by Mike Ratliff
11 Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” (Revelation 22:11 ESV)
The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan is a allegory of the journey of one man, Christian, who is saved and makes the journey to escape his home town, The City of Destruction. The journey takes him to the cross by him entering the narrow way by way of the narrow gate that few find. After the burden of sin is taken away at the cross he journeys until he reaches the Celestial City.
One of the most interesting places he must travel through is called The Valley of Humiliation. It is the place where all Christians must travel through in order to reach Heaven. In the Valley their pride is attacked while their humility is cultivated. They are taught to rely solely on the Lord instead of their own wits or reason or abilities. In the book, Christian finds Apollyon there who is enraged that he had lost one of his subjects, who of course is Christian. A battle ensues. Apollyon does Christian much damage, but Christian uses his armor, sword and shield to fight to save his life. One of the main weapons of our enemy is his fiery darts. What are they?
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 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. 13 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. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 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, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:11-20 ESV)
The schemes of the devil take many forms, but when they come into contact with a believer they take the form of a temptation. As a young Christian I always assumed that temptations involved lusts of some kind or perhaps had something to do with stealing, murder, or lying. I always applied these temptations to some sort of beguilement that would entangle us into sins against the standards we find in the Ten Commandments. However, there is another form of these temptations from our enemy, fiery darts or flaming darts, which are enticements to react towards an offense from a platform of self-righteousness.
For example, someone professing to be a Christian who hates the Reformation Theology and knows you are “Reformed” and so paints a target on you. What comes next is anything but “Christian.” These “professing Christians” will call the God of Calvinism Satan. They will accuse you of being a pagan. They will not only say these things, when you give them a solid Biblical exegetical and reasoned response, they accuse you of knowing nothing of what you really believe nor do you really know anything about the Bible and on and on it goes. The more you respond with a sound, solid Biblical exegetical and reasoned response, the more enraged they become. They soon attack your character, the character of Calvin (as if that matters), the character of the reformers, (as if that matters), they nearly all deny the doctrine of Original Sin, the doctrine of imputation of both the active and passive obedience of Christ, the doctrine of election, et cetera. If you find yourself in this sort of “situation” then you had better have your armor on, your shield ready and know how to use the sword of the spirit.
Who is actually shooting these fiery darts? Isn’t it our enemy? It is imperative to remain fully spirit-led during something like this because our enemy knows how to shoot you with many fiery darts in order for you to react in a way that is not Christ-like. If we are not clinging to Christ, totally dependent upon Him then we are sitting ducks for these darts. The anger we exhibit must be righteous indignation and must never go beyond that. If it does, then we have provided an opening for the enemy to utilize. If that happens we must get alone with God later to confess and repent. In my own case, I must always watch out for this. I find that I am most susceptible to this when I am accused by these people of being a pagan or tool of Satan, or whatever, when all I am doing is exegeting scripture to them, giving them the truth. My response must be to cling to Jesus and trust Him through it all instead of relying on my own righteousness. If I do the opposite I will be ambushed into reacting in anger.
Therefore, what are we to do? We must use our armor, especially our shield of faith. The word Paul used in Ephesians 6 for this shield was the one that described a large 2.5 x 4.5 foot shield that a person could hide behind. In the analogy that it is our shield of faith, Paul is telling us that to fight off the fiery darts or flaming darts we must put our trust in God and His promises. When we are at peace in our hearts with God and are relying on Christ to protect and sustain us then fiery darts are easily extinguished as we respond in His joy instead of our anger. All our sin comes when we fall to Satan’s lies and promises. When I am tempted to react in righteous anger against those I described above he is telling me that I have the right to do so and that I will feel a lot better if I simply give in and react in anger. That, of course, is a lie. However, we must remember that when we are full of adrenalin and are at the crux of the conflict that we must not give in to what we are being tempted to do. Instead, we must cry out to God for help, deny our selves, take up our crosses and rely on Christ to help us carry them. If we will do this then we will extinguish those fiery darts easily. Then we will see them for what they really are.
The schemes of the devil are designed to drive a wedge between God and us so that we lose fellowship with Him because of our sin and guilty consciences. However, God is good. He has given us His truth and if we will learn it and live by it, we will not carry out the desires of our flesh, but will walk by the spirit. Let us put on the whole armor of God and not let our enemy’s fiery darts take us down anymore.
I am convinced that God very much wants us to contend for the faith, but not give dogs what is holy, and to not throw our pearls before pigs lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack us. Therefore, let us do this with much wisdom in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Soli Deo Gloria!