December 6, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Ephesians 6)

Submitted by Jenny H. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 6:14-17  

  • How would a soldier in an ancient battlefield have viewed each piece of his armor?  List and reflect on each item of the “whole armor of God” (cf. Ephesians 6:11) with a sense of personal appreciation for the value of each one.
  • Is there a component of the armor that I am weak in, or have been neglecting? 

A soldier in an ancient battlefield would have viewed each piece of his armor with such value and importance, like how could I leave one piece behind and have one piece compromised. I read an account in the Gates of Fire, the battle of the Persians vs. the Spartans and it was an account of what fighting and battle looked at during that time. Just like all wars, it was gory, ruthless, and the stakes were high. There was a strong enemy who was looking to destroy. As a soldier in the thick of battle, with a cruel and cunning enemy advancing and arrows and swords on every side, of course I would see each piece of armor, every weapon as crucial. I would not neglect them, leave them behind or not take the time to learn how to use or fasten them.  As a spiritual soldier, as one who is in the thick of spiritual battle, with an enemy who is more cruel than any enemy any Roman soldier would’ve faced—Satan himself—I think about each of the pieces of armor Apostle Paul talks about here and affirm that each piece is indispensible.

“Stand therefore, having fastened on the BELT of TRUTH.” (6:14)

Why is the belt of truth first. Truth is what holds all things together. As a Christian, I don’t have wishful thinking on my side, just “nice” thoughts or opinions. I have Truth on my side as I live and walk as a Christian. When I was a non-Christian, the last thing I wanted to become was a Christian. But I did so first and foremost because I was convinced that Christianity and what it said about God, the world and my life was true. As a Christian, as I go through different seasons of life, that confidence in the truth of the gospel has instead of waned, has deepened and become more firm. Why do I need this belt of truth? Because the main weapon of the enemy I’m fighting is not a gun or sword – it’s LIES. The way that Satan is described in the bible is the “father of lies.”

Therefore the way I am going to counter that is with the Truth.

“Breastplate of righteousness”(6:14) – From the commentary: “Paul was not writing about judgment, but the fact that the new being is created to be like God (4:24). To put on the breastplate of righteousness means that Christians are to reflect the righteous character of God in their actions.”

This is really true to life that as we allow God’s sanctifying work in our lives, as we submit to his ways and engage in righteous acts out of love for God, those righteous deeds serve as a “breastplate,” a protection to our lives. Oftentimes, I have experienced ministry as that “hedge of protection” in my life, protecting me from the otherwise self-indulgent and self-destructive deeds I could be engaged with.

“Shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace” (6:15) – this is interesting that this is part of the full armor of God. This struck me because is what it looks like to stand firm – it’s being ready to move as a response to the “gospel of peace.” What it looks like to be rooted in God’s love and standing firm is to have your feet ready to pick up and move where God’s work is, where the need is. Think it’s also readiness to flee from the evil desires of youth, readiness to run from sin and temptation instead of passively standing around. This tells me to stand firms is a very active thing, it has to do w/ me being ready to do some things.

I think there is a misconception sometimes about what a Christian life ought to look like – calm, not moving, peaceful, quiet.  But looking at Apostle Paul, the one who penned these words, his life was characterized by a readiness given by the gospel of peace. His life was constantly uprooted, interrupted by people he loved, ready to move because of the gospel he had received.

“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” (6:16)

Shield of faith – what does this tell me?  This tells me that there is an enemy I need protection from.   Apostle Paul is underscoring the reality of the “evil one,” there is an enemy. And this enemy is not passive or in active. He is on the contrary, very active.  He’s catapulting flaming arrows at you. Satan wants to steal, kill and destroy. Revelations 12:12 says: “He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”  To go into a battlefield filled with flaming arrows without this shield would be ludicrous. What would it look like for me to hold up the shield of faith against the flaming arrows of Satan?  Faith, according to C.S. Lewis, is not just wishful thinking or feeling, it is affirming or going back to what you already are convinced is true.

“Helmet of salvation” (6:17) – I was very personally struck by this imagery of the “helmet of salvation.” The helmet protects the mind.  I thought it rang so true in terms of how spiritual battle is waged and so much of Apostle Paul’s exhortations to Christians has to do with the MIND, THOUGHTS, BELIEFS.  The commentary says: “Salvation” and ‘the word of God’ in verse 17, however, are clearly gifts from God, which at the same time enable and motivate human obedience. […]

What can I learn from this?  The salvation that God has already gifted me with–this is something that can protect me. How does this happen?  I think as I consider what God has done in my life, as I take the time to reflect and unpack the grand gospel that has come to me, how God has LED and LOVED me so personally, recounting and thanking Him, it becomes a helmet of protection against temptation, against, for me, the lies that Satan is constantly lobbing my way and the lies that have already been embedded in my mind that need to be uprooted.

Satan wants to knock Christians out of the battle.  He wants to infiltrate our minds and hearts with his lies. But I see so many people walking around without their helmet of salvation; I lament my own folly as I walk around without protecting my mind. I have recently been experiencing what a bulwark and protection my salvation and my testimony is. This past Sunday’s baptism service was a tear-filled time of just that for me–considering and remembering my own salvation story as I listened to the amazing and loving ways God led my younger sisters and brothers to salvation. I felt that “helmet of salvation” being strengthened. Recently, as I confessed the lies that I’ve given into and received counsel from those who’ve struggled through their sins and this life longer than me, who are wiser and stronger in their faith than me, and as I claim God’s word and truth for myself, my helmet of salvation becomes more sturdy and Satan has a harder time knocking me out of the war.

“The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…” (6:17)

This is the one offensive weapon that Apostle Paul talks about there. This is pretty amazing and I think it really dispels the wrong notion that the bible is antiquated or irrelevant. In Hebrews, the word of God is described again as a sword of the spirit. In Jeremiah 23:29 “Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”

So many times in my Christian life, I have experienced the word of God as this sword, as this hammer that can break to pieces the lies of Satan or my own stony pride. What does this sword do? It not only battles Satan, but my own heart, it can pierces my own self-delusion and pride to get to the truth of who I am. It can cause me to confess and convict me of the truth of who God is.

“‘Word of God’ does not refer to the Bible but to the gospel message. The Greek word used here (rhema) usually refers to a teaching or prophetic utterance or, more specifically, to the gospel.”  [Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 193-228.]

The word of God and as the commentary states that the gospel – this is a sword, this is my weapon to fight this spiritual battle.

I think the older I get, the more of life I see, the more of my own sin and lack as a person, minister, friend, wife, mom, the more people I interact with, the more I am convinced of how true and how profound the gospel is. The way that Jesus tries to describe the worth of the gospel in Matthew 13 through this story: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” This truth is something that I have come to appreciate not less as I grow older, but more; it’s a story I find myself often thinking about these days. As I wield the truths of the gospel, it cuts through the fog of my own spiritual life, cuts through the lies of Satan and the “deceitful desires” (Ephesians 4:22). As I look at the world through the lens of the gospel, all the glittering sights that dazzle of pleasure, money or “freedom” are cut through and shown for what they are–pale imitations and phony substitutes of the life God created for us, and I see more clearly again, that yes, the gospel is that treasure worth selling all for.

Through reflecting on each piece of armor, I see each part is indispensible to stand firm in Christian life. But another reason and motivation to put on each piece is and to stand firm is for the sake of my fellow sisters and brothers, for the lost who don’t know God’s salvation, who are defenseless in many cases against Satan’s lies and corruption. In Satan and His Kingdom, it says something chilling: “Satan agrees with God on the importance of the church. He won’t wait for us to come to him. He aggressively moves in to corrupt the life of the body of Christ. His success in history should give us a new appreciation of his powers of persuasion and deception.”  I need to “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” for my sake, to experience indeed the mighty strength of the Lord and for the sake of His church, the hope of the world, the mystery Christ died to reveal to us.

Submitted by Maurice C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 6:14-17  

  • How would a soldier in an ancient battlefield have viewed each piece of his armor?  List and reflect on each item of the “whole armor of God” (cf. Ephesians 6:11) with a sense of personal appreciation for the value of each one.

“The belt of truth” – The belt is the implement that girds all else; without it, the rest of the armor falls apart, there is no place to strap the sword. You could have the toughest armor, but without a belt to hold it in place, it would be useless. Likewise, the truth serves as the binding agent in our spiritual lives. Without truth, our other spiritual endeavors become meaningless, or ineffectual, or both. There have been many times where, because I did not confess the truth about where my heart was, even though I heard messages and had talks with friends and leaders applicable to the issue, I did not experience forgiveness for it, release from it, freedom from it. Relationships cannot progress on half-truths and smiling masks – you have to get to the bottom of things and be honest and have a mutual respect for the truth. Spiritual progress cannot be made unless we confess who we are and what we have done. Sharing the Gospel cannot really happen, and is painful even as we try, if we are not vulnerable with our own brokenness as we share the truth of the Gospel and God’s grace. I’ve learned these lessons through both negative examples, where I did not hold to or admit to the truth and sooner or later suffered the consequences, as well as positive examples, where I took steps of faith in admitting the truth, and at the very least was able to present the real me to people. Because in the end, acknowledgement of, submission to, the truth, is so key. It is to admit to and acknowledge reality itself. Without truth, what can you do in life? What can you trust, believe in, operate off of? But with truth, you can make genuine progress.

“Breastplate of righteousness” – The breastplate would have protected the soldier’s most vital organs. It would allow him to strike forward more confidently. Likewise, perhaps part of the function and duty of the breastplate of righteousness, is to protect us.  When we have not walked in righteousness, and instead sought our own desires, our evil impulses, even if we do it with seeming confidence, inside there is often a disturbing sense that we have done wrong, that our path and decisions and actions contain something amiss. It causes us to doubt peoples’ love for us for no reason, it causes us to shrink back and “guard” ourselves, it causes us to be fearful. But when we have surrendered to God’s call to walk in obedience to his righteous commands, there can be a sense of peace and confidence – not in our bravado, but vis à vis the God who sees what we do in secret and is pleased when we obey him.

“Put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace” – The gospel of peace gives us motivation to give it our all in living for God, to venture forth even into unknown and scary situations, and as such, they function like shoes, enabling us to go further, to attempt to traverse rough terrain, to go to far off places. They are also the medium through which we “stand firm.” The gospel is very much the one thing that I have over and over come to realize is the only thing that I can stand firm upon in this life. Money comes and goes. Success is short-lived. Thrills and pleasures suffer diminishing return-on-investment. Even the best things, like familial love, romance, friendship, are sooner or later tainted by our sinfulness. But the Gospel unflinchingly calls our sin what it is (that which was so dark as to send the sinless son of God to the Cross) and offers us a solution to it all the same. God’s suffering love. Christ’s sacrifice. And no up or down in this world can shake that. In our Christian lives, if we try to make our “shoes” of other material – approval of others, spiritual status, the benefits of living in close community, passive following of the crowd – we will not be able to stand firm. I have seen this play out many a time. Those materials are simply not capable of forming the shoes that we need. Life is too hard, the call to Christian submission and obedience too total, our sin too strong, for any of those things to make our walks last. But if we, daily and as much as we are able, place our hopes and confidence in the Gospel alone, all the ugly and beautiful parts of it that slay and save us at the same time, we will be able to stand firm.

“Helmet of salvation” – The helmet protected the soldier’s head. It allowed him to keep his head up, even in the thick of fearsome battle. It would allow him to literally “stick his neck out.” Likewise, our assurance of salvation – again, proven by Christ’s willing death on the Cross for our behalf, and his resurrection just as he promised – enables us to not keep our heads down in our day to day lives, timid and unwilling to engage with our lives, others’ lives. Instead, with our salvation secure, our eternal destinies assured, we are able to keep our heads up, to look toward the battle, to seek out where we are needed, to be all there, with confidence.

“Sword of the spirit” – The one weapon of offense in the list. Protection is great, but the soldier is a soldier to engage in battle, and without a sword, he is impotent for the charge he is given. We are called to assail the gates of Hades. We are called to demolish the strongholds and false arguments of the devil. We are called to set the captives free. And our weapon with which we are to accomplish these tasks, is the Word of God. It is God’s Word that is able to expose all the many lies that bind people: that sin isn’t real, that there is no such thing as moral truth, that we are mere animals, that seeking pleasure with no restraint is the highest good, that we should protect ourselves and not give to anyone in love. God’s Word has slain these lies in my own heart, and I’ve experienced sharing God’s Word with people going through struggles, how it addressed them so precisely and perfectly, and how it cut through their chains of unbelief or rebellion or doubt, to set them free.

  • Is there a component of the armor that I am weak in, or have been neglecting?

I need to grow in my knowledge of and practice in applying the Word of God. Like honing a sword, I need to grow in my breadth of familiarity with the different truths proclaimed, stories recounted, promises made, in God’s Word. Applying the same few sets of verses to all situations is like clubbing everything with the same blunt weapon. But as I came to know different passages, and the nuances about who God is and what He is like that emerged from them (both separately and in conjunction), the Word became suddenly more “relevant” (though of course it always already had been) in more and more situations, even though the very same Bible had seemed so dull and irrelevant when I was younger. But I need to grow much more in this. And not only that, but I need to practice wielding it, so that I am able to swiftly deploy it in battle, and in the right places and with the right force. How? Reading and growing in breadth of knowledge is not enough. I need to practice wielding it in my life, in the lives of those I am ministering to. The more people you have concern over, the more you have need of the Word, the more you struggle to apply it to different situations. So I need to invest myself into people more, pray over them more, and speak into their lives with and through the Word more. As with most of the other disciplines, solely seeking my own benefit is not enough of a motivator. But really recognizing that in many cases, I may be the only one speaking the Word into a person’s life, someone I am ministering to, has made me approach the Word more hungrily and fearfully, and this is something I need to do more of as well.

Personal Prayer

Dear God, thank you for knowing what it is that we truly need – the armor outlined above. We don’t need better life situation, we don’t need temporary thrills – we are in a battle for our own souls and those of the people you have placed in our care, and you knew exactly what it was we needed to survive that battle, and not just to survive, but gain victory. Your Word, your salvation, your Gospel – these are such powerful things, yet by our willingness to put them on or not, they are rendered effective or impotent. What a scary thought. Please continue to remind me how important it is that I put these on daily, that I value these pieces of armor highly, not only for my own spiritual state, but again, for those you have entrusted into my care. Thank you for being a powerful God who is able to defeat even the demons within me; thank you for sending your son on the Cross to be victorious in the battle against sin and death, and help me to soldier on, through your grace, to win the skirmishes we have until we can rest in heaven.

Submitted by Wenjie C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 6:14-17  

  • How would a soldier in an ancient battlefield have viewed each piece of his armor?  List and reflect on each item of the “whole armor of God” (cf. Ephesians 6:11) with a sense of personal appreciation for the value of each one.

A soldier in an ancient battlefield would have viewed these pieces of armor as his lifeline during combat, each protecting a vital area on his body. Without one of them he would be exposed and rendered ineffective and even life threatening. Therefore the solider would have seen each piece as very valuable to his very livelihood. In addition, the soldier would also be very well versed in each item as well. Having trained long and hard for the battle, these pieces of armor would have been very familiar, how to handle the sword, when to use the shield, moving with varying pieces of armor from the shoes to quickly get into places to the breastplate allowing for closer action that can be afforded due to the protection, etc.

Belt of truth:  For me, this is something that is a reminder of the truth of who God is, what I have in Christ, and just the Christian worldview and the accuracy in which the bible talks about the world. It is that ultimate source of authority and I am not guessing like the rest of the world, I have the source of truth with me to go to for discernment and to guide my decisions and plans. The belt of truth is the undergirding element of everything because it represents what it means to reference everything against the ultimate authority.

Breastplate of righteousness:  This is righteousness that comes only through what Jesus has done on the cross, living a life perfect and pleasing to God. And it is this righteousness that I am granted, nothing I have done to attain for or try to make up for, but just given to me. God sees me as righteous because of Christ. And the things I do to try to live a righteous life is not so much from my efforts and will power, but rather a recognition that I can point to Christ as having it modeled it for me and I am simply trying to imitate Christ as I follow him. I do it out of an understanding that I am called to reflect God’s righteous character in my life before the world so that they too may become convinced of God’s goodness and holy character.

Shoes with the readiness given by the gospel of peace:  I have received this gospel that has brought me peace in my otherwise previous life of striving and trying to achieve for myself some kind of purpose and self worth. God reconciled me to himself, and that is the amazing gospel that I have and been given me to properly understand what has happened in my life. I think about the ways in which God lead me to the gospel, the people and circumstances that he used, and now I play that role of being equipped to readily go and share this gospel message with others as well. Being a college minister, I see the mission field before me and the many on campus that are not at peace but rather enslaved and striving for something that they hope will bring some kind of meaning and worth, but they are all following blindly what the world says, but instead I have the real deal, the gospel that will bring them peace and I need to go to them so that they may know.

Shield of faith:  As I live Christian life longer I have experienced many more of Satan’s ploys and attacks. Whether in the form of people close to me such as family to difficult life events or the voices of the world or using my deeply rooted sins, Satan’s arrows come at me often times when I am least suspecting or in wave after wave trying to deplete my resolve. In each of those times it came down to holding onto God for dear life. I remember there have been times in the last couple years where it would have been so much easier to just heed the voices and throw in the towel instead of continuing to struggle, but in the end it came back to remembering the promises of God and his faithfulness in my life, and for me to continue to trust God with my life, repenting of my faithlessness and putting my faith in him again. It really has been that shield in my life protecting me from Satan and his deceitfulness.

Helmet of salvation:  I can only praise God for my salvation. Especially recently just witnessing the baptisms of 20 of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and hearing some of their stories, I was reminded of my own salvation, the ways in which God came and rescued me from my life of purposelessness and media seeking ways that was destroying and desensitizing me to the world. Ultimately my relationship with God was reconciled, because the penalty for my sins were paid. Something I could never have done was done for me, salvation freely given me at the cost of Christ’s life. But now I enjoy the freedom of my salvation, no longer the words of Satan and the world have the final say, but I can point to what Christ did on the cross and my new eternal destination.

Sword of the Spirit:  I have the word of God to cut through the lies and deceit of the world. The one offensive weapon God gives me is his word, to expose things as they are, to shine light upon the deeds of darkness. And I’m thankful for the intake of the word of God at our church from Sunday message to the staff bible studies through Romans and 2 Corinthians as well as the devotional text and questions so that I may be able to see things clearly, to not get caught up by the hype and glitter of the world and its promises but to discern properly what is truly important. The gospel message of how to have eternal life, of having a reconciled relationship with my heavenly father, an answer to my sins, and purpose for me life, are what anchors me and motivates me to live each day for God.

  • Is there a component of the armor that I am weak in, or have been neglecting? 

One component of the armor that I am weak in and need more attention to is definitely the Sword of the Spirit, the word of God. Just being able to quickly reference the word of God for whatever occasion or topic is very necessary in dispelling the attraction and temptation that would otherwise might have led me astray. It is not enough to bank on history and what God has done in my past or simply going back to my salvation and get re-convicted which is what I often do during times of struggle or needing more encouragement and confidence in living out my faith. However, it ultimately has to be the offensive with the word of God to dispel the lies and seemingly very enticing persuasion of the world. Also, especially in helping others fight these lies and to live out their commitments to God faithfully its about giving them the relevant verses and passages so that they may as well be on the offensive instead of just being on the defensive in this spiritual war. And just with our times of DT review, being convicted that much more being equipped in this area and allowing myself to take full advantage of these times to be prepared to share the explanation from the word of God as the ultimate authority and thus removing any doubt or reason for pause. I need to continue to be faithful to my DTs which is one of my main sources of intake of God’s word as well as just all the messages I hear to really sink in so that I can not only retell the points of the message but also to recreate the message and give it in the future. Therefore this is an area that I need to continue to really grow in a lot.

PERSONAL PRAYER

Thank you God for today and just reminding me all the ways in which you have prepared me to fight this spiritual battle. Help me to be reminded daily that I am a soldier of Christ and that I am joined in this battle, it is war time and thus for me to have a war time mentality instead of the kind of peace time mentality the rest of the world seems to have. Help me to be reminded that I need to make the most of the time, not as unwise but as wise because the days are evil and that is an urgent cry for me to live out my faith seriously and to use all the armor of God that’s been given me to put Satan on the defensive. Please help me in the area of really being trained up with regards to just having greater aptitude and reliability in handling the sword of the spirit so that I can be a source of blessing not only to myself and in my spiritual walk with God but also to many others as well. I think about all the ways in which God has given me blessing after blessing and even in this area of living out my spiritual walk to be provided for and blessed. God, please help me to really soak in your word so that I can have your words ready to destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

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