Are you a Star Trek fan? Captain Kirk and his crew went where no man had gone before, and faced some bizarre and diabolical enemies (Klingons). If you watched very many episodes, then you remember this familiar scene. Just as the enemy starship was about to fire a deadly shot at the Enterprise, Captain Kirk shout to Scotty , “shields up, Scotty”. The Klingon missile would bounce right off, and the Enterprise was saved. Have you ever wanted this kind of shield?
In Ephesians 6 Paul describes the spiritual armor of the Christian by comparing it to the individual pieces of armament used by the Roman soldier of his day. In vs. 16 he tells us we have a shield.
- Ephesians 6:16 – 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.
- Previously we discussed the Roman shield and noticed that it was a formidable defense against the efforts of the enemy in the time of battle. We looked at the Biblical definition of faith (Heb. 11:1) and considered how Satan’s temptation in Gen. 3 was an assault on the faith of Adam and Eve. Satan’s darts were successful. And we noticed how Jesus’ shield of faith withstood all of Satan’s attacks in Matt. 4.
- Do you have faith? Does it successfully shield you from evil? How does that work? Just possessing a shield was not enough (for the Romans or Captain Kirk). We must know how to use the shield of faith.
I. Lifting Up the Shield: I want to consider some crucial elements of lifting up our shield of faith in the heat of the battle.
A. Knowledge: Let me begin with a simple and familiar verse. Romans 10:17 – So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. This is fundamental. Everything we say about the efficacy of our faith is rooted in the power of God of God’s word. Faith is not an esoteric emotion or a feeling. It is not self-confidence or believing that we can do something. Faith is resting our thoughts and actions fully on what God has said in His word.
1. We must know the will of God to have faith. All those who displayed successful faith (lived by faith) knew what God expected of them and they trusted in what He had revealed.
- By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark (Heb 11:7)… By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out… (Heb 11:8)
- Those who do not seek to know God’s will are destined to fall to the enemy. Jehovah declared through the prophet Hosea, My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. (4:6)
- The wise man petitions for the knowledge of God’s ways (see bulletin), and takes it a step further in Prov 2:1-15 – My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, 2 So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; 3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, 4 If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; 5 Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, And find the knowledge of God. 6 For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding; 7 He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; 8 He guards the paths of justice, And preserves the way of His saints. 9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice, Equity and every good path. 10 When wisdom enters your heart, And knowledge is pleasant to your soul, 11 Discretion will preserve you; Understanding will keep you, 12 To deliver you from the way of evil, From the man who speaks perverse things, 13 From those who leave the paths of uprightness To walk in the ways of darkness; 14 Who rejoice in doing evil, And delight in the perversity of the wicked; 15 Whose ways are crooked, And who are devious in their paths;
B. Discernment: The proverb calls on use to “cry out” for discernment. Discernment is the ability to make a distinction. Do we know how to tell the difference between right and wrong? This is an essential aspect of our faith, and essential to its ability to shield us. Hebrews 5:12-14 – 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
- The subject under discussion here is spiritual maturity. It is possible for a person to be a Christian for a long time and yet still be a baby – feeding on the first principles of God’s word. Spiritual maturity demands that we grow to “a full age”, when we can discern good and evil.
- Babies will put anything in their mouth. They will crawl out into a busy street. They cannot discern between what is good for them and what will kill them. The mature adult, on the other hand, has developed considerable discernment. He is careful about what he eats, what he does, where he goes.
- The mature believer has discernment about what is right and wrong, true and false, helpful and harmful, righteous and unrighteous. On the other hand, An immature believer will listen to any preacher on the radio or television and not be able to identify whether or not he is true to the Scriptures. He may have faith, but it is not a shield.
- Notice that this discernment comes through “exercising” of our senses. The apostle makes his point with language that describes the physical senses of the body (sight, hearing, smelling, taste, touch). We learn to distinguish things around us by using these senses (exercising them) on a constant basis.
- So we learn to tell the difference between right and wrong by a constant application of God’s word to the situations around us. He is not “unskilled in the word of righteousness” (v. 13), but he can use it to make the tough choices that need to be made. Can you take the scriptures and come to conviction on difficult cultural questions, or discern between sound and false doctrine? Burton Coffman writes… The great loss to the spiritual infant is that he may be misled, an eventuality that becomes certain unless he attains some degree of spiritual maturity. The church needs full-grown people, people who are not blown about by every wind of doctrine, people who have triumphed over the flesh, people of deep and loving personality, able to comfort the weak and the discouraged, and prepared to stand against all obstacles whatsoever. The pity of the present age of the church is seen in congregations of spiritual infants, uninstructed in the weightier things of the true faith, and indeed utterly ignorant of them, incapable of recognizing the most arrogant heresies, even those that deny the Lord, and still, after so many years, possessing only the most elementary knowledge of Christianity.
(from Coffman’s Bible Commentary)
C. Virtue: 2 Peter 1:5 – 5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue… Peter list several necessary ingredients that need to be added to our faith in response to the exceeding and great promises that God has provided for us. All of these qualities are important to our discussion, but the first listed is virtue. Vines’ says virtue (arête) is “moral excellence”. It is used to describe the moral character of God (1 Peter 2:9– “excellencies”). MacArthur says it denotes moral heroism or courage. Those who have virtue are willing to act courageously for moral reasons.
1. We must add to our faith the courage to act, and by such action become what God calls us to be. 1 Cor 16:13 – Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.
2. Those who are willing to make the necessary sacrifices in order to live up to their faith find a defense against the power of Satan. 1 Peter 5:8-9 – Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
- With this promise – James 4:7 – 7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
a. Joseph virtuously refused the advances of Potiphar’s wife over and over again, and stood behind the shield of His faith in God to provide for him no matter what the circumstances. (Gen. 39)
b. Moses courageously refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter, choosing to suffer with God’s people. His faith was a shield against the temptation to compromise and enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season (Heb. 11:24-25)
c. Daniel’s friends in Dan. 3 stood virtuously behind the shield of their own faith in God and said no to the order to worship the idol of the King. Dan 3:16-18 – O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
d. The list goes on and on – Faith shielding God’s people against the fiery darts of the evil one.
e. The knowledge of the word provides an adequate answer to the false doctrines of men and the dangerous doctrines of Satan. We must use that knowledge to shield our minds form what is false.
f. But the courageous (virtuous) action of our faith repels all of the arguments and rationalizations of Satan in the context of the temptation to do what is wrong. I knew a young couple, both new Christians from backgrounds of the world, without much teaching on what as morally right, who decided to live together before they were married. They had a lot of reasons to do this: their families were urging it, many of their friends expected it, they were being tempted sexually, and it was a whole lot cheaper to live together. In fact, the only reason not to do it was because it was morally wrong.
- But their faith in what God said in the Bible was enough to shield them from everything that Satan could hurl their way when they found the virtue to act upon it and do the right thing. God provided for them financially, emotionally and spiritually. He always does.
Conclusion: What a blessing it is to have a shield when the darts begin to fly. “Shields up” 1 Cor 10:13-14 – 3 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.