April 13, 2023
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING:
“Therefore, put on the full armor of God. In so doing you will be able to stand your ground when the day of evil comes. After you have done everything you are able to in that day, you will be able to stand [before the throne of God with humble confidence.]” (Ephesians 6.13)
“Stand firm then [strong in the Lord and in His mighty power- re. verse 10], with the belt of truth buckled around your waist and with the breastplate of righteousness in splendid array, and with your feet fitted with the readiness of 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.” (Ephesians 6.16 italicized)
TODAY’S REFLECTION ON GOD’S WORD:
Yesterday, I proposed that the call for peace in our world today is underrated. Another way of saying that is highly overrated. I offer that following the lesson taught by Jesus to His disciples in the Upper Room on the night he would be turned in to “the authorities” when He said He would give them His peace which was unlike anything the world would or could give, “The peace offered by the world and the things the world believes makes for peace” is highly overrated. As mighty ones of God and believers that Jesus is the Christ and therefore King of kings and Lord of lords, we must be armed with truth, intent on righteousness and makers of peace. As I said, putting on the whole armor of God is the same as taking up the armament of God. Whereas the first three articles Paul speaks of (belt, breastplate and shoes) identify the clothing aspect and are akin to that which the priest would wear, the second three articles show the crossover of being a mighty warrior in the priesthood of all believers (shield, helmet, sword). Perhaps, we can better grasp this image if we align the two lists in this way:
Belt of Truth with Shield of Faith;
Breastplate of Righteousness with Helmet of Salvation; and,
Sandals of Peace with Sword of God’s Word.
Their complementary alignment helps me to understand their meaning, purpose and function. Taking first the “shield of faith which quenches or extinguishes all the flaming arrows of the Evil One.” While we can understand the literal application of this image based on the Roman practice of warfare, we must remember that Paul is speaking in terms of the spirit. He began by alerting the Ephesians that they are not fighting against “flesh and blood” as if they will do combat with a well-equipped army fitted for battle as nation against nation. We can glean from the current conflict du jour of that between Russia and the Ukraine. There is no doubt that a “flesh and blood” battle is being waged. Yet, when that “flesh and blood” soldiering is exhausted the battle remains. What battle is that? It is the battle for truth. What truth would that be? Well, if we actually knew the answer to that question we probably could resolve the “flesh and blood” conflict quickly and easily. It is not so easy to discern it when it lies at the spiritual level or within the heart, mind and soul of those in conflict. Conjectures abound. Answers are assumptions. Even the “smoke and mirrors” of political media only serve to build a facade behind which the “truth” exists in festering form. But, let’s not be so naive as to lean on that conflict in order to bring the call to arms home. The increase in shootings with multiple victims such as that in Louisville, Kentucky, functions at the two levels of “flesh and blood” and “not flesh and blood.” What is the truth of that matter? We may discover a motive but is that the real impetus of such a heinous crime against humanity? Is it not also a crime against God? The lack of faith, of understanding, of truth, of a right mind and heart and of an humble spirit contribute far greater to the lack of resolution to the problem. Sadly, there is only one answer to that problem. I say “sadly” because it is a solution not everyone will accept. It is also the one solution which should drive the meaning, purpose and function of our lives. How so?
We are engaged in a battle for truth. As believers in Jesus as the Christ, we declare His identification of Himself as “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” There is no way to gain authentic peace except by believing in Him and living His call to discipleship out in all the moments of our lives. All our moments? Impossible, you say. As long as we are human it is impossible. But, it is what we should strive toward. We are called to build up one another using our gifts, talents, abilities and understanding of faith until we attain to the “full measure and stature of Christ.” (Ephesians 4.13) That is not a “flesh and blood” battle but one of the spirit in our heart, mind and soul. We are called to be the embodiment of truth just as Jesus was, is and will forever be the incarnation of God’s Word. As followers of Christ, we can say the “truth” becomes us. It looks good “on us” and it actually becomes our real identity as people of God on earth as it will be in Heaven. But, the Enemy will continue to cast dispersions and lies about who we are, what we believe and the rightness of what we are doing. Those are the real flaming arrows being used against the people of God. And what douses their flame, their sting, their burning desire to overtake us? Well, it is the truth of God as “living water, mighty wind, and a calm trust in God to protect us from all manner of harm and evil.” While the Romans coated their shields to quench the fiery arrows, God coats us with His Holy Spirit. What a resource the Holy Spirit is for all who will believe! The Holy Spirit is a comforter, a guide, a teacher, a translator, a verbal enpowerment, a pray-or for when we are at a loss for words and a shield. No greater defense is there than that of the truth which is of God. We gird our guts (the Hebrew way of identifying the soul) with the belt of truth. We are literally armed with a shield of truth which by faith puts out the fiery slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and misfortune. John remembered the words of Jesus on this point as he wrote “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8.32) Isn’t it time we put on the truth and stand against the onslaught of the Enemy with our shield in hand to advance in the ways of righteousness for the glory of God and the welfare of others today and every day until Jesus returns in spirit and in truth?
A PRAYER FOR TODAY:
O God, You have clothed us and fitted us to be Your people in the world. From the provision of sheep skins in the Garden to cover our “shame” to the blessing of the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room to declare Your “claim,” we are ready to enter into the world and let Your Will not ours be known. May it be so today in Jesus’ name. AMEN.