"Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
"Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.
"And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints...." Ephesians 6:10-18
The storms began to hit hard at the end of my first year as a Christian They took me by surprise. After a delightful year of learning to know Jesus and discovering the marvelous resources of His Kingdom, I thought I had a handle on the Christian life. Ignorant of spiritual warfare, I didn't guard against the perversity of my flesh (the old human nature) nor against Satan.
Suddenly neither my outward circumstances nor my inner struggles fit my vision of the Christian life. Disappointment, failure, and loss happens to everyone, but in me they opened the door to doubts and despair.
The questions in my mind reflected the confusion in my heart: If Jesus is my Shepherd, why doesn't He take better care of me? If God is my sovereign King, where is His power to provide strength and peace? If He is my Father, why isn't He gentler with me?
Of course, the problem was me, not God. I just hadn't seen all that He offered me, nor had I applied all that He had shown me. My royal wardrobe hung unused in the closet.
I had pictured both a vertical love-relationship with my Lord (His hand and heart reaching down to me) and a horizontal friendship with Him (walking and working side by side). Both became real and precious to me, but I had missed the very best -- the intimate union in which He joins me to Himself. He remains my Lord and Savior, but we are always together.
Jesus gave an exciting description: "In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you" John 14:20). In other words,
- my Father is first,
- Christ is in Him,
- I am hidden in Jesus,
- and Jesus fills me.
Thus, whatever touches me must first pass through both the Father and the Son. Not only does Christ cover me with Himself, He and I become one. In His garments, I am not only protected, but am also united with Him.
Are you ready and willing to put on Jesus Christ?
My royal wardrobe.
I put on Christ my Lord, not by rote recitation of the parts of the armor, but by entering into a relationship with the living God. I secure my new set of clothes by a lifestyle of oneness and communion with Him. Both begin with a deep look at God.
As God reveals Himself to me in His Word made alive by His Spirit, I affirm all that He is to me. My sovereign, all-powerful King, who reigns over all (including the counterfeit powers of Satan), is not only the whole wardrobe, but He is also each individual part.
- He is Truth, the filter and reference point of all I see and hear, who has filled my pockets with priceless promises.
- He is my Righteousness who has cleansed and renewed me, so that I may stand spotless and beautiful before my King.
- He is my Peace who comforts me with the assurance of His sovereignty, wisdom, and love.
- His Faith is in me, shielding me from fear, doubt, and despair.
- He is also my past, present, and future Salvation who already saved me from guilt and condemnation. He saves me today from every trial and will one day exchange this decaying, earthly body for a fresh, new, beautiful body.
- He is the victorious Word with power to win every battle. He is everything I need to live, walk, and work triumphantly every day.
Dressing for victory
Having revealed Himself to me, God seeks a response. He longs to give me all that He is and has, but He can only fill and clothe me when I come to Him in trust, humility, and surrender. This attitude (so contrary to my human nature) comes readily when, by His Spirit, I "behold" Him (2 Corinthians 3:18).
When I see His greatness, I dare to trust Him, admit my need, and give myself to Him for the accomplishment of His purpose. Since words (thought, whispered, or spoken) confirm and strengthen the attitude of a yielded heart, I tell Him my response. For example, I might pray:
Precious King, I choose to trust You. Therefore, I give myself to You as a living sacrifice. Transform me into Your image by the complete renewal of my mind, so that nothing will hinder me from seeing Your glory and knowing Your will. Hide me in Yourself, my Lord. Thank You for making us one.
Next, I take each piece of His armor by faith, affirm its basic truth, and apply it to myself.
Thank You for Your truth. I will count on all the wonderful things You have shown and promised me.
Thank You for Your righteousness in me. You have made me holy, precious and beautiful in Your sight. (Isaiah 43:1-4, 25; Ephesians 1:4, 2:1-10)
Thank You for the peace I have in and with You. Keep me still in Your presence as we work together this day. Let Your peace flow through me to others. (John 14:27, 16:33)
Thank You for the gift of faith. I will believe and proclaim Your sovereignty, wisdom, love, and triumph no matter what confronts me. (Galatians 2:20)
Thank You for eternal salvation. I count on You to bring me safely and triumphantly through every challenge of this day. Keep my heart set on the encouraging hope of Your final salvation, which will bring me face-to-face with You, my King. (Romans 5:8-10, 8:23; 1 Thessalonians 5:8-9; 1 John 3:3)
Thank You for Your Word. Show me which Scripture will bring triumph in my thoughts and emotions today. (Ephesians 6:17)
As His protective presence becomes a growing conscious reality, only a few simple words may be needed:
Father, take me, I am Yours. Thy will be done. Keep me hidden in You. I love You, precious King. Thank you.
New clothes, new life
Assume that I have been coming to God each day with an attitude of trust and surrender. In fact, to "put on Jesus Christ" has become a daily habit. Even so, I find I am not immune to certain kinds of struggles. Why not?
I may not have really understood what God does and does not promise to do for me. If I presume that God's protection extends beyond His promise, I will become disappointed and frustrated. The truth is that His armor may or may not protect me against the storms of the world (Matthew 5:45). But it will always protect me against the assaults of Satan, whose arrows use the circumstances of the world to crush and destroy far more than could any storm.
In other words, God may not take me out of my circumstances, but He will bring victory in the midst of the trial. He will protect me against discouragement, despair, hopelessness, worthlessness-all the destructive emotions and thought patterns that rise up inside to disturb my peace, deny my resources in Christ, and quench my joy in Him.
Jesus asks me, "Will you go on with Me? Will you trust Me enough to remain hidden in Me? Will you continue to share My life?"
When He hides me in Himself, I become part of His life. I go where He goes. I share His heart, thoughts, concerns, and actions. Since Jesus has called me to oneness, I feel the winds that beat on Him. Together He and I face the storms and pressures of the world. Together we bear the stab of rejection. Together we share the pain of a friend and bring the comfort of truth.
If Jesus isolated me from all suffering, I could no longer be His friend and follower. He who is strong and I who am weak must walk together in His purpose. The very circumstances I would avoid, He now uses to make me a living, present-day proof of His triumph over the pressures of the world and the powers of Satan. Thus, the very storms that once brought devastation, now affirm the victory of the armor (I Peter 4:12-13).
"Love one another, even as I have loved you.... By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35). Jesus reminds those who wear His clothes and share His vision of the importance of love.
Why is this love so important? Because we need each other. I may be able to get dressed alone, but without the support of faithful friends, I may become weary and find it unbearably difficult to "stand firm" in all that He is. Though our primary relationship is with Him, God made us to fit into one another's lives, to watch out, care, and pray for each other with the same concern that we have for ourselves.
Remember Paul's plea, the completion of his teaching on the armor: "With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me." (Ephesians 6:18-19)
When Satan directs doubt, discouragement, and fear at my weakest points, I need a friend who cares enough to prayerfully check my outfit to see that I am fully protected. When the missiles reach their mark and their venom distorts my perspective, I need a well-dressed friend who still sees clearly. Lifting each other up to God, we can stand together and demonstrate God's victory in every painful, confusing, and challenging situation.
Putting on the Living Word
Read Ephesians 6:10-18. Take time to thoughtfully ponder its message until it becomes part of you.
1. Why is this passage important to your life?
2. List all the exhortations (encouragements to do something) you find in this passage. Which exhortations are repeated? Remember that the enabling power of God's life comes with His commands.
3. What is spiritual warfare?
Read Ephesians 6:11-12.
4. Whether you are conscious of it or not, you are daily engaged in spiritual warfare. Who is your enemy in this battle? Describe his forces.
5. Consider the strategy of the enemy as described in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 and Revelation 12:10-11. How does he attack you?
Were you involved in such a battle this last week? Explain.
6. Paraphrase and personalize Ephesians 6:10.
What does the phrase "in the Lord" mean to you?
How can you be strong in the Lord always?
Read Ephesians 6:14-17.
7. Look at the parts of the armor. Notice the verb tenses and list those pieces that have already become part of you. If you are already wearing these pieces, when did you put them on?
8. What can you do now (every day) in order to realize the full protective power of these pieces of armor?
9. Which parts of the armor must you choose to put on each day? [Note: Keep in mind that the word "salvation" may refer either to the amazing change that God accomplished in you when you received Jesus Christ by faith and were filled with His life -- or the daily salvation from Satan's assaults which God promises those who trust and follow Him. Both are based on the victory God won at the cross over the forces of evil. The fact that we continue to need His saving grace in every spiritual battle here on earth doesn't diminish the reality that our Savior has already saved us from the power of sin, freed us from condemnation, and filled us with His life. Remember that the glorious eternity we will spend with our King has already begun. And each day we need to remember that He is our wonderful Savior -- now and forever.]
10. In verse 18, what does God ask you to do? How does this verse deepen your awareness of our need for each other?
Read Exodus 17:8-13.
11. How was the Israelites' battle against Amalek won?
12. Relate the experience of Moses (his need in the battle and the support received) to your own battles. Do you need your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do they need you? Why?
13. What are some of the ways we encourage and strengthen one another in Christ? Give an example from your own life.
Next: Chapter 2: Clothed with Truth
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