by Mike Ratliff
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:16-17 ESV)
I have deliberately taken a short Sabbatical from writing and contending. God has used this to move me from a certain focus to another one, at least for now. As I prepared over the last few days to reenter the truth war I became convinced that many of us need a review of some fundamentals. If we are effective warriors in this war that means we will also come under attack from directions other than on the battlefront. These attacks are sinister and come from some that most would think should know better than to fall into being a tool of our enemy. The first fundamental is that this war is not about us. We make mistakes. We blunder. We make foolish decisions. It is vital that we do not compound our error by attempting to cover it up by going hard after those who have exploited it or exposed it. Instead, like Peter when Paul contended with him about his hypocrisy, we should humbly repent and move forward with our Lord in His light.
I have noticed that some of those who should be contending earnestly for the faith spend way too much time either defending themselves from these sorts of attacks or they are being consumed with nit picking with others to the point of distraction. I am in no way suggesting that all professing Christians should be automatically considered our brethren, however, if the faith of a brother or sister in Christ is solidly grounded in Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, justification by faith alone, and Sola Scriptura, then I am most certainly not going to contend with them over things that the Bible does not make clear enough for that. We must contend for the essentials, the non-negotiable parts of our faith only. On the other hand, as we saw in the Manhattan Declaration, ecumenicalism is always out there and ready for us to make the foolish mistake to compromise.
In order for us to be effective warriors in this war, we must have the right weapons and know how to use them. Here is Paul’s list of the armor for the Christian.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil 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 firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:10-20 ESV)
The whole armor of God is mostly for standing firm, being able to withstand in the evil day. It is not for the purpose attacking others or being at the head of an army cutting the enemy to ribbons. No, this armor has one offensive weapon, well, actually two; the Sword of Spirit, which is the Word of God coupled with prayer and supplication. As I have struggled in the many years of my walk with periods of mediocrity followed by periods of repentance with the cycle seemingly repeating continuously, I have pondered what I have neglected that causes this. I think that these things in Ephesians 6:10-20 are part of what we neglect that causes us to slip into mediocrity. When we do that we neglect Romans 12:1-2 and Ephesians 5, et cetera. The key to effectively using this armor is found in vv17-18.
and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, (Ephesians 6:17-18 ESV)
When we fail it is certainly because we have started to take our salvation for granted. We become focused on ourselves and this causes us to become fleshly. We neglect the sword of the Spirit and praying at all times in the Spirit. This causes us to become dull in our alertness and thereby our perseverance slips. We become self-focused in other words. We seek to meet our own ‘perceived’ or ‘felt’ needs rather than following these magnificent instructions here. When we fall into this, it is also true that we have also lost sight of the war we are in. It is like we are amongst the spiritually blind all around us who have no idea of the deadly war being fought in every part of this world. When we do this, we put our swords down and are no longer cognizant of spiritual reality. We lose our spiritual acumen, our perception. However, I assure you that this war is very real and if you are part of the Kingdom of God, the enemy will do all he can to neutralize you.
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, (Revelation 12:7 ESV)
War always will rage between the two great sovereignties until one or other be crushed. Peace between good and evil is an impossibility; the very pretence of it would, in fact, be the triumph of the powers of darkness. Michael will always fight; his holy soul is vexed with sin, and will not endure it. Jesus will always be the dragon’s foe, and that not in a quiet sense, but actively, vigorously, with full determination to exterminate evil. All His servants, whether angels in heaven or messengers on earth, will and must fight; they are born to be warriors-at the cross they enter into covenant never to make truce with evil; they are a warlike company, firm in defence and fierce in attack. The duty of every soldier in the army of the Lord is daily, with all his heart, and soul, and strength, to fight against the dragon.
The dragon and his angels will not decline the affray; they are incessant in their onslaughts, sparing no weapon, fair or foul. We are foolish to expect to serve God without opposition: the more zealous we are, the more sure are we to be assailed by the myrmidons of hell. The church may become slothful, but not so her great antagonist; his restless spirit never suffers the war to pause; he hates the woman’s seed, and would fain devour the church if he could. The servants of Satan partake much of the old dragon’s energy, and are usually an active race. War rages all around, and to dream of peace is dangerous and futile.
Glory be to God, we know the end of the war. The great dragon shall be cast out and for ever destroyed, while Jesus and they who are with Him shall receive the crown. Let us sharpen our swords to-night, and pray the Holy Spirit to nerve our arms for the conflict. Never battle so important, never crown so glorious. Every man to his post, ye warriors of the cross, and may the Lord tread Satan under your feet shortly! – C.H. Spurgeon from Spurgeon’s Evening by Evening for November 30.
My brethren, how sharp are your swords? How well do you know and use the Word of God? How diligent do you pray and contend? We must ask God for wisdom and discernment and always check out what prophets say with the Word of God. I am always disheartened when I am attacked by a brother or sister based on their religiosity. We must look at these things as attacks from our enemy himself. He loves it when we become fragmented on these things that are in the purview of opinion. Spurgeon is right, this battle rages all around us and when we become bogged down in these foolish little religiosity arguments with people who love to contend for things that are not even close to the non-negotiable aspects of our faith, we will become discouraged and lose sight of the real purpose of our contending for the faith. We do not contend for denominations, or preachers, or evangelists, or church groups. No! We contend for our faith and we use the Sword of the Spirit to do this coupled very tightly with prayer and supplication.
How sharp is your sword my brethren?
Soli Deo Gloria!