Pick Up Your Weapons!

The weapons of our warfare are really important in our daily walk with God, especially if we are living in light of being in the world but not of the world. The apostle Paul encourages us in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 when he says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Wow! Taking every thought captive. That’s a challenge! So many thoughts throughout the day. In order to do this constantly I think you have to become both very self-aware and very Spirit-aware, as to letting the Holy Spirit work on all of our thoughts. I think I still have lots to learn to really make effective use of these weapons.

The classic text on the weapons of warfare is Ephesians 6:14-18. They can be subdivided in three different sections. It is interesting to see that the order as they are listed is also the order in which the soldier puts on the armor.

The Spiritual Armor To Have
These pieces of the armor are the bare necessities. They are foundational, but they also always should be present. They all three indicate some sort of readiness to move forward.

1. Have Your Loins Girded With Truth (Eph. 6:14)
Technically speaking the belt of truth is not part of the armor, but is put on beforehand. When a man sat down and was relaxed, he took off his belt. Putting on the belt prepares you for action, it frees your movements, and it put him in a battle frame of mind. The belt of truth can be described as the whole of what you believe about Christ. It is a foundation you live upon all the time, your understanding of and confidence in the basic doctrines of the faith. In effect we should never take off the belt of truth. We should always be ready for action. The same idea is conveyed in Luke 12:35 (“Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit.“) and 1 Peter 1:13 (“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.“)

2. Have The Breastplate of Righteousness Put On (Eph. 6:14)
The breastplate provides protection for the vital organs. Important to here is to understand that it is Jesus’ righteousness (received by faith), not our own, that we have to put on. It is our defense against spiritual depression. It gives us a general sense of confidence, an awareness of our standing and position. Abraham believed in the LORD and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. “It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the LORD our God, just as He commanded us” (Deu. 6:25). “How blessed are those who keep justice, who practice righteousness at all times!” (Ps. 106:3). We read in Proverbs 2:1-10 all the prerequisites to discern righteousness.

3. Have Your Feet Shod With the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace (Eph. 6:15)
The idea here is a readiness for action, to take the Gospel out to the world. They are combat boots, ready not only for action, but also for longevity it is good to have good shoes. “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (Is. 52:7). Although good news is brought, you have to stand firm in your shoes to withstand the opposition. It reminds me of Galatians 1:6-9 and Paul’s call to not let the Gospel get perverted. “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” It is “always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15)

The Spiritual Armor To Take
The next three pieces of armor, on top of those you always have on (truth, righteousness, gospel), depend on the situation for them to be used.

4. Take the Shield of Faith (Eph. 6:16)
Faith is represented as a shield, protecting us from the arrows of the devil. It makes me think of the movie “300” where the Spartan in close formation completely protect themselves from the enemy. No arrows come through. It is also interesting that Paul specifically talks about arrows. These are not weapons for close combat, and they were often used for surprise attacks from far off. The attacks which are less obvious. It is our faith that protects us here as a shield.

5. Take the Helmet of Salvation (Eph. 6:17)
The helmet of salvation protects us against discouragement, against the desire to give up, giving us hope not only in knowing that we are saved, but that we will be saved. It is the assurance that God will triumph. When we are properly equipped with the helmet of salvation, it’s hard to stay discouraged.

6. Take the Sword of the Spirit – the Word of God (Eph. 6:17)
The Word of God is the only piece of armor used for attacking the enemy. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12). I think that’s interesting. It reminds me of Jesus in the wilderness and how three times in a row he uses Scripture. It seems like he is defending Himself instead of attacking, but the devil did leave Him, like James says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jam. 4:7). Think of a soldier or a gladiator in training, practicing sword thrusts and moves and positions. Now, he must practice them ahead of time, and if he is a superior fighter, and has a great fighting instinct, at the time of battle he will instantly recall which thrust, which position suits the precise moment. He will never be able to use the thrust in the fight if he has not first practiced it, but he still needs to make the move at the moment. Therefore, effectively using the sword takes practice. Lots of practice.

The Spiritual Strength
The whole armor comes together in one thing: prayer.

7. Pray in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18-20)
The weapons for warfare are spiritual because they are rooted in prayer, which is our most powerful resource. Prayer is to permeate believers’ lives as a universal practice. There are three aspects here: when (at all times), how (with all prayer, alertness and perseverance), and for whom (for all the saints). “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom. 8:26-27). And prayer for what? To make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, that in proclaiming it I may be be spoken boldly, as it ought to be spoken!

The Fear of the Lord #1 – The Definition

The fear of the Lord is one of those topics which most of the time lead to much confusion about what it really means and despair perhaps on how to obtain it. We read in Acts 9:31 that “the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.” And so it seems that a fear of the Lord is next to the comfort of the Holy Spirit an important part of increasing the church, which translates itself into disciples being made. And so the fear of the Lord is an important aspect of discipleship and your own personal walk with God, and that’s why we read, “Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name” (Psalm 86:11). It is a personal application. Let’s start with a definition.

In the Old Testament the Hebrew word “yir’ah” is used for fear. In the New Testament the Greek word “phobos” is used to describe fear. The fear of the Lord is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, as described in Isaiah 11:2-3, “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear“. The Catholic Encyclopedia explains that this gift “fills us with a sovereign respect for God, and makes us dread, above all things, to offend Him.”

Fear in this context is often misinterpreted as a fear of getting in trouble, when it should be understood as a fear of offending someone whom you love. “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;” (Philippians 2:12). The fear of the Lord should include a place for trembling. Just as one would likely tremble in the presence of the one who could take your life, so Jesus taught us to the fear the Lord when He says in Matthew 10:28 “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

A proper fear of the Lord should then include reverence and awe, being afraid to offend God in any way, and a trembling if one knows they have offended God and have not obtained forgiveness. Without the fear of the Lord we cannot please God. “Thus says the LORD, Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being, declares the LORD, but to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:1-2). We should tremble at His word to receive His mercy.

A Life Led by the Spirit #2 – Realization

So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:12-17)

The next couple of verses will deal with the realization of the obligation of what we owe and who we are in Christ. We need to get this right in order to understand the benefits and the ultimate price.

Get Your Debt Right
So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:12-13)
We owe nothing to the flesh. We are not in its debt, and therefore do not need to do its service. For are no longer slaves to the flesh. We need to put to death the deeds of the body, force our sinful nature to submit to the Spirit, and do this by the Spirit. If not by the Spirit then we will try on our own effort, on our own account, which leads to pride. So, it’s not only justification, where we are saved by the work of the Holy Spirit, but also sanctification, where we must walk by the Spirit in order to grow and pursue holiness in the LORD. Don’t be like the Galatians to which Paul writes in Galatians 3:3, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” It’s a constant process that will be completed upon physical death.

Get Your Sonship Right
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!‘” (Romans 8:14-15)
It makes sense, right? If you’re led by the Spirit of God you’ll be the son of God. Yet it’s not a precondition. We become sons first and then the Spirit leads us. It’s reverse logic. Think you are the son of God? Well, are you led by the Spirit? Do you let the Spirit guide you, draw you, have authority over you, and so you do this all with joy and submissiveness? And does this lead to repentance and think much of God and little of yourself? Does it lead you into the truth, into love, into holiness? Again, do you do this all with joy? For the law of the Spirit is not under bondage and fear, but under joy, for it makes you cry out Abba (Daddy!).

Evidence and Benefits
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:16-17)
But then again, if you know, you know, because the Spirit testifies of His own presence in us. In Deuteronomy 19:15 we read that by Jewish law “on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed” and so there are two witnesses to your salvation: your own witness and the witness of the Holy Spirit. So, if you realize this then the next step is to realize what the benefits are of being a child of God. And that’s being an heir. Which means that there is an inheritance too, right? The inheritance is a matter of being (not doing). Being in the family of God. Now, this doesn’t mean you are exempt from suffering, for we all share in the suffering of Christ (again, sanctification) which will lead to glorification. Now, justification will always lead to glorification, yet here it is talking about inheritance (in contrast to salvation alone), in other words conditions to our specific destiny. We cannot imagine what this really means, “for just as it is written, things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Now in terms of suffering, Jesus promised us trials and tribulation (not to be confused with the Great Tribulation, which is solely for Israel) when He said, “‘These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.‘” (John 16:33). We could pretend these sufferings will not happen, or become overly anxious and fear for these sufferings, but we should be like Jesus and like Paul. Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 and draw your conclusions on how he measured success.

Now let me close off with some reverse logic. In order to be glorified with Jesus and be fellow heirs, we have to suffer with Jesus, which can only happen if the Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, which means that we are led by Spirit, which means we live by the Spirit and have put to death our sinful nature. So, where to start? Indeed.