Sword of the Spirit

Bible reader resizedSeries: PPE for the Christian life, by Rosie Moore

“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6:17-18).

When I was a child, my dad read C.S Lewis’s Narnia series to me several times over. I never forget what Aslan told Jill Pole in her quest to find a lost prince in The Silver Chair:

“Stand still. In a moment I will blow. But first, remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs. And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart, and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.” (Aslan, The Silver Chair).

“Pay no attention to appearances”

Jill Pole and her group started well on their quest to find a lost prince, but on the journey many dangers befell them. They veered off the route; narrowly escaped being eaten by giants; and then failed to recognize the prince even when they came face to face with him. Strangely, although Jill learned Aslan’s signs, she couldn’t remember them when the world around her became threatening and confusing. When the Narnian air became thick and everything was hazy, Jill began to doubt what Aslan had clearly revealed to her to ensure that she would safely reach her destination. That’s precisely when she had to pay no attention to appearances and just remember what Aslan had told her.

I can relate to Jill. Sometimes, clever arguments and personal fears have caused me to forget even the clearest and simplest of God’s commands, like “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Or to doubt the very first truth that I ever memorized as a pre-schooler, “We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Or to believe the crystal clear, simple truth, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).

That’s why, in Deuteronomy, God gives a command which echoes Aslan’s, directed to parents as they raise their children:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.   Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deut 6:4-9).

This command was given to parents so that their children might also remember the Lord and follow his way. It’s based on the assumption that parents know and love the commands of God. Remember, when Moses spoke this final sermon, the people didn’t have Bibles in their pews and were not reading along from a text. They had to bury the word of the Lord deep in their hearts and, in Aslan’s words, “Remember, remember, remember.”

“Remember, remember, remember”

I wonder why Aslan and Moses made such a big deal of remembering? I think perhaps because we are prone to forget what God has said in the Bible. And when we forget, we get confused and lost in this world of suffering and hardship. We begin to believe that there are shortcuts to the life we want and we lose our compass for how we should live for Christ day-by-day. Over time, an unused sword becomes a blunt and useless stick of metal. Without the sword of the Holy Spirit, we will believe Satan’s lies the moment we face doubt, discouragement and danger in our lives. It is when the air is thick around us that we need to remember most.

Satan will offer us a crown without a cross. He will tempt us to believe that we can experience joy without also repenting of our sin, denying ourselves and suffering for his name. He will offer us earthly redemption instead of Christ’s redemption. He will offer freedom apart from God’s commands. He will make us believe that we can worship God without serving him too (Matt 6:19-21); that we can blame others instead of taking responsibility for our own rebellion (Gen 3:12-13).

But in Satan’s many assaults against a Christian, the devil will employ a predictable tactic. He will manipulate God’s Word to confuse and deceive us, because he is the master of illusion. He also fears the power of the sword that Christ places in the hands of every believer, young and old. This weapon is the Bible.

Twisted Scripture

Last week we saw that Satan is a liar and a vicious destroyer, disguised as an angel of light. But he is also a sleight-of- hand magician who knows how to twist Scripture. His servants will flip and manipulate the clear Word of God to make it say what it was never intended to say (Acts 20:28-30). Do you remember when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness? His quotation of Psalm 91 was not incorrect, but his application and meaning were utterly contorted (Luke 4:9-12). Satan knows the Bible, but Christ’s responses are a perfect demonstration of how to use the sword of the Spirit against the enemy (Luke 4:12). It is only when we correctly handle the Bible that we will resist his fake teachings.

Fierce wolves

Luke shows us Satan’s tactics in Acts 20, where Paul is warning the elders of the Ephesian church about fierce wolves that would come in among them, not sparing the flock. Paul continues to remind today’s church that “from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:28-31). In contrast, Paul never shrunk back from declaring to them “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27-28), because this is how a true shepherd must take care of the church of Christ. It is only the ‘whole counsel of God’ that will protect the church against false teachers who manipulate the Bible to suit themselves.

The whole counsel of God

In fact, the New Testament is peppered with warnings about imposters and false prophets who, motivated by greed, will secretly bring in strange heresies, exploiting believers with false words (2 Tim 3:131 John 4:1; 2 Peter:1-3). Their purpose is not to nourish the church and build mature believers, but rather to create rifts between people and obstacles to oppose the doctrine of Christ (Rom 16:17). Let’s not veer off course by listening to these people.

Beware of Bible apps and teachers who separate single verses and stories from the rest of Scripture. Beware of preachers who extract texts that suit them and ignore what doesn’t suit them, creating arguments that sound plausible, but are actually delusions (Col 2:4). Beware of those who love to read their own beliefs and assumptions into Scripture, instead of the other way round. Beware of “diverse and strange teachings” (Heb 13:9), which are man-centred, crowd-pleasing, ear-tickling and self-affirming (2 Tim 4:3).

Every one of us can follow three basic rules of interpretation to help us discern the true from the fake: 1) Understand the context of a passage. 2) Read each text against the rest of Scripture. 3) Allow clear passages to interpret more ambiguous ones. A Study Bible is a great tool to help you to correctly handle the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15). Let’s all be like the Berean Christians, who examined the Scriptures daily to check for themselves if what the apostles were saying was true (Acts 17:11).

Tool of the trade

The Holy Spirit has given us the Bible as the tool of our trade and our sword for the fight. If received with a soft heart, we are assured that Scripture will thoroughly equip us for every good work that the Lord has planned for us (2 Tim 3:16-17). The Bible will also guard us against deceiving and being deceived (2 Tim 3:13). I’m no theologian and have never studied at seminary, but I delight in the fact that the disciples were unschooled, ordinary men who had spent time with Jesus (Acts 4:13). That is why I write The God Walk week after week. This simple discipline of reading, understanding and obeying the Bible will enable each of us to “continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of…to know the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:14). That is the way we sharpen our sword against the father of lies and learn how to live a godly life in Christ Jesus.

The Helmet of Salvation: Wearing our thinking caps

Helmet resizedSeries: PPE for the Christian life, by Rosie Moore

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes…Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6:10-1117).

When I was a high school student, our Maths teacher often said, “Now, you’d better put on your thinking caps because this is a tricky section.” At that point, I would squint at the blackboard and muster up every cell in my brain’s army to conquer those strange symbols! But for the most part, it was a doomed campaign, as my mind was not geared towards Maths. But as a Christian, I have no such excuse. We must use our minds to think like soldiers of Christ. If our minds are not protected by the helmet of Christ’s salvation, we will be easy pickings for Satan’s ruses.

The Enemy who leads the whole world astray

The Bible tells us that the devil detests the salvation Christ has purchased for his people. We must be under no delusions: Satan’s great purpose is to deceive and divide our minds. His war strategy is to “lead the whole world astray” (Rev 12:9), to keep his own from defecting to Christ’s army, and to distract and deceive Christ’s troops, who belong to the only true ‘Salvation Army’.

In Revelation, the Apostle John hears a loud voice in heaven say:

“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night has been hurled down.” (Rev 12:10).

John tells us that the same ‘ancient serpent’ who deceived Eve in the garden (known as the devil or Satan), has already been overcome by the blood of the Lamb (Rev 12:11). The critical blow came when the Lamb, Jesus Christ, shed his blood for our sins. The victory has been won for Christ’s Church, but Satan is still “filled with fury, because he knows his time is short” (Rev 12:12). Enraged at the salvation God has provided in His Son, Satan has gone to make war against those who “obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev 12:17).

And so, persecution is the backdrop of Ephesians 6, where Paul warns Christ’s soldiers to take our stand against the devil’s schemes, armed with “the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Christ has won the war, but we must be certain not to lose the battle for our own souls and minds. That is why the helmet of salvation must be firmly fixed to our heads, one of the most vulnerable parts of a soldier’s body. We must recognize the mortal danger of a deceived mind. We must protect our minds with the hope of our salvation in Christ (1 Thess 5:8). As soldiers of Christ, we must put on our thinking caps and think biblically, not culturally.

The danger of a deceived mind

Satan loves to invade our minds with deceptions and lies. The problem with these lies is that they are often fronted by a half-truth or a twisted truth, just as they were for Eve in the garden. Nearly always, Satan’s ruse to trick us goes something like this:

He questions God’s Word: “Did God actually say?” (Gen 3:1)

He denies God’s Word: “You will not surely die? (Gen 3:4)

He substitutes his own twisted truth or blatant lie in place of God’s Word: “Your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5).

Let’s look at two biblical examples of how believers were deceived by Satan’s messengers. The first is the story of Joshua and the Gibeonites in Joshua 9:

The Gibeonites deceive Joshua

If you read the context of this story, you will see that it was in the aftermath of the supernatural deliverances of Israel at Jericho and Ai. Joshua had just built an altar to the Lord, celebrating Yahweh’s covenant of salvation with his people. In fact, we are explicitly told, “There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and men and children, and the aliens who lived among them” (Joshua 9:34-35). It was as if they’d just watched a full-length epic, featuring God’s word to them and his salvation. But ironically, it is immediately after this that Satan leads an assault against Joshua and his advisers in order to deviate them from the plan of God. Satan uses the Gibeonites as his front men.

We are told that the Gibeonites “resorted to a ruse” (Josh 9:4). They devised a plan to trick the people of Israel into making a peace treaty with them, putting on old, dirty clothes, worn-out shoes and some mouldy bread in their sacks. They pulled craftily on Joshua’s heart-strings, pretending to be ambassadors: “Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of your God (Josh 9:9). Joshua was taken off guard by their seeming ‘innocence’, which was in fact a misrepresentation of who they really were. They had no interest in the fame of Yahweh. But Joshua was ambushed by their apparent good-will and the false “evidence” they presented. They claimed that they’d walked a great distance when, in reality, they’d strolled only a few miles from their home. Many devices were used to strengthen the deception they offered.

But rather than asking the Lord’s counsel and following God’s specific instruction to make no treaties with the inhabitants of Canaan, Joshua and his men sampled the false evidence they presented and rushed into their own plans (Ex 23:3234:12). They made a peace treaty with the Gibeonites, which the leaders of the assembly ratified by oath (Josh 9:14-18). Joshua and his advisers made a grave mistake that could not be revoked, because God commands that oaths be kept (Lev 5:427:128).

In this story we see how, for a brief moment, even one of God’s most faithful soldiers laid aside the helmet of God’s salvation, designed to protect his mind. He allowed himself to be deceived. He failed to trust in God’s salvation and God’s clear instructions in his Word. The consequences of this deception were felt for many years to come (2 Sam 21:1).

The second example is from the New Testament church at Corinth:

The ‘super-apostles’ deceive the Corinthian Christians

In the first century Corinthian church, smooth-talking “super-apostles” infiltrated the church and the believers were accepting their false message. These false apostles used carefully crafted gospel words and spellbinding speech, which sounded much more impressive than Paul’s simple, clear presentation of the gospel of Christ (1 Cor 1:17). Their careful manipulation of words appeared to make sense to the sincere believers in Corinth. However, behind their gospel language, they came with a different Jesus, a different spirit than the Holy Spirit, and a different gospel than God’s way of salvation (2 Cor 11:4-6). Their ideas were a direct assault on God’s unchanging truth. It was deceit with a capital D.

The false apostles’ philosophies set themselves up against the true knowledge of God that Paul had taught these sincere believers (2 Cor 11:6). It was a direct clash of worldviews that needed to be resisted in the Church. While these false teachers claimed to represent Christ as “servants of righteousness,” they were in fact lying shamelessly, questioning Paul’s authority, boasting and commending themselves rather than Christ (2 Cor 10:810:12-17). Actually, their boastfulness gave them away, for “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord. For it is not the one who commends himself that is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends” (1 Cor 10:17).

Paul pulls no punches when describing the mastermind behind these “false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ” (2 Cor 11:13). Paul says that the commander of this army of super-apostles is none other than Satan himself, who “masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve” (2 Cor 11:13-15). Deception always comes in attractive packages.

Let’s hear Paul’s concern for our own minds in this age of deception, “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor 11:3). Deceptions will always lead us away from a simple, undivided devotion to Jesus Christ. Devotion to Christ is a reliable test of what is true and what is false.

Biblical thinking leads to radical transformation

When we think of what it means to be a godly man and woman today; how to raise godly children; how to understand race, gender and family, or how to do justice and love mercy in our world, we are so often inclined to follow our hearts or ask culture to inform us in these matters. But instead, Paul tells us to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). Most spiritual warfare is waged on the battlefield of our minds. That’s why, instead of being led by our hearts or our culture’s narrative, let’s think biblically.

And so, we put on the helmet of salvation when we daily cultivate our knowledge of Scripture, as we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). There’s no alternative route to radical transformation for a believer. We must refuse to be conformed to the pattern of this world, choosing instead to trust God’s Word to transform us by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2). A Christian who does not ‘put on their thinking cap’ will not grow a spiritually mature mind—the mind of our Lord Jesus Christ (Phil 2:5).

Let’s not give in to our feelings and say, “I don’t feel like praying and reading the Bible for myself. I think I’ll just listen to a podcast or a message on my Bible App. Or, I’m not in the mood for doing Church online this Sunday. I think I’ll rather just listen to some worship music.” How will we spot the fake if we don’t think biblically to see what’s true? Let’s learn from the example of Joshua and the Corinthian believers, so that our minds are not left wide open to Satan’s deceptions. Before accepting any idea, let’s first wrestle with what Scripture says and pray for the Holy Spirit to help us understand and apply God’s infallible Word correctly. Let’s not manipulate the Bible or cherry-pick texts, but read it in context and as a whole book. Only the Bible tells us the truth about who we are, what our real problem is and the authentic solution. Fake solutions will come from Satan and his ‘servants of righteousness’, but true Salvation comes only from the Lord Jesus Christ, who has come to save us and who will take us to glory (Heb 2:10). This is the blessed hope we have in Christ, the hope of our salvation (1 Thess 5:8Titus 2:13).

Taking up the shield of faith

Shield of faithSeries: PPE for the Christian life, by Rosie Moore.

“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Eph 6:16).

In the last few weeks, the Apostle Paul has been waking us up to the true war we are waging against Satan and his evil forces in this dark world. This spiritual war is no joke and there is evidence of it all around us. Satan’s forces are not mere fantasies, but very real armies, whose goal is to divide and defeat Christ’s Church. Knowing he can’t destroy the Church (Matt 16:18), Satan’s next best option is to be a sniper.

He will fire problems at us, like financial stress, sickness, broken relationships and emotional struggles. Then he will fire darts of anger, fear, sadness, suspicion, doubt and self-pity. He will do anything to turn us away from Christ and back to sin; away from each other and back to being hostile and isolated. Unless we take up the shield of faith and lock shields together, the sniper’s darts will find their mark. They will cause a raging fire that destroys everything in its path. Without the shield of faith, Satan will disable, demoralize and scatter Christ’s troops.

But, let’s never forget that each Christian recruit has been issued supernatural weapons with “divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Cor 10:4). Paul deliberately repeats the word ‘all’ for emphasis. All the flaming darts of Satan can be repelled with the shield of faith, which we must hold up in all circumstances. God will give us the victory if we use the weapon of faith He has freely given us in His Son. Today let’s look at this shield that Christ provides for his soldiers.

Locking shields together

When we believe in Jesus, Christ’s enemies become our enemies too. That’s why we can be sure that Satan will hurl his darts in our direction. The “day of evil” will inevitably come (Eph 6:13). It’s not a matter of if, but when. What’s more, the family of believers throughout the world is facing the same enemy—the “roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8-9). We are living in a world at war.

The shield that Paul had in mind wasn’t a tiny little one, like the flimsy plastic shield my son used to attach to his lego characters. It was a shield that was almost the size of a door, big enough for burly Roman soldiers to crouch and hide behind. What’s more, the shield also united the soldiers to each other, because its edges were bevelled in such a way that they could be locked together to form a solid wall. Arrows couldn’t penetrate that united wall as the soldiers marched forward, held together by the shield’s common bond. The shield was a powerful defensive and offensive weapon. In addition, the Roman soldiers would dip their shields in water, so that the enemy’s fiery arrows would be extinguished the moment they hit the shield, rendering them powerless to penetrate.

This shield is the visual image Paul uses to describe a believer’s supernatural weapon of faith in the Lord Jesus. It enables Christians of every tongue, every nation, every gender, and every race to stand together and work as one; to lock shields together; to trust God and pray together; to bind ourselves together by our common faith against our common enemy. But what ‘faith’ is he talking about? In a world which has its own definitions of ‘faith’, this is a vital question to ask.

Three ingredients of Christian faith

There are three vital components to every Christian’s faith:

Firstly, there is historical faith, which believes the real Jesus of the Bible. It is a faith that knows that Jesus is God, that he lived, and died, and rose again as a real man, and that he will return to restore all things to how they should be. It is not faith in faith, or faith in a figment of our imagination, but faith in Jesus, who was seen and heard and touched by many people in the first century (John 20:31).

Secondly, there is saving faith, which is personal trust in Jesus as our Saviour and Lord. There is no saving faith unless we believe that, left to ourselves, we are eternally lost and separated from God. But Jesus died in our place to atone for our sins (1 Peter 3:181 Tim 2:5). Saving faith is trusting in what Christ has already done for us on the cross: securing our forgiveness, our new family and our eternal home. Faith is the “assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not yet seen” (Heb 11:1).

Thirdly, and this is where I will focus today, there is the practical everyday faith of a believer, flowing from our historical and saving faith. It is the faith that says,

“Today I am not going to depend on myself, or my strength, or my knowledge, or my ability. Today I am going to trust Jesus to give me victory over whatever darts are fired at me. Today I am going to believe that Jesus Christ is at the right hand of God, interceding for me and all his people. Today I’ll live confidently and serve wholeheartedly, knowing that no false charge can stand against me. No trouble or hardship, or persecution or famine, or nakedness or danger, or even death, can separate us from the love of Christ…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom 8:34-39). Everyday faith is aligning our lives with the victory that Christ has already won for his people on the cross.

Surefire darts

If Romans 8:34-39 is to be believed, then we can be sure that many fiery darts will come our way, especially if we are standing for Christ. They will be directed at us personally, as well as at the body of Christ and our smaller fellowships. We can surely read Covid-19 into Paul’s long list of fiery darts. If those darts catch fire, they can do serious damage, not just to ourselves, but also to those around us. Let’s look at some of these fiery darts, and how faith is a powerful shield to deflect them from penetrating our souls:

The fiery dart of Fear

Fear and anxiety are the enemy’s lethal missiles, particularly as the ripple effects of Covid play out in our country. Just a fortnight ago, I read that over 3 million people have already lost their jobs as a result of the lockdown in South Africa. As I write, many people I know personally, across the spectrum, are gripped with fear, anxiety, depression and debilitating mental illness.

Christians are not immune from fear.

But, if allowed to penetrate our souls, fear and anxiety can destroy our relationships and our faith in the Lord’s ability to help us through every adversity. Like Christ’s terrified disciples in the storm on Lake Galilee, we may also be praying, “Lord don’t you care that we are perishing?” To take up our shield of faith, we must pray these fears to the Lord. We must take our eyes off the crashing waters of our circumstances, and look instead to Christ, the Lord of the universe. Let’s remember our Lord’s response to the terrified disciples after he calmed the storm, “Why are so afraid? Where is your faith?” Christ is saying to us too, “Don’t you trust me to take care of you?”

When your heart is being set alight by the darts of anxiety and fear, the only PPE to hide behind is the enormous shield of God’s sovereign grace. It is to trust that God is holy, righteous and just. And amazingly, He cares for you and for me. We take shelter behind this shield by exercising our faith every day. Find a regular spot to read the Bible and pray to your Father. His Word will remind you of who He is and why He is worthy of your trust. Don’t stop attending your Zoom Bible study with fellow believers who love the Lord, and love you too. Together, you will lock shields with other soldiers in Christ’s army. If you’re not locking shields in a group like this, find one near you on this link.

God has placed his people together to re-order our minds with the truth and to bear each other’s burdens, even as we each carry the load Christ has allocated to us (Gal 6:25). Don’t let these simple habits of grace slip from your life. They are the God-ordained means for us to deflect the darts of the enemy in all circumstances. They are literally life-saving!

Read Psalm 55 and cast your cares on the Lord, as if you were throwing a fishing net into the sea. “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall” (Ps 55:22).

The fiery dart of Doubt

In addition to fears, we may also be hit with the fiery darts of doubt.

We may be having doubts about God“Do you really know what you’re doing, Lord? Do you really understand what I need? Is your Son really enough? Am I banking my whole life on pie-in-the-sky?” Satan loves to plant doubts in our stressed minds, making us doubt everything we have believed about God.

We may be having doubts about other Christians too, especially as we haven’t met flesh-on-flesh with people for so long. Satan loves suspicions to build in us, to make us wonder whether fellow believers actually love and care for us. “What did she really mean by that statement? Did he look at me funny on Zoom? Why has she not called me to ask how I’m doing? I knew all along he hated me!” Because our personal perceptions are incomplete and often inaccurate, how desperately we need to entrust our doubts to the Lord Jesus, who alone knows the motives of the heart (Jer 17:91 Cor 4:4-51 Sam 16:7).

We may also be having doubts about ourselves, whether we’re capable of supporting or leading our family; whether we actually have eternal life; whether we’ve only half understood the gospel. Of course, we should always be asking God to search our hearts and show us our sin and blind spots (Ps 139:23-24), but false soul- searching is straight from the devil when it leads us to drop our shield of faith.

Without firm faith in Christ, those arrows of doubt will internally combust, causing us to doubt God, to doubt ourselves and to doubt others. Instead, we must never stop trusting that God is for us and not against us; that He will help us, and His love will never leave us.

The fiery dart of Words

Words can be fired like fiery darts that deeply wound us when they invade our minds and emotions. Words are never just sticks and stones, yet insults are hurled carelessly and self-righteously in our culture. Words of criticism and accusation can cause us to feel shamed, unworthy and unloved, especially when they are aimed at the conscience and character of a person. Satan loves to destroy relationships through words. If we are not locking shields together, the darts will find their mark.

The fiery dart of Confusion

If your emotions or thinking is confused, be sure that Satan is firing his darts at you! God is not the author of confusion, Satan is (1 Cor 14:33). He loves to scatter our thoughts and stop us from relying on the truth of the Gospel. Our Lord is a God of order, peace and beauty, not confusion.

Our shield and very great reward

But in the face of these fiery darts, God has given us a supernatural weapon to repel them all and extinguish their fire before it spreads. He has given us each other, to lock shields and stand together as a mighty wall against Satan’s attacks. Only faith in Jesus, God’s own Son, can protect us. The Lord of Abraham said, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward” (Gen 15:1). The God of Abraham provided Christ to be our shield in life and death. He is all we need. Let’s pray to Him and trust Him at all times (Ps 3:1-4).

My three favourite resources for building faith:

  1. Fighter verses app- Memorize the Bible, fight the fight of faith.
  2. Truth for life app—15 minute daily messages by Alistair Begg.
  3. Music! Below are Pete’s two favourite songs that play on repeat in our home! May they encourage you also to keep fighting the good fight of faith. 
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Good reading:

Warren Wiesbe, Stand: Putting on the full armour of God.

Gospel shoes

Gospel shoes resizedSeries: PPE for the Christian life, by Rosie Moore.

“Stand firm then…with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Eph 6:15).

Warren Wiersbe reminds Christians, “We have only one gospel and we must be extremely careful to preach it exactly as God gave it to us, for we will be judged for what we preach” (Stand, p63).

In the war that Satan is waging against us, there is nothing as dangerous to our Enemy as the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So, it makes perfect sense that he would go to any length to obfuscate, confuse and pervert the Gospel. After all, it’s the only message that can save human beings from the wrath of God. Only the Gospel can make God’s enemies into his friends. And only the Gospel can bring us peace with God, leading us to love Him and love people. So, Paul warns, it is on this unchanging Gospel of peace that a Christian must firmly stand against the devil’s evil schemes and spiritual onslaughts (Eph 6:11-12).

The “shoes” of spiritual warfare are a visceral image of our firm standing in the true Gospel.

A firm footing

In the first century, Roman soldiers wore sandals with hobnails on the soles to give them a firm grip on all sorts of slippery and uneven surfaces. The Greek word ‘readiness’ means a firm footing, or a strong foundation (Eph 6:15). Without a firm footing in the Gospel of Christ, a Christian soldier will not be prepared to stand, let alone fight against our great Enemy, the devil.

But what exactly is this Gospel? In 1 Corinthians 15:1-7, Paul describes the Gospel as “a message of first importance”, passed on by the apostles, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures, and appeared alive to Peter, and then to the twelve, and hundreds of other eye witnesses. Paul evidently believed that the Gospel announced by Jesus needed no improvement or tweaking. And the God-breathed Scriptures are all we need to fully understand and embrace this Gospel by faith.

A shaky footing

So, when a person says, “It doesn’t really matter whether or not Jesus’s body came back to life, only that the spirit of Christ lives on today”, this is a false gospel. Likewise, statements like these that I’ve heard lately do not reflect the Biblical Gospel: “Man’s fundamental problem is not sin, but power dynamics or whiteness.” “It’s not our job to talk about sin or our need for Jesus— it’s our job to just love people.” “Jesus and the Bible have been misunderstood for 2000 years of church history. We need a new, culturally relevant reading of Scripture.” “Surely God wouldn’t actually require a sacrifice to atone for sin! After all, weren’t we created good?” “You can’t just believe in Christ’s forgiveness! There’s work you must do to be acceptable.” These are just some of the ways that the Gospel of grace can be twisted, truncated, or added to.

Satan hates the Gospel message, because it spells his nemesis. Thus, he will cook up any scheme to distract people from the Gospel that brings freedom and joy in Christ. He will lure them to accept a different Gospel, which is in fact no gospel at all (Gal 1:7). That is why Paul uses strong words to warn the Galatian believers against any works-based gospel: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble 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 the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal 1:6-8).

Gospel feet

No doubt, Paul was thinking of Isaiah’s Servant songs (Isa.52 & 53) as he wrote Ephesians 6:15:

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns”(Isa 52:7-8 ESV).

Isaiah goes on to describe this herald of good news—a future Messiah with a “marred appearance”, with “no beauty that we should desire him…acquainted with grief…despised and not esteemed” (Isa 53:2-3). Yet, this is the Servant-King who wrapped himself in flesh, to “sprinkle many nations” and to “comfort his people” (Isa 52:915). He is the beautiful Saviour who has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, smitten by God and afflicted…pierced for our transgressions and crushed for all our iniquities. Upon him was the punishment that brought us peace… All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way, yet the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:5-6).

Two millennia ago, Jesus Christ died on a cross “to make an offering for our guilt…to bear the sin of many…to make many to be accounted as righteous” (Isa 53:1-12). This is how Christ brought peace to rebels like you and me the moment we placed our trust in Him. And this is the Gospel of peace on which every Christian must take our stand for the rest of our lives.

In recent weeks, I saw a demonstration of the power of this beautiful Gospel in the life of a friend called Jenny. For several months now, our women’s Bible study has been praying for Jen’s brother, who had terminal cancer. One Wednesday, I’d prepared a Bible study on Luke 12:4-7, based on Martin Morrison’s devotion, “Do not fear those who kill only the body.” Moved by Christ’s clear message, that afternoon Jenny scheduled a Zoom call with her brother, asking us to pray at 4pm as she shared the Gospel with him. We all held our breath, knowing that he was an atheist and that Jen was desperate not to ruin their relationship or cause him distress. But by evening, God’s grace and peace had prevailed over hostility, as Jen’s brother and sister-in-law were both won over by the beauty of Christ’s Gospel and a sister’s love in making it known. We rejoiced with the angels, not just over one, but two sinners who repented and joined the family of God! (Luke 15:10) The Lord graciously gave Jen two more weeks with her brother before He took his newly adopted son home to heaven. “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation” (Isa 52:7-8).

A beautiful Gospel

It’s stunning that Christ has entrusted us to proclaim this clear and wonderful Gospel! It is a true message that rings out with beauty, hope and peace for a world at war. Even the angels sang when Christ was born “to bring peace to those on whom his favour rests” (Luke 2:14). And that is why, as Christ’s ambassadors, we need to wear his Gospel shoes at all times. They give us stability, so that we’re not carried away by all kinds of strange teachings (Heb 13:9). They give us balance, so that we don’t focus on one doctrine of Scripture at the expense of other teachings and commands. They give us mobility, so that, like Jenny, we can adapt our ways of sharing the gospel and respond to Satan’s schemes. But, whoever we are and wherever we find ourselves, we must always be ready to boldly and humbly witness for Christ (1 Peter 3:15). It is an immense privilege to be a servant of this precious message of peace (2 Cor 5:18-20). Like the Apostle Paul, may we honestly affirm: “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:24).

Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for our many sins and for forgiving us once-for-all. Keep your Gospel flame burning in our hearts, so that we never grow lukewarm or lose our first love. Help us to love you and your Gospel so deeply that we will speak your truth boldly and gently every time you open a door for us, just as the saints before us did. May our manner always be worthy of the Gospel of Christ and may we not be frightened by our opponents (Phil 1:27-28). In Jesus’ precious name and for his Gospel sake, Amen.

Listen to this great song, which reminds us that we are just nobodies, trying to tell everybody, about Somebody who saved our souls.

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