Category Archives: Spiritual Warfare

To Africa with Resolve

My dad died on Wednesday.  It was expected.  And it wasn’t. He was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer last October and was given just months to live.  I was with him two weeks ago, and he was noticeably weaker, and his cough was worse, but it seemed like he had more time left than he did.  He even went to church with my mom on Sunday.  But by Tuesday, he was very sick, and by Wednesday, he was gone.  Quite a shock for all of us.  Expected, but not.

It’s Friday, and I’m on my way to Africa.  Of course, the horrible news I received on Wednesday called the trip into question.  But, so many preparations had already been made including securing visas to a country where visas are hard to come by and suffering from vaccination side effects for a week. Nonrefundable tickets had been purchased, and plans for my in-laws to come stay with my kids had been made.

My decision to go only two days after my father’s death was not based on “dad would want you to still go,” because of course he would.  He was so concerned about not being a burden on anyone that I had to tell him more than once to not rob us of the blessing of caring for him.  He even sent everyone home the day he died, telling my sister, “It will be OK,” and died alone – probably on purpose.  So no question: dad would want me to go. My family has decided to hold a memorial service in early April, and they gave me their blessing to go.  But there’s more to this decision.

I decided to still go because my heavenly Father wants me to go.  There are friends to be visited and kingdom work to be done.  Like with my earthly father, my heavenly Father didn’t verbally tell me, but I know.  I know because the decision to go came after months of prayer and discussion by the leaders I serve with.  I know because we all agreed that this is the right thing for me (and Michelle) to do.  I also know because after years of being told I could not get a visa to enter Sudan, I got one in 3 days. I know because this last week has been ridiculous: sick in bed for 3 days, car accident, and my dad’s death. It’s obvious to me that there is a spiritual battle raging related to this trip, and frankly, the more that went wrong this week, the more resolved I became to go.

So, we’re off.  We’re in Washington DC awaiting our 8 hour flight to Frankfurt.  From there, we’ll get on a 7 hour flight to Khartoum, the capital of Sudan.  And from there… only the Lord knows.  But I trust Him. And that is something my dad would want me to do.

The Battle Between the Flesh and the Spirit

walkbythespiritIn Galatians 5:17, the Apostle Paul says that the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other.  Here are the quotes I shared in my sermon this morning from Martin Luther and John Piper.  In these quotes, we get insight and encouragement about the battle Christians are engaged in between the Spirit and the flesh.

Do not despair if you feel the flesh battling against the Spirit or if you cannot make it behave. For you to follow the guidance of the Spirit in all things without interference on the part of the flesh is impossible. – Luther

When I was a monk I thought I was lost forever whenever I felt an evil emotion, carnal lust, wrath, hatred, or envy. I tried to quiet my conscience in many ways, but it did not work, because lust would always come back and give me no rest. I told myself: “You have permitted this and that sin. Your joining this holy order has been in vain, and all your good works are good for nothing.” If at that time I had understood this passage, “The flesh is against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh,” I could have spared myself many a day of self- torment. I would have said to myself: “Martin, you will never be without sin, for you have flesh. Despair not, but resist the flesh. – Luther

The better Christian a man is, the more he will experience the heat of the conflict. This explains the many expressions of regret in the Psalms and in the entire Bible. Everybody is to determine his peculiar weakness and guard against it. Watch and wrestle in spirit against your weakness. Even if you cannot completely overcome it, at least you ought to fight against it. – Luther

When the flesh begins to rage, the only remedy is to take the sword of the Spirit, the Word of salvation, and fight against the flesh. If you set the Word out of sight, you are helpless against the flesh. I know this to be a fact. I have been assailed by many violent passions, but as soon as I took hold of some Scripture passage, my temptations left me. Without the Word I could not have helped myself against the flesh. – Luther

A Christian is not a person who experiences no bad desires. A Christian is a person who is at war with those desires by the power of the Spirit. Conflict in your soul is not all bad.  Even though we long for the day when our flesh will be utterly defunct and only pure and loving desires will fill our hearts, yet there is something worse than the war within between flesh and Spirit—namely, no war within because the flesh controls the citadel and all the outposts. Praise God for the war within! So take heart if your soul feels like a battlefield at times. The sign of whether you are indwelt by the Spirit is not that you have no bad desires, but that you are at war with them! – Piper

To listen to my entire sermon from Galatians 5:16-26, click here.

 

Christian: Stand Firm!

This is a condensed transcript of my May 29, 2011 sermon.

In 1 Peter 5:8, Peter reminds us that we have an enemy.  He says,  “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  Satan prowls, roars, and seeks to devour followers of Jesus.  Behind the persecution and suffering of the early Christians (to whom Peter was writing) stood Satan.  He wanted nothing more than for the suffering and persecution they were experiencing to cause them to fall away from their faith in Jesus…and he wants the same for us today as well.  3rd Century church father, Cyprian described Satan this way:

He goes around us individually, and like an enemy besieging those shut up, he examines the walls and explores whether there might be some part of our members less firm and less trustworthy, by entrance through which a way inside may be effected. He offers to the eyes unlawful appearances and seductive pleasures, that he may destroy purity through sight; he tempts the ears by harmonious music, that he may get rid of and weaken christian strength by the hearing of a pleasant sound; he arouses the tongue to reviling, he urges the hand to capricious murder when it is excited by injuries; he provides unjust gains, that he may make a cheat; he piles up dangerous profits, that he may ensnare the soul by money; he promises earthly honors, that he may take away heavenly ones; he manifests false values, that he may steal away the true. And when he is not able to decisive secretly, he threatens clearly and openly, bringing forward the fear of violent persecution in order to overcome the servants of God; always restless and always hostile; he is cunning in peace, violent in persecution.

Satan is intent on seeing that Christ-followers fall away, making it so bad and so hard that we just give in.  This is why Peter says twice in our text: STAND FIRM!  Satan uses people and circumstances to trip us up. If you remember, Satan even used Peter himself to try to get Jesus to falter and give in.

Matthew 16:21-23
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”  But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Jesus recognized Peter’s attempt to keep him from suffering and dying ultimately came not from Peter, but from Satan himself. And now Peter – the one whom Satan used against Jesus to try to get Jesus to falter – tells early Christians facing suffering and death: STAND FIRM!  He reminds them (and us too) that the enemy would like nothing more than for you to crumble under the pressure of persecution and suffering.  And so, He encourages Christians with some reasons why we should stand firm in their faith until the end…

#1 Stand firm because suffering for following Christ is universal.

1 Peter 5:9
Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

Knowing that what happens to us is happening to others can be a great comfort.  Peter says that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by the family of believers throughout the world. This was bigger than just the early Christians under Rome.  He’s telling them to take comfort in that; to press on because others are.

Oprah Winfrey just concluded 25 years of unprecedented television success.  Why was she so successful?  I submit that she was so successful because she offered millions of women each day “you’re not alone” comfort. Millions of women gathered around the televison each day and discovered that they’re not alone with their struggles.  There’s great comfort in this, and this is what Peter was appealing to. You can resist the devil and stand firm because there are many others who are experiencing the same sufferings…and they are standing firm.

#2: Stand firm because our suffering lays the foundation for our future in Christ.

1 Peter 5:10
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

We know that God uses suffering to mature, grow, and glorify us in Christ now.  He uses suffering to begin the process of restoration, confirmation, strengthening, and establishing our lives in Him right now…with the promise that ALL will be made right (in you, me, and this old earth) when He appears in all His glory one day. But that process begins now, and suffering is a tool He uses to accomplish this.

We stand firm in our faith – even in the midst of trials and suffering – because we know that there will come a day soon when Jesus comes in all His glory and the suffering ends.  In the meantime, we allow the pain, trials, conflict, and loss on this earth to do it’s maturing, foundation-setting work in us through Jesus Christ.

#3 Stand firm because Jesus did.

1 Peter 2:21-25
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Jesus was called “the man of sorrows.”  He was rejected by his own brothers. He was betrayed by his own disciples (including Peter).  He was left alone to carry the weight of His impending death – even after asking his closest friends to support him.  And He wretched over the prospect of the cross. But He stood firm in His calling. He resisted the devil and faced His suffering head-on.  And Peter says: “Follow His example”. We stand firm until the end because the One whom we follow did.

I love how Peter ends the letter…

1 Peter 5:12
I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God.
STAND FIRM IN IT.

Christian Oppression Comes to the U.S.

oppressionCurrently, I’m taking my church through the Psalms of Ascent – Psalms 120-134.  One message that keeps coming through loud and clear is that Christians will experience many trials and much suffering in this life.  As a matter of fact, one of the principles I discovered in Psalm 129 is this: God’s people have always been and will always be oppressed, so we shouldn’t be surprised when we are. In the United States, we really haven’t seen a lot of Christian oppression like our brothers and sisters experience in other countries, but a recent headline on Fox News reveals that a deeper level of Christian oppression may be coming ashore.

The headline read: Pastor David Jones and his wife Mary have been told that they cannot invite friends to their San Diego, Calif. home for a Bible study – unless they are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to San Diego County.

Pastor Jones told Fox News that “on Good Friday, we had an employee from San Diego County come to our house, and inform us that the Bible study that we were having was a religious assembly, and in violation of the code in the county.”  Jones told the county employee that it really wasn’t a religious assembly; it was just a normal Bible study with friends consisting of a meal and prayer.

A few days later, Jones received a written warning that cited “unlawful use of land,” ordering them to either “stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit” that could cost the Jones’ thousands of dollars just to have a few friends over.  Pastor Jones sees this as a religious attack – Christian oppression – and says that if San Diego County refuses to allow his small group to continue gathering without acquiring a permit, he will consider a lawsuit in federal court.

I know that many Christians who read this will be shocked, but the Scriptures make it clear that we shouldn’t be.  God’s people have always been and will always be oppressed, so we shouldn’t be surprised when it happens to us.  In America, we have been incredibly blessed to be able to practice our Christian faith in relative freedom from any kind of oppression, but we should not always expect it to be this way.  This doesn’t mean that we don’t pray against or speak out against oppression like the kind Pastor Jones in San Diego is experiencing, but we must not come to expect that just because we’re American citizens we have a right be free from this type of oppression.

Jesus said it Himself: “In this world, you will have trouble.”  And rather than tell us how to get out of the trouble we find ourselves in, He tells us in Psalm 130 how to persevere in it.  He invites us to cry out to Him for mercy, wait for Him like a night watchman waits for the morning, and place our hope securely in Him because He loves us and redeems our lives from the pit.  Not a quick fix, but it’s the only biblical way to respond to suffering and oppression.

So, as Pastor Jones waits on the Lord and places His hope in Him, let’s join our brother in crying out to the Lord for mercy on his behalf.  And when oppression visits you, whatever you do, don’t be surprised.

How Not To Get Licked By Life – Part 2

If you read my last post, then you know that I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the spiritual nature of trouble. Trouble has been a not-so-welcome companion of mine lately, and I decided to review the notes from a sermon series I preached a while back on spiritual warfare. What follows is the second half of my one-on-one therapy session with myself. I invite you once again to look on!

A Bit of Review
Paul says that our struggle with trouble in this life is not of this world. He says that our struggle is against “the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Satan’s forces are well organized and ranked, and they are out to wound us…and ultimately defeat us. But, there is hope. The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6 tells us about the only armor and weaponry that will work for fighting and winning the spiritual battle we’re engaged in. Last time, we explored the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. Here are the other items that the Lord has made available to us…
Gospel of Peace Shoes

Jewish historians had much to say about the shoes of the Roman soldier, because the quality of his shoes directly impacted his ability to fight. His shoes were boot-like and were thickly studded with sharp nails for support and stability. They were like a combination of combat boots and football cleats. Historians tell us that the successes of both Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar were due to their shoes!

If the purpose of wearing our spiritual armor is to stand firm when Satan attacks, then the importance of good spiritual shoes can not be overstated. Without them, we’re sure to fall. For believers, Paul says that the shoes we are to wear are “gospel of peace” shoes. But what does he mean by this? What do these shoes look like?

The “gospel of peace” is the wonderful, life-changing, life-altering truth that – in Christ – we are now at perfect peace with God. We are one with Him. Therefore, when our feet are fitted with these “gospel of peace” shoes, we are able to stand in confidence because we are sure of God’s love for us; we’re sure of His union with us; and we’re sure of His commitment to fight for us. When we stand with our “gospel of peace” shoes on, we don’t need to fear our Enemy because when he comes to attack us, our feet will be firmly planted. Our “gospel of peace” shoes will secure our ankles, and the cleats will dig solidly into the ground. We will not fall!

Satan wants nothing more than to shake our confidence in God’s love for us. He wants to shake our confidence in what God accomplished on the cross. If Satan can get us to doubt that, then He can gain an advantage over us. So, we’ve got to put on the “gospel of peace” shoes if we’re going to have any chance of standing firm when Satan attacks.

The Shield of Faith

The shield of the Roman soldier that Paul is talking about here was a shield about 2 ½ feet wide and 4 ½ feet high. It was designed to protect the entire body of the soldier and was big enough that he could crouch down and be completely protected by it. It was made of a solid piece of wood and was covered either by metal or heavy, oiled leather. Often, soldiers would stand side by side with their shields together forming a protective wall. And, because their enemies would often light the tips of their arrows right before shooting them, the Roman soldier would often soak their shields in water before going to battle. The leather would absorb the water – making it heavier – but the water would extinguish the flaming arrows of their enemy.

For believers, Satan is continually bombarding us with the flaming arrows of temptation. Temptation to be immoral, to hate, to envy, to sin in our anger, to covet, to doubt, to be proud, to fear, to despair, to dishonor God. Without a shield, we’re doomed. We will be hit, pierced, and burned by his flaming arrows of temptation. The shield of the Roman soldier was made of wood, metal, and leather, but the shield of the believer is made of faith.

The faith that Paul is referring to here is a basic trust in God. It’s the faith that brings about salvation through Christ, and it’s the faith that continues to bring blessing and strength as we trust Him for everything we need. This kind of faith not only believes that Jesus is the Savior, but it believes the promises that God has made to us as well. It also believes in God’s love for us, in His mercy toward us, and it believes that He will someday return for us. It believes that whatever comes our way, He is in control and will allow nothing to happen to us – nothing good and nothing bad – without it first being approved by Him.

If you find yourself giving into temptation; if you’re feeling defeated by a pattern of sin in your life, then you have to ask yourself if you are truly placing your trust in God. Hebrews 11:6 says that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” This is the kind of faith that makes up the shield that we so desperately need in order to extinguish the flaming arrows of the enemy. We’ve got to pick up and use our shield of faith – alone and together – if we’re going to have any chance of standing firm when Satan attacks.

The Helmet of Salvation

The Roman helmet is quite different from the helmet worn today by our military. The Roman helmet was not just designed to protect the brain, but it had a sloping edge down the back to protect the neck, because one of the best ways to kill an enemy back then was to approach him from the back and cut off his head. It also had two flaps covering both sides of the face, and sometimes, it had a piece that covered the front of the face, leaving only the eyes exposed.

For believers, the helmet is essential, because Satan likes to hit us in the head with discouragement and doubt. If he can stir up discouragement and doubt in our minds, then he can easily overtake us. He loves to point out our failures, our sins, our unresolved problems, our poor health, or any other negative scenario in our lives. If he can manage to draw our attention to these things, then he knows that discouragement and doubt will set in. A helmet will protect us from these destructive blows aimed at our heads.

The Roman soldier’s helmet was made of heavily molded or heavily beaten metal. Our helmet is related to our salvation. Why? Because if we lose hope in the promise of our salvation (both for now and for the future), we’re doomed, and Satan knows this. The helmet of salvation is the great hope of our salvation that gives us the confidence and the assurance that our present struggle with Satan will not last forever. We will be victorious in the end because of what Christ did for us on the cross! We know that the battle is only for this life, and even a long life of 100 years is a split second compared to eternity. We are fighting a battle that is short (intense but short), and we will win!

Satan wants us to forget what Christ did for us on the cross. He wants to make the battle so fierce that we lose sight of the cross, and we lose sight of the hope that lies ahead in Christ. He does this by attacking our minds…by messing with our thinking. We’ve got to place the helmet of salvation firmly on our heads, and we’ve got to always remember the great hope of our salvation that gives us the confidence and the assurance that our present struggle with Satan will not last forever.

The Sword of the Spirit

This is where it gets good. All the items mentioned so far have been defensive in nature, but this one can be used for offensive purposes as well as defensive purposes. The sword of the Spirit is something we can use to inflict pain and suffering on our enemy!

The sword referred to here by Paul was a sword that varied in length from 6 to 18 inches long. It was the common sword carried by the Roman foot soldier and was the principal weapon used in hand-to-hand combat. The sword was not very big. What made it such an effective weapon was not the sword itself, but the skill of the soldier. Roman soldiers were the best swordsmen in the world. They were put through rigorous – and sometimes brutal – training, and their teachers were relentless. The sword was used for both offense (to strike a blow) and defense (to glance off the strikes of their enemies), and they were made out of the most superior metals forged by master blade smiths.

For believers, our sword is made out of the Word of God and is forged by God’s Spirit. As we rigorously read, study, and meditate on God’s Word, the Holy Spirit acts as our tutor, burning the deep truths of His Word on our hearts and bringing it to our minds as we need it. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, what weapon did He use to fend off the strikes of Satan? The sword of the Spirit. The Word of God. In the same way, the sword of the Spirit is the weapon that we must use as well.

The Word of God is the most powerful weapon we have against Satan. I love what Scottish pastor and writer Thomas Guthrie said about the Bible: The Bible is an armory of heavenly weapons, a laboratory of infallible medicines, and mine of exhaustless wealth. It is a guidebook for every road, a chart for every sea, a medicine for every malady, and a balm for every wound. Rob us of our Bible and our sky has lost its sun.

A Word of Caution
Just like the Roman soldier had to diligently learn how to use his sword, so too must we diligently learn how to use ours. Satan will attack us hard, and we must know the Word of God well enough to fight off His strikes and send some powerful strikes his way. Just like the Roman soldier, we need to go through rigorous training in order to know how to skillfully wield our sword.

God has blessed us with gifted preachers and teachers who can explain in a clear way the truths His Word. He’s also blessed the Christian community as a whole with gifted writers who have written helpful Bible studies designed to help us understand the Word. We have no excuse for not knowing God’s Word. Every single one of us has an endless amount of biblical resources at our finger tips. We can learn how to skillfully wield our sword; we just need to do what it takes to learn.

How Not To Get Licked By Life – Part 1

Life is hard. I’m not trying to sound pessimistic; I’m just telling the truth. Jesus said that every single one of his followers would have trouble as long as they live, and it just so happens that this “trouble” seems to be making regular appearances in my life these days. I agree with the words of little orphan Annie: It’s a hard knock life. Instead of kisses, I’m getting kicked. Maybe you’re getting kicked too. If so, then this post (and the next one too) will help. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the spiritual nature of the trouble I’m experiencing, and I decided to review the notes from a sermon series I preached a while back on spiritual warfare. I’m writing this for personal therapeutic purposes, but if you’re experiencing hard knocks too, then maybe this will help you as well.

The Truth About the Trouble
Ephesians 6:12 says: For 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. The Apostle Paul makes it clear that our struggles in our relationships, in our circumstances, and in doing what is right versus what is wrong is NOT of this world. Our greatest enemy is not the world we see (as wicked as it may be), but it’s the world we can’t see.

How intense is this struggle? The word translated “struggle” here comes from the Greek word which was used in that day for hand-to-hand combat or wrestling. There was a lot of trickery and deception in their wrestling back then. It kinda reminds me of our “professional” wrestling today (you know, the chair-smashing fake stuff). There’s a lot of tomfoolery in that too, but the difference is that the wrestling back then was usually real with the winner staying alive and the loser dying. That’s the flavor of the spiritual struggle we face today. To say that the stakes are high would be an understatement.

Paul says that our struggle is against “the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” This seems to imply that Satan’s forces are well organized and ranked, but Paul’s point here is not for us to try to figure out how they’re organized. His point is to give us some idea of their sophistication and power. We are pitted against an incredibly evil and potent enemy.

So, how do we not just survive this battle; how do experience victory? Well, the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6 tells us how. He tells us about the only armor and weaponry that will work for fighting and winning the spiritual battle that plagues us. Here are some of the details…

The Belt of Truth

The Roman soldier always wore a tunic as his primary piece of clothing. It was one square piece of material with holes cut out for the head and arms, and it draped loosely over most of the soldier’s body. Anybody familiar with the plight of an NFL lineman knows that anything loose gives the opponent an advantage because the loose clothing can be grabbed and held on to. Often, a lineman will pull-in or roll-up his jersey so that his opponent will be unable to grab hold of him.

This is exactly what the belt of the Roman soldier would do. Since most ancient battles were fought hand-to-hand, a loose tunic was dangerous. Before a battle, the Roman soldier would clinch up and tuck in his tunic using his belt. The belt was also used to hold his sword, allowing him to pull it out and use it at a moment’s notice. So, the Roman soldier’s belt was used to secure his clothing and hold his sword close by, thus readying him for battle.

For believers, Paul says that the belt that secures us and readies us for battle is truth, because two of Satan’s most common and damaging weapons are deceit and deception. If He can get us to buy into lies about God, about ourselves, or about others, then He can easily cause us to stumble and fall.

Truth here refers to 1) knowing the truth about God and 2) being truth tellers ourselves. First, we must know the truth about God, and we do this by knowing, meditating on, and obeying His Word. If we don’t, then our tunic hangs loose, and our enemy can grab hold of us and yank us around. Secondly, we must also be truth tellers. It’s one thing to know the truth about God, but if we don’t practice truthfulness in our lives, then we leave ourselves open and vulnerable to the attacks of our enemy. So, the belt of truth must be buckled around our waists if we’re going to have any chance of standing firm when Satan attacks.

The Breastplate of Righteousness

No Roman soldier would go into battle without his breastplate. It was a tough, sleeveless piece or armor that covered his full torso from front to back. It was made out of either leather (covered with animal hooves and horns) or metal, and without it, his vital organs – heart, lungs, stomach, and kidneys – would be exposed. One stab from the end of a sword into any one of these organs, and death was almost certain. The breastplate covered for a soldier back then much the same area that a bulletproof vest covers our law enforcement officers today. Ask any officer whose been shot in the vest, and they’ll tell you how vital it is.

For believers, Paul says the breastplate that protects us like this spiritually is righteousness. We desperately need a breastplate, because Satan’s ultimate desire is to strike a lethal blow to our hearts in order to destroy us spiritually.

So, what does this kind of righteousness look like? Before I tell you what it is, let me tell you what it’s not.

First, it’s not the kind of righteousness that we muster up on our own – commonly referred to as self-righteousness. As a matter of fact, self righteousness is a farce. It’s not real because the Scriptures say that there is NO ONE who is righteous on their own. But we can get caught in the trap of thinking that our own character, our own accomplishments, and our own legalistic behavior can please God and protect us from the attacks of Satan. The opposite is actually true: a cloak of self-righteousness, which is rooted in pride, gives Satan a ready-made weapon to attack and destroy us with. In our own strength, we can NOT produce the breastplate of righteousness.

Secondly, Paul’s not talking here about the righteousness we get from Christ the moment we believe. Imputed righteousness for you theologians. Paul’s not talking about this. This “imputed” righteousness from God makes it possible for us to have a breastplate, but it’s not what makes up our breastplate, because we can not “put on” what God has already clothed us with.

The breastplate that we are to put on is made up of the righteousness that we display when we live in obedience to the Lord. It’s the righteousness we’re instructed to “put on” in Ephesians 4:24-27 where we’re told to put on things like the new self, truth, sinless anger, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, etc. We put on the breastplate that will protect us from the attacks of Satan when we choose to do what is right in the eyes of God. When we choose to disobey Him, we throw the breastplate to the ground and make ourselves incredibly vulnerable to the attacks of Satan.

So, in order not to be licked by life, we must live lives of obedience. And in so doing, we’ll enjoy the protection of the breastplate, which is essential if we want any chance of standing firm when the enemy attacks.

This is the first of two posts on how not to get licked by life. In the next post, I’ll explore the other pieces of our spiritual armor, including the one weapon that God tells us we can use to inflict pain and suffering! So, if you’ve ever been so down and overwhelmed by life that you’ve wanted to hurt someone, stay tuned!