Monday, October 12, 2009

take up the whole armor of God

I'm sitting here on this deliciously chilly morning at 8:03, wearing my cozy pjs in my cozy little house, enjoying Columbus Day/Fair Day (i.e., day off school). I don't know when I have appreciated a day off more, I guess just because it's so nice to have a day of no work and with no plans except to spend time with my best teaching buddy (Monica) who also has the day off.

I had the pleasure of sleeping till 7, getting my darling husband up so he could get ready for work, and actually being here when he got up instead of getting ready in the dark and waking him just enough to kiss him goodbye as I leave at an insanely early hour, before the sun is up. I love being here while he's getting ready for work so I have time to get him a quick, portable breakfast and iron his shirt. It makes me feel so wifey. I love feeling wifey.

Another great thing about having a day off is that I have plenty of time for a leisurely quiet time in the morning, which I am convinced is really the best time to have one but which does not usually happen when I am leaving for school practically in the middle of the night (ok, ok, being a little dramatic, but I'm sure you agree that 5:30 is WAY to early to be getting up on a regular basis). I was thinking about two separate but recent discussions I had, one with my mom and one with my dad, about the armor of God and decided to read about it in Ephesians 6. I had always thought of the armor of God as some abstract thing that I should pray for God to put on me, but after reading about it in my study Bible this morning, it seems much more practical and less abstract than I had thought. I love how practical the Bible is, and I love when I realize how practical it is. So, here are a few thoughts that came from contemplating the scripture and footnotes in my study Bible. First, here is the passage:

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—
-Ephesians 6:10-18

(After being out of college and grad school for three years, I don't remember the format for citing references, but I basically just want you to know where I'm getting the ideas that aren't mine and give credit to the proper source. I am taking the following quotes from the Nelson Study Bible, NKJ version, edited by Earl D. Radmacher, Th.D., Old Testament Editor Ronald B. Allen, Th.D., and New Testament Editor H. Wayne House, Th.D., J.D., Nashville, 1997.)

The first part that talks about girding your waist with truth has a note that says that the truth discussed here "is integrity, a life of practical truthfulness and honesty" (Nelson Study Bible). Love that. Nothing mysterious about it; just a reminder of the importance of honesty and integrity, which according to this passage, is powerful enough to help protect us from the "wiles of the devil."

I have heard people before comment that the armor of God only protects the front of your body, so I found it interesting that the footnote said that the Roman breastplate actually "went completely around the body, so that the back of a warrior was also protected" (Nelson Study Bible). Also, the note says that the righteousness in this passage is not the righteousness that all believers have through Christ, but is "the practical, righteous character and deeds of believers" (Nelson Study Bible). Again, just a very practical command to do the right thing, to do good, and in so doing, to gain protection from the enemy.

The shield of faith seems to be the most important ("above all, taking the shielf of faith..."), so it seems that that would indicate that the best defense we have against the enemy is faith. Something simple to remember during difficult times-- if you have to cling to one thing, cling to faith in our God and His Truth.

I was struck by the importance of seemingly mundane decisions we make every day to be honest, do good, and have faith. (Of course, this all has to be done through and for Jesus Christ; I have just highlighted the three things that stood out to me in the passage.) When we make decisions to do these things each day, forming habits and a pattern of doing these things over a life time, we are protecting ourselves from the "wiles" of the enemy.

Finally, after reading the passage and the notes from my handy-dandy study Bible that I love so much, I was struck with the thought, "Oh! It's talking about character!" I don't know why it always seems to surprise me to find something so practical in the Bible. If I'm understanding it correctly, this is not just a command to pray for God to do some mysterious work in putting on abstract pieces of spiritual armor, as I thought it was, but rather is a metaphor describing the importance of good character combined with the power of Jesus Christ in us. And there you have it. All those discussions we have in my fourth grade class about character, if they are fruitful and are blessed by the Holy Spirit, can protect us from the enemy and his attacks. Character matters.

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