And immediately, the question comes – is that the best way to express the reality? Whose armour is this? If it was ‘ours’ – as in, we had ownership of it – then why would the Apostle call it the armour of God?
By now any Biblically literate readers will have clocked that I am invoking Paul’s injunction in Ephesians Chapter 6. It is usually verses 10-18 that are cited as the famous clarion call to ‘put on the WHOLE armour of God.’ And there have been countless expositions of this passage over the centuries – those which have been canonised, and those which have not. I wonder how many of us ever stop to think that the fact that the Bible is being read in languages and dialects all over the words, and that sermons, Bible studies, essays, books of all levels are being written based on its contents – and while there will be inevitable overlap, how many different angles could there be on one passage that we might never become exposed to in our earthly lifetimes? Let me be clear here – I mean ‘correct’ angles, not incorrect ones – the Lord knows that there are a seemingly infinite number of theological errors about almost every topic that we can think of available to us here on earth!
This morning I have come off my knees to shout out to my fellow Levites that Satan has some unique plans for those who have responsibilities for leading worship. His plan is to undermine your own capacity to actually worship God. He will do this by impersonating the Holy Spirit Himself.
This is not a new strategy. Pastor Ivor Myers preached an astonishing sermon at an Adventist youth congress in 2007 in which he showed from the Word that Satan’s psychological tactics at the time of Jesus’ arrest and trial were of such an incredible magnitude that they extended to an actual attempt to bully the son of God Himself into thinking that He was the Evil One. I am on record as saying that I have not always have agreed with certain of the lines of thought that Pastor Myers has taken in sermons on other topics (not least music) – but anybody who dismisses him because of what they don’t agree with will miss out on his best Spirit-inspired messages. And that could be a crucial lost opportunity for someone!
How does Satan impersonate the Holy Spirit? That surely cannot be possible! How could God even let that happen? I am sure that some readers may be wondering along these lines.
Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan, described by C.S. Lewis as “an uneducated believer” who wrote a “book that has astonished the whole world” does describe a passage where Christian, the human hero of the story has to contend with his own mental turmoil due to fact that he is thinking terrible and wrong thoughts about God, and does not realise that these thoughts are not his own. I do not have the book with me where I write this, so I may not quote this perfectly, but Bunyan shows us that it is a lack of (spiritual) ‘”discernment” that means that poor Christian did not know “how to stop his ears” to these thoughts. He didn’t realise that their origin was Satanic.
OK, so we know that Satan encourages us to wrong thoughts. Really, Sherlock? Tell me something I didn’t know already! So here’s my next question: what exactly constitutes ‘wrong thoughts?’
One of the most interesting music emphasis days (aka ‘music days’) that I have experienced on a Sabbath morning happened in my home church. The then music leader (still in post as I write this) decided to enage six speakers of varying ages and backgrounds to cover the six pieces of armour in Ephesians 6. None of them were professional theologians, but they all did theology that morning. And one of them (I remember who, and if she ever reads this, she’ll know who she is) did the helmet of salvation, and gave me my most memorable moment of the sermon sequence.
Now before I go further – I need to make sure it’s on record that I explain that every sermon provides a potentially different ‘most memorable moment/statement/idea/etc’ for every single person who hears it – and for different reasons each time. I hate the loose way that so many Christians tend to assume that if they thought that such-and-such a point was the most important, then everyone else is supposed to think the same, because if not, then they’re misguided. Grrr!
Having made that point – I return to the point. The young lady stated that in her way of understanding that piece of armour, “the helmet of salvation is a mindset…” She later went on to describe how Satan tries (and succeeds) to “play cricket-ball with our minds…”
I immediately begin to draft some new sermons in my head right then, I was so inspired by that. Why? Because I knew she was right. Not only theologically, but also personally. Satan’s biggest weapon against me personally has been a combination cocktail of things that includes getting me to seriously doubt my salvation in ways more subtle that I have time to go into right now.
Evangelist Randy Skeete addressed a congregation of youg people in which I also sat some years back – and said: “Satan is the second most powerful being in existence, and sin has ALL of the power of its author!”
We are fighting an enemy that we do not even understand. Worse yet, our enfeebled minds have accepted the processes and structures of our societies (that has to be plural for obvious reasons) to the point where as Christians many of us can only repeat spiritual truths that we have learnt from others, because many of us cannot think for ourselves, and thus many of us are incapable of doing our own theology. Many of us do not even own enough of our own minds to be aware of what’s going on inside, and the constant bombardment from all forms of media (which, ironically, include the internet) is designed to keep us from ever reaching the point in which we become ‘still and know that God is God’ (Psalm 46:10).
Here’s the joke – if you never become still enough to know that God is God, you will never be able to know who you are. Because the human heart is so astonishingly mangled by the effects of sin (Jeremiah 17:9) that only the Holy Spirit can show us who we are.
So watch this: we cannot know God other than by revelation. Most Bible-believing Christians would attest to that.
But it is also true that we cannot know our own selves other than by revelation! As is, not without God Himself revealing to us who we are!
Satan can’t have that. If we knew how weak, how fragile, how defenceless we really are, then we would not need any motivation to be often on our knees before God in prayer. As some US evangelical devotional thinkers/writers from the last century used to say – “we would spend less time planning/working and more time praying.”
So his plan is to either get us to believe that we are MORE than we really are – self is pumped up high and placed on a pedestal – or that we are LESS than we really are.
He can impersonate the Holy Spirit in either direction. Sometimes we become so busy doing God’s work we forget to spend time with God Himself. And our frantic drive to execute all our ‘spiritual responsibilities’ can turn into an end rather than a means. This is why people who sacrifice so much to work for God wonder why they feel so dry and burnt out when they are trying so hard!
We are not saved by what we do. We may know this, but Satan is subtler than we realise, and he can be the one who speaks to our minds, urging us to keep going, keep going, keep going! It’s God’s work after all!
And of course, in the other direction, we know that a person who is depressed and broken and who cannot believe that God could love them and they they are not good enough for God could be trying desperately to reach out to God, but be so tormented by their guilt and sin that as they hear a voice telling them that they are a truly bad person, and they know that, and they know that the Holy Spirit is the one who convicts us of sin, and so they can hear the voice reciting their sins, but they never hear the voice calling them to just render their sins to the Holy One of Israel, who will heal and forgive.
Some people never get to that point.
This morning, my mind has been clouded with all the things I did not get to do yesterday. I work up and spent 35 minutes lying on my bed doing nothing but quietly planning, plotting, and fretting about how I’m going to get it all done before sunset.
I could have used that 35 minutes much better. But God is good and raised me up and into prayer, and now here I am sharing this with you guys. And as I write to you, I write to me too. Of course! That’s how this sort of ministry works!
I know that I was not – and am not – the only Christian who Satan has been trying to bully this morning. So I have prayed for you as well as me, whoever and wherever you may be.
Let’s agree that as soon as we wake up, we go before God, thank Him for life, and ask Him to clothe us with His armour – and then move from there in faith.
So, after all this – whose armour is it?
You know, I have no fixed answer to that. And I don’t think there is one. That is a matter of language. It is God’s armour in the sense that it is divine armour plating – but we each have our own body, mind, character and personality. I would say that that means that we have our own individual belts/girdles, shoes, breastplates, shields, and helmets – and while the word is the Word – we each have our own individual Bibles (as in the physical object). So my reason for choosing to say ‘put on your armour’ is because it is a personal matter for each one of us and God.
But you can say that it ought to be ‘God’s armour’ and I will not argue or fight with you.
Either way – Ephesians 6:10-18. Please, I beg you, my fellow Levites, ministry practitioners, and believers in general – do not let a morning pass without quality time in the presence of God – during which you will “put on the whole armour of God.” Then and only then will you equipped to undertakes the tasks and duties of the day.