A few days ago I was reading through the comments on a facebook post of Sheila Walsh, who suggested to her readers that they make a contribution to a shelter for abused women, rather than spending the money on seeing a recently released movie which normalizes this theme. For anyone who has read her books or heard Sheila speak, you know that she has a heart for women who are hurting. Her post was a gentle reminder to Christians (who are her primary audience) to be mindful about the type of imagery they open their minds to and to be careful about where they direct the resources that God has given to them. I read her post to be reasonable and prudent, so I was stunned to see the onslaught of hostile comments. While many readers agreed with Sheila, others (men and women) responded that they were Christians who were completely comfortable viewing the explicit material in this movie, because after all, “it has a really good story line.” These readers took issue with the post accusing Sheila and those who agreed with her, of being judgmental. They vigorously defended their right to view any type of entertainment they saw fit, and felt that “other Christians” should lighten up and mind their own business. One reader even added that “Jesus goes everywhere she goes, including to the movie theater.” Uh, yeah… that’s the point!
Knowing that the Holy Spirit is constantly present within me, do I really want to watch an explicit and physically abusive movie, with Jesus? Do I really think he’d be entertained by such imagery and ask me to pass the popcorn?
And how do believers square up these choices with the Biblical cautions about what we let into our hearts and minds?
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23, NIV
Christian speaker Christine Caine shared a poignant quote about this topic, “Christians should not be entertained by the sins for which Christ died.”
I seem to recall that when Jesus visited and dined with sinners in the New Testament, he did so to show them the way to life. When he addressed their sin, he never condoned it. He forgave them of it and then admonished them to “sin no more.”
I was surprised by the comments to Sheila’s post only because the readers described themselves as Christians. I expect this type of reaction from non-believers, but not from Christ followers. Now before I’m accused of being judgmental as well, please know that it is not my place to tell anyone what is sin and what is not sin. The Bible is quite clear about the subject, and it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict believers when they stray. However, I do expect self-professing Christians to actually read and study Scripture, and to find out what it teaches. If believers would apply more effort into understanding God’s word rather than listening to society tell them what to think, I suspect we’d see a bit more discernment. Christians should know enough about what they profess to believe to be able to recognize how the enemy works to draw them away from Christ.
Unfortunately, compromise has infiltrated the Church to such an extent that some of us are completely oblivious to the efforts of the enemy. We are quite unaware that we are even under attack, and so we acquiesce without even putting up a fight. Some of us are so ungrounded in Scripture that we are unprepared to do battle with an enemy whose top priority is to destroy us.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8, NIV
God calls us to avoid evil and pursue holiness.
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16, NIV
The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their ways preserve their lives. Proverbs 16:17, NIV
Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way. Proverbs 4:14-15. NIV
Pursuing holiness is not always easy and we are constantly tempted to flirt with what the world offers us instead. Unfortunately many Christians fail to understand that pursuing God and pursuing the world are incompatible. I’m guessing they are so open to compromise because they can’t discern the great battle of deception going on around them. Whispering lies into our unguarded ears is one of Satan’s oldest strategies to drive a wedge between us and God. It worked so well in the Garden that he’s used the tactic ever since. He usually starts with an innocent question of clarification followed by a rationalization that draws us away from the truth.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:1-5, NIV
Eve believed the lie of Satan over the truth of God, and we’ve been paying for it ever since. And lest we place too much blame on Eve, the Church is struggling today because we continue to believe the lie as well—that God really doesn’t have our best interests at heart. The constant whispering has placed doubt into the minds of some believers so that many are now unsure if God is right or if the politicians, activists, and society are right. If I call myself a Christ follower but find that my world-view conflicts with his, then one of us is wrong. When the Church fails to be salt and light, as it is called to be, then its testimony becomes worthless. Satan can’t separate a Christian from their salvation, but he can entice them to compromise to the extent that no one sees Christ in their life.
So once we recognize the spiritual battle that we’re in, how do we protect ourselves? Paul gives us the answer in the book of Ephesians.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And 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 Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Ephesians 6:10-20, NIV
This passage describes the believer as a soldier in the midst of battle. First we are told to don all of the armor, not just some pieces of it. It is designed to protect us if used in its entirety. Take note of whom we are struggling against—not other people, but rulers, authorities, powers of the world, and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. These words in their original Greek describe the ranks of Satan—demonic spirits who are currently at liberty to roam the earth and cause havoc. This is not to say that fellow humans are not complicit, but to emphasize the demonic influence behind the horrible acts committed by people. Twice we are warned to put on the armor, both before and after the description of our adversaries. The double-warning underscores the ruthlessness of our enemy and the importance of using the armor God has made available to us.
It is interesting to note that all components of the armor except one are defensive in nature. No where are we told to advance against the enemy, but four times we are commanded to stand or stand firm. These words mean to stand against, oppose, or resist. One definition is also abide, which Jesus asks us to do in him. As we abide in him, he gives us the strength to stand firm. Also notice that the armor shields only the front of the soldier. There is no protection for the back as the equipment is not designed for retreat. We are to stand firm, and not compromise God’s truth to accommodate Satan’s lie.
The belt is important as it holds the uniform together. This word means to bind around. Notice that we are to encircle ourselves with truth. The original Greek for truth comes from a root word which means true, which comes from the root meaning alpha, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This is also the same word Jesus uses to refer to himself as the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, in Revelation 22. It is not surprising that the word here in Ephesians points back to Christ! Truth is monumentally important in our battle, because without it we’ve got nothing.
The breastplate of righteousness protects the chest and covers the heart. The original Greek word for righteousness means equity of character or justification and comes from a root word meaning innocent, holy, or just, which comes from a root meaning right, justice, a decision, or its execution. The Greek for putting on is in the sense of sinking into a garment. Scripture speaks of believers being clothed with Christ, and clothed with salvation as Jesus covers our sins and makes us righteous in God’s sight.
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Galatians 3:26-27, NIV
I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10, NIV
Being clothed with Christ enables us to guard our hearts and be mindful of what we pursue, admire, or run after. Lives that pursue Christ are salt and light to a lost world.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21, NIV
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:31-33, NIV
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:13-14, NIV
Feet fitted with readiness, refers to foundation. Shoes protect the feet, and can give us traction in slippery places. The word for fitted means to bind under one’s feet, or to put on shoes. The Greek word for readiness means to provide, or to make ready. The word for gospel means good message, to announce good news, or to bring good tidings, while the word for peace means prosperity, quietness, or rest. Jesus commanded us to take the good news far and wide, and Scripture refers back to the feet of those who do so.
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:14-15, NIV
We are admonished to be ready to share the gospel message at all time, but with careful instruction, meaning that we need to be grounded in God’s word.
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 2 Timothy 4:2-3, NIV
The shield of faith provides protection against offensive weaponry. It is interesting that the Greek word for shield comes from a root word meaning door, portal, entrance, or gate. This alludes to Christ being the door or way to salvation.
Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. John 10:7, NIV
I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. John 10:9, NIV
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6, NIV
The shield covers the soldier completely and provides protection as long as it is held up or over the soldier. The Greek word for faith means reliance upon Christ for salvation, assurance, or fidelity, and comes from a root word meaning to convince, agree, believe, or have confidence.
Darts come in the form of questions that produce doubt. As shown with Eve, doubts lower our shield and allow ammunition to reach us. If we permit corrupt doctrine to shape our faith, we begin to doubt God’s word and become easy targets for the enemy. Christ has shown that he is the way to God. When we stand firm in that confidence, our shield of faith remains in place.
The helmet of salvation protects the head, the mind, and the intellect. Without a helmet, we can be very vulnerable to attack. The Greek word for helmet means encirclement of the head, and comes from a root word that means all around, circuit, and seizing the head. The word for salvation means defender, or defense. To properly protect the mind, we must first be saved. Jesus will then give us the ability to make good choices about what we permit our minds to dwell on, and to encourage right thinking.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7, NIV
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV
Notice the only offensive piece of equipment is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. While we don’t advance with this weapon we use it offensively to protect ourselves. God’s word is described as a powerful weapon.
For the word of God is alive 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. Hebrews 4:12, NIV
Keep in mind that this is the same offensive weapon that Jesus himself used when he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Satan tried three times to entice Jesus to do his bidding, and each time Jesus responded with Scripture. He showed us how powerful this weapon can be against the enemy.
We have a fierce opponent whose goal is to undermine us at every turn. The battle though, is a spiritual one that we cannot fight alone. Only those who place their trust in Christ are given the equipment necessary to protect themselves during spiritual conflict. Note that all pieces of our battle dress point back to Christ because it is only in him that we have the power to defend ourselves against the unseen world.
Belt: We need to be encircled with the truth of God’s word and not allow ourselves to be swayed by false doctrine.
Breastplate: We need to guard our hearts, being mindful of what we admire or chase after, so that our lives are salt and light to a lost world.
Shoes: We need to be grounded in God’s word, and ready to share the gospel at all times.
Shield: We need to be strong in our faith and confident that God has our best interests at heart. When confronted with doubt, we need to measure it against the truth of Scripture.
Helmet: We need to be careful about the things we allow into our minds because they shape our thoughts and attitudes. We should consult God’s word to tell us how we ought to think, not society.
Sword: When confronted by the enemy, we don’t rely on our own strength, but we use the word of God to repel an attack.
In the final passage, Paul encourages us to be alert and to be prayerful. The schemes of our adversary can be resisted if we are mindful of his tactics, and if we use all of the battle resources God has given to us to stand firm.
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, NIV
On the journey toward Home,