CHURCH PEACE: A WARFARE MATTER (2)

Four Spiritual Warfare Strategies for Preserving Peace in the Church

In my first post on this important aspect of preserving unity in the church, I argued for the need to fight for peace in the invisible realm.

Roman Soldier Armor

Paul lands his letter to the Ephesians on the strategic topic of spiritual warfare. He presents four battle tactics for successfully defeating the enemy of our souls in every kind of conflict.

  1. Trust your God.
  2. Know your enemy.
  3. Wear your armor.
  4. Say your prayers.

I can’t say everything I would like to about these tactics. I have to save something for the men’s retreat I get to lead this weekend. But here’s what I can offer on the third strategy.

Three, wear your armor for its protection. The Lord equips us with six crucial pieces of battle weaponry for both offensive and defensive purposes in dealing with the enemy.

  1. The belt of truth. The belt held everything else together for the Roman soldier. Since Satan’s principle scheme to defeat us involves deception, it is absolutely imperative that we arm ourselves with the truth of God’s word to counterattack.
  2. The breastplate of righteousness. This piece covered a soldier front and back. It protected all his major organs. The more we live out Christ’s righteousness gifted to us by faith, the less ground we give Satan to trip us up. For example, if we harbor resentment toward someone rather than forgive, that presence of unrighteousness in our lives opens the door for enemy infiltration (2 Cor. 2:10-11).
  3. The gospel footwear. As shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. Shoes for the soldier meant two things: mobility and stability. Believers are to be ever on the move for the gospel in brokering peace between a rebel race and a holy God. And they must stand firm in that gospel of forgiveness when the accuser comes to indict for various offenses (Rev. 12:10).
  4. The shield of faith. This we cannot do without. The Roman warrior used a huge, fireproof shield behind which he could position his entire body. We must do everything we can to sustain our faith or Satan’s flaming darts will surely get through to do their damage.
  5. The helmet of salvation. This piece protects the mind. It orients our thinking toward all three phases of Christ’s saving work: past, present, and future. Given the similar usage of the word “helmet” in 1 Thess. 5:8, it seems Paul wants us thinking extra hard about the future and what God has in store for us in the New Heavens and New Earth.
  6. The sword of the Spirit. This, Paul explains, is the word of God. This is a mighty weapon! It serves both offensive and defensive purposes. Offensively we wield it in evangelism. Defensively we make use of it in, among other things, fighting temptation, just as our Lord did (Matt. 4:1-11).

Please don’t miss the emphasis in the text of putting on and taking up this provision of God which is our armor.  We must do this.

How the last strategy, prayer, plays into that weaponry will have to wait for part three.

 

CHURCH PEACE: A WARFARE MATTER (1)

Four Spiritual Warfare Strategies for Preserving Peace in the Church

Religious celebrations of Easter Week, SpainConclusions matter.

From dessert and coffee at a restaurant, to the the climax of a story, to (this matters especially to pastors like me) how the sermon ends, the way things come to a close can make all the difference in the experience.

Lately in my study I’ve camped out a lot in Eph. 6:10-20. Paul’s treatment there of the challenging subject of spiritual warfare forms the focus of my church’s men’s retreat at the end of this month.

Think about it. He ends this exquisite letter to the the church at Ephesus on this note: we Christians are at war. We find ourselves in a never-ending conflict with formidable forces. Much opposition confronts anyone serious about walking in a manner worthy of the gospel.

Among those things, and the first place he starts in Eph. 4:3, is doing our best to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Safeguarding the treasured gift of unity in your church means you have to go to war over it.

It’s a high-stakes, dangerous, but utterly worthwhile undertaking.

Here are four strategies (a preview of our retreat content) for waging the spiritual battle.

One, trust your God for His strength. Be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might (10). This same power raised Jesus from the dead (Eph. 1:19-20). We have everything we need in the way of strength for this ongoing struggle. We draw from the One who effectively disarmed the enemy at Calvary (Col. 2:15).

Additionally our powerful God has equipped us with impressive battle gear designed to protect us so that we may stand and not fall (11). More on that in strategy #3.

Two, know your enemy for his schemes. The objective in this fight is plain–that you may be able to stand (11). Satan and his minions deployed in the invisible realm (12) plot our undoing. We must give him/them no ground.

The enemy attacks on multiple fronts: accusation (Rev. 12:10); deception (Gen. 3:1-6); sins like anger (Eph. 4:26-27) and withholding forgiveness (2 Cor. 2:10-11); just to name a few. Luther said it well in A Mighty Fortress:

For still our ancient foe,
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Lesson?

Don’t underestimate the foe. Arm yourself with a informed knowledge of his shrewd tactics.

Three, wear your armor for its protection. The bulk of the passage focuses on the battle gear God supplies every believer for spiritual warfare (14-17). Paul repeatedly emphasizes our responsibility to put it on–take it up–all of it. We dare not engage this battle every day without every one of the six components.

What they are and some thoughts about them, plus strategy #4, will come with my next post and the second part on this subject.

In the meantime, take heed to this exhortation from Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

Do not relax. “Maintain the field!” You are always on duty in the Christian life, you can never relax. There is no such thing as a holiday in the spiritual realm.

Peacemaking warriors! Maintain the field! Ever on duty, battle to preserve the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace in your churches.