Psalms 141:1-10 (ESV) A Psalm of David. O LORD, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you! 2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice! 3 Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! 4 Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies! 5 Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds. 6 When their judges are thrown over the cliff, then they shall hear my words, for they are pleasant. 7 As when one plows and breaks up the earth, so shall our bones be scattered at the mouth of Sheol. 8 But my eyes are toward you, O GOD, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless! 9 Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me and from the snares of evildoers! 10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by safely.
Isaiah 41:8-20 (ESV) But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; 9 you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; 10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 11 Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. 12 You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. 13 For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” 14 Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I am the one who helps you, declares the LORD; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. 15 Behold, I make of you a threshing sledge, new, sharp, and having teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and crush them, and you shall make the hills like chaff; 16 you shall winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the tempest shall scatter them. And you shall rejoice in the LORD; in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory. 17 When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. 18 I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. 19 I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive. I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together, 20 that they may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the LORD has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.
Psalm 91 (ESV)1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place--
the Most High, who is my refuge--
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”
2 Corinthians 5
3 "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
5 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;"
One of the big areas of spiritual battle in this life is in our minds, our thoughts.
We must learn to take every thought into captivity for obedience to Christ.
Our thoughts come from many sources. Our thoughts can come from what our parents said to us, either as a child or as an adult. Parental pronouncements can have a huge impact on our view of ourselves, rooted deeply in our emotions thus increasing the influence they can have on our opinion and view of ourselves.
Similarly, friends or acquaintances from our daily life can say things to us or about us that have a huge impact on how we see ourselves.
Furthermore, in many ways ideas are promoted which may or may not be true, but said enough times, can tend to influence our opinions about ourselves, our world, our circumstances, etc.
The Bible also reveals that the devil himself can speak to us and plant ideas in us that are destructive and deceptive, seeking to cause us harm.
In addition to all of this, our flesh, our pride, our desires, and even sins such as jealousy, envy, selfish ambition, and fear can influence what we think and say and do.
Because of these many sources of potentially false and destructive thoughts and ideas, we must learn to cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive for obedience to Christ.
"When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory." Ephesians 3:4-13 (ESV)
9 The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
Psalm 9.9-10 ESV
“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” 1 Peter 2.1
9 The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you. Psalms 9:9-10 ESV
1 A Psalm of David. A song at the dedication of the temple.
I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
3 O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.”
7 By your favor, O LORD, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed.
8 To you, O LORD, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
9 “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!”
11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
We read in Provervbs 4.23 "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it flows the wellspring of life." This is true in both the spiritual and physical sense. A direct wound to the heart on the battlefield could be fatal. That is why even modern warriors wear body armor that protects the area around the heart, a bullet-proof vest, and in ancient days a breastplate. As we wage spiritual war, and as we live in light of the real spiritual war going on around us, we must be sure that our heart, our lungs and other vitals here are protected.
But how do we protect our heart? In Ephesians 6.14 we read that we protect our heart with the breastplate of righteousness. And how do we put on the breastplate of righteousness? Through our faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross, his death that paid the punishment that we deserved, so that we could become the righteousness of God through faith in him.
In Romans 4.3ff we read "“Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the reward is not counted as grace, but as something owed. 5 But to him who doesn’t work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness."
Later in the same chapter we read of Abraham: "22 Therefore it also was “credited to him for righteousness.” 23 Now it was not written that it was accounted to him for his sake alone, 24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be accounted, who believe in him who raised Jesus, our Lord, from the dead, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification.
5.1 Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; 2 through whom we also have our access by faith into this grace in which we stand."
So we guard our heart, by holding on to this marvelous truth that we have been made righteous not because of our own ability to always do the right thing, or always choose the way of love, but because we believe in him who died for our sins and was raised for our justification. Our focus for our righteousness is not our on ability and track record to be perfectly righteous, our focus is the work of Christ on our behalf.
This is our breastplate of righteousness. Amen. Praise the Lord!
All truth is God's truth. We are protected when we live in acknowledgement of the truth surrounding us, and make decisions in light of truth. We must educate ourselves about anything that bears upon who we are and what we are called to do in this life. That would include spiritual truth, as well as any other truth. For example, if we are going outside on a cold and snowy day, the truth is that it could be slippery, and if we don't take precautions with where we step, or how we drive, we could end up falling and hurting ourselves or sliding off the road in our car. This is why it is important that we surround ourselves with the truth of God, the truth of scripture, as well as the truth of physical realities in the world where we live.
Remember: "Having the belt of truth buckled around your waist." Ephesians 6.14
Whether we like it or not, and whether we know it or not, we are all in the midst of a serious and dangerous war. It is a war for our souls. If we do not realize that there are strong spiritual beings, intelligent forces at work to destroy us, to damage us, to undermine our lives, our minds, our hearts, our relationships, and our eternal destiny, then we will be casual or completely unaware and complacent about these active threats to our well being.
So how are we to respond to this? Are we to live in constant fear? No, we are commanded by Jesus to not be afraid. Fear is a destabilizing force, and we do not operate effectively if we allow fear to have a place in our lives. Jesus said “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me." (John 14.1)
But we should respond in vigilance, working hard to put on the whole armor of God, so that we are prepared for the opposition of evil spiritual forces that will seek to destroy us through lies and threats. We must choose to trust God and be equipped with the full armor of God.
Remember: "Put on the whole armor of God." Ephesians 6.11
"Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength 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 our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore put on 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 the utility belt of truth buckled around your waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having fitted your feet with the preparation of the Good News of peace; 16 above all, taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 with all prayer and requests, praying at all times in the Spirit, and being watchful to this end in all perseverance and requests for all the saints." Ephesians 6.10-18
When I woke up this morning, I felt the Lord was telling me it was time to get up and seek Him. It was still dark and everyone else was still asleep. Just a few seconds later, walking on the wooden floor, I got a splinter in my foot. Ouch! I was hobbled, and couldn't walk very well. It was amazing to me how such a small piece of wood could prevent me from walking very well, and I knew my top priority needed to be getting that splinter out of my foot. I also knew I was going to need a bright light and some very precise tweezers to get this debilitating piece of wood out of my foot. So I got my phone with it's bright LED light, and I got my good tweezers, and went to another room where I could operate on my foot and restore my ability to walk normally.
As soon as this happened, it seemed the Lord was telling me how critical it is that we have fitted our feet with the preparation of the good news (the gospel) of peace, as it says in Ephesians 6.15, as a critical part of the whole armor of God. As ministers of the good news of peace, we need to be well prepared to proclaim the same. If we are not prepared to teach, to speak, to proclaim the good news of peace with God through the work of Christ on the cross, which gives us access to God, then we will not be able to accomplish all that God wants us to accomplish for his Kingdom. We will not be able to go the places God wants us to go. Can you imagine an member of the infantry, a soldier, wearing no shoes? It is likely that a soldier wearing no shoes would be in great danger of being eliminated by the enemy. He would not be able to make much progress as his feet would be vulnerable to even the smallest irregularities on the terrain. He could be quickly hobbled by his own weight as his feet stepped on a sharp stone, a stick, or some other object on the ground. A soldier that had the most sophisticated weapons in the world, if barefoot, would quickly become immobilized and in danger of elimination or severe injury. At best, he would probably have to hide somewhere, outside of the active battle zone, so as not to be killed or severely injured. He would likely be ineffective at completing his mission, and his very life could be in danger.
Think of it: If we want to be serious about taking the Good News of peace to those who do not know the love of Christ, we must have our feet well fitted with the preparation of the Good News. We need to have the equipment on our feet, infantry boots, that are strong and resistant to unexpected irregularities and foreign objects on the ground, things that could damage the feet and make forward movement difficult if not impossible. We need to be able to explain the good news of how Christ makes us righteous as we put our faith in his perfect sacrifice on our behalf and his resurrection from the dead. We need to be prepared to answer people's questions. We need to find out what it is that we fear about speaking and proclaiming the Gospel, so that we can be prepared to face those fears and overcome them. We need to get a bright light, letting the Spirit of God search our hearts, to show us what are the ways that we are ill-prepared to speak and share and the Good News? Then we need to remove any source of pain in our feet, anything that is hindering us and our ability to keep moving out with the Good News of the peace of God that is available to all through Christ.
There is a command to obey here: "Have your feet fitted with the preparation of the good news of peace." Ephesians 6.15