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Sunday, August 4, 2019

Supernatural Battle - Part Five

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 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. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. (Eph 6:11-13)

We’ve been looking these past several weeks at the various pieces of our supernatural armor. Today we turn our attention to the helmet and sword. 

Roman soldiers’ helmets were usually of metal, though poorer soldiers may have had leather helmets fortified with pieces of metal. The most obvious value of the helmet was to protect against blows to the head. Thus, it would have been unthinkable for a soldier to go into battle without his helmet.

It ought to be equally unthinkable for the Christian to engage in our spiritual warfare without the helmet of salvation which God designed to protect our minds against demonic lies that disorient, discourage, or deceive the Christian.

That’s why Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ . . .  (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

St. Paul also refers to the helmet of salvation in 1 Thessalonians 5:8-9. In that letter he calls the helmet "the hope of salvation.” The Greek word for hope (elpis) as used by the New Testament writers is not a ‘maybe’ hope as in, “I hope it won't rain Saturday.” Elpis describes something much more definite than a wishful hope. It often carries the idea of a ‘joyful and confident expectation’ that something will, or already has, occurred. 

Here is how the New Living Translation correctly renders the verse: “But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.”

Did you catch that? “The confidence of our salvation” is our impregnable head covering which is immeasurably stronger than those worn by Roman soldiers on the battlefield. The helmet is our protection against all the blows of the evil one. It shields us from his many seductive lies – one of which you may have heard yourself: “You can never be sure of your salvation until you die.”

I can’t imagine living my life with Christ without trusting God’s word that assures me of my salvation. If I can't trust THAT promise, then what else in Scripture can I not trust?

Without such confidence, how can we bring the good news of salvation to others if we ourselves aren’t sure of it? Here are only a handful of God’s sacred promises regarding our salvation. Notice please, the verb tenses in these following texts.

1 John 5:13 “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

John 5:24 “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to

condemnation, but has passed from death to life.”

John 20:31 “[B]ut these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Luke 10:20 (The Lord Jesus, addressing 70 of His followers whom He sent to preach) “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

I could take the next several pages of one promise after another in which God assures everyone who believes and obeys Jesus Christ that we HAVE eternal life. So, why do we let anyone or anything cloud our minds with half-truths and ‘what-ifs’ that rob us of the joy of that salvation?

In a world where nothing is permanent, God’s promise of salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ never fades. That promise is our stability in an unstable world. It gives hope in the worst of circumstances, enabling us to fight against despair and discouragement! The assurance of salvation is our impenetrable defense against anything the enemy throws at us.

Follower of Christ! Put on that helmet of the expectant hope of heaven. And keep it on. If you believe the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ, if you obey Him who is God from God, Light from light, true God from true God, begotten – not made – and consubstantial (meaning, of the same essence as the Father and the Holy Spirit), then your name IS WRITTEN right now in the Book of Life.

Those are not my words. Those are the words of the Holy Trinity Himself.

So, now with our helmet securely fastened, let’s pick up the next piece of our armor: “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (6:17)

Here is Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

The Scriptures will always remain the bedrock of the truth with which we gird our loins. They will always be the strength of our shield with which we stave off the fiery arrows of the enemy. The Bible is the vitality of our breastplate of righteousness which God imputes to us by His grace. It is the impermeable material that forms our helmet. It is the energy behind the reason we shod our feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace we bring to others.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this about the Scriptures: "God is the author of Sacred Scripture because he inspired its human authors; He acts in them and by means of them. He thus gives assurance that their writings teach without error his saving truth." (Catechism paragraph 136). In the same section of the Catechism we read: In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, "but as what it really is, the word of God". "In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them." (Catechism paragraph 104)

As is true in any warfare, shrewd military leaders engage in strategies of deception against their enemy. And Satan is master at the game. He knows how critical God's sword is for the Christian, which is why the devil diligently works to diminish the authority and the influence of God’s word in our life.

Let me illustrate that point this way. In the summer of 1990, I was deployed with the Navy to Iraq after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Dressed in camouflage green, I stood with nearly fifty other Navy and Marine Corps personnel in front of the warehouse at Camp Pendleton in California to receive our chemical‑warfare protective gear which included charcoal-impregnated overgarments and gas mask with an attached rubber hood.

Of the known chemical weapons in Saddam’s arsenal, nerve agents caused the greatest concern because a droplet the size of a pinhead is sufficient to kill an unprotected person.

I still remember the supply sergeant tell us to check our gas mask and hood. "Make sure it’s intact and free from holes."

Holes? That caught my attention. I carefully examined my mask and hood, turning it upside down and around in my hands. Everything looked okay.

Then I noticed the sergeant hold someone's hood up to the sun, inspecting it from the underside. A moment later he tossed it into an already half‑full 50-gallon drum beside him. So, I looked back at my own hood, giving it much closer scrutiny. What at first appeared to be an intact hood revealed scores of tiny holes no larger than, well, no larger than pinholes when held up to the light for closer examination.

One of Satan’s strategies in this warfare is to introduce droplets of his toxins - pinhead size worms – by which he intends to render the Scriptures by degrees impotent in the lives of Christians. You may be familiar with some of those droplets, having read them in magazines and books, or heard them promulgated in movies, the classroom, the workplace – even in some churches. For example:

-The Bible is a compilation of moral stories, but cannot be trusted to be the inerrant word of God. 

-Because the stories were written by men and copied time after time through the centuries, significant errors are sure to have occurred in transmission.

‘There are no absolutes upon which we may anchor our actions. Everything is relative.

-The Bible addresses the problems facing today’s people with archaic and uselessly outdated methods.

-What was considered sin in Bible days was rooted in the ignorance of a nomadic and intolerant people. Twenty-first century humanity is far more knowledgeable and tolerant about what should be considered wrong.

Had we been attacked with nerve gas my defective chemical suit would have proven fatal for me. In the same way, we dare not engage in spiritual battle without ensuring our spiritual armor is intact. It is not the large gaping defects in doctrine which are the most dangerous. They can be easily spotted and dealt with. Rather, it is the small defects, the easily overlooked pinholes in the armor which allow the seeds of death to take root.

The integrity of the Christian’s entire supernatural armor is rooted uncompromisingly in God's word. That’s why it is critical to examine every philosophy, every thought, every idea under the light of Scripture and the historic teaching of the church dating to the first century. There is too much at stake to be sloppy or casual about our spiritual gear. Pinholes can develop too quickly. And kill too easily. 

During this series on spiritual warfare, we’ve looked at our spiritual armor piece by piece. But please realize each piece is an integral part of the entire armor of God. If the Roman soldier entered the battlefield without any part of his armor, he was at increased risk of serious injury or death. And so it is with our spiritual armor. If we neglect any piece of it – the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals for our feet, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit – if we neglect any of it, we are at increased risk of serious spiritual injury or even death.

Next time we will conclude this series with the final piece of our armor – prayer.

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