Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Trade in Your Old Gear-- Spiritual Warfare X

You are a soldier of the Lord. We have established that. You face warfare every day. Sometimes Satan is subtle in his attacks; other times, he is bold and aggressive. Regardless of his tactics, the kind of gear you put on each day will make the difference between a victorious encounter and one that leaves you feeling beaten.

Have you examined your gear lately? Does it look a bit worn? Does it look like, well, you? That is why we put on the armor of God. Not the armor of church, religion, denomination, family, good intentions, or good deeds, but of God and Him alone.

In order to run a mission for the Kingdom of God, you must check your armor periodically and make sure you haven’t substituted one part of it with something of your own creation. It’s easy to do.

Let’s say that you haven’t been in the Word for awhile, so your sword has been sheathed for awhile. Instead, you have been reading good Christian books, talking online and enjoying your pastor’s messages. These things are reasonable to do but you need time in the Word. You need to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to Him. You see His faithfulness in action as you read through the Bible. History becomes His Story, and you see how He never leaves nor forsakes His children. You seek a deeper understanding through revelation as the Spirit teaches you what you need to know.

So, let’s examine two sets of gear: God’s and yours. Most Christians are going to have a mixture of both. Let’s evaluate what you are currently wearing. If it’s your gear, it must go and be replaced with God’s gear.

God’s Gear versus My Gear:  
The Belt of Truth vs. The Belt of Least Offense 

The Breastplate of Righteousness vs. The Breastplate of “I’m Not Hurting Anyone” 
Gospel Shoes vs. Gospel Slippers 
The Shield of Faith vs. The Shield of Christian Culture 
The Helmet of Salvation vs. The Helmet of Doubt 
The Sword of the Spirit vs. The Pool Noodle of Excuses 
Standing vs. Snoozing 
Prayer vs. Pride 
Diligence vs. Indolence 

Does God’s gear wear out? No. But we do. We sometimes assume that God’s gear might not be quite up to the task. Perhaps we think, deep down, that God’s gear is not quite as good as our gear. In other words, we know best. Then our adversary whispers that yes, we are right: God’s gear is inadequate and you ought to go out and get your own. After all, you know what’s best for you.
So, let’s examine our gear. Is it effective for spiritual warfare?

The Belt of Truth versus The Belt of Least Offense

I know, I know. Truth is fine when everyone agrees with you and THE Truth is fine in church where everyone agrees with you. It’s out in the trenches, or sadly, even in some churches, when it’s hard to stand on the truth, speak the truth and speak of the Truth—Jesus. But the Truth, our Jesus, holds everything together: "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."(Col. 1:17 NIV)

Jesus is the very embodiment of truth. He gives form and substance to our lives. If you are sleeping, you don’t need to hold your pants up. But on the move, out in the field, the truth holds you up, sustains you and pleases the Father-heart of God. Ask: Am I pleasing God or pleasing men? Be honest with yourself here: "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Gal. 1:10 NIV)

The Truth is offensive to those living outside of it. The Truth, because it is based on the Word of God, is not just another version of “truth” that the world can accept. The Truth also reveals who is at the center of your universe: your self, with all of its wayward desires. His Truth shines a light into our darkness: "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God." (John 3:29-31 NIV)

Jesus as The Truth was not well received by His people; we are to expect no less: "God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way." (Matt. 5:11-12 NLT)

Think of a courtroom for a moment. If truth does not prevail, a murderer walks free, an innocent person goes to death row or a rape victim doesn’t see her assailant go to prison, taking him off the street and away from other potential victims. Justice is served by the truth. We serve a just God. We serve Him with the truth. He sent Truth to us, wrapped in flesh and named Jesus. So, if we serve Truth itself, how can we worry about telling the darkness that it’s dark? The emptiness that it’s empty? The lost that hell awaits? We must always speak the truth in love: "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." (Eph. 4:15-16 NIV)

Our love for the person, whether they are a non-believer or a wounded Christian, will preserve our words from becoming confrontational or hurtful. We must speak only when the Holy Spirit prompts us: "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come." (Eph. 16:13 NIV)

We must then trust Him for the results: "It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it." (Is. 55:11 NLT) When we run missions, we wait for orders from our Commander: Jesus, the Head of the Body of Christ. You are the messenger of His love and His words. Are you speaking Christ’s words? 

Another way to think about it: Would Christ speak your words?

Why Our Gear Won’t Work

If we are not fighting for the whole truth revealed in His Word, and only for some diluted version of it, why bother? Anything less than the Gospel in all its fullness (yes, even all those “intolerant” passages) is not the Gospel at all: "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." (Gal. 1:8-9)
Jesus was all-in when He went to the cross: He didn’t die for some sin but for all sin; not for some people, but for all people; not for the current generation, but for all generations; so, why should we fight for anything less as we follow Him?

The Breastplate of Righteousness versus The Breastplate of “I’m Not Hurting Anyone”

Righteousness is given to us by Christ. He imparts it to us by His sacrifice: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Eph. 2:8-10 NIV)

We are clothed with His righteousness: "I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness…" (Is. 61:10 NIV) We are covered and our heart is transformed by His blood. Remember how God killed an innocent creature to cover Adam and Eve after they sinned? God has not only covered us with His innocent Son’s blood, but He has taken away our sins: "Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." (Heb. 10:11-14 NIV)

If we leave our breastplate at home, what are we covered with? Without His righteousness ever before us, reminding us of our weakness and keeping us humble, our heart with its sinful desires will take over. Our heart is deceitful: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9) So, if our heart is allowed free rein, then we will follow what our heart wants us to do. The enemy only has to drop in a few tantalizing suggestions, and away we go. Jesus warned us of what a heart that is not under the Holy Spirit’s control is capable of: "For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander." (Matt. 15:19)

Christians can rationalize their behavior just like everyone else when the heart is at full throttle. They think, as long as I don’t hurt anyone, and I ask God later on for forgiveness (which He is happy to provide!) then I’m good.  Wrong. The hurt we cause is sometimes invisible for a while. But it will come out. Maybe not now, but someday...

The parents who think their children don’t notice _________________ (fill in the sin) because they are “too young.” (But someday they will figure it out.)

The spouse who thinks the other spouse doesn’t notice _________________ because the relationship still seems good. (But someday the spouse will find evidence and be devastated by it along with the deception.)

The friend who thinks no one notices ____________________ because everyone does it and everyone seems fine. (But someday that friend goes into the ER and doesn’t come out.

Think of it like this: Why do you think Jesus equated hate with murder, a longing glance with lust and name-calling with hellfire? (Matthew 5). It’s simple: "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh." (Luke 6:45)

So, if we are speaking, thinking, and acting with His heart guiding us, righteousness prevails. If we are speaking, thinking and acting with our own heart, chaos prevails.

Why Our Gear Won’t Work

The heart without the covering provided by Christ is a playground for our flesh and the enemy. When we go out in the battlefield with God’s armor in full view, we are telling Satan we know he is out there and we are ready. But if we forget to put on the Breastplate of Righteousness on, Satan knows where to aim first: our heart with all of God’s promises stored there.

Gospel Shoes versus Gospel Slippers

Shoes are for walking: “And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” implies well-made shoes and a readiness to go. How often have we said, “Wait! I am coming! I just need to get my shoes on!”

Bad shoes mean disabled soldiers. Think about how painful even a short walk becomes with a nasty blister; how a hole in your shoe lets water in, making your feet cold; how shoes that are too small make your feet ache; how shoes that are broken down will injure your feet and you can’t walk or run for a long time until you recover. The Gospel isn’t just about sharing words. It is about walking alongside someone, understanding their pain and trying to do what is best in the situation. It’s being in the mud and the blood of the battlefield. Satan leaves quite a trail of destruction as he moves through this planet. That’s where we come in.

The Gospel goes out, because the lost don’t always come in: "What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?" (Matt. 18:12 NIV)

You go where the need is. The need is out there, because that’s where the wounded are. The Gospel means shoveling a neighbor’s driveway; helping a friend of a friend move; watching a toddler while a young mom gets her hair done; going and picking up the person you invited to church. The Gospel means movement. Shoes that are well-made (well-grounded in the Word) and a willingness to go (Lord, send me!) are a far cry from Gospel slippers. Slippers are comfy and are meant to wear at home. If your Gospel is comfy and only found inside the walls of your church home, then how will people hear the Good News? "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" (Rom. 10:14 NIV)

Why Our Gear Won’t Work

Wearing footgear that is not intended for outdoor use is useless. Not being prepared to go out and share the Good News is useless to the Kingdom of God. If our feet get pierced (we fall pray to Satan’s deception) because of shoddy footwear, we are sidelined. Let our shoes take the hit: God’s Word is strong enough to take all that Satan and the world can throw at it.

Next time...more inventorying of our gear!

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