14 March 2007

The Armor of GOD (Part 4--Helmet of Salvation, Sword of the Spirit)

When someone’s about to say something and a more urgent matter demands our attention, what do we tell that person? “Hold that thought!” Can we literally hold a thought in our hands? In the book of Ecclesiastes King Solomon compared chasing the things in this life to “grasping the wind”. But even though we cannot hold the wind in our arms, and even though we cannot hold a thought in our hands, that doesn’t mean that we can’t “hold onto” a thought. We, of course, hold thoughts in our mind. I’m not talking about that thing inside of our head that processes information. I’m not simply talking about the nerves and blood vessels and the physical brain. I’m talking about our mind.

The brain and the mind are two separate things, yet they are interconnected. Your brain produces thoughts, but your thoughts influence the way your brain works. Let me give you an example. When we read something, there is a part of our brain that takes that information, processes it, and develops a new way of thinking about things. Read the warnings on your prescription. You see something on there that you aren’t supposed to take. Your brain comes up with a thought: “I should not take this without talking to my doctor because this might kill me.”

By the same token, if our mind—if our thought pattern—is conditioned to react to a certain situation by yelling, then when that situation arises, our mind will tell our brain to send a signal to our lungs, our vocal cords, etc to produce a loud noise from our voicebox. You get what I'm saying? As much as our brain directs our body, our mind is capable of directing our brain to direct our body. That’s why 2nd Corinthians 10:4-5 tells us that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ… And these weapons are found in the passage we’ve been studying, Ephesians chapter 6.

Let’s look at what we know about this armor so far. We are to put on this whole armor so that we may stand strong against the evil one when that time comes. And that time WILL come. Paul lets us know in no uncertain terms that Satan will attack us. But if we are using every piece of armor, we will be ready when Satan sends his messengers, and we can repel those schemes that the “rulers of the darkness of this age” will invent to try and bring us down. First we put on truth. We surround ourselves with it so that when a lie comes our way, we will be able to spot it. Then we put on righteousness—Christ’s righteousness. We let Him be the object and driving force of our emotions, our motives, and desires. Then we prepare our feet with the gospel of peace. So that we can walk like Christ, imitating Him and following His ways. Then we practice our faith every day, using it as a shield when the enemy tries to fire his flaming arrows at us. When he tries to remind us of our past, we lift up the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and remind Satan of his future. And finally, we're going to look at the last two pieces of armor.

Verse 17a
And take the helmet of salvation...

The helmet of salvation. What exactly is it? Well, we’ve seen how keeping the love of Christ—and His righteousness—in our hearts protects us when Satan tries to lure us away through our emotions and our desires. Well, in the same way, if we truly belong to GOD, and have His great salvation, then we let Him guide our thoughts. I mentioned last week how we need to be on guard when that stray thought comes along. And that is why Paul tells us we need to protect our mind. So, how do we use this “helmet of salvation”, or as it says in 1st Thessalonians, “a helmet, the hope of salvation”? Well, we need to understand that we actually NEED to protect our mind. It would be pretty foolish for a Roman soldier to one day say, “You know, I don’t think anything’s going to happen to my head. I don’t think I’ll wear this helmet today.” But do you know how many people will fight a spiritual battle without even considering the fact—not the POSSIBILITY, the FACT—that their minds are in danger of being assaulted?

How many times do you hear motorcycle riders moan and groan because they have to wear a helmet? “Why do we have to wear these stupid things?” Well, somebody has to protect them…from themselves. Just like we need GOD to protect us…from ourselves. So let’s look at how this helmet of salvation protects our mind. You see, there are really two different types of mind. There is the carnal mind, and there is the mind of Christ. First, we’ll look at the fleshly, or carnal mind. This carnal mind is also called the flesh. It is the mindset we have before we come to know Christ. It is driven by our own wants and desires. There are three ways to describe this carnal mind:

THE CARNAL MIND IS PUFFED UP.

“So-called ‘moderns’ who are so far above the word of God that they reject all possibility of an unseen kingdom of evil presided over by a malignant personal foe (Satan), are not ‘wise’ in any sense, but are blinded and deceived by ‘the god of this world.’”

--Unknown
If you were to take a survey of the top professors and intellectuals at most major universities, you would probably find that they are, for the most part, atheists or agnostics. You see, these days, the “intellectuals” and the “wise and scholarly” just can't be thought of as believing in….GOD. They would be laughed at, ridiculed, they wouldn’t be invited to all the right parties and speaking functions. I dare say that at some universities, they would probably wind up losing their job. Well, guess what? The apostle Paul knew this very thing.

1st Corinthians 1:18-21—For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe…
We live in an age where we tend to listen more to people who have a bunch of letters after their name. Don’t get me wrong, if someone has a bunch of degrees that says something about that person. But, sometimes, knowledge is a dangerous thing.

THE CARNAL MIND WANDERS.
Romans 13:13-14—Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

In other words, remember Who we are living for. Remember Who bought us, redeemed us with His blood. If we do that, if our minds are set on Christ, if we wear our salvation as a helmet, guarding our thoughts, then our bodies will be ruled by that new mind.

1st Peter 1:13—Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ
Ephesians 4:22-24—put off…the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,
and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and…put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
Philippians 2:3—Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.


Look at what these guys are saying: if we are in Christ, we are not to be like those who do not know the LORD. When the world is filled with revelry and drunkenness, we are to be sober and rest in the Lord Jesus Christ. When lewdness and lust are all around us, we are to forget those things and put on our new man. When the world is filled with strife and envy, we are to think of others more than we think of ourselves.

THE CARNAL MIND IS AT WAR WITH GOD.
Romans 8:7(KJV)— the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. Or, the NASB says it, the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so...

This is the mind that is hostile towards GOD, and it is the reason we need to constantly be mindful of our salvation. Because we need to protect our minds from Satan when he tries to lure us back into that old lost life.

Colossians 1:21-23 says that we …who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight--if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard...

We need to always be mindful of the state we were in. We were lost, headed for an eternity in Hell. Even still, GOD brought us up out of that pit and set us in His kingdom, so we could live with Him forever. Why? Because He loves us. But we need to “continue steadfast in that faith.” And not go back to that old hog trough of sin. And in order to do that, we need to protect our minds. Most of the people that are pushing “Evolution” down our throats like to stand there and say that the Bible can't be trusted, that there’s no evidence for creation. Can I tell ya a little secret? There’s more evidence for the Bible than there is for evolution. In fact, several pieces of “evidence” for evolution have been exposed as frauds. But not one piece of evidence has ever surfaced to disprove anything in the Bible. So that is what the mind looks like when it does not know Christ. But, let’s see what the mind of a Christian should look like.

THE MIND OF CHRIST IS HUMBLE.
Philippians 2:5-7—Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who…made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and…humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of…the death of the cross.

The passage I read earlier from 2nd Corinthians, that commands us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. This is what it means. If we are wearing our salvation like a helmet, when those thoughts come along, we hold them captive. Now that doesn’t mean we become friendly with those thoughts, it means that we take them, we ask ourselves, “what would Jesus have me do?” The Bible tells believers 11 times to be of “one mind”, or of the “same mind”.

THE MIND OF CHRIST IS STEADY.
In the book of Matthew, Christ tells His apostles that He has to go to Jerusalem to suffer, and be killed and raised again on the third day. Well, Simon Peter wasn’t gonna have any of that. He tells Jesus, “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.” But you see, Simon Peter didn’t have the whole picture. And Jesus looks at him and says, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” OUCH! Now, Jesus was not saying that Peter was Satan; He was rebuking the spirit that made Peter say what he did. Jesus knew what He came to earth to do. And He was not about to be swayed from that purpose. Even on the night before He was to be crucified, knowing full well what was going to happen in the next 12 or so hours, Jesus kept His mind on what needed to be done. As He prayed in the garden, He asked the Father in Luke 22:42, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” I think a good many people would have bailed at about that point. And if you think about it, there are many people today that, when GOD gives them even the simplest of tasks, can't be bothered because it interferes with their lives, and they can't be inconvenienced.

When GOD saves us, and takes us from the kingdom of darkness and puts us into His kingdom, he gives each one of us a purpose. He makes some people teachers, who lead Bible studies and Sunday Schools. He makes some people evangelists, who can walk up to a total stranger and just start sharing the gospel. Some, He simply tells to train their children in the fear and admonition of the LORD. When we discover what GOD’s purpose is for us, we need to carry out that purpose, to be steadfast in our walk with Him, that He may be glorified through us.

THE MIND OF CHRIST IS AT PEACE WITH GOD.
Romans 5:1—Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ...

The mind of someone who knows Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will not be the same as it was before. You see, when you are bound for the kingdom of heaven, this world looks less and less appealing. You don’t care as much about what people think about you, and you begin focusing on the things that please GOD. You see, before we know Christ, we are enemies with GOD. But, once we have been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, listen to what the Bible says. 2nd Timothy 1:7—For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. In almost every one of his letters, Paul begins—and ends—by wishing the people grace and peace from GOD and the Lord Jesus Christ. Five times in the New Testament GOD is referred to as the “GOD of peace”. Why? Because it is through the cross that Jesus Christ gives us the gift of looking forward to an eternity of peace with the very GOD we were enemies with at one time. This ain't our home. It’s just a place for us to stay for a while, until Jesus finishes preparing a place for us.

This world is not my home I'm just a passin’ through
My treasures and my hopes are all beyond the blue
Where many Christian children have gone on before
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.
O Lord, you know I have no friend like You
If Heaven’s not my home then Lord what will I do?
Angels have taken me to heaven’s open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.

Romans 8:23-25--…we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

I heard Benny Hinn say that he doesn’t care about streets of gold in Heaven. I quote, “I want my gold now, baby.” But here is the mind that has on the “helmet of salvation”, when we forget our carnal mind and we have the mind of Christ. In order to have that mind of Christ, we need to ask GOD to change our mind from one is puffed up, that wanders, and that is at war with GOD to one that is humble, is steady, and is at peace with GOD. And as it says in 1st Corinthians 2:16, who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ. And now we get to the last part of this “armor of GOD”.

Verse 17b
...and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God...

The sword of the Spirit. There’s a very good reason that GOD told Paul to list this part last. All the other parts have been for defense. But now we get to the one part of the armor that can also be used to go on the offensive. You see, we have to learn how to defend our position before we can go and attack an enemy. The sword a Roman soldier would use probably about 20-24 inches long. They would be used for quick, swift movements, in close quarters. There are going to be times when Satan isn’t going to stand a mile away and fire arrows at you. If we withstand his attacks long enough, he’s going to get right up in our grille. That’s when we need a word from GOD.

Now when it says that the sword of the Spirit is “the word of GOD”, it isn’t talking about the Bible in a general sense. The word “word”, refers to a specific message. One dictionary defines it as “a declaration of one’s mind made in words…a message” What Paul is saying here is, when Satan attacks, and he has exhausted all his other options, he will come against you trying to kill you. But, be ready to listen for the message GOD will give to you, so that you can fight back. Because you see, we aren’t commanded to just stand there and let Satan take all the shots at us. Sooner or later, we are going to need to fight back. And if we aren’t listening for that word from GOD, and if we aren’t able to fight back using that word from GOD, eventually Satan is going to wear us down and he’ll win.

There used to be a show on TV called, “Fight Back!” They would get letters from people who would challenge some laundry detergent, or car wax, or granola bar maker. The people who wrote in would say, “We just bought a gallon of Sudsy laundry soap. They said it would get out any stain, but it didn’t get the grass stain out of my kid’s jeans.” The guy on the show would challenge the detergent maker and the people would get their free gallon of Sudsy detergent. And at the end of the show, the guy would sign off by saying “fight back! And don’t let anyone rip you off!” What in the world does an old TV show have to do with this message? Well, in a theological kind of way, that’s what Paul is telling us in this verse. “Fight back! And don’t let Satan beat you down!” Pick up the sword that GOD will give you to fight this enemy!
You see, we need to use words that come from GOD, and not from ourselves. One fellow I read put it this way: that one verse from Scripture is more powerful than all of our philosophy. And that if Eve had only told the serpent what GOD had said, instead of trying to reason her way out of it, things would have turned out a whole lot different.

Look at the word at the beginning of this verse. “Take” the helmet and the sword. The word that Paul used does not so much mean “take”, as it means “receive”. “Receive the helmet of salvation” and “receive the word GOD will give you.” These are things that can only come from GOD. So when we put on the whole armor of GOD, when we call on Jesus to lead us in truth, when we let Him be our righteousness, when we walk in His footsteps, put our faith in Him to shield us from the enemy, let our salvation guide our thoughts, and always be ready for a message He has to give us to fight back against Satan's lies, then we will truly understand Isaiah 54:17, that says, No weapon formed against thee shall prosper.

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