spiritual warfare in the Heavenlies
Below is a series I did on Ephesians 6:10-18 on what it means to stand dressed in the full armor of God. By clicking on the title of each you can listen to it in audio as well. For some reason I cannot get the links to work when you click on the title... if you have trouble copy and paste the url I've posted below into your browser and you can listen that way.
Eph 6:10-13 Finally, my brothers, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. (11) Put on the full armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the stratagems of the devil. (12) For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenlies. (13) Because of this, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having accomplished all things, to stand.
We start out with the word, "finally", which means this is Paul's concluding instruction at the end of a book where He has begun by telling the body of Christ of their spiritual position in Christ, and what they have in Christ. He began by telling them that theirs is "every spiritual blessing in the Heavenlies, in Christ Jesus". It's important not to overlook that word, "finally"! Most do. They somehow separate these instructions with the preparation for them in the beginning of the book, isolate them, and try to somehow apply them in a mystical sense, and totally miss their meaning. But unless we first understand what the Lord has done for us, in us, and what it means to be "in Christ", we are not going to be able to "put on" the armor of God. We can only put on what has been given to us already, of the Lord.
What are we to be strong in? Our own wisdom? Some famous teacher's books? Some formula for spiritual warfare? Our own works and achievements? Too many are strong in these, but not in the Lord, in their experiential knowledge of Him, what He has provided, and the power of His might. If there ever was a day when we needed to understand the provisions of our Lord and where we stand "in Him" it is now in these last days of wickedness--"perilous times", that we live in.
Paul's armor is an illustration of everything he has already given to us in Ephesians 1-2. It is how we are to practically wear it and walk in it and apply it, as was his other instructions. This is why he first lays out our position and calling in the first chapters. The enemy schemes, continually, seeking to destroy the souls of men, and make Christians defeated and ineffective, and detach us from our head so that we are good for nothing as far as His fruit working through us until we are tossed aside. If he can, he will even find a way to use us for his own means, all the while making us think we are doing God's service. He knows every weakness in us, and he looks for the holes in our armor.
So we come back to what our armor is. This armor is the whole armor or the entire panoply of God. It is an armor that covers us entirely and protects us from the enemies schemes. It is knowing we "have been crucified with Christ and raised up with Him". God knows every scheme of the enemy, even though we don't, and has made full provision. The more we learn God, and the more we grow in His understanding of Who He is and what His will is, the more we recognize the enemy’s schemes. We don't learn the enemy’s schemes by studying the enemy so much as studying God by faith, at His feet every day. This entire panoply, our complete defense, is provided by God Himself. We cannot, somehow in ourselves, attain it. It is only appropriated by being "in Christ", born of His Spirit, and having His Spirit indwelling us. It is Christ Himself. It is akin to what Paul tells us other places that we are to "put on Christ". It means to appropriate, apply, walk in by faith, what Christ is and has done, and is in us and to us. It is not some magical formula that we mentally go through every day, or some mystical experience.
The armor of God is also defensive. It is to enable us to stand through every attack and deception of the enemy. It is to enable us to stand strong for Christ through everything we are to bear or walk through, as we serve Him here, doing the work He has prepared for us to do. Nowhere does he tell us to name demonic spirits and powers and principalities directly, or to directly talk to them or rebuke them or give them any orders in this portion of Scripture. It is for us to be aware of their working. They are defeated when we stand appropriately dressed in His armor. When light comes in to illumine, powers of darkness are powerless. The enemy’s only power over us is deception. How important is truth then! He plots ways of deceiving us, and only in deception does He gain victory. Paul tells us our struggle is against them, as they are there at work in the circumstances of our lives looking for a chink in our armor, where they can gain access and a stronghold in our lives. Our command is to stand against them fully dressed in the Lord's armor so there is no hole where they can get in. We stand against them looking to Jesus, not looking to the enemy. He loves to get our eyes off of Christ. One of his strategies is to get us preoccupied with him rather than Christ.
If we are not into the Word of God, which is our knowledge of God, our hope, our salvation, our life, and our very breath in our walk here below, we are not dressed in the armor of God. If we are not eating His Word regularly, drinking from His Spirit each day, allowing Him to bring us into His light and reveal to us our own flesh, and our own areas that we need to yield to Him, and what we need from Him each day, then we have holes in our armor. It is all there for us, be we are not dressed in it. If we are not taking in that Word by faith, appropriating it and applying all that He gives us each day, then we have holes in our armor.
We must be lovers of the truth, as God is, and learn to rightly know His Word of truth, in order to apply truth and walk in it. Truth is Jesus Christ Himself, and revealed to us in His Word. We must have His truth in us and be walking in it. Our loins must be protected with truth. Our loins are the "seat of our strength and vigor"... "the center of procreative power, the portion of the body which is girded about, and is considered as specially needful of covering, even under primitive conditions of life (Job_31:20), and where painful disease most effectually unfits a man for work and warfare"-- International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Thus we have no spiritual strength whatsoever without His truth girding us, enabling us to bear fruit for God. We are as one diseased and helpless.
The enemy uses various means of deception, so it is fitting that Paul starts out with truth as the first thing in our armor. I notice many today claiming to have a corner on the truth by identifying with their favorite teachers, authors, or system of theology. But truth comes to us as we walk in God's light, eyes on the cross, with an honest heart, humbled before Him, as we allow Him to teach us His Word and convict us by His Spirit; not as we sit under men, or read their books without examining it under His light and asking His Spirit to give discernment and truth. We are not to just accept anything from a man without examining it by the Spirit in the Word. If our hearts have preconceived ideas, it's very difficult to allow God to do that. It is only another area of our flesh, undefeated, that must go before the cross, in order for His truth to even begin to illumine our minds and hearts. If we want to hold onto a preconceived idea of God, for whatever reasons, we aren't able to let the Lord teach us fully of Himself and make His Word come alive in our hearts and lives. I'm amazed at how many groups there are out there claiming they are the only ones with the truth, and that they only go by the Bible, when in fact they are far from the Word and far from understanding it. They are in fact, going by some man's teaching out there who uses portions of the Bible out of context and spiritualized to back up his teaching. They search the Scripture to back up their ideas. They do not search the Scripture to test their ideas and see if they stand or fall in its light. Do we have any other motive but the glory of Christ as we sit at His table seeking to learn of Him? Is there "truth in our inward parts"? Truth there means honesty before God and man, and most importantly with ourselves. We are our own worst deceivers!
Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and incurable; who can know it?--It is God alone Who knows it and reveals it to us in His light--Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and operative, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and penetrating to the division of soul and spirit, both of joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Just to share a bit of my own struggle with spiritual oppression, and how the Lord delivered me, I will tell you a bit of my early Christian experience. My "hole" in my armor was not understanding His truth of His finished work and the power and surety of His salvation to me. I feared losing it all the time. The enemy convinced me (deception, lies), that I had committed the unpardonable sin, and there was no hope for me. I was oppressed by demonic spirits day and night and wanted to kill myself. I feared there was no more hope for me to again find that wonderful closeness with God and my chances of being saved were over. The enemy brought me verses continually, (yes he is proficient at using the Scriptures), only to condemn me. At night I had dreams of hearing him laugh, a wicked laugh, saying to me, "there is no more hope for you", all the while I would feel his hands around my throat strangling me. I would wake up unable to even utter the name of Jesus, and still feel his presence in my room as I tried desperately to cry out to God. I was tortured in my mind day and night. There was no relief. I even made plans to take my life. People prayed over me and tried to rebuke the enemy and "cast him out". Now I understand he was not "in me" to be cast out, but was heavily oppressing me through lies and deception because there was a huge hole in my armor of unbelief and lack of understanding of all Paul told us in Ephesians 1 and 2, and also in his other letters where he tells us all that our salvation is and the power of it... that same power that rose Christ from the dead, raises us up from the dead, (the spiritual deadness that sin produced in us), and makes us alive with Him in the Heavenlies. I cried out to God for deliverance and the Lord gave me His Word. His Word... His truth... was my defense. I still did not understand fully the greatness of all that His salvation was to me, yet He showed me Ephesians 1 and 2, and that I was "in the Heavenlies with Christ". I had no idea what that meant back then, but I clung to it. When you have truth to hold onto, and you hold onto it, the enemy doesn't have a leg to stand on. He soon just backs off for a while (see Luke 4:13). The Lord continued to teach me, over many years of my Christian life, that truth, more accurately and deeply, even though what He was teaching me was being countered by what my church I was in was teaching. So the battle went on. Sometimes our teachers can actually be tools the enemy uses, unwittingly, just as Peter was a tool of satan when He tried to stop Jesus from going to Jerusalem to the cross. That's why we must take all we hear to the Word, before God, and ask His Spirit to convict us of truth, and give discernment through the whole counsel of God, not portions. Compare Scripture to Scripture. Don't spiritualize what isn't meant to be spiritualized. Take the Word in context, comparing it to the rest, and ask God to reveal truth to you in it. Take it literally unless it's obvious that it isn't meant to be. The more I learned of Him, His faithfulness and power to save and keep, and that He is my surety, the less the enemy was ever able to attack. I literally drenched my mind in Scripture under those attacks, listening to it throughout the day, and those fiery darts and arrows became little pings that easily bounced off my armor. No amount of rebuking him previously worked! No amount of trying to stand worked! No amount of prayer over me worked! Only as I was able to put on the truth, girding my loins with His truth against the enemies lies, did I find I could stand.
This is my own example, and there are many. Truth alone can defeat lies. Light illumines the darkness. Lies can take away our strength and effectiveness in the Gospel. Lies are what defeat us. Truth sets us free. Truth is Jesus Christ and His living Word. And, "He whom the Son sets free shall be free indeed".
Next week, Lord willing, I'll do a part 2 in this topic. There's so much to this armor He provides to us! It is all about the centrality of His Gospel in our lives. We tend to think we are saved by the Gospel and that is all it is for. Then we think we must go on doing our works, as though the two were separated. No... it must be the central force, continually, in our birth, our walk, our stand, and our end. It is central, as is expressed so clearly in these verses! May the Lord bless these truths to your heart. And this I pray...
Eph 1:17-23 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: (18) The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, (19) And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, (20) Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, (21) Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: (22) And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, (23) Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
Eph 6:13-14 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (14) Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
Remember v. 10--we are to be strong "in the power of His might". Our strength comes from HIS might, not ours. What is that might? Last week we saw His truth as part of our armor. If we are not strong in His truth, we have no strength. If we don't know His truth, neither will we be able to understand His righteousness which is our breastplate. The breastplate protects our vital organs--our heart and lungs. If they are pierced it could mean certain death. His righteousness is our spiritual life.
As the breast-plate defends the heart and lungs, and all those vital functionaries that are contained in what is called the region of the thorax; so this righteousness, this life of God in the soul of man, defends everything on which the man’s spiritual existence depends.—Clarke
Going back to the first couple chapters of Ephesians, we see that we have been given His righteousness and we have been raised up in the heavenlies seated with Him. We could never be seated with Christ Who is perfect in holiness and righteousness if we were not perfect in His eyes. He does not dwell with sin, yet He claims we are "risen with Him", "seated in the heavenlies" in Christ Jesus. It is only "in Christ Jesus" that we are given this position. We are not in Him and out of Him according to our walk, but it is done by Him, the One Who purchased us with His own blood and justified us. He has given us His Spirit. His Spirit could never dwell in anything but a clean vessel. We are only clean because He cleansed us, not because we cleansed ourselves. There could never be any other way. None of us have kept the law perfectly which is what it would take to dwell with Christ. We must first realize the only true righteousness we have, that is in Christ, by Christ, and for Christ. We must see ourselves as He sees us--that is "seated in the Heavenlies", clothed in His righteousness. None of our acting in what we consider to be righteousness, without faith in His, will mean anything or be effective for standing against the enemy. If we stand in our own self-righteousness, we will be an easy target for the enemy.
Once we are dressed in His righteousness by faith, we must also walk in it. Knowing our heavenly position, we must act accordingly and by faith appropriate it in our lives. If we have sin, we must confess our sin (John 1:9), in order to walk in His light and keep communion with Him. Even though our being born of His Spirit, lifted up to the heavenlies, and "glorified with Him" (Rom. 8:30), is a finished and done deal, we must learn to walk in it below in this earth, in order to walk in communion with Him, being effective for Him, abiding in Him, and being made like Him in our works, which He has prepared beforehand for us to do. If we do not appropriate by faith and walk in that righteousness then we have a huge hole in our armor. If we use grace as a license to sin, we are putting ourselves in the position of "enmity with God", separating ourselves from His presence in our daily lives, and putting ourselves under His chastisement rather than His blessing.
James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
How is it that His own children will sometimes live like His enemy, and cling to the things of this world that are offensive to Him? Yet we do, when we fail to seek to know Him, His righteousness, and all He has given us, to live godly in this world. When we look to live for ourselves rather than "deny ourselves (self-esteem in this world), and take up our cross (our uniting with Him in His death and resurrection by faith), and follow Him (by faith in His life in us). It is a process we learn from the time we first come to Him and will continue on as we walk in this world. That righteousness was freely bestowed on us. We never earned it nor did we ever measure up to it, nor will we. But it was freely given as a gift when we came to Him by faith (Rom. 3-5). Yet, many times we leave it at that and fail to appropriate it into our daily walk. Until we do, we will continually be under attack by the enemy and defeated. Whenever there is guilt, he will move in and torment, until that guilt is brought before the light of God's Word and truthfully (again truth in our inward parts), dealt with, confessed, and forsaken. All the while we must stand on His righteousness and His blood while we do so! To try to clean our own selves up will never work, but only to come to Him in humble repentance and true confession by faith in His righteousness.
1Jn 1:8-10 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
To confess our sin means to agree with God, and take His side against it. In our flesh there still dwells sin. If we say there isn't, we make God a liar. We have a sinful nature until we are redeemed from these bodies. If when the Holy Spirit convicts us of that sinful nature and we see the deeds of our flesh in ourselves, we agree with God against it, not denying or excusing it, then He is able to give us the power over it, restoring fellowship with Him, which gives us power over the enemies accusations. The enemy would use guilt to tear us down, defeat us, and condemn us. When we remember His Word that because of His work in us, doing what the law could not do, there is no condemnation for those "in Christ Jesus", we are able to come boldly before His throne of grace. We are risen above the condemnation of the law and justified, (Rom. 8:1-4).
We hear the saying, "don't get the cart before the horse", meaning our works before our position. Yet many do not ever attach the horse to the cart so that they are able to go anywhere! They sit there in head knowledge of their position in Christ, yet never learn to apply it to their lives in a practical way so as to walk in it, and overcome in this world. We must first know and put our faith in His righteousness alone, and nothing in ourselves, yet we must also learn to walk in it, and allow His righteousness to be formed in us now and work in and through our lives. What blessings there are in Christ that we never appropriate because we think we must hold onto our petty lives here! There is no power of the enemy that can stand against the blood of Jesus Christ and what that blood did for us. It brought us into Christ, which means all that is His has become ours in the heavenlies, (Eph. 1:3). That is only possible through His righteousness.
I feel a loss for words to rightly describe this. I wish I had a way to make it more clear. I pray that the Holy Spirit will do that and illumine our eyes as we think on this piece of armor He has supplied to us. This piece of armor that is powerful against the enemy and unless we have it on, how powerless we are against him!!! How meaningless it is to try to put on any other piece of armor without His righteousness!
Again, remember that the armor is the whole armor, so as we go through it, don't separate one piece from the other. Truth and righteousness must go together, as will they go together with the rest of God's armor mentioned. Next week, Lord willing, I will go into part 3 of this study in the armor of God. It is so important! Until then, may the Lord bless you with revelation of His truth and righteousness daily as you seek to live for Him in this world, standing against all the stratagems of the enemy... and there are many! He is constantly "roaming about seeking whom he may devour"...
1Pe 5:6-11 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: (7) Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. (8) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: (9) Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. (10) But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. (11) To him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
We wrestle not with flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.--Eph. 6:12
These principalities and powers of darkness... "have also, as a sphere for the exercise of their power, the lusts of man, and even the terrors of his conscience."--J.N. Darby. It is therefore important for us to take our stand against them. That stand must be a stand "in Christ" and His work, and our position in Him as one that is born of His Spirit. We've looked at truth and righteousness in Him as part of that entire panoply of God that He has provided for us. Now I want to look at "the preparation of the Gospel of peace".
Eph 6:15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
Clarke... "if the feet or legs are materially wounded, a man can neither stand to resist his foe, pursue him if vanquished, nor flee from him should he have the worst of the fight."
Our feet shod... feet walking in the preparation, readiness, establishment, firm footing and firm foundation of the peace of God... being fitted or prepared by the Gospel of peace... peace in the salvation we have in Christ alone. That peace prepares us for wherever and whatever direction we must walk with our Lord, for wherever we go as we walk forth in our daily lives, in our service to Him, in our love toward one another, in our daily battle against the enemy... our walk must be shod with that Gospel of peace. That is what enables us to walk and to go forth carrying that Word to others. Whether it is in sharing that Gospel, or just walking the Christian life daily, we must be shod with that peace that only comes from the true Gospel. That alone prepares us for everything. It prepares us for standing and it prepares us for walking. It makes us stand firm established in the Gospel, so that nothing disturbs that peace we have with Christ. Only as we stand correctly shod, are we able to walk. If we stand firm in His peace, which comes from His truth received, and His righteousness filling our hearts, along with the entire armor supplied, the enemy cannot gain entrance. His truth and His righteousness applied to our lives is our peace. Our feet are made ready for action.
Luke 1:79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful.
John 16:33 These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye may have peace. In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Acts 10:36 The word which he sent unto the children of Israel, preaching good tidings of peace by Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all.)
Romans 5:1 Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ;
Romans 8:6 For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace:
Romans 15:13 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 2:13-17 But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ. (14) For he is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, (15) having abolished in the flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace; (16) and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: (17) and he came and preached peace to you that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh.
Romans 10:15 and how shall they preach, except they be sent? even as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things! Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!
Without His peace, peace that comes from being justified before God, free from fear of condemnation, peace with God so that we are made able to dwell with God and have fellowship with God, we are crippled and cannot stand or walk as we are meant to. Without that peace we are struggling constantly to find peace. If we find we are without peace in our hearts, again we must go back to His truth and righteousness. Is there truth in our inward parts? Is there His righteousness in our hearts? Are we walking in His light? Are we surrendered in faith to that calling of Christ? Do we understand what we have in Christ Jesus and what He has done for us? Or are we trying to control our own lives, living out our own passions, yet trying to find His peace and blessing on something He can never bless? If we understand the Gospel correctly, it should give peace to our hearts. If we are believing it and relying on it, in faith yielding to it, then it gives peace to our hearts with God. There is no more agitation of striving to find peace. When there is anxiety in the heart, look to His peace. Our peace comes from His peace. When peace is threatened around us, we can look at His peace. He is at peace in what He has done for us and given us and is doing in us. He is at peace with His purposes in us and has promised that He is working all things together for our good. He is satisfied with His work. His love for us is perfected in that Gospel of peace and we can rely on it. It is a "good news" of peace freely available to us through Jesus Christ.
As we are made ready by that peace filling our hearts while we walk in this world that is anything but peaceful, we are ready to endure, to walk, to reach out, and suffer, and to do all we are called to for the sake of that Gospel. We have nothing to lose in Him, and all to gain. We have an assurance of the final outcome. (See Rom. 8:28-39)
Why is it we find ourselves in turmoil in our minds, full of anxiety, unable to function in our Christian life? Are we participating in His peace? Are we trusting His will for us? Are we abiding in His peace rather than looking to what peace we can find in our circumstances? Where do we go for peace? Sometimes we only feel peace when all is well in our lives here. Rather than being obedient to the Gospel of peace we are striving at times against it to have our own way. There is no true peace outside of His will. One of my favorite quotes from Corrie Ten Boom was "the safest place to be is in the center of His will".
We must come to the place we are standing firmly, rooted and grounded and established in His peace, even when our hearts are in turmoil over the things that are happening in this world. He told us in the world we would have trouble. We'll never find peace here. We may feel grief over others' sins. We may see trouble coming our way and know we are about to suffer from it. We may be helpless to do anything to change hard circumstances for ourselves or those we love, but that will not take away the peace of Christ that prepares us to deal with these things, and enables us to stand without being destroyed by them. They do not take away our peace with God. We can look to His peace and abide in it even though our peace is being challenged, even when it means our peace with other humans is lost because of our stand. But when our peace with God is hindered because of sin in our own lives, we can find ourselves crushed under it. We have a hole in our armor. Once again, it is the entire panoply of God and not just one piece of that armor that we must have on at all times. If we know truth and have truth in our hearts, then we know His righteousness alone is all we must rely on. If we are relying on the righteousness given us in Christ, we have the peace of the Gospel, peace with God and all enmity between us and God is abolished. If we see God rightly in our lives and are responding accordingly, we have peace with Him. We can rely on His promises and cling to that peace even through the worst storms. It's what strengthens us to go through them and makes us ready to face them.
I love the order of this Armor that Paul goes through! Each one has an important place in the order he gives. I don't believe the order was coincidence. Truth and righteousness bring peace to the heart. When we are failing to abide in that truth and righteousness, we lose that peace of God. To find it again, turn to Him in a surrender of faith once again, confessing sin, agreeing with God against it, and once again, trusting Him to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. At all costs we need to hold onto the peace of God!
This is from the the Geneva Bible Translation notes:
"The preparation of the Gospel may be as it were shoes to you: and it is very fitly called the Gospel of peace, because, seeing we have to go to God through most dangerous ranks of enemies, this may encourage us to go on bravely, in that you know by the doctrine of the Gospel, that we are travelling to God who is at peace with us."
We're pilgrims in this earth. God has given us our travelling clothes on our way to our heavenly home. He's given us all we need to walk through this life. At times it doesn't seem like it. We feel so ill equipped. We see our weaknesses. Yet, if we look into His treasure of provision we find all that we need in Him, to put on, and walk on. Jesus said He is going away to prepare a place for us and will come again to take us to be with Him where He is (John 14:1-3). We aren't to fight flesh and blood in this world as though the world were ours to fight for, but we are to stand against the powers of darkness as they fight to deceive hearts and minds and keep them from entering into His kingdom.
John 18:36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
Philippians 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
How much we need that Gospel of peace as we walk through this pilgrim journey until our full redemption and we are delivered from all sin and evil in this world! If we are trying to make this world our home, or our heaven, we will have a constant battle and find no security or peace or happiness. We'll constantly be angry at God for hard circumstances, losses, and persecutions, because somehow we think He should make everything perfect for us here! But God thinks eternal, and is saving us out of this world to be with Him, not saving the world for us. There will be a day when He makes all things new and there will be a new Heavens and a new earth (Rev. 21). God has so much better for us than we can ever imagine! He has so much better for us than we try to have for ourselves!
Isaiah 26:3-4 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. (4) Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:
And last of all I can't close without sharing Paul's instructions for walking in that "peace that passes all understanding"...
Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. (5) Let your moderation (forbearance, patience, gentleness) be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. (6) Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (7) And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
That peace passes all human understanding because it is His peace that is not dependent on anything in this world but is separate from this world and from our own human understanding altogether. It relies on Him alone. Praise God for such a peace!
Ephesians 6:16 above all, taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Above all... Over all these that have been so far mentioned--the waist girded with truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and feet shod with the firm footing of the Gospel of peace--over all these take up the shield, which will cover the entire body. The shield is a defense against every weapon the enemy can throw at us. It shields against every attack. It covers all else that we have put on in Christ. It keeps us able to stand in all He has given us. What is this shield that God has provided?
FAITH--a firm persuasion or conviction: Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of the NT...
"The main elements in 'faith' in its relation to the invisible God, as distinct from 'faith' in man, are especially brought out in the use of this noun and the corresponding verb, pisteuo; they are (1) a firm conviction, producing a full acknowledgement of God's revelation or truth, e.g., 2Th_2:11-12; (2) a personal surrender to Him, Joh_1:12; (3) a conduct inspired by such surrender, 2Co_5:7. Prominence is given to one or other of these elements according to the context. All this stands in contrast to belief in its purely natural exercise, which consists of an opinion held in good 'faith' without necessary reference to its proof. The object of Abraham's 'faith' was not God's promise (that was the occasion of its exercise); his 'faith' rested on God Himself, Rom_4:17, Rom_4:20-21."
This shield of faith is a faith based on all that has previously been given us, which is truth, righteousness, and peace in Him. It is that firm conviction in that truth, righteousness, and peace in Him alone. First we must know these and put them on and over all these, take up that faith, appropriating them, so as to continually rest in them and walk in them... that is all that Christ has accomplished for us and in us, by bringing us into Himself, and coming into our hearts to dwell. That shield of faith is knowing and understanding, accurately, Who He is, what He has done, and standing firmly established in such. As it states above, this is a firm conviction of His truth. Then out of that firm conviction there is a surrender of faith in Who He is, casting ourselves on Him. Out of that surrender will be actions according to that conviction.
Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God as the Scripture says (Romans 10:17). The Word of God is what reveals to us God's heart and promises to us as His children. It builds us up, because we know that God Himself Who promised is able to perform that which He has promised. Because of Who He is, we know that we can take Him at His Word. God Who changes not, nor ever fails, and Who is always faithful to His Word which is eternal, is trustworthy. As we learn His Word, it reveals Who He is, along with His attributes, character, and heart. As we take up that shield of faith, we hold up that conviction of His Word in our hearts which exposes all the fiery darts of the enemy to be what they are. We don't have to look at those darts coming at us and shrink in fear, but just hold up that shield to them and they will not penetrate. Darkness cannot penetrate light, nor can his lies penetrate God's truth. Those are the enemy’s weapons against us.
As I've shared many times, I found when I was overcome by depression and irrational fears in my early Christian days, and overwhelmed by spiritual oppression, God showed me to take up that shield of faith. I made a Scripture tape recording all the verses I could find of His promises to me. I listened to it with my headphones on as I went about my daily work, as I laid down to sleep, and as I woke up in the morning. I drenched my mind in it. It put a shield around my heart and mind that the enemy could no longer penetrate. His lies were exposed by the Word, which protected me, and God's heart toward me and His promises were deeply rooted into my being, as I heard them over and over again, countering every fiery dart of doubt and fear and unbelief the enemy tried to throw at me. Soon I was completely free and the enemy simply gave up attacking me. I simply covered myself with my shield and he backed off. The Word of God is healing and delivering when we know the God behind the Word! It is not a magical formula to be quoted to the enemy if we do not have that conviction of faith in the God of the Word, and in His faithfulness! Too often Christians try to use it that way, as though it is a force separate from God Himself, and the enemy can easily penetrate their shield as it has not been a true shield of faith that they have surrendered to, out of conviction of His faithfulness. There is nothing magical or powerful about the Bible used as a formula that one tries to manipulate out of their own flesh and lack of understanding for their own purposes, or even for what they perceive as God's purposes. There is nothing magical about convincing ourselves to have "faith in our faith" and trying to feel it strongly enough so as to convince the enemy.
The powers of darkness know when we are truly holding up a shield of faith and deep conviction and reliance on God based on His true Word. They know when we are relying on our own "faith" also, which they are able to easily penetrate. Faith is not a feeling or a power of thought or word. Faith is evidence in our hearts based on the truth of God, Who He is, and what He has promised. It is a complete reliance on God and all that He is. We cannot muster up faith by trying to feel it. We choose to put our trust in God, Who is faithful, as He is revealed in His Word, even though at times our feelings may not want to go along with that. Faith without surrender and obedience to that Word is not faith at all. Again we see how all the parts of this armor go together. You cannot just have one piece without all. This armor is the Gospel, believed, appropriated, and acted on.
Many try to overcome by introspection, and psychology ("flesh trying to improve flesh"), rather than take up their shield of faith. There are so many subtle ways the enemy can even make that sound spiritual. God has already given us His victory and overcome, raising us up with Him into the Heavenlies in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-5), and we need to take up our shield of faith and walk in it, and stop trying to do what the Lord has already done in us. We try to "die to self" rather than take up our position as having been crucified with Him and risen with Him, by faith (Romans 6). That is nothing more than flesh trying to crucify flesh by the power of introspection and self-discipline, which only succeeds to draw us further into ourselves rather than upward to Christ (Colossians 3:1-4). The "just shall live by faith", not by introspection, self-improvement programs, or continually digging into our past and trying to "heal" it. Apply the shield of faith to every part of your life and the "baggage" of your past will be seen for what it is and overcome. He who the Son sets free will be free indeed (John 8:36), only as we know, understand, and appropriate that freedom by faith. That "baggage" is simply our sinful flesh, which we all have, which was dealt a death blow at the cross. Reckon yourself dead therefore, and risen with Him to newness of life (Romans 6:11).
The more we learn to know Him, and grow in true knowledge of Him through His Word by His Spirit, the more our faith will grow also. If we grow in understanding of all He has provided for us, revealed to us in the beginning of the book of Ephesians, the more we are able to stand by faith in Him. When the enemy throws fiery, poisonous darts of doubt, fear, temptation, etc., we are able to actively look away from it and set our hearts and minds on Him.
1Jn 5:4 because everything having been born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that has overcome the world--your faith.(EMTV)
Adam Clarke's comments:
"The fiery darts - It is probable that the apostle alludes to the darts called falarica, which were headed with lead, in or about which some combustible stuff was placed that took fire in the passage of the arrow through the air, and often burnt up the enemy’s engines, ships, etc.; they were calculated also to stick in the shields and set them on fire. Some think that poisoned arrows may be intended, which are called fiery from the burning heat produced in the bodies of those who were wounded by them. To quench or extinguish such fiery darts the shields were ordinarily covered with metal on the outside, and thus the fire was prevented from catching hold of the shield. When they stuck on a shield of another kind and set it on fire, the soldier was obliged to cast it away, and thus became defenseless.
The fiery darts of the wicked, or devil, are evil thoughts, and strong injections, as they are termed, which in the unregenerate inflame the passions, and excite the soul to acts of transgression. While the faith is strong in Christ it acts as a shield to quench these. He who walks so as to feel the witness of God’s Spirit that he is his child, has all evil thoughts in abhorrence; and, though they pass through his mind, they never fix in his passions. They are caught on this shield, blunted, and extinguished."
Faith appropriates all that God has promised and acts accordingly. Abba, Father, open our eyes of understanding that we may see You, and increase our faith in Your faithfulness. Once again, we see that Your Gospel is essential and central to all of our walk here below, and all of our life and service to You. Open our eyes of understanding to that Gospel--the hope to which You have called us! In Jesus name, may it be so!
Ephesians 6:17 "And take the helmet of salvation..."
Take — a different Greek word from that in Eph_6:13, Eph_6:16; translate, therefore, “receive,” “accept,” namely, the helmet offered by the Lord, namely, “salvation” appropriated, as 1Th_5:8, “Helmet, the hope of salvation”; not an uncertain hope, but one that brings with it no shame of disappointment (Rom_5:5). It is subjoined to the shield of faith, as being its inseparable accompaniment (compare Rom_5:1, Rom_5:5). The head of the soldier was among the principal parts to be defended, as on it the deadliest strokes might fall, and it is the head that commands the whole body. The head is the seat of the mind, which, when it has laid hold of the sure Gospel “hope” of eternal life, will not receive false doctrine, or give way to Satan’s temptations to despair. God, by this hope, “lifts up the head” (Psa_3:3; Luk_21:28).--J, F, & B Commentary
Again, we see that all the armor goes together. One piece cannot be without the other to protect us. The enemy targets our mind in all his attacks. He seeks there to turn our minds from the Lord through doubts, fears, deception, etc., and most of all, he seeks to get us to not believe in the salvation the Lord has given to us. If in some way he can distort that salvation in our minds he will. There are many ways. There is no salvation apart from receiving by faith the finished work of Christ on our behalf. The enemy points to our works and makes us feel our salvation is based on that. The Gospel continually points us back to Christ and His finished work. The enemy appeals to our pride and tells us we must keep the law, and that our works will gain us salvation, or keep our salvation, or somehow make us more acceptable to God. There is only One Who has kept the law so as to have that right to stand pure before God blameless, and it is He Who stands before God as our intercessor, having become a surety for us. That is Jesus Christ. We look to Him and receive His righteousness by faith. In receiving it, He becomes to us that righteousness before God that enables us to stand blameless. Any man who thinks his law keeping can ever attain that before God will surely fall. Satan knows this, and so if he can get our eyes on our works, he knows he will have grounds to condemn us continually. That hope of our salvation will become a hopelessness. We must receive righteousness before we are able to walk in righteousness. Only His salvation gives us hope that is sure.
So going back to v. 10, if we are to be strong in the strength of His might, it is to be strong in that union with Him. That union with Him is abiding faith in His armor, which is He, Himself, and all He has provided for us and become to us which is described in Ephesians 1 and 2. And here, that salvation He has worked for us has become a helmet to us, guarding our minds.
1Thessalonians 5:8 But let us, since we are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.
Hope keeps the mind. Without hope, we would die. When life in this world seems hopeless, we have hope of salvation that cannot be taken from us. We may look to the future in this world with gloom, seeing evil prevail in the world. But we have a sure hope of salvation to protect our minds, seeing that this evil will one day be judged, and God's glory seen. We have a hope in the fulfillment of His complete salvation and we know the end. Our hope will not be disappointed as it says in Rom. 5:5. He has given us His Holy Spirit as a guarantee of that. Our salvation is sure, for us if we have been born of His Spirit, regenerated, and given the promise of eternal life, which can never be taken from us. So we need never fear the loss of that hope. We need never doubt the power of God Who has wrought it. He Who brought it about is able also to keep it and save us "to the uttermost". He is our "surety" that that hope will not be disappointed.
Hebrews 7:22 by so much also hath Jesus become the surety of a better covenant.
Hebrews 7:25 Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
What a great salvation He has given us! Yet men seek to lessen the power of it by their own reasoning and take away from it. This is of the wiles of the enemy in the church, to take away our helmet. He will do all he can to pervert the power of that salvation and make it lesser than what God has made it. It is so great that I'm afraid it almost seems too good to be true! We have a hard time grasping it! Yet it is true! It is of Him. Nothing can overpower the God Who has worked this salvation. Nothing can change it. Nothing can penetrate the hope we have if we would truly see it and believe it and grasp it for ourselves. Nothing can take away our joy in that salvation when we see it as truly ours, given freely as a gift from God. Nothing can fill our hearts with such a love for our Lord and gratitude and desire to please Him, when we truly see it as it is.
This is why Paul prayed so earnestly for the church in Ephesians 1:15-23, and 3:14-21. If we would but apprehend this great salvation and what it consists of, and the love of Christ to us, this helmet would cover our minds and keep us from everything the enemy could try to throw at our minds. The deception would be clearly seen for what it is and would not be able to take away from the truth of the Gospel, and the faith in that salvation would shield us continually, and His righteousness would fill us so that we would be enabled to walk in step with it. But if the enemy can penetrate our minds with misunderstanding and unbelief of that salvation, he can keep us pretty ineffective and miserable and self-focused rather than God-focused.
Psychology has been so integrated into the church these days that most do not even recognize it. Psychology (self strengthening the flesh), has taken the place of life in Christ and our union with Him in His death and resurrection. It has even been spiritualized so that we are continually looking inward and backward rather than upward in faith in all Christ has done for us. We think we must continually be looking into our past to find the source of our problem. It has already been dealt with at the cross. It is called "the flesh" and has been crucified with Christ. We have become a new creation in Christ. If we believe that we are free to walk in it. If not we walk by feelings and introspection. If our mind is renewed in Christ... thinking according to what He has done, we are able to live with the mind of Christ, putting on the helmet of salvation and not fearing our own past or the sins of our ancestors, or trying to fix our flesh which can never be fixed. Christ is our Savior of all. His blood has redeemed us, and now that we are redeemed how much more are we saved daily!
Romans 5:9-10 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him. (10) For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life;
Along with that salvation He has given us ALL we need for life and godliness through Him...
2Peter 1:3 seeing that his divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that called us by his own glory and virtue
It is when we do not know or understand that salvation, that we find ourselves trying to save ourselves in this life. When we do understand it, it is truly a helmet that guards our minds. It keeps us from all these side-tracking deceptions in the church. It is when we understand it, that we are shielded and kept by it from mental anxiety and misery and doubts and fears that rob us of enjoying it here in this life, which keeps us from being ineffective in His service. It is when we have that helmet on that we are able to bring others into the peace of that salvation as well, and point them to Christ effectively.
Doubting our salvation is the enemy's greatest weapon. The protection of the head is vital to our spiritual life. It can only be protected with a helmet that is able to withstand all that is thrown at it by the enemy. If we do not have on the correct helmet, we are not protected. What are you putting your hope of salvation in? Is it your works? I can tell you, that if it is, you have no salvation in that, and nothing to protect you or defend you on the day you stand before the Lord. It's a vain hope. Nothing of your works, no matter how good can measure up to the perfect standard of Christ. He never lowers His standard. It is always perfection. Unless you have kept the law perfectly all your life without one single jot or tittle of it being broken, then that won't stand up. It won't save you. If you think it is in being forgiven by Christ initially and then after that keeping the law, then you have either kept it perfectly since coming to Christ, or you have lowered His standard and think He has accepted your sin. He has not. He never can accept sin. And so if your sanctification has been based on keeping law with the help of Christ, then you have not been successful in that either, thereby your hope is vain. The only thing that can give you a sure hope of salvation, is if it is in His righteousness alone... that righteousness that has never failed, and is sure, and has never departed one bit from keeping God's law perfectly, and that blood of that righteous Savior, shed in substitution for you, to redeem you from your sin once and for all... forever... to the uttermost. Just as you could not earn it, you cannot keep it. It must be received by faith from beginning to end. It is His regeneration of the Spirit in our hearts that is our guarantee that He has given it to us, and His presence in us will keep us, providing all that we need.
As we receive that salvation, His Spirit in us teaches us to walk in step with it here below, until the day of our final redemption which is guaranteed to us by Him. That final redemption means corruption (these bodies of death we still dwell in that have not yet been redeemed), will finally put on incorruption (sinless bodies like that of Christ, unable to be corrupted by sin, so that we are finally free from all sin, as He has given us position in Him, sharing of His glory), and we will enjoy eternity in a state of perfection. It is only perfection that Christ can dwell in. If we were not made perfect before Him by what He has done, we could never have His Spirit now dwelling in us. Our position in Him is as perfect since it is His righteousness, justified by His blood. Even though we now dwell in these sinful bodies, capable yet of sin, we are perfected, justified before Him forever by His blood, received by faith. If not, then there is no way He could give us His Spirit. He is only given to dwell in us by His merit, and by being placed "in Christ". Again, Ephesians 1 and 2 tells us what it is to be “in Christ”. If you think that Spirit goes in and out of you based on your works, then you have no helmet to guard your mind. Set your mind on Christ your salvation!
What a hope of salvation!!! There is nothing greater in all the world than what He has done for us! May we learn of this salvation more and more deeply and walk in it, allowing it to empower us for all in this world!
Eph 6:17 ...and the sword of the Spirit, which is God's word
We have two offensive weapons in our armor, which are the sword of the Spirit, and prayer. Today I want to talk about the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
2Co 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds)
The Word of God and prayer are the "weapons of our warfare". Jesus Himself used the Word in the wilderness against the enemy to silence him and gives us an example, (Matthew 4:1-11). Please take the time to read about it. He did not argue or reason with the enemy. He simply said, "It is written". Our own wisdom or reasoning against the enemy will not suffice. We are not able to rely on our intellect. He has been around longer than we have and knows all the tricks! He is wiser than we are. But God has given us His written Word that is wiser and more effective. It is powerful because it is God's Word. It is out of the mouth of God Himself. This gives it authority, power, and because it is truth, it exposes all that is false. It is sharper than a two-edged sword, dividing between soul and spirit, light and darkness, false and true. Only God's Word can do that.
From Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown commentary:
"sword of the Spirit — that is, furnished by the Spirit, who inspired the writers of the word of God (2Pe_1:21). Again the Trinity is implied: the Spirit here; and Christ in “salvation” and God the Father, Eph_6:13 (compare Heb_4:12; Rev_1:16; ). The two-edged sword, cutting both ways (Psa_45:3, Psa_45:5), striking some with conviction and conversion, and others with condemnation (Rev_19:15), is in the mouth of Christ (Isa_49:2), in the hand of His saints (Psa_149:6)... There is no armor specified for the back, but only for the front of the body; implying that we must never turn our back to the foe (Luk_9:62); our only safety is in resisting ceaselessly (Mat_4:11; Jam_4:7)."
"No armor for the back"... we need not run from the enemy in fear. Our armor and our weapons are sufficient. We need not run to psychology or philosophies of men. They will only serve the enemy's purposes to weaken our armor and our life in Christ. We need not yield to the enemy's wiles. We need not avoid the confrontation, but simply face the enemy head on dressed in full armor and wielding our sword. It will accomplish the purpose God sent it to do. It won't fail when we wield it correctly, in faith.
All our armor that we have "put on" is by faith, given to us by Christ, and it is through His Word that we continue to stand in the knowledge of that armor, and it is taking up that sword of the Word also as a weapon to defend it and defeat the enemy in his schemes, not only in our own lives, but in our ministry to others, helping them to see by the Word, what Christ is to them also, so that they also are able to stand dressed in His armor. With the weapon of the Word, we pull down strongholds in our own lives which are binding us, and we pull down strongholds in others lives that keep them captive to sin or unbelief and set them free. The Word convicts of truth. Truth sets free. In our own temptations and struggles against the enemy's deceit, knowing and saying that Word stirs up faith in it in our own hearts and minds and strengthens us as well. Hearing the Word over and over in our own minds has a way of cleansing our minds of all else, strengthening our faith, and giving us a weapon against the enemy's lies. As we speak the truth to defeat his lies, it also reminds us of God's promises and power to us. We find strength and confidence in it. We will not find that strength and confidence in any word of man, or in anything else we may try to use as a weapon. Only God's Word has the real power and authority and assurance we need against the powers of darkness.
I see, all the time, unbelievers trying to build themselves up with heartwarming, nice sounding philosophies and sayings that get passed around the internet, and it makes them feel good about themselves, but these sayings normally tend to draw them more inward and strengthen the enemy's lies about themselves so that they are kept from the conviction of the true Word of God. It makes them feel comfortable with who they are as sinners and gives them excuse not to turn to God's holy Word and let it convict them and therefore save them. They do not want to come into the light it brings.
Joh 3:19-21 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (20) For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. (21) But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
This sword of God's Word brings that light to those who need the Gospel and exposes their own hearts, cutting and dividing. It is so extremely painful to have our hearts cut and exposed! So much so that many in the world even kill Christians to silence them, as has happened all through the centuries, just as they did to Christ. The world does all it can to silence the witness of Christians who speak and live by His Word. All other religions are tolerated, which proves in itself they are false. They do not have the power to convict and deliver from the darkness of evil and sin. They only make people feel good about themselves that they are somehow made a better person or more righteous in themselves. No threat since they do not have to face a holy God with their sinfulness. Holding onto lies is a self-protection mechanism. God's truth takes away all the defenses of the flesh, the world, and the devil. Those who allow it, come into His light, allow their "life", which is really their deadness, or "self-esteem", and sin to be brought to the cross, crucified with Christ, and allow Him to raise them up to newness of life in Him. This is the regeneration of the Holy Spirit... being born again. Now they have a new life. They are a new creation in Him. All things have become new so that they love His light as it is where they find sweet fellowship with Him, and are being made like Him. If we shy away from the Word or avoid it, it is normally because we are afraid of something it will expose in us.
When we take up the Sword of the Spirit against our own flesh, we are able to "mortify" its deeds.
As believers, born of His Spirit, we have been placed in Christ and with Him are already dead to sin and this world and alive to Christ, but now that we dwell in "Canaan land"... our rest in His finished work, we must take up our sword by faith against the enemies of the land (our flesh, the world, the devil), and conquer only through faith in His finished work. If we try to conquer these enemies in our own power or strength, we will be defeated. If we try to ignore them or run from them, they will defeat us and over-take us. If we walk, as Joshua did, leading all Israel, in faith in what God has done already for them, and promised to them, in obedience to His Word, we can take up our weapons provided by God, and easily defeat them. No weapon formed against us by the enemy will prosper. I encourage everyone to do a study of Joshua! What a wonderful foreshadow of the finished work of Christ and our entering His rest. Along with that, also read the book of Hebrews and Ephesians.
Darby's notes on Joshua blessed me this week with this truth...
"The power of resurrection-life takes all strength from Satan: "He who is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not." In our earthly life, the flesh being in us, we are exposed to the power of the enemy, though Christ's grace is sufficient for us, His strength made perfect in weakness; but the creature has no strength against Satan, even though it should not be drawn away into actual sin. But if death is become our shelter, causing us to die unto all that would give Satan an advantage over us, what can he do? Can he tempt one who is dead, or overcome one who, having died, is alive again? But, if this be true, it is also necessary to realise it practically. "Ye are dead . . . therefore mortify" (Colossians 3). This is what Gilgal means. Nay, we are always to bear about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our body (2Co_4:10) . The matter in hand was not yet the taking of cities, the realisation of God's magnificent promises. Self must first of all be mortified. Before conquering Midian, Gideon must cast down the altar that was in his own house... "...Our Gilgal is in Jos_5:5: "Mortify therefore." It is not "die to sin." Mortify is active power. It rests on the power of that which is already true to faith: "Ye are dead: mortify therefore." This being the standing, it is realised. "Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead," said the apostle (Romans 6)..."
The whole commentary on the chapter is a good read if you want to dive further into it!
So it is this Word of light and truth, this Word of God that never passes away or changes, this Word that is eternal and is the very Word spoken by God Who changes not and is the same yesterday, today, and forever, that is our weapon, given by He Himself... the Living Word Who was made manifest to us and now in us by His Spirit, which is our weapon against the enemy and all His schemes. Without knowing it, understanding it, putting our faith in it, and being filled with it, we are in a most vulnerable state before our enemy and no counselor can help us then. I have personally found that every time in every trial of depression, spiritual oppression, temptation, grief, deception, and all that the enemy threw at me, it has been a weapon that has in every case defeated the enemy, and brought God's victory in my life.
It has to be wielded in faith. Again... each piece of this armor goes together. If you are not dressed in each piece of that armor, strong in your union with Him in His death and resurrection, dressed in truth, righteousness, peace, and faith, it will do you no good to try to wield the sword of the Spirit. All is of faith. "The just shall live by faith".
May the Lord guide you to His Word and reveal His truth to your hearts today!
Ephesians 6:18 "praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching to this very thing with all perseverance and supplication for all saints."
Romans 12:12 "rejoicing in hope, patient in affliction, steadfastly continuing in prayer"
I end this series of writings on the full armor of God with one more weapon given us... that of prayer. It is not really given as a piece of that armor, but it is a very important aspect of walking, dressed in the whole armor of God. How little this privilege graciously given us by our Heavenly Father is used! And many times when it is used, it is used wrongfully, without regard to God's glory and purpose, but only with eyes on our own selfish ambitions and lust.
James 4:1-4 From where do wars and fightings among you come? Is it not from this, from your lusts which war in your members? (2) You desire, and do not have. You murder, and are jealous, and cannot obtain. You fight and war, yet you have not because you ask not. (3) You ask and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it upon your lusts. (4) Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever desires to be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
Whew! I don't know how that makes you feel, but that makes me want to come before God and say, "Lord, examine my heart and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in Your way everlasting". Is there friendship with the world in my heart?
Prayer... where do I start? I'm having trouble because I could go in so many different directions with this. I've been asked by my children and others, "why pray, since God will just do what He wants anyway?" Why pray? Why wouldn't we pray? It's what enables us to take of what God offers in His Word and make it ours. Prayer was the thing that first connected me to God as a seeker. Before I knew Him, I began to pray and ask Him Who He was, how I could find Him, where He was, and who I was and what did He create me for. Thank God for this wonderful gift of prayer! If not for that gift, given by Him for all to seek Him, I never would have found Him. We cannot find Him on our own. We can only find Him as He opens our eyes and reveals Himself to us. That can only happen through prayer which comes from a sincere heart that honestly seeks Him for Himself. He drew me, and opened my heart to pray and ask, and He answered. This is prayer. His communication with us and ours with Him. It is not so that we can change God's mind, but so that we can know Him and come along side Him in His will as we pray for others as well, being vessels of His intercession.
It all begins with prayer, and now as believers, after we have been born of His Spirit, and put on the armor of God, we walk in prayer continually, in all occassions, all the time, "in every season". We walk in communion with Him continually. In that communion we learn to know His very heart and mind. Part of that communion is taking in His Word as we listen to His Spirit speak through it, and responding accordingly. As He reveals His will to us through His Word we are able to make supplication accordingly, bringing His promises before Him, which also assures our hearts of His purpose in the matter, and gives faith that He will answer. It's a two way conversation.
1John 5:14-15 And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.
This confidence doesn't come through our feelings, or trying to conjure up enough faith in our faith. It comes from His Spirit bearing witness with our spirit as we know Him through His Word and learn what His will is.
Prayer is a means of receiving grace for ourselves and others we pray for.
Philippians 1:19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ--Paul was enabled through a supply of grace, through the prayers of the church.
Paul many times asked for prayer as he does in Ephesians 6 also:
Ephesians 6:19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,
If Paul needed prayer, how much more do we?
"for all saints — as none is so perfect as not to need the intercessions of his fellow Christians." J, F, & B
In communion with God we bring our supplications..."in the Spirit"... our earnest petitions and requests. We are made aware of others needs at times and see the wiles of the enemy and how he is deceiving others. We see those the enemy holds captive through deception and bondage. We are able to make supplication for them that God will grant their eyes to be opened, and bring grace to them, and light, etc. In doing so, we are able to bring His Word to them so that they are able to receive it. We shouldn't think our words alone will ever change anyone, no matter how true or good, unless prayer has prepared the ground of their heart first. Only the Holy Spirit can open blinded eyes and give spiritual sight. As we are watching, in prayer, standing against the wiles of the enemy, we need to remember to pray for others who are going through the same battles.
1Pe 5:8-9 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: (9) Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
"...and watching thereunto with all perseverance..."
"Thereunto, unto prayer, for occasions of prayer, and to maintain the spirit of prayer. One must watch before prayer, in prayer, after prayer."--Vincent Word Studies
I've learned, personally, that prayer is my vital connection to my Savior. Without that I find I'm going ahead of Him or putting too much confidence in myself or someone else, rather than God. A good story where God shows the folly of that is in Joshua 9. Israel was tricked by the inhabitants of Gibeon, because they did not seek the Lord's counsel. If Jesus Himself said He can do nothing without the Father, how much more us!
Eph 3:20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us
We tend to be fearful to ask of our Heavenly Father! We hesitate, yet He commands us to ask! He tells us if we ask we shall receive! He says we may boldly come before His throne of grace and mercy in our time of need through Jesus Christ and His merit. And though we scarcely can ask for something, He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above all we ask or even think! It is according to His power working in us. As we walk in communion with Him, He gives us the desires of our hearts, and what we should ask for. It's for His glory to answer. And it's for our joy and strengthens our communion with Him and knowledge of Him.
So many verses on prayer in the Bible! I would encourage you to look them up. I've had to, many times, ask the Lord to forgive my prayerlessness. May He teach us to truly "pray without ceasing" and be watchful, always in prayer for one another in the body of Christ. May we see what a privilege we have in being able to come to Him in prayer!
But it is not only that there is a line of conduct to follow, a model to imitate, a Spirit with whom one may be filled, it is not only relationships between oneself and God, and those in which we stand here below; this is not all that must occupy the Christian. He has enemies to fight. The people of Israel under Joshua in the land of Canaan were indeed in the promised land, but they were in conflict there with enemies who were in it before them, although not according to the rights by which Israel possessed the land through the gift of God. God had set it apart for Israel (see Deu_32:8); Ham had taken possession of it.
Now, with regard to us, it is not with flesh and blood that we have to fight, as was the case With Israel. Our blessings are spiritual in the heavenly places. We are sitting in Christ in the heavenlies. We are a testimony to principalities and powers in the heavenlies; we have to wrestle with spiritual wickednesses in the heavenlies. Israel had passed through the wilderness — had crossed the Jordan; the manna had ceased; they ate the corn of the land. They were settled in the land of Canaan as though it were all their own without striking a blow. They ate the produce of this good land in the plains of Jericho. So it is with regard to the Christian. Although we are in the wilderness, we are also in the heavenly places in Christ. We have crossed the Jordan, we have died and are risen again with Him. We are sitting in the heavenly places in Him, that we may enjoy the things of heaven as the fruit of our own country. But conflict is before us, if we desire to enjoy them practically. The promise is of every blessing, of all the promised land, but wheresoever we shall set our foot on it (Joshua 1). For this we need the Lord's strength, and of this the apostle now speaks. "Be strong," he says, "in the Lord." The enemy is subtle. We have to withstand his stratagems even more than his power. Neither the strength nor even the wisdom of man can do anything here. We must be armed with the panoply, that is, the whole armour, of God.
But observe first, that the Spirit turns our thoughts upon God Himself before speaking of that which has to be overcome. "Be strong in the Lord." It is not, first of all, a refuge from the face of the enemy; we are in it for ourselves before we use it against the wiles of the enemy. It is in the intimacy of the counsels and the grace of God that man fortifies himself for the warfare from which he cannot escape, if he would enjoy his christian privileges. And he must have the whole armour. To be wanting in one piece exposes us to Satan on that side. The armour must be that of God — divine in its nature. Human armour will not ward off the attacks of Satan; confidence in that armour will engage us in the battle only to make us fall in combat with a spirit who is more mighty and more crafty than we are.
These enemies are thus characterised; they are principalities and powers — beings possessing an energy of evil which has its source in a will that has mastery over those who do not know how to resist it; they have also strength to carry it out. Their energy they have from God, the will that uses it comes from themselves; they have forsaken God; the spring of their actions is in their own will. In this respect it is a source of action independent of God, and the energy and the qualities which they have from God are the instruments of that will — a will which has no bridle except from outside itself. They are principalities and powers. There are good ones; but in them the will is only to do that which God wills, and to employ in His service the strength they have received from Him.
These rebellious principalities and powers rule over the darkness of this world. Light is the atmosphere in which God dwells, which He diffuses all around Himself. Wicked spirits deceive and reign in darkness. Now this world, not having the light of God, is entirely in darkness, and demons reign in it; for God is not there — except in supreme power after all, turning everything to His glory, and, in the end, to the good of His children.
But if these principalities rule in the darkness of this world they do not possess merely an outward force; they are in the heavenlies, and are occupied with spiritual wickedness there. They exercise a spiritual influence, as having the place of gods. There is then, first, their intrinsic character, their mode of being, and the state in which they are found; second, their power in the world as governing it; and third, their religious and delusive ascendency, as lodging in the heavens. They have also, as a sphere for the exercise of their power, the lusts of man, and even the terrors of his conscience.
To resist enemies like these we need the armour of God. The manifestations of this power, when God permits it, constitute the evil days. All this present period of Christ's absence is, in a certain sense, the evil day. Christ has been rejected by the world, of which, while in it, He was the light, and is hidden in God. This power, which the enemy displayed when he led the world to reject Christ, he still exercises over it: we oppose it by the action and the power of the Holy Ghost, who is here during the Lord's absence. But there are moments when this power is allowed to shew itself in a more especial manner, when the enemy uses the world against the saints, darkening the light which shines in it from God, troubling and leading astray the minds of professors and even of believers — days, in a word, in which his power makes itself felt. We have to wrestle with this power, to resist it all, to stand against everything in the confession of Christ, of the light; we have to do all that the confession of His name requires in spite of all and at whatever cost, and to be found standing when the storm and the evil day are past.
Thus we have not only to enjoy God and the counsels of God and their effect in peace; but, since these very counsels introduce us into heavenly places and make us the light of God on earth, we have also to encounter the spiritual wickednesses which are in the heavenly places, and which seek to make us falsify our high position, to mislead us, and to darken the light of Christ in us on the earth. We have to escape the snares of heavenly spiritual wickedness for ourselves, and to maintain the testimony here below incorrupt and pure.  Now by the power of the Holy Ghost, who has been given to us for this purpose, we shall find that the armour of God relates first to that which, by setting the flesh aside, and by maintaining the existence of a good conscience, takes all hold from the enemy; then, to the preservation of complete objective trust in God; and next, to the active energy which stands with confidence in the presence of the enemy, and using the weapons of the Holy Ghost against him. The defensive armour our own state, comes first. The whole ends with the expression of the entire and continual dependence on God in which the christian warrior stands.
We will examine this armour of God, that we may know it. It is all practical — founded on that which has been accomplished, but in itself practical. For it is not a question here of appearing before the bar of God, but of resisting the enemy, and of maintaining our ground against him.
Before God our righteousness is perfect, it is Christ Himself, and we are the righteousness of God in Him: but we do not need armour there, we are sitting in the heavenly places: all is peace, all is perfect. But here we need armour, real practical armour, and first of all to have the loins girt about with truth. The loins are the place of strength when duly girt, but represent the intimate affections and movements of the heart. If we allow our hearts to wander where they will, instead of abiding in communion with God, Satan has easy hold upon us. This piece of armour is then the application of the truth to the most intimate movements, the first movements of the heart. We gird up the loins. This is done, not when Satan is present; it is a work with God, which is done by applying the truth to our souls in His presence, judging everything in us by this means, and putting a bridle on the heart that it may only move under His eye. This is true liberty and true joy, because the new man enjoys God in uninterrupted communion; but here the Spirit speaks of it with respect to the safeguard which it will be to us against the attacks of the enemy. At the same time it is not merely the repression of evil thoughts — that is its consequence: it is the action of the truth, of the power of God, acting by the revelation of everything as it is — of all that He Himself teaches, bringing the conscience into His presence, keeping it thus in His thoughts; all that God has said in His word, and the unseen realities having their true force and their application to the heart that stirs in us, so that its movements should have their character from God's own word and not from its own desires, everything going on in the presence of God. 
Satan has no hold on a heart thus kept in the truth, as revealed by God; there is nothing in its desires that answers to the suggestions of Satan. Take Jesus as an example. His safeguard was not in judging all that Satan said. In the wilderness at the beginning of His public service, except in the last temptation, it was in the perfect application of the word for Himself, for that which concerned His own conduct, to the circumstances around Him. The truth governed His heart, so that it only moved according to that truth in the circumstance that presented itself "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." No word has come forth — He does nothing. There was no motive for acting. It would have been to act of His own accord, of His own will. That truth kept His heart in connection with God in the circumstance that met Him. When the circumstance arose, His heart was already in intercourse with God, so that it had no other impulse than that which the word of truth suggested. His conduct was purely negative, but it flowed from the light which truth threw upon the circumstance, because His heart was under the absolute government of the truth. The suggestion of Satan would have brought Him out of this position. That was enough. He will have nothing to do with it. He does not yet drive away Satan: it was only a matter of conduct, not of flagrant opposition to the glory of God. In the latter case He drives him away; in the former He acts according to God without concerning Himself with anything farther. Satan's device totally failed of its effect. It simply produced nothing. It is absolutely powerless against the truth, because it is not the truth; and the hearth has truth for its rule. Wiles are not the truth: this is quite enough to prevent our being caught by them, that is, if the heart be thus governed.
In the second place there is the breastplate of righteousness — a conscience that has nothing to reproach itself with. The natural man knows how a bad conscience robs him of strength before men. There is only to be added here the way in which Satan uses it to entrap man in his snares. By maintaining the truth we have Satan for our enemy. If we yield ourselves up to error, he will leave us in that respect at peace, except in using our faults and crimes to enslave us more, to bind us hand and foot in that which is false. How would a man who has the truth, who has perhaps even escaped error, if his conduct were bad, bear to have it exposed to the eyes of all? He is silent before the enemy. His own conscience even will make him silent, if he is upright, without thinking of consequences, unless a confession be necessary. Besides this the strength of God and spiritual understanding will fail him: where could he have gained them in a wrong walk? We go forward boldly when we have a good conscience.
But it is when we are walking with God, for the love of God, for the love of righteousness itself, that we have this breastplate on, and thus we are fearless when called to go forward and face the enemy. We gain a good conscience before God by the blood of the Lamb. By walking with God we maintain it before men and for communion with God, in order to have strength and spiritual understanding, and to have them increasingly. This is the practical strength of good conduct, of a conscience without rebuke. "I exercise myself" always to this, said the apostle. What integrity in such a walk, what truthfulness of heart when no eye sees us! We are peremptory with ourselves, with our own hearts, and with regard to our conduct; we can therefore be peaceful in our ways. God also is there. So walk, says the apostle, and the God of peace shall be with you. If the fruits of righteousness are sown in peace, the path of peaceis found in righteousness. If I have a bad conscience, I am vexed with myself, I grow angry with others. When the heart is at peace with God and has nothing to reproach itself with, when the will is held in check, peace reigns in the soul. We walk on the earth, but the heart is above it in intercourse with better things; we walk in a peaceful spirit with others, and nothing troubles our relations with God. He is the God of peace. Peace, the peace of Jesus, fills the heart. The feet are shod with it; we walk in the spirit of peace.
But, together with all this, a piece of defensive armour is needed over all the rest, that we may be able to stand in spite of all the wiles of the enemy — an armour, however, which is practically maintained in its soundness by the use of the preceding ones, so that, if the latter is essential, the others have the first place in practice. This is the shield, faith; that is to say, full and entire trust in God, the consciousness of grace and of His favour maintained in the heart. Here faith is not simply the reception of God's testimony (although it is founded on that testimony), but the present assurance of the heart with regard to that which God is for us, founded, as we have just said, on the testimony which He has given of Himself-trust in His love and in His faithfulness, as well as in His power. "If our hearts condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God." The work of the Spirit in us is to inspire this confidence. When it exists, all the attacks of the enemy, who seeks to make us believe that the goodness of God is not so sure-all his efforts to destroy or to weaken in our hearts this confidence in God and to hide Him from us, prove fruitless. His arrows fall to the ground without reaching us. We stand fast in the consciousness that God is for us: our communion is not interrupted. The fiery darts of the enemy are not the desires of the flesh, but spiritual attacks.
Thus we can hold up our heads: moral courage, the energy which goes forward, is maintained. Not that we have anything to boast of in ourselves, but the salvation and the deliverance of God are fresh in our minds. God has been for us; He is for us: who shall be against us? He was for us when we had no strength; it was salvation, when we could do nothing. This is our confidence — God Himself — not looking at ourselves. We have the helmet of salvation on our heads. The former parts of the armour give us freedom to enjoy the two latter.
Thus furnished with that which protects us in our walk, and in the practical confidence in God, and the knowledge of God that flows from it, we are in a state to use offensive weapons. We have but one against the enemy, but it is one that he cannot resist if we know how to handle it: witness the Lord's conflict in the wilderness with Satan. It is the word of God. There Jesus always answered with the word by the power of the Spirit. It sets man in his true position according to God as obedient man in the circumstances around him. Satan can do nothing there: we have but to maintain that position. If Satan openly tempts us to disobedience, there is no wile in that. Not being able to do anything else, Satan acted thus with the Lord, and manifested himself as he is. The Lord drove him away by the word. Satan has no power when he is manifested as Satan. We have to resist the wiles of the devil. Our business is to act according to the word, come what may; the result will shew that the wisdom of God was in it. But observe here, this sword is the sword of the Spirit. It is not the intelligence or the capacity of man, although it is man who uses the word. His sword is highly tempered, but he can neither draw it nor strike with it if the Holy Ghost is not acting in him. The weapons are spiritual; they are used by the power of the Spirit. God must speak, however weak the instrument may be.
The sword is also used actively in the spiritual warfare, in which it judges all that is opposed to us. In this sense it is both defensive and offensive. But, behind all this armour, there is a state, a disposition, a m eans of strength, which quickens and gives all the rest its power: this is a complete dependence on God, united to trust in Him, which expresses itself in prayer. "Praying always"; this dependence must be constant. When it is real, and I feel that I can do nothing without God, and that He wills my good in all things, it expresses itself. It seeks the strength which it has not: it seeks it from Him in whom it trusts. It is the motion of the Spirit in our hearts in their intercourse with God, so that our battles are fought in the communion of His strength and His favour, and in the consciousness that we can do nothing, and that He is all. "At all times"; "with supplication." This prayer is the expression of the man's need, of the heart's desire, in the strength that the Spirit gives him, as well as in confidence in God. Also since it is the Spirit's act, it embraces all saints, not one of whom can be forgotten by Jesus; and the Spirit in us answers the affections of Christ, and reproduces them. We must be watchful and diligent in order to use this weapon; avoiding all that would turn us away from God, availing ourselves of every opportunity, and finding, by the grace of the Spirit, in everything that arises, an occasion (by means of this diligence) for prayer and not for distraction.  The apostle asks from his heart for this intercession on their part, in the sense of his own need and of that which he desires to be for Christ.
The mission of Tychicus expressed Paul's assurance of the interest which the love of the Ephesians made them take in having tidings of him, and that which he himself felt in ascertaining their welfare and spiritual state in Christ. It is a touching expression of his confidence in their affection — an affection which his own devoted heart led him to expect in others. He presents the Ephesians as enjoying the highest privileges in Christ, and as being able to appreciate them. He blames them in nothing. The armour of God — by which to repel the assaults of the enemy, and to grow up in peace unto the Head in all things, the preservative armour of God — was naturally the last thing that he had to set before them. It is to be noticed that he does not speak to them in this epistle of the Lord's coming. He supposes believers in the heavenly places in Christ; and not as on earth, going through the world, waiting till He should come to take them to Himself, and restore happiness to the world. That which is waited for in this epistle is the gathering together of all things under Christ, their true Head, according to the counsels of God. The blessings are in the heavens, the testimony is in the heavens, the church is sitting in the heavens, the warfare is in the heavens.
The apostle repeats his desire for them of peace, love, and faith; and concludes his epistle with the usual salutation by his own hand.
This epistle sets forth the position and the privileges of the children, and of the assembly in its union with Christ.
Still what we have to overcome are the wiles of the devil. His power over us is broken. He may rouse the world in persecution and be a roaring lion; but as regards personal temptations, if we resist the devil he flees from us; he knows he has met Christ, and Christ has overcome. But his wiles are ever there.
Girding the loins is a common figure of scripture for a mind and heart kept in godly order as in God's presence by the word of God.
Prayer is founded on the immense privilege of having common interests with God both as to ourselves and as to all that are His, yea, even as to Christ's glory. Wondrous thought! unspeakable grace!