December 15, 2019

Hope

Pastor:
Passage: Ephesians 6:10-20
Service Type:

I'd like to invite your attention to the sixth chapter of Paul's letter to the Ephesians. And specifically, verses 10 through 20. And then I also would like you to find Isaiah chapter 59, I will make reference to it shortly. So Ephesians chapter six, verses 10 through 20 then Isaiah chapter 59. In Ephesians 6 the apostle writes "Finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and as shoes for your feet, having put on having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one: and take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the spirit with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak."

Father our emphasis this week is on the helmet of salvation. And Father, every piece of the armor is absolutely critical. Every piece of the armor is vital for us to be protected and for us to go on the offensive in the midst of the spiritual battles and the spiritual conflicts of life. And so Father, I pray today that you would help me to make the meaning of the helmet of salvation clear. Father, it's not a symbolic addition to the armor. As I said earlier, it is absolutely critical. It's a critical piece of the armor and we forsake it at our own risk. So help us to be wise enough to understand that the armor works together. And every piece is absolutely critical for our success for our protection. Father, it is a gift from you. And Father, it would be an act of gross ingratitude, to not avail ourselves of the gift that you have given to us that you have provided for us. Father, this is not a take it or leave it. It's a take it, put it on, keep it on is a gift from our father's an expression of your love for us. We thank you for it. We ask all these things in Christ's name, amen.

Well, in a previous message, I mentioned that although the apostle Paul undoubtedly is drawing from the imagery of the armor of the Roman soldier, I also firmly believe that because he was so well versed and educated in the Old Testament, that he draws from several portions in the Old Testament that described God as our divine warrior. And in particular, I think he very possibly had in mind Isaiah chapter 59. If you will turn there with me. And you'll see that in the very first verse, the prophet Isaiah said, "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull that it cannot hear." So when we read that, we need to ask ourselves, why did he feel compelled to write those words? Why did the Holy Spirit have him write those words? Well, as we study the context, we see that the context reveals that the nation of Israel had a sin problem. And Isaiah then goes on to describe the conditions that existed in Israel at that time.

Let me bullet point some of them for you. He said that the nation's iniquities had separated them from God. He said that their sin had hidden God's face from them. He said their hands were defiled with blood, which is a reference to the violent nature of their culture. Their mouth spoke lies, they were characterized by dishonesty. They not only practiced evil, he said they ran to do evil, they were swift to do evil, hey had a propensity to do evil. They had forsaken justice and they knew nothing of peace. And as a result of all of this, the people of the land, they were suffering. Know this: suffering is always the inevitable consequences of sin. You cannot sin without suffering, prove it. The wages of sin is what? Death, death.

So we come to verse 15. And in verse 15 Isaiah writes this, "The Lord saw it." What did he say? He saw the condition of the land, he saw the condition of the people, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man and wondered that there was no one to intercede. So let's think of what Isaiah is saying here. In these terms. He was saying the people of God, the people of Israel, were under siege. They were under siege from their enemies without their borders, but they were also under siege from the enemy within their borders. And they were under attack and they found themselves absolutely powerless to stop what was going on. The reality is they were victims of their own depravity. So what was the solution? If there was no one to intercede for them does that mean that they were doomed as a people? No. And do you know why? Because they were God's people. And because they were God's people, God had promised them that he was going to save them. God had promised them that he was going to deliver them.

Now, I want you to notice what Isaiah says God is going to do, what God does next. Look at verse 17. He, make yourself a mental note, if not a physical note. He is a reference to God, our divine warrior. It would be worthwhile for you to do a Bible study of all the times in the Old Testament that God is described as our warrior and it'd be good for you to see the weapons that he brings with him to do battle on behalf of his people. So that's what Isaiah is saying here "He," God, our divine warrior, "put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak." Does that sound familiar? Sounds pretty familiar, doesn't it? You see why I say that I believe that the apostle Paul was drawing from this as he writes about the armor of God in Ephesians chapter 6? God put on a breastplate of righteousness. God put on a helmet of salvation. Those are the very same pieces of armor that the apostle Paul is describing in Ephesians chapter 6.

So Isaiah pictures God coming as this divine warrior to wage war on behalf of his people. And I want to emphasize this again, what does his armor consist of? A breastplate of righteousness and a helmet of salvation. Now, here's what you have to keep in mind. God didn't need the breastplate of righteousness nor did he need the helmet of salvation. You know who needed those things? We did. God's people did. So God's not coming with those things to protect himself. He's coming with those things to protect and deliver his people. And all God's people said what? Amen, amen. He's bringing those items for the protection of his loved ones. They needed the righteous, as we were talking about this last week, see the book of Romans, they needed the righteousness of God. They needed salvation and that is exactly what God brought for them. He was what they needed and he is what they got. And we say it this time of the year, "Emmanuel" means what? God with us.

So God, our divine warrior. By the way, Isaiah's description of God coming on behalf of his people, if we take a few moments and think about it, reveal some pretty important truths for us. Let me give you I think I've got three here. First one is, the seriousness of sin is emphasized by the coming of God to fight for us. Make no mistake, God came dressed for battle. God came dressed to wage war, God came prepared to defeat the enemy of his people. God came prepared to rid his people of their oppressor. Second, the description underscores for us the reality and the seriousness of spiritual conflict and spiritual battle. It underscores for us the fact that we need God's provision as well as God's protection. Thirdly, you should see the fact that God comes dressed as this divine warrior, he comes in his battle armor, you should see this as an expression of his love for you. As I said last week, we have a strong desire to protect the ones that we love. And God loves you, his child, and he's going to protect you as his child. Think of it in these terms. I don't know of a more fierce desire to protect than a mother has for her children. What are we talking about a mama bear and her cubs. And they warn you if you're out hiking where there are bears and mama's around with their cubs, be careful. Why? 'Cause she will protect those cubs at all costs. God's love for you is far fiercer for you than a mama bear for her cubs. And he will protect you at all costs. God fights for you. God protects you. God provides for you.

So God, our divine warrior, comes wearing the helmet of salvation. Then we have to ask ourselves, what is the purpose of the helmet? And at first point we may think, well, it's pretty obvious it's to protect the head. And there's truth in that, that is why the soldier wore the helmet. But as we begin to think about this in spiritual terms, why do I as a Christian need to have the helmet of salvation? Well, it's important for me as a Christian to have the helmet of salvation because of what is in my head. And hopefully it's not empty, amen. What's inside of our heads? Our brains, and we use our brains to do what? Our mind is the locus of our thinking. So the helmet of salvation is given to God for us in order to protect one of the most vulnerable parts of us, and that is the way that we think, to protect our mind.

So Paul draws attention to our minds, he draws attention to our understanding, to our thinking as believers. Now think about this, the very fact that our minds, that the way that we think, need to be protected, ought to immediately send up a red flag and let us know that our minds, that the way that we think, is a specific target of the enemy. Okay? He is going to attack you ferociously in the way that you think, in the area of your mind, in the area of your understanding. He's going to constantly bombard you with the wrong kind of thoughts. He's going to try and confuse you. He's going to try and confuse you as to your understanding of the Christian faith and who you are in Christ. Now let me say this, and I know this may be somewhat controversial, but I do believe that a certain, now listen to me carefully, a certain amount of mental illness is brought about by the fact that believers at times are not putting on the helmet of salvation and they are getting confused in their thinking.

Now, let me say this. If you are suffering from some kind of mental illness, whether it be depression, or whatever it may be, please go see your doctor. All right, here's the analogy I always use. If you are having mental challenges, mental issues, and you will not go see a doctor for perhaps medication that can fix you, you're not being a good steward of what God has provided for you. And here's the analogy: I'm a diabetic. I have to take medicine in order to control my diabetes or I'll be dead. Would anybody in this room fault me for not taking my diabetes medicine? I need it to stay alive. And no Christian should ever fault another Christian who needs to go correct whatever chemical imbalance or whatever else may be going on, if it can be corrected with medicine. Do not be such a poor steward of the gift that God has given to you. I'll leave it there.

So what is the helmet of salvation? In other words, what does it mean? What does it mean? You know when I preach I really like to give you some insight as to how you can study the Bible. And really, Dr. Lloyd Jones has really helped me in this area. One of the ways that he always looks at a passage of Scripture is by looking at from a negative point of view. So as we think about the helmet of salvation. You know, we hear these terms "helmet of salvation" it sounds good right? Helmet of salvation. But if I were to ask Rachel, what's it really mean? Now she's smart enough, she'd probably school me on it, but others may not be so wise. What does it mean? Well, one way to understand what the hamlet of salvation is, is by considering who the helmet, along with the rest of God's armor, is given to. Make sense? Or ask this question, who does God give his armor to? Does God give his armor to an unbeliever? No. He doesn't. Remember we said early on to put on the whole armor of God is to put on Christ. Only those who are in Christ, only those who are believers in Christ, they are the only ones who can put on God's armor. Only those, now listen carefully, only those who have already experienced salvation can put on the armor of God. And what is part of the whole armor of God? The helmet of salvation.

So as I began to connect the dots, I see that the helmet of salvation means more than simply my salvation. In other words, there's additional meaning, or there's an additional facet, to my salvation that comes, that I experience as a part of the armor and comes through the helmet of salvation. Okay? I hope that makes sense. But remember, remember this. All throughout our study of Ephesians I have tried to help us understand that your salvation is nothing less than the forgiveness of your sins, but it is much more than the forgiveness of your sins. I think I used the analogy of a diamond. You hold a diamond up and you have all these different facets. You can turn it and you get different views and different shades of light that come through it. That's the way it is with our salvation. There are many different facets to our salvation. Yes, there's forgiveness, but there's also justification. Yes, there's forgiveness, there's also adoption. Yes, there's forgiveness, there's also sanctification. Yes, there's forgiveness, but there's also glorification. There's all these different facets to our salvation. And that's what Paul is doing here with the helmet of salvation. He's showing us a different facet of our salvation.

And the facet of our salvation that he's trying to drive home here is hope. Biblical hope. When Paul tells us to put on the helmet of salvation, he is telling us to put on the hope we have because of our salvation. Now, this isn't just speculation on my part. Paul defines for us in 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 exactly what the helmet of salvation is. Let me read it to you. 1 Thessalonians 5:8 "But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love and for a helmet, the hope of salvation." So the Christian's helmet is your sure hope of salvation. But that raises another question. What kind of hope? We saw a couple weeks ago that there's at least two kinds of faith. There's saving faith and there's not so saving faith. There's a faith that saves and a faith it doesn't save. Well, when it comes to hope, we need to make sure that we're all on the same page and understanding what Paul's referring to here.

Biblical hope is so sure that you can give a reason for it. Ask the person who hopes to go to heaven. Why they hope to go to heaven, and they're probably going to stumble over their answer. One of the ways that I was taught to evangelize but was asking people this question if you were to die tonight God were to ask you why should I open the doors of heaven and let you in? What would you say? We think about? That's a very good question. That's a great diagnostic question. Because it forces people to stop and think about why. Why they think God would open the doors and let them into heaven. And again, when you ask him that the vast majority of people, they're going to stumble, they're going to trip over their own tongues, trying to come up with the right answer. And many of them will point to their good works. They will point to their mistaken and misguided and tragic belief that their good works will be acceptable to God. Or they will say, Well, I'm a good person. So others will say, Well, I try and live according to the 10 commandments and comparison to others. People I think I measure up pretty well. But what they are saying is, I really don't have a reason for my hope. I have got this vague notion. But that's all it is. And when someone gives you that kind of an answer, here's your follow up question. You should ask them well, how good is good enough? Or you could ask them what happens. If right before you die, you have an argument with your wife or your husband. And before you can take back to the words apologize, do another good work, you're in a crash and you die and you face God, what happens then? Will you still have hope to go to heaven.

For instance, if you could be so bold as to stop a random person in the grocery store, or somebody perhaps that you work with, or perhaps a neighbor. And you would just pose this question to them, if you ask them if they hope to go to heaven, if they hope to be saved, most people would probably say of course I hope to be saved. Of course I hope to go to heaven. I mean, let's face it, other than someone who's just completely foolish or stoned out of their gourd, nobody wants to go to hell. Nobody's going to say, yeah, I want to go to hell. And those who say, yeah, I'll go to hell, my friends will be there. Well, they won't be worried about you so just divest yourself of that notion. Okay. But most people will say, yeah, I hope to go to heaven. But the hope that they have is not the same hope that Paul has in mind here. The hope of those who hope to go to heaven, the hope of those who hope to be saved, it's a "hope so" hope. Paul is not telling us to put on a "hope so" helmet. I mean, what good would I "hope so" helmet be in the midst of the battle? You're in the midst of the fight and the guy's swinging a sword at your head. At that moment you don't want to "hope so" that your "hope so" helmet was going to work. You want to know for sure that the helmet's going to protect you. See, a "hope so" helmet doesn't exist. It's a fiction of the mind. It can't provide any protection.

So the hope that Paul describes here is a Biblical hope. This Biblical hope is not a vague optimism that somehow everything will work out all right someday. And that's the hope that many people in the world have. I hope to have a nice Christmas. I don't know if I will, but I hope to have a nice Christmas. I hope things work out eventually. No certainty to that. That's the hope of many people. And that's the hope of many people who hope to go to heaven, that hope they're in good standing with God. But Biblical hope is a settled conviction about where you will spend eternity and that God has promised that everything will eventually work out for good. That is Biblical hope. It's that settled conviction. Biblical hope is so sure that you can give a reason for it.

Ask the person who hopes to go to heaven why they hope to go to heaven, and they're probably going to stumble over their answer. One of the ways that I was taught to evangelize but was asking people this question: if you were to die tonight and God were to ask you why should I open the doors of heaven and let you in, what would you say? When you think about it that's a very good question. That's a great diagnostic question. Because it forces people to stop and think about why. Why they think God would open the doors and let them into heaven. And again, when you ask them that, the vast majority of people, they're going to stumble, they're going to trip over their own tongues, trying to come up with the right answer. And many of them will point to their good works. They will point to their mistaken and misguided and tragic belief that their good works will be acceptable to God. Or they will say, well, I'm a good person. Still others will say, well, I try and live according to the ten commandments and in comparison to other people I think I measure up pretty well. But what they are saying is, I really don't have a reason for my hope. I have got this vague notion, but that's all it is. And when someone gives you that kind of an answer, here's your follow up question. You should ask them well, how good is good enough? Or you could ask them what happens if right before you die you have an argument with your wife or your husband and before you can take back to the words, apologize, do another good work, you're in a crash and you die and you face God, what happens then? Will you still have hope to go to heaven?

But for the Christian, the Bible tells us that we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are going to heaven. And I know when we say that, if we're not careful, it can sound like we're being arrogant. And it would be arrogant if we were looking to ourselves, to our own goodness, as the means whereby we're going to get to heaven. As the means whereby we're going to be acceptable to God. But because we are not looking to ourselves, but because we are looking to the righteousness of Christ, because we are looking to the finished work of Christ, it is not at all arrogant to say that. In fact, God says put on the helmet of salvation so that you can say that. So that you can know that you are assured of heaven. See, the Christian relies upon the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Iain Duguid writes "If attaining heaven depends on your best efforts, it must always remain uncertain, but if having it simply received as a free gift, then we can know that we have it for sure." You're going to get a gift at Christmas time and once it's in your hands you know what? You're going to get a gift. But up until that point of time, you may see a big box or the tree with no name on it you're not sure whose it is, right?

The helmet of salvation is your hope. Biblical hope is your assurance. And by the way, Biblical hope will change your outlook because you realize, you come to understand, that everything that happens in this life, everything after death, that regardless of what happens in this life, is bad as it may be, and bad things do happen to Christians, but regardless of what happens to us in this life, everything after death is nothing but glory. It's glorious. It's perfection. Bliss. I mentioned last week that the evil one is flaming darts. Some of the flaming darts that he shoots is us he does so to try and create doubt. And where does he create doubt? In our minds. He tries to confuse our thinking. But when you and I put on the helmet of salvation that provides protection for our minds. That helmet provides protection for thinking. So the hope provided by the helmet of salvation protects us against those attacks. But know this, it does require that you make sure that your thoughts are focused on what awaits you. But it is so easy, and therefore we so frequently do it, that we focus on our current situation, we focus on our current problems.

You remember how Paul describes the troubles of this life? He describes them as our momentary, light afflictions. He is not making, excuse to play on words here, he is not making light of our afflictions. What he is doing, he is drawing a comparison between our afflictions and the glory that awaits us. So Paul says in comparison to the glory that awaits us all the afflictions of this life, they really pale in comparison. Think about it this way. You're driving through Berea. And you're driving down Jefferson St. in front of the Folk Center, where if you haven't noticed the police like to hang out to catch speeders. And let's say that you're in a hurry to get to church one morning. (This is not personal experience, by the way, this is all illustration.) You're in a hurry to get to church one morning, and you blow past the Berea police officer, and you're doing a incredibly reckless 40 miles an hour. And the speed limit is 25. So he pulls out, and he pulls you over, and he writes you a ticket and that ticket costs $125, let's say. Well it's Christmas time and you've got better uses for that $125 than to send it to the city of Berea, but because you want to be home for Christmas and celebrate with your family, you send in the $125.

Well, the same day that you get the ticket, you go to the mailbox and you open up a letter and it's from a lawyer's office. And you open up the letter and inside you get notice that your Uncle Larry has passed away and he has left you his estate. As far as you know, Uncle Larry lived on a farm and he never had much money and you never saw him drive a new car. And, you know, he wore uniforms to the shop all the time. You never thought he had a dime. But then you keep reading you to find out that good ol' Uncle Larry's estate's worth $50 million. I mean, you just can't believe your good fortune. It's all yours. Well minus the government's cut, but that's beside the point. So what do you think from that point forward, you're going to focus on? Are you going to focus on the $125 speeding ticket or are you going to focus on the fact that you just became Richie Rich?

Guess what believers, you have an inheritance laid up for you in heaven that is beyond measure. It's greater than our national debt. It's worth far more than $50 million. But what about do so many times? We forget that and we focus on the $125 speeding ticket, don't we? We forget about what awaits us. It's that kind of thinking that the helmet of salvation is designed to protect us against. Our enemy desires to attack our minds, to attack our thinking, to get us to forget about the vast riches of Christ and focus on the here and now. And when we're always focused on the here and now we lose multiple opportunities to glorify God. See he may not be trying to draw you into some deep dark sin, he may just try and keep you from bringing glory to God. And we do it so frequently we don't think anything about it. See when the enemy tells you to give up and give in, when the enemy tries to convince you is just not worth the effort, when the enemy tries to tell you that you're hopeless, that you're nothing more than a loser, what will your answer be? Can I tell you what it should be? You should respond with hope. You should respond with a settled conviction that none of those things are true of you. Here's what you say to Satan. You say I'm hopeless? I do have hope, you're hopeless. You say I'm a loser? The Bible says I'm more than a conqueror, you're the loser. You respond by saying I have the hope of glory, the only hope you have is a reservation in the lake of fire. That's how we must respond. Resist the devil and he will flee.

So let's flesh this out. I'm indebted to Dr. Jones for this. What's this look like in everyday life? How do we change our thinking? First of all, know this, that you are destined for perfection. I don't know about you, but that is incredibly good news. There is coming a day when you and I will be set free from sin, you will be free from evil. One day you will be without spot or blemish, as the Bible says. One day you will be glorified. One day you will see Jesus and one day you will be just like Jesus. One day your bodies will be changed, there will be no sickness. One day your minds will be healed, there will be no disease. We will be completely saved body, soul and mind. Disease bodies, disease minds will all be made new. This is the hope that the helmet of salvation provides.

Two, second. You are assured of glory. Paul says in Romans 8 "And those whom he predestined, he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified, he also," what? "Glorified." Glorified. It means, what that means is that all the blessings that Paul has described in the opening chapters of Ephesians, we will finally have full and complete possession of every one of them. Praise God it means that you will no longer be in this world. A world filled with strife and sin. A world filled with, filled with pain and with problems. A world filled with trouble and turmoil and tragedy. All that will be vanquished forever.

Thirdly, when you put on the helmet of salvation it means that you are forever in the loving grip of Christ. It means that you are protected by a power so great that it defies description. It means how strong the enemy may be, you are being protected and that you are under the care of one who is much greater in power and strength. Jesus said in John 10 "I give them". Who's the them? If you are in Christ, that's you. I give to my sheep, I give to my children, I give to all of them who have the armor of God, I give to them who possess the Holy Spirit, "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand." Why? "My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand." No power exists that can take you out of his grip. Not sickness, not death, not the enemy. Nothing. We sing that song that says "he will hold me fast". I'd like to rephrase that and say he does hold me fast. He does hold me fast.

Then let me close again with some words from the good doctor. He preached his congregation these words which I find to be tremendously comforting. He said, "Look at our blessed Lord Himself, the Son of God here incarnate in the sinful, evil world, with the devil attacking and all the powers of hell at loose against him. He went through with it. He knew what it would mean. He knew that the cross would mean separation from his father, but he went on. What enabled him to do so? The answer is given in Hebrews 12:2 "Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame." That was the secret. He kept his eye on the joy set before him, and therefore he was able to conquer his enemies. Let us then look unto Jesus, let us follow his example. As the enemy comes and attacks the mind and the understanding, let us answer him by the blessed hope, the certainty of it, the glory of it. And let us realize that we are in his power and that he will never leave us nor forsake us." And all God's people said Amen.

Father, you are holding me fast. You are holding us fast and you have given us the helmet of salvation. You have given us a Biblical hope. You have given us the settled conviction that we will spend eternity with you in a glorified state. We will be perfect, we will be like Christ, all sickness, all pain, all death will all be vanquished. So we praise your holy name. We thank you for all that you've done for us through Christ. And Father, for those who may have come in this morning feeling hopeless, may they go out energized by the hope that is given to them by the helmet of salvation. May they take up the whole armor of God, may they put on the whole armor of God, may they fasten on the chin strap with the helmet of salvation and go out and conquer. We are strong in the Lord and in his strength of his might. We ask these things in Christ's name, amen.