You are at war. I know, you probably didn’t have to swerve to miss any IED’s on the road today, and I’m sure you weren’t dodging any heat-seeking missiles when you went to get the paper. Nevertheless, you are at war. That’s the way God’s Word describes your life here on this earth: War.
In Ephesians 6, Paul writes: "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." In other words, as hostile as some of the people in your life may act toward you, they are not your biggest enemies. You are at war against things you can’t even see: the powers of evil in our world that want you to lash out at those who wrong you and go with the world’s flow instead of stand up for what is right; the devil and all his demons that want to get in your head and heart and convince you to live for yourself instead of for others and for God.
That ancient general Satan has had his battalions bombarding you for years, wearing you down, trying to weaken your defenses to make you less and less excited about your salvation and your Jesus in so many ways. Maybe it is how you treat one another — one irritation piles up on another until the loving attitudes we should have toward one another turn into the napalm of envy and mistrust. Maybe that long battle is with that chink in the armor, that key temptation Satan knows he can get you with, using his ally in this world telling you there’s no problem, getting you to give in more and more to your lusts, as the glances turn to stares, and worse; or to the greed — as your skill at making excuses for being selfish become more and more refined.
Yes, you are at war. So God led the apostle Paul to write: "Put on the full armor of God."
Think about this. If you are a soldier in Afghanistan going into a firefight, would you rather be walking into battle with shorts and flip-flops carrying your BB gun or would you rather be in a tank with maximum firepower and nearly invincible defense? There’s no question.
God has given us armor that is more than "nearly invincible." This armor Paul describes has already proven to be absolutely impenetrable just as long as we keep it on, and the weapon he gives us destroys everything that comes against it, so long as we use it.
This is how God’s word describes this armor he tells us to put on: "Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:10-20).
That’s the armor we need for these spiritual battles. The truth holds everything together just like that Roman armor was all hooked onto that belt the soldier wore. If we don’t have the truth that Jesus died to pay for our sins and rose to give us victory — then nothing else matters. And all our other armor is really useless, because without Jesus, one sin defeats us. So put on that belt of truth.
Then he says to hide behind that breastplate of righteousness. Jesus has given you his perfection, and washed away your sins. So, through faith, you are perfect in God’s eyes. Satan’s attacks of guilt and fear and shame can’t stick.
Look down. Your feet are fitted with readiness to run and serve that the Gospel of peace brings. Knowing you are at peace with God puts pep in your step to live for him. And that helmet of salvation, knowing you are headed for heaven, protects your mind so that Satan can’t get in there and mess with your priorities and confidence.
And don’t forget the shield of faith that deflects every accusation and temptation of those spiritual forces and the sword of the Spirit that you use to counterattack. That sword of the Spirit is the Word of God — so use it. Open your Bibles and be ready for battle.
You’ve got invincible armor. Put it on!
The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.