The Armor God Supplies for the Christian, Part 6 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #20)

Pilgrim's Progress According to the Bible

PART A

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PART B

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TEXT: Ephesians 6:10-18

There was a time in the life of Martin Luther when his conflict with Satan became so real that it took on an almost physical manifestation. In his anger against Satan, Martin Luther picked up his inkwell and threw it at the devil which he believed was in the room with him. The inkwell broke and splattered ink all over his wall, and the stain remained for many years, reminding people of how real the conflict with Satan was in Martin Luther’s life. Though we may not be at the spiritual level of a Martin Luther, we must understand that our conflict with Satan is just as real. The Christian and Satan are in a mortal, life-and-death, hand-to-hand combat. That is why it is essential that we put on the whole armor of God.

So far in this series, we have looked at two pieces of the armor which God supplies for the believer.

The first piece is the “belt of truth” which is our belief in the Word of God and our faith in the One who said He is “the way, the truth, and the life.” The second piece of armor is the breastplate of righteousness which is essential if we are going to repel the attacks of the enemy. This piece of armor is provided not because of our own righteousness, but because of Christ’s righteousness which covers the life of every believer.

The Bible describes the armor that God supplies for all Christians in the book of Ephesians. The first piece of armor is the belt of truth. The Bible says, “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth.” The truth, of course, is the Word of God; and we arm ourselves with the truth when we believe in Jesus Christ and we believe the Word of God.

Today, we are going to look at the third part of the Christian’s armor — the shoes of the gospel of peace. After we have put on the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness, we are to put on the shoes of the gospel of peace. The Bible states, “And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.”

You probably don’t think about the importance of the shoes you wear each day. In fact, the only time you probably think about the shoes you wear is when you are getting ready to go to a fancy event and you want to make sure that the shoes you are wearing are appropriate and selected to impress others. However, for a soldier, shoes are very important. A soldier who goes into war barefoot will be hindered by the rough terrain, pebbles, stones, and other debris on the battle field. The right kind of footwear enables a soldier to advance against the enemy without encumbrance.

Roman soldiers wore the caliga, a thick-soled, hob-nailed, half-boot which had leather straps that were tied around and fastened tightly to each foot. It was heavily studded with metal nails to give stability in all forms of terrain. It was not strictly a weapon but part of the soldier’s equipment, especially for long, fast-paced marches.

However, for the Christian soldier, his shoes are not just mere protection for his feet. His shoes are built with a purpose. The Christian goes forth not just to fight against the enemy, but to spread the gospel of peace to those bound by the enemy. A Christian who goes forth to make war against Satan is also one who continuously carries forth the message that God has sent Jesus Christ to make peace with man. Thus, to have our feet clothed with the gospel of peace means we must believe the gospel ourselves, and be serious about sharing the gospel with others.

John Piper has pointed out that it is strange that we find a focus on peace in the midst of this passage on war. However, he said, “The aim of our warfare is that people would accept the terms of peace that God holds out, namely, faith in Jesus. And the only reason there is any conflict at all is because the power of sin and the powers of Satan are dead set against [allowing people to] make peace with God.”

If you are not actively seeking out ways you can share the Gospel of peace, you are not fulfilling all of your duty as a Christian.

Quoting Isaiah in Romans 10:15, Paul says, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” The Greek word for “gospel”, which is where we get our word “evangelist” from, simply means to ‘proclaim good news.’ It was a word used when a messenger ran from the battlefield back to the city to proclaim that the army had been victorious in battle. Likewise, we are ambassadors from Heaven, living in this world, proclaiming the victory of Jesus Christ over sin, death, hell, and the devil.

In 490 B.C. King Darius of Persia invaded Greece and threatened the city of Athens. The Athenians sent their champion runner to Sparta to summon help. The runner, whose name was Pheidippides, ran for two days and two nights the 140 miles to Sparta only to find that the Spartans were unwilling to respond until the moon was full. He ran back to Athens with the disappointing news.

The Persians landed on the Greek coast and set up their camp on the plain of Marathon, about 25 miles away. The runner joined the famous Ten Thousand Athenian warriors who charged down upon the Persians and defeated them. He was then asked to carry the news of the victory back to Athens. He ran all the way there, staggered into the city and announced, “Rejoice, we conquer!” Then he collapsed and died.

Dear friend, I ask: are you willing to sacrifice it all in order to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and His victory of sin, death, and Hell, to the people who desperately need to hear it? The message of the Gospel of peace that we have is a message the world needs to hear, but the devil will do everything in his power to prevent us from delivering that message. That is why we need to put on the armor of God.

The Armor God Supplies for the Christian, Part 5 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #19)

Pilgrim's Progress According to the Bible

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TEXT: Ephesians 6:10-18

Pastor Rick Warren once related the story of how he and some of their church workers regularly visited a prison in California which held some of the state’s most violent gang members. The prison was well-known for the brawls that often broke out there among prisoners, often requiring police in full riot gear to enter in order to restore order in the prison. Warren said that the prison warden informed him that when they came to the prison they needed to be prepared for anything — including having to run for their lives. Warren said that this meant they couldn’t go to the prison wearing shorts and flip-flops. In his words, they had to be “suited and booted.” They had to be ready to defend themselves and ready to get out of the way if a brawl broke out while they were at the prison.

Ladies and gentlemen, in this world, Christians need to be “suited and booted” at all times. We must adopt the slogan of the U.S. Coast Guard — semper paratus, “always ready” — because the devil can attack at anytime. That is why we must put on the whole armor of God.

Last week, you might recall from Pilgrim’s Progress that Christian received his suit of armor from the Palace Beautiful before he set out to continue his journey to the Celestial City.

The Bible describes the armor that God supplies for all Christians in the book of Ephesians. The first piece of armor is the belt of truth. The Bible says, “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth.” The truth, of course, is the Word of God; and we arm ourselves with the truth when we believe in Jesus Christ and we believe the Word of God.

Today, we are going to look at the second part of the Christian’s armor — the breastplate of righteousness. After we have put on the belt of truth, the Bible says, “and having on the breastplate of righteousness.” A breastplate is a large piece of armor that covers the front of the body from the chest to the waist.

For the Roman soldiers of Paul’s day, the breastplate provided protection for the torso, which contains the vital organs including the heart and the lungs. Without his breastplate, a soldier would be asking for death, as any injury to his body could become fatal. With a strong breastplate, however, the same blows from the enemy are rendered ineffective.

This passage calls righteousness our breastplate. There are two elements of righteousness that make up this piece of defensive armor. The first is found in the basic definition of righteousness — that is right doing or right living — doing the right thing. If we are living in sin, it is as if we are going into battle without any of our armor on. We are exposed to Satanic attack and trickery. Unconfessed sin in our lives is one of the main reasons why Christians are defeated spiritually. So, if we are not living right, we have not put on the breastplate of righteousness.

The second element of righteousness is walking in the confidence that we are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Remember, by His death on the cross, and our acceptance of that sacrifice, God imputed the righteousness of Jesus Christ to us. God no longer sees us as sinners, but as saints. We are viewed as innocent before God because we are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Paul writes in Philippians 3, “not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”

John Gill said, “the righteousness of Christ, which being imputed by God, and received by faith, is a guard against, and repels the accusations and charges of Satan, and is a security from all wrath and condemnation.”

The devil will try to attack us mentally by bringing up our old sins, failures, and faults. He will try to make us believe that God has not forgiven us and that we are still just like we were before we accepted salvation through Jesus Christ. If we succumb to the devil’s lies, and fail to cling to the truth of God’s Word — that we are righteous because of Jesus Christ — we will lose many spiritual battles.

Count Nicolaus von Zinzendorf, the German reformer and prominent leader of the Moravian church, wrote a hymn that describes how Christ is our righteousness and how we stand in that righteousness as followers of Him.

Bold can I stand in every way,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully, by Christ, absolved I am
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

This spotless robe the same appears,
When ruined nature sinks in years;
No age can change its glorious hue,
Its glory is forever new.

Thou God of power, Thou God of love,
Let all Thy saints Thy mercy prove;
Our beauty this, our warrior’s dress,
Jesus the Lord, our Righteousness.

Dear friend, with Jesus Christ as your righteousness, you can stand boldly against the attacks of the devil. So, put on the breastplate of righteousness! If we are committed to righteous living and if we walk in the confidence that we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, we can and will be successful in spiritual battle.

The Armor God Supplies for the Christian, Part 4 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #18)

Pilgrim's Progress According to the Bible

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TEXT: Ephesians 6:10-18

Over the past three weeks, we have been talking about what it means to be in spiritual warfare as a Christian. We have looked at the basics of Christian warfare, and those basics are: (1) We gain the strength to fight the battle through Jesus Christ — not on our own. (2) We must choose to be clothed in God’s armor — that is, His righteousness through Jesus Christ — if we are to be successful in spiritual warfare. (3) Our enemy is not physical, but spiritual; our enemy is Satan.

You might recall in Pilgrims progress After Christian had gone through a difficult experience, he was allowed to rest at the Palace Beautiful. While there, he learned much about his Christian faith and what the road ahead looked like for him. One of the things he was shown was the armory, and before he left the Palace, he was outfitted in a suit of armor to prepare him for the journey ahead. Let’s read about it from Pilgrim’s Progress.

Bunyan writes: “Now Christian wanted to go forward, and they were willing that he should. But first, said they, let us go again into the armory. So they did; and they dressed him from head to foot with armor, lest perhaps he should meet with assaults in the way. He being, therefore, thus armed, walked out with his friends to the gate of the palace.”

The Bible tells us that Christians today are (or at least ought to be) armed for battle as well. Like Christian, we ought to expect to meet with assaults along the way of our Christian journey. Let’s look at the specific pieces of armor that God has supplied for the believer.

The belt of truth. The Bible says, “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth.” Let’s unpack this:

First of all, what are your loins. Your loins are your waist and lower back area. In the agricultural culture of the ancient near east, people wore long tunics. And, sometimes, these tunics could get in the way if you were gathering in the fields or if you had to chase down a stray sheep or chase off a wolf. So, in order for your clothes not to slow you down, a man would gather up the end of his tunic and wrap it around his legs, tucking the bottom of his tunic into his waistband which was called a girdle (you can think of it as a belt). Basically, a man would transform the long tunic into shorts — which are much better for running fast or getting around in rough terrain. That is what it means to gird up your loins.

When you gird up your loins, you are getting ready to do some serious work. A phrase we might use today is “roll up your sleeves.” So, we see from this analogy that our spiritual warfare is no play thing. It is serious work.

Commenting on another passage in First Peter 1 which tells believers to “gird up the loins of their minds”, Matthew Henry states “as the traveler, the racer, the warrior, and the laborer gathered in their long and loose garments, that they might be ready in the business, so let Christians do with their minds and affections. Be sober, be watchful against all spiritual dangers and enemies, and be temperate in all behavior.”

The Bible tells us to be “gird about with truth.” As I mentioned before, the girdle was a waistband or belt. For a soldier going to war, the belt was a very important piece of armor because it encircled the body and held together the other pieces of armor. Without the belt, the other armor lost its effectiveness.

Paul tells us that we are to put on the belt of truth. R.C. Sproul said, “Paul seems to have in mind the confidence that comes from certainty about the truthfulness of God’s Word.” Remember, what Jesus Christ used to defeat the devil? He used the Word of God. If you and I are to use the Word of God to defeat the enemy, we must also have confidence in its truthfulness. When Jesus prayed for His disciples, He said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”

We must depend on, lean on, and have confidence in the truth of the Word of God. If the Bible is not true, then we have nothing to stand on. And, as we will soon see, the Word of God is the main offensive weapon that we have. The Bible tells us that Jesus is called “the Word of God.” When we choose to believe the Bible, we are choosing to believe Jesus Christ because the Scriptures “testify” of Him. Thus, when the Bible tells us that we already have the victory over the devil, the flesh, and the world, we ought to stand on that promise because it is rooted in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

As the old hymn says,

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.

The essential piece of armor — the belt that hold all the rest of the armor together — is our confidence in the truth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the Word of God which cannot lie. Let’s put on the belt of truth and be victorious in battle.

The Armor God Supplies for the Christian, Part 3 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #17)

Pilgrim's Progress According to the Bible

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TEXT: Ephesians 6:10-18

Robert the Bruce was king of Scotland from 1306 to 1329. Early in his reign, King Edward I of England invaded his nation, defeated his army, and forced him into hiding. While on the run, Robert the Bruce took refuge in a cave.

Completely disheartened, the Scottish king lay by a fire in the cave, ready to resign himself to complete defeat and the loss of his kingdom. But then, in the flickering firelight, he noticed a spider on the cave wall, spinning a web. The spider repeatedly attempted to secure the web, then failed, attempted again, then failed. Finally, the spider was able to anchor the web, making it strong and secure.

In the persistence of the spider, the Scottish king saw a metaphor of his own struggle against the English invader. He decided he would not allow himself to be defeated by past failures he had to continue the fight for Scottish freedom. Robert the Bruce left his cave, led his troops into battle, and defeated the English invaders at Bannockburn in 1314. He continued to persevere for the next fourteen years until he finally won Scottish independence in 1328.

In times of spiritual warfare, we will often be tempted to metaphorically crawl into a cave and just give up. We will often be discouraged and distressed. We will often feel as though we are too weak to carry on. However, as we learned in the first message in this series, our strength is not in ourselves, but in the Lord. Paul tells us to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” We cannot be strong on our own, rather, we are made strong through Jesus Christ and Him alone. In the midst of our spiritual battle, we must learn to lean on God and not on ourselves. When we do that, we can come out of our cave and return to the battle.

In the second message in this series, we focused on the stand of the saints. Paul tells us that we are to “put on the whole armour of God so that we will be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” When we put on the whole armor of God, we are clothing ourselves in the righteousness of Christ that is afforded to us through salvation. The devil will attack us spiritually, but we can overcome him if we stand against him in Christ’s strength. If we stand in Christ’s strength, clothed in the armor that God has supplied, we will not succumb to the devil’s strategy.

So, God has given us strength, and we are commanded to stand. But what do we need our strength for? And what type of enemy are we to stand against? We are going to answer those questions today as we look at our spiritual enemy.

Paul says, “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.” You cannot fight effectively in a war unless you know who your enemy really is. The devil will try to get you to think that your enemies are physical — people whom you can see and talk to. However, that is only a strategy to keep you sidetracked from the real battle.

The Bible tells us that our enemies are dark spiritual forces. The Evangelical Commentary on the Bible states, “Paul lists four varieties of nonhuman powers, all under the control of the devil, against which believers have their struggles. …this struggle is ultimately not against ‘flesh and blood,’ that is, it is not against other human beings, but rather ‘rulers,’ ‘authorities,’ ‘powers of this dark world,’ and ‘spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’, all of which instigate people to practice evil.”

The Greek word which is translated “wrestle” is only used here in all of the New Testament. Wrestling was a popular sport during the time when Paul was writing Ephesians. Instead of using a more common term for fighting or warfare, Paul uses this term to indicate the closeness of the struggle we face on a daily basis. The implication is that we are engaged in hand-to-hand combat against the enemy. It is a constant, unrelenting struggle. A human opponent might give up after a while, but the devil never gives up. He is always seeking to drag us down and cause us to ruin our testimony for Christ.

The devil will often use people as a means of carrying out his attacks on us. However, if we are aware of this, we will not waste time battling flesh and blood. Rather, we will turn to Christ for strength, and we will focus our offensive weapons of prayer and Scripture on the devil himself.

As followers of Christ, we are engaged in a great spiritual war with unseen evil forces. To overcome the devil, we must stay focused on the enemy, stay confident in God, and determine never to accept defeat.

A story from the Korean war illustrates this attitude. As enemy forces advanced, Baker Company got separated from the rest of their unit. For several hours no word was heard, even though headquarters repeatedly tried to communicate with the missing troops. Finally, a faint signal was received. Straining to hear, the corpsman asked, “Baker Company, do you read me?”

“This is Baker Company,” said the sergeant.

“What is your situation?” asked the man at headquarters.

The sergeant said, “The enemy is to the east of us, the enemy is to the north of us, the enemy is to the west of us, the enemy is to the south of us.” Then after a brief pause, he added, “Well, at least the enemy is not going to get away from us now!”

Although surrounded and outnumbered, he was thinking of victory, not defeat. We ought to have the same attitude as we engage in spiritual warfare. Because we are clothed in the armor that God supplies, we can go forth into spiritual battle confident of victory against our spiritual enemy — the devil.

MUSICAL SELECTION: “Take Me to the King” by Tamela Mann and “I Surrender All” by CeCe Winans

The Armor God Supplies for the Christian, Part 2 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #16)

Pilgrim's Progress According to the Bible

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TEXT: Ephesians 6:10-18

There is an evil-looking reptile known as the hog nosed snake which attempts to fool predators with two ruses. First, it impersonates a pit viper, by coiling, striking, and hissing viciously. If this tactic fails to intimidate the attacker, the hog-nosed snake turns belly up, opens its mouth and rolls out its tongue, playing dead. If it is picked up and placed right side up, it simply turns over and resumes the death ruse again.

Scripture likens the devil to a cunning serpent who has numerous tricks up his sleeve — the Bible calls them the wiles of the devil. And, in this series, we are exploring the Scriptural command to be aware of and to be wary of the tricks of our spiritual enemy, the devil.

In our last message, we focused on the strength of the Lord. Paul tells us, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” Our strength to fight the battle that we are in comes from the Lord, and not from ourselves. The phrase “be strong” literally means “be made strong.” In other words, we cannot be strong on our own, rather, we are made strong through Jesus Christ and Him alone. In the midst of spiritual battle, we as Christians must learn to lean on God and not on ourselves.

Today, we are going to look at the stand of the saints. Paul goes on to say in this passage, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Once we understand that the power to fight the spiritual battle that we are in comes from Jesus Christ, we can proceed with putting on the armor of God so that we will be ready to stand against the devil.

We don’t want to be like the man who has electricity in his home, but he never flips the light switch and so dwells in darkness. He has power, but he never activates it. Our power comes through Jesus Christ, but we must activate it by putting on the whole armor of God and standing against the devil. We will talk about the specific pieces of the armor in a later message, but, right now, we need to understand what it means to put on the whole armor of God.

In his commentary on Ephesians, Peter O’Brien states, “The ‘armor of God’ can be understood as the armour that God supplies, his own armour which he wears, or even the armor that is God himself…. This exhortation to put on God’s armour recalls the earlier instruction about ‘putting on the new self’, which was created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

The devil is described in Scripture as the “accuser of the brethren.” He is always looking to exploit some flaw in our character. He is always looking for some spiritual weakness to use against us. He is always coming up with accusations to use as fiery darts against us. Sometimes, he will try to make us doubt our salvation. Sometimes, he will criticize our feeble prayers. Or he will try to make us feel as though we are unworthy to be called a child of God.

If we are walking in the flesh, the devil will find plenty of weaknesses to cause us to stumble. However, if we are walking in the spirit — if we have put on the new man — we will be clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and we will be impervious to the devil’s wiles — his tricks or strategies. Once again, this goes back to not relying on our own strength in spiritual battle. You can only be successful against temptation and against the accusations of the devil if you rely on the power of Jesus Christ.

As the famous hymn by Martin Luther states:

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

When we put on the whole armor of God, we are clothing ourselves in the righteousness of Christ that is afforded to us through salvation. We do not have to try to stand against the devil in our own strength. Rather, we stand against him in Christ’s strength. Christ has already gained the victory over our enemy; He knows how to outsmart and out-maneuver him. We would be foolish to not walk in the path that He has already paved for us. If we try to stand against the devil on our own, we will fall prey to his tricks every time. But if we stand in Christ’s strength, clothed in his armor, we will not succumb to the devil’s tricks.

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