Prayer, Relying On Christ’s Righteousness, Knits Armor Together

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sunday, March 27, 2016


 

This Week’s Devotional Focus is, “The Righteousness of Christ.”

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;” (Ephesians 6:18).

Last week, our focus, for those of you do not know, was the whole armor of God. I mentioned in yesterday’s thought that contrary to popular belief, the armor of God has seven articles (or implements). The seventh implement, although the Scripture does not identify a piece of armor directly, is prayer. That’s right! Paul was not finished discussing being equipped to thwart Satan’s onslaught when He said that we should be earnestly praying always in the Spirit with perseverance. Prayer is critical in this cosmic battle with Satan. Can you imagine opening the Bible, which is the Sword of the Spirit without prayer? Can you imagine attempting to experience the helmet of Salvation without prayer? And how could we possibly be successful carrying the gospel of peace anywhere without prayer? So prayer is key to knitting the other implements of this vital armor together.

In whose name must we pray in order for it to be effective? The Bible says: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:12–14). So this wonderful privilege of prayer our Father has given us is blessed when we are enveloped by the righteousness of Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit. When we appear in the presence of the Almighty (blessed be His name) with the attitude and awareness that nothing we can do or say makes us worthy of His love, and that only Jesus’ sacrifice makes us worthy, our prayers can be answered according to God’s will. Jesus is inherently holy; we are not. Jesus knows what’s best for us; we do not. Jesus is a gift given to all humankind to restore the broken relationship between God and us through forgiveness, cleansing, and empowerment to live holy lives.

If you want to be successful in life and be transformed from a lost sinner, to a saved saint, accept the gift of Jesus Christ. When you do so, your armor is complete, and even when you have trials and tribulations, they will not overcome you. Let me let you in on a little secret I had been keeping from you all last week and I will unpack this week: Every single part of the armor is Jesus. Go back and look at the verses I used to hide the blessing in plain sight in preparation for this “Aha!” moment. Every single part is Jesus. And this is the premise that will drive the rest of our thoughts during this week. Here is a verse that says all I have been saying, but infinitely better: “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” (Romans 13:14). Having on the whole armor of God is to be covered, from head to toe, with Jesus Christ. It is then, and only then, that our lives and characters will be invulnerable to the fiery darts of the devil who is so enraged and seeking whom he may devour. “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27).




Helmet Of Salvation, Minding The Mind

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Friday, March 25, 2016

“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:” (Ephesians 6:17).

Our focus today is on the helmet of salvation.

Armour of God tileIf you notice, in war most governments equip their soldiers with special helmets. Obviously, the brain must be protected at all costs. It is the seat of intelligence. It houses all of our memories. It records, and with all the important chemicals secreted there, controls our emotions too. It controls the functions of every other part and organ of the body. It’s no wonder it must be protected wherever possible. More than this, it is through our minds that God communicates. It’s no wonder God has made provision to protect our minds spiritually too.

We need to respect the minds God has entrusted to us. We should fill them with quality thought material. The Bible says: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8). “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” (Philippians 2:5). If we choose to fill our minds with those things referenced here and abstain from soul-destroying inducements, we will indeed have the mind of Christ.

There are so many people who claim to love God, who, for some reason, are not assured of their salvation. They still focus on themselves and all their mistakes, and worry themselves out of God’s care.

 

hockey helmetThis helmet intended to spiritually protect our minds, is also intended to give us the hope of salvation. Notice what the Bible says: “But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,” (1 Thessalonians 5:8–9). With our emotional wellbeing is also associated hope for the future. There are so many hopeless people in the world. There are so many people who claim to love God, who, for some reason, are not assured of their salvation. They still focus on themselves and all their mistakes, and worry themselves out of God’s care. The Bible just reassured us that God’s people are not appointed for destruction, or any person who will choose to become one of His people by faith. And this blessed salvation only comes through Jesus Christ.

Do you have your armor on?




Super Shield

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Thursday, March 24, 2016

“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Ephesians 6:16).

Armour of God tileGo back and read that verse. Did you notice anything strange? The darts that Satan launches at us are on fire! As if shooting exceedingly sharp arrows at us were not bad enough, the arrows that are coming our way are on fire.

When warriors of the Bible times shot arrows at their enemies, they often intensified the situation with juniper coals, which were of such quality as to create intensely hot fire when set ablaze (Psalms 120:4). I’m figuring that made a mess wherever it struck. Homes, crops, livestock, and people were all at risk for destruction. What the sharpness of the arrow did not destroy, the fire would certainly do the trick. So the well-equipped soldier has a shield and/or shield bearer to nullify the fiery darts of their enemies.

Do you feel assailed by the fiery darts of trials, tribulations, and temptations? Do you have the equipment to nullify their effects? The Bible says that a well-equipped soldier has faith as a shield. John said it this way: “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4–5). Further, Paul said we are to be always “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2). Faith, which has the ability to lay hold of the power of God, energizes us with the ability to overcome any fiery trial that comes our way. Jesus is the Originator and Perfecter of our faith.

Do you have your armor on?




Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now!

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Armour of God tile“And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;” (Ephesians 6:15).

Have you ever heard this little ditty? “Oh, be careful little feet where you go…” God is always watching. There are some places He would rather we avoid. Our feet should not be swift to shed blood or do mischief. We should never go to feast with the intemperate and unholy. We certainly should steer clear of the harlot’s house (unless the Lord said go to redeem her).

In ancient battle (modern too, for that matter) it was absolutely essential that soldiers’ feet and legs were well equipped to move freely and resist certain harsh obstacles on the ground. Their feet had to be prepared for battle. What if a foot soldier went to battle and boulders and briers were in his path? What if that soldier decided to wear flip-flops? How efficiently would he be able to cover ground to defeat his enemies? Unless he is a conqueror like Shaka Zulu, he’d be much better off with those feet protected and prepared for battle.

Notice the preparation of the warrior’s feet in our theme text. Paul admonishes that our feet be firm, sure, and prepared with the gospel of peace. As you might expect I have another verse for you. It says: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; That bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; That saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Isaiah 52:7). You’ve heard the old adage: “Feet don’t fail me now.” Well, if your feet are firm and prepared to carry the great news of salvation, they will not fail. Your God will equip each step to carry good tidings into the entire world.

Paul said that he was not ashamed of the gospel (of Jesus Christ), because it is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). Isaiah said that Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Paul also said that by faith, we can have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Our foot-level spiritual armaments are to be prepared with the great news of salvation through Christ, our Prince of Peace.

Do you have your armor on?




Bulletproof Righteousness

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Armour of God tile
“Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;” (Ephesians 6:14).

You might have a heart condition! I know you may be thinking I have actually lost it. How can I say from way across the seas that you might have a heart condition, especially if I am not a cardiologist? Even if I were, what if you live a healthy lifestyle and have none of the precursors to heart disease? Besides, were I a cardiologist, I have not even conducted tests to say such a thing. If that critical muscle that is pumping blood throughout your body were the actual context of my statement, you’d be right. But, as you have probably surmised, this condition of the heart is spiritual, not physical. The condition was passed down genetically from Adam to all of his descendants. The Bible says of God’s people who were being disobedient at the time, and this certainly applies to others: “Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more: The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.” (Isaiah 1:5). Further, the Bible says: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). We all have a heart condition.

Now it makes sense that Paul would use the breastplate imagery in the armor of God illustration. Not only would it be absolutely essential to have armor, sort of like a bulletproof vest, to protect the vital organs in a fierce battle, but the Scriptures add further imagery here. In the Old Testament system of sacrifices, the high priest wore a golden breastplate with 12 jewels representing the people of God. Not only that, in Scripture, jewels represent righteousness. The Bible says that Lucifer had every precious stone as his covering. The Bible also says that we should not be adorned outwardly, but rather inwardly with a meek and quiet spirit, which is extremely valuable in the sight of God. The inside (or heart) of the Old Testament sanctuary was beautified with precious coverings.

 

Notice that our theme text associates the breastplate covering with righteousness. Is your spiritual vitality protected by righteousness? The Bible pictures Christ as taking the fight to the enemy on our behalf using the same imagery. “For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, And an helmet of salvation upon his head; And he put on the garments of vengeamuseumbreastplatesnce for clothing, And was clad with zeal as a cloke.” (Isaiah 59:17).

I love how cohesive the Scriptures are. Jesus is depicted as having on the breastplate of righteousness in the Old Testament. Paul exhorts us to have on the same thing in the New Testament. Now we are going to tie it all together. “In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Jeremiah 23:6). “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:” (1 Corinthians 1:30). In both testaments of Scripture, Jesus is our righteousness! Without His sacrifice, victory, and ever-living ministry on our behalf, we would have no righteousness. If we choose to rest our trust in Him and exchange our righteousness for His by faith, we will absolutely be healed of our heart condition, and our spiritual vitality will be protected. His righteous character is bulletproof.

Do you have your armor on?




Who Wins In The Battle For You?

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sunday, March 20, 2016

Armour of God tile“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:11–13).

In case you hadn’t noticed, there is a fierce battle going on. And, no, I do not mean the countless wars that are being fought around the world over commodities, tribal disputes, religion, or politics, although these are symptoms of the larger battle. I am not even talking about battles for power in the corporate setting or family skirmishes, while they, too, are symptomatic of the larger battle. No; the battle to which I refer is so huge, there is no area nor being in the universe that is unaffected by it. This battle is what some refer to as the great controversy between good and evil. We see it depicted in movie plots, bestselling novels, and even our music. But more sharply than these, at least from our perspectives, we see this battle raging in the war theaters of our lives. The question really is, then, “Who will win the battle in my life?”

The Bible aptly states that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. Rather it’s against spiritual beings who once lived in the presence of God, but were expelled due to unrepentant rebellion. Now they have a vendetta against all that is holy, and all whom the Lord loves. This is why you cannot get a break! Whether you have yet learned to love God or no, the devil and his cohorts want to destroy you. If you have not given your life over to the care of God, the devil wants to extinguish you before you do. He wants to so fill your mind with fear of the future, hatred, racial conflicts, struggles with police and government, etc. as to incite your darkest character traits and obscure your view of God. And the result, if you continue down this path, will be continual sin, guilt, shame, defeat, and ultimate destruction.

For those who have chosen to follow the Lord’s leading in life, you will find that your trials will increase too. Your good will be evil spoken of. When you do what God says, you will often draw the ire of people you least expect. Your families will experience apparently unexplainable problems at times. Your work, health, and emotional wellbeing will often be assaulted, not to mention the incredible temptations that will certainly come your way. You will lose people you love to the cold, cruel hands of death. All of this and more are targeted at causing you to lose focus and abandon your God.

That being said, what is the answer to this problem? If our enemies are supernatural beings who once lived in heaven, how can we fight them? Do we arm ourselves with assault rifles and shoot the first thing that moves? No. Do we equip or homes with panic rooms or properties bug-out shelters with months worth of food and water storage? No. Should we learn survival strategies and become proficient in the martial arts? Absolutely not. Since our battle is against supernatural beings, we need supernatural weaponry. Paul says it this way: “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” (2 Corinthians 10:4–5). Thus it is that we must put on the entire armor of God if we ever hope to be victorious in this battle over our eternal life. You do realize that is what’s at stake, right? Were it merely this life we were dealing with, the strongest would always come out on top. But in this battle with eternal implications, only those who submit to God, the Captain of our souls, will live forever in blissful relationship, with the freedom to explore the creation of God without sin, sickness, tears, or pain, just the way God intended in the beginning.

This week, we will be going through the seven implements of this cosmic conflict so each of us can be well prepared for victory over every problem and trial we will face until Jesus returns. Rest assured that the Word of God guarantees victory for those who follow His war plan. Jesus won the battle with Satan in heaven when this war began. Jesus won the battle with Satan during His life on earth wherein He never sinned and purchased our salvation. Jesus won the battle at the tomb where the devil failed to keep Him dead. And daily, Jesus is winning in the lives of those who choose to remain submitted to His care. Will you be a victim or victor in this battle? The choice is yours.