Our Tower and Protection

Scriptures: Psalm 84 ; John 6:56-69 ; Ephesians 6:10-20

At the beginning of World War II, France believed that they were safe against Germany, behind something called the Maginot Line. The Maginot Line was a defensive line built in the 1930’s. It stretched for over 200 miles on the northeast border of France.

It was state-of-the-art, built of thick concrete, with heavy guns, living quarters, storehouses and underground rail lines. It was designed to hold off any German attack. However, the Germans defeated this fortified defense by simply going around it, through the Ardennes Forest, which the French had considered impenetrable.

By using superior aircraft and armored tank divisions, something the French were not prepared for, the German army overcame this defensive line, simply by avoiding it. In the end, the Maginot Line was useless, and France surrendered to the enemy.

France fell in defeat because they underestimated their enemy and relied on the wrong weapons. They did not anticipate the attack their enemy used. They thought they were protected.

Now, we too are in a war, a war against Satan and the powers of the world. We must also be careful not to make these same mistakes. In order to defeat the attacks of our enemy, we must be armed with the right weapons and armor, and we must have the right strategy.

We must not underestimate our enemy’s intelligence and cleverness, and we must not rely on our own weapons and armor. We noted that we cannot do things on our own, last week, with “Hard Instructions.” The bible tells us that we must rely on the armor and the strength of God in order to defeat the attacks of our enemy, Satan.

In verses 10-20 here, in chapter 6, Paul tells us that we are in a battle with the unseen forces of the spirit world, and we must put on the “full armor of God” in order to hold our ground and stand fast against the attack of our enemy.

You’ll notice that he says, “Stand firm.” Three times in a row, pretty much. Now, in Hebrew understanding they didn’t have “good, better, best,” so the way they emphasized something was by saying it again and again, and three times was considered the ultimate.

That’s why in the Psalms you see “holy, holy, holy is the Lord.” God is the holiest of all things. In the same way, although it was in different sentences, three times in two sentences, Paul says, “Stand firm.”

I love it that, in the Scriptures – and we get this backwards all the time. In the Scriptures, they tell us to flee temptation, and to resist the devil and he must flee. So often, we turn it around. We try to resist temptation. Then when the devil comes, we flee.

But you see, you flee temptation because that is from within. You don’t want to put yourself in the situation where temptation occurs. But when it comes to fighting Satan and his wiles, we have armor, we have weapons that God has given us, and we can stand firm, and the devil is the one who must flee, as we speak with the authority of Jesus Christ.

Now, the first three pieces of armor, the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the boots of peace, I’m going to gloss over a little bit. But I do want to say this much. Paul, when he’s setting up this picture of armor of God, is looking at a Roman centurion. Literally. I mean, he has one chained to him, because he’s in prison.

They had a particular set of armor that they wore. Those first three pieces of armor are things that were put on and worn all the time by the Roman soldier. Now, he’s comparing the weapons and armor of this mighty warrior of the time, the Romans, to the spiritual weapons and armor that we have in our own battle.

The belt was something that was needed to hold – more than just to hold your pants up. It held your scabbard, it held other things, it provided a connection. You had to put on the belt in order to prepare everything else.

It talks about girding your loins, in some translations. What that meant was this. A Roman soldier, when he was ready for duty, in order to be ready for battle, you know, they wore these skirt kind of things, almost like kilts, except that they were in strips rather than pleats.

They would have to tuck their stuff into the belt, so that it didn’t get in the way, wasn’t grabbed by the enemy. When you were getting prepared for battle, you girded your loins up, so that you were free to move.

You wore the breastplate, usually a hardened leather breastplate with brass fittings and studs. It was meant to help deflect some of the blows that would come at you during battle. You put it on like you breathed in the morning, like breakfast, and then it was just always there.

I was in an organization in college called the Society for Creative Anachronisms. We were best known for jousting. We would take rattan, which is solid bamboo, and we’d beat on each other with solid rattan swords and things. But you had to were real armor. You could get broken bones very easily.

I used to wear a shirt of chain mail. And once it’s on, you forget about it. Really. Because it’s molded to you. It moves with you. Until you’re running. Or you take it off. Because it weighed 70 pounds. Like I said, you don’t really think about it initially.

Then when you take it off, your arms kind of go [shows arms lifting upward], and you feel like you’re so much lighter. Well, because you are. But I mean, you feel like you’re bouncing at every step.

But you put on the breastplate. It’s defensive. You don’t have to worry about it. It’s not active. It’s passive. It’s just there, protecting you.

Finally, the shoes, or boots, of peace. The boots there wore were also a mixture of leather and brass. And with the Roman soldier, they helped to put forth the Pax Romana. There are a lot of different interpretations of what that peace might be, in terms of the boots of peace.

But for myself, I think that the boots of peace were in mind when Paul is speaking of Jesus, when he spoke of “Blessed are the peacemakers.” It’s not somebody who quells all conflict. Jesus caused plenty of conflict. But he did bring the peace and reconciliation of God to man. And that is part of our charge as Christians, when we make disciples.

We are also, through the sharing of the good news of the Gospel – which is the Gospel of peace. Again, it’s not a peace of passivity, or pacifism, but rather a peace of the assurance and right relationship with God and with other people. So, the boots of the Gospel.

And those things stay on you at all times. You should put them on in the morning as you get up out of bed. Now, these were all defensive.

The fourth piece of armor that Paul describes is the shield of faith. The Roman soldier had two different types of shield that he would use. One is a buckler, a small shield that was two feet in diameter, which was strapped to the arm and used in close combat.

The shield Paul is referring to, however – and we know by the Greek term used which it was – was a much larger shield known as a tower shield. Two and a half feet wide and four and a half feet tall. It was made of wood and covered with leather or metal.

What happened during times of combat was that the enemy forces would launch a barrage of arrows toward their enemy soldiers, and often those arrows were wrapped in cloth or soaked in pitch and set aflame. And then they would try to set the enemy on fire when they hit them.

But when they hit these shields, the leather had been soaked in water. Or if it was metal, it simply wouldn’t penetrate. And the flame would be doused or sent away. The shields were designed so the arrows could not do their damage to the soldiers. You could hide behind the shield easily when the arrows came.

This, then, is the shield of our faith. When Satan launches his flaming arrows or darts at us, we have our shield of faith to protect us. It’s our faith in the power of Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Again, remember, this is not something that we do on our own.

This is something that requires the active presence and power of the Holy Spirit. We have our faith that was given us by God, as was our salvation, and we stand against the flaming darts of Satan.

They’re not literally flaming darts, but how about … doubts? Discouragement. Depression. Fear. Feelings of hopelessness. Guilt – that’s a big one. Shame. Greed. Lust. Pride. Stubbornness. Not trusting. And the list can go on.

The shield of faith is a shield of trust. We’re told to walk by faith, putting our trust in the Lord, believing in God to take care of our every need. Having faith that no matter what happens to us, God will be there to help us through. By using the shield of faith, we are hopefully able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of Satan.

When we are attacked by unreasonable doubts, by worry, by discouragement, by guilt and shame, we can put up our shield to absorb that damage. When Satan fires his flaming arrows at our church, our families, our jobs, we are able to stand behind our faith, hopefully, and trust in God, believing in God and His ability to protect us and to give us victory, if we have confidence in His words.

Psalm 91 says “we live within the shadow of the Almighty, sheltered by the God who is above all gods. This I declare that He alone is my refuge, my place of safety. He is my God and I am trusting Him. For He rescues you from every trap and protects you from the fatal plague. He will shield you with His wings, and they will shelter you. His faithful promises are your armor.”

But we must trust in God, utilizing this shield of faith.

The fifth piece of armor is the helmet of salvation. The helmet of a soldier protected his head. Even today, the helmet is a vital part of a soldier’s armor. No soldier in his right mind would go out into battle without his helmet. The helmet gives the soldier a certain amount of confidence.

It reminds me of that illustration I gave you a long time ago, where people were unready when the Japanese struck that one naval carrier. They were in the showers and they hadn’t carried their clothes with them. So when the call came, the klaxon sounded, they had to go up and man their guns.

One of the survivors of that thing said that the Japanese were probably weirded out as they saw a bunch of naked men in helmets running around, loading the ammunition in the cannons. They didn’t have time for their clothes, but they still had time for their helmets.

It gives the soldier a certain amount of confidence that their head is protected. The helmet of salvation gives us confidence in Christ. We have been saved by what Christ did for us on the cross. No one can take that away. The victory is won. The action is completed.

The helmet of salvation protects our minds from the attacks of the enemy. Satan seeks to strike us with discouragement and unreasonable doubt. He loves to point out our failures and faults and anything else that seems negative. He wants us to doubt our salvation, to doubt God’s goodness, to doubt God’s Word, and to just be generally depressed.

I think one of the biggest issues that Christians have today is we let ourselves discouraged. And I’m as guilty of it as any. The wedge that Satan uses most often is the wedge of guilt and shame. You stumble. And when you stumble, he is right there, saying, “Well, that was major. You’re never going to get things right now.”

And he tries to push you further from God. “Because God can’t stand sin. Well, that means that God’s going to turn away from you and He’s not going to love you anymore.” And you get further into sin, and Satan says, “You see? As you continue in sin, God’s getting even further away. God will not be present with you. God will not support you. You are alone.”

Well, let me tell you, in the famous words of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, we are not alone. God is with us. He has promised us, and He is faithful to His promises. He does forgive us our sins, if we repent in our hearts and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

You lift up the shield of faith. You put on the helmet of salvation. And you tell Satan, “Get thee behind me.”

It’s the helmet of salvation that gives us our assurance in Christ. Jesus died on the cross in order to give us this helmet of salvation. When he died on that cross, he made the greatest statement about his love for us and his desire to save us that could ever be made.

If you want assurance, look at the cross. Jesus died there for you. And it’s empty, because he was raised again, also, for you, that you might be new creatures, in him. Not the old ones, that Satan can control. But new ones, full of life and love and the power of the Holy Spirit.

The helmet of salvation gives us confidence in our eternal security. God loved us so much that He didn’t even spare His own Son, but gave Him for you. And if God is for us, as it says, who can be against us? He is our shield and our defender, protector of our hearts and minds.

Now, so far all the pieces of armor that we have talked about have been defensive in nature. That is what I had as the focus of my sermon. I want us to understand how well-defended we are. Protection against attacks that we face is present.

But we also have an offensive weapon in our armor, what Paul calls the sword of the Spirit or the Word of God. Now, the sword a Roman soldier used was called a gladius. It was a short, 18-inch sword that was razor-sharp on both sides. It could be used both offensively and defensively, and it was deadly.

It could be used to slash, it could be used to thrust – which, if you’re into medieval stuff at all, is really important. If you’re into armies and their positions when you get multiple soldiers in a line, in a flanks formation, for instance, a phalanx, then it becomes critical.

If you have someone swinging longswords, or the wonderfully impressive Celtic greatswords, there’s nobody going to be standing close to them. But the 18-inch gladius allowed them to stand side by side, utilize each other’s shield, protect each other’s side, and to slash when necessary, to thrust when necessary. It was sharp.

Our sword is the Word of God. The Greek translation that is used here for the word is rhema, which means to utter, pronounce, or speak. It means the actual saying or speaking of the word of God.

Hebrews 4:12 says “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Jesus used this spiritual weapon when he was tempted by Satan in the desert. Each time Satan attempted to deliver a blow, Jesus blocked the attack with the word of God, quoting Scripture. In every encounter he went on the offensive, speaking the word of God.

When Satan comes at you again and again and again, follow Jesus’ example. In Matthew 4:10-11, Jesus said, “Away from me, Satan, for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’” And then the devil left him.

Now, using a sword is something that takes time and practice. And again, I can attest to that. Whether it’s two-handed or one-handed. One of the things we used to do, in the Society I was part of, we used to have practice sessions, where you would drill again and again and again, certain stroke patterns.

Then you would spar with somebody else. (And I usually got my rear end beaten. But that’s OK.) But you had to drill. You had to practice.

For us, in our spiritual fight and battle, that means being in the Word every day. It can be a tough thing, and it has fallen out of practice today in the Presbyterian church – it’s fallen out of practice in a lot of mainline denominations and churches – but memorize the Word.

Memorize it so that you can speak it without even hardly thinking about it. When the situation comes up, you have the right Scripture to mind, if the Spirit is with you. Something that I myself need to do more often. I may know a lot of the Scripture but I have a lot that I could memorize.

We need to know and understand the Bible. By becoming familiar with the Word of God, you store away spiritual weapons for the Spirit to use. He will bring to your mind those passages which apply to the situation you are facing. Your mind will be trained to think like God thinks. You will be able to pierce through the lies and deceptions of the enemy.

Jesus knew the Word of God and was able to defend and attack the devil, using the Scriptures to attack and drive his enemy away. When we come under attack, we must use our armor to defend ourselves, and know and use the spoken Word of God to counterattack and drive our enemy away. The Word of God is a powerful weapon in our unseen battle.

The other weapon we have, and Paul mentioned it, is our praying in the Spirit. In the New International Version of the Bible, Paul say, “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests, with this in mind: be alert. And always keep on praying for all the saints.”

Paul tells us to pray, pray, pray. And then pray some more. It is said that all hell trembles when we pray. I spoke last week of how different I think the world would be, if the church was just deliberate and consistent in its prayer.

We are in a battle and a war. When we accept Christ, we become front-line soldiers in the unseen battle of the spirit world. But left to ourselves, we are sheep. So God gives us the armor and weapons we need to fight this war.

He gives us the belt of truth; the breastplate of righteousness, which is Christ and his blood; the boots of the gospel of peace; the shield of our faith; the helmet of salvation; the sword of the Spirit; and the power of prayer. But we need to put that armor on.

With this armor we can defend and defeat any attack that Satan may throw at us. Without it, we’re pretty much defenseless against his tricks, temptations, deceit, discouragement, and lies, and we will fall victim to his attacks. We have the power of the living God available to us. Jesus has already won the war, and the victory is ours.

My prayer for you is that you would put on the armor of God, each and every day. That you would start your day with prayer and devotion, looking into the Word and experiencing the Spirit.

That you would put on the strength and power of Jesus Christ, so that as you go forth, you will not only have victory in your battle against Satan, but you will be an example that shows others how to live as a disciple of Christ, that He might get the praise and the glory.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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