I Am A Warrior
Long ago a home was a person’s castle, but not anymore. The evil of the world comes in through newspapers and magazines, through the radio and television, and within my lifetime we’ve added the internet, smartphones, and social media. You can touch the world from your castle, and the world can touch you back—there’s no drawbridge, everything invades.
Throughout Christian history folks have tried to unplug from the world. The were the desert fathers, like Anthony the Great, who walked into the desert for 20 years. There was a guy named Simon who lived for 37 years on of a pillar. Some Christians communities try to unplug and separate from the world today too, but it’s not full possible. Some Amish communities are using electricity and have computers.
I understand why these folks want to get away from the evil in the world. And yet separation isn’t the way of Jesus. In his high priestly prayer, Jesus prayed: “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). So there you have it! “Keep them in the world, Father, but armor them up,” Jesus said.
Today I’m going to be taking about spiritual warfare and putting on the armor of God. So if you have you Bible or Bible apps, please turn to Ephesians 6. This is going to be our very last message in Ephesians.
Ephesians 6:10–20, ESV.
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, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
The New Testament never sugarcoats anything. It doesn’t really give a rosy picture of anything until you get to the last chapters of Revelation. It tells us that if you are a Jesus follower, the world is going to hate you. Oh, you can be spiritual and religious, just don’t say the name of Jesus.
In 1942, C.S. Lewis wrote a novel called The Screwtape Letters in which an older demon is portrayed teaching a younger demon how to lead humanity astray. At one point the older demon says, “A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all—and more amusing.” “Moderated religion” = keep it simple, keep it sweet, keep it about self and self-help, and keep the Son of God out of it. That kind of religion is better than no religion, says the demon.
Friends, I want you to understand that it’s not just the horribly stuff like the holocaust and drug addition and adultery that is evil. When the right things aren’t emphasized, when the right things are brushed under the rug that’s evil too.
And so out battle as Christians is not merely against flesh and blood in other people, but against spiritual power and potentates, unseen principalities that are behind all evil, controlling the minds and hearts of men and thus directing their activities.
The Bible is trying to awaken us to the reality of this battle. It calls us to action. And sometimes the best offense is a great defense—we saw this truth on display in this year’s low scoring Super Bowl. It was the lowest scoring of all time.
How then shall we fight? Well, Paul calls us to be warriors in two ways. He says: (1) “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might,” and then (2) “Put on the whole armor of God” (Eph 6:10–11). These are my points for the message.
Be Strong in the Lord
So, the first instruction: “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Eph 6:10). What does that means and how do I do it?
Well, it’s not an incantation. Please don’t go around trying to autosuggest to yourself something by repeating it a thousand times. That’s not Christianity.
Many will hear the call to BE STRONG, and they say, “Finally! I’ve been waiting for a chance to use my Karate.” But please remember that God is Spirit and God is Love, so the call here is to a spirit strength of the soul.
I think we’re very used to thinking of strength as opposite to gentleness, softness and tenderness. Yet this is not always true. During World War 1 British fighter pilots made an amazing discovery, that thick layers of silk stopped low velocity shrapnel better than steel. So they wound the silk around their heads and then wore leather horse riding helmets on top of the silk.
Scientists still aren’t sure just what it is that gives silk its strength, but it’s true, that in certain situations soft, gentle, tender silk can prove far stronger than cold, hard steel.
Some folks try to make themselves impenetrable to others: “You won’t hurt me!” Some folks try to beat others into submission: “Onward Christian soldiers!” We don’t, honestly, need God’s strength to kick someone’s teeth in, or to plunge the earth into a nuclear winter. We do such just fine in our own strength.
But do you know how Jesus fought? His warfare didn’t look like warfare; he turned the other cheek (Matt 5:39).
When I was in elementary school I remember two older guys who were fighting after school. In the middle of the fight—all of a sudden—one guy stopped. He just stood there and kept walking toward the other guy, as the other guy landed blow after blow to his face. Do you know what happened next? The guy who was striking the blows stopped and walked away. Who won? Well, they were both still standing. But the guy who took the blows won. Why? Because once he exerted his will to absorb the blows, the fight soon ended—his will prevailed.
To fight for the things of God we have to fight in the manner of God. And God doesn’t fight like the world. He’s methods aren’t self-protective. The cross is God’s taking it on the chin himself to defeat sin—think about that. God fights with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Do you fight that way? Often I don’t, most of the time I’m not filled with those traits at all. I’m spiritually weak; I’m sick. When evil lands a blow on me, I confess that my heart hardens most of the time. I think we can all understand that. But… just because it’s normal, doesn’t mean it’s okay.
Can we get real? I mean can we drop the show and confess the hardness of our hearts? Can we confess lack of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? We can own it right now, right here, because of Jesus. He said: “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent” (Luke 5:31–32).
That’s a word of grace. And grace changes everything. As you rely on it, as you trust its sufficiency for you, Jesus’ might is made effectual in you.
This world is very unhappy. People don’t know what to do or where to turn. But when they see someone who is calm and at peace and full of self-control when they’re treated unfairly at work, or when calamity hits at home, or when they return love for hatred, when people run into strength of the Lord that empowers you—and maybe it powers you through tears on you pillow, enabling you finally to sleep—they become convicted. And some people even ask about it. Why this love and kindness and patience? Why that and not anger and hostility and defensiveness and destruction?
And there you are… the battle is first within us. The Lord’s strengths spiritual; it empowers you inner being with the sufficient of his grace. And that brings me to my next point.
Put on the Armor of God
No warrior goes to battle without some type of equipment. In our text, Paul calls out 7 things to make us perfectly equipped for battle.
1. The Belt of Truth
A Roman soldier’s belt was an leather apron-like piece that extended down his thighs, protecting the lower abdomen. And when moving quickly the soldier would tuck his robe into his belt. Have you heard the phrase: “gird up your loins”? It means get ready for action, get your robe tucked in. And so, Paul is telling us to to gird up our loins for action, although not with a leather belt, but with the truth of God.
But what is truth? Pontus Pilate, the Roman governor who tried Jesus, put that question to Jesus with a sneer in his voice. And Jesus responded, “I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true” (John 18:37). Jesus isn’t saying that truth is what you make of it; he’s saying: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), “I am the eternal Word that became flesh. I am full of truth. I am the embodiment of the truth about man and about God” (cf. John 1:14).
When there’s no foundational truth, everything is subjective, everything is in flux, everything in chaos, everything is an argument. You really can’t talk to anyone. But Jesus ends the chaos by pointing at himself and saying: “I am truth.”
2. The Breastplate of Righteousness
The second piece of equipment is the breastplate of righteousness. Well, what’s righteousness? Righteousness is being in “right standing” with God. If you were to be utterly safe in the presence of the Holy God—if you took holiness seriously—you would need to be without guilt or moral culpability, conforming to God’s standard of holiness; your character would need to perfectly coincide with his character, and your thoughts and attitudes and behavior would have to follow.
When you think about that, how do you grade yourself?
No perfect scores? The enemy will use it against you, then. He’ll throw your sins in your face; he won’t let you forget them; he’ll say God doesn’t love you cause you’re dirty, ratbag sinner; He won’t bless you cause you’re filthy; you’re not even a Christian.
Martin Luther suggested that you don the breastplate of righteousness, give the following reply: “When the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: ‘I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!’”
“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Cor 5:21). Righteousness is being “Right with God.” And that’s a gift God gave you in Jesus, so wear it.
3. Shoes for Your Feet
But you also nee to wear proper footwear. Dancers need the right shoes, athletes need the right shoes, warriors need the right shoes.
Did you know that in Ancient Rome they didn’t have land mines. They just buried spikes under the ground and camouflaged them with leaves and dirt. So soldiers wore boots with small nails that stuck out like modern cleats to protect their feet. You might be strengthened in the inner-man, you might have some armor, but if you can’t walk, then you can’t fight.
There’s a bit of irony here… Paul says, “Get shoes for your feet, which is readiness given by the gospel of peace, so you can do battle.” What? Yup. Get “gospel peace” so you can wage war successfully. He’s talking about a gospel peace in you, not a gospel peace extended to “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6).
To put on the shoes is to understand that God didn’t give us the gospel simply so we could be converted. He gave us the gospel so we could stand each in truth. When you preach the gospel to yourself, when you appropriate the peace you have with God through Christ, several things happen:
- Your love for God and others increases;
- Your pride is humbled; and
- You learn to glorify God in all things, even life’s difficulties.
You stand in trials and tempests.
4. Shield of Faith
If you’ve ever stood against the world for Jesus, even walked the way of Jesus in a participant situation and not the way of the word, then perhaps you know that that isn’t always a cake walk. The world, the flesh, and the devil will fire arrows at you, trying to pull you away from the purposes of God. Because this is so, Paul says, “Take up the shield of faith in all circumstances.”
What that means is actively trusting God. The key is active faith. It’s one things to say, “I believe that there must be a God,” and leave it at that. It’s quite another thing to be relying upon God, applying his truth to your life, trusting him in your inner-man to walk in the light.
Roman soldiers had two kinds of shields. One was smaller and used for close combat. The other was was 4-feet tall by 2-feet wide. They could hide behind this shield, forming walls by putting the shields together. One ancient soldier actually reported having over 200 enemy arrows embedded in his shield after an intense battle!
When things opposed to God come against you and against your reflecting God in your manner of life in this world; when even your own sin knocks you down; take up the shield by actively looking at God’s promises and deciding to rely them. This is what King David did: “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. I called on the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies” (Psa 18:2–3).
5. The Helmet of Salvation
Sometimes you go places and you see a sign that reads, “Watch Your Head.” That doesn’t mean talk your eyes out and look at your face. It means pay attention that you don’t knock your head off. You might have known this, but I wanted to make sure.
Let’s go back to the Roman solder. Before going into battle the soldier would put on his helmet. It was made of bronze or leather and had cheek flaps to protect his face. And protecting his head was important cause it houses the brain and without a brain, well …
Now, think about this, how you think about things pretty much informs how you feel about things, which informs how you act. There’s some interplay between thoughts, feels, and behaviors, but I really do think that thoughts dominate. For example, if you’re angry in the moment, it’s because—to be perfectly frank—you’re thinking selfishly: “I have my rights! I’m not going to let that person treat me that way! I want my way!” Or if you’re depressed, it’s because you’re thinking selfishly: “I have a great plan for my life, but it’s not happening. Woe is me.” In both of my examples your thoughts are on yourself.
Okay, so … here’s my point: Your head determines how you function in all of life.
Therefore, Paul says, “Protect your head with the helmet of salvation;” in other words, learn to think biblically. Don’t be naive; don’t be confused; don’t get taken for a ride; don’t bow to false teachings; don’t jump on the cultural bandwagon; don’t be stuck on yourself. Instead saturated your mind with the gospel of Jesus. Interpret and relate to the world out of that truth.
6. The Sword of the Spirit
Now, imagine that you’re a warrior ready for battle. You have all of your armor on and then you run off into battle. That would be a suicide mission. Cause you’re missing something. What?
When David went up against Goliath he was thinking with the mind of Christ, he was trusting the Lord, but he didn’t go empty handed. He took his sling.
So Paul talks about our weapon. He says it comes from the Holy Spirit, then tells us that it is the Word of God, which “is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12).
But it is the “The sword of the Spirit,” it comes from the Spirit of God, meaning the Words of scripture are inspired, God-breathed. Scripture didn’t come to us through the will of man.
I like something that John Wesley said about the authorship of the Bible: “The Bible must have been written by God or good men or bad men or good angels or bad angels. But bad men and bad angels would not write it because it condemns bad men and bad angels. And good men and good angels would not deceive by lying about its authority and claiming that God wrote it. And so the Bible must have been written as it claims to have been written—by God who by His Holy Spirit inspired men to record His words using the human instrument to communicate His truth.”
You know words have power. Just think of how words have torn you down or lifted you up. How someone’s words have changed your direction in life or healed deep pains. Well, God accomplishes his purposes through his word. His word exposes sin, and it forgives sin, and it restores the soul.
The scriptures are our sword. But be cautious… to wield this sword, you must know it well.
7. Pray At All Times
The last piece of equipment or tool Paul tells us about is prayer.
I confess to you that prayer is a difficult topic for me to talk about. Some Christians pastors have written about how prayer should be a delight for the believer, but I’ve never really found it that way.
Prayer is more of a yearning for me. It’s not an exercise routine, or a duty, or even vending machine transaction. When you look at prayer like this, you miss the point entirely.
Over the past 15 or so years of my life prayer has changed. It’s become a relational lurching or a lunging for God. It’s become an orientation of my need towards God. And as it’s become this it’s also become far more relational.
Ya know, there’s a passage in the Bible that talks about “pray without ceasing” (1 These 5:17). I used to think that meant blabbering on and on. It doesn’t mean that. The Greek word translated “without ceasing” was also used of a hacking cough. Someone with a hacking cough doesn’t cough every second, but he coughs repeatedly and often. He doesn’t go long without coughing.
So… that’s how we’re to pray: often and regularly, lurching at God with needy souls, yearning for his presence, aligning with his Word, dependent upon his forgiveness, his blessings, his direction, his power, his heartbeat. That’s how you pray in the Spirit, and prayer keeps warriors connected their commander.
As I close I wonder if you remember reading about or seeing a movie about the scene where Jesus is on the cross. Through the mouth of one of the thieves next to him the Devil speaks: “If you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!” (Matt 27:40).
Jesus could have you know. He really could have come down. If he can heal a man, and give sight to the blind, raise a dead man, and walk on water, then, he could gotten off that cross. But he chose to remain there.
Enduring the cross defeated the Devil. How so? Because he didn’t do what the world usually does; he didn’t fight back on his own behalf; he didn’t seek to save himself. He simply cleaved to the Father with all of his might: “You are enough for me, Father. You love me, Father. I don’t need to change the plan” … his final words were words from Psalm 31, words of the Spirit’s sword, words that connected him to the Father: “Into your hands I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, Lord, God of truth” (Psa 31:6). That’s spiritual warfare!
And… the Father was not late or weak to redeem him. In the Father’s time and in the Spirit’s power, Jesus rose from the grave.
You and I were created to be the image of God on earth, to reflect his light like the moon reflects the light of the sin. We were created to be like Jesus. So reflecting Jesus’ work, letting it echo, letting it resound, letting his passion be repeated our lives is who we fight the war against evil. Amen.