ARMOR: DO I PUT IT ON OR TAKE IT OFF?!
The Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
I was literally in church a few days after I was born. I grew up going to church every time the doors were open! I have also been in full time ministry for about 18 years. I have heard the Armor of God preached probably at least 300 times! I know for sure I have preached about the armor of God about 20 times! I could quote you the scripture: “Put on all of God’s armor. Then you will be able to remain strong against the devil’s evil plans.” Ephesians 6:10 – I remember – more than once – doing a series for kids using a cool Knight suit of armor to picture the armor of God – the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the Gospel shoes of peace, the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit. I have always taught how important it is to “put on” the armor of God! I know my armor! And I’ve always thought I understood what it meant to put on the armor – every single piece. However, in the last few weeks my thoughts have been changing on all of this!
As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I have been on a mission to reconcile spiritual health with emotional health. Dealing with anxiety and depression has been a rollercoaster for me in the past ten years, and I have been studying all kinds of different views on the subject – from listening to Steven Furtick sermons to reading “Daring Greatly” by Brene’ Brown.
In “Daring Greatly” Brene’ talks about the importance of being vulnerable. While talking about being vulnerable she explains the importance of taking off the armor we often wear to protect ourselves from being hurt. So which is it?! Do I put on the armor or take off the armor! As a long time church goer, I tend to lean toward putting on the armor as the Bible explains. Then I started to explore the issue a little deeper. I thought, what if putting on the armor of God actually means taking off our own protective armor!
So, I started to think through each part of the armor of God. First, we have the “helmet of salvation.” I always thought the helmet of salvation was put on when we receive Jesus to protect our minds from the evil one. But if you have been a Christian any amount of time, you definitely know that just because you are born again, definitely doesn’t mean your mind is protected from evil thoughts! At least I know mine isn’t! I started thinking, what if putting on the helmet of salvation really meant taking off our self-protecting helmet that pushes away all the thoughts we think we need to push away in order to be happy. When we receive Jesus we take that self protecting helmet off and allow Jesus into those thoughts – good and bad- to shine a light on them and ask God what to do about them. If we are constantly pushing away thoughts, saying things like, ”I can’t think that” and they keep coming up, we need the light of Jesus to heal and help us understand why we have those thoughts and what to do about them.
This recently happened to me. During the past year, when I have been cooking and have a knife or see a knife, I would get this weird thought of stabbing myself. I know! It was out of nowhere! I would be in a great mood just cooking some chicken or something and that thought would roll through my mind! All year I would just dismiss the thought, or I would kick out any evil spirits that I thought were messing with me! But time and time again that thought would hit me. Finally, I thought, why don’t I just ask God where it’s coming from?! So I did. And He told me! I took off that self protecting helmet and invited the Jesus of salvation into my thoughts. He reminded me of a time I was dealing with anxiety big time. I was sitting in the parking lot of Target deciding whether or not to go in. I had been so anxious I couldn’t make any decisions. I was so mad at myself and I had the thought that I wish I could just go to Heaven. I just thought if I died, the mental anguish would leave. Jesus shined the light on that memory. I asked Jesus where He was in that memory, and He showed me that he was right next to me holding my hand. He also made me realize that in that moment I came into agreement with the lie that dying is better than living – so I came out of agreement with that lie and came into agreement with the truth that says, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19b.
I took off my self protecting helmet that made me deny what was really going on in my mind! As soon as I took that thing off, acknowledged my thoughts and let the light of Jesus shine in, the Truth was shown and I put on that helmet of salvation!
Next, is the breastplate of Righteousness. I used to think the breastplate was for protecting our heart from bad, and living right! But, our righteousness comes from God, not ourselves. Then I thought, what if putting on the breastplate of righteousness means taking off the breastplate we wear that is trying to protect our heart by not letting anyone in. When we really realize we are Righteous in Christ- not because of anything we have done – but because of Jesus, we take off the self-protecting breastplate and start to let others into our emotional lives. When we realize who we are in Christ, we understand that there is nothing and no one that can change that! When we have that realization, we allow others into our inner world without fear and we realize there is no need to self protect our heart.
Thirdly, we have the belt of Truth. I know this one! I even spoke at a women’s dinner about the belt of truth. But I’m starting to think I was wrong – sorry women! I always thought about the belt of Truth as Jesus. We know that “Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” John 14:6. Just like the belt in the armor during the Bible times, the belt is what held the tunic and all the armor together – Jesus is the one that holds everything together! Which is true. But I started to think of the belt of Truth in a different way. What if putting on the belt of Truth actually means taking off our self protecting belt that make us look like “we have it all together” – You know, that person we want to look like when we are around our work friends or our church friends. What if putting on the belt of Truth means taking off that self protecting belt that “holds us all together” and letting it all hang out. Knowing the Truth, Jesus, is representing us and we don’t have to pretend we are anybody but who we are – real, true, and honest!
Next, are the shoes! The Gospel shoes of peace! I always thought these shoes represented us walking in the Gospel and sharing Jesus with everyone we meet. I do think that is part of it! But I started thinking about all the “shoes” we wear. Running shoes, heels, flats, boots, etc. What if putting on the Gospel shoes of peace means taking off all the different shoes we use to wear- all the different roles we are in one day: the mom, the wife, the athlete, the business woman, and put on the only shoes that matter – the Gospel shoes of peace. Knowing our only role is to walk in peace and share the Gospel and we don’t need to be all those different people. Just being the person we are is all we need to be! That sure gives me peace!
The last two parts of the armor are the ones we hold – we don’t actually wear them. The Bible says “take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” Ephesians 6:16. So, obviously – our faith is to fight all the bad stuff the evil one throws at us. I believe that is true. But what if taking up our shied of faith actually means we put down our shield of fear. That shield that “protects” us from anyone hurting us by what they say and do. You know, the shield that won’t let anyone too close so their words won’t pierce through our shield out of fear that we will get hurt. But, truly holding up the shield of faith is knowing what we believe and walking with confidence that no matter what the enemy throws at us, our faith in God is bigger. So, we can let people in and know that our faith in God is our protector.
The last piece of armor is the best! The sword of the Spirit. I believe holding the sword of the Spirit means working with the Holy Spirit to fight the good fight of faith. But what if it also means putting down that sword of self that we constantly have out to hurt others before they have the chance to hurt us. We think if we can cut them before they cut us we will be safe. Wielding the sword of the Spirit is letting the Holy Spirit fight our battles for us, instead of the us taking up the sword of self. We can know no matter what happens, God is the one who brings Justice.
So, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that my opinion of putting on the armor of God actually means taking off the armor of self! It is a whole lot easier to think of wearing a big suit of armor “protecting” us from bad stuff than it is to think of opening our mind, heart, and emotions for the world to see. But, I have definitely tried both, and I have found taking off that self armor is so freeing, and I know I have the invisible armor of God on with Jesus fighting for me every step of the way!