Friday, July 19, 2013

The Soldier and the Whole Armor of God

As a Christ believer, and a child of God, I am also a Soldier! I am to be prepared for spiritual battle on this earth as a soldier is prepared before he enters into a physical battle in war.

The Whole Armor of God is found in Ephesians 6:10-18 and boldly declares the protection our loving Father in Heaven has given to us! Let's see what it says:

"v10) Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. v11) Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. v12) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. v13) Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. v14) Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, v15) and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; v16) above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. v17) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; v18) praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints...."

I will break this down by the pieces of armor and what they protect us from so everyone can understand how exact God is in His provisions....ALL of them, including our protection! A soldier has a uniform. They also have tools for warfare. The Christian has a uniform too - the uniform of their King and his Kingdom. He wouldn't allow His children to do battle on this earth with the principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness and against the spiritual hosts of wickedness without equipping them with the weapons they need in order to overcome and be victorious! Through the shed blood of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for our sins, and whose blood covers those sins, we become a target for Satan and his minions of demons. But, being well trained soldiers we have more power over him than he could EVER have over long as we don't allow him to have more power. And in order to restrict his power against us, we need to understand how to ready ourselves each day before we face the world. We need to understand the pieces of the armor so we know which to use and why. So let's take a look at those pieces of the Whole Armor of God.

1) The first mentioned piece is the Girdle, or belt, of Truth. The waist is the core of our bodies. It's the mid-section and plays a great role is "holding us upright." The belt of truth involves two places; our hearts and our minds. Truth keeps us secure in Christ and makes effective all the other pieces of armour. The belt of truth holds our amour in place. In the ancient world, a soldier's belt not only kept his armor in place, but it might be wide enough, as a girdle, to protect his kidneys and other vital organs. Commit yourself daily to walk in the light of God's truth. We must stand firm in the TRUTH of His word so we don't fall victim, and become prey, of and to Satan's lies.

2) Second mentioned is the Breastplate of Righteousness. The breastplate covers the chest and ribcage which protects the heart. So this is to protect and guard our hearts from evil in order to remain pure and holy, protected under the blood of Jesus Christ. A soldier with a breastplate goes into battle boldly and with confidence. The devil is constantly attacking us with lies, accusations and reminders of past sin. Without the breastplate of righteousness, these will penetrate your heart. Become aware of who you are in Christ Jesus. Come boldly into His presence (Hebrews 4:16). A wound to the chest can have the possibility to be fatal. That's why ancient soldiers wore a breastplate covering their heart and lungs. Our heart is susceptible to the wickedness and evil of this world, but our protection is the Breastplate of Righteousness, and that righteousness comes from Jesus Christ. We cannot become righteous through our own good works. When Jesus died on the cross, His righteousness was credited to all who believe in Him, through justification. God sees us as sinless because of what His Son did for us. Remember that it can keep your heart strong and pure for God.

3) Third mentioned is Shoes of Peace. Our feet let us travel by walking....traveling allows us to reach different destinations and in doing so, it gives us opportunities to spread the Gospel. Terrain was rocky in the ancient world, requiring sturdy, protective footwear. On a battlefield or near a fort, the enemy might scatter barbed spikes or sharp stones to slow an army down. In the same way, Satan scatters traps for us as we're trying to spread the gospel. By shodding our feet with the Shoes of Peace, it allows us to stand firm in the Good News of the Gospel so His peace can shine through us and be a light to all those people we encounter in our "walk." Shoes allow us to step freely and without fear while we turn our full attention to the battle at hand. They aid in our movement and defense. The shoes God gives propel us onward to proclaim the true peace, which is available in Christ. Prepare yourself to follow the Lord no matter what.

4) Fourth mentioned is the Shield of Faith. The shield is a larger part of the armor protecting more of the body but ALSO it protects the other parts of the armor as well. The Shield moves WITH the attack, no matter the direction. This is so we will be ready for the Satan's fiery darts of DOUBT, denial and deceit so we won't become vulnerable to spiritual DEFEAT!

5) Fifth mentioned is the Helmet of Salvation. The helmet protects the skull, which houses the brain. The brain is where our minds and thoughts are housed. This is Satan's TARGET to get us in our minds and thoughts. The helmet then of Salvation is needed to help us stay focused on Him so that Satan will not have strongholds on our thoughts, and nor will that right be given to him.

6) Sixth mentioned is the Sword of the Spirit. The Sword of the Spirit is simply described as the Word of God. This weapon represents the Word of God, the Bible. The Word of God is the only piece of armor that can be used both as an OFFENCE and a DEFENSE. Hence the double-edged sword. We must have His Word readied in our hands to be able to expose the tempting words of Satan.

7) Seventh mentioned is the Power of Prayer. Paul adds the Power of Prayer to the Full Armor of God sort of as the "glue" that holds it all together. Without the glue, if you will, all the pieces would get scattered. He knew that every smart soldier knows the importance of keeping the line of communication open to their Commander. God has orders for us, through his Word and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Satan hates it when we pray. He knows prayer strengthens us and keeps us alert to his deception. With the Full Armor of God and gift of Prayer, we can be ready for whatever the Enemy throws at us.

Warfare Armor
None of these pieces of the Whole Armor of God require power on our part. Jesus Christ has already won our victory through His sacrificial death on the cross. We only have to put on the effective armor that He has given us and through His power, we will be victorious! But how is it that, as Christians, we are expected to withstand incredible pressures and not be defeated? How can we possibly stand up against everything the world has to throw at us and still expect to emerge victorious? The answer lies not in ourselves, but in a divine and unbeatable defense: the armor of God.  It's an amazing metaphor for action we need to take in our spiritual lives. Paul sets the scene for us: We are fighting a war, and the stakes are higher than they have ever been in human history. Who is our enemy? It isn't flesh and blood, nor a human foe. We are told that we fight against a much more fearsome opponent whose forces are described in Ephesians 6:12. Our adversary, Satan the devil, and his host of demons have a single, driving purpose: Obliterate the children of God.

The Bible depicts countless battles. From Genesis to Revelation, its pages reveal both physical and spiritual wars raging. Physical wars have dominated history from the time Cain killed his brother Abel, right down to the present day. This shouldn't surprise us though because Jesus predicted, “v6) And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. v7) For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places. (Matthew 24:6, 7). Revelation speaks clearly about that which began as a cosmic war in heaven will soon end in Armageddon but in this showdown between good and evil, truth and light are under constant attack from deception and darkness. Every single one of us is involved because the battleground is the human heart. Both Jesus and the devil are supremely interested in winning eternal ownership of our minds and hearts. The ultimate choice is ours. Because of this very reason, Christians are called to be more than peaceful, by-standing spectators or mediators in this cataclysmic conflict. We HAVE to be committed front-line commandos.

Paul reminds us so beautifully in his letter to the Romans in Romans 13: 12-14, "v12) The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. v13) Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in lewdness and wantonness, not in strife and envying. v14) But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof." When you do, He becomes your hiding place and your shelter in the storm, just as He was to David. Hidden in Him, you can count on His victory, because He not only covers you as a shield, but He also fills you with His life. Since living in the safety of the armor means having oneness with Jesus, we can expect to share His struggles as well as His peace. Remember, God offers us His victory in the midst of trouble, NOT in the absence pain. Which is why in 1 Peter 4:12-13 we read, "v12) Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; v13) but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy." 

Committed Christians who face torture for their faith continue to testify to the supernatural strength--even their immense joy--that enables them to endure unthinkable pain, suffering and tribulations. They affirm with Paul, in Romans 8:37-39, " v37) Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. v38) For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, v39) nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." This wonderful truth has become reality to all who believe and follow Jesus. We've all experienced it and have come to know that truth to be our reality! When you put on His armor, His life surrounds you and keeps you safe in Him. He is your precious friend, and you are His!

We are constantly fighting the schemes of Satan, who's in control of the authorities of the world since Satan is the god of this world. But we need to remember that being strong in the Lord and in His might is the best way to fight against the spiritual forces, not through our own human methods, means or reasons. We can’t win this war alone because alone, we have no chance! We HAVE to trust in God and have faith in Him when battling the enemy. Three times Paul called for believers to stand against the Devil’s schemes, the spiritual battle that takes place against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. Satan's grand strategy is to conceal and hide his strength. He's like a skillful general who doesn't show all his army, but conceals them behind hedges, walls, and trees, and keeps them close in the trenches, so that the enemy can't see all of his forces. Satan is never so powerful as when we think the least of his power, and he is never so successful as when he shoots at us from behind the trenches, when we are unaware. The apostle, therefore, says, "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." It is his devilish craft and subtlety that we have so much to dread. Lay aside one piece of the armor, and you are at once shot down. Very quickly, stealthily and left unarmed.

I found this next section, all in italics and highlighted, that explains the perfect recipe for the whole armor. This excerpt was taken from a sermon at Eden Street Chapel, Hampstead Road, London, on August 3, 1851, by J. C. Philpot: It reads as follows:

"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." It is by faith, as we shall presently see, that the heavenly armor is received, worn, and used – but it is chiefly by the "prayer of faith," for by believing prayer is the armor taken – by continual prayer "praying always" kept on – and by spiritual prayer "supplication in the Spirit" used and wielded. If we do not continually "pray in the Spirit," the limbs will, so to speak, shrink – and the armor drop off. The knights of old exercised themselves every day in their full armor, or they could not have borne it, nor used their weapons with dexterity and strength. So must the Christian warrior, by prayer and supplication, "exercise himself unto godliness." Without "praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance" – standing sentry in the armor, keeping ward and watch – its very weight will crush us. But it is "praying in the Spirit." Not loud, long, formal prayers, nor vain repetitions; but, as Jude speaks, "praying in the Holy Spirit,"--by the help and intercession of the Spirit; and that "always;" at all seasons, all times, all places, everywhere, and whenever the Spirit of grace and supplication may fall. Again; it must be "all prayer;" that is, all kinds of prayer- public prayer, private prayer, mental prayer, crying prayer, groaning prayer, weeping prayer, meditating prayer; prayer feeble, prayer strong; prayer of necessity, prayer of importunity; prayer of distance, and prayer of nearness; the prayer of the tax-collector, the leper, and the outcast, as well as the prayer of the believing, the hoping, and the loving. With prayer, must be joined "supplication," that is, beseeching the Lord, weeping at his feet, begging of him to appear, clasping his knees, and pouring out the soul into his bosom. To this must be added, "watching thereunto." To watch for the answer; to wait for the appearing of the Lord "more than those who watch for the morning." And this, "with all perseverance," never giving it up, taking no denial, begging of the Lord again and again, and wrestling with him until he appears to bless, visit, and shine upon the soul."

Praying ALWAYS
He has already shown in his sermon above how needful prayer and watchfulness are to putting on the whole armor of God, however, it should also be added that it is by faith that we PUT ON every piece. If we have no faith, we have no Christian sincerity, nor spiritual knowledge of the truth; therefore, "the loins are not girt about with truth." If we have no faith, then we don't have on a breastplate of Christ's righteousness; for that's only put on by faith. If we have no faith, we have no defense for our feet; for by faith we stand and walk; and therefore the feet are not "shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace." If we have no faith, we have no helmet, because "salvation" is laid hold of by faith. If we have no faith, we can't have "the shield of faith;" that is evident. If we have no faith, we cannot use "the sword of the Spirit," which is only wielded by faith. If we have no faith, we have no true prayer; for it is "the prayer of faith" that is effectual with God. By faith, therefore, is every piece of the heavenly armor put on; and by faith, living faith, is every piece of it used.

We are in spiritual battle daily and we need to enter the battleground fully equipped! Spiritual warfare is a very real thing and the armor of God just isn't mentioned in Ephesians. Whenever something is mentioned more than once, we need to take heed, receive what it's instructing us to do and apply it to our lives! Satan’s power over Christians was broken and the great war was won through Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, both of which forever conquered the power of sin and death (Romans 5: 18-21; 1 Corinthians 15: 56-57; and Hebrews 2:14). God’s armor brings victory because it is far more than a protective covering. It's the very LIFE of Jesus Christ Himself. Living life on earth presents battles with temptation regularly. So what is required in order for Christians to be victorious are the power of the Lord, the strength of His Holy Spirit and the force of biblical truth. Christians don't have enough strength of their own to fight, much less win, the spiritual battles of this world, which began when one of God's angels rebelled against Him and one-third of the angels joined forces. Having been cast out of heaven, Satan and his minions of demons were sent to earth. The goals of these evil forces are to deceive humanity, thwart God's purposes, prevent unbelievers from placing faith in Christ, limit a Christian's power and stop the Gospel from being spread around the world. 

Paul uses the word Panoplia, which refers to the heavy armor worn by Greek soldiers. The armor often consisted of a breastplate, girdle, shield, helmet, gauntlets, boots, and a sword.  The armor was not only defensive, but also offensive.  Defensive armor was to defend from attacks of the enemy, and the offensive armor was to inflict damage upon the enemy. Greek heavy armor has an interesting feature or lack thereof: it did not provide any protection for the back.  The Greek soldier was forced to face him enemy, and would never consider turning away from the enemy because his back was exposed.  We too should never turn our back on the enemy, when we stand and face him in the armor of God, he does not have power over us.

We must never lay aside the heavenly armor that our God has so lovingly given us! By His mercy, if we have one piece, we have them ALL. God doesn't, and would NEVER, send us into the battlefield only half armed. He provided one, He has provided all. Let's remember this, and laid to heart, that by way of encouragement-the Lord, in choosing His recruits, does not choose just the strong, active, stout, robust, vigorous, and healthy like our army's sergeants choose their recruits,. He admits strange characters into his regiment; those whom no army doctor would typically and realistically admit--the weak, the lame, the blind, the crippled, and asthmatic, the wheezing, the paralyzed; the consumptive in lung, the diseased in heart, the broken, and the diseased. He enlists them ALL in His heavenly regiment,  and makes them all 'whole' by a touch of His finger, clothes them with His heavenly armor, sends them forth to battle, and fights for them as "the God of armies." Therefore, weak in themselves, they are strong in Christ, and are in the power of His might. They will be made whole and through Christ alone, will come through the battlefield a conqueror, a victor and stronger soldier of God.....

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