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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
April 26, 2009
The Shield of Faith
Some 500 years ago Martin Luther wrote the following hymn.
A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe-
His craft and power are great, And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right man on our side, The man of God’s own choosing
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He-
Lord Sabaoth His name, From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us
The prince of darkness grim, We tremble not for him-
His rage we can endure, For lo, his doom is sure:
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers, No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours Through Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also-
The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still:
His kingdom is forever.
Those words have great meaning in part because Martin Luther lived according to them. It is one thing to be poetic when you are in a safe place, but quite another to write such words as these when your life is being threatened. Martin Luther did face our ancient foe who seeks to work us woe. He did face a world with devils filled and the prince of darkness grim that threatened to undo him. He did live in the reality of letting goods and kindred go, this mortal life also and strove to walk confidently in God’s promises. Martin Luther was able to face the troubles of life because He had his armor on. He could withstand whatever Satan could throw against him because he had picked up his shield of faith.
Are you prepared?
Our adversary, the devil, rages against all mankind to keep the unsaved from salvation in Jesus Christ and to keep the saved from living for Christ. The damage done by his storm of evil, lying and deceit is seen all around us more clearly every day. There are not only those caught up in false religions and cults that remain blind to the truth and continue in the futile attempt to earn their way to heaven, but there are also those even in Bible teaching churches that fail to understand and so think they can be saved based in their own righteousness. There are they many that pursue the futile chase for happiness and success as defined by our society which always eventually proves to be empty vanity and chasing after the wind. The despondency they will eventually experience and the wreckage of the damaged lives they used as stepping stones for their own selfish pleasures will tragically confirm the point. Martin Luther was prepared to defend himself against all these lies and he stood solidly on the truth of God’s word though his life was threatened because of it. He knew that eternal life lay in trusting Christ, not self righteousness.
Then there are the many follies that Christians can also fall into along with non-Christians if they believe the devil’s lies and slander. Some seek to escape from the pain of life in drugs, alcohol and empty amusements. Some pursue materialism and reap the anxiety and worry that comes with it for things are always in danger of being broken, damaged, losing value or being stolen. Some seek the pleasures of this world and lose the pleasures and peace of walking with God. Those who pursue immorality reap broken relationships and families. Some may manage to keep the legal aspect of the marriage intact, but the marriage is a hollow shell of two people sharing a house but without true love between them. Martin Luther protected himself against all these things by seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Martin Luther had his armor on. Do you?
In our study of spiritual warfare from Ephesians 6:10f, we have already seen that to fight these battles successfully we must be strong in the Lord, not ourselves. We must stand firm and put on the panoply, the full armor, God has given to us.
We must be girded with the belt of truth. Are you a truth seeker? Do you let truth control you even when it is uncomfortable to be confronted with it? (See: The Belt of Truth: God’s Existence)
We must have on the breastplate of righteousness. This is both the imputed and imparted righteousness of Christ. I stand clean before the Lord God, creator of heaven and earth, because I have been clothed with robes made clean through Jesus’ blood. His righteousness has been attributed to me through faith in His atonement for me. In addition, I now pursue holiness instead of the things of this world. Its enticements no longer have the attraction they once had for me. Have you been declared pure before God through Jesus Christ? Are you becoming more pure in your practices in daily life? (See: The Breastplate of Righteousness)
We must also have our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. You cannot stand firm against the devil if your feet are not properly equipped to grip the ground which at times can be quite slippery. Jesus died in our place and then rose from the dead on the third day breaking the bondage to sin and reconciling us to God. The enmity that existed between us and God has been removed giving us peace with Him. (See: Feet Shod with the Gospel of Peace)
Certainly we will still have troubles and trials in this world for Jesus said we would (John 16:33), but the peace that comes through the gospel, the good news of being reconciled to God, controls us and calms us in the midst of our painful experiences. It is a peace that passes all understanding and can exist in any circumstance. Does the peace of God control you in such a way that you can be calm in the midst of the storms of life? Can you set aside your worry and anxiety and leave it at the mercy seat of God trusting that He does indeed know best even when we do not understand? Those whose feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace can.
The Shield of Faith
This morning we come to Ephesians 10:16 and the fourth piece of armor, “In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one.” The shield was an important piece of protective equipment for the Roman soldier, and the shield of faith is important to us as believers for similar reasons.
The shield of spoken of here is not the little round or rectangular shields the cavalry men carried and that the gladiators used in the arenas. Various forms of these light shields were called, telth / telt or aspiV / aspis. Those are the shields we are most familiar with and call to mind when a shield is mentioned. This shield is neither of those small types of shields, but rather this is the big combat shield used by the Roman Legions called the qureoV / thureos. These shields were typically 4 feet long by 2 ½ feet wide, and they would extend from below the knees to eye level on the typical soldier. They were made of a wooden frame which would be covered with layers of tough leather or even metal. A line of soldiers carrying these shields would be a like moving wall protecting the army from the arrows and spears of the enemy. At the same time, their own archers could crouch behind them and shoot their own arrows against the enemy.
King Solomon had ceremonial shields of this type that were covered in gold. Other kings had ceremonial sets covered in bronze. Regardless of whether it was tough leather or metal, a shied of this type would easily defend against the arrows of the enemy. They would either bounce off or harmlessly stick into the shield. Sometimes arrows would be wrapped with cloth, dipped in pitch, set on fire and then shot. Even these flaming arrows would have little to no effect on these big shields.
The Importance of Faith
Take special note of this piece of equipment, for it is very important. Paul puts emphasis upon it by introducing it with, “In addition to all . . .” This may be stretching the text a little, but you could almost say this, “If you blow it with the other three – your belt of truth slipped, your breastplate of righteousness fell off, and you forgot to lace your shoes – then make sure that you pick up the shield of faith. If you mess up with the rest, DON’T FORGET YOUR SHIELD!” Of course, Paul is not diminishing the importance of the other pieces of armor in any way, for you do need to put them on, but he is emphasizing the importance of the shield. You need to take up your shield of faith! Note that it is “with” or more literally, “by,” the shield of faith that “you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one.” It is a key defensive weapon and it is central to Christian doctrine and practice.
It is by faith that the righteousness of Christ is applied to my life and I am made holy in God’s sight. There was and is nothing I could do to become righteous myself. God reckons me to be righteous because I believe Jesus’ atonement and promises are sufficient and true (Romans 3:28; 4:24,25). It is also by faith that I walk in practical righteousness. If I did not have faith, I would not believe Jesus’ claims to be God in human flesh. I would not believe He has authority over my life by purchasing me with His own blood. I would not believe that He is wiser than I and knows what is best for my life. Without such faith I would refuse to obey the Lord and would therefore continue in my own sinful path. It is by faith I believe all these things and therefore strive to be obedient to Him and His commandments. They are not only the right thing to do, but they are the best thing for me.
It is by faith that the atoning death of Jesus Christ is applied to my sins and I am wonderfully saved. The bondage to sin is broken. I am reconciled to God and no longer at war with Him. That is the gospel of peace. Faith is central in the Christian life! So then we had better make sure that we understand what exactly is faith.
True vs False Faith
We can begin by simply defining faith, but in doing so we quickly find that the actual meaning of the word and its meaning in common usage are not the same thing. Webster defines faith as “complete trust of confidence.” It is “the assent of the mind to the truth of a proposition advanced by another.” In proper usage this is then tied to the authority and veracity of the person making the proposition or upon the evidence presented supporting it. In post-modern society, faith no longer has to be tied to truth, but can be based solely on the whim of the emotions or thoughts for the moment. Consistency in the belief system becomes irrelevant as irrational thought replaces rational conclusions based on the evidence supporting the proposition. This can result in a person having faith in propositions that oppose each other.
For example, in economics it is showing up in those who claim to have faith in capitalism but want government funds to bail them out of their bad business choices, but where government money flows, government control goes and thus socialism replaces capitalism. In science it shows up in those who claim to be the defenders of the scientific method of being observable, testable and repeatable, but in reality have abandoned science to leaped off a philosophical cliff. Faith in evolution could be described as the assurance of links hoped for and the evidence of fossils unseen, all of which is quite contrary to true science. In morality it is seen in the hypocrisy of those demanding tolerance for their advocation of their chosen sinful lifestyles, yet they are intolerant, sometimes violently so, of those who do not agree with them. This was seen last week in the reaction to the answer Miss California gave at the Miss America pageant because she did not advocate homosexual marriage. (Why would there be a homosexual judging that pageant anyway?). In theology, this shows up in the person that claims faith in both their good works and in Christ to save them.
Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as the “assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.” However, this faith is not a blind leap in any sense. We will leave the blind leaping to those with darkened and irrational minds. The Christian faith is trust based in belief in the truth and the quest for truth. Our faith in God and His word is reasonable and demonstrable. God demonstrates His power, majesty and goodness in all He has created. True science continues to magnify God’s power and nature as it uncovers the complexity and intricacies of God’s creation. God has revealed His love and plan for my life in the Bible, the Word of truth. History backs up the claims of the Scriptures and my own experiences assure me of His love and promises and the wisdom of His ways. I laugh at the arrogant archeologists who continue to make claims against the veracity of the Scriptures because I know that as they continue to dig and examine the actual evidence it will prove the Biblical accounts. It has consistently been that way since the advent of modern archaeology in the Middle East.
My faith is not a blind leap but is reasonable and tested. I gird the truth of God’s word around me and walk in it by faith for the evidence continually demonstrates that He and His word are trustworthy. Since the evidence proves Him in the areas in which I can observe and test, then it is not a big step to yield to His authority and veracity to have faith in those things I cannot observe and test such as His promises concerning the future. Without faith I would not believe the truth and therefore the truth would be worthless to me. It is by faith that I believe the truth of the Word of God.
One of the false doctrines that has spread through much of American Christianity is an improper understanding of the interaction of faith, belief and trust. Many have separated belief from faith, and faith from trust, yet all three English words come from the same Greek root, either the noun form, pistiV / pistis, or the verb form, pisteuw / pisteuo. Many today claim that they believe in Jesus and may even call themselves “born-again” Christians, yet they do not mean by that statement that they have placed their trust for salvation in Jesus Christ. They mean that they believe that Jesus existed, was a good teacher, gave a good example of how to live, was a prophet, or some similar idea.
You cannot pick and choose to believe whatever you want about Jesus and then claim that you “believe in him.” To do so is to believe in a false Jesus that cannot save you. This is more obvious in the cults and those holding to heretical beliefs such as Arianism, unitarianism, modalism or gnosticism, but even those that claim to be evangelical can fall into this trap. Whenever someone believes Jesus to be less than He is, then they are in danger of having faith in a Jesus who is insufficient to bring about redemption and salvation from sin. Faith must have the correct object. You must have the right Jesus.
The Bible requires that you believe certain things about Him. When the Bible talks about “believing in Jesus” for salvation, it is referring to believing that Jesus Christ is God incarnate as Scripture claims, that He lived a sinless life, that He died as a substitute for our sins, and was then raised from the dead on the third day, is now seated on the right hand of God the Father, and is coming again
In addition, the Bible also requires that belief not be separated from faith and trust. You cannot remain intellectually honest and claim to believe something without a corresponding faith and trust in that object of belief. To claim to believe something and then refuse to act upon that belief by putting your trust in it is to demonstrate yourself to be either self-deceived or a liar. Neither of those will get you into heaven.
This is an old example, but it is still a good one. The story has been told so often that there are a few variations to it, but this is the way I read about it. A fellow named Blondin was one of or the greatest tightrope walker at the beginning of the 20th century. He had stretched a wire across Niagara Falls and a great crowd had gathered on both shores to see the event. Blondin easily walked across and the crowd cheered. Then he took to doing different tricks.
He went out over the middle of the roaring Niagara, dropped a cup on a line down into the river, drew it up and took a drink. (Obviously a long time ago when the Niagra was clean enough to drink directly from it). The crowd cheered. Some reports even say that he made tea while balancing on the rope. Next, he pushed a wheel barrow onto the rope. When he got to the other side, he loaded the wheel barrow and brought it back again. The crowd cheered saying that Blondin could do anything.
At this cheering Blondin approached a young lad and asked him if he thought that he could go across the tightrope with a man on his back. The boy replied, “Certainly.” Blondin asked him if he thought he could carry him across, and the boy replied again, “certainly.” Whereupon, Blondin bent down and said, “Okay, jump up.”
Instead of jumping on Blondin’s back, the boy quickly disappeared into the crowd. The point is simple. The boy said he believed in Blondin, but he did not have faith in him because he did not put his trust in him. The boy could claim anything he wanted, but in truth, he did not believe Blondin could do what he claimed.
Many people treat Christ the same way. They claim to believe in Him. In reality, they do not, because their faith and trust is not in Him to be who He claims to be or do what He promises. Biblical belief in Christ does not equal intellectual assent. Biblical belief in Christ means to put faith in Him which is to trust Him. Saving faith means that I believe that the work of Christ on the cross is all that is needed to purchase my salvation, and I put my complete trust in God on that basis for my eternal future. If I try to add anything to salvation by grace through faith, then in reality, I do not trust what God has said. I do not have faith in Christ. I instead have faith in something else that cannot save me. Don’t be misled. Only faith in Jesus Christ alone can save you from your sin and its penalties. Your good works cannot do it. Raising your hand, walking the aisle or praying a prayer cannot do it. Neither this church nor any other church can do it. The righteous deeds of other people cannot do it. Only Jesus Christ can do it because only He is sufficient to pay the price for your sin, and only He has proven that He has the power to forgive you those sins and keep His promises such as taking you to heaven in the future.
Faith in Daily Life
That is the faith needed for salvation. My future destiny is completely in the hands of Jesus Christ. But the daily Christian life also requires faith, and this is what Paul is referring to here as the shield that extinguishes the fiery missiles of our enemy. The devil wants you to doubt God. He slanders God and tries to get us to doubt Him. As we have already pointed out in this series of sermons, Satan will lie and slander in order to dissuade you from the truth.
Among Satan’s many lies: “God will not really save you just on the basis of what Christ has done, you have to do more and earn your salvation.” “You cannot trust God to provide for your needs by seeking first His kingdom and righteousness, you have to do it yourself in your own way.” “God is not good, look at all the hard times you have gone through.” “God does not really love you, or he would give you all the stuff everyone else in our society has.” “God does not care about you, you better find your own way to protect yourself from what you fear.” “God is not listening to your prayers, you might as well give up.” “God does not understand, otherwise he would not ask someone who has had such a traumatic past to minister to other people. Don’t do it, you might get hurt again.” “Only fools rejoice in adversity,” “Seek your own revenge because God is not doing anything.” That is a sampling of some of the flaming arrows the devil will shoot at us, but every one of them is easily extinguished with faith in the truth. God is good, merciful, wise, gracious, loving, caring, kind, gentle, sovereign, holy, just, righteous, omnipotent, omniscient, etc. As I put my faith in Him, I trust my future to the Lord, then the devil can shoot whatever he wants at me and it is not going to get through. It will be blocked each time by my faith in the Lord God who created heaven and earth and me.
This does not mean that the shield of faith is easy to lift. Those large shields of the Roman Soldier where heavy and took effort to pick up and move. Carrying that shield was no passive enterprise. It took work. So it is with our faith. We must exercise it. We cannot let it be passive.
Look at the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. Abraham believed God for a land he had not seen, a son he did not have, and a blessing he could not imagine. Noah took God at his word and built a very large boat, though he did not live by the sea, and probably had never seen rain. Moses trusted God, faced his fear, went back to Egypt and led the children of Israel out. Then reading from Hebrews 11:32, “And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”
Hebrews 12:1 continues, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
That is faith. They were assured of what they hoped for and had conviction about things they have not seen. Please note that their circumstances were not always pleasant. Many of them suffered many things for the sake of righteousness, yet because of their trust in God for a better future, even if that would only come in heaven, they overcame the fears and temptation that faced them and did not give up. Faith may have set backs at times, for the lives of those mentioned in Hebrews 11 were not perfect. Abraham became fearful and lied to both Pharaoh and Abimelech concerning Sarah as a means to protect his life. Gideon kept putting out fleeces to gain reassurance God would fulfill His promises. Barak would not go out to fight unless Deborah would go with him. David feigned insanity before the king of Gath out of fear for his life. Each of these incidents reflected a failure in their faith, yet none of them remained weak in faith. Each of them continued to grow in faith by continuing on, striving and finally persevering unto victory.
It does not take a lot of faith, but it does take genuine faith in the correct object. That was the point of Jesus’ instructions to the disciples in Luke 17. It only takes the faith of a mustard seed to see great things happen, because the power is not in the faith, it is in the one the faith has been placed. Beware of the danger of placing your faith in the wrong object or even in faith itself. Tragically, that idea has become popular even in certain branches of evangelical Christianity. The belief that something will happen just because you have faith that it will is a false belief. Faith in faith is foolishness and mimics sorcery. Nothing has ever happened because I believed they would happen, but many things have happened because the God I believe in made things happen. Faith must be in the God who rewards those that seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
Do you have faith? What is your faith in? Are you willing to trust God for your future as those mentioned in Hebrews 11 did? That is the shield of faith. Have you picked up your shield?
The next sermon in this series is: (See: Spiritual Warfare Part 16: Living in Faith)
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – 1) Count how many times the word “faith” is mentioned. 2) Talk with your parents about the meaning of faith and how you faith can protect you from temptation.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What enabled Martin Luther able to persevere even when his circumstances were bad and his life was threatened? What are some of the common ways in which the devil hinders people from being saved from their sin? What are some Satan’s more common lies in our society that Christians fall for? Which ones are you most susceptible to? What is the belt of truth and how does it protect you? What is the breastplate of righteousness and how does it protect you? What are feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace and how do they enable you to stand firm against the devil? What kind of shield is being spoken of in Ephesians 6:16 and how does it differ from other types of shields used by the ancient Romans? How does Paul emphasize the importance of the shield of faith? Why is faith so important? Define faith. What is the basis of proper faith? What can improper faith be based upon? What are some of the contradictions of faith (people who believe opposing propositions at the same time) commonly found in American society? Is the Christian faith a “blind leap” – why or why not? What is the basis of Christian faith? What is the relationship between faith, belief and trust? Can they be legitimately separated and independent of one another? Why or why not? What must be believed about Jesus in order to have the correct one that can save you from sin? What happens to a person that has faith in a Jesus that does not match the one presented in the Bible? How does faith in daily life protect you from the temptations that Satan will hurl at you? Examine the people presented in Hebrews 11. What did they have in common with each other? Some of them had serious lapses of faith and/or morality, why then are they included in this list? How much faith is necessary to be victorious? Explain. What is the danger of having faith in faith? What is the object of your faith?
Sermon Notes – 4/26/2009
Spiritual Warfare, Part 15; The Shield of Faith
The devil seeks to keep the unsaved from __________ in Jesus and keep the saved from living for Christ.
The unsaved fall victim to false religions, ___, self-righteousness, the futile pursuit of happiness & vanity
Christians can also fall victim to the devil’s lies & slander and live _________ to God’s commands.
We must be controlled by _________ even when it is uncomfortable
We must be clothed with the imputed righteousness of Christ and ________ in practical righteousness
Our feet must be shod with the preparation of the ______ of peace in order to stand firm against the devil
The Shield of Faith
The Shield – Not the smaller, light shields of the cavalry, but the large qureoV / thureos – ___ft X____ft
Soldiers together could form a walking _______ that arrows would bounce off or harmlessly stick into.
The Importance of Faith – this piece of equipment is __________.
If you mess up with the rest, DON’T FORGET YOUR ____________!
It is _______the shield of faith that “you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one.”
It is by faith that the righteousness of Christ is __________to my life and I am made holy in God’s sight
It is by faith that I _________ in practical righteousness of believing and obeying the Lord
It is by faith in Jesus that my bondage to sin is broken and I gain God’s ______by being reconciled to Him
True vs False Faith
Faith is “trust or confidence . . . the assent of the _____to the truth of a proposition advanced by another”
Properly, faith is tied to actual ______, but it is often wrongly based in the whims of emotion and thought
Many claim faith in propositions that actually __________each other: socialism & capitalism; evolution & _____________; tolerance for all – except the opposition; good works & faith in Christ.
The faith of Hebrews 11:1 is not a ________ leap in any sense.
The Christian faith is _____________ and demonstrable and based in truth and the quest for truth
Since the evidence proves God in the areas I can observe & test, it is easy to ______Him in those I cannot
Faith, belief & trust are ______based on the same Greek word root – pistiV / pistis and pisteuw / pisteuo
To pick and choose what you want about Jesus results in the belief in a ______Jesus that cannot save you
Faith must have the correct _________. You must have faith in the right Jesus.
The correct Jesus Christ is ___incarnate, born of a virgin, sinless, died as a substitute sacrifice for our sins, rose from the dead on the 3rd day, is seated on the right hand of God the Father, and is ______________
Belief, faith and trust ___________be separated from each other or you prove to be self-deceived or a liar
Biblical belief in Christ _____________ equal intellectual assent
Saving faith means that I believe that the person and work of Jesus Christ is _________for salvation from my sin, and on that basis I place my complete trust in God for my eternal ____________.
Faith in Daily Life – Faith in God in daily life is what extinguishes the ________ missiles of our enemy
Satan will lie and slander God, but my _________ in God enables me to believe, trust and obey Him
Faith is not ___________ , it must be exercised – See Hebrews 11
Their faith continued even in circumstances that were very _______________
Faith may suffer set backs at times, but continues on, strives and _____________ to victory.
It is not the amount of faith, but the __________ of faith that is important.
Faith in faith is __________& mimics sorcery. Faith must be in the God who rewards those who seek Him
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