12 March 2007

The Armor of GOD (Part 3--The Gospel of Peace, the Shield of Faith)

We are still studying what the Apostle Paul refers to as the “armor of GOD”. This is number three in our series. The first week, we looked at why we need this “armor”. Paul tells us to be strong in the Lord, and to put on the whole armor of GOD. And when he says this, he’s really giving us a command. He’s saying, “Don’t run away from Satan when he comes around. Stand and fight him, using GOD’s armor.” He goes on to say that our enemy is not of this earth, but our enemies are spirits: Satan and his demons. And they will fight us until they have us flat on our backs, and with their hands around our throat.

Last time, we looked at the first two pieces of this armor: the belt of truth, and the breastplate of righteousness. And there is a reason Paul listed these two pieces first. Because truth holds everything together, and without it, the battle is lost. If we try to fight Satan with lies, well, Jesus said that Satan is a liar and the father of all lies. So we can't fight the father of lies with lies of our own, because he knows them all. Besides, GOD doesn’t want us to lie, He tells us to fight against lies using the truth. The truth that is found in the Bible.

Why do we need righteousness next? Because we are not to depend on our own righteousness. But when we put on Christ’s righteousness, and remind Satan that we are righteous in GOD’s eyes because of our Lord Jesus Christ, that’s something he doesn’t want to hear. Today, we are going to look at the next two pieces of armor.

Verse 15.
and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace...

Shod your feet… Let me start off by saying that our feet aren’t exactly the most attractive part of our body. I'll be honest with ya; I got some pretty ugly dogs. And trust me; you do not want me to take my shoes off right about now. But, as ugly as our feet are, it would be pretty hard to get along without them. I mentioned before that it would be foolish for a soldier to go into battle wearing a helmet, a bulletproof vest, and tennis shoes. And in much the same way, it would be foolish of us to try and fight Satan if we didn’t have something firm to place our feet upon. If you look at a picture of a Roman soldier, you'll see that his shoes are very practical. They are strapped tightly to his feet so they don’t slip off. When Paul says to “shod our feet”, that’s what that word means. “Bind to your feet the preparation…” Well, over the top of these, a Roman soldier would be wearing shinguards, or greaves. They were much like what you may see a catcher wearing in a baseball game. Now these shinguards were important. There is no protection for our shinbone. And if you catch a club, or the broadside of a sword, you're done. We use our feet to do two very important things.

We won’t be able to stand very long—or to withstand very long—if we don’t have some good shoes on our feet. Now, what does it mean when the Bible talks about “standing”? In the Old Testament, it means, "The ability or power to stand, especially against an enemy. " In Ephesians, the word describes “One who vanquishes his adversaries and holds his ground…one who in the middle of the fight holds his position” And that is what strapping the preparation of the Gospel of peace to our feet does. It allows us to hold our position, and even to defeat our enemy. But honestly, we’re not the one that’s defeating our enemy. It’s the gospel of peace that has already defeated our enemy. The gospel of peace that says that our Lord Jesus Christ has already defeated Satan by way of the Cross. And that is what we are to bind to our feet like shoes so that we can stand our ground against the wicked one.

How can we be sure that GOD will give us this armor when we need it?
1st John 3:1--Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.
Matthew 7:11
"If ye…know how to give good gifts unto your children, How much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"
We are children of GOD. He has given us good gifts. In fact He has given us the greatest gift we could ever hope to receive. And He will continue to give us those good gifts. Now, if you look at the bottom of a Roman soldier's shoes, you would see that there were several layers of thick leather. The reason for that was, a lot of times, the country being invaded would take all kinds of sharp objects like pieces of metal, or bones, or broken pottery. And they would lay them out on the ground and cover them with soft dirt. So when the enemy came marching along, if they didn’t have good footwear, those pieces of steel, or glass, would go right up into their feet, and they would be crippled.

Kinda like the way Satan operates. He’ll try to lay a trap out there for you. He’s getting the battlefield ready the way HE wants it. Maybe have an old boyfriend or girlfriend call you up out of the blue. “Hey come on over, we’ll just watch some TV or something”. You get over there; they’ve got some beers in the fridge. “Well, I probably shouldn’t, but I’ll just have one”. Then another. It starts getting late. Next thing you know, the next morning y’all are waking up and putting your clothes back on. You see, Satan laid out these traps for you, covered it with some nice, soft dirt. And before you knew it, you were standing right in the middle of his trap. And you’re crippled. Not physically, but by guilt, and remorse. You see, when we start down the wrong path, when some thought, or idea, or phone call comes along that we don’t expect, and that we know doesn’t belong there, we need to take that “preparation of the gospel of peace” and bind that around our feet. Because Satan is just waiting for you to step on those rusty nails and pieces of broken glass. But, if we are living according to the gospel, then those things won't pierce us, and Satan has just wasted his time.

Now, another feature of these shoes was metal spikes coming out of the bottom. You see, once the battle starts, a soldier needs to be sure that he can stand his ground without being moved. The definition I gave earlier, “one who destroys his adversaries and holds his ground…one who in the middle of the fight holds his position.” That’s what it means to “stand”.
These are just a few examples of what the Bible has to say about standing:
Romans 5:1-2—Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
1st Corinthians 16:13—stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong
Philippians 1:27—stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel…

Regarding these cleats that Roman soldiers wore. Let me just illustrate the difference between sneakers and cleats. If you’ve ever played football, you would learn that difference. If you try to play football outside wearing sneakers, what happens is the dirt and mud gets all caught up in the crevices of the sole, and you just slip and slide around all day. But cleats dig into the ground, so you can get a good push. And believe me, when you’re lined up against a guy that outweighs you by a good 50 pounds, you need all the push you can get. Now, think about this in terms of hand-to-hand combat. The ground is wet, and muddy. You and your opponent are locked in a deadly swordfight. Your shoes are getting slippery; you’re starting to slide around. First of all, do you think he’s gonna give you a timeout so you can fix the problem? Eventually, you’re gonna wind up face down in the mud, with his sword sticking out of your back. Well, our opponent is Satan, so we really need to be able to “…destroy our adversaries and hold our ground…and in the middle of the fight hold our position.”

So we stand on the “preparation…” Now I’ve mentioned that phrase several times, and you may be wondering what it means. I think it means this: that the gospel—the good news of knowing that Jesus Christ died for our sins, and that all who believe in Him and trust Him to be their savior, are at peace with GOD. And we are to always be ready or prepared, to live according to that peace. Romans 8:1 says, There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. What that’s really saying is “If you trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can be—and should be—assured that you are safe in His hands” and as it says later in that same chapter, neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else IN ALL CREATION shall separate us from the love of GOD in Christ Jesus our Lord. Can I get an Amen?

That is the preparation of the gospel of peace. Be ready, so that when Satan attacks, you can stand your ground knowing that GOD is on your side. Romans 8:31--If God is for us, who can be against us? GOD has prepared us for every battle we could ever face. Many times in the Old Testament, especially with David and Goliath, and with Jehoshaphat, we read that “the battle belongs to the LORD.” Well, now we know why. Because He has already fought it, and He has already won.

Not only does having a good pair of shoes allow us to stand, it’s pretty good for walking too. And if we don’t have good shoes, we won’t be able to walk very far. Don’t forget, they didn’t have tanks and helicopters and APC’s back then. If they had to get somewhere, they had to hoof it. Well, 2nd Corinthians 5:7 says that we walk by faith and not by sight. Many times GOD tells us that we are to walk according to His statutes and commandments, or to walk in the way of the LORD. Basically, to “walk” means to “follow”, or to “live according to”. Now I mentioned before that our feet ain’t the prettiest part of our body.

But listen to what the Bible says about feet, and walking, and paths:
Psalm 37:23-24—The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand.
Psalm 40:2—He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
Isaiah 40:29-31—He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Why? Because we are walking according to the gospel of peace. We are walking hand-in-hand with the LORD of all the earth. We are walking, following, living according to the two great commandments: to love the LORD with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and we are loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Verse 16.
...above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

Roman shields were usually rectangular, and what they would do is, as they got ready to approach their opponents, they would lock their shields together to form sort of a wall. They were also covered with leather, and they would take and soak their shields in water—often overnight—because what would happen a lot of times was, their opponents would take arrows, and wrap cloth around the shaft near the tip. Now this cloth would be covered with pitch, or tar. And when the fight began, they would light their arrows on fire. So not only did the arrow pierce the oncoming soldiers, but even if they pulled the arrow out of their skin, they would still have that hot tar stuck to them. What Paul is saying in this verse is: sin is a lot like that hot, sticky tar. When we sin, it hurts. Not only does it hurt us, but as it says in another part of Ephesians, it hurts GOD, it grieves the Holy Spirit. And even though we may repent of that sin, we can still feel the sting of remorse. There’s a song that goes like this:
Satan is a liar and he wants to make us think
That we are paupers when he knows that we are children of the King
So lift up the mighty shield of faith for the battle must be won
We know that Jesus Christ is risen so the works already won.
When we lift up our faith as a shield, and we let Satan know that we are, in fact children of the King, our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will extinguish all the flaming arrows that the enemy shoots our way. The hot tar that the enemy wants to stick to our skin, to keep hurting us, won’t come anywhere near us. And that is, after all, the purpose of a shield: To protect you from oncoming objects. But a shield doesn’t do you much good if you just kinda hang onto it…aww, isn't it pretty? Faith is one of our two greatest weapons. But here’s the thing: notice so far, we put on our belt and pretty much leave it alone. Same for our breastplate. And even our shoes, we put them on our feet and forget them. But now, Paul says, “above all”, we are to take up, to raise, the “shield of faith”. This requires action. What is faith? Well, when it comes to our faith in the LORD, faith is trusting that GOD is going to do what He said He’ll do. It’s looking to something we can’t see, and saying, “GOD, I know that you said this, and I’m trusting in your promise.”

It’s standing firm when you hear those voices in our head that tell you GOD doesn’t listen, that GOD doesn’t love you, that GOD isn't real. It means answering those voices and saying, “I know what GOD said. I know GOD is real. And I know that GOD loves me.” Sometimes it means standing up by kneeling down. You know, of all the things Satan hates, one thing he hates more than most anything is to see people praying to GOD. You know why? Because he knows that when we call upon the LORD, everything changes. It’s like this: Satan likes to think of himself as this big, snarling, drooling Rottweiler. But when GOD enters the picture, that Rottweiler turns into a little Chihuahua. So, that shield of faith can be raised up by prayer.

John Wesley, one of the men who founded the Methodist church, put it this way:
“As a sort of universal covering to every other part of the armour itself, continually exercise a strong and lively faith. This you may use as a shield, which will quench all the fiery darts, the furious temptations, violent and sudden injections of the devil.”
He’s telling us that our lives—our everyday lives—should be our shield of faith. Because when Satan gets tired of slinging arrows at us directly, he’s gonna start slinging them at the people around us. What do I mean by that? Well, let me repeat a verse I think I've used in probably about half the messages I've given. Proverbs 18:8—The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly. You see, Satan, when he knows he can't get to you, he’ll put some words in the mouth of a talebearer. And that talebearer will start spreading poison, called gossip. And isn't gossip evil? You want to know what happens when someone’s mouth is filled with evil? Listen to Job 20:12-14—Though evil is sweet in his mouth and he hides it under his tongue, though he desires it and will not let it go, But holds it in his mouth, Yet his food in his stomach is changed To the venom of cobras within him.

Think about it: what is the purpose of gossip? To hurt people. So when Satan, through a talebearer, tries to launch some fiery darts against you, if you are living a life that tells the world that you are a child of the King, that is your shield of faith. In fact, listen to 1st Peter 3:13-16--And who is he that will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled…have a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.

I mentioned before that the soldiers would lock their shields together, to form a wall. Think about that for a moment. That’s what the army of GOD is supposed to do. We are supposed to come together as one body, and all fight one the same side against a common enemy. But too often, we have one person over here that seems to be a lone ranger, starting a fight inside the unit. But that’s not what we are called to do.
Listen to what the Bible says about togetherness:
Psalm 133:1—Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12--Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow…if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevails against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Matthew 18:20
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

When the body of Christ comes together as one unit, no power of Hell can withstand it. But, the body of Christ has to stand firm. We have to be surrounded by truth, we must depend on Christ’s righteousness, we must stand firmly on the gospel, and we must be constantly exercising our faith in GOD. But we’ve got to be marching together. Imagine if one of those guys in that wall of shields decided “eh, I think I'll head over this way”. Or, “I don’t really feel batlle-ish today, I’m gonna sit this one out.” We must be one. Because, with all due respect to those who serve this country so bravely, when it comes to this battle, there is no such thing as “an Army of one”.

One of the first hymns I remember from when I went to church as a kid was “Onward Christian Soldiers.”
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle see his banners go!

At the sign of triumph Satan's host doth flee;

On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
Hell's foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
Brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.

Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.

Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
We have Christ's own promise, and that cannot fail.

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