The Lord God made them all!!
(© James R Hamilton, taken Monday 31st October 2016)
“Fighting the Good Fight”
The Sword of the Spirit – (Ephesians Chapter 6 Verses 10-20)
This is the one singular offensive weapon, the sword of the Spirit (v17b). The helmet and the sword are distinctive, ‘of’ possessive, the Spirit’s sword. And therefore invincible. The Christian’s warfare has to do with the mind, thinking. But with a Bible in hand, “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). This is the means that the Holy Spirit uses and particularly the word of God preached. The deadly scythe to cut down the enemies of God and his people, the undiluted word of God. It is powerful and revealing, “for I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17). For Christ is in it, it produces faith that leads to salvation, “so then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). By it, we taste of the heavenly world (Hebrews 6:5). It is the Christians weapon before which the demons flee (v12). The truth is our belt (v14). The gospel is our righteousness (vv14b). Peace tranquilises the mind (v15). The shield protects us from the father of lies (v16). The sword of the Spirit is the word of God and is our principle means of grace. What does grace mean? It is an attribute of God, it is his attitude of favour towards undeserving sinners. Grace is the power by which the sinner is saved, delivered from the bondage of sin and corruption. It is by grace we are regenerated, sanctified and made pleasing to God. Grace is a spiritual blessing and virtue bestowed, by God. And the means by which it is bestowed? The preaching of God’s word.
Then there are what we would call the wider means. That of good Christian reading, of Scriptures too of course, which brings us to a conscious faith. There is the godly conversation with other saints, fellowship in other words. Fellowship is so misunderstood these days. It is not conversing about the week’s work, our favourite sports team or activities. It is conversing with and sharing the things of God with other believers. This is a means of edification, strengthening our faith. Some would include prayer, one could wider still and include all things, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). The temptations we face, the lures of the world, the fight with the flesh, all our sufferings and afflictions. To be sure God uses all these for our growth in grace. “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:3-5). In Reformed theology, however, we see the preaching of God’s word as being the main means, the principle means of grace. It is by this means we are called of God to be Christians. It is by this means we receive the knowledge of Christ. And this without the sacraments, for they are added to the word, they are signs and seals of the promise of God. But it is the word that is primary that explains the sacraments. It is the word that is indispensable, we can live without the sacraments, but not the word. “But he answered and said, It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). It is the word that works faith, sustains our spiritual life, explains the sacraments. Without the word of God, the sword of the Spirit the sacraments would be meaningless.
“Fighting the Good Fight”
The Battle for the Mind – (Ephesians Chapter 6 Verses 10-20)
The great battle of every generation but particularly this one is for the minds of men and women. The enemy with his hosts operates in the intellectual, philosophical, theological and ideological arenas. Through the houses of learning, universities, colleges, the entire education system, seeking to poison the minds of our children and youth. They operate through the media, all of its outlets, advertising, soap operas, industry. There are no no-go areas for the enemy, we are fighting them on every level. And now the internet also, where anyone can freely almost unhindered can propagate their favourite cause. The devil knows how to use a computer too. He puts relentless pressure on the minds of our young people especially. The same evil genius was seen in the Nazi propaganda machine. It worked on the premise that if you said it often enough it would be believed. Thus we are bombarded with the lie of evolution, with immoral, anti-God and Anti-biblical propaganda. The advertising machinery is a process of conditioning that’s aimed at peoples feelings rather than rational thought. This way people become ‘feelings’ generated. People are moved by impulse, inclination rather than thought, fact. The advertising industry is an evil business. It affects Christians as with the world, for many life has become experienced centred. It is for this reason holy Scripture tells us we need to be renewed in our minds, not once, but constantly, daily, “and be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2). Our minds need to be saturated with Scripture, we need to learn to think biblically at every turn in our lives. But sadly these are days in the Western church when such is seriously missing. Christians are not reading as they should and therefore they are not thinking as they should.
So there is a lack of sound salvation doctrine abroad. No biblical patterns of behaviour, there cannot be such where there is no theology or standard of biblical ethics. Far too many who haven’t and neither are they willing to think through their faith. Enter many a church in our land today and you’ll find ‘professing’ Christians who cannot state clearly what they believe, nor the grounds for it. Ask the person next to you, “what is the gospel of which you speak”? The answers will vary, most wrong, if you get an answer at all. So what is the gospel then? “Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1Corinthians 15:3-4). That’s the gospel. Tragically not the answer you will get by and large, just their own limited experience or church tradition. The Bible well speaks of end-time delusions and lies. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies” (1Timothy 4:1-2). And, “and for this cause, God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” (2Thessalonians 2:11). It’s very easy to see how people can be led into all sorts of delusions and lies when people have surrendered in the battle for the mind. If we are losing this battle in the church how can we possibly expect to win it out there in the world? Because unless we get the minds of the masses of unbelievers we will have very little effect upon them. So the headgear, the helmet of salvation’s an indispensable piece of God’s armour, to be put on each day.
“Fighting the Good Fight”
The Devil’s Designs – (Ephesians Chapter 6 Verses 10-20)
The helmet of salvation (v17). The salvation is a present one, it saves, and it keeps us safe, protecting us from a fatal blow to the head which would be the end of us. The parts of Gods armour you will notice are all defensive bar one. They are designed to protect us, not from suffering, but from sin, that which would be the end of us. It becomes clear that a large part of this warfare is to do with our minds, there is a lot of hard and clear thinking to be done. We have to keep our heads in other words. God’s salvation is our sure hope, the same that keeps our minds, “But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (1Thessalonians 5:8). And we are persuaded that we are, in this salvation, eternally secure, that, “neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his (Jesus’) own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12). This is our irreversible, guaranteed hope. In our dawning the helmet of salvation (v17) we are attuning to a biblical mindset. Our faith, belief is that salvation has dealt with our past, present and future sins. Therefore we are able to rejoice in the midst of trials and tribulations (James 1:2; Romans 5:1-5). We are able to think clearly, calmly, rationally and expectantly in regard to the whole of life and its experiences. We engage in right thinking in other words. This is a repeated emphasis in the New Testament teaching, to use our minds to think biblically and not in terms of the world’s mindset (Romans 12:1f; Colossians 3:1f; Philippians 4:7f; 1Peter 1:13). Think of all the Bibles references to the mind and to thought-life? Isn’t this how the devil attacks us? In times of mental tiredness, seeking to lead us into confused thinking and thus discourage and even depress us.
The enemies objective is to take our minds off of God, or to lead to wrong thoughts about God. He seeks to deceive and lead us astray by any means at his disposal. Thus either hindering us or restricting our service to God. One of his schemes is to lead us into an obsession about some aspect of our faith. It is right and proper that we have a concern for people, for the church but when it becomes excessive it is obsessive (2Corinthians 2:12f; 7:5). Or maybe some aspect of the truth, about church government, or eschatology or any other Christian doctrine, we can very easily be obsessive about such to the point of it being destructive to ourselves and others. The late Dr Martyn Loydd-Jones used to say frequently that the Christian life was always a matter of balance, healthy balance. Is there some aspect of the Christian life that is an obsession with you, is leading you into conflict with others, spoiling your joy and your witness? Nobody, not even the spiritually strong and mature are immune to the subtle, disturbing assaults on the mind, initiated by the devil, the enemy of our souls. The helmet of salvation is a necessity (v17). He can make the most innocents comments register as clear criticism, accusation or rejection of yourself that was never intended. That such thoughts come to us in a total and sweeping way and begin to cause destruction, dissension and division ought to tell you something of the origin.