02 March 2007

The Armor of GOD (Part 1--Intro)

Every day when we watch the news, so many pictures we see come from battlefields. We hear about the war in Iraq, fighting between Israel and Lebanon. Yet every day, whether people realize it or not, there is an even bigger battle going on. It’s not fought with machine guns and tanks. In fact, it’s not really fought so much on a physical battlefield. It’s fought in the mind, and in the heart. I fight it, you fight it, we all fight it. It’s called “spiritual warfare”. And for this type of warfare, we need a special kind of armor. The apostle Paul refers to this in Ephesians chapter 6, verses 10-17 as the “armor of GOD”.

Ephesians 6:10-17.
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 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.

"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. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God..."

October 3, 1993. The place is Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. What had begun as a humanitarian mission to deliver food and medical supplies to a country ravaged by famine was now a military conflict. The gangs and mobs that controlled the streets of Mogadishu were stealing the food and supplies from the warehouses where they were being kept. These were not your typical street gangs. They were heavily armed with machine guns, shoulder rockets, grenades. They were a small military force. Their leader was a man named Mohammed Farah Aidid. Our forces did everything in their power to find this man. One day, we thought we had a breakthrough. Aidid’s 2nd in command was a man named Omar Salad. We learned where he was going to be, and an attack plan was quickly drawn up. The soldiers were positioned, and Salad showed up, right on time. Now, all our troops had to do was go in and get him.

There was just one problem. The neighborhood where this was happening was an enemy stronghold. Everyone in the area was friendly to Mohammed Aidid. They were not about to let the big bad bully—the US—just waltz in and take Omar Salad…without a fight. And fight they did. 18 of our soldiers died, and 73 were wounded. The events of that day were recounted in the book and movie titled “Black Hawk Down”. Many in the military refer to it as “Black Sunday”. It was a day marked by images that many of you may have seen on the news or in the paper. The most horrifying images were those of the bodies of two soldiers being dragged through the streets. When the world saw the pictures and heard the news they asked, “What happened? This is the USA, the greatest superpower in the world. And they’re getting beat by a bunch of street thugs?” Well, yes. Why? How did this happen? There were three reasons: we were in enemy territory. We were facing an enemy that we greatly underestimated. And they kept coming and attacking in ways we never anticipated.

In much the same way, our lives on earth are like that battle in Mogadishu. We are, without a doubt, in enemy territory. We so very often underestimate Satan. And he will come and attack us in ways we could never imagine. But if we rely on our ultimate Commander-in-Chief, we will overcome our ultimate enemy. And by looking at the first four verses in this passage in Ephesians, we will learn how to do that. Today we’re going to begin our look at the “armor of GOD” by learning three things about this armor: we will see how to get ready for battle; we will see the reason we need it, and the results of its use. Paul wrote the book of Ephesians when he was in prison, chained to a Roman soldier. And he took note of how that soldier was fitted with his armor. Every major body part was covered: his brain, his heart, and his feet. He could lift his shield and deflect incoming arrows. He even had a sword, so he could attack the enemy himself. When it came to war, Rome really knew how to do it.

Verses 10-11.

"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."

Be strong in the LORD. What exactly does that mean? We hear it all the time. “Don’t use your own strength.” “The LORD is my strength.” But how do we become “strong in the Lord”? And how do we make the Lord our strength? Well, look at what the individual pieces of armor represent: truth, righteousness, the Gospel, peace, faith, salvation, and the word of GOD. If you were to ask Satan, he would probably consider these to be weapons of mass destruction. Because these can destroy any and all plans Satan has for you. So, by keeping in mind that we have all these weapons at our disposal, we can be strong in the LORD. We can use truth against his lies. We can use righteousness when we are tempted to sin. We remember the Gospel which gives us peace when all hope seems lost. We recall our faith in GOD and let Satan know who we belong to. And we keep the word of GOD in our hearts, that we can be victorious through our obedience.

Now, notice what he says in verse 11. “Put on the WHOLE armor of GOD.” I can't imagine a soldier going out to battle carrying his gun, his canteen of water, wearing a helmet, bulletproof vest…and tennis shoes. I mean think about it. There are all kinds of checklists soldiers go through before they head out, even for a drill. Well, guess what? Satan does a checklist of his own. When you go out to face the day, he knows where and when and how he’s going to attack you. Listen to this verse from 1st Peter 5:8—…your adversary the devil, walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour… Have you seen when they show a pack of lions stalking a bunch of antelopes? Which ones usually get caught? The weak, the slow, and the ones that aren’t prepared. Well, when Satan develops a battle plan for how he’s going to attack you—and he does, he plans—he looks for your weakness. Or what he thinks is your weakness.

We saw in the life of Job that Satan thought that taking Job’s wealth and family would cause him to curse GOD. But what did Job do? He remembered his faith in GOD, praised GOD’s righteousness, trusted that his salvation came from GOD, and held fast to the truth. We can do the same thing if we put on the WHOLE armor. And it’s not something we do at the last minute as we rush out of the house. It’s something we need to be doing constantly, because you never know when that roaring lion is going to appear.

Verse 12.
"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."

This is why we call it “spiritual warfare”. It’s spiritual, and it’s warfare. Let me give you an example. The Knoxville Police Department could go out and arrest every drug dealer, pimp, prostitute, and thief they could find. That would end crime around here once and for all, right?
Guess what—someone else would come along and pick up where the others left off. Our battle is not against the drug dealer, or the pimp, or the prostitute, or the thief. Our battle is against the one that leads them down the paths of darkness. Let’s get down into this verse and see what Paul is saying. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood. I looked up that word wrestle, and found something interesting. Listen to how one dictionary describes the meaning of this word:

“a contest between two in which each one tries to throw the other, and which is decided when the winner is able to hold his opponent down with his hand upon his neck
We are struggling against an opponent that will not stop until he has us pinned down with his hand firmly around our neck. ...against principalities, against powers… You could also say “Satan and his demons”. That’s who we are “wrestling” against. And let me tell ya, you can't fight spiritual battles with physical weapons. We can't scare Satan away by putting on a scary mask. And we can’t fight these beings that have existed for thousands of years by using any wisdom or willpower we’ve built up over the few years we've been alive. You see, what we think and what we feel and what we do are all dictated by our spiritual condition. If our spirit is lined up with GOD’s Holy Spirit, then we will seek to do the things which please Him. Listen to how the Contemporary English Version paraphrases Romans 8:5-10.
People who are ruled by their desires think only of themselves. Everyone who is ruled by the Holy Spirit thinks about spiritual things. If our minds are ruled by our desires, we will die. But if our minds are ruled by the Spirit, we will have life and peace. Our desires fight against God, because they do not and cannot obey God's laws. If we follow our desires, we cannot please God. You are no longer ruled by your desires, but by God's Spirit, who lives in you. People who don't have the Spirit of Christ in them don't belong to him.
Now, you may wonder, or you may hear people who wonder, “Why do good things happen to bad people? Why do all these entertainers and movie stars who are as ungodly as anyone could be, why do they have all this wealth while so many who love the Lord go without?” Well, what we see going on in the world today is not much different than what King David saw in his days. And like many people today, he wondered how GOD could allow so many evil people to prosper.
But, instead of wanting these people utterly destroyed, listen to what he writes in Psalm 10:15—Break the arm of the wicked and the evil man: seek out his wickedness [till] you find none. David didn’t say, “LORD, destroy those evil people!” He prayed that GOD would break the power that made them do evil. Or that LED them to do evil.

Believe it or not, GOD does not want evil people to perish. He asked the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 18:23--“Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die, and not that he should return from his ways, and live?” He knows that it is not our flesh and blood that drives us to do evil things. It is what’s inside us. You see, it’s not our hand that causes people to steal; it’s not our eyes that cause people to lust. It’s the spirit that is inside that person that causes them to lust or to steal or to kill. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood. Our enemy is not the person. Our enemy is the one who is leading that person astray. That’s why Jesus told us in Matthew 5:44--“…Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you…” It says again in Romans 12:20--Therefore if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink: for by doing this, you shall heap coals of fire on his head. Not his literal head, but you will be able to weaken the spirit that leads him into sin.

Back in the 70’s there was a rock star named Alice Cooper. You’ve probably heard of him. Do you know that in 1982 he gave his life to the Lord Jesus Christ? And he is a Christian to this day. He said in an interview once, “The most radical thing I ever did was to become a Christian." Let me ask you this: was it hate mail, and picket signs and protests outside his concerts that changed his life? I would be willing to bet that there were a bunch of people praying for him.

Verse 13.
"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."

Notice how many times in these four verses Paul uses the word “stand” or “withstand”. I’d say that’s something that he really wants us to remember. STAND. Don’t back down. Don’t be afraid. Be strong in the Lord. Remember what the armor stands for. Truth, righteousness, the Gospel, peace, faith, salvation, and the word of GOD. If you do this, you can stand up to the most powerful enemy you could ever face. We are not fighting against criminals, or sickness, or any physical opponent. We are fighting against Satan himself. And notice that in this passage, Paul never says to run away. In fact, nowhere in the Bible are we ever commanded to be afraid of Satan or to hide from him. Why? Because for one thing, we have overcome by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. For another thing, once we believe in Jesus as our Savior, we are baptized into the Holy Spirit which we have to lead us and guide us in paths of righteousness. And here we see that we can take up for ourselves the WHOLE armor of GOD so that we can stand up to Satan and tell him to buzz off.

We can be confident in our Lord that when we need this armor, He will never hide it from us. He will never let us go into a battle against Satan without giving us what we need to overcome.
  • 1st Corinthians 10:13--No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
  • Psalm 91:5—You shall not be afraid for the terror by night; or for the arrow that flies by day.
It says in other places that the LORD is our sword and shield. Be strong in the LORD. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood. Stand fast against principalities and powers. Don’t quit until you have your hands around their neck. Take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

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