December 8, 2019

Shield

Pastor:
Passage: Ephesians 6:16
Service Type:
You have a desire to protect those that you love. God loves us. And therefore, he desires to protect us. And one of the ways that God protects us is by providing us with his whole armor; an armor that is complete and provides perfect protection. I don't know if you've ever thought of the armor of God in this way, but the armor of God is an expression of God's love for you. Okay.

You know, in recent years, there have been some lawsuits that have been filed against some military contractors in which they were accused of providing defective materials to our military. Defective Kevlar vests and helmets and here recently, earplugs. Well as Christians, we never have to worry about any defect in God's armor. God's armor is perfect. Because it comes from a perfect God, it is without flaw or defect. And it is more than capable of protecting us, despite the severity of the spiritual battles, and the spiritual conflicts that we may find ourselves in. And so far we have examined each piece of the armor, we've looked at the belt of truth. We've looked at the breastplate of righteousness. And then we looked at the last week, the shoes of the gospel of peace and the readiness that that provides.

So this week, we can on to another vital piece of the whole armor of God that he has provided for our protection, and that is the shield of faith. Paul continues on here with his analogy drawing from the imagery of the Roman soldier now the Roman soldier, part of their battle equipment, they were normally issued two kinds of shields, they had a large one and a smaller one. The smaller one was more for hand to hand combat if you want to think of it in these terms, it was like the shield of Captain America. The second shield, which was much larger, it measured approximately two and a half feet wide by 48 inches high or two and a half feet wide by four foot high and it was designed to provide complete protection for the soldier. It was normally made of solid wood, and then it would be covered with some kind of material that was designed to absorb and extinguish the flaming arrows that the enemy would shoot their way. And again, the shield was large enough so that it would provide complete protection for the soldier. They could get down behind the shield and be completely protected. This is the shield that the Apostle Paul has in mind when he says to take up the shield of faith. So as we begin to think about the shield of faith, here's what we need to start thinking about protection. The shield of faith is another means of protection that God has provided for us. The shield of faith is provided for your protection. In the midst of spiritual battle, in the midst of spiritual conflict, you need to have your shield.

Now, Paul calls this shield a shield of faith. Speaking in the broadest of terms, there are two kinds of faith. One is the faith of the world. One is the faith of the unbelieving world. Let me classify it like that. But this faith, in reality, is nothing more than a hope. It's a false belief that rests upon a very shaky, if not outright, faulty foundation. And the world's definition of faith, the world's understanding of faith is not found, is not even remotely found in Scripture. When the world talks about faith, someone says they have faith. Don't be fooled into thinking that the faith that they have is necessarily the faith that you hold as a Christian. It very well could be completely different. Of course, this is not only the season to be jolly, this is the season of hallmark movies. Amen? I believe there are three Hallmark channel's running this year. And if I saw the commercial correctly on October 25th, or 27th, it was, they began running their Christmas movies around the clock until I think the first of the year. So 24 seven, we have holiday cheer, I guess. Now I've not watched a complete one this year, but I have watched enough in the past to know that they all share common themes, common plotlines and lots of perfect people with perfect teeth and perfect hair, right? Yeah? And yet if you notice the decorations-- this is what Sherry and I get tickled about-- the decorations are over the top. I mean, who decorates the canisters in their kitchen Who does that? Only in a hallmark movie. But one of the common themes in these movies is faith or belief or it's the magic of Christmas. If you just believe hard enough, it will come true right?

It's the faith of Disney. "When you wish upon a star..." Now think about the absurdity of this statement that I've heard all of my life, was it Jiminy Cricket the first that come up with this inane statement. "When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true." What? If you have just enough faith and whatever you desire will somehow magically work out in the end.

But our world loves to talk about faith. They like to think that they have faith. But do you know what it is? It's faith in themselves. For instance, in the sports world, several teams over the years have adopted Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" as their theme song. It's a great song. Steve Perry's a great vocalist An article on ESPN.com said Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" is our era's greatest stadium anthem. Back in 2005, the Chicago White Sox adopted it as their motivation as they went on to win the World Series. in 2014 the San Francisco Giants played this song ad nauseum because Steve Perry lives in San Francisco, And other hockey teams have had it. College football teams have had it. "Don't stop believing" and they build it out and they blare it out and they played 1000 times over. But I wonder if anybody's ever stopped to ask the question: "Don't stop believing what?" What in the name of Steve Perry do you want me to believe in? What is it exactly that you want me to put my faith in?

See whether it's a hallmark movie, or a Disney quote or a song, the kind of belief of the world is nothing more than an empty faith. The faith that many people cling to so desperately is really nothing more than an empty hope. So why is it nothing more than a hope? Never, ever forget this: faith--and you know this, but let me remind you--faith is only as good as the object of your faith. Your faith is never any stronger than the object of your faith. And the faith of the world invariably looks either to themselves or to another human being. They never, ever consider thinking of looking to the sovereign, all-powerful God of the universe. They have great faith in themselves.

Iain Duguid said, "but if there is no solid foundation to faith, then faith is worse than useless." Let's think that through for just a moment, why is it worse than useless? Because it sets people up with unrealistic expectations. Their hopes are dashed. They become discouraged and maybe depressed. And what they thought was going to be something great, really drags them down.

Listen, we're at that time of the year. Again, back to the hallmark movies. My wife likes them and I like some of them. It's on the scale. It's down here somewhere but you know. But they set you up, If your Christmas is not like theirs, and, you know, you have to have this perfect Christmas. And so people get this in their minds and it's not perfect, there's family problems, there's financial problems, there's health problems. And on December 26, they realize "I'm exactly where I was on December 24." It's not perfect. I had faith. I had faith that this would be the perfect Christmas. Well, it was useless.

The Christian faith demands. That's a strong word. But it's a biblical concept. The Christian faith demands that we do not look to ourselves. It demands that we look to God who is the only worthy object of our faith. The foundation of your faith, if you are a Christian is in God, and in God alone. I'll say it again. Your faith is only as good, it is only as strong as the object of your faith. So I am compelled to ask you, is God the object of your faith? Are you looking to Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone for redemption, for salvation, for the righteousness that God's that God demands? Would you know this? What you need most of all, is not forgiveness, per se, it is the righteousness of God. Think that through. What was Martin Luther's great discovery? He knew that he needed a righteousness, but not a righteousness of his own, he didn't torment himself over forgiveness, he tormented himself over the fact that there was a holy righteous God and he wasn't. You need righteousness! Are you looking to yourself? Your good works? Your achievements? Are those the objects of your faith? If you are then I warn you that you have a faith that does not save and will not save.

By the way, if you're trusting in a "sinners prayer" to save you, please evaluate your salvation. There are going to be multitudes of people who sadly had been sold a false bill of goods. And they were convinced that if they would just pray this prayer, they would be a Christian. Say, can you be saved without praying a "sinners prayer"? Yes. You can also be prayed by praying the sinner's prayer, if you're trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, the one to whom you're praying, and not in the prayer, not in your act of praying. There's a world of difference, folks. And we've all talked to people who hold this false belief that because they prayed the sinner's prayer sometimes, they're on their way to heaven. And they would say, back to this thing of righteous, and they would say, "Well I've prayed the sinner's prayer that I've been forgiven." Yeah, you think you have but are you righteous? Say, "how do I know if I'm righteous?" You act righteous. You act righteous. See?

So in biblical terms, faith must always have the right foundation if it is to be meaningful. And true biblical faith derives its power, not from any power inherent in faith itself, but rather the object of that faith. In other words, as a Christian, you don't have faith in faith. A lot of people have faith in faith, but it's a misplaced faith. There is no inherent power in faith. Back to what I said originally, your faith is only as strong as the object of your faith. Faith is merely the instrument that connects us to our all-powerful God. And that's the faith that Paul speaks of here when he tells us to take up the shield of faith. I want to drive this home. Paul is not saying that faith has some remarkable defensive power against Satan in and of itself. Rather, he is saying that faith protects us against Satan's attacks because of what faith enables us to take hold of, and that is the shield of faith, which is the power and the protection of God. Okay.

So let's do a little bit of a Bible study to look at this concept of "shield." You will find it repeatedly in the Old Testament and you find it in the very first book of the Bible. In Genesis chapter 12, we have recorded for us the call of Abraham. You remember that God calls Abraham to leave his home and go to what would eventually be the promised land. At the same time, God told Abraham that he would make his name great and from him would come a great nation. Keep that in mind. He would make his name great, and from him would come a great nation. Well, what happens in the next few years? Well, Abraham obeys God. He makes the journey to the promised land but the land of Canaan. A famine happens in the land. Abraham and Sarah, then move on to Egypt. You remember what happened in Egypt. Sarah, her beauty, caught the eye of the Egyptians and she was a recommended to Pharaoh, and Abraham--keep in mind, now, keep in mind the promise that God made Abraham: "Abraham, I will make of you a great nation." But Abraham fears for his life and says to his wife "Tell them we're brother and sister." What does he say that? "So that my life would be spared? What's happening here? He has forgotten the promise of God. Listen, Abraham, if your dead a great nation is not going to come from you.

So the situation, Egypt gets all sorted out. God blesses Abraham and God blesses Lot and eventually, they had to part ways. Sometime later word comes to Abraham that lot has been captured. Abraham takes some of his trained men. And he goes and he rescues Lot. And as we come to the end of Genesis chapter 14, we find Melchizedek, giving this blessing to Abraham. But then when we come to chapter 15, you have to wonder if, with everything that Abraham had experienced, if he wasn't beginning to have some doubts, as to God's promise. Well, we know he had some doubts, why? Because of his conduct in Egypt. So then we come to Genesis chapter 15 and verse one, where God says, "Fear not Abram, I am your"  anyone want to fill in the blank? "shield, your reward shall be very great." What's God doing here? God is graciously reminding Abraham that despite all appearances, despite those prior experiences, despite everything that you've gone through, my promise to you hasn't changed. My love for you, my care for you, my concern for you, my protection for you none of that has changed Abraham. I am your shield.

Then we go to Second Samuel, Chapter 22, verse 31, "This God, His way is perfect. The word of the Lord proves true. He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him." David understood this in Psalm 18 "The LORD is my rock and my fortress, and my deliverer. My God my rock in whom I take refuge. My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." Say: was the point? God is our shield. Do you see why I say God's shield cannot fail? God's armor cannot fail. Why?  God cannot fail. You take the strongest material, whatever it may be here on Earth and you want to make a shield out of it? Go right ahead but God is much stronger than that shield. God's shield cannot, it is impossible for it to be penetrated. It can not happen. It does not matter how many flaming darts the enemy launches your way, if you are using the shield of faith, they will never reach you. I ask you again, do you believe this?

God and God alone is the object of our faith. But that brings up another question, what exactly is biblical faith? I've shown you what the faith of the world is. It's just a hope, a glorified hope, an empty hope. But what is biblical faith? You know, it's a word that preachers like to use a lot. But let's make sure that we understand what faith is. Now I'm going to draw a vital distinction here. So, and I think, this will help you in your evangelism efforts. It's common for many preachers to say, and I've said it, that everybody has some kind of faith. That everybody has faith in something.

For example, I've used this in the past, I remember distinctly, this came back to me this morning. A good friend of mine is named Bill Liston. And we were witnessing to somebody and he used this illustration, and we were in their home. And he said, you know, if you sit down on that chair, you sit down without even thinking about it, you just trust that that chair is going to hold you up, right? And I've used that same kind of illustration. For instance, I could say something like this. When you came in this morning, you sat down on the pew without giving it much thought. Therefore, you had faith that the pew was going to hold you up. So in this case, faith is equal to trust and a simple belief. And certainly, don't misunderstand me, they are two important components of biblical faith, or saving faith if you will. But that is not, those are not all of the elements of saving faith. So let's think this through. When you settled down into the pew this morning, was that really an exercise of faith? Or were you simply playing the odds? The odds were that you probably wouldn't experience a catastrophic pew collapsing event causing serious injury and lots of personal embarrassment. Go to Vegas and try and get odds on a catastrophic pew collapsing event. Do you think that they would give you any odds? I think not. Now, certainly, it could happen. But the probability of that happening is low. So what was missing here in your decision to trust in the pew? This is a vital word: Persuasion, persuasion. I didn't have to go to Don this morning and persuade him to sit down because that pew would hold him. I didn't go to anybody in the room and try and persuade you. "It's all right. Sit down. You won't hit the ground." No one had to persuade you of that. You just played the odds. The probability was, if you sat down, it was going to hold you up.

So let me try and illustrate faith this way. We have a song we sing--I'm bad with titles--I often send Ben text and say, can we sing this song? and I give him one or two words and he kind of figures it out from there. But we have this song, it has a line in there something about the raging sea. So let's say that you're thrown into a raging sea and you're in danger of losing your life. And just when you think that you're not going to survive, a rope is thrown out to you. But the throwing of the rope is not enough to save you. Is it? No. What do you have to do? Well, there's several things that has to happen here. First of all, you have to be willing to grab hold of the rope. Right? The rope does you no good, unless you're willing to grab onto it. Second, you have to trust that who whoever is holding the other end of the rope will actually pull you in. If you don't have any confidence that they will pull you in, then you're probably not going to grab the rope. And finally, you have to believe that the person on the other end of the rope has the power to pull you from the water to safety. Which is to say, you have to be persuaded that all of those things are true. How do you know when you've been persuaded. It's very simple. You grab the rope. If you're not persuaded you don't grab the rope. In order to be a Christian, you have to believe you have to trust. But you also have to be persuaded that the Lord Jesus Christ is your salvation. Wasn't it Paul said, "knowing the terror of the Lord we," What? "persuade." We persuade. And when a person is persuaded they embrace. Again, there are a lot of people who have a belief in God. They may have a certain level of trust. God, but they've never come to the place where they have been persuaded that they need this God in order to be saved and because they've never been persuaded they've never embraced Christ. It's a vital distinction. Okay? Your faith is not in the rope. The rope is powerless to save apart from the one on the other end of the rope. Your faith is not in the rope. It is in the one who's holding the rope. Hence, my diatribe against the sinner's prayer at times. Okay.

So what's the point? For faith to be your shield you must believe that God is sovereign over every single detail of your life. That means that the big things as well as the small things. The truth of Scripture is God's means of persuasion that persuade you to pick up the shield of faith. And we know from our study of Daniel that God directs the actions and the affairs of individuals as well as nations. God directs your job situation, your health situation, your financial situation, your car breaking down, the joys as well as the sorrows. And we also know that your belief will be put to the test in the struggles and the troubles of life. You know, when things are going our way, it's very easy for us to believe that God is sovereign right. "Everything's coming up roses. I believe God's sovereign." Let the weeds come up through the garden. And what? Sometimes we have some doubts? "Is God sovereign over this? Yes.

To experience faith as your shield you not only need to know that God is powerful, but God is your friend, and he's on your side. If you are in Christ, you heard me right, if you are in Christ, God is not only all-powerful, God is your friend, God is on your side. And when you think about the sovereignty of God, if you don't fully believe that God is on your side, it is not a comforting doctrine. It is a terrifying doctrine, okay. See, it's in the difficulties of this life where your faith is tested, it's in that raging sea, if you will, where your faith is going to be tested.

So this brings us to a question that perhaps you thought of, maybe not, but I'll raise it now: if the Old Testament tells us that God is our shield, why then does Paul tell us in Ephesians that faith is our shield? Well, here's the explanation: faith is the means by which we flee to God for refuge. Now, remember, that primarily, we're talking about spiritual attacks of the evil one here. Therefore, many of these attacks... Have you ever thought about what these what the goal of these attacks are? The goal of these attacks are to keep you from growing as a Christian. John talked about this in prayer meeting this morning. Excellent timing. The fiery darts of the enemy, come your way in order to distract you, to keep you from growing spiritually.

Many of these attacks... Well, let me paint you a picture. For instance, how many times have you sat down to read your Bible? You're in your favorite chair, your favorite place or wherever it is, and you sit down you are going to read your Bible. Maybe the kids are asleep or they're not up yet, or whatever the case may be. Everything seems to be so peaceful and quiet, the conditions seem really conducive. You're looking forward to spending time with God. And you sit down and you open your Bible up in you. You read in about 10 verses and you realize you're not even thinking about it. Did you realize that your mind is suddenly filled with things that perhaps you haven't thought of in days or weeks? And all of a sudden your mind is flooded with your to-do list and you know, Christmas is coming, I've got to get this done, I've got to get that done. Where does that come from? It could be an attack from a flaming dart of the evil one. Or how about those times you begin to pray? Immediately your mind is filled with distracting thoughts. "Dear Heavenly Father, I wonder what the Bengals will do this afternoon. I thank you for saving me, huh? Wonder what lunch will be? You know, Father bless the service this morning. Wonder what I'm getting for Christmas you know?" Where do all these thoughts come from? Very well could be, you know, sometimes it's not those pleasant thoughts, sometimes it can be a borderline blasphemous thought. Have you ever had one of those? You think where did that come from? It's an attack of the evil one.

And then there are those times in our lives when we're struggling when things have been difficult when things have been tough. Perhaps you've recently experienced a spiritual setback if you're not careful. Thoughts of doubt begin to creep into your mind. And it goes something like this. "I wonder if God really does love me. After all, if God loves me the way that the Bible says he loves me, then why am I having such a tough time? If God loves me so much, then why is life been so hard recently? Is this the way that God treats those that he loves?" Where are those thoughts come from? They come from the flaming darts that your enemy has chosen to fire at you.

Now, what is the solution here? Do you need to focus more and concentrate more? That's part of it. But you know what you need to do, first and foremost? Pick up the shield of faith. Raise the shield of faith. If you're battling those kinds of thoughts and doubts right now ask yourself: Have I lowered the shield of faith? Have I put down the shield of faith? Do I need to go back and pick up the shield of faith?

Now there's another doubt that the enemy will fire at you. And that is he will try and convince you that maybe you're not a Christian at all. Again, perhaps because the difficult time that you've been having or perhaps because of the sin that you recently committed and he says "Wow, wow. You say you're a Christian? Look what you did.  Look how you responded. Boy, look how ugly you were to that person." What's he trying to do? He's trying to get you to doubt that perhaps you're not even a Christian at all. He says to you, "hey, would one of God's children really do that? Boy, none of my kids were like that way. No. Or perhaps you just have had a tough time battling sin and habit that you thought you had conquered, it comes roaring back with a vengeance. And the evil one seizes on that opportunity and tries to use that to try and shake your faith, to confuse you, to try and persuade you that you're not a Christian and perhaps you've never been a Christian. What is your defense? Take up the shield of faith. Take up the shield of faith

Know this: faith always points to God's promises. Always. It never points any other direction. Faith always points to God's promises. And by faith, I lay hold of the truth by reminding myself of the promises of God. See, God has promised to be with me when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, right? God has promised me, he has assured me that all things, not only will, but must work together for good for those who love Him, and have been called according to His purpose.

So here's what we as believers need to do a whole lot more of and is exactly what God told the children of Israel to do time and time and time again, you know what it is? Remember. God was always telling the children of Israel "remember who I am. Remember, I am the God who brought you out of slavery. I am the God who brought you out of bondage. I am the God who delivered you and I've delivered you time and time and time again, Israel, you need to remember that." Likewise, you as a believer need to frequently remind yourself of all of those times that God has delivered you, that God has provided for you, that God has taken care of you. You need to bring those things to mind time and time and time again. Why? Because they give you confidence in his promises here in the present and confidence in the future. If you're not remembering what God has done for you, you are easy prey for the enemy. Remember. Remember. And when you take hold of the shield of faith, faith reminds you that God has promised to work out this situation, whatever it is. Whatever it is. God leaves no unresolved business. Let me leave you with this final thought. If God loved you enough to die for you, he loves you enough to stick with you. He will not abandon you.