The Christian life is one of great peace but also great conflict. A Christian is someone who is at war with three great enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil.
The devil and his attack
In the book of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul dealt with the sinful flesh in chapter four, the influences of the world in chapter five, and the attacks of the devil in chapter six. And he explains that the devil is the evil behind all the evil. The devil is the Christian’s great adversary. But what should Christians know about him, and how do they overcome his attacks?
In the Rolling Stones’ song, “Sympathy For The Devil,” it says, “Pleased to meet you, I hope you guess my name, but what’s puzzling you is the nature of my game.” But God doesn’t want his people to be puzzled. The Greek word for devil means liar. His main weapon is lies, and his lies take the form of schemes. When you think of the devil, don’t think of this little bug-eyed man in skinny red tights with a pitchfork; think of the most sophisticated cunning liar ever to exist. Yet, the good news is that Paul said, “For we are familiar with his evil schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11).
The devil has three main schemes: deception, temptation, and accusation. One of the devil’s best schemes is deceiving people into thinking that he doesn’t exist. But as Tim Keller pointed out, “If there’s a good supernatural being, why can’t there be a bad one?” The Devil also tempts people. He uses the carrot of sin or the stick of suffering to tempt people into doing wrong or doubting God. He tempts people to sin by highlighting the upfront fleeting benefits and hiding the long-term consequences. As Thomas Brooks, the old Puritan put it, “The Devil shows us the bait and hides the hook.” In the midst of suffering, he tempts people to fear, anxiety and despair and to doubt the goodness of God. Finally, the Devil is called “the accuser of our brothers and sisters” (Revelation 12:10). He reminds people of past sins and present struggles and seeks to lead them into worldly grief and hopelessness. So, if this is what Christians are up against, what are they given for protection?
The armor of God: our counter-attack
Christians are not left unsupplied. They have been given spiritual resources for this spiritual battle. Yet, what does the armor of God mean exactly? Unfortunately, “putting on the armor of God” can become just a pious Christianese thing to say, but not something very practical that you understand and actually do. The armor is simply the benefits and privileges given to every believer through Christ that counter the specific attacks of the devil.
The belt of truth
In Paul’s day, a soldier’s belt held the entire uniform together, and the idea of a belt is that God’s truth is around you. When the devil wants you to emotionally and spiritually fall apart, the truth is what holds you together. It protects you from the devil’s lies. The battle is for the mind, and so Christians must know and apply the truth of God in order to overcome the devil’s deceptions, temptations and accusations.
The breastplate of righteousness
Your righteousness is what causes you to feel accepted; it’s what causes you to hold your head up. If a person’s righteousness is found in anything other than Christ, then the devil can exploit that and lead that person to either pride, if things are going well, or despair when things are not. Yet, when Christ is your righteousness, when he’s the glory and the lifter of your head, then he acts like a breastplate, protecting your heart from either pride or despair.
The shoes of readiness
These next three pieces of armor deal with the difficult circumstances of life. A soldier needed to have proper footwear in order to be prepared for any type of terrain. Paul taught that the gospel of peace makes Christians ready to face any difficulty because if they know that they have peace with God through Jesus, then they know that trials cannot be God’s punishment against them.
The shield of faith
The shield doesn’t protect Christians from difficulties; it protects them from fear and anxiety in the midst of difficulties because they believe the promises of God for them. And Paul taught that the shield extinguishes all the flaming darts of the devil. Christians are never meant to be afraid of the devil; they’re meant to be aware of the devil.
The helmet of salvation
When the terrible blows of life come against the believer, the helmet protects them from the sort of lies like, “If you were really saved, then this wouldn’t happen to you.” Christians are putting on the truth that nothing can separate them from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.
The sword of the Spirit
Jesus used the word of God like a sword to defeat the devil’s temptations in the wilderness and so should every believer. Just keeping your Bible on the shelf is like keeping your sword in the sheath. You can’t quote the word if you don’t know the word. The Bible teaches that this Christian warfare is very real. So, take up and put on the whole armor of God and continue to wage the good warfare.
Jeremy McKeen is the lead pastor of Truth Point Church. Jeremy received his B.A. in communications and philosophy from Florida Southern College and his MDiv from Knox Theological Seminary.