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Apr 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 26, 2015 – Ephesians 6:14-20

Dress For the Occasion

Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:14-17

Intro: One skill that characterizes excellent teachers is their use of analogy

A good analogy is a key to learning and understanding
– the human brain learns by associations
• a good analogy: clear parallels to what it explains and memorable
• Jesus’ style of teaching (e.g., Mk. 4:33-34) “The kingdom of heaven is like . . .”
◦ he could not say what it is exactly — we would not have understood him
◦ the kingdom isn’t bread dough or mustard seed, but it’s like bread dough, etc.
– the Bible’s use of analogy suggests to us how to think about God
• it isn’t always helpful to come at it directly–e.g., the “science” of theology
◦ analogy may be the only way to get God’s truth into our heads, heart and soul
• the book in Bible that brings us closest to God’s realm is Revelation
◦ it is full of images, symbols and word pictures
◦ we can’t read it without using our imaginations

Paul’s best known analogy is the armor of God
– it meets the criteria of apt parallels and it is definitely memorable
• at first, we may be uncomfortable with “armor,” with its warlike implications
• I hope we will find it helpful and relevant as we work our way through this

Let’s ease into the passage with a simple observation

When it comes to shopping, shopping, men buy clothes and women buy “outfits”
– and the outfits are chosen for specific occasions — running errands and so on
• what is the “occasion” behind this passage?
A. W. Tozer observed, “The world is not playground, but a battleground”
• I think it is both playground and battleground
(only sometimes the play can be pretty rough)
– we’ve been receiving junk mail for “the active senior in your home”
• (I give these to Barbara)
• this outfit is for the active spiritual life
◦ the contemplative life is one-side of Christian spirituality, the active life is the other
◦ that we’re issued bullet-proof vest speaks for itself

Paul’s analogy illuminates the essentials of the Christian life

Truth, righteousness, faith, etc. are our soul’s breath, its food and drink
– these are the items we use to gauge our spiritual health

First we fasten the belt of truth around our waist
– it served the ancient soldier in the following ways:

  1. To cinch up loose clothing
  2. To hold the breastplate in place
  3. The sword’s sheath was attached to it

• truth in the New Testament is sometimes abstract–e.g., true ideas regarding God
◦ but more often it means “true to the nature of a thing,” authentic, what is real
◦ it is to be true to one’s self and also to present an accurate presentation of one’s self
– truth, in this sense, is the bedrock of our life in God

Although Simone Weil, from the time she was a child, sensed she had been born inside the Christian community, she believed that “to add dogma to this conception of life, without being forced to do so by indisputable evidence, would have seemed to me like a lack of honesty.”

• would it please God if we sacrificed our intellectual integrity to accept him?
• faith is not enhanced by gullibility or ignorance
◦ it simply goes beyond knowledge
◦ if our doubts are real, then that’s what we bring to God (Ps. 51:6)

Next, we put on the breastplate of righteousness
– we can develop very detailed (and clever) ways to identify each piece of armor with: • the body part that they protect–e.g., the breastplate covers the vital organs
• their significance–e.g., “righteousness” protects our hearts, lungs, viscera, etc.
◦ but the analogy is flexible
(for example, in 1 Thessalonians 5:8 it is “the breastplate of faith and love”)
◦ analogies breakdown or get ruined when pressed too far
– righteousness is relational and its conditions depend on the nature of the relationship
• for example, the right way to treat one’s father and mother is to honor them
◦ but I’m convinced that righteousness goes beyond performing one’s duty in a relationship
• the righteousness we know in God forges a bond with others

Daniel Siegel, Co-Director of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, it is possible that the neural processes in our brains that help us become more aware of our inner lives are the same that enable us to read and interact with others. This would help to explain “how mindfulness creates the documented . . . an increase in our capacity for rewarding interpersonal relationships.”

◦ contemplative prayer is the planting of a seed in the hidden part of our souls
◦ active spirituality is the plant and fruit that grow from the seed and out into the world

It is now time to put our boots on
– some mornings, getting my granddaughters ready for school is really difficult
• typically, it has to do with shoes
◦ they want to make a fashion statement, I want them to be safe
◦ as for two-year-old Calum, it’s just a matter of keeping shoes on his feet
• for the Roman soldier, reliable boots ensured readiness, mobility and steadiness regardless of the terrain
– there is a verse in Isaiah that used to bug me

How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
 (Is. 52:7)

• for some (adolescent) reason, it embarrassed me that someone thought feet were beautiful
◦ but here it is true because the message is wonderful and its recipients are desperate
– another discomfort I feel is the linkage of army boots with the gospel
• it is so true of some Christians who assault others with the “good news”
◦ in many instances the victim rejects, not the message but the messenger
• here, boots are not for beating a hasty retreat or leading the charge
◦ it’s simply being prepared to go where our day takes us, because we go in God

The shield of faith is not taken up  “in addition” to the previous gear (as in the NASB)
– the Greek is simply “in all these things,” suggesting the shield covers everything else
• but since Paul is talking about faith, he may mean something else
◦ that faith permeates every essential piece and part of our spiritual protection
◦ it’s okay to say, “I don’t understand (my circumstances, my sadness) but I trust God”
– shield serves to extinguish “all the flaming darts of the evil one”
• not “arrows,” which were shot, but darts, which were thrown (about 100 feet)
◦ weighted with lead, they were hung on the backside of the shield
• I prefer the literal translation here, because a lot is thrown at us
◦ a lot that is discouraging, hurtful, deceitful and manipulates, and insane

I spoke with a former pastor recently who had been deeply wounded by what other ministers had thrown at him. The whole ordeal cost him his faith

◦ it would be nice if all the flaming darts were quenched before reaching our soul
◦ this why we need a sturdy trust in God rather than mere “beliefs”

The helmet of salvation is part of God’s arsenal (Is. 59:15b-17)
– we need to get over the ideal that salvation is fixed either in the past or the future
• salvation is now and it is ongoing
• it is not “diagnostic” (“For all have sinned . . .,” “For the wages of sin is death,” etc.
◦ we have been forgiven our sins and spared its wages; eternal life is ours
◦ but God continues to rescue us in many ways
◦ God is healing our wounds and throughout our lives he is bringing us to wholeness

Who wields “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”
– after all, we are cut by it as deeply as anyone else (Heb. 4:12-13)
• interestingly, Paul did not use logos for the word of God
logos would have indicated the written word–i.e., scripture
• instead, Paul uses rhema, a word spoken in the here and now
◦ a message that addresses specific people in a specific situation
– the Spirit can make the logos of God a rhema of God
• this is what we experience every Wednesday and Thursday night in Lectio Divina
• some Christians let the Bible speak for them
◦ as if quoting a Bible verse is the end of the discussion
◦ other Christians let the Bible speak through them
and this comes from receiving God’s rhema into our hearts with joy (Jer. 15:16)

Vv. 18-20, The importance of communication with headquarters

“With all prayer” — a general term for all out interactions with God
– “and petition,” occurs twice in this verse — specific requests
• prayer is not always asking for things or doing all the talking
◦ this is reinforced by “at all times” — a prayer “without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17)
◦ the more we practice sitting in God’s presence, the easier it gets to return to it
• prayer is a drawing near to God (Heb. 4:16; 7:19; 10:22; Jas. 4:8)
◦ eventually we develop an awareness (not a feeling) of being in God’s presence
◦ if it is not in the foreground of our attention, it always lingers in the background
– we never break this connection – there is no “Amen” to signal the end of prayer

What is praying “in the Spirit”–I should have allowed more time for this verse 🙁
– communication with God will always entail mystery
• most of the time “we do not know how to pray as we should”
◦ that is okay, because prayer can move at a deeper level than words (Ro. 8:26)
• in some incomprehensible way, God’s Spirit prays within us
◦ this is praying in the Spirit and we’re given further insight into it in 1 Corinthians

For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. (1 Co. 14:14-15)

– what Paul describes is the Spirit of God praying with and within our spirits
• usually our mind is full of thoughts that we express in words
◦ when we pray in the Spirit, words are unnecessary
◦ we pray at a deeper level than our thoughts or feelings
• the “mind is unfruitful” – it is placed on hold or idles in neutral

The Scriptures tell us to “seek the Lord” — this is active prayer (our will and effort)
– we’re also told to “wait on the Lord” — this is less active, but it is not passive
• we are “on the alert,” attentive, watching, listening, aware (cf. Lk. 12:35-38)

We present petitions to God for ourselves, others and, Paul says, “for me”
– what did he want God to do for him?
• that when he opened his mouth, the right words would come out–boldly
– we looked into his call to “make known mystery” previously (3:3, 8-10)
• some truths can be proclaimed in plain speech — others require analogy
• being so wrapped in mystery, they can only be discovered in silence or spoken in poetry

Conc: I believe that the symbolism of armor speaks to our inner need for security

Only God does not secure our homes, our income, or our health
– what is it we trying to protect with this armor?
• our ideas of God? our concepts and theologies?
• in prayer, I do not want to encounter nothing more than ideas in my head
– the defense is for our spirits and their connection with God
• I can be in world, doing God’s will and my inner life is shielded
• the world may break my body and my mind, but it cannot touch my spirit

Perhaps, when getting dressed each morning, we can clothe our souls in God’s armor
– let’s get on our boots on (or our running shoes)
• and if the physical peace and security we desire is not God’s will for us,
prepare ourselves for the adventure that is his will

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