. That isn’t winning the spiritual victory. It has no biblical precedent. When we build up our faith in God through Jesus Christ we get stronger on the inside, we are then capable of dealing with more spiritual opposition. Unfortunately, a lot of Christians take their Christian faith for granted. Instead of building up their faith, they let it whither away or even fall away. They simply fail to do the things necessary to maintain a strong and vibrant faith. They take Bible study and prayer casually, going lengths of time without much of either. Or they treat church attendance in a loose and sloppy manner. Or they regularly give in to temptation and disobey God or violate their own conscience in different areas. In other words, they don’t work very hard at keeping the faith, and consequently, they are susceptible to the devil’s attacks. That’s why Paul warns us – put on faith, strengthen your faith, build up your faith, don’t do anything that would hurt your confidence or trust in God. Instead, do everything you can to strengthen what faith you have because you’ll need it especially when you are under satanic attack. Do you take your faith seriously? Are you doing all you know to build up your faith? Or are you like most Christians who neglect their faith and live defeated lives? It’s up to you; you make the choice.

 

Second, we are to take up the helmet of salvation. Ephesians 6:17, “Take the helmet of salvation.” Now you may have noticed that we’ve already talked about the importance of being prepared “with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” in verse 14, but this verse mentions the concept of “salvation.” What’s the difference? The gospel is the plan of salvation, or in other words, it’s the means of salvation. We get ourselves ready for battle knowing that because we have followed the gospel or God’s plan of salvation, we are saved – or we have salvation. Salvation is the end result and the gospel is the means to that end. Now what this verse seems to be saying is that we are to put into our minds the fact that we are already saved, that the means, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ that we believe by faith, is so sure and guaranteed that it’s as if we already had obtained it. We should put on the helmet or put into our minds that we are already saved, that we already have salvation, because it’s already a done deal. It’s the difference between having a treasure map and already having the treasure. The gospel is the treasure map. It’s important for us to hold on to the treasure map and believe it because it provides the means by which we are saved. But it’s also just as important for us to actually reach the treasure using the treasure map and enjoy the riches! So we are to face spiritual opposition not only with the gospel map or plan of salvation, but also with the 100%, total confidence that we already possess the treasure of salvation already. If we didn’t have total assurance before, now we certainly do. Is such assurance possible? According to the New Testament it is. 1 John 5:13 says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” In other words, we can have the absolute assurance of salvation in this lifetime; we don’t have to wait until we are actually on heaven’s turf to know for certain. This is called the assurance of salvation, and it’s of great value for the believer. Do you have it? You need it to confidently and fully face the enemy in your day of temptation and testing, because one of the biggest ways Satan attacks believers is through doubt. If the devil can get us to doubt God and God’s promises, then he is well on his way to defeating us in every area. But if we have full and total confidence in God and his promises, we won’t fall for any of the lies of the devil. If you’ve confessed your sins before God, if you’ve trusted in Christ alone for salvation, if you’ve dedicated your life to God, then you are saved according to the New Testament. Don’t let anything or anyone shake you from that confidence, especially doubts from the devil. If you ever do entertain doubts about the state of your soul before God, immediately go to the Bible and reread the salvation promises again and get your confidence in God back. Don’t live in doubt, it’s not necessary. And don’t go into spiritual warfare with doubts; get strong and prepared ahead of time.

 

Third, we are to take up the sword of the Spirit. Ephesians 6:17, “Take up . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  The Apostle Paul is very clear what he means in this verse – the sword of the Spirit is another way of saying the Word of God. “For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to diving the soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart,” Hebrews 4:12. Now the interesting thing about a sword is that it can be used as both an offensive and defensive weapon. Sometimes we’ll need to use God’s Word as a defensive weapon to ward off the enemy’s attack against us, but at other times we’ll use the Word of God as an offensive weapon. “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it,” Matthew 11:12. The emphasis in this verse is on offense, bringing the kingdom to people aggressively. Think of the ministry of John the Baptist here mentioned. He forcefully advanced God’s kingdom through bold witnessing; he was fearless. There will be times when we are called to push ahead with God’s truth and take the initiative to speak God’s Word as a witness to our friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and others. In dealing with someone under spiritual attack or even demonic possession, we may be called to go on the offensive and cast it out in Jesus’ name. Jesus says, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it,” Matthew 16:18. The idea is a battering ram pounding the city gates in order to enter. The Word of God is an offensive weapon in which to fight the devil and demons, to defeat the twin forces of the world and the flesh as well. And then also, God’s Word is a defensive weapon in which to ward off the attacks of the world, the flesh and the devil. Probably most of our use of God’s Word as a weapon will be to defend ourselves against the enemy’s attack, because as we go about living our lives for the Lord, we will be attacked and we’ll have to rely on the Word of God as a defensive weapon. Think of Jesus in the wilderness tempted by Satan, as described in Matthew 4:1-11 (read). What did he do? He quoted from the Word of God three times in order to counter the three attacks of the devil; he used God’s Word as a defensive weapon. So must we be prepared to use it as our best defense against the enemy’s assault. Do you know the Bible enough to use it as a weapon in your defense? In order to stand on God’s promises during a battle against evil we must know God’s promises; that’s where preparation comes in. Are you prepared? Do you study God’s Word enough to know what you’d say in your defense against the lies of Satan in your time of testing? Are you prepared to advance God’s kingdom if you were given the opportunity? We must make preparation now so that we are ready in the day of battle? I hope you are determined to be prepared. If you’ve learned anything in this series I hope it’s this – be prepared!

 

Fourth, we are to pray on all occasions. 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.” I’m afraid with the advent of television, the prayer life of most Christians has suffered greatly. Imagine a time before television when adults would come home from work, eat dinner, and then wouldn’t zombie out for the rest of the evening in front of the flickering, small-screen idol called television. What did people do before the invention of television? One of the things Christians did was pray. What did senior citizens do after dark before bedtime? Many would pray. There used to be regular weekly pray meetings in churches, but since television it’s hard to get people up off the sofa once they’ve plopped down in front of the television in the evening. That’s a shame because one of the resources that God provides for us in battling our spiritual foe the devil is prayer. Consequently, if we don’t take the time to pray – or if we fill our days with hour after hour of television instead – then we won’t be prepared to defeat the devil when we are under spiritual attack. But it’s not just television that’s robbing people of badly needed prayer; it’s the new invention, the Internet. Hour upon hour in front of the computer screen, emailing and surfing the web, means less and less time on our knees in prayer to God. Is it any wonder why marriages and families are breaking up like never before? Do we really have to search long for the reason why Christians are living defeated Christian lives? Isn’t it obvious why Christians are failing to resist temptation and falling into all kinds of sins, even Christian leaders failing? If we omit such an important thing as prayer is it any wonder why the church is in such a bad state as it’s in? “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions” – now what does that mean? It means when we pray we are to pray spiritual prayers, not just rote or “vain repetitions” as the New Testament warns against. There is some prayer that really isn’t very much praying, it’s just repeating something in mantra-like fashion over and over again. False religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam pray prayers like that, but Christians shouldn’t. To pray in the Spirit is to pray spiritual prayers that are carried along by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will,” Romans 8:26-27. We need to feel the inspiration of the Spirit when we pray. Is that your experience in prayer? If not, you’re missing something vital in your Christian life.

 

And then it says to “pray on all occasions.” This is the same as another passage that says, “Pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Like I’ve said, with television, the Internet, and all kinds of other distractions in our modern world, prayer is a casualty. There are so many worldly, secular distractions in today’s world that without a conscious, deliberate and premeditated effort to pray, we simply won’t do it. That’s the truth. We have to make a deliberate decision to pray each day or we’ll find ourselves neglecting it. Each person is free to pick a time and place in which to pray, but we are all commanded to pray nevertheless. Do you have a daily prayer time? Do you have some place you go where you can pray undisturbed? And then there is the whole topic of what should the content of our prayers be? Most people are discouraged in prayer because they start praying and suddenly find themselves tongue-tied. They simply run out of things to say in prayer – or so they think. But a few simple things can solve that problem. One, we should all use some kind of structure when we enter into prayer. Now I’m not saying we should use written prayers or prayer books or standardized prayers in our devotional time, but there’s nothing wrong with using simple outlines in order to have a prayer plan. I’ve been using a basic prayer outline for over 20 years now in my daily devotions. Somewhere along the way I began to pray using a plan I found in a book on prayer many years ago that has worked for me. There is a time when I praise and thank God. Then there is a time when I confess my sins before God. Another part of my prayer time is devoted to praying for our nation, the world and family and friends. Still another segment of my daily prayer is for wisdom and faith. And so on. I break up my prayer time into different themes so that I’m not trying to pray everything all at once because there is order and structure. I’ve found this helps me pray longer and with more organization. I believe it accomplishes more for me in prayer than if I just used the “shotgun” approach to prayer – blurting out anything and everything that comes to mind all at once. I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything when I pray that way, I don’t feel like I’ve unburdened myself in any meaningful way when I pray like that. Now there are plenty of times when I’ll pray a spontaneous prayer on a particular occasion as the moment presents itself, but for my regular, daily prayer devotion time, I’ve got order and structure to it. We need to pray especially when we feel we are under spiritual attack; we need to pray specifically for whatever it is that’s attacking us. If something is particularly bothering you, prayer is the only solution, because in pray we not only gain wisdom in how to deal with the problem, but we gain strength to deal with it. Do you know how to go into serious prayer for something? Learn how to do this before you come under spiritual attack, then you’ll be prepared to defend yourself and win the victory.

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