Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Angels Part Six - The Armor of God

This is the sixth of eight posts based on the Bible Study Guide "Angels" by Douglas Connelly, A LifeGuide Bible Study. This study is a sequel of sorts to my previous post Angels Part 4 - The Other Side, which discussed the existence of demons and how Jesus dealt with them. I will begin where Mr. Connelly left off, by looking at a story from the Old Testament (II Kings 6:8-23). The story centers on the prophet Elisha during a time of conflict between Israel and the Arameans (neighbors to the Northeast). Apparently the King of Aram was planning some ambush maneuvers to attack the King of Israel, but every time he was about to spring his trap the King of Israel was able to avoid trouble. At first the King of Aram thinks he has a double agent in his company who is leaking battle plans to the other side, but he is informed that Elisha is able to predict his every move. As if to try to catch Elisha by surprise (good luck), the King of Aram sends forces to surround Dothan where Elisha is living. One morning Elisha's servant goes outside and finds the city surrounded. He knows the Arameans are after his boss so he is terrified and runs back to Elisha, "What shall we do?" (v. 15) Elisha assures him that "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." (v. 16) Then he prays, "O LORD, open his eyes so he may see." Now the servant can see hills full of horses and chariots of fire. The army of the Lord is there to defend them. The rest of the story is pure comedy. Elisha prays to strike the enemy blind, then deceives them a la Obi Wan Kenobi and takes them to the King of Israel, spares their lives from the King of Israel, fills their tummies and sends them home to play like good little boys. Message received: the battle belongs to the LORD. This story brings home the reality that we do have enemies in the spiritual realm, but we also have powerful allies. We are not alone in the spiritual battle, but we must be prepared.

Ephesians 6:10-20 is the Christian's Field Manual for spiritual warfare. It explains our equipment and how we are to use it. It is a familiar passage, but one that we need to review often as we go through our day to day struggles. Paul urges us to put on the full armor of God:
  • The Belt of Truth - is the first piece of armor a Roman soldier would put on. The other pieces of armor and equipment attach to this. It is central and foundational. We must know what Truth is, what is true, and what is not.
  • The Breastplate of Righteousness - protects the heart and lungs, vital organs and the center of our being. Righteousness here refers to the character of Christ
  • The Footwear of readiness that comes from the Gospel of Peace - Isaiah 52:7 (NIV) says, "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" Isaiah says these probably bare feet are beautiful. Paul describes the feet as protected and supported, ready to go where they are sent. Both bring Good News!
  • The Shield of Faith - a large shield that the Roman soldier would soak in water to combat flaming arrows shot by their enemies. Faith means total dependence on God's sovereignty. If our faith is soaked in the Living Water we can resist the flaming barbs lobbed at us by our enemy.
  • The Helmet of Salvation - protects the mind and thought life. Knowing we are saved can provide assurance in times of doubt and direction in times of temptation. The helmet is also a symbol of victory. Salvation is the ultimate victory over our enemy.
  • The Sword of the Spirit - the Word of God. This is our only offensive weapon. We must know it to use it.
The entirety of the armor and every second of battle is to be covered in prayer. Think of this as your communication link. Prayer is how we receive orders from the Commander and how we report back, ask for reinforcements, request supplies, and rejoice in victories.

There are two ditches of error that one may fall into regarding spiritual warfare. One is to consider this the predominant and primary metaphor and reality of the Christian walk. I call this seeing a demon around every corner. The danger in this worldview is that we can avoid taking personal responsibility for some of our troubles, (the devil made me do it!) and we can miss seeing God work through times of trial. The other error is to become complacent, to forget that the battle is there. This can leave us unprepared and open to attack. These are the times when I find myself depressed over remembering failures from my past or anxious about unknown problems in the future. I have to scramble to find my Helmet of Salvation and remember that Christ paid for those failures, too, and that He has given me the victory. I have to plunge my shield of faith in the Living Water and hide in the certainty that God is in control now and in the days to come. How much easier the battle would be if I were always fully prepared. The story of Elisha reminds me that the battle is real and that I am not alone.

...the One who is in [me] is greater than the one who is in the world. I John 4:4 (NIV) 


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