If I were to ask you the question, who are you, what would your answer be? Some might respond with what they do for a living such as I’m a mechanic, I’m an engineer, or I’m a social worker. Others might respond by their family relationships. I’m the husband of Kate, the father of Tim, or the son of Frank. These would all be true responses, however, they speak more about the people whom you associate with more than anything personal about you.
In our minds we tend to answer this question a little bit differently. We often have thoughts that I’m not important, I don’t matter, I’m worthless, I’m a screw up, I’m unlovable, I’m a failure, and too many more to list here. How we view ourselves ultimately impacts how we behave. If we feel like we don’t matter we may withdraw from social situations, or if we don’t feel lovable we may avoid engaging with people of the opposite sex. When we think we’re a failure we may avoid new ventures, try new things and miss out on some great experiences in life.
So where do these thoughts come from? Well in some situations they come from our childhood and things our parents may have said to us or the way in which they treated us. In other situations, it could come from loved ones or co-workers who expressed themselves poorly in heated situations. It could be past results like having a failed business, struggling financially, or losing a job. There are so many circumstances in our lives that can affect how we think about ourselves, yet you may be surprised to hear that there is one primary source behind them all.
Peter says in 1 Peter 5:8 that our adversary (or accuser) the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he can devour. The lion, when choosing his prey, seeks out the one in the group who is weak, injured or isolated and in need of the protection of the rest of the herd. Our enemy Satan looks to isolate us by planting thoughts in our head that can cause discouragement and keep us from living the abundant life that Jesus promised. That’s why he’s called the accuser of the brethren. He wants you to believe that you’re not worthy of calling yourself a Christ follower. After all “what business do you have showing up at church after what you did this past weekend?” He wants you to believe that not only are you disappointed in yourself but that God is disappointed in you as well.
Lies, All Lies…
But listen, isn’t this exactly what you would expect from an enemy who is seeking to do you harm? There’s a saying that all is fair in love and war, and though we often fail to realize it, we’re in a war against Satan and his fallen angels. Paul tells the Ephesian church “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 (NLT) One of the reasons that we’re so easily influenced by the demonic is that we fail to realize they’re actually there. I’ve heard it said that one of Satan’s greatest deceptions is convincing people that he doesn’t exist.
This is why Paul continues in Ephesians 6 to give us the solution for battling in the spiritual realm.
Ephesians 6:13-18 (NLT)
13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
The enemy seeks to destroy (John 10:10) by manipulating the truth ever since the beginning. God told Adam and Eve “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” Genesis 2:16-17 (NLT). Just one chapter later the serpent enters, the enemy, and says to Eve “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” Genesis 3:1 (NLT). Do you see how Satan twisted God’s words? God said you may eat freely from every tree, except for one. Satan said did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of trees in the garden. That’s not what God said at all, yet the words are so similar and designed to cause doubt in Eve’s mind. Of course, you know the rest of the story, they ate the forbidden fruit, fell from God’s grace, and sin entered into the cosmos. Satan, being pretty pleased with himself, has kept up this same trick for millennia.
If you want to “resist the enemy” as Paul says we need to put on the “Full Armor of God”. And so, what exactly does that look like?
- The Belt of Truth and the Breastplate of God’s Righteousness
At the root of this battle lies our identity in Christ. The enemy wants to separate you from the love of God and the Bible says that’s not possible (Romans 8:35). In reality the battle is a battle over truth and the first piece of armor that God provides is the belt of truth. Listen, it doesn’t matter what you think about yourself, what others say about you, or even what those closest to you in life say. What’s true about you is what God says about you. Jesus when praying for the disciples in John 17:17 says “Sanctify them (or set them apart) by the truth, your Word is truth”. Believe God’s word and his view of you over every other voice in your life and in your head. You are not who you think you are, you are who God says you are. If you belief in Christ’s payment for your sin on the cross then you are his beloved child, co-heir with Christ, justified (made right with God). In other words, despite what you may have done this weekend, yesterday or 5 minutes ago, God’s love for you has never changed.In addition, the verse tells us to put on the breastplate of God’s righteousness. To be righteous doesn’t mean to have never done anything wrong, but to always have done everything right. Unfortunately, because of the sin nature within us, we can’t claim to be righteous in and of ourselves. Paul says in Philippians 3:9 (NIV) “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” The idea is that righteousness doesn’t come by good works (i.e. works of the Law), but instead by trusting in what Jesus Christ accomplished for us at the cross. Though we may feel at times as though God may be disappointed in us, the truth of the matter is that because of the cross, God no longer us a sinners (or those always doing wrong), but as righteous (always having done what’s right). How is this possible you ask? Again the Apostle Paul provides an explanation in 2 Corinthians 5:21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” On the cross God placed our sin on righteous Jesus, and took his own righteousness and placed it on us sinners. The term for this is called penal substitutionary atonement, but at the end of the day all that you need to know is God see’s you as righteous. Say that to yourself, I am righteous! Doesn’t that feel good? It’s the truth, and this is a major defense mechanism against the enemy. Not a license to sin, but freedom from sin.
- Gospel Shoes
The next piece of armor is our shoes. A good friend pointed out to me recently that when this text was written Roman soldiers often placed spikes into their shoes in order to better stand their ground in battle. How fitting is that? The truth of the gospel (or good news) grounds us helping us to stand our ground. The gospel is the fact that God sent his son Jesus Christ to die in yours and my place, be buried and rise again, having taken away the penalty of death for our sin and exchanging it with eternal life to those who would believe and place their trust in Jesus Christ. The result of this is eternal security, meaning that our enemy can’t take away the gift that God has so graciously given us. Ground yourself in the truth of the gospel. As John Piper, the famous author, preacher and theologian, said you never outgrow your need for the gospel. Instead preach the gospel to yourself daily.
- The Shield of Faith
Our faith and trust in God and Jesus Christ is a critical part of our armor, that not only blocks the fiery arrows from the enemy but extinguishes them. Have you ever had doubts about your spiritual life? Doubts perhaps that God truly loves you, or that he hears you, and that he answers prayer? Again, the enemy would love nothing more than to convince you that this were not true. Yet faith is active belief in what we cannot see or understand yet choose to believe anyway. As the enemy takes aim at you and you wrestle with thoughts of doubt, trust God that he is who he says he is, and that he will do what he says he will do. This requires a steady dose of his word in your life to remind you of both his character and his promises that you can count on when things get tough.
- The Helmet of Salvation
As one can imagine, in a fight, a good blow to the head could be fatal. Yet God provides protection by way of salvation. As you battle your spiritual enemies remember the fact that you didn’t save yourself. It wasn’t by any set of good deeds that God chose to save you but instead it was by God’s own love for you that he chose to save you. Ephesians 2:4-5 (NLT) tells us “2 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” This concept is so important that Paul repeats the statement again in Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT) so that we wouldn’t miss it. “8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” So listen to this, child of God, if you didn’t earn it, then it can’t be taken from you. That is a tremendous truth to keep hold of, and a powerful defense against the enemy.
- The Sword of the Spirit (The Word of God)
Our final bit of armor is both an offensive and defensive weapon. It’s called the sword of the Spirit, but quickly clarified as the word of God. Again this is a battle over truth, and God’s truth always trumps the words of the enemy. But how can we fight if we don’t have the word of God in our minds and on our lips. The Barna research group in 2019 did a survey that found that 35% of American’s never opened their Bibles in 2019 (Source: https://www.barna.com/research/state-of-the-bible-2019/) The Bible is our source of truth about who God is and who we are in him. Without it we are defenseless against the attacks of the enemy. To give you an example, after Jesus was baptized he was taken by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness where he was tempted for 40 days. Our same enemy, Satan, came to him and first tempted him to turn a stone into bread to eat. How did Jesus reply to the temptation? He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 “man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”. Each time Jesus was tempted he replied with Scripture. Listen if Jesus himself battled the enemy with the Sword of the Spirit (the Word of God) how much more do we need to be able to battle the enemy by knowing and being able to recite God’s own words back to our accuser?
As we close out this week’s post what I hope that you’ll take away is the same idea that we started with. You may not be who you think you are! If your view of yourself isn’t based on the truth of God’s word, then you’re holding too low a view of yourself and it’s time for an upgrade. Spend some time in the pages of God’s word and read about the love, mercy and grace that God has lavished upon you. The book of Ephesians, referenced several times in this post, is a great place to start. You may feel like you’re not all that special but to God you’re a blood bought, Spirit taught child of the one true King.
Be blessed in Jesus today!