The Whole Armor

To resist the devil, to succeed in spiritual warfare, we need spiritual equipment, so God has provided His very own armor for us: the armor of God, and He tells us to put it on — all of it. (Ep 6:11)

This is necessary because our enemies are mightier than we are, more insidious and clever, more committed and experienced than we are; we’re fighting against principalities and powers, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (12) So we’re to take up all of God’s armor, not neglecting a single piece of it, so we can survive the battle and be standing when the dust clears. (13)

There are seven pieces in this suit of armor: a belt of truth and a breastplate of righteousness (14), the shin-plates and shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace (15), the shield of faith (16), the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, the word of God (17) and prayer (18) – that constant communion with God which empowers the armor and helps it all work together.

Taking this armor, wearing and using it, is more than imagining that we’re putting on physical equipment and calling each piece by name, or fantasizing ourselves in virtual reality overcoming the dragon — much more than this.

The first piece, the belt of truth, is the foundation anchoring the breastplate and sword. We gird ourselves with truth, enveloping the core of our being, never tolerating any lying way within. We buy the truth and sell it not (Pr 23:23), not for any price, not ever. Without the love of truth we have no armor at all (2Th 2:10); walking in the lie we’re prisoners of war. (2Ti 2:25-26)

The breastplate of righteousness is our primary defensive armor, covering the vital organs; it’s the life pattern of obedience to Torah and springs from walking in light, obeying the truth. It comprises not merely positional righteousness; it’s faith in action, practical righteousness, loving in deed as well as in word. (1Jn 3:18) This is life-saving protection when the enemy strikes past our sword and shield; the good conscience of living in truth helps us abound in hope, glorying in trial (Ro 5:3), counting it all joy (Ja 1:2), not withering in shame. (1Jn 2:28)

The preparation of the gospel of peace is a second defensive covering; being rooted and grounded in the basics of the gospel, equipped to continually remind ourselves as well as share with others, this orients us properly in the world. This protects our feet and legs, for this is how we stand, how we journey. There is no standing outside of Christ, so we carefully defend our dependence on Christ: He is our peace (Ep 2:14), made to be sin on our behalf (1Co 5:21), reconciling us to God. (2Co 5:18) We glory only in Jesus Christ. (1Co 1:31)

The shield of faith, supernatural confidence in God, is the mobile defensive piece –  the rest of the armor is fixed in place. We maneuver and position this shield to intercept the lies projected into us, which tempt us to fear, bitterness, strife and envy. We hold faith strategically, anticipating the lies, applying the promises of God in context to address each one.

The helmet of salvation is assurance of eternal salvation and security in Christ. (2Co 13:5) Failing to keep and maintain assurance of salvation destabilizes and incapacitates our souls, leaving us vulnerable to attack. (2Pe 1:10) We cannot joyfully serve Christ while we’re unsure if we even belong to Him. (9)

The word of God is the sword of the Spirit, our only offensive weapon. Without this we aren’t really in the fight at all, just a target waiting to be taken down. Taking up this sword requires hiding it in our hearts and meditating on it regularly, training ourselves so the Spirit can wield it as we quote when presented with any lie or temptation. This is the example of Christ (Mt 4:4, 7, 10); we follow His steps. (1Pe 2:21) There’s no other way to win.

The final piece is prayer, a weapon empowering all the other components to work together in the might of God. (2Co 10:4) In asking anything according to His will, He hears us (1Jn 5:14), engaging omnipotence in overcoming evil. (Ep 1:19)

We’re to take the whole armor of God, every single piece, because none of the individual pieces work properly without all the others working together. We might think of God’s armor as a single piece with many interconnected parts which all stand or fall together, a single living organism, energized by the life of God and infusing us with divine power. Take away one piece, and you’ve nothing worth having.

This spiritual armor is the very life of Christ in us, overcoming the evil one, each piece a way of portraying Christ Himself, the Word of Life (1Jn 1:1), the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn 14:6), our righteousness (1Co 1:30), our peace (Ep 2:14), our life (Col 3:4), standing with us and in us to overcome the world. (Jn 16:33)

Taking up the whole armor of God is, in a very real sense, bringing God Himself into the battle to fight within us, through us, and for us. (De 20:4) For without Him, we can do nothing. (Jn 15:5)

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Resist the Devil

God tells us to resist the Devil so he will flee from us. (Ja 4:7b) What does this mean, and how do we do it?

If we’re ignorant of the basics of spiritual warfare we might fall into Pentecostal witchcraft, white magic, employing rituals and techniques such as pleading the blood of Christ over our homes or places of worship, or reciting specially formulated prayers hoping to bind Satan and control him.

Or we might fall into simplistically imagining that we’re putting on spiritual armor (Ep 6:11), dressing up for battle like a gladiator in some virtual arena, giving spiritual labels to our helmet and breastplate, sword and shield. But in the end such deception only adds confusion to our suffering — it isn’t the way of the Word.

The immediate context illuminates: we resist the devil by submitting to God. (7a) Satan’s ultimate objective is always to alienate us from God; this is the only direction he ever pushes us, never towards God. So, as we pursue God and seek His face we’re going upstream in the satanic current, fighting into the headwinds of his tempests – resisting his temptations and intent in our lives.

So, we resist the Devil by drawing nigh to God (8a), as we start obeying Him more carefully, focusing our hearts more toward Him and His Word, putting off our carnal mind, rooting out our doublemindedness. (8b) We grieve and mourn and weep over our sin, afflicting ourselves (9) and calling upon God to heal us, quicken us, waiting on Him to help us. We see our sin more as it truly is, ourselves more as we truly are, and humble ourselves (10a), esteeming others better (Php 2:3), acknowledging that we’d be unspeakably worse without His aid, rejoicing in God alone (2Co 10:17), and then God lifts us up. (10b)

Another way of saying this is that God resists us to the degree we allow any trace of pride in our hearts, as we exalt ourselves before Him. (6) So, Satan’s constant strategy is to pit us against God by deceiving us into pride in any way that he can. He lies through both pain and pleasure, poverty and wealth, friend and foe — he is relentless in trying to bring us down and destroy us by separating us from God through our selfishness and disobedience.

It is essentially by definition then: the only way to resist the Devil is to be constantly pursuing God, drawing ever closer to Him through every trial and temptation. Whenever we lapse here, become complacent or negligent in pressing toward the mark (Php 3:14), we begin to yield, to succumb to the enemy.

When Satan discovers that everything he’s throwing at us is only bringing us closer to God, that God is working all things together for our good (Ro 8:28) as we faithfully resist him, he will eventually leave us alone; he will flee from us, and only then. (Ja 4:7b)

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The Way of Lying

Lying, speaking that which is untrue with intent to mislead and/or deceive, is forbidden. (Ep 4:25) Truth and honesty are the basis of any functional relationship, key to any thriving civilization. It’s so basic and so simple; where’s the debate?

The challenge comes when speaking truth appears to violate the law of love. (Ro 13:10)

Wielding truth to cause harm certainly is evil (Pr 12:18): just because it’s true doesn’t mean we should say it. We’re only to speak truth in love (Ep 4:15), seeking what’s ultimately beneficial for all. (Ep 4:29)

Holding our tongues, or choosing words carefully to avoid strife (Ja 1:19), this is wisdom (Ja 3:17) – and it’s quite different from intentionally speaking falsehood. Can it ever be right to tell an outright lie? even if we perceive the alternative to be harmful?

Another way to explore this: Would God ever be displeased by us speaking the truth in love when pressed to do so? when silence or evasion would be self-incriminating and/or dangerous? Would He be more pleased if we lied instead?

For example, should the Hebrew midwives have lied to Pharaoh about sparing the Israeli baby boys? (Ex 1:18-19) God blessed these brave women for their actions (20), yet He didn’t actually commend their deceit; He may well have blessed them in spite of it. Would telling the truth have been even more glorifying to God?

Or what of Jacob, lying to Isaac about being firstborn in order to secure his father’s blessing? (Ge 27:19) He succeeded, but was this the best way? Couldn’t God have blessed Jacob, as was His intent, without deceit? Perhaps such unholy grasping at God’s gifts is what made Jacob’s life so difficult and painful. (Ge 47:9)

And what of Rahab the harlot, when she lied to protect the Israeli spies? (Jos 2:4-6) James tells us her actions prove her justification by faith. (Ja 2:25) God doesn’t formally approve of her lying, yet she isn’t reprimanded either: she’s honored as a hero. Was her deceit appropriate? Would God have given her over to abuse and suffering had she told the truth?

As perhaps an indication of God’s heart here, one dear woman did choose the truth in dire straits: Abigail, Nabal’s wife. (1Sa 25:37) God intervened supernaturally and protected her, rather than letting her foolish husband retaliate and abuse her (38), and made her the bride of the king of Israel. (39)

And what of Christ’s example? Did He ever lie or deceive anyone? At times, He spoke things He knew would be misunderstood (Jn 2:18-21), but this isn’t quite the same as speaking what’s untrue. Based on His example, we evidently aren’t responsible to clarify the ambiguous for those who aren’t seeking truth. But to testify falsely – to put our name on outright, deliberate deception, to profess it and stand behind it, this is altogether different. We don’t learn this in Christ. (Ep 4:20)

Christ is the Truth (Jn 14:6): God cannot lie. (Tit 1:2), so it’s inconceivable that He’d ever utter any blatant falsehood, or encourage anyone to do so.

The consequences of telling the truth may be unpleasant, but the consequences of lying are arguably worse, at least in the long run. Lying isn’t love (Pr 26:28a); it victimizes, disrespects and dishonors, and tempts further into darkness on the merit of our character.

The way of lying is choosing the lie as a manner of life, to set our hearts on it with intention; it’s committing to lying under some condition, being premeditated about it, rather than simply lying in the moment under stress or caught off guard, almost instinctively to protect one’s self.

Choosing the lie under any circumstance may corrupt our own ability to walk in the light, obscuring our way (Pr 4:19), blinding us and hindering our growth in holiness. (Ep 4:17-18) Since Satan is the father of lies (Jn 8:44), when we commit to a lie of any kind it’s hard to understand how we’re not aligning with Satan, agreeing with him, inviting him into our hearts and participating with him, giving him space to work his way within us. (Ep 4:27)

If it’s ever appropriate to lie, to be aligned with Satan in the slightest way, then where are the boundaries … exactly? Once we voluntarily give him ground, a foothold, how do we contain him and manage him? how do we keep him from taking over our lives?

The very basis of spiritual warfare is dealing with the lie: every sin springs from a lie, from being deceived about reality. (Jn 8:32) Voluntarily engaging the lie to achieve any end at all is thus to play with Hell fire; this is a dangerous, slippery slope into spiritual bondage if there ever was one.

Once a captive of Satan through the lie, there’s only one way to escape: God must give us repentance to the acknowledging of the truth. (2Ti 2:25-26) However, if godly behavior embraces the lie, choosing the way of lying, then the ungodly behavior is to embrace the way of truth. How then do we repent of this ungodly behavior — of embracing the way of truth? Repentance requires acknowledging and aligning with the lie and rejecting the way of truth, yet this can’t be the gift of God; we’re children of light, and this is darkness. (1Th 5:5)

God hates the lying tongue (Pr 6:17), and His life in us does the same. (Ps 119:163) It’s our love of truth that marks us as His children (2Th 2:10); anyone who loves and lives in lies is not a child of God. (Re 22:15) We’re not only to believe the truth (2Th 2:13), we’re to walk in it (Ps 86:11) and cling to it as priceless. (Pr 23:23)

Though circumstances may be tempting, and the devil lure us into believing that deliberately deceiving others will be for the best, the Spirit of Truth (Jn 16:13) calls us to higher ground, if we’re willing to trust Him, away from lying, to choose the way of truth. (Ps 119:29-30)

The days may soon be upon us when speaking the truth may cost us and/or our loved ones dearly. Let us believe that lying will dishonor our Heavenly Father, and eventually cost us more. May God have mercy on us, as He evidently did with the Hebrew midwives, Jacob and Rahab. May He give us wisdom and grace, and help us withstand in the evil day (Ep 6:13), girded with the armor of truth. (14a)

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Try the Spirits

Evil spirits are constantly trying to deceive us by imitating His Spirit, seducing us through thoughts and impressions which appeal to our carnality. (1Ti 4:1) Those who heed such spirits bring much harm to themselves and others (vs 2), so God tells us to try the spirits, to test spiritual influences to see if He has sent them. (1Jn 4:1)

This testing isn’t about whether God is speaking to us or not, but about whether He’s speaking to others. When we hear the voice of God we know Who’s speaking (Jn 10:27); any test would be disrespectful.

But when someone else claims to have a “word from the Lord,” we must be very careful. Satan comes as an angel of light (2Co 11:14), and many in his service appear righteous, which is no surprise. (vs 15) False prophets seek to be revered by presuming God is speaking to them, but without solid evidence such claims are empty. What should we look for?

Firstly, is the supposed prophet benefiting temporally from his calling? God’s prophets typically proclaim a very unpopular message and are persecuted for it (Ac 7:52); they aren’t exalting themselves, seeking prestige. (1Co 4:9) If any ulterior motive is apparent, this should be carefully searched out.

Secondly, is there sufficient detail in the prophetic word to verify its accuracy? Clearly, when sufficient detail is present and the claim is false, we have our answer. Yet prophetic words which lack sufficient detail to be verifiable should also be dismissed, or at the very least regarded with grave suspicion. God’s test of a prophet’s legitimacy requires verifying the prophecy happens exactly as predicted. (De 18:22) When a prophet fails this test, God’s law prescribes the death penalty. (vs 20) Getting this wrong is serious: no one should ever be encouraged to take up a prophetic mantle lightly or presumptuously, or let off the hook when they do.

Lastly, is there anything unscriptural or unwise inherent in the claim? Does it align with God’s character and glorify Him? Any revelation that doesn’t square with the plumb line of scripture is darkness. (Is 8:20)

We’re in a spiritual battle; we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness. (Ep 6:12) Be sober; be vigilant: our adversary is real and dangerous.  (1Pe 5:8) We must resist him steadfastly in order to overcome. (9)

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The Voice of Strangers

God’s people hear His voice and follow Him (Jn 10:27), but do we also hear other voices which are not of God? If so, how do we tell the difference?

Horse Head Nebula, Hubble

To be clear, we aren’t necessarily referring to an audible voice, but this might be an inner sense or witness in our spirit that God’s trying to guide us or teach us something. Thinking the enemy can’t try to imitate God like this underestimates him, and implies any kind of impression or leading we receive must be from God.

But God tells us that other spiritual beings, seducing spirits, will also be speaking to us, trying to get us to follow them (1Ti 4:1), and that believers know the difference instinctively. (Jn 10:5b) Yet when we’re desperate to hear a “word from God,” we might override our instincts and fall pray to the enemy’s leading.

So, how do we know?

Simple: if we don’t instinctively know God is speaking with us, then He isn’t, at least not supernaturally, such that we should implicitly obey. If we’re able to wonder if it might not be God, or ask, “Who are you?” then we don’t know it’s God. If the impression is supernatural, clearly external to us … flee (Jn 10:5a); this one’s out to harm us.

When an impression might be God but we aren’t absolutely sure, rather than blindly and passively obeying, or even testing the spirit, we engage our minds and wills. (1Pe 1:13) Does the path before us seem wise? As we examine ourselves, discovering our own will in the matter … does it align with us in all wholesomeness, holiness and righteousness? If so, we should own this way and follow God as well as we can in it, not as being passively lead, but actively in the good fight of faith. (1Ti 6:12) Otherwise, it is not the path for us.

When we need clear direction from God we should ask in faith for wisdom (Ja 1:5) and guidance. (1Sa 23:2) Until God answers unmistakably we should be seeking counsel from others and the Word, and walking it out using all the wisdom we have, trusting He’s working out His will in and through our wills. (Php 2:13)

If we need direct, supernatural revelation, God will speak to us clearly, and there will be no doubt about it. Satan comes as an angel of light to deceive (2Co 11:14), kill and destroy. (Jn 10:10) The voice of God is unmistakable, let’s not settle for a counterfeit.

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Taken Captive

The very idea of being held prisoner is intimidating, but there’s a certain kind of prison we enter voluntarily and lock from the inside, then we throw away the key.

We all find ourselves in this prison at some point, not realizing what we’re doing until it’s too late. (Ep 2:2) It’s a prison of the mind, a bondage of the will. (Jn 8:34)

It starts with deception: we hear a lie that makes us feel good and we’re in, not really caring if it’s true, or even how to tell for sure. The lies spawn unhealthy desires; lust leads to disobedience, and sin eventually enslaves and destroys. (Ja 1:14-15) This is how the enemy takes us captive (2Ti 2:25-26), and he’s very good at it.

We’re each in a fight, a war for our own soul (Ep 6:12), and there’s only one way to overcome: find the truth and live in it. (Jn 8:32) It’s called repentance.

We can be sorry for our sin all day long, sorry we’re suffering, that we’re exposed, but this won’t release us from prison. Repentance is changing our mind, thinking differently, rejecting the lie and believing the truth.

It’s not about what we’ve been taught; it’s about what’s true. It’s not about what makes us feel good; it’s about what’s true. It’s not about convenience or inconvenience, or what works or doesn’t, or what others think. Feel good won’t set us free; orthodoxy won’t set us free … if it isn’t true.

How do we know what’s true? God’s Word is truth. (Jn 17:17) If we aren’t prayerfully and earnestly searching the Word for ourselves, we don’t care about truth. (Ac 17:11)

Changing our mind isn’t as easy as it might seem; it’s not something we can do just any time we like. If we aren’t willing to obey the truth we’re deceiving ourselves, and we’ll miss the truth even as we stumble across it. (Ja 1:22) It’s called blindness, and it’s insidiously powerful. (2Co 4:4)

Repentance is the gift of God: He must open our eyes and help us see. (Ac 26:18) We can certainly ask Him to help us, and we should, earnestly (Ps 119:145-147), unwilling to take “No” for an answer (He 11:6), obeying all the truth we can, all along the way.

As God intervenes and helps us start believing Him, taking Him at His Word, it’s then that the enemy’s grip on our minds and spirits begins to loose, and we start turning from our sin, from violating God’s law. (1Jn 3:4) Here begins our journey out of prison, becoming free indeed. (Jn 8:36)

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God Is Faithful

RainbowDoubleGod is faithful (1Co 1:9): true to His word, keeping His promises, trustworthy, dependable; we can safely trust Him to do what He says He’s going to do.

We can see this both in Scripture (2Th 3:3) and in Nature: for every need He’s designed fulfillment. YHWH is good; we need Him to be faithful, and He is, more than we can know. (Je 17:7-8)

But the enemy lies to us about God’s nature, twisting God’s promises and promoting wrong expectations so when God doesn’t meet them we’re tempted to mistrust Him. Falling for his lies steals our joy and traps us in bitterness; it’s too painful.

So God set His bow in the clouds to remind us of His faithfulness (Ge 9:13); scientists still don’t fully understand how He does it. Jehovah’s gone out of His way to assure us that He’ll never break His Word; He makes no promise lightly; He puts His reputation on the line in every single one. God’s promises are exceedingly precious gifts, open doorways inviting us into His nature. (2Pe 1:4) 

As we wait on the Lord, expecting Him to be faithful, we’re saved by hope; it’s an abundant life of faith rooted in the character and nature of God. (Jn 10:10) 

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The Sword of the Spirit

The Word of God is the Holy Spirit’s sword (Ep 6:17) … so God’s sword is also ours, our primary weapon in spiritual warfare. Without it we’re no threat to the enemy, more a target than a soldier. (2Ti 2:3)

Hawk_Fishing
Osprey by Bill Doherty

And this weapon, the Word of God, is alive … powerful(He 4:12) To be effective it must be an extension of our hearts and minds, interconnected with us (De 6:6-9) … it’s Christ Himself in us (Jn 1:14); both spirit and life. (Jn 6:63)

So how do we wield this supernatural sword? Get it into the Spirit’s hands, interconnect with it?

Christ’s example when Satan attacked Him was to quote the Word, saying repeatedly, “It is written.” (Mt 4:4, 6, 7) By hiding God’s Word in our heart we arm the Spirit for war, equipping Him to defend, protect, feed (De 8:3) and heal us, cleansing us of our lies and strongholds. (Ep 5:26) It’s hard to wield this particular sword unless we can quote it, but merely memorizing scripture won’t do; we must be constantly meditating on it (Ps 1:2), saturating ourselves with God in His written Word. (Jos 1:8)

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Shield of Faith

In our spiritual journey do we feel more like a target than a soldier? Struggling to keep our joy only to find we’re constantly being taken down in worry, frustration, disappointment and fear? Perhaps we’re missing our shield.

Wildernessjpg
Patagonia, Argentina

Many helpful pieces comprise our armor, but none’s more essential in spiritual warfare than the shield of faith. (Ep 6:16)

Above all. Above our sword, above the girding belt, above the shodden feet, salvation’s helmet and the breastplate of righteousness … we must have our shield of faith.

Faith: knowing God is for us, because He says so. (Ro 8:31)

Faith: knowing, no matter what happens, that all things work together for good to us who love God, because He says so. (Ro 8:28)

There are many dangers, toils and snares in our homeward journey, yet God is faithful. Faith is knowing God sees the end from the beginning, that He’s able to keep us from falling, and that He’ll present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. (Jud 24-25)

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