Hope for Clear Heads
And take the helmet of salvation, and the
The shield of faith alone would enable us to overcome anything life might hand us and to extinguish an of Satan's flaming missiles of doubt and confusion, disillusionment, and fear. However, God has given us still more defensive equipment so we may become "more than conquerors." We are expected to give intelligent consideration to the process of overcoming and to learning how to counteract the attacks of Satan in our lives. It is the whole armor of God which makes this possible.
I Am in Christ
Before going on to a consideration of the remaining Pieces of armor, I would like to suggest another perspective to increase our understanding of the significance of this armor of God. We have seen that it is a figurative explanation of Jesus Christ and what he is to us. But also, the armor is an expansion of Jesus' words, "You in me, and I in you" (John 14:20). That is the defense of the Christian. "You in me, and I in you." Those are some of the simplest words in the English language. Any child can understand them. They are monosyllables, yet they encompass a truth so profound that I wonder if anyone can ever remotely apprehend all that is involved in these simple words.
The first three pieces of this armor that Paul describes--girding your loins with the girdle of truth, putting on the breastplate of righteousness, and having your feet shod with tile equipment of the gospel of peace--are a figurative way of explaining or expounding the phrase, "You in me," or, the "Christian in Christ."-When we came to Jesus Christ and believed in him, we were "in Christ"; we had a different basis of living and found Christ to be the ground of truth, the key to life.
Then, we discovered that we are invited by God to rest upon Christ's righteousness. In the amazing experience of the cross, God has transferred our sin to Christ and transferred his righteousness to us. This is the ground of our acceptance before God and the answer the problem of guilt from which we all suffer. It was then we learned that Christ is our peace, the source of our sense of calm and well-being.
He Is in Me
Now the last three pieces of armor describe what it means for Christ to be in the Christian--Christ appropriated, applied to actual life. These last three pieces are very practical and highly important to us. We have already seen what it means to take "the shield of faith, with which You can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one." The reason we so often experience weakness is that we do not actually take it. We continually try to muddle through. We do not do intelligently what God says and apply the shield of faith, thus drawing practical conclusions from the ground of faith we have taken.
There are only two pieces of the armor left--the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. Now we must examine what is meant by this phrase, "the helmet of salvation." The figure of a helmet immediately suggests to us that this is something designed to protect the mind, the intelligence, the ability to think and reason.
Earlier we saw that the breastplate was the protection of our emotional life. When you figuratively put on Christ as your breastplate of righteousness, you are assuming a position in him which protects you from the sense of guilt and unforgiveness--the most common round of disturbance to the emotions. It is because we feel guilty that we get emotionally upset and depressed and the breastplate protects us there. The shoes, as we have already seen, protect us in the area of our will. The shoes of the gospel of peace (Christ is our peace) create a readiness and willingness within us. It is our motivations which are dealt with here. Christ as our peace motivates us and makes us ready to face life.
But the helmet is designed for the head, for the intelligence, the mind. If we follow through consistently in our application of these pieces of armor, we will discover that helmet represents something Christ is doing in us and through us in the world. This helmet can k our thinking straight and preserve us from mental confusion and darkness.
Confessions of Confusion
Stop a minute here. I would like to ask you this: "As you look at our world, is there anything more desperately needed or more relevant to the situation in which we ourselves than something to keep us thinking straight? Was there ever a time when men were more frankly bewildered than they are in our day or when statesmen are more! openly confused and honestly admit it? The intelligentsia confess to being utterly baffled in dealing with the problems with which human society is confronted. just think about the staggering complexity of the issues of our day-birth control, race relations, crime and delinquency, moral decay, disarmament, and the teeming misery of our vast city slums? The mind is simply overwhelmed by the insolubility of the problems which face human lives. No wonder H. G. Wells wrote at the close of World War II:
Quite apart from any bodily depression, the spectacle of evil in the world-the wanton destruction of homes, the ruthless hounding of decent folk into exile, the bombings Of open cities, the cold-blooded massacres and mutilations Of children and defenseless gentle folk, the rapes and filthy humiliations, and above all, the return of deliberate and organized torture, mental torment and fear, to a world from which such things had seemed well-nigh banished these have come near to breaking my spirit altogether.
Listen to this startling statement by George Bernard Shaw:
The science to which I pinned my faith is bankrupt. Its counsels, which should have established the millennium, led instead directly to the suicide of Europe. I believed them once. In their name I helped to destroy the faith of millions of worshipers in the temples of a thousand creeds. And now they look at me arid witness the great tragedy of an atheist who has lost his faith.
What a revealing confession of mental confusion and darkness by some of the great leaders of thought in our day! There is no protection in the world for the mind.
A Future Salvation
But the Christian has the helmet of salvation. 'Well," you say, and what is that? What is this helmet, this protection, which keeps our thinking straight in the midst of a very confused world?" Paul answers in one word--it is the helmet of salvation. He is not talking about the salvation of the soul. He is not referring to salvation as regeneration or conversion. In other words, he is not looking back at all. He is not speaking of salvation as a past decision which was once made, or even as a present experience, but he is looking on to the future. He is talking about a salvation which will be a future event. It is exactly what he is referring to in Romans when he says, "Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed" (Romans 13: 11).
This helmet is further defined for us by the Apostle in his first letter to the Thessalonians: "But, since we belong to the day [we who are Christians], let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation" (1 Thessalonians 5:8). Here, salvation is a hope, something yet in the future, something as yet not possessed or entered into fully. This future tense of salvation is described for us in a number of passages, but it is discussed very plainly and fully in Romans:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, and inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved hope that is seen is not hope or who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8:22-25).
What is Paul talking about? About the day of resurrection, the day of the coming again of Christ, the day when creation will be delivered from its bondage by Christ's return to establish his kingdom. This helmet, therefore, is the recognition that all human schemes to obtain world peace and harmony are doomed to fail. But, through these failures, Jesus Christ is working out his which will culminate in his appearing again and in the establishment of his own righteousness on, the earth. That is the helmet of salvation which will keep your thinking straight in the hour of man's utter confusion and darkness.
The principle of God's working is declared over and over again in Scripture. It is written for all to read. "No flesh," God says, "shall glory in my presence." In other words, nothing that man can boast of shall contribute one iota to the final solution of the human dilemma. It is all of God. He will establish it and not all of human wisdom, not all our vaunted knowledge and scientific discoveries Will contribute one thing to the ultimate solution. According to the record of Scripture, all that man boasts in shall crumble into dust and all things which can be shaken shall be shaken, and only those which cannot be shaken shall remain. Those are the things of God. No flesh shall glory in his presence. . But that isn't the whole idea. Do not stop there. If you do, you will be guilty of the extremism by which the Devil keeps us off balance and eccentric in our thinking. God is working through these events of history, but he is working out his purposes on a basis totally different from the aims of salvation. Therefore, Christians are not to be taken in by the unreal and groundless expectations of the world nor are they to with from these and isolate themselves.
Christians are to be involved in what is world for wholly different reasons than the worldling has. Christians are to be involved in order to accomplish God's desire to confront men everywhere, at every level, in all enterprises of life, with the good news in Jesus Christ. Is that clear? If we see that, it will save so much heartache, delusion, disappointment, and confusion as you read your daily newspaper.
Why is it that thoughtful minds like H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw are so bewildered by what they find in life? It is because they pinned their hopes on wholly unstable, unrealistic resources. As the Dean of Melbourne wrote concerning H. G. Wells:
He hailed science as a panacea for all ills and the goddess of knowledge and power. In a series of popular scientific romances he visualized luminous Shape of Things to Come. In Food of the Gods he described a future of bigger and better men. He spoke of a planned world, of eugenics, of mechanized labor, of scientific diet and scientific education.
How much we still hear these phrases tossed about in our own day! But all of this fails. These thinkers built their grandiose dreams on a cloud, a cobweb, a shifting, shimmering illusion. And when the illusion changed shape, as all illusions eventually must, then their castles in the clouds came tumbling down. That has been the repeated pattern of history for twenty or more centuries--men building upon shifting, ephemeral, and temporary things instead of on the unshakable things which always remain, to which the Scriptures give testimony.
So the Christian has a helmet of salvation. He has hope for the future. He has an understanding that God is working out his purposes and therefore he is not disturbed when human programs go wrong and everything fails when the New Deal and the Fair Deal and the Great Society and all the other fancy names for human progress end up in the same old place, time after time after time. The Christian has learned to expect wars and rumors of wars unto the very end. He expects false teachings and false philosophies and cults and heresies to abound. He is told all this will happen. It is part of the program, part of the total overall plan and purpose and moving of God in history.
The Christian knows that wars are unavoidable, even thou every effort should be made to avoid them, and that there is no contradiction in this. The Christian knows that war is madness and that nothing is really solved by war. But he knows also that we are living in a mad world, a world that is deluded silken, subtle, satanic lies which are deliberately design to end up in the mangling and Mutilating of the bodies and souls of men.
The world is in such a state and condition that the Christian knows the innocent and the weak will suffer and nothing much can be done about it at times. The blame lies square on the stubborn refusal of men everywhere to believe the true nature of the problem and the remedy that God's love has fully provided. The Christian knows that demonic forces can. rise and possess the world from time to time-and will do so-and every human scheme to control them will ultimately fail.
Well then, what shall we do? Shall we withdraw from life? Shall we give ourselves to building our own little air-tight little capsule of life and look forward to retirement? Shall we rise up and fight the United Nations or let the world go to hell? God forgive us, this is often the answer of Christians these days.
The helmet of the hope of salvation not only tells us that these things are happening and will happen, but that a certain, sure salvation is coming, and it is even now at work. This is what we need to know. Not merely that it will finally end right, but that the ending is being worked out now! History is not a meaningless jumble but a controlled pattern, and the Lord Jesus Christ is the One who is directing these events. He is the Lord of history. God is at work in the self same events that we look at with such honor and confusion.
We cannot identify ourselves with all the methods of the worldlings or even with all their aims, but we can identify ourselves with their persons. We do not need to join their causes, but we need to listen to them and to show ourselves concerned about them as people. We can be their friend without joining causes, and if they balk at that, the choice is theirs and not ours. Jesus said, "'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also" (John 15:20). We can expect both reactions as we try to involve ourselves in life around us, not in order to advance these hopeless causes, but to interest and concern ourselves with the people involved.
There are also many causes that the Christian can join. There are aims which he can wholeheartedly endorse. Christians are always to be humanitarian--helping the weak, ministering to the sick, helping those who are old and in prison or burdened in any way. The Christian should always be ready to further good government, because government is of God. Even the worst of governments has a basic commitment and relationship to God 'The powers that be are ordained of God," the Scripture says.
Therefore the Christian ought to be ready to alleviate social evil and to further understanding between countries if he can. Read the injunctions of Scripture: "Honor all men." "Do good to all." "Honor the kin " "Obey your masters." "Provide things honest before al men." "Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick." These are practical exhortations, are they not?
Look at the life of the Lord Jesus himself. Many are asking today, "Would Jesus have joined the Vietnam Day Committee if he had been here?" or "Where would he have been during the Berkeley riots?" The answer is perfectly predictable. He would not have joined any committee, just as he joined no social movement in his own day and there were plenty of them existing then. But he would have been the friend to any who sincerely, even though mistakenly, were seeking to do good.
Jesus would have been the angry, vocal foe of any who were hypocritically using a cause to advance their own purposes or to dirty and defile the minds and hearts of others. As be stood before Pilate, Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). That is, I not rear to you, Pilate. My kingdom is not of this world. I am not involved in any political. maneuverings that you thin might he a threat to your position." Nevertheless, he was known everywhere as the Friend of sinners.
Hope Laid Aside
All this is possible only if we put on, as a helmet, the hope of salvation. One of the great reasons the church is so confused in this day and is saying so little of true significance to the world is that it has the hope of the coming of the Lord. There are very few sermons preached on it; very little is said about it. There is no time given to a consideration of what it means and why it is set forth so frequently and so clearly in the Scriptures. Great sections of the Scriptures that deal with this event are simply ignored among Christians. As a result, our thinking is muddled and confused. The church does not. know which side to take or where to stand. It has nothing to say. Or at best it gives an uncertain sound which--calls no one to battle and encourages no heart.
We are to remind ourselves frequently of the coming of the Lord. How many times did he say, "Watch! Watch therefore, that you may be ready for that hour." We must live daily in its hope and anticipation. The battle is not ours. This is not merely a private fight we are engaged in. We have been talking about this struggle against the Devil and his angels, against the principalities and powers, against the wiles of the Devil, as though it were primarily a private fight. It does come down to that at last.
It meets us right where we live--in our homes, our offices, our relationship with our fellow human beings. But it is not only that, and it is always good to remember that the battle is not ours, but the Lords. We are individual units fighting in a great army. The ultimate cause is am and Se end is certain. We do not need to be troubled by all the things happening on the face of the earth, for our Conqueror has already won.
Though we may be hard pressed in our immediate realm in this battle, the cause is never in doubt. The end is absolutely certain; the outcome is sure; the battle is, the Lord's. It is not finally and ultimately a struggle between us and the Devil but a struggle between Christ and Satan.
God is always at work in human life and in society. He is at work through his Body to heal and to help to love and to suffer, until that morning without doubt shall dawn and the day break and every shadow flee away.
Are you frightened by world prospects? Well, let me tell you this: It is going to get much worse! Jesus said men's hearts shall fail them for fear because of things that are coming to pass on the face of the earth. If you think it is hard to stand now, if these things throw you for a loss now, what will it be when the darkness increases, the cause looks hopeless, and things get very much worse? That is the hour when we must have the nope of salvation-the helmet to protect the mind. thee writer of Hebrews says, 'We do not yet see everything in subjection to him [man]. But we see Jesus" (Hebrews 2:8-9). It is that which sustains the mind in all hours of pressure.
Here in this favored land of ours we have so much for which we can give thanks. God in grace has granted that we might be relatively free from so much that bothers and distresses others. But there are great areas of the world already where faith is not permitted to be expressed openly, where darkness is far greater than here, where the forces of wrong seem to be striding in unopposed triumph through the land, and nothing seems to stand in their way. What do Christians do in those places? There is only one thing they can do--they must put on the helmet of the hope of salvation. This will keep their thinking straight, If directs them in the causes to which they give themselves. It gives them advice and counsel as to where they should put their efforts and in--what they should make investments of time and money and enterprise.
It can do the same for us. We need. not succumb to the delusion of the world-that redemption, salvation, and the working out of all human problems by the application of human intelligence is just beyond the horizon where everything will be all right. How long has the world grasped at that futile dream? Read the ancient writings of e Greek philosophers and you will see that the were saying the same things then. And as far back as human saying history goes, men have ever been grasping after this illusive hope that something an be worked out here.
But God has never said chat. Consistently, throughout the Scriptures, he has said that man in his fallen condition is unable--absolutely and totally unable--to work out his problems. But in the strength of the hope of salvation we can keep our minds and our hearts calm and undisturbed in the day of battle, in the day of darkness.
Father, thank you for this reassuring word. We know that things are not nearly as bad as they could be, or even, perhaps as they will be. But we thank you for the constant assurance you give to us that even when they get worse they are in your control, that nothing can come which you do not permit, nothing can happen which is not already anticipated and worked out, that the battle is the Lord's. Thank you for the certainty that we stand in the power of God and in the strength of his might, and that our hope is not in the flimsy constructions of men but in the eternal purposes of a living God. Thank you for this encouragement to our hearts, in Christ's name, Amen.
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