Our Trusty Sword

Ephesians 6:17b 
and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God
Growing up in the country was awesome. There was no internet, no cell phones, no video games (mom outlawed the Atari). Anything we could put our hands on became the toy of choice as we used our imaginations. We used to love playing like we were knights on a quest, like King Arthur! Excalibur was in our hands and with it we could vanquish the dragon that threatened our castle! Of course, Excalibur was a sturdy stick and the foe was the dog that wandered up into the yard…but it was fun to pretend as long as we were back in the castle in time for supper! I can still remember the thrill of victory as the dragon yelped and ran back to where it had come from. The kingdom was safe, and mom was calling.
As nice as it is to remember the “good old days”, the reality of today sets in eventually. The battles we face daily are much different than a pretend dragon attacking our kingdom. The enemy that we face is real and always around that next corner. That is why we have been talking about the armor of the Christian. The breastplate, the shoes, the belt, the helmet and the shield all help to protect us as we face the foe. I thank my God, that he did not leave us defenseless, but He also didn’t leave us weaponless! He has given us a sword. Sharper than any scalpel, stronger than any steel. With this sword the enemy flees, kings are humbled and lives are transformed. It’s Name? The Word of God. 
The sword the Paul had in mind was called the “gladius”. Historians call this the “sword that conquered the world” as the roman soldiers used it to defeat the enemy and spread the influence of Rome. Around 2 feet long, it was especially useful for close combat. Used in conjunction with the shield the warrior would batter down the defenses of the opponent, and move in close to vanquish the foe. The sword was an extension of the arm of the trained warrior and because of that, he could step onto the battlefield with the confidence needed for victory.
Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the word of God is alive, and powerful – sharper than any sword. When Christ was tempted by Satan, He countered with scripture. When the apostles were arrested and tried, they preached the word of God. Over the years, it hasn’t dulled, it hasn’t lost its power. The Sword of the Spirit wielded in the hands and heart of the Christian will still defeat the foe of doubt, discouragement and temptation. Used in conjunction with our faith in the truths of God’s word the enemy is driven back and defeated. We must know it, we must apply it! And when the battle comes we can stand in confidence of the faith it His Word, knowing that when the smoke clears and all is said and done we will stand with Christ in victory!
Today as we ReFocus our hearts and minds on Christ let us take up our sword. When the attack comes, and it will, we must be ready with the Word of God if we are to have the hope of victory. Let it transform you, let it lead you – let its truth sink so far deep into your heart that it truly becomes and extension of who you are!

The Helmet of Salvation

Ephesians 17a
17 And take the helmet of salvation…
There is a military tactic that I learned about called psychological warfare or “Psyop’s” . When I was in training, we used this against a camp of our “enemy forces” by placing a large speaker where they could not get to it, then attached a Barney stuffed animal to it and made it play the “Barney Song” on repeat for hours! Talk about cruel and unusual punishment! Throughout the night all that could be heard through the camp was “I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family! With a great big hug and a kiss from me to you, won’t you say you love me too!” Of course when it comes to actual combat the methods used are much different, but you get the point. This is a direct attack on the minds of the enemy designed to confuse, demoralize and frustrate the troops. 
Satan is not ignorant of this tactic and he uses it on a regular basis. I believe that the most treacherous battlefield that you and I encounter on a daily basis is the one in our minds. We are confronted with our own sinful failures and become demoralized. We are confronted with a world steeped in sin and all of the temptations out there and find it so hard to resist. We are confronted with our unworthiness of God’s grace and wonder if we can really be saved. The reason the military uses psyop’s is to defeat the foe in the mind before a weapon is ever used, and it is the same for a Christian. We find ourselves lusting after some woman on a pornographic picture or video. We cave in to the pressure for just one more drink or one more fix. We give into a lie, a temptation a weakness that we have struggled with for so long. It can begin to feel hopeless! The battle is lost in the mind, before it is ever lost in the body. So what do we do?
There is a piece of our armor that is designed to help in these times: The Helmet of Salvation! Paul tells us to take it, to possess it through receiving. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that salvation is a free gift of God, but like any other gift – we must receive it before we can possess it. An unopened present doesn’t do any good for the one who it is to go to. Salvation must be received before we can experience the redemption that God is offering us through Christ. 
Why does Paul use the illustration of a helmet for our salvation? Because it is the knowledge of who we are in Christ that makes it possible to have victory in the battles of our minds. 1 John 5:13 tells us we can “know” that we have a relationship with God. Colossians 3:1-2 says , “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Paul is telling us in these verses that we should concentrate on Christ. This is actively choosing to think about the things of God rather than allowing our minds to go on auto-pilot. He says that we can only do this because we are saved. The helmet of salvation is what protects us from doubts, because our assurance is in God’s Grace, not our performance. It protects us from temptation, because it allows us to seek the things of God instead. It give us hope because it is a constant reminder of our redemption in Christ.
Today as we ReFocus our hearts and minds on Christ we must put on the helmet of salvation. We do this first by making sure that we have accepted the free gift of salvation through the finished work of Christ by understanding that we are a sinner (Romans 3:23), knowing that we have earned hell (Romans 6:23a), realizing that Christ took our place (Romans 5:8) and that God is offering us this free gift of salvation (Romans 6:23b) that we can receive through confessing these truths, and professing our faith in the resurrection of Christ (Romans 10:9). Then we can be assured that this salvation will guard our minds in the battles we face as we set our attention on Christ! 

The Shield of Faith

Ephesians 6:16 
Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
So far, we have put on our belt of truth (the word of God), our breastplate of righteousness (toward God through Christ and through striving to live a holy life before our neighbors) and covered our feet with the preparation to share the Gospel. The next piece of armor serves as the first-line of defense and covers the whole body. The shield. For the roman soldier, this shield (called a scrutum in case you were wondering) was as large as a door and protected from head to toe. They were covered in hide and would be drenched with water so if a fiery arrow hit it, the fire would be extinguished. For the Christian, this shield is our faith.
Paul begins this verse by saying “above all”. Our faith is what covers all the other pieces of armor. As a matter of fact, it is the shield that people saw first and they would be painted to show what unit they belonged to. Our faith in Christ, as we live out what we believe, should be what people see first as it identifies us for who we are. Consider this, each part of the armor that we have talked about so far can be hidden from view by covering it with clothing. We can have on the belt of truth and know the word of God, yet never talk about it. We can have on the breastplate of righteousness and just be seen to be moral individuals if we don’t tell people the source of our righteousness. We can be prepared to take the Gospel to world, yet never find the time to do so. But when we live out our faith, it stands as a blazing emblem of what we are and Who we serve.
Paul draws the picture of an enemy archer firing arrows at us. His quiver is full and each arrow has a name: impurity, selfishness, doubt, fear, disappointment…Each flaming arrow is sent toward us with the goal of destroying our shield (faith) so that his attacks can get closer to the target, our hearts. If he can get through our faith, he can cause us to doubt our own salvation. Defeated. He can cause us to lose sight of God’s grace in the face of our own sin. Defeated. He can cause us to even doubt the truth of God’s word. Defeated. However, when we put substance (flesh) to the hope we have the promises of Christ…Victory! When we put our trust in God’s goodness and grace and show the evidence in our lives of what we can’t see…Victory! (Hebrews 11:1) The shield is made up of our faith in the promises and truth of God. When the arrow of impurity hits, it is extinguished by the desire to please God with our lives (Psalm 19:14). When the arrow of doubt hits, it is extinguished by the promise that God is faithful no matter what (2 Thessalonians 3:3). When the arrow of fear hits, it is extinguished when we are reminded that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). Each arrow falls uselessly to the ground as we advance forward in faith.
Another side note about our shield. There were times for the roman soldiers that they had to work together for their protection because of the amount of arrows coming their way. So they would link their shields and form a protective shell over the entire group. It was called the “testudo” or tortoise formation. Each person used their shield in cooperation as they moved forward toward the enemy. Where one man would be defeated easily, the group could work together to get the victory! Do you get the picture? This is one of the reasons why it is so important for us to surround ourselves with other Christians as a local body of believers. We are able to join together, to build each other up, to push forward as a body of believers. Are you discouraged today? Do you feel defeated? Does it feel like you are going at it alone and the arrows are starting to get through? Maybe it is because you have been trying to fight a one man war, when you have a legion of warriors who can step in the battle with you, link their shield with yours and give you the support you need to press forward to victory! 
Today as we ReFocus our hearts and minds on Christ let us take up our shield of faith. We must trust in the promises of God when the attack comes and be confident in the truth that the one who placed you on the battle field is there with you and will see you through it (Philippians 1:6). And when the fight gets too much, remember you are never alone. When we all work together in faith, we can press forward in Christ and realize the victory that awaits!