This morning we return once again to our study concerning ‘Growing in Christ.’ Once we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior, we become one of His disciples. We are commanded to ‘grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ (2 Pet 3:18) Last week we entered into a section that I am calling ‘The Victorious Christian Life.’ Christ wants us to have victory in our spiritual walk; however as we learned last week, as a follower of Christ, we are in a great spiritual battle.
Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not – against flesh and blood, but against – principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
I. The Spiritual Attack
It would be so wonderful if once we received Christ as our Savior, everything became simple and easy. Yet anyone who has been a believer for more than a few minutes knows that it doesn’t. Even the great Apostle Paul expressed his spiritual struggle in Romans 7. ‘What I want to do, I often don’t do. And what I don’t want to do, that is what I often do.’ Why is there such a struggle to consistently live the Christian life?
As believers, we have three great enemies:
1) ‘The World’
By speaking of the world we are not referring to the plants and animals. Instead we are referring to a world system that has been contaminated by sin and therefore is bent towards evil. As long as we are living on this planet, we are going to wrestle with a world system that is completely contrary to the will of God.
2) Our Fallen, Fleshly Nature
Not only do we wrestle with the world, we wrestle with ourselves. Sin contaminated us and produced a nature that the Bible calls ‘the flesh.’ This flesh is not the skin that covers our bodies, but a nature within us that has an appetite for sin. Jesus told His disciples that though their spirits were willing, their flesh was weak.
3) The Devil
In addition to a corrupt world system and a sinful nature, we also have a relentless enemy called Satan. The name ‘Satan’ means adversary or one who opposes. Peter says it best –
1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
Satan is our adversary. He is like a lion stalking its prey. He is constantly harassing us with his evil.
II. The Spiritual Armor
A. The Spiritual War
The moment we decided to become a follower of Christ, we became engaged in a great spiritual battle with the devil. Paul tells us that our battle is not with flesh and blood, but with the rulers of the darkness of this world. On our own we are no match for these evil forces. Fortunately we are not on our own. God is with us and He is able to give us the power to live the victorious Christian life.
B. The Spiritual Weapons
2 Corinthians 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, (reasoning that is contrary to the will of God) and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, (proud arguments against God) and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; (conquering every thought – for Christ)
In order to fight this spiritual war, the Lord equips us with spiritual weapons. Note four things about these supernatural weapons:
1. They are weapons that are ‘mighty through God.’ The strength of these weapons lie in the strength of God.
2. They are weapons that can enable us to tear down of Satan’s spiritual strongholds. What is a stronghold? The word means ‘castle or fortress.’ Through certain sins Satan is able to establish a stronghold in someone’s life. Can he do so in the life of a believer? He did so in the life of two members of the early church; a man named Ananias and his wife, Sapphira. The Apostle Peter said to them – “why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost…” (Acts 5:3) Through the deception of sin, Satan brought Ananias and Sapphira under his evil influence and authority. Anger, bitterness, lust, and greed are just a few of the sins Satan can use to establish a stronghold in someone’s life.
3. They are weapons that combat enemies of the mind. One of the primary targets of Satan’s assault is our mind. Scripture says – “as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Pr 23:7) Satan may not be able to read our minds, but he is able to deceive our minds. Two-thirds of our spiritual battles occur inside our heads and if Satan can establish a stronghold in our thinking, he can control much of how we live.
4. They are weapons that bring every thought obedient to Christ. Because Satan attacks the mind, we must learn how to win the battle of the mind. Paul tells us that God’s spiritual weapons can help us bring ever though under subjection of the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
C. The Spiritual Warrior
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Every believer is in this spiritual war. Satan will make sure of that. Unfortunately, too many of God’s children are spiritual prisoners of war rather than spiritual warriors. Over and over again the passage we have just read, Paul tells us that God wants to enable us to ‘stand’ against the forces of evil. The word ‘stand’ means to be fixed and established. Rather than being pushed around by the devil, God wants His children to be strong and stable in their faith. Our weapons are mighty through the power of God and they can give us the victory.
1. Purpose of Our Armor
Paul speaks of a spiritual armor that is provided for the believer. Vs. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. What is this armor and what is its purpose?
a.) For Protection?
Some might be tempted to think that this armor is simply for the purpose of protecting us. Indeed it is here to protect us, however, it is not like a turtle’s shell that we can crawl up in and hide. Paul’s analogy is built around a Roman solider. During the days of Paul, the Roman solider was the most fierce warrior on earth. Much of his strength came from the armor that he wore that covered him from head to foot. However, he did not clad himself in this armor, hoping that he could hide and not get hurt. He clothed himself in this armor so that he might go out and defeat every enemy at hand.
b) For Preparation
The primary purpose of this armor is not to protect us from every attack of Satan so that we might live a care-free life. The primary purpose of this armor is to prepare us for battle. It is to provide us with the strength we need not only to stand, but to gain the victory.
We often say that Paul was using a Roman solider as his inspiration for writing this passage. Actually I think that Paul had another and even more important inspiration than the Roman solider.
Isaiah 59:16 And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him. 17 For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke.
In this passage Isaiah is speaking of God’s desire to bring salvation to the world. Because there was no human that could such, God did so Himself. ‘His arm’ refers to His strength or power as exhibited through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ brought salvation to the world. Did Satan attack Christ? You bet he did. Perhaps a thousand times more than we can even imagine. Yet the Lord did not allow the devil to deter Him from His mission of going to the cross. Christ clad Himself in the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation, and victoriously won the battle of the cross and the grave. Now it is our duty, as one of His soldiers, to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every person. To enable us to do so, God has given us His supernatural armor.
2. Parts of Our Armor
What exactly is this armor that God desires to give us? Over the next few weeks we will examine each piece very carefully and in particular, what it represents.
a) The Belt of Truth
Ephesians 6:14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth…
The first piece of armament we come to is what many call ‘the Belt of Truth.’
(1) Belt of the Roman Soldier
One of pieces of armament the Roman soldier put on was a leather belt around his waist. Some have suggested that this was a wide leather belt, something like that a weight lifter uses for extra support; however more likely than not, it was a much more narrow belt, often decorated with pieces of brass. The belt itself had little protective value. The primary purpose of the belt was to help keep in the rest of the armor in its proper place.
As I have prepared this message, I have often thought about the mentality of the Roman soldier as he began to put on his armor. No doubt he was thinking ahead to the battles he would face and so there was a methodical approach to his preparation for battle. Though he might have been tempted to leave off the belt, he knew that without it, the rest of his armor would not function as it should.
(2) Belt of the Christian Soldier
Ephesians 6:14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth…
Much like the Roman soldier, the Christian soldier has a belt as well. It’s called the Belt of Truth. Why is this belt so important? Note what Jesus said about Satan and his methods-
John 8:44 He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
Though Satan is evil, he is no fool. He is extremely wise and crafty. Paul speaks of the ‘wiles’ of the devil in vs. 11. The word ‘wiles’ means schemes and methods. Satan works in a methodical way in his attack upon us.
One of his most effective ways of attacking us is through lies and deception. Recently our teens have been studying in Sunday Schools about many of the lies Satan tempts us to believe. Although his lies are as numerous as his attacks, for sake of simplicity I have summarized them into two categories:
(a) “God doesn’t really love you”
That’s the lie he used on Eve way back in the garden when he first tempted man with sin. “God doesn’t really love you. He’s holding out on you. He’s not giving you the very best.” Satan uses that same lie on many of us. “How could God love you and allow this to happen? If God really loves you, why doesn’t He help you?”
(b) “You can find happiness outside of God’s will”
That’s the lie he tried to use against Jesus. “Skip the cross and go for the crown!” That’s the lie he uses on us. “Dump this marriage. Leave this situation behind and go out and find the happiness you deserve. Resist your parent’s guidance. Who are they to tell you what to do? Go ahead and live a little. You deserve to be happy.”
What is Satan’s intent behind these lies? His purpose is always to separate us from the love of God. He wants to make us believe that God is our enemy. Yet concerning Satan our Lord said:
John 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
God is not our enemy. Satan is! He is a thief who desires to steal, and to kill and to destroy us and all that we hold dear.
(3) Putting on the Belt of Truth
Ephesians 6:14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth…
(a) What is truth?
That’s the question Pilate asked Jesus. “What is truth?” Concerning truth our Lord said –
John 17:15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
The Bible is truth. The Bible is God’s eternal and infallible Word that is alive and powerful!
(b) How Can God’s Truth Help Us?
Jesus said –
John 8:32 – ‘Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.’
Through his lies, Satan wants to put us in bondage. A lie puts us in bondage. Only God’s truth can set us free! How so?
First of all it can free us from the bondage of confusion and panic by providing us with calmness and comfort during our times of trouble. More than once I have found great comfort from reading God’s Word. It brings calmness to my troubled soul.
Secondly, it can free us from the bondage of doubt and fear by providing us with confidence and courage. As a roaring lion, Satan desires to strike fear in our hearts. Because many of his threats are very real, we need God’s strength to resist him. God’s strength comes from His truth.
(c) How do we put on the belt of truth?
(i) Study the truth
Jesus said that it is by ‘knowing’ the truth that we find freedom. We have to be studying the truth in order to know the truth. We need to study the Bible – daily, systematically, practically and personally. I can share with you the truths I have learned, but they will do you little good until they become personal to you.
(ii) Think about what God is teaching us
Studying the Bible is more than filling our heads with Bible facts. We must seek to understand what God is saying to us in His Word. How can we gain a deeper understanding of the Bible? The biblical word for this is ‘meditation.’ To meditate upon God’s Word means to think about it in a very deep and meaningful way.
How important is it that we think about God’s Word? The Bible says that as a man ‘thinketh in his heart, so is he.’ Tell me what you think about and I will tell you who you are.
Satan wants to fill our minds with all kinds of negative thoughts. There are some days when he bombards me with so many negative thoughts that it seems like I will go crazy. Therefore I have to determine to control what I think about. The verbs Paul uses concerning the girding ourselves with the belt of truth are in the Greek middle voice which means that it is action that we have to perform upon ourselves. We cannot allow Satan to control our minds. Through the mighty weapons God provides, we have to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. There are some days in my Christian walk when I have to put my foot down and say ‘No!’ to the devil. ‘No! I will not think those sinful thoughts. No! I will not think that way. I will think about God’s truth.’ Concerning our thinking the Apostle Paul wrote –
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
(iii) Apply these truths to our situations
Lastly, we have to apply what we learn. Studying the Bible is all about application. Again to quote Paul –
Philippians 4:9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
How do we resist the devil? We do so by filling our minds with God’s truth and then live it out. ‘Do what you have learned and the God of peace will be with you.’
How are you doing in the battle? Are you the victor or the victim? The Bible says that Christ came to set the captive free. “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”