Good morning, my friends.
Well, now we know who the combatants will be in the 57th edition of the upcoming Super Bowl. And I have a suspicion that I know who most of you will be rooting for. I mean, it’s not rocket science. It’s just proximity. The Chiefs are closer, right? But whether you’re rooting for the Chiefs or for the Eagles, I think you’d agree with me that the intelligentsia, the coaches of both teams, are putting together a battle plan against their opponents. And behind the scenes, there are equipment managers who are putting together the gear for the teams to wear. That includes, of course, helmets for the head and pads for the body and cleats for the feet, because we’re talking about football armor.
Now, if I were to change the analogy to our local military personnel, it wouldn’t in a sense differ all that much because our soldiers… And by the way, I salute you. I thank you for what you do, men and women. God bless you for serving us. I think we can give them a round of applause. They put their lives on the line, but they know a great deal about soft body armor and hard-body armor and ballistic resistant armor, knowing what to wear to the war can make all the difference in saving their lives.
And hence the metaphor we’re using about wearing armor is fitting for our current series, “The Church at War.”
Now, as I scan the audience here, I assume that most of you know Christ, though not necessarily everyone. But for those of us who do, I don’t have to tell you that the battle against Christ and His forces is intensifying, raging all around us. We all see it and we feel it and God’s people are under attack. The biblical worldview is under heavy fire. And when I think in terms of biblical morays, I understand what’s going on because it runs cross grain of the culture of our society. I have a friend who put it this way. Truth looks an awful lot like hate speech to those who hate the truth.
As your counseling Pastor, I’m well aware in many cases of what’s going on behind the scenes because of what I do. And I want to go on record to saying my heart bleeds for you, for many of you. If only you could know how many folks are suffering behind the scenes. Personal attacks, if you will.
I referenced back to my personal journal on Monday. And I’ll just share with you what I wrote down, a little slice and insight into what some of our people are going through right now, and we hear about it as counselors.
Many people, I said, in our church are going through trials at this time. They include; major surgery, addiction, marital dysfunction, mental breakdown, which, by the way, is epidemic, anxiety, depression, mental health issues, cancer diagnoses, attempted suicide of a family member and broken-hearted parenting… and I could go on.
Now that can sound like a downer, but when I read a portion of my scripture reading for Monday, I was encouraged from Psalm 30:5. It says,
“Weeping may endure for a night…” but how does it finish? ”… joy comes in the morning.”
So there’s hope in Christ as we look to Him.
And this is why our study of Ephesians 6 is so crucial, because the church is at war and in this spiritual battle the Christian soldier has to protect himself or protect herself.
I take this passage very seriously in my own personal life. In fact, I love to compare scripture with scripture and the Lord prompted me to go to Romans 13, which is kind of a parallel passage where Paul told the Roman Christians, he said,
The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.
“Cast off the works of darkness and put on, and get this, the armor of light.” Ah! And then verse 14 explains that further where Paul says,
“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
So that tells me that the armor we are to wear, at least in part, represents Jesus Christ and represents the gospel. The old hymn says,
“Put on the gospel armor each piece put on by prayer.”
…and I try to practice that… back to my own personal prayer life.
Now I’m going to share with you what I do on a daily basis and have done this for years. I’m not suggesting you have to do this. You don’t have to replicate this. I’m just illustrating that I take this passage seriously. Every morning, as God is my witness for years, I pray, “Lord, would you fill me with your spirit? Would you control my thoughts and my words? And right now I put on, and (I just moved from head to toe because it’s easy for me to remember that way.) I put on the helmet of salvation. I put on the breastplate of righteousness. I put on the belt of truth. I put on the shoes of peace. And I take up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. And right now I elevate the shield of faith with which I shall quench or extinguish all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” And then I proceed to pray for my family by name; my children, their spouses, and our twelve grandchildren. The devil is attacking them too, even as he’s attacking your families.
These pieces of armor are recorded in the passage we’ve been studying now for a month or so. Let’s look at the text again today. Ephesians 6, I’ll begin reading in verse 13.
13 Therefore, take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day
and it is right now a very evil day.
Having done all to stand firm, 14 stand therefore having fastened on the belt of truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness and as shoes for your feet, put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace,
he uses somewhat past tense there and now he changes in verse 16.
16 In all circumstances,
it means in all situations wherever you are today, this is applicable to you.
Take up the shield of faith.
Right now today in this service, in this moment, take up the shield of faith
by which you’ll extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one and then take the helmet of salvation in the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
I have a very simple outline for you this morning. And here it is. I’d like you to consider two things. First of all, the illustration of the need for the shield of faith and secondly, the explanation of how to use the shield of faith.
The last half of verse 16 explains why we need this external shield. Follow me here. It’s the first line of defense when the arrows are being shot at you. And it both deflects and it protects. In fact, it helps extinguish all of these fiery darts that the enemy is shooting in our direction.
Pastor Pat, in the series so far, as alluded perhaps more than once to the fact that the shields may very well have been wrapped in leather that had been immersed in water so that when the fiery darts landed it extinguished them. Let me explain further. When the Romans were fighting sometimes their enemies used arrows with flammable liquid. It was a kind of early version of Molotov cocktail. And these fiery arrows were designed to hit and burn the soldier. Some of you have been hit this past week. The enemy trained his arrow on you and he let her go and it landed and it’s burning your soul and you know it today. You’re under conviction. You keep falling and failing, again and again and you wonder, ‘Where am I with God?’ because of what the devil is oppressing you with.
When the soldiers had their shields up in the right position, they were protected from these arrows. Listen to me carefully, our spiritual enemy, the devil, his cohorts, his demons, they attack us in the same way. This may sound like an overstatement, but I can guarantee you, sometime during the service, more than a few of you are going to be attacked by the devil with thoughts. You don’t even realize they’re coming from him, the fiery darts, with a goal of trying to take your faith down. He wants to destroy your faith. And let me suggest to you what some of these, these darts look like. Here we go:
Doubt. ‘I’m not sure I can trust God or trust His word based upon what I’ve gone through.’
Discouragement. Oh, there’s so much discouragement today in the body of Christ. ‘God has let me down.’ And then there’s…
Delay. ‘I don’t know that I can hang on any longer. I thought God was going to come through for me.’ There’s…
Distraction – ‘I can do it later.’ There’s…
Disorientation. ‘I think I’m going crazy.’ There’s satanic gaslighting. He’s the crazy one, but he makes us think we’re crazy. And then finally, there is…
Deception. Folks who say ‘The Bible way, it surely can’t be the only way.’ You’ve heard people say stuff like, ‘My truth may be different from your truth, but both are equally valid.’ No, God’s truth is the only one that’s valid. Jesus said of Himself,
“I am THE way, THE truth, and THE life, and nobody comes to the Father except through ME.“
It is exclusive.
Now these dirty D words represent the devices. Verse 11 calls them schemes. Satan custom designs them for us based upon our makeup. Do you know that the devil knows a lot about you? All they have to do is watch you. It’s the spirit realm. We don’t see them, but he knows our makeup. He knows our vulnerabilities. The question I have for you is, do YOU know your own vulnerabilities? How does Satan most often attack you? I’m going to be the first to tell you, I’m very aware of my own vulnerabilities and weaknesses. And I know where Satan often goes after me.
Do you have the self-awareness to identify what those are in your life? Because that’s where you’ve got to be on guard.
- Are you a type A/go-getter that has trouble waiting on God in His delays?
- Are you the short attention span believer that gets easily distracted, that fluctuates up and down on the graph of spiritual discipline?
- Are you the sensitive type that suffers from discouragement when things don’t go as you had planned within your timetable?
Suggestion: If you don’t have a good spiritual awareness, a self-awareness, may I suggest that you ask a trusted friend to speak truth into your life and identify where your weaknesses, your vulnerabilities, might be?
Now, the word of advice to those who are married. I don’t think it’s wise for you to ask your spouse for that information. It could cause some sparks. Ask a trusted friend, but you’ve got to have some tough skin, okay? It’ll hurt. Ooh. But remember,
[Proverbs 27:6 says]
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”
Now, let me circle back and illustrate further on the nature of the shield we’re talking about today. There were two types of shields that Roman soldiers used in combat. The first was called the Parma Shield. It was a small circular shield that was used only in hand-to-hand combat. That’s not the shield that’s used in our text today. The one in our text today was called the Scutum. It was about four feet tall, two and a half feet wide. It weighed over 20 pounds. And the Greek word that’s used in context tells us what it looked like because it’s the Greek word as you see there, “thureos,” which means an oblong door. It’s like the Roman soldiers were carrying a door around which they’d hide behind. You say, ‘Are we supposed to carry a door around?’ Hey, we’re talking figuratively, okay? Spiritually, we need to carry this door around to protect us from the enemy.
Now, this leads naturally to the second point of my outline and that’s the explanation of how to use the shield of faith. Something about the ministry here at Saylorville you need to know about those of us who preach. We’re always going to teach, but we’re going to go beyond that to application to where you live. There’s often a difference between teaching and preaching. Every preacher teaches, but not every teacher preaches. What I’m saying is, we try to make application to where you’re living, especially the case in my scenario as a counselor where I see you live and I say, ‘Okay, I’m seeing what’s going on. We’ve got to give some correlation here.’ I want you to understand how to protect yourself. I want you to always ask the question when you’re hearing a message, ‘So what?! What am I supposed to do with this?’ I don’t want to just tickle your pride, your intellectual acumen. I don’t want to just puff you up with knowledge. I want you to do something with what you hear so your life changes. That’s what putting on the whole armor of God is all about.
So two applications…
First the shield of faith is to be used in the company of others. When the Romans were in combat, they used the Tastuto formation which protected them on all sides of the unit. The testudo is a kind of Mediterranean tortoise/turtle. And you can see why the Romans used this name when you look at this picture right now on the screen.
The outside soldiers would put up a shield around the periphery facing outward to prevent against attacks from the site. But those in the middle would of course put their shields [up over their collective heads] to protect from attacks above.
What we’re picturing here is the church. When I say Church, I’m not talking about the building. Although it is ironic to me that structure above us kind of looks like a turtle shell. But it’s not the building that’s going to protect you here. There is safety in numbers in the body of Christ. When you plug in to life on life, that’s how God helps you in the battle, because we can’t go it alone. We can’t live in a silo. We don’t play the Lone Ranger in this Christian business. We need the body life. We need to stay close to our brothers and sisters for accountability. In particular, a ministry we have at our church is called community groups. And that’s where you find the most basic application of these truths and, of course, accountability.
Now, stay with me in this illustration. If you’ve ever watched nature shows, you know how lions take down their prey. They are following, maybe it’s a herd of buffaloes or maybe it’s antelope. They’re looking for the one that kind of drifts away from the herd. They’re looking for the ones that maybe are staying back, and that’s the one they attack.
When you drift from regular fellowship with this body, in attendance, in small groups, in ministry, you set yourself up to be a target of the enemy. The Bible [1 Peter 5:8] calls the devil a roaring lion…
1 Peter 5:8-9
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (whom, watch this now) resist him, firm in your faith,
(There’s the shield of faith.)
So the shield of faith is to be used the company of others. And then…
Secondly, it is to be used in our own personal life battles. And what I mean by this, you’ve got to know when you sense the incoming attack and you’ve got to have the shield ready.
And let me just talk to my guy friends for a moment. Guys can struggle with a lot of different sins; pride, anger… But I think one that almost runs cross-grain throughout all of the male population is lust. I counsel a lot of guys with problems with porn. And I have to tell them this, I say, ‘Guys, don’t wait until after you’ve fallen to report on yourself to your accountability partner. Take the initiative. Be proactive and preemptive. When you feel that satanic attack coming on from your flesh or from the devil, take action. Even if it’s in the middle of the night, text an accountability partner and say, “I’m being attacked with sexual temptation.” And even if you don’t know that they’re going to look at the text for a few hours, the very fact that you out yourself, expose it into the light, will ratchet down your temptation markedly in that moment.’ Because we ‘live’ together and we all need each other because of the sinful impulses of the flesh.
In addition, when a demonic enemy shoots at us, we need to shoot back. In that regard, we’re a little bit like the famous Israeli Iron Dome. Are you familiar with this? The Iron Dome is an air defense missile system in Israel designed to protect against incoming short-range threats. It shoots them out of the sky. That’s why Israel has been so protected from its neighbors that have been aggressive. It’s kind of like what should have happened before it happened with the Chinese balloon that was floating around. We should have shot that baby out of the sky long before it reached the Atlantic Ocean. I don’t know what was inside of it. Maybe it was an intel proposition, but bring that baby down. Don’t let it float over you.
That’s an illustration of the way temptation works. And how do we shoot down these temptations? …By the power of the Word of God. That’s our armament. Jesus used the Word of God when he was tempted in the wilderness, and so must we. The Bible describes God as being our shield and His Word is our shield. Let me just give you a flavor for some of the places where God as ‘shield’ is mentioned in Scripture. I’m just going to restrain myself to the book of Psalms. This isn’t exhaustive. Perhaps the best known of these verses is
For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor. (Curt used ‘grace and glory’)
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
For my purposes, I want to try to unpack another text in here,
In this Psalm, David talks about his warrior, God, who goes to battle against his enemies, namely Saul and the Philistine armies. In this text that I’m going to show you, he uses a number of synonyms for ‘shield’, which helps you to understand what a shield means. So let’s look at the text together. They’re color coded for you. These words are synonyms for shield. David said,
1 I love you, O LORD, my strength.
2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation,
You say, “What does that mean?” This means a place of power.
That rock imagery, referenced twice in verse 2, reminds me of a trip that my dear wife, Karen, and I took a number of years ago to Niagara Falls and the Cave of the Winds. The Niagara River at the falls flows over solid rock. We took an elevator down through that solid rock, it had been drilled downward, to reach what was called the Cave of the Winds. When you reach the bottom, you walk through the cave and exit right beneath Bridal Veil Falls. In fact, the American Falls are right adjacent. These falls come crashing over the precipice at 75,750 gallons per second and 280 tons of force plunging over the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. But the people at the bottom are protected because of the rock formation.
Here’s the illustration. When David, King David, the same David that wrote Psalm 18, was just feeling overwhelmed, he prayed in Psalm 61:2-3.
from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.
When I’m overwhelmed, lead me to that rock that is higher than I, for you have been a shelter for me. Have you found shelter in that rock? You find it in His Word.
In the next couple of weeks, Pastor will be preaching on the sword of the Spirit. Two weeks from now, he’s going to talk about the “Ramah of the Word,” the power of the Word of God, so I’ll let him address that then.
But in this message, let me emphasize the faith part of the shield of faith. If I were to ask you, define for me faith, how would you define it? Well, let the Bible define it or describe it for us. This is from Hebrews 11:1;
Now faith is the assurance (confidence) of things hoped for, the conviction (assurance) of things not seen.
Faith is confidence in what we hope for, and assurance of what we do not see. I want you to know that faith is a choice. Did you hear me? Faith is a choice. It’s not a circumstance. It’s not a good feeling. It’s a choice when you’re in trouble to believe what God has said and camp on it. That’s what faith is. Life can be very uncertain. We never know when a trial will come. The question is, are we ready? Is our shield in place?
In her biography of Elisabeth Elliot, the famous missionary martyr’s wife, Ellen Vaughn writes insightfully when she said this,
“It is a mercy that none of us know what is coming.”
Do you agree? I am not a prophet and none of us is privy to what’s going to happen to you, your family, your neighbors or your work associates later today, this week, next month, next year or 10 years from now. We don’t know. If we did know, I think we’d be prone to worry ourselves sick knowing it was coming. And I wrote this down:
“Though we don’t know what is coming, we do know who will be with us when it comes, because Jesus, our rock, said, “I’ll never leave you, I’ll never forsake you, “I’ll be there for you, trust me.” When those waters come crashing down, lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Lord, you have been a shelter for me.
Find a verse of scripture to camp on, and make it your own. Here’s one that I recommend. It’s
1 Corinthians 10:13.
No temptation or testing has overtaken you, but such as is common to man.
You’re not unique in what you’re going through.
But God is faithful,
Oh, I love that. God is faithful.
Who will not allow you to be tempted or tested above what you’re able, but will with the temptation, provide the way of escape that you might be able to endure it.
Did you see that? He’s going to get you through. You will be able to endure it as you put your trust in Him. Don’t trust your feelings. Don’t look at the circumstances. Put your faith and hope in Christ and His Word.
I love this quote from Tim Keller. So insightful. He talks about the technique of the devil. I want you to notice how Satan works two different ways. Here’s the quote from Tim:
Satan’s technique with believers is twofold. In temptation, he hides God’s holiness and entices us to think too highly of ourselves. But in accusation, which often comes after we’ve succumbed, he hides God’s love and prompts us to think too lowly of ourselves. ‘I’m such a bum, I’m such a stupid sinner, God doesn’t love me anymore. I can, I’ll just give up.’ No. Satan is hiding God’s love.
The gospel armor keeps us balanced. In a moment, we’re going to observe the Lord’s table, the Lord’s Supper, communion. I want to explain why this table is so symbolic, why it’s such a wonderful visual aid, not unlike the whole armor of God. Communion indicates the foundation of our trust, that is, faith in Jesus Christ and the gospel. We must believe that in a time-space continuum, God’s Son entered the human race. He became one of us, perfect humanity undiminished deity united in one person forever without any sin at all. This is pictured, of course, in the unleavened bread which we will partake of. He’s a perfect sacrifice because He had no sin of His own, so He could pay for our sin. it requires a death of a perfect substitute for us to be saved and forgiven, and Jesus provided that. Of course, the fruit of the vine pictures his shed blood, which covers our sin, makes atonement for our sin so that we can be clean. Then, He rose from the dead to prove that He is who He claimed to be, God, and that God the Father was satisfied with His sacrifice. That is what we must believe to be saved. We must trust in Christ to be saved.
There’s a lot of brokenness in our world. And again, my heart bleeds for the brokenness I see and feel regularly. Recently, I sat down with a friend who attends another gospel center church here in the Metro. Late last October, he lost a son through a drug overdose that triggered a heart condition. A note about this son… by God’s grace, he had apparently, maybe even for years, had overcome his addiction and was working in a ministry in a rehab for folks struggling with addictions. He was helping them and many were overcoming. In late October, the devil drew a fiery arrow and aimed it right for his heart, literally. Apparently, he had a weak moment. Unknown to him and, to his family, he also had an enlarged heart at age 30. The little bit of drug he ingested, took him out. He died. The story doesn’t end there. Two months later, this past Christmas Eve, his best friend also died from a drug overdose. What I learned from my local friend is that there is a phone phenomena among the younger generation that prompts them to text or call deceased friends even though they know they’ve already passed. It was not lost on any of us that this best friend texted his deceased friend many times on Christmas Eve knowing he was gone as if to cry out to his friend, ‘Can you help me from the other side?! Can anybody out there help me?!’ He took his own life.
No deceased friend can help you. But I’ve got good news! There’s a heavenly Friend who not only died, but came back from the dead. His name is Jesus. He rose again and invites us to come to Him for salvation and for help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:14-16 put it so beautifully, I’ll paraphrase the early verse;
We have a high priest who can sympathize with us in our weaknesses. He was tempted/tested in every point like as we are. But listen, He was without sin. And here comes the invitation. He says to all of you here today, come boldly to the throne of grace that you may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Are you in need? Where are the fiery arrows landing in your life today? Turn to Christ. He’s offered to help you if only you’ll put your trust in Him.
As I circle back to our text, I’m reminded that often Roman shields were painted with identifying marks, namely the insignia of their kingdom. And here’s the point. The Christian who takes up the shield of faith in Jesus Christ, the heavenly kingdom, identifies himself as a foot soldier who serves the commander of the Lord’s army. And Jesus has pledged Himself to help you. If you turn to him by putting up the Shield of Faith and fighting the good fight of faith, don’t give up! Don’t surrender! Trust God that He’ll see you through and you will endure as you rest in His promises.
That first phrase in verse 16, it’s so significant… in ALL circumstances. Whatever you’re going through, this message is for everybody here, whatever your situation. I know that many of you are going through great hurt and pain, even though you don’t talk about it. In every situation, whatever you’re going through, this text tells us, put on the whole armor of God. Then, take up the Shield of Faith with which you’ll extinguish ALL the fiery darts of the wicked one. [This is what the] scriptures say, this is the victory that overcomes the world; Our faith! Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? Do you believe? Have you believed? Today is your day to put on the armor, to lift the shield and find victory and power in Jesus Christ because we don’t fight for victory. We fight FROM victory… in Christ!
If you have trusted Christ, you are welcome to partake with us today at the [communion] table…
Lord, I can’t help but sense that it was divinely ordained that I should speak about this text today because of what I see in so many peoples’ lives who are being taken out by the devil’s arrows. And I beg for these dear people that they will have hope in Christ and turn from self, and discouragement, doubt, distraction… all these dirty ‘D’ words that lead us away from You. May we run back to You to the throne of Grace to help in the nick of time. Lord, even as we’ve used the illustration of spiritual armor to picture Christ in the gospel, now we’ve changed to the visual aid of the communion table. This element of bread, unleavened bread, that pictures [Christ’s] perfect body. And then the fruit of the vine, the cup that pictures the shed blood of Christ by which we are forgiven if we trust in Him and believe that He rose again from the grave. O God, help us today to put up the Shield of Faith, I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.