Monday, April 30, 2012

Helmet of Salvation

FBCRB 4/29/12

“This Means War, Pt. VI”  Ephesians 6:10-18

A couple of months ago we went through a series of sermons where we talked about the goal of our church.  As if we were all in one boat and using the word of God as one oar and prayer as the other oar, do you remember where we were rowing?  Do you remember the goal?  The goal of our church is to further the Kingdom.  We are not to try to further our church or ourselves but to do whatever it takes to promote the Kingdom of God.  That is the Biblical model of the goal of the church and we continue to strive for that.

If that is our goal, then what do you think is the goal of the enemy?  In our series the last few weeks we have been seeing that our battle to reach that goal is not against flesh and blood but against Satan and his demons and all the dark forces of evil.  What do you think their goal is?  Their overall goal is to hinder the Kingdom.  They want to kill it, make it go away, distract it, whatever they can do to hinder the progress and the promotion of the Kingdom of God, and they should.  That’s a good plan for them.

Fortunately for us, we have the playbook of the enemy.  We have a powerful force in the canon of scripture that helps us to understand the schemes of Satan so we know not only what he has done in the past but we see how to expect him to attack in the future and I will say again that I believe that is one of the reasons why our church has been put to the test so often and so hard lately is because Satan has had to up his game and he is ticked off about us focusing on how to defeat him.

There are a lot of classic books on the art of war.  Sun Tzu wrote a book by that very name that is popular with military strategists.  Almost all other big names in military strategy have written books on how they were successful.  Hitler had Mein Kaumpf.   Napolean, Ghengis Khan, Alexander the Great and Hannibal all had notes or writings explaining the best ways to be victorious over the enemy.  And do you know what they all considered to be one of the most vital parts of military strategy?  In fact, it is part of the strategy used even in the latest wars the United States has fought.  It is the strategy of deception.

Deception.  It is important to have the latest technology and the largest force possible and to be well trained with an excellent chain of command who communicate well but all these being equal, if you can make your enemy think you are going to do one thing and you do another you can be victorious.  If you can deceive them into thinking they don’t have all the equipment they need or that you have more than you have; if you can deceive them into thinking there is no way they can win; if you can deceive them into thinking you are about to give up or that you are going to the left and then you go right; whatever you can do to deceive your enemy will benefit you, especially when you are overpowered.

Now, cue Satan.  That is exactly where he is.  He is vastly overpowered and will resort to doing whatever he can do to deceive us into thinking things that will give him an edge.  He knows that while he is more powerful than we are that we are protected by and provided for by the Almighty God Himself.  He knows he is doomed.  He has heard enough preaching over the years to know how all of this is going to play out for him but he won’t go down without a fight.  He wants very much to do his worst in your life as a Christian.  He can’t stand you and would kill you in a second if God removed His hand of grace from you.  We have several ways to protect ourselves from Satan, though, as we will continue to look at the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18.  Turn there now and read along silently as I read out loud.

We will be focusing on the first part of verse 17 this morning.  We have looked previously at how to put on the belt, the breastplate, the shoes and the shield.  Today we are told to “take” the helmet of salvation and I want us to look at 3 things as we study this passage.  I want to first look at what the helmet of salvation is and then how to put it on and then what it protects us from.

For the typical Roman soldier that Paul was envisioning here, the helmet was made of a leather inner liner with an outer shell made of brass or other metal and for the officers it often had a plume or row of feathers on top for show.  Now, I guess if I was an officer I would have to follow orders and wear a row of feathers on top of my helmet but for me that just seems kind of silly.  I’m too proud to wear something like that on my head.  When I wear a helmet, I want to look tough and manly.  I don’t want silly feathers on my motorcycle helmet, I can assure you.  So, that’s why when I wanted to dress up my helmet I went for the natural look.  What do you think?

Yep, nothing says, “Don’t mess with me” like a real skunk skin.  It actually did save my life one time.  I fell asleep on a long trip and when I woke up in the hospital the front of the helmet was mashed together and there was rocks and gravel all in the front of the pelt.  There are also some scratches on the side.  Good helmet and pretty much one of a kind as far as I know.  And the skunk smell is almost gone so that’s good.

But for us today in our battle against Satan, what does it mean to put on the helmet of salvation.  I think we can get a little better view of what Paul was talking about by reading another of his references to the helmet of salvation in I Thessalonians 5:8 where he says, “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”  You see here he says it is the hope of salvation but he is not talking about hoping that we are saved.  It is what is alluded to in Romans 13:11, when he says, "now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed." It is, says 1 Peter 1:5, "a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Note that this salvation is a hope. Paul says in Romans 8:24-25, "if we see what we hope for, then it is not really hope. For who of us hopes for something we see?" In other words, hope looks to something we do not see or have rather than for something we already see and have. This is not the same kind of hope as hoping that it doesn’t rain or hoping something good will come on TV.  This is a confident hope.

So, the salvation of our helmet is something yet future, something as yet not possessed or not fully entered into. It is referring to a salvation that is to be ours when Christ comes again. Hebrews 9:28, "Christ…shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him." In short, we can say that the salvation that we hope to receive at Christ’s second coming is, as it is stated in Titus 1:2, "the hope of eternal life, which God, Who cannot lie, promised long ages ago."

So, we have seen what the helmet of salvation is.  We have seen that we will be victorious through Jesus.  We have seen that we have a lot to look forward to.  We have seen that salvation is ours to come.  Now let’s look at how to put it on.  When I put on that skunk helmet I always fasten the chin strap tight so the helmet doesn’t fall off.  You can test it by pulling on it and see that it won’t come loose.  It is the same with the helmet of salvation.  We are told about it in the Bible and you all told me last week that you believe the Bible and it has been tested throughout all of history and has proven itself to be true and faithful.

Now the option is to rely on what you think or feel which may well be corrupted by the great deceiver, Satan.  How many times have you felt something that turned out to be false?  Sometimes you may have a gut feeling that helps you but oftentimes our feelings get us into trouble.  Have the prophesies of your feelings come true since the beginning of time?  The Bible’s prophecies have.  Have your feelings proved themselves reliable in every way every time?  The Bible has.

Satan loves for us to act based on our feelings. We’ve seen that the weapons that he aims at us are intended to attack our minds and our emotions and to try to get us to be discouraged and to doubt. And since our feelings are certainly impacted by the circumstances of life, they change all the time as our circumstances change.

But God’s Word never changes. So if we base our hope on His Word, our hope will be consistent and we won’t be tossed around by our feelings. In fact, one of the reasons God has given us His written Word is so that we can know without a doubt that our salvation is secure.

1 John 5:13 says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”  John was writing to followers of Jesus so that they could know without any doubt whatsoever that they have eternal life.

If you’re like me, it might help to have some examples of people who have shown us in the past how to put on the helmet of salvation; how we actually do it and what it looks like.  If we are to take the helmet of salvation as Paul says with the expectant hope of our future salvation, I want to see how to do it.  Those are real pretty words but until we can apply them to our lives in action then that is all they are.

First stop is Psalm 28.  Most of you know that David is one of my favorite biblical characters.  I love David because while he was king and a man after God’s own heart, he was also very human and had terrible heartbreaks in his life and we can all learn from his example how to survive difficult times.  He was going through one of those difficult times when he wrote Psalm 28.  Read 1-2 and 7-8.

To you, Lord, I call; you are my Rock, do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent, I will be like those who go down to the pit.
2 Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands
toward your Most Holy Place.

In these first two verses he calls out to God and says “If you don’t answer and solve this problem, I will die.”  But then in verses 7-8 (before God answers his prayer) he says,

7.The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. 8 The Lord is the strength of his people,
a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.

David had every reason to be depressed and discouraged.  And he doesn’t try to cover over his hurt with fake smiles and plastic platitudes but at the same time he knows that God and God alone is his salvation.  He doesn’t know when it will come.  He knows it may get darker yet, but ultimately he knows, because he has a relationship with the Lord, that he will be saved and that brings him joy and strength.

I have another example of how to put on the helmet of salvation and I think this one is pretty good as well.  It should be pretty good since it is shown to us by the words and actions of Jesus as recalled in Hebrews 12:2. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” 

How is that possible?!  How could Jesus, being God but at the same time being all man, endure the outrageous, off the charts physical pain and the emotional distress of taking on all of our sins and endure it with joy?  Because He knew what salvation was like!  He knew what heaven was like.  He knew the rewards and the benefits of being obedient even when your feelings say otherwise.  He could look forward to His own salvation but He also knew that He was our salvation and that through Him we could spend eternity in Heaven.

That should bring joy and praise like it did for David instead of discouragement and doubt that Satan wants to deceive us with and that brings me to my last point.  What the helmet of salvation protects us from is that doubt and discouragement that Satan uses in our lives every day to keep us from having joy and peace; that keeps us from living an abundant life as it says in John 10:10.

The thing that makes doubt and discouragement such powerful weapons for Satan is two-fold:  it keeps us out of the fight, sitting in our foxholes feeling sorry for ourselves instead of waging war but it is also similar to a virus in that whatever attitude we have is contagious.  When we feel down and discouraged because we have taken off the helmet of salvation and have relied on the view we have of our circumstances and how we feel about that then the other people around us tend to be dragged down into that as well.

The good news is that when people see us putting on our helmets and looking past our circumstances and feelings and looking forward to the salvation that is to come then they start buckling up their helmets as well and pretty soon we start to look like an army to be reckoned with.  People in the community will see us and see that we are going through difficult times but we don’t cave in.  We don’t start self-medicating.  We don’t start complaining and worrying.  Who wants to be around that?  There is enough of that in this world.  People don’t want to see it in the church.

Some of you may hear this sermon and think I am preaching a feel-good gospel where if we just believe then everything will be ok in this world.  You would be mistaken.  I wish I could preach something like that but I have to tell you that in all probability, as bad as it is in your life right now, things are probably going to get worse.  I promise you this world is not going to get any better.  As long as we live on this nasty, ugly, self-serving, every man for himself planet then things are going to get worse and worse.  There is not much to look forward to as far as the morality and standards of this world go.

But let me encourage you with one last thought from I Thessalonians 4:13-18:  13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

There is our salvation!  There is our helmet!  Put it on and don’t be deceived!

1 comment:

  1. This is a great sermon, probably the best one in your series. I had lamented that I would not get to hear it, so I'm thankful for your blog to help me keep current with your Armor of God Series.