Ill-Equipped or Well-Equipped?

Ephesians 6:13 (NLT)  Use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News, so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? So why do so many Christians struggle and lose when Satan and his friends attack? It’s all in the equipment, my friends. Let me illustrate an ill-equipped Christian versus a well-equipped Christian.

The Ill-Equipped Christian (I use my old self as an example, when I was sick with MS and going to church):

1. Black magic marker = Opinion aligner. I don’t know much about the Bible, just the stories about Jesus and some Sunday school stories. When I find something I don’t agree with, I’m quick to black it out with my handy magic marker. That way, my opinions aren’t disturbed. I love my opinions and cherish them more than the truth.

2. Cotton Balls = Earplugs. I plug my ears with them when I think I’m about to hear something that offends me or is contrary to my opinion.

3. Sunglasses = Light reducers. I keep the light of the Word at a comfortable level, not too bright. Squinting causes wrinkles, you know.

4. Candle wax = Hardening agent. I’ve used this for years to coat my heart, over and over,  until it’s so hard I don’t even realize I’m sinning.

5. Pail over head = Word deflector. This keeps the Word from penetrating my mind. If I think about it too much, it makes me uncomfortable. Better to try to keep out as much of the Word as I can.

6. Tape over mouth = Silencer. Keeps me from talking to anyone about Jesus and what He has done for me. I don’t want to offend anyone.

7. Pills = Mind dullers. I have lots of these for MS. My doctors love to prescribe them. They keep my mind dull, so I can’t understand the Bible.

8. Chip on shoulder = “Poor me” indicator. Life’s been hard. God owes me something.

9. Headphones = False-teaching amplifiers. (NOTE: False teachers often masquerade as talk show hosts.) I can’t hear the truth with these on! Most of the false teaching agrees with my own opinions: homosexuals can’t help themselves, God doesn’t mind people living together any more, all paths lead to God, no matter what religion . . . my opinions go on and on, but here’s my favorite: God doesn’t care if you willfully disobey Him after you’ve confessed Christ as your Savior.

10. TV Guide  = My guide to:

a. Bathing – It’s fun to take a bath in the evil TV depicts, letting it seep into every pore of my body.

b. Opinion comparing –  I love my own opinion, but I like to hear the talk show hosts. They love their own opinions, too. Maybe I’ll agree with them.

c. Peeking – Nighttime soap opera-like shows are great for this. I like to peek in on horrible, sinful lives. It makes me feel better about mine.

11. Chains around my waist = Sue-binders. I don’t realize I have them on. I don’t realize that I am not free. I do not see that I am immobile, deaf, dumb and blind.

NOTE:  My equipment is useless. I am defenseless against evil as long as I wear any part of it.

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QUESTION: Are you wearing any of the useless equipment that I wore?

Take it off! Put it aside.  Diligently seek (search out, investigate, crave, demand, and worship) the Father and Jesus Christ. Hebrews 11:6 says He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him. (That’s what I did. ) He will give you access to His equipment. He will fill you with His Spirit. He will fill you with His love. You’ll have power against the enemy of our souls.

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The Well-Equipped Christian (wearing the armor of God)

1. Belt of truth – This comes from the Word. It is the belt of God’s truth. Your own opinions are a thing of the past. Your opinion is God’s opinion, according to His Word. You know the Word and believe all of the Word is true. You don’t argue or disagree with God. You hold the Word in your heart until it has affected every part of your life.* Satan, his demons, powers and principalities may ask you, “Did God really say that?” You know He did, so you don’t listen to them. You know the truth and it has set you free.

2. Breastplate of righteousness – The righteousness of Christ now dwells in your heart, serving as protection for you. The Holy Spirit is continually molding and shaping you into Jesus’ likeness. The Holy Spirit flows from you like streams of living water. Satan and his gang are repelled by it. Your heart belongs to God and not to Satan any more. You know the truth, and it has made you free.

3. Feet fitted with the preparation of the gospel of peace – You have come to know Jesus intimately. You are saved, reconciled to God and at peace with Him, your sins forgiven and your sin nature replaced with Christ’s nature. The Gospel has happened in your life and has prepared you to carry this Good News with you everywhere. It is actually a part of you. It’s on your feet, like shoes.

4. Shield of faith – Above all, you put on this. It is the most important part of the armor of God. This shield is His. The faith it’s made of is His. He gives His faith to you when you diligently seek Him. Satan hurls flaming lies about God at your heart, but they fizzle out and do you no harm, because God’s faith protects you. You know God is faithful, and you do not fear. You know the truth, and it has set you free.

5. Helmet of salvation – Much better than that silly pail I was wearing. You know and are fully assured that you are saved. The Holy Spirit has made your spirit jump for joy, so you know it’s true. You are walking with Jesus, obeying Him and the Father. When Satan hurls lies at your mind, they bounce off God’s helmet. Your conscience is clear. His accusations can’t penetrate. You know the truth, and it has set you free.

6. The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God – The Spirit has filled you and controls you, and He wields (uses) His sword. He knows the Word very well because He is its Author, inspiring men to write it down. You know His Word. You have held it in your heart until it has affected every part of your life.* You know the truth, and it has set you free. NOTE CAREFULLY, PLEASE: Being able to recite Scriptures from memory does not mean you know the Word. Reading the whole Bible five times over does not mean you know the Word. Going to Bible studies and church doesn’t mean you know the Word (though it’s a good place to start). Holding the Word in your heart until it has affected every part of your life means you know the Word. Do you see the difference? I know that you know the Word when I have seen it change you.

7. Prayer -You’re filled with the Spirit so you can pray  “in the Spirit” at all times. You pray according to what the Spirit is saying because you hear the Spirit’s voice. You’re on the alert against Satan’s tricks, like a watchman. You watch over yourself AND your brothers and sisters in Christ so you can warn them if you see Satan approaching. When you weren’t filled, Satan ambushed you all the time.

*This is Andrew Murray’s definition of meditating on the Word of God.

Hurting God

Is it possible for human beings to hurt the heart of God? Here’s what Ezekiel 6:9 says: “Then those of you who escape [the exile] will remember Me among the nations to which they will be carried captive, how I have been hurt by their adulterous hearts which turned away from Me, and by their eyes which played the harlot after their idols; and they will loathe themselves in their own sight for the evils which they have committed, for all of their abominations.”

I checked the meaning of the word “hurt” in the original Hebrew (shabar 7665). It means hurt, even shattered. It doesn’t seem possible that the God of creation could be hurt by His puny creatures.

It’s true. His heart is shattered by our hearts that run after other things besides Him. His heart is shattered by our eyes that look upon our idols, the things we love more than God.

Here’s a snapshot of me, B.C. (Before Christ):

I follow after every god in this world: money, success, fame, even drugs when I’m young. I find Jesus offensive. How can He be the only way to heaven? I decide Jesus came in many forms to every culture. Buddha and the rest were all Jesus, just dressed differently.

My greatest idol is my own opinion. I love and cherish my opinions. I groom and feed them with the wisdom of this world.  I have no time for the Bible but plenty of time to express my self-made religion. If someone tells me something from the Bible that conflicts with my treasured opinions, I scoff at what they say.  I have no idea I am in exile, until I’m suddenly humbled by multiple sclerosis (MS). Then there’s nowhere else to look but up.

I shattered the heart of God. But He loved me, in spite of it.  You won’t find that kind of love except in heaven and in those who have heaven in their souls. I didn’t deserve anything from Him. He opened my eyes anyway. I saw that I was in exile, far from the kingdom of God.

He showed me Jesus Christ, His Son. Suddenly, I was ashamed of rejecting and reviling Jesus. I prayed a desperate prayer, asking Him to take them away my adultery and idolatry. I asked Him to forgive me.

Jesus Christ brought me from darkness into His marvelous light. I prayed for eyes to see only Him and for a heart filled with His love. He answers desperate prayer!

Nothing is too difficult for God. My rebellion (sin) was great. What is your sin? Have you reviled and rejected Him? Do you hold your own opinion higher than the truth of the Bible? Then you have shattered His heart. Think about that until you weep.

He forgave me and He’ll forgive you. Pray to the Lord, confessing what you’ve done. You know the difference between right and wrong. I don’t have to tell you what sin is. Turn away from it and look into His glorious face. The God whose heart you’ve shattered will quickly respond, and bring you into His glorious kingdom. That’s the love of God. It’s incomprehensible. It’s yours for the asking.

Dead Woman Lives!

Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? But God did something very dramatic in my life through Jesus Christ. Here’s the headline:

“Clueless Career Woman Becomes Damsel in Distress, Now Divinely Delivered and Living in the Divine.”

Clueless Career Woman – That was me. Clueless as can be. Fashioned my own god. Went my own way. It looked like a fairy tale ending — recommended for executive management, nice husband, nice car, nice house, nice life. I didn’t know I was spiritually dead.

Damsel in Distress – Suddenly stricken with multiple sclerosis (MS), an incurable disease of the central nervous system, my life became a whirlwind of tests and treatments, pulsating pain, disappointment, disability and despair. I gave up all hope, my condition so severe that the doctor in Boston advised that it was prudent to plan to be in a nursing home by 2003. I went back to church with a friend I met through MS. There, I met Jesus and was born from above, made alive to God through faith in Christ. I never thought He could help me with MS, though. Healing’s not for today, is it?

Divinely delivered – Along came a pastor who believed healing IS for today. He himself was healed by Jesus Christ. He pointed out Hebrews 13:8, which says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Could I find anything about  a time limit to Jesus’ miracles in that Scripture? I blushed, embarrassed that I’d limited God. The Lord opened my heart and mind, the Holy Spirit and the pastor taught me. I began to actually read the Bible, pray, and listen to worship music from morning til night. Jesus healed me in the middle of the night on September 2, 2001. My neurologist confirmed it when he thoroughly examined me the following spring, exclaiming, “This is God!”

Living in the Divine – Oh, my! I sought to be filled with the Holy Spirit, praying night and day for two months. God answered on November 1, 2001. “Heaven came down and glory filled my soul,” the old hymn says. I spoke in tongues, but interpreted what I had just spoken: “Father mine, Father mine!” I was totally changed in an instant. My heart was filled with God’s actual love, I was suddenly seeing the world through Jesus’ eyes, and the Word of God through the light of the Spirit. For the kingdom of God is . . . righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (see Romans 14:17, NASB). I entered the Kingdom. It’s abundant life, Christ’s life in me, by the Holy Spirit. That’s what He came for . . . that we may have life (zoe, the life of God), and have it abundantly (see John 10:10).

It’s all to glorify the Father and Christ Jesus!