Thursday, February 13, 2014

WEAPONS FOR REVIVAL SERIES: Spiritual Body Armor (Helmet of Salvation)

The importance of the helmet is obvious to anyone who has ever seen film of soldiers in battle. It was important in the days when men fought with swords and spears, and it is still important today when men fight with rifles and bombs. The helmet protects your head. It keeps you from being knocked senseless when the enemy gets by your other defenses and lands a blow.
In the ancient world of the Romans,
the helmet was generally made of leather to which plates of metal were attached. A helmet protects your head and more specifically your brain from injury. It was extremely important as defense against the arrows, spears, swords and clubs used by the enemy. When someone is out to crush your skull or take your head off, you definitely want something that will at least cause the blow to deflect and leave you alive to continue fighting. And don't think for a moment that Satan's efforts against you are any less than that. He and his cohorts hate those who love and follow God and would like to destroy you. Is your armor on? 

The Helmet of Salvation
What is the helmet of salvation and what does it protect?
The helmet of salvation is focused on the protection of the mind and therefore is related to what you believe to be true and therefore trust. What we think controls everything we do and salvation radically changes the way we think.

We use the term salvation a lot in evangelical Christianity, but we do not always define it and so it becomes more of a slang term. Salvation can be used to refer to many things, such as being saved from the hand of enemies that hate you (Luke 1:71), but salvation in the Bible and as is commonly used in Christianity usually refers to salvation that comes from the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16). It is salvation from sin and its consequence of condemnation in Hell to righteousness and the blessing of eternal life in Heaven (Romans 6:15-23; 8:1). We are delivered from Satan's domain of darkness to the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13). No human deserves this salvation and no human can earn it by anything they could possibly do for even our works of righteousness are filthy before our Holy God (Isaiah 64:6). The only means of this salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ and His work of atonement on the Cross of Calvary (Acts 4:9). We are saved by God's grace through faith as a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8,9).

This salvation brings about a radical change in our minds and how we think. The minds of the unbelieving are described as fleshy (Romans 8:5; Colossians 2:18), set on the things of earth (Colossians 3:2), worldly (Jude 1:19), blinded (2 Corinthians 4:4), futile, darkened (Ephesians 4:17), hostile to the things of God (Colossians 1:21) and in danger of becoming hardened (2 Corinthians 3:14) and descending into depravity (Romans 1:28).
On the other hand, the believing are given the mind of Christ by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:16). This enables them to be of sober (1 Corinthians 15:34) and sound mind (2 Corinthians 5:13) and start being transformed by the renewing of their mind (Romans 12:2). With humility of mind (Philippians 2:3) the Christian is to focus on the things above (Colossians 3:2) with their minds dwelling on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).
Without this salvation from sin and self to righteousness and the Savior you will not have a helmet to put on so that it can be renewed. However, this initial aspect of salvation is not what Paul is talking about in this passage. Paul is addressing Christians in the book of Ephesians and the armor of God cannot be used by those who do not belong to Him. Paul is speaking in reference to something that someone who is already saved puts on. Paul is not referring here to receiving the helmet at salvation, but rather in using the helmet after salvation. Paul gives a greater clarification of this in 1 Thessalonians 5:8.

In 1 Thessalonians 5 Paul talks about the coming of the day of the Lord and what it would be like (vs. 1-3). In verses 4-11 Paul seeks to assure the Thessalonians that they do not need to be afraid of the day of the Lord because it would not be coming against those who are sons of light, but rather against those who were of darkness, those who were evil. Yet, in verse 8 he also warns them that they too need to be prepared. Paul says, "But since we are of [the] day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him. 11 Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing." 

Now notice in verse 8 that he calls the helmet here "the hope of salvation." This is speaking of what is yet to come in terms of our salvation. Let me quickly remind you that Biblical hope is not a wish but rather a confident assurance of what the future holds. We have a confident assurance that our positional salvation in Christ will also be an actual reality in practice and placement in the future. In other words, we know that we currently stand justified before God because Jesus Christ has paid the penalty of our sin in our place, and we also know that there will be a day when we will no longer struggle against a sin nature for we will be fully transformed when we are with God in heaven for eternity. That hope is not only a great motivator, but also a rock on which we can stand firm in the midst of a very unstable world.

It is this hope for the future, this assurance of what I can expect will come that keeps me from losing my bearing. This helmet of salvation protects my mind from losing a grasp on reality when Satan's sword breaks through my other defenses and hits me upside the head. I can keep my mind set on things above so that the truth of God can control me even when my circumstances are bad and my experience is confusing. Let me give you an illustration of this from the Scriptures.
One of Satan's great weapons against us is discouragement. If he can make us discouraged and despondent then we will do nothing for the Lord. We will live in self pity and despair. We will become worthless to the cause of Christ's kingdom. There are lots things that can discourage us, and Satan knows how to use them all. He did so in the life of Job.

The Example of Job
Consider for a few moments Job and his life. The book opens and we find that Job is extremely rich. He has a very large family. He is greatly respected by everyone, and he is very spiritual because he is making great efforts to keep his relationship with God right. Now if any of us were attacked in any of these areas, we could and probably would struggle with discouragement if not depression. Job was struck in all these areas and his health. How would we respond if something like that happened to us? How would we handle our own emotions as well as the comments others would make about us?

The first thing destroyed was Job's wealth, and the reports about it came to him in just a few moments of time. In Job 1:13-17 we find that Sabeans attack and steal all 500 of Job's yoke of oxen along with his 500 donkeys and kill all the servants watching them except the one that escaped to tell Job the bad news. So much for Job's farming enterprise. If you cannot plow, you are not going to farm. Before this story is finished being told along comes another lone servant who has escaped a great tragedy when all 7,000 of Job's sheep and their shepherds are all killed by fire that falls from heaven. Job's wool and mutton business has been completely destroyed in a moment. While that servant is still telling the tale, here comes another servant, the lone bearer of bad tidings. Job's trade and transportation organization is taken away when all 3,000 of his camels are stolen by the Chaldeans. In the course of just a few minutes, all of Job's wealth is either destroyed or stolen with no way for him to get any of it back.

How would you react in such a situation? What would you do? What would you say if you just lost your job much lest found out at the same time your bank collapsed and your investment broker has embezzled all your savings and retirement funds and moved to South America. I think most of us would have a hard time with that. We would be crying out to God, "Why?" or "God, what are you doing?" That would be a strong challenge to our faith. A blow like that might get through the shield of faith put up by many people, but there are some that might still stand firm.

What about the next challenge to Job? Before the third servant is through talking a fourth servant rushes up and says, (vs. 18,19) "Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, 19 and behold, a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died; and I alone have escaped to tell you." How would you react? You get home from work and find your house destroyed by fire and family has perished inside. Or your husband takes your kids for ice cream as a special treat. A half hour later you answer the door to find a police officer standing there. There was an accident. They all died. How would you react? Would your shield of faith hold? Would your breastplate of righteousness stay on? Were your shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace holding firm to the ground?

Job's reaction is recorded in 1:20-22, "Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." 22 Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God. Now all these things are frightening enough by themselves, but it was not over for Job yet. In Job 2 we find that his health is stricken too. He is found by his friends covered with boils sitting in ashes scrapping himself with a potsherd. They could not even recognize him (Job 2:12). Now you say to me, "Wait a minute Pastor, your scaring me." Maybe, put this is the point. As Job says in Job 3:25, these were the very things he feared that had come upon him. Is your armor on well enough to withstand the onslaught Satan will throw against you?

Job did not understand why all this had happened. He did no have the benefit of having the scenes in heaven revealed to him at this point. From his perspective, all of this had come directly from the hand of God. He even states it that way in Job 2:10 when he responded to his wife's suggestion that he "curse God and die." "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Even this was not the end of it. He was reduced to poverty. He lost his family. His health was destroyed and he was in great pain. His wife was of no comfort. Job's lament in chapter 3 reveals the torment he was under. The agony and misery are great, and now his three friends start in on him. They begin to accuse him. Each did so in a different way, but all did so with the same basic point. Their belief was that somehow all of these tragedies that came upon Job were his own fault. These men are not trying to be cruel. They genuinely want to help Job out of his situation and solve his problem. They are also very scared that if this could happen to righteous Job, then it could happen to them. They must find something wrong about Job to blame or they are also in great danger.
But with friends like that, who needs enemies? Job's misery continues to increase. His belt of truth is slipping. He is still after the truth, but he no longer quite sure what is true. His breastplate of righteousness is now battered. He longs to know himself what he may have done or failed to do. He falters in pride and wants to contend with God. His feet are bare and he has no peace. He feels that God is against him. His shield of faith is also banged up and he is now struggling to lift it up. Satan's broadsword has struck hard, but there is one piece of armor Satan has not been able to penetrate, and that is the helmet of Salvation.

In Job's greatest despair his helmet is still on and it controls his thinking. What God was doing was a complete mystery to him. He does not understand, nor can he explain it. Yet, Job holds fast to a hope for the future. He still has a confident assurance about what will occur. In Job 19:25 he proclaims, "And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. 26 "Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; 27 Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes shall see and not another. My heart faints within me." Job had already proclaimed, "Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him" (Job 13:15). Job's mind was set above with a hope of heaven.

The helmet of salvation is our confident assurance of our eternal future with God. It is what protects us when Satan has smashed through our other lines of defense. We can stand firm against our adversary even when the circumstances of our lives seem to be crumbling around us. 


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