Series: 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.
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.
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 3:13; 1 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.