While thinking about the current status of society, and particularly, the status of our country (The United States), I was reminded that it is tempting to throw up our hands and call for God to get us out of here! I am not just talking about the financial irresponsibility by those we have elected to represent us, but the entire failure of righteousness we see and read about each day.
We live in a day (and I hope if someone reads this in the future it will not be true at that time) when immorality and a departure from God’s intention and standard run rampant. There is an inability to ascertain what the definition of a man and a woman is…with many completely ignoring the biological truth that has been true since God rolled up that dirt in the Garden of Eden and breathed life into them. We pretend that God didn’t say that marriage is between one man and one woman and that the intermingling of same sexes is unnatural. We want to blame that idea on an out of touch Old Testament God, who we all know is just downright mean . We forget that Jesus, yes Jesus, spoke these words in response to a question about divorce by the Pharisees. “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?” But we seem to find a way to disregard the ideas of God as outdated and make up our own.
Another problem is there seems to be an attempt in our culture to marginalize any attempt to mention or exalt the name of Jesus.
Every Christmas there is this fierce battle to keep anything “Christian” out of the celebration of the birth of “Christ.” Just recently, a pro-life pregnancy center in Ohio was attacked and vandalized with the words “abort God” written on the wall. Certainly if you post anything on any of the mainstream social media sites (with maybe the exception of Twitter) with clear Christian content, one can expect to be banned and blocked. Well, as the writer of Hebrews says, “you have not suffered yet to bloodshed.” Nevertheless, one can ask the question , what are we as Christians to do in all this? Where can we look for hope and direction? While listening recently to The Public Square radio broadcast (thepublicsquare.com), there was a discussion along these lines and that question was raised. Melanie Elsey, one of the regulars on this show said she had the answer. She then proceeded to read a verse from Ephesians 6.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
For you see, our tendency is to rely on human institutions and those in charge of them to cure all the ills of society. We all too often see the government – on the local, state, and federal levels – as the answer to all of our problems. While we should participate in the process of the earthly government, we all know that it is the kingdom that is not of this world that carries with it the solutions. The problem is not the president, the congressmen, the senators, nor anyone else with a human solution. Certainly, we must pray for these people and hold them to their promise to represent us and remove them (through the voting process) if they don’t, but to put all our hope and expectations on a natural or governmental solution, is just like chasing the wind…you will never see the fruition of that idea.
No, the verses that Ms. Elsey read that day remind us that our real struggle is not with human beings, but rather the elements of the kingdom of darkness…the apostle calls them the “spiritual forces of wickedness.” You could have blamed Herod for the slaughter of all those boys under the age of 2 after Jesus’ birth, but the real source was not one with flesh and blood, but one whose agenda was to eliminate the influence of King Jesus into the world in that day. Again, as a citizen of this country, we have a responsibility to vote, write, call, and do what we can to be a part of the process, but in that day the removal of King Herod would not have prevented the slaughter, because the real culprit, Ole Slewfoot, would have found another willing party.
What is the point of all this? Our enemy has an agenda and that agenda has not changed…to frustrate the words of God (Did God really say…?) and prevent the impact and influence of Jesus the Messiah on the world around us. When you read or watch in the news of some event that disturbs you because the Christian message has been marginalized, just remember that fits into the grand plan of Satan; and yes, he is always able to find willing servants to put feet to his dastardly schemes.
That brings us to what Paul wrote just prior to reminding us of the source of our struggle. He wrote that we should put on the full armor of God that would enable us to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
2 Corinthians 2:11 – “…so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”
Too many times I hear people talk as if they are afraid of the devil and his strategies and I want to shout out, “Don’t forget your armor! Stand firm!” As Paul continues to write his letter to the Ephesians, he begins to identify the armor to which he referenced, using the example of the armor of an ancient soldier. It is probably not coincidental that he wrote this while chained to one of those soldiers. The goal is that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
The belt of truth is the first piece of armor listed, I believe because without the unvarnished truth, none of the rest of the armor is effective. We are looking for the forever settled truth that is embodied in Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the truth…” The apostle John writes in his gospel that Jesus is “full of grace and truth.” There must be an unshakable, unalterable truth that guides us along the path we foray. Psalms teaches us that God requires truth in the inward being. Not just so He can require something of us, but He knows that as we embrace the truth of God along the way, we will be set free from whatever might hamper our walk. The Christian must at all times and at all cost remain honest and truthful.
The breastplate of righteousness carries with it a two-fold application. There is the matter of moral righteousness, where we make sure we are aligned with God’s directives and plans, and make any adjustments necessary to get “back in line.” This is a righteousness marked by character and conduct. There is also the right-standing with God because of the redemptive work of Christ. This is ours for eternity because we did nothing to earn it. I think both applications are important for us to be adequately adorned in a protective armor. We must recognize the imputed righteousness from Christ which makes us justified in the sight of God. We must also make sure our conduct and character are that which honors God and communicates His righteousness. If we falter in this area, our accuser is always waiting to confuse us and cause us to be intimidated and shamed. G.G Findlay wrote it this way. “The completeness of pardon for past offense and the integrity of character that belong to the justified life, are woven together into an impenetrable [chain]mail.”
Paul writes that for shoes for our feet, we should “put on the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” Pay attention to this verse from Isaiah 52
“How lovely on the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace And brings good news of happiness, Who announces salvation, And says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’”
Being ready with the prepared gospel equips us to stay on the front lines in an offensive manner, rather than cowering in fear. The gospel (Scripture tells us) is God’s power to rescue people from the tyranny of the devil. It is the power of God unto salvation. So, wherever our feet take us, we bring with us our bag of gospel seed so that we can sow in peace in the hearts of men and women.
We now come to the shield of faith that is able to quench the fiery darts our enemy launches our way. Don’t you wonder why God doesn’t just jam the devil’s dart gun? I digress. Those darts that are coming our way resemble discouragement, depression, temptation to gossip, stoking quick temper (who do you think stirs things up to trigger our temper?) It is our firm, undeniable faith in God almighty that is able to shield us from the damage intended by these darts and others. Faith lays hold of the promises of God in times of doubt and depression, and faith lays hold of the power of God in times of temptation. We have to believe God is bigger than whatever it is we are facing at the moment.
The helmet of salvation guards our minds. Our assurance of our salvation, based on the work of Christ and nothing we have done, sets a shield around our minds and gives us peace of mind. This is why Paul writes that we are to take every thought captive unto the obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is also why he writes in Romans that we are being transformed by the renewing of our minds. A clear, healthy mind that is the foundation for a stable life, free from the darts of the devil. Isaiah 26:3 teaches us that, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Charles Hodge wrote, “That which adorns and protects the Christian, which enables him to hold up his head with confidence and joy, is the fact that he is saved.”
Then there is the sword of the Spirit. This is clearly (and Paul makes sure there is no misunderstanding), the word of God. When Jesus countered the schemes of the devil in the wilderness, it was the word of God that He quoted to disarm the devil. That’s because, according to Hebrews, the word of God is living and effective. The word or truth of God is what will keep us from falling into the deception of the enemy and faltering in our journey.
In identifying the need to pray in the Spirit at all times, Paul addresses where the real battle takes place, and that is the arena of prayer. This is where we call on the heavenly resources (or Resource) to facilitate the actualization of the armor provided by the Holy Spirit. Once again our battle is not a carnal one, but one in the spiritual realm between the forces of a wicked devil and a righteous, holy, and all powerful God.
So, let us be reminded that when we are concerned, depressed, angry, or wanting to check out, let us remember where the real battle is…and it is not with those people posting on social media (assuming they are made up by flesh and blood). It is rather with our enemy, the devil, and God has given us this “armor” to be able to resist his attempts to “knock us off our game.”
O victory in Jesus, my Savior forever!
OUR STRUGGLE IS NOT AGAINST FLESH AND BLOOD