Series: 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 6:10-11; 17).
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 23:32; 34:12). 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 5:4; 27:1, 28).
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 10:8; 10:12-17). 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 5:8; Titus 2:13).