GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICALS
Number 560 • August 26, 2020
SECURE YOUR HEART BY PUTTING ON THE WHOLE ARMOR OF GOD
We will all stand naked before God in judgment. But it is not safe to stand naked before our spiritual enemies with nothing to hide behind and nothing to protect us from the devices designed to destroy us. We should not remain ignorant of the enemies of God and the dangers they present to us, nor of our available defenses against them. We preach and teach rightly that one is not safe and secure forever after initial salvation. It is possible for a once-saved person to fall away and be eternally lost. Holding to the doctrine of impossibility of apostasy and eternal security – the popular “once saved always and eternally saved” doctrine, is not “obeying the gospel” but is in fact a “denial and disobedience to the gospel.” Multitudes of people become Christians, and multitudes fall away from the Lord. Many are saved but far too many of the saved fall away and are lost again.
How and why do the once-saved fall away? Some simply lose interest in spiritual things, but in most cases of those who depart from God, the work of the devil can be detected. I would suppose everybody who starts out with the Lord really wants security. Everybody wants to believe he can stand fast in the Lord and in the power of his might, that he can be and will be “a good soldier of Christ Jesus (Eph. 6:10, 2 Tim. 2:1-2), but to succeed in all of that one must understand several things. We will list several examples of what we must know and do, and end with an exhortation, to make our calling and election – our salvation – sure (2 Peter 1:10-11).
THE ENEMY AND THE WAR
Be aware of Satan and the spiritual forces of darkness in high places (Eph. 6:12, 2 Cor. 10:3-4). Never underestimate the strength of the enemy. Satan is not a coward. He will flee from you if you resist him steadfastly in the faith (1 Peter 5:8-9, James 4:7-8) but he is certainly not afraid of you or me. Though he fears Christ and knows he will be defeated by Him he will fight until the bitter end.
Stay informed of the wiles (schemes, crafty tricks, and devices) of the devil (2 Cor. 2:11). They may seem obvious but they are ever changing, some new unexpected way to trap the unwary. The most effective weapon of the devil is not violence, not blood in the streets with people being gobbled up by demons. His most effective weapons are trickery, subtlety, deceit, and lies (Gen. 3:1, 4 and 13; 2 Cor. 11:3-4, 14-15). Peace, prosperity, and popularity persuade many to believe “God is with us, and everything is as it should be.” Compare Jer. 6:14. “They have healed the hurt of my people slightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” People are easily persuaded that as long as they know the basics – the plan of salvation and a thing or two about worship and the qualifications of elders – they don’t need to study (or even read) the Bible. It is a common belief that all we need to read is the New Testament, that the Old Testament is only for the Jews. People think they can “turn their lives over to God” and then “God will make sure nothing bad happens to them” (Mt. 4:6).
The principle involved in the Faust legend finds many applications today. People “sell their souls to the devil” for a variety of worldly pleasures and treasures and not a few common trifles.
“Now, as of old, man by man himself is priced.
For thirty coins of silver Judas sold himself, not Christ. Not for thirty coins of silver have we sold Thee, Lord,
But for a superfast computer, wireless web and remote keyboard.”
THE EQUIPMENT GOD GIVES THAT ENABLES US TO WIN THE WAR.
There are other lists (for example 1 Thess. 5:1-11) but we focus here on Eph. 6:10-20), with a spiritual application of the various parts of the armor – how each part is designed to function.
The girdle/belt of truth. Eph. 6:14a. The literal girdle or belt of the Roman soldier was a wide piece that protected the loins – the small of the back, thought of in Bible times as the seat and center of physical strength and also one’s strength in procreation. It is common, but wrong, today to think of the loins as the “private parts.” The belt was the unifying piece to which the breastplate was attached, and to which the sword was attached when not being used in battle. Truth is the word of God (John 17:17). It is called a belt or girdle because it encircles the entire Christian and unites all parts of his spiritual armor. Any part of the “armor” one uses will fail if it is not of God’s truth. Jesus said Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). A lie is anything that is not strictly true. Insinuation, innuendo, and other such distortions of the truth are lies. A half truth is a whole lie. The only way to offset the lies of Satan is with the truth of God.
The breastplate of righteousness. Eph. 6:14b. Made of metal or tough dried multilayered skins of animals, it protected the upper torso where most of the vital organs – heart, lungs, liver, and stomach in particular – are located. Righteousness means “right” (1 John 3:7). It includes right thinking and right attitudes. The thought is often parent to the deed (Prov. 23:7, Mt. 15:18). “Out of the heart…” come defiling thoughts, impulses, and actions. It includes right actions. It includes right actions. Never do anything you have doubts about. Do only what you can prove to be right (1 Thess. 5:21-22, Rom. 14:22-23). When temptation comes it can be overcome or extinguished by one’s personal righteousness. Joseph’s righteous character is what enabled him to resist the temptation of Potiphar’s wife. “How could I (such a person as I am) do this wicked thing and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9). Personal righteousness makes the false accusations of Satan and his servants fall away as unbelievable (Eph. 4:24, 1 Pet. 3:14, 16).
Shoes: preparation of the gospel of peace. Eph. 6:15. Hobnailed boots or sandals enabled one to press forward and not be pushed back. The feet could be planted firmly. Paul says the shoes are “the preparation of the gospel of peace.” A good soldier always checked the condition of his armor, but in particular his shoes. His feet had to support him and carry him forward and enable him to stand fast. Christian soldiers also prepare themselves by keeping their armor in good repair by applying the gospel – by which they can bring peace to the world and enjoy that peace themselves. How important is preparation? Jesus trained and prepared his apostles for three years before sending them out to win the world for him. Christians who are not properly prepared by personal knowledge of the gospel message will not only fail to convert others but will themselves be overcome, not be able to stand, withstand, and keep on standing (Eph. 6:13).
The shield of faith. Eph. 6:16. The shield was used to ward off sword blows, spears, arrows and any other weapons brought against the soldier. It was often made of non-combustible material, in order to put out the fire of flaming arrows and darts. Faith is our shield. But faith is more than believing something or having principles one is willing to defend. Faith is more than belief (one can believe a lie). See 2 Thess. 2:10-12. Faith is knowledge, truth accepted and believed (John 8:32). Faith is action, doing what one knows to be the will and command of God (James 1:26, 2:18-24). Faith is the assurance that God is in fact with us because we are in fact with Him (Heb. 13:5-6). That kind of faith overcomes the world (1 John 5:4).
The helmet of salvation. Eph. 6:17. In 1 Thess. 5:8b Paul calls it “the hope of salvation.” This does not mean that it is only a desired or hoped-for thing, and not a reality. We often misuse the word “hope” in that way. Biblical hope, the hope which the Christian is supposed to have is both desire and expectation. We want Christ to come for us, and we believe that he will. We want the Spirit of God to intercede for us and help us, and we believe that He will. This hope which is given to the Christian is assurance, so that he can confidently call upon the resources of God. The helmet protects the head, the mind, “the decision-making apparatus,” the seat of emotions and will (Prov. 4:23, Phil. 4:7). The Christian is able to assure his heart/mind that he has been saved and is in a saved condition (1 John 3:19-22; Heb.11:1 (ASV) the assurance of things hoped for… Hope is the anchor of the soul both steadfast and sure, and it keeps us from drifting or being drawn away from the place of safety in Christ (Heb. 6:19). Confidence in our salvation keeps us from giving up when we are attacked by spiritual enemies. Truth, righteousness, and the gospel that undergirds our faith – all of these combine together to keep us from falling away.
The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Eph. 6:17b. This was the soldier’s only weapon for hand to hand or one-on-one combat. Notice it is called “the sword of the Spirit.” It is not the Spirit himself. This word of God, given by the Spirit of God, answers every objection and question or challenge of God’s enemies. It is a defensive weapon, part of the armor. But it is also intended to be an offensive weapon (2 Cor. 10:4-5). With it we can tear down the strongholds of the enemies – the guesses, hypotheses, suppositions, and fabrications of those who reject God’s will and His word of truth. With it we can convince and convert the gainsayers (Titus 1:9).
Stay dressed and ready to use the armor at any and all times. Without it you are naked and unprotected against God’s enemies and yours. Do not say, “Grace takes care of me when I’m threatened but unarmed.” The gracious God provides the armor; the faithful Christian uses the armor as God intends it to be used, both defensively and offensively. The enemy will attack you at every unguarded place in every unguarded moment. He will not send advance notice of his attack or what weapons you will need for the particular attack he plans to make against you. A Bible on the shelf may be useful if one has time to consult it, as in a planned debate or set-timed battle. Armor hanging in the closet is helpful if one has time to put it on. But the Bible in the mind is a ready defense and a powerful offense against those who challenge one’s faith and relationship to God, who question the hope and faith of the Christian (1 Peter 3:15, Mt. 4:1-10). Armor when worn is a ready defense and effective offense. Don’t be caught unprepared. Being dressed and ready for a fight at any time will give you an advantage in those unplanned spontaneous impromptu unexpected skirmishes.
Prayer is the line of communication, the constant link between the person and God. Eph 6:18. The line must always be kept open – stay connected; pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). Jesus said, “Pray and do not faint (do not give up)” (Luke 18:1). Pray in accordance with what the Holy Spirit has taught us in the word of God (Rom. 8:14). The Spirit of God within us understands our yearnings even when we can’t put them into words. So He helps us pray effectively (Rom. 8:26-27). But as powerful as prayer is, it will not be effective unless we do our own part. We should not ask or expect God to do for us what He requires us to do for ourselves.
HOW CAN ONE SECURE HIS LIFE AND GUARD IT FROM SIN?
The answer: First and foremost, find the truth of God containing the whole armor of God. Having found it, put it on. Not just selected parts of it, but the whole of it. Wear it all the time. Never take it off or put it away. When you are not wearing it you are completely vulnerable to the spiritual powers of wickedness. Naked, unarmed, or one-on-one, you are no match for the devil or any of his servants.