Spiritual Warfare and Deliverance Book 4:- Spiritual Warfare: Winning the Daily Battle with Satan, By Dr. Ray C. Stedman
Chapter 7. Hope for Clear Heads
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,
which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
HISTORY REVERES THE GREAT FRENCH GENERAL and emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, as one of the greatest conquerors of all time. He conquered nearly three-quarters of a million square miles of territory for France. Adolf Hitler a name that has become synonymous with bloodthirsty tyranny was also an infamous conqueror, taking over some 1.3 million square miles of territory from neighboring countries before his defeat in 1945. The great conqueror Attila the Hun was a greater conqueror than Hitler, claiming 1.4 million square miles of land at the height of his reign of terror. Cyrus the Great, Tamarlane, and Alexander the Great each conquered over 2 million square miles of territory. But the greatest conqueror of all, claiming 4.86 million square miles of land, was the ruthless Chinese warlord, Genghis Khan.
Yet God tells us that he has equipped us to accomplish greater things than any of these great conquerors of history. "In all these things," Paul tells us in Romans 8:37, "we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." We have nothing to fear from even such a terrible enemy as Satan, because the shield of faith alone enables us to overcome anything our enemy might throw at us. The shield of faith will extinguish all of Satan's flaming missiles of doubt, confusion, disillusionment, and fear.
Even so, God does not stop there. He has given us still more defensive equipment, so that we may become even more victorious, more invincible. Clad in the whole armor of God, we are super-conquerors, and all the conquerors who have stained the pages of history with human blood are as nothing compared with God's super-conquerors--you and me.
I am in Christ
Before going on to a consideration of the remaining pieces of armor, I would like to suggest another perspective that may help to increase our understanding of the significance of the full armor of God. We have seen that this idea of armor is an analogy or metaphor to explain in figurative terms the truth of who Jesus is in our lives and what He wants to accomplish in our lives. But the concept of armor is also an expansion of Jesus' words to His followers, "You are in me, and I am in you" (John 14:20). That is the defense of the Christian against spiritual attack: Jesus within each of us, and each of us within Jesus.
"You are in me, and I am in you." Those are some of the simplest words in the English language--so simple, any child can understand them. They are monosyllables, yet they encompass a truth so profound that I wonder if anyone can even remotely apprehend all that is involved in these simple words.
The first three pieces of this armor that Paul describes--the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the shoes of the gospel of peace--are a figurative way of explaining this concept Christ Himself gave to us: The Christian in Christ and Christ in the Christian. When we came to Jesus Christ and believed in him, we then were "in Christ." We had a new basis of living, because we had discovered Jesus Christ to be the ground of truth, the key to life. At conversion, we found that Jesus invites us to rest upon His righteousness, so that we no longer need to manufacture our own righteousness--an attempt that would be doomed to futility. Once we were "in Christ," the struggle to justify ourselves ended, because the righteousness of Jesus completely covered us.
In the amazing experience of the cross, God transferred our sin to Christ and transferred his righteousness to us. This is the ground of our acceptance before God and the answer to the problem of human sin, guilt, and shame from which we all suffer. It was then that we learned that Christ is our peace, the source of our sense of security, wholeness, forgiveness, and well-being.
So that is the theme of the first three pieces of armor: I am in Christ. That is why the first three pieces of armor are described by Paul not as something we need to lay hold of but something we have already received. We appropriated the first three pieces of armor at the moment of our conversion, the moment we entered a new realm-- "in Christ."
Christ is in me
Now the last three pieces of armor describe what it means for Christ to be in the Christian--Christ working in our everyday lives. These last three pieces are very practical and important to us because of the problems, trials, and difficult choices we face every day. We have already seen what it means to "take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." The reason we so often experience weakness in our lives is that we do not actually take up the shield of faith! We continually try to muddle through without the protection of our faith. We do not intelligently do what God says and apply the shield of faith. In other words, we fail to draw practical conclusions from the ground of faith that we accepted at conversion.
There are only two pieces of the armor left for us to explore--the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. These two pieces of armor go on to explain what Jesus meant when He said, "I am in you." They help us to understand what it truly means for Christ to live in the Christian.
The helmet of salvation
Now we must examine what is meant by this phrase, "the helmet of salvation." The figure of a helmet immediately suggests to us that this is something designed to protect the mind, the intelligence, the ability to think and reason.
Earlier we saw that the breastplate was the protection of our emotional life, the heart. When you figuratively put on Christ as your breastplate of righteousness, you are assuming a position in Him that protects you from the sense of guilt and unforgiveness--the most common source of disturbance to the emotions. It is because we feel guilty that we get emotionally upset and depressed--and God has given us the breastplate of righteousness to protect us right at this point of attack. The shoes, as we have already seen, protect us in the area of our will. The shoes of the gospel of peace (Christ is our peace) create a readiness and willingness within us. It is our motivations which are dealt with here. Christ as our peace motivates us and makes us ready to face the struggles of life.
But the helmet is designed for the head, for the intelligence, the mind. If we follow through consistently in our application of these pieces of armor, we will discover that the helmet represents something Christ is doing in us and through us in the world. This helmet can keep our thinking straight and preserve us from mental confusion and darkness.
Let me ask you this: As you look at our spiritually aimless, and morally confused world, is there anything we need more desperately than clear thinking? Is there anything more relevant to the spiritual and moral disintegration of our age than something to keep our thinking straight? Was there ever a time when human beliefs and ideas were more chaotic and anarchic than this moment, as we move into a new millennium? Even the intelligentsia of our times, the "best and brightest" of our age, admit to being utterly baffled by the dangerous social, political, and moral problems that confront our society.
Just think about the staggering complexity of the issues of our day runaway crime rates, cities where criminals run free and citizens tremble in fear behind iron bars; child neglect, child abuse, and child pornography; political corruption and rampant immorality in our government; spiraling rates of teen pregnancy, single parenthood, fatherless children, and abortion; festering racial strife and gender warfare; exploding terrorism and expanding proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons; the breakdown of the family and the rise of immorality in our homes, in the media, and on the Internet, and on and on and on! Where can it all end but with the end of civilization itself?
The mind is simply overwhelmed by the perplexity of the problems we face. The great futurist, H. G. Wells, was in a state of extreme despair when he wrote these depressing words at the close of World War II:
Quite apart from any bodily depression, the spectacle of evil in the world-the wanton destruction of homes, the ruthless hounding of decent folk into exile, the bombings of open cities, the cold-blooded massacres and mutilations of children and defenseless gentle folk, the rapes and filthy humiliations, and above all, the return of deliberate and organized torture, mental torment and fear, to a world from which such things had seemed well-nigh banished-all these have come near to breaking my spirit altogether.
And listen to this startling statement by George Bernard Shaw:
The science to which I pinned my faith is bankrupt. Its counsels, which should have established the millennium, led instead directly to the suicide of Europe. I believed them once. In their name I helped to destroy the faith of millions of worshippers in the temples of a thousand creeds. And now they look at me and witness the great tragedy of an atheist who has lost his faith.
What a revealing confession of mental confusion and darkness by some of the great leaders of thought in this century! There is no protection in this chaotic world for the human mind.
A future salvation
But the Christian has the helmet of salvation. "Well," you say, "what is that? What is this helmet, this protection, which keeps our thinking straight in the midst of a confused, chaotic world?" Paul answers: It is the helmet of salvation.
What does Paul mean? He is not talking about the salvation of the soul. He is not referring to salvation as regeneration or conversion. In other words, he is not looking backwards, to the moment of conversion. The first three pieces of armor do so, but the next three pieces of armor, including the helmet of salvation, look forward, not back. Paul is talking about a salvation that will be a future event. It is exactly what Paul refers to in Romans when he says, "Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed" (Romans 13:11).
This helmet is further defined for us by the apostle in his first letter to the Thessalonians: "Since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet" (5:8). Here, salvation is a hope, something yet in the future, something as yet not possessed or entered into fully. This future tense of salvation is described for us in a number of passages, but it is discussed very plainly in Romans:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently (Romans 8:22-25).
What is Paul talking about? He is talking about the day of the return of Christ, the day when creation will be delivered from bondage by Christ's return to establish His 'kingdom. This helmet, therefore, is the recognition that all human schemes to obtain world peace and harmony are doomed to fail but the plan of God is moving forward, right on schedule. Jesus Christ is coming back, and He will appear again, and He will establish His own reign in righteousness on the earth. That is the helmet of salvation which will keep your thinking straight in the hour of man's utter confusion and darkness.
The principle of God's working is declared over and over in Scripture. It is written for all to read. "No flesh," God says, "shall glory in my presence" (see 1 Corinthians 1:29 KJV). In other words, nothing that man can boast of shall contribute one iota to the true solution of the human dilemma. It is all of God. He will establish it--and there is no human wisdom, human knowledge, human psychology, nor human science that can contribute to it. According to the record of Scripture, all that humanity boasts of and places trust in shall crumble into dust. Everything that can be shaken shall be shaken, and only those things which cannot be shaken shall remain. The things that cannot be shaken are the things of God. No one shall glory in his presence.
But that isn't the whole idea. Don't stop there. If you do, you will fall into the extremism by which the devil keeps us off balance and eccentric in our thinking. God is working through these events of history, but He is working out His purposes on a basis totally different from the aims and goals of human beings. That is the helmet of salvation. We should not be taken in by the unreal and groundless expectations of the world, placing our reliance upon political solutions, social programs, or scientific advances to solve the problems of humanity. We must place our reliance on God's plan alone.
Yet, at the same time, we must not withdraw from the world and isolate ourselves from its problems. Here is where we must maintain our balance. Even though political solutions will never produce Utopia, we must exercise our rights and responsibilities as good citizens and voters to support moral, ethical, and godly government. Even though social programs will never produce Utopia, we must be involved in meeting human needs, reaching people in the depths of their pain, hunger, nakedness, imprisonment, and loss, because that is when their hearts are the most open to the ultimate solution for their problems--salvation through Jesus Christ. Even though science can never produce Utopia, we must use every modern means --from video to satellite TV to the Internet--to proclaim the truth of God's plan to a truth-starved world.
Christians are to be involved in world events--but we are involved for entirely different reasons than the worldlings are. Christians are to be involved to accomplish God's plan to reach every human heart in every corner of the world with the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. If you can keep God's eternal plan in view at all times, it will save you from enormous heartache and fear as you read your daily newspaper. When you see the chaos in the world, you will know that even the disorder that Satan seeks to stir up in the world is being used to further God's plan and bring His kingdom one day nearer. Though we are often shocked whenever we open a newspaper or turn on CNN, God is never surprised. His plan is right on schedule.
Why are thoughtful minds like H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw so bewildered by what they find in life? Because they pin their hopes on fallible, unreliable human enterprises--on knowledge, education, politics, and science. As the Dean of the University of Melbourne wrote concerning H. G. Wells:
He hailed science as a panacea for all ills and the goddess of knowledge and power. In a series of popular scientific romances he visualized the luminous Shape of Things to Come. In Food of the Gods he described a future of bigger and better men. He spoke of a planned world, of eugenics, of mechanized labor, of scientific diet and scientific education.
How much we still hear these phrases tossed about in our own day! But all human efforts to achieve Nirvana, Utopia, Shangri-La, and Heaven on Earth are doomed to fail! Such grandiose dreams are built on a cloud, a cobweb, a shimmering illusion. And when the illusion changes shape, as all illusions eventually must, their castles in the clouds come tumbling down. This has been the repeated pattern of history for twenty or more centuries men building upon shifting, ephemeral, and temporary things instead of on the unshakable things which always remain, to which the Scriptures testify.
Salvation is coming--and is now at work!
So we, as Christians, have the helmet of salvation. We have a hope for the future. We understand that God is working out His purposes and therefore we are not disturbed when human programs go wrong and everything fails. We are not surprised when all the plans and programs for human progress end up in the same old ash-heap--the New Deal and the Fair Deal, the Great Society and the New World Order. We have learned to expect wars and rumors of wars, right until the very end. We expect false teachings and false philosophies and cults and heresies to abound. We have been told that all these things will happen.
So we are not surprised, we are not panicked, we are not stampeded by events. We know that everything around us--all the ethical upheaval and moral chaos--will ultimately be resolved by God's program. We can live unafraid in a world of fear and terror because we know that God is moving in history, and nothing that happens can upset or delay His plan.
The Christian knows that wars are unavoidable, even though every effort should be made to avoid them--and that there is no contradiction in this. The Christian knows that war is madness and that nothing is really solved by war. But he knows also that we are living in a mad world, a world that is deluded by silken, subtle, satanic lies that are deliberately designed to mangle and mutilate the bodies and souls of human beings.
The world is in such a state and condition that although the Christian knows we are called to do whatever we can to prevent and relieve human suffering, the innocent and the weak will suffer and nothing much can be done about it at times. The blame lies squarely on the stubborn refusal of people everywhere to grapple with the true nature of the problem and accept the remedy that God's love has fully provided. The Christian knows that demonic forces can arise and possess the world from time to time, and that every human scheme to control them will ultimately fail.
God forgive us, for we have too often appeared uncaring or uninvolved in the pain and upheaval of the world. We have given the appearance of being so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good! We have been all too willing to let the world go to hell, saying, "What do I care? I'm going to heaven!" It is time we ask God to restore within each of us a godly balance in which we care about the fate of the world without being paralyzed by fear. It is time we roll up our sleeves and do all we can to rescue the worldlings from the horrors of the future. It is time we make it clear to the people around us that while Utopia is a fraud and a fantasy, heaven is real and within their reach.
Even though we know that the world is doomed, we are not hopeless, we are not resigned, we are not fatalistic, we are not in despair. Though we have no hope in humanity, we have every hope in God. That is why we do not withdraw from life we--are fully engaged! That is why we do not retreat and build little air-tight capsules of Christianity and shut out the world --e are involved in the world! That is why we do not fight the battles of this world on the world's terms--we fight on God's terms! That is why we do not wish the world well as it goes to hell we point the way to heaven!
The helmet of the hope of salvation not only tells us that these things are happening and will happen, but that a certain, sure salvation is coming--and it is even now at work! This is what we need to know. Not merely that history will ultimately come out all right in the end, but that the ending is being worked out right now! History is not a meaningless jumble, but a controlled pattern, and the Lord Jesus Christ is the One who directs these events. He is the Lord of history.
Moreover, as we have already seen in the Gospels, Jesus would be a formidable opponent to any who hypocritically use a cause to advance their own purposes or to mislead and defile the minds and hearts of others. As he stood before Pilate, Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place" (John 18:36).
In other words, "I am no threat to you, Pilate. My kingdom is not of this world. I am not involved in any political movements that seek to overthrow you. Yes, I am a king but not in any political sense. Yes, I am involved in history but my plan is bigger and more long-range than you can imagine. I am not merely moving the events of the government of Palestine or the government of Rome, but of the government of the entire universe, all of space and all of time."
Jesus is not a friend of this political movement nor of that political party. He is today what He has always been: the Friend of sinners.
Hope neglected, hope abandoned, hope restored
One of the great reasons the church is so confused in this day, one of the reasons the church says so little of true significance to the world, is that it has neglected and abandoned, by and large, the hope of the coming of the Lord. There are very few sermons preached on it. There is very little said about it. There is no time given to a consideration of what this hope means and why it is set forth so frequently and so clearly in the Scriptures. Great sections of the Scriptures that deal with the hope of our Lord's return are simply ignored by Christians.
As a result, our thinking is muddled and confused. The church does not know which side to take or where to stand. It has nothing to say. At best, the church today sounds an uncertain call that fails to summon anyone to battle, and does little to encourage the heart.
God, in His Word, has called us to remind ourselves and each other of the coming of the Lord. How many times did Jesus say, "Watch and be ready for that hour." We must live daily in the hope and anticipation of that triumphant moment. The battle is not ours but the Lord's. We often think of this great struggle against the devil and his angels, . against the principalities and powers, against the schemes of the devil, as though it were primarily a private fight between us and the devil. No! This battle is the Lord's!
It's true that the battle rages all around us and within us. It storms into our churches, our homes, our work places, our neighborhoods, our relationships with our fellow human beings. But when Satan's blitzkrieg assaults us, we must remind ourselves that this battle is not ours, but the Lord's. We are individual units fighting in a great army. The ultimate cause is sure and the end is certain. We do not need to be troubled by all the terrible events that go on around us and on the nightly news, nor by the struggle that rages within us. Our Lord and Commander has already won.
Though we may be hard pressed in our immediate realm in this battle, the cause is never in doubt. The end is absolutely certain; the outcome is sure. It is not ultimately a struggle between us and the devil but a struggle between Christ and Satan. Christ is always at work in human life and in society. He is at work through His body, the Christian church, to heal and to help, to love and to sympathize, until that morning without clouds dawns and the day breaks and every shadow flees from sight.
Are you frightened by world events? Then let me "reassure" you: It's going to get much worse! Jesus said men's hearts shall fail them for fear because of things that are coming to pass on the face of the earth. "Some reassurance!" you say. But it's true--the worse things get, the nearer the Lord's return. Our job is to eagerly await His return. Our job is to expect His coming and to be prepared for it. Our job is to pray and serve and obey and be ready. So the worse things get, the nearer our deliverance!
If you think it is hard to stand now, if world events throw you for, a loss now, how will you stand when the darkness increases, when the cause looks hopeless, and things get very much worse? That is the hour when we must have the hope of salvation--the helmet of salvation that protects the mind. The writer of Hebrews says, "Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone" (Hebrews 2:8-9). It is this hope that sustains the mind in all hours of pressure.
Here in this favored land of ours we have so much for which we can give thanks. God in His grace has granted that we might be relatively free from so much suffering and privation that we see in other countries. There are great areas of the world where faith may not be expressed openly, where the darkness is far greater than here, where the forces of wrong stride unopposed through the land, and nothing seems to stand in their way. Despite our constitutional government, there is no guarantee that the freedom we now enjoy will always be ours, and you and I may someday face the same kind of persecution we see in other lands today.
What do Christians do in those places? There is only one thing they can do: They must put on the helmet of the hope of salvation. This keeps their thinking straight. It directs them in the causes to which they give themselves. It gives them advice and counsel as to where they should put their efforts and in what they should make investments of time and money and enterprise.
The helmet of salvation can do the same for us. We need not succumb to the delusion of the world--the belief that human effort can bring about redemption, salvation, and the resolution of all human problems. How long has the world grasped at that futile dream? Read the ancient writings of the Greek philosophers and you will see that they were saying the same things and dreaming the same utopian dreams even then. As far back as human history goes, people have chased this elusive hope that some form of heaven can be worked out on earth.
But God has never said that. Consistently, throughout Scripture, He tells us that fallen man is incapable of solving his own problems. Only the hope of salvation can keep our minds and our hearts calm and undisturbed in the day of battle, in the day of darkness.
Father, thank You for providing me with the helmet of salvation, the hope of Your ultimate justice and ultimate peace a hope that will be realized on the day of the Lord's return. I know that things are not nearly as bad as they could be, nor even as bad as they will be. But I thank you for the constant assurance You give to me that even when events grow worse and the days grow darker and human hearts grow colder, nothing happens that is outside of Your plan. You are never surprised or caught off-guard. The battle is Yours, not mine. Thank You for the certainty that I stand in the power of Jesus and in the strength of His might. Thank You that my hope is not in some flimsy human program or scheme, but in Your eternal purposes.
In the name of the One whose return I eagerly await, our Lord Jesus Christ, amen.