The Armor of God: Part 1 - Welcome to Boot Camp
by Aneel Aranha
From a course in the School of the Holy Spirit we move on to another course: this one in Boot Camp, training to be a good Soldier of God. The training is necessary for every Christian because we are all at war, whether we want to be in it or not. We have been in this war for centuries, against an enemy who is powerful, evil and merciless, and for the most part, we have been getting clobbered!
There are many reasons for the ignominious defeats that are being handed out to us. One reason is a lack of awareness about our enemy. How can we expect to succeed if we don't understand who we face in battle and what the enemy's strengths and weaknesses are? Another reason is an inability to defend ourselves from his attacks, largely due to ignorance of the means available to us. And the third reason is a reluctance to go on the offensive ourselves, something absolutely essential if we are to win this war.
But first, who is the enemy?
... 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. (Ephesians 6:12-13)
The enemy is not a man. The enemy is a group of evil, cunning and highly organized spiritual entities racked against us on four levels of varying authority. Satan and his generals are on the topmost level with powers over whole nations and while they and the troops directly below them are truly powerful, the most dangerous ones are the little infantry soldiers who take their orders from them. They stand perched on our shoulders, whispering evil into our ears while at the same time doing their best to convince us that they don't exist. (To keep things uncomplicated, I will simply refer to all these forces as Satan in the singular, or the enemy, unless required otherwise.)
Most of the world does not acknowledge the existence of Satan any more. Even evil is negated, as in New Age thinking that "all is one", good and bad both; and, of course, psychologists and humanists put their own spin on the issue. This is the enemy's greatest achievement because it allows him to walk unhindered amongst us, more or less free to do whatever he wants.
Compounding the problem — for those who do acknowledge his existence — is the enemy's expertise in subterfuge. He will often go about disguised as an angel of light, setting you up for a fall so cleverly, by the time you discover the deception it is too late; you are in his pit and he is disemboweling you.
So how do we fight against such an enemy? Quite obviously, conventional weapons, including our much vaunted nuclear arsenals, are not going to be of much use against creatures that are not of flesh and blood. And where do we engage the enemy in battle? Paul explains:
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 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. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6)
The passage gives us a very important clue as to where the battlefield is. It is very important that we understand this because in it lies the key to victory — or defeat. The battlefield is our minds. This is the arena where Satan and his forces constantly wage war in order to gain control of our thoughts, our ideas, our imagination. The attacks are constant. At times they come directly from Satan and his demons. In other instances, the attacks come through people we know, often those nearest to us. The instance he is afforded the opportunity, the enemy sets up strongholds in our mind, which are essentially thoughts and ideas that hold us captive to him.
Do you have immense hatred towards somebody you believe has wronged you? Are you unable to forgive somebody who has hurt you deeply? Do you believe that the Pope is the Anti-Christ and the Catholic Church is evil? Or, if you are Catholic, do you think that all Protestants are children of the devil? These are all strongholds that the enemy has built up in our minds. He has constructed dozens of them, if not hundreds! Prejudices and preconceptions that are designed to pitch man in battle against his brother and take his attention away from the true enemy, even as they prevent people from listening to, understanding and obeying the Word of God. It is difficult to break these fortresses down unless we use the weapons that God gave us, which have in them the "divine power to demolish strongholds".
The weapons are several, but the most powerful is the Word of God, which is "living 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). Prayer is another extremely powerful weapon. But along with these "weapons" that God has given us to smash strongholds and put the enemy to flight, he has also given us armor that we can use to protect ourselves from the attacks of the enemy and prevent him from building the strongholds in the first place.
Every Christian has to put on this armor - the armor of God - if he is to survive the onslaughts of the enemy, much less go on the attack. As long as we wear God's armor, we are safe; the instant we take it off, we are asking for big trouble. I discovered this hard truth from experience. So what is this armor of God that keeps us safe?
The Armor of God
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. (Ephesians 6:11-18)
The belt of truth. The breastplate of righteousness. The gospel shoes. The shield of faith. The helmet of salvation. And the sword of the Spirit. This is the Armor of God — standard battle gear in preparedness for the day of evil. The day of evil is already here. It has been here a while. We need to get dressed soon.
Though they all have to be worn together to protect us fully and all of them connect to one another, each item in the armory has its own specific use and we will see what they are in the next few weeks as we look at each one in turn. Before we get there, however, it might be useful to make note of two very important things.
One: we are doing battle with an enemy who has already been vanquished!
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15)
With his death and resurrection, Jesus has already defeated the enemy! And not only did he disarm them completely, he made a spectacle out of them so that we are all aware of this fact! That we aren't, is because of the enemy's tremendous skill in making us believe lies. But let us remind ourselves of the truth at all times.
Two: Jesus has given us the task of exercising the authority which he won for us.
I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. (Luke 10:19)
May the Spirit be with you.
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Copyright © 2004 Aneel Aranha. All rights reserved. Image copyright © 2004 VP Studios