Who Are We?
If asked for an explanation of our church most people will pause and think about it; it’s not often that people have the time to explain all that fits into the life of a Christian. I’m also one of the people that would be challenged to properly lay out what the followers of Jesus have to show for themselves; herein lies the question of how Christians are different from the rest of this world. That is why I’m excited about the theme that we had for the 2007 New Year’s celebration. The theme was “put on the full armor of God” from Ephesians 6:10-20; the basics of Christian life are expressed in this theme. The armor of God consists of the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet equipped with the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. Not forgetting that all of this is “tied on” by constant prayer. So there we have it: truth, righteousness, spreading the gospel, faith, salvation, and God’s word are the basic parts of a Christian’s life.
Starting with the first on the list, truth; why is it so important? First a person needs to understand that there can only be one truth, just as two plus two equals only four, there can only be one way to heaven. Jesus says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6), notice He didn’t say I am a way a truth and a life. Next, why do we need to know truth, consider this example, if you knew that it is true that you cannot hold your breath for thirty minutes under water, why would you tell someone to hold you there for thirty minutes no matter what? Being sincere about something that is wrong doesn’t change it from being wrong to right, beliefs can’t change the facts. Beliefs can’t change the facts; an example of this is that if I am driving south and sincerely think that I am driving north it won’t change the fact that I’m going in the other direction. An easy way to find out if a person is telling you the truth is to apply the law of “non-contradiction.” For example if I say that “I can’t speak a word in English”, you can reply “but didn’t you say that in English?” or if I say, “don’t believe anyone or anything”, you can answer by saying “so should I believe that?” The belt of truth keeps our spiritual muscles from ripping apart just like a weight belt helps a weight lifter from injuring themselves.
When looking at the breastplate of righteousness we are reminded that a breastplate keeps a soldier’s heart and other vital organs from being hurt. Living a righteous life as shown by the Bible and the Holy Spirit will keep our heart, mind, and soul safe and pure. If a piece of our righteousness is taken off then we are likely to be pushed further into sin; for example, when you start lying you then have to keep on lying in order to keep the truth from getting out. That is why when we confess our sins before God and before others our righteousness gets restored. “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)
Often people take for granted the fact that they have shoes, but if we were to walk around barefoot for a few minutes during the winter we would quickly realize the importance of having shoes. So why do we forget that we can’t survive without having our spiritual shoes on? From the spiritual side of it by having our shoes on we are ready to give people the gospel of peace, this is done through the personal testimony with the love that God showed to us. Note that it doesn’t say spreading the gospel of peace but says “with the preparation of the gospel of peace”. This means you might not think that you are capable of doing it but you are ready to do it; it’s not ability it’s availability that is most important.
Furthermore, look what Ephesians 6:16 says “Above all, taking the shield of faith…” the shield of faith is given to us as the piece of our battle gear that acts as the first line of defense. Christianity is based on truth and the faith of that truth; so as Christians our faith in God and Jesus Christ is what we should be living by. It all comes down to what faith means to us; if faith is just believing something just because, than we’re in trouble, but when our faith is “the trust in the honesty and truth of another” (Webster’s Dictionary) we’re on the right path. Note it says “trust in the honesty” and in order to do that the integrity of that person need to be seen, that is why we have the Bible, and why God works in and through people’s lives. If faith was just a philosophy and not an action, then we wouldn’t have salvation; if you are in a burning building and you know the way out, you will still get burned unless you act on that knowledge and get out of the building. We might know about Jesus and the salvation He gives us, but unless we follow His words we are still where we started, in a lost and dying world.
That leads to the point that we have all sinned, have disobeyed and disappointed God, and we deserve death for our actions; but Jesus came and died in our place so that we can receive salvation. God is faithful and we are assured that God will stick to His word. God will redeem us if we ask forgiveness for our sins and choose to follow Him. One thing we can’t forget is that God will never take back the salvation He has given us, but we as people often push God’s salvation away from ourselves. That is why we are given the helmet of salvation as part of the full armor of God. The helmet is symbolic of the thoughts that we let into our minds, and if we use the helmet properly we will keep God’s Word in our head and the worldly thoughts out. You probably know that your actions reflect your thoughts, so if a person thinks of doing evil things they probably will, but if a person thinks of loving his enemies and following God’s Word in every way, then God will reward that person. Just like wearing a real helmet gets tiring after some time, we also sometimes get tired of keeping track of our thoughts and sometimes even put it aside; that is when we start falling into sin. Yes, it’s hard but “God never said it will be easy, just said it would be worth it.” (Unknown author)
Time to go from the defensive to the offensive side of the battle; we are given the sword of the Spirit which is God’s Word, the Bible. More than that, the Bible is sharper than any two-edged sword, and when faced with temptations, trials, and doubts we need to be ready to use the sword; notice I didn’t say start using the sword but said that we need to be ready to use the sword when the time comes. We see examples of this from Jesus when He was in the desert before the Devil and in the Synagogues before the Pharisees. Jesus had an answer to give from the Scripture. Like a solder studies the art of fighting over time, it also takes us time to know God’s Word, but if we never start and don’t stick to it we will not get anywhere. The Bible is more than a book that we need to study, we need to realize that the Bible is the very Word of God; it is written by the Spirit and needs to be taken in through the Spirit. We need to ask God to open our spiritual eyes to God’s Word, the Bible, and stick to learning and following what it says.
God loves us, even to the point that He sent His Son to die for us, and living in this world is like being on the battlefield. Realize that we’re not left here without anything, we’re given the full armor of God and are called to put it on and to keep it on. We are also called to constant prayer for ourselves and for others.
Examples from Daniel
We often don’t realize how very similar our situations are today compared to those situations of Bible characters; along with this, we don’t realize that there is much for us to learn from the actions of those before us. Recently, I heard about the life of Daniel in a new way. I was shown seven personality traits that made him and his friends capable of changing those in leadership of Babylon. Naturally, it was God’s doing, but we can go one step further and see how God set their personalities for the job. To improve your understanding of this, read chapter one of Daniel.
From the beginning we see how Daniel denies the food and wine that was given; this wasn’t just because he was rebellious or didn’t want to conform to the ways of the Babylonians, but because he was taught by God’s law not to eat that which was prepared for other gods. Notice that they (Daniel and his people) said nothing about the new names which they were given; all this points to the conclusion that they were controlled by their convictions, which were based on God’s law.
Next, notice how he denied the food—he did it in a way that showed respect to the chief of the eunuchs and the rules of the Babylonians, yet he stood firm in his response. This attitude and respect can be called class. Daniel isn’t the only person who showed respect to those who where set in authority over him; we read about Joseph and how he obeyed those over him, and was a man of integrity before his earthly masters. Other examples can be found in Acts—there we see the disciples going to the different towns and preaching in open spaces of the cities, calling people to leave their gods and serve Jesus; they were in a position where people could have killed them, but because the disciples said what they said with respect, the people had no case against them.
A third attribute of Daniel’s character is his excellence. This perfection was not something that Daniel achieved by himself, but rather something that was given by God. In fact, we read that the king “found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom (Daniel 1:20).” God calls us to live and serve with excellence so that people will see God’s glory.
Tied in with their excellence is their opportunity to bless the nation; even though they didn’t serve the gods of Babylon, the king still wanted them near because he saw how God blessed them. We also know that they were educated the literature of the Chaldeans; this however did not affect them in ways that public school often effects our generation. They stood strong to what they were taught as children. This can only be done if we are critical thinkers of what we are taught in the world. We also see that they had a group of friends that would keep each other accountable and would encourage each other. Lastly, they were willing to die for the law of God.