Today we are going to look at spiritual warfare and the armor of God.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil 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 firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, Ephesians 6:10-17
As a new Christian, I went to a small Assembly of God church. Two things you heard a lot about in this church were hell and the devil. I was taught that in order to fight the devil, you needed to put on the whole armor of God. I was taught to do that by speaking on the armor of God first thing every morning. There came a point in my walk with Jesus where I became a little confused about my armor. Temptation wasn’t going anywhere, or there were days of my mind being a battlefield and I wondered if I accidentally took off my helmet of salvation or how often I was supposed to put it on.
For the record, putting on the whole armor of God is not as easy as speaking on some invisible suit. When Paul writes this, he is using military imagery. The big idea isn’t that every Christian should wear an Iron Man suit. Paul is communicating that the Christian life is war. This is about fighting a good fight and facing a very real enemy. How many here this morning feel like you are in a battle? You feel like the closer you get to Jesus, the harder the battle becomes. If that is you this morning, the Lord has a word for you so be encouraged.
The Armor of God
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Ephesians 6:11
Here’s what we need to understand about this passage: When Paul charges you and me to put on the whole armor of God so that we will stand against the devil, he’s not charging you as an individual. He is charging you as Remedy. He is charging you as a church. He is charging you collectively as an army to take your cover and to stand your ground.
When Paul wrote this letter, he wrote it to the church and it was read together as a church. This fight isn’t only about you – this fight is together. Our fight is for one another. We were never meant to fight battles alone. You know who fights battles alone? Rambo does, and Rambo always wins. But Rambo is an actor. Battles are not won by individuals or actors; battles are won by armies.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12
Here’s the truth: We do wrestle against flesh and blood. We do fight against our spouses and our kids and our parents and our in-laws. We do fight against injustice and against technology and temptation. Paul is saying that while that is happening, it isn’t the real fight. The real fight is a spiritual one. It’s the world within this world, the darkness behind the darkness. There is a spiritual reality that exists.
Do you know someone who has been to the war and comes back different? We call that PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). One of the symptoms of PTSD is having a constant alertness. Soldiers who have been to the war come back this way because they’ve seen things and experienced danger. They’ve been in the thick of battle and seen casualties, so it would only make sense that they would come back different.
Some of you are like that. You’re very in tune with the spiritual war around you. You recognize the enemy’s voice and know his tactics. You are on the alert because you’ve been to the war and you realize that you’re still in one. You know what it’s like to fight. Others of you have no clue because the war in your mind isn’t really happening. I believe that if we had a vision of the spiritual war that is happening, it would cause one of two reactions.
1. It would heighten your awareness like never before. It would bring us awareness about how many lies we are being attacked with on a daily basis, and how much demons want influence on our kids. We need to be on guard, alert, warning one another, praying for one another, praying for our leaders, praying for our kids, and being more intentional about discipling them. We need to be praying for our unsaved lost ones, and paying for our spouses and guarding their hearts like never before.
2. The other reaction would be, “I did not sign up for this. This is too much. I have too much going on in my life to lay it down like that. I’ll send a check from a distance, but that’s it. I don’t have time for this. I didn’t sign up for war. I signed up for Jesus to be part of my life.”
A few years ago on social media, you may remember seeing celebrities and politicians holding up signs that said, “Bring back our girls.” That came from a horrible event that happened a few years back when dozens of heavily armed terrorists rolled into a little town one night and made their way into a girls’ boarding school. High school girls were asleep in their dormitory and woke to gunfire. The attackers stormed the school, set it on fire, and herded the girls into vehicles and vanished. That was in April 2014 in Northern Nigeria.
The girls were kidnapped by a Muslim group called Boko Haram and these girls were ages 15 to 18. They knew the risks of seeking an education. Schools in the area closed down a month before because they were afraid an event like this would happen, but this school reopened so that the girls could take their final exams. The girls were expected to become teachers, doctors, or lawyers, but instead they were auctioned off for $12 each to become wives of militants. About 50 girls escaped but 276 are still missing, and the government did nothing to recover them. That’s a horrifying event and I believe Satan himself was behind it. As a father who has three daughters, I could not imagine this kind of horror happening to me.
Our battle is much like this story. Church, do you know that you have an enemy? A legitimate real enemy that hates you? Your enemy is not flesh and blood. Your enemy is Satan and his demonic forces. He’s taken your family members, your friends, your parents, your children, your spouse captive. Our war is not against the captives – our war is against their captors! We have unsaved loved ones who are waiting to be rescued.
The war is real, church! We have a real enemy and his strategies are deception, temptation, accusations, grief, guilt, doubt, anger, jealousy, selfish ambition, hindering the mission of God, snatching the Word before people can understand it, blinding unbelievers, false teaching, lying, murder, counterfeit signs and wonders.
If you leave here today seeing a bigger Satan than a bigger Jesus, you may have missed the bigger picture. My hope in this is to prepare you and encourage you in the battle you’re already in.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Ephesians 6:10
Paul says to be strong. How are we to be strong? In the Lord Jesus and in His strength! Be highly dependent on Jesus to show up in your fight. Paul calls us to take up the whole armor of God.
The Belt of Truth
Beginning in verse 14, he starts with the belt of truth. The belt was considered to be at the core of the armor, holding it together. In John 8:44, Jesus says that Satan is the father of lies. Lying is his native language, and all he’s ever done is lie. Do you know that some of us are believing lies this morning? Satan has been speaking lies to many of us for a long time and these lies have deep roots. Satan wants you to believe you’ll be happier if only… “If only I had that promotion, life would be easier. If only I were married, I’d be on the right track. If only my kids moved out, I’d have some time for myself and a Sabbath. If only my spouse changes. If only I lose weight.”
If Satan can get us to dwell on the future, he can rob us of this present grace. He can steal our joy for today. The truth is, you are loved and accepted by God today and not for some future version of yourself. How are you fighting the lies? What truths are you speaking over your mind and your heart? If you’re not even sure how to begin doing that, get a journal or a whiteboard and start journaling or writing out the lies on one side, and on the other, fill it with truth. Fill it with scripture, and begin to meditate on that. Let the Holy Spirit of God grip your heart and renew your mind as you tell yourself the truth.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
The Breastplate of Righteousness
For the Roman soldier, to be wounded in the chest with a spear, sword, or arrow could be fatal. The soldier wore a breastplate covering his heart and lungs for protection. Satan wants to attack us where it hurts. He wants our hearts – he wants to use your weaknesses against you.
Another title for Satan is the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). One of the voices Satan would have you believe is the one of condemnation. “You call yourself a Christian, and you talk to your wife like that? You talk to your kids that way? If only they knew. You’re such a failure. Don’t even think about going to Community Group – you’re not good enough! You’re never going to change. You should be ashamed of yourself.” These are all lies.
The truth is, we’re not good enough. We all fall short of the glory of God every day. If Satan can get us to focus on our righteousness (or lack of righteousness) rather than the righteousness of Christ, he’s already disarmed us. The breastplate is meant to protect us. The righteousness of Christ is our defense against the accuser.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— Philippians 3:9
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
The Gospel Shoes
Paul goes on to the Gospel shoes. Shoes were extremely important for a soldier in the heat of a battle. Footwork was needed to ensure that you didn’t get killed. Their shoes were like cleats to give them a solid stance on rocky ground. The application here is to be ready with the Gospel.
Be ready with the Gospel that we have for the world, for those who are captive. The Gospel we have is the good news that God purchased peace by the death of His Son and offers peace to those of us who believe in Jesus. Remember your story and what Jesus rescued you from. Remember the darkness, the depravity, the bondage, the chains… remember how blind you were, but now you see! Jesus has saved you and redeemed you. When God called you into His kingdom, He did not rescue you only to have a personal relationship with Him. He has rescued you to proclaim His glorious Gospel to those who have not believed. He has sent us to rescue captives from captivity – this is war!
Christian, are you ready with the Gospel? There is a war for the souls of men and women, and are you ready? Do you see yourself as sent on mission by Jesus, for Jesus? Are you looking for opportunities for the Gospel? In our culture, we’re used to relational evangelism, where we build a relationship with our neighbors and coworkers and hope for an opportunity one day to share the Gospel with them or that they will see our good deeds and want Jesus (or lack of, and not want Jesus). But the Gospel is a message and we’ve got to use words, which means a conversation needs to happen. The Spirit of God still prompts us and moves our hearts to tell our neighbor or our coworker about Jesus, even when it’s out of our comfort zone.
Are you looking for opportunities for the Gospel? If not, you should be. We should be. In the heat of battle, we can offer sinners peace with God.
“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.” -Charles Spurgeon
Gospel shoes are what we stand on. As enlisted soldiers, we stand together. We keep Jesus at the center of this church, at the center of our community groups, and at the center of our relationships. We apply the Gospel to each other and remind each other that our foundation and identity come from Jesus. We stand on Jesus until He comes back or until He takes us home.
The Shield of Faith
The Roman shield was practically a door. It was not used at all times, but especially used when trying to overtake an enemy’s wall. For example, as you pushed forward into enemy territory, you needed your shield. As you got to the enemy’s walls, you were absolutely vulnerable because the enemy was up high and you were down low. The enemy would do whatever necessary to cause alarm and panic to try to create a retreat. They would hurl down flaming arrows at you, so you needed your shield for protection.
Many believe that the flaming arrows are thoughts from the enemy, and there’s definitely application there. But Paul may be talking about something else. I believe that the flaming arrows are a reference to trials and suffering.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 1 Peter 4:12
The shield of faith isn’t something you use at all times in the battle. It’s something you pick up and use for those darkest of times. The shield is for those times that are confusing, when all hell seems to break lose. The shield is for disappointments and the unexpected.
Flaming arrows from the enemy’s camp are meant to shock you and alarm you. The purpose is to get you to retreat. Have you ever been hit like that? You’re serving God, you’re loving Jesus, you’re connecting with others, you’re praying, you’re growing, and then all of a sudden, you get hit hard. Why? Because you were pressing forward and you were closing in on the enemy’s walls. Spoiler alert: he doesn’t like that!
Taking the shield of faith means you are trusting that God is for your joy. If God is for you, who can be against you? Taking the shield of faith means you believe that God is with you no matter how lonely you get or how depressed you are. Taking the shield of faith means that no weapon formed against you shall prosper. Taking the shield of faith means we see our trials through the lens of Romans 8:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose…For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:28, 38-39
Helmet of Salvation
Jesus never said the battle would be easy – it’s war. According to a report by the US Army, over half of the American soldiers who fought in WWII would have been killed had they not worn their helmets. The enemy can’t read our minds, but he can plant doubts there. He would love nothing more than for you to be confused about your true identity. He would love for you to believe that you are really made in the image of what other people think about you.
You were created in the image of God, so your identity, your value, your worth are connected to your Creator. Our shortcomings do not define us. Our jobs should not define us. How much we make an hour should not define us. The older we get should not define us. Our education or lack thereof should not define us. Our past does not define us.
Ephesians tells us that we have inherited every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. In God’s unconditional love, we were predestined before the foundation of the world. We have been adopted into His family. We have redemption by His love. We are forgiven, Church! Paul says that our inheritance is in Jesus. We were once dead in our sin, but through the Gospel call have been spiritually raised from the dead. That means you have been saved by grace. Our peace is in Jesus. We are members of the household of God. We are citizens of a new Kingdom. We have access to the Father through the Holy Spirit. We are the dwelling place of God. Part of our warfare is to intercept lies by holding them hostage and handing them over to Jesus.
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:5
The Sword of the Spirit
The sword is our weapon of offense. This is the weapon we fight back with: the Word of God. If you stop reading this book, you might as well surrender. If you stop studying the scriptures, you might as well surrender. If you stop memorizing the Word of God, you surrender. If you stop submitting to the truth of the Bible because you’ve been walking with Jesus for way too long and you think you don’t really have to submit to its truth anymore, you surrender. If you stop going to church and being under the preaching of the Bible, you surrender.
Life is hard, so you put down your Bible, you stop going to church for a while, and some of your complications go away. Things get a little easier for you. You know why that is? Because you’ve joined the enemy’s team! He’s not going to attack you because you’re no longer a threat to him when you’ve dropped your weapon.
Every time you pick up your Bible and ask God to speak to you, or lead your family to church to worship Jesus even when you don’t feel like it, you declare war on the kingdom of darkness. Every time we pick up the word of God, we are declaring war on Satan, demon, the kingdom of darkness, and lies.
What’s the whole purpose of this armor anyway? Remember, we’re not speaking on an Iron Man suit. Paul is giving us the image of war: it’s a battle, it’s a fight. Ephesians 6:11 says, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”
If we are not standing in all that Christ has done for us and in the truths of who He is and who we are because of who He is, then we are not standing! The enemy would love nothing more than for you to fall: fall into despair, fall into confusion, fall into loneliness, fall into false identities, fall into false doctrines, fall into temptation, and fall into sin. Put on the whole armor of God that you may stand.