The Shield of FaithPastor Lutzer | August 31, 2008
Selected highlights from this sermon
There are evil spirits. All religions believe that. At the root is Satan who wants us to make our own decisions regarding sin. He makes it attractive to us. He finds a dirty place in our soul and exploits it.
This message isn’t only for Christians because if you don’t have the shield of faith that only Christ can provide, Satan and his demons will assault you—and you will be defeated.
May we pray together one more time?
Father, I ask in the name of Jesus, that all who listen to this message may have ears to hear. Overcome the natural reticence and hesitancy to listen to Your truth, especially truth that some need desperately. We thank You today that You have conquered Satan. We thank you that You crushed him under your feet. We thank You that his doom is sure. Therefore, we pray that You might help us to speak with confidence and to listen as if eternity depended on it. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
We’ve been learning in this series of messages that there is an invisible enemy that all of us have and who is involved in our lives. You may tune into this message, or you may be here today and say that this is a message for Christians, and in many respects it is. But recognize that there are evil spirits that belong to all the other religions of the world as well, even through personal experience. For example, if you are here today listening and you are a Muslim, you know that the Muslims speak about the jinn, I believe it is. They speak about evil spirits. So do the Buddhists; so do the Hindus; so do people who are in the New Age movement. They connect with higher powers. Sometimes they hear voices. Sometimes they recognize that in their deception, by the way, they are committing themselves to a power beyond themselves, and it is not the power of the living and true God. So, in a sense, we’re all in this together, but the only book that really gives us a definitive kind of explanation and description of this invisible war is the Bible because it was revealed by God.
Now when you stop to think about Satan, we are learning that one of the things that he wants us to do is to not fear sin, to believe that we can make our own decisions, and in making those decisions, to actually profit and to handle any of the consequences that may come our way. He makes sin attractive to us.
We’ve also learned that he is very malicious and he is well organized. Take your Bibles and turn to Ephesians 6, which is really the passage that we have been using as we talk about the pieces of armor. You’ll remember that the Apostle Paul says in verse 12, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers, against the spiritual forces.” I think what he is doing is he is talking about different ranks of demonic powers. When you think about good angels you know that there are, of course, Gabriel and Michael, the angels that we know about, who receive a lot of prominence, the only two angels that are mentioned by name in the Bible; and then under them there are ranks. There are cherubim and seraphim, and they are well organized.
The same kind of organization exists in the evil spirit world as Satan gets organized and has a plan to try to destroy the Church and to do as much evil as he possibly can. As a matter of fact, it may well be that an evil spirit or two is actually assigned to us to find out our weaknesses, to make sure that any weaknesses can be exploited, and to take advantage of us particularly when we are tempted.
Now in the Bible there is no specific formula for what is called exorcism, though Jesus frequently cast out demons by His word and by His power, but I think that for you and me it’s very important for us to turn to the writings of the New Testament, that is the Letters—the Epistles. And by the way, if you are new to the Christian faith, the epistles are not the wives of the Apostles. All right? [laughter] We use the term to refer to certain letters written by Paul and other writers of the New Testament like Jude, Peter and John. We use the word epistles to refer to those writings, such as, for example, the book of Ephesians, and what we discover there is that the epistles do not emphasize power encounters as much as they do truth encounters. And that’s what we’re going to do today. We’re going to talk about truth. We’re going to talk about lies. We’re going to talk about deceptions.
Now what is it that Satan is really looking for in your life and mine? I can tell you that what he wants to find is some unclean place in our soul that he can exploit. If you have a background possibly of being sexually molested or involved in some kind of sexuality that has left you with a great deal of emptiness and self-hatred, Satan wants to exploit that. He wants to exploit every opportunity that you and I give him when we begin to invite sin into our lives and make it a welcome home within us.
Now, we are going to be talking today about some serious, serious matters, because there are some of you who have voices in your heads, and you know who you are. In fact, I’ve discovered that there are more people with voices in their heads than perhaps we know about because most people don’t tell us. Some of you have voices that tell you that you should cut yourselves, that you should commit suicide, or that you should do evil, or voices that are an assault against your self-worth. Satan loves those. You’re damaged goods. There’s really no hope for you. As a matter of fact, considering the direction that you are traveling, you’re never going to amount to anything, and those voices can become very persistent as Satan does his war against us.
Now I hope you’ve been here for the past messages as we’ve talked about such things as the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the shoes of peace. Today we come to a very critical point in our armor, and that is the shield of faith. Notice it is there in verse 16. It is our text for the day, and verse 15—the shoes for your feet—but verse 16, “in all circumstances.” It can also be translated “above all.” We’re going to talk about a piece of armor which if you do not have this one, you will be assaulted, and you will be defeated when the assault comes. “Above all,” even if you should forget those shoes of peace for a moment, “take the shield of faith,” the Bible says. And you’ll notice, “with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.”
Three questions are going to be answered in the next 20 or 25 minutes—critical questions that for many of you can be a transforming moment.
The first question is this: What is the shield of faith? What is it? Well the imagery, of course, is drawn from Roman soldiers because that’s where Paul is. He’s writing this in Rome. He is chained to Roman soldiers, so when he speaks about the shield of faith, we learn that there were two different kinds of shields. One was a very small one, perhaps two feet by two feet, and you would have that strapped onto your arms so that you would use it to rebuff any attempts of the enemy to get you. It was used oftentimes in one-on-one combat, so you could have the shield on your left arm and be using your sword with your right arm.
The other possibility, and it is much more likely, is that there was another kind of shield. It was a bigger shield. Perhaps it was two-and-a-half feet wide and four to four-and-a-half feet long, so that when you held it, it in effect covered your entire body. The other thing about these particular shields is that they were beveled, or they had hooks on them so that soldiers could hook them together. So you can imagine a hundred soldiers having all of their shields linked together, and as they walked it was like a wall, and they were walking toward their enemy. They were not the ones who were doing the shooting. Behind them, shooting arrows above their heads, were the archers who were being also protected by the shields of those who went first into battle, and I think that’s the kind of shield, by the word that Paul uses, that Paul is talking about.
Well, if that was a Roman shield, what is the shield of faith? The shield of faith very clearly is the promises that God gives us and the promises by which we must live. You see, if you do not have God’s promises, if you disbelieve God, what Satan desires to do is to give you empirical proof that God, if he has the power, simply does not care about you, and what you’ve done is so evil and so wrong, that He’s mad at you anyway. You might as well walk away from Him. Those are the lies of the devil and they run counter to the promises of God.
You say, “Well, what promises?” For example, if we were to read the last part of Ephesians 1, Paul says (and I’ll simply quote it for you) that Jesus has been exalted above every power and every name that is named in this world and in the world to come. Now there’s a promise of the triumph of Jesus over all evil spirits, and the victory of Jesus over all the forces of evil that you and I can possibly imagine. But you see, you come to a promise like that and then you say, “Well, yes, I know that Jesus has the power, but does God care about me?” If you have the shield of faith you will know that God cares about you.
Just this morning I was thinking of promises such as in Psalm 103: “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide, neither will he keep his anger forever,” and then he goes on to say, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us, and as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities them that fear him, for he knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust.” This is a word of comfort that is part of the shield of faith.
Does God love you? Many of you struggle with the love of God. You say, “Where was he when I was being hurt as a child? Where was he when I was in a dilemma?” And so Satan says, “You see, God doesn’t love you.” The minute you begin to say that, you begin to put down your shield of faith, for the Bible says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or persecution, or nakedness or a sword?” or we could add cancer. John Piper preached a message entitled, “God and Cancer,” and I’m thinking of preaching a similar one. Can it separate us from the love of God? “Nay, in all these things we are super-conquerors because of him who loved us.”
So, you see, the question is this: The shield of faith asks us, “Are you going to believe God’s promise, or are you going to believe the circumstances and the reality that seems to be around you?” That’s the test of the shield of faith. So what is the shield of faith? The shield of faith very simply is the promises of God.
Now another question that we need to ask is, “Why do we need this shield?” Well, there it is in the text. “In all circumstances, taking up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” What the Romans used to do in battle was to take their arrows and dip them in pitch, and then light those arrows, and then they would shoot them, and when the arrows landed – if they were to land on your clothing, for example – they could start a fire. If they landed on your skin, it would not only be the piercing of the arrow. It would be the sharpness of the pain of the heat and of the fire, and so what Paul is saying is this. He says, “What Satan does is to shoot these arrows at you.”
Now what the Romans also did in order to quench those fiery darts was to take those shields that were often made of metal (sometimes they were made of wood and then there was metal on the outside or leather) and they would dip them in water because they wanted to make sure that when those flaming arrows came, that the fire would be put out and the fire wouldn’t get to them.
So the Apostle Paul says that Satan has these flaming arrows that he shoots, and if you don’t have a shield of faith, you are not only his target, but he is a good shot and he will hit you at your most vulnerable place, and he’ll get to you without the shield of faith.
Let’s take some examples. There are people today with huge personality and behavioral issues—huge. Let’s take, for example, eating disorders—somebody who looks into the mirror and believes that she is actually overweight, when in point of fact, she may be starving herself to death. When you begin to analyze that, you discover that a person who believes that has actually believed a whole cluster of lies—a whole cluster—namely, that self-worth is dependent upon the way in which you look, and the idea of control and anger, and you know that these problems are huge and they’re all bundled together, and Satan says, “Since you no longer have your shield of faith, you’re not believing in God’s goodness; you’re not believing God’s Word. You are believing the dictates of your own feelings and your own deceptions.” He moves in with an arrow and he hits his target.
Let’s talk about such things as various sexual perversions, again oftentimes rooted in childhood where there’s been molestation and when there has been a misuse and all kinds of different reasons. You see, Satan comes in and says, “You know you are that way. God is angry with you. You might as well turn aside. You might as well give in, and your shield of faith, where is it? It’s gone. You don’t believe God actually cares about you or loves you or that God could change you? You don’t believe that,” and as a result Satan says, “Since you don’t believe it, I’ll sock it to you,” and there comes another arrow.
I’ve talked to people, and you have too, who have tried to commit suicide, and they may cut themselves, or they may actually follow through and take pills, and try to die. Why? Satan says, “Oh, you really see yourself as damaged goods, don’t you? You really see yourself as worthless. Nobody wants you, and because nobody wants you, look at the mess you’ve made. People have turned against you. God is against you,” and you believe his lie and you follow through when that flaming missile comes, that strong temptation, that burning desire to get out of life, thinking that something may be better on the other side.
The list is long of the things that Satan will use in our lives to fight against us. You know I am told that out in the wild, bull moose will fight over a herd, and once they lose the battle, they never fight again. The loser simply submits. It’s a major contest, and if the loser loses (as losers do) he’s finished. That’s what Satan wants.
“You fought that problem long enough, and look at that. God hasn’t helped you. You’ve prayed about it. Give up. I am going to control your life at this point. Don’t fight anymore.” And that’s what he does as his arrows of doubt, his arrows of self-hatred, and his arrows of unforgiveness come against your soul. You see, that’s why we need the shield of faith because Satan says, “God can’t help you, and even if he can, he doesn’t care. Resign yourself to the fact that God is not on your side.” You know, what that does is it blots out God and his promises.
Isn’t it amazing that you could take a coin (maybe a dime or a quarter) and you could hold it up to your eye, and it blots out the entire light of the sun? Satan says, “I want to give you enough arrows to blot out God’s promises, to disbelieve him and to give you credible reasons why you should not trust him.” And when he does that the shield of faith has fallen.
So the next question we have to answer obviously is, “How do we take it up?” You’ll notice that the Bible says here in verse 16, “Take up the shield of faith.” Take it up! How do you pick it up? The reason that I think it is so important that we understand this is number one; we need the help of others to do it. Remember I told you about those Roman shields? They were all hooked together. They were linked together and there were times when one soldier couldn’t go up against the enemy, but unitedly they could.
There are some of you here with huge personal problems, and you can’t pick up the shield probably on your own, because here’s what happens. When you drop the shield of faith, let me tell you what else you immediately drop. You immediately drop all hope, and once hope is gone there’s very little left, isn’t there? Once you give up hope that is really a bad way to go. Instead of love in your heart there is now cynicism against God and cynicism against others, and so you become very cynical because the shield has been dropped into the dust. What you find is that instead of peace in your heart, as we mentioned last week, what do you have? You have fear. You have huge bolts of fear going through your body, and you cannot anticipate the future. You can’t even give your future to God because you don’t trust him. The shield of faith has fallen.
You know, we need the help of others, and that’s why we have here at The Moody Church what we call the TMC Communities (The Moody Church Communities). You should join a small group, whether it is a community or a small group ministry. Don’t think that you can manage on your own, even if you are doing well in the Christian life. We just cannot do it without one another.
One day over in Colorado I was doing a series of seminars and someone else was doing seminars as well. He was a man who was giving seminars on how men could overcome pornography. He had had that problem in his own life, and God taught him some things, and so he was sharing it with others. I didn’t have a chance to attend his seminars, but I did have lunch with him. I told him, “I can’t attend your seminars but give me just the bottom line.” I was expecting him to say something like, “Well, you know there’s this truth in the book of Romans that really is the answer,” or some verse that others had overlooked. He surprised me. He said, “The healthiest way to overcome pornography is through a series of friendships that are open and honest and healthy,” and he said, “That’s the way in which a relationship is established with other men where there can be honesty, where there can be prayer for one another.” He said, “That’s the way to do it,” and I thought to myself, “That’s very interesting.”
It’s just like God to make sure that we can’t live the Christian life alone because he wants us to be connected. I’m so glad for the announcement that was given regarding our men’s ministry. How desperately we need that as men, and you see, what happens is we always drop the shield when we are alone. Isn’t that true? Isn’t it being alone that you drift off into these huge problems, and you live there, and you disconnect yourself from others, and you disconnect yourself from talking to others, and shame oftentimes drives people there? We have to create an atmosphere where shame does not hold people bound, because Jesus, the Bible says, on the cross, despised the shame; he overcame the shame. So in all honesty, in all openness, in all recognition that as fallen human beings we all have problems, and we all have struggles and temptations, we need to, in this church, create an atmosphere where it’s okay to say that I struggle, and we need to struggle together, holding up one another’s shields of faith by which we will be able to prove that Satan’s arrows are nothing but smoldering lies. We need to do that together. [applause]
So first of all, we need one another. Let me give you a second truth that is very important. We need to review what God has said. The Bible says that faith comes by hearing, and hearing the Word of God. You say to yourself, “Well, I don’t have much faith. You know, my shield has been thrown in the dust long ago. Long ago I’ve given up on prayer. I’ve given up on God. I’ve been so disappointed in the fact that he hasn’t answered my prayers. He hasn’t come through. I prayed that he would heal somebody, and he didn’t, and so I’m kind of on furlough, like one man told me on a plane. He said, “I’m on furlough of living the Christian life.” The shield of faith is in the dust. What we need to do is to renew ourselves in the promises of God.
Every single day we read the Bible and we do not put it down until we have found something that we can take with us throughout the day. This past week I was reading 1 Corinthians, and every day as I read a chapter, I didn’t put my Bible down until I said, “Now what is the truth that I’m going to take with me—a promise that can be believed, a prayer that I can pray, a truth that should transform me today?” And so what we do is we build the Word of God into our lives, and we recognize that the more we learn, the more we know. The more Scriptures we memorize, the more faith is built into our lives. And then we begin to realize that all around us we may look and there’s no evidence of God’s care. Faith, you know, is very precious to God, by the way. Without faith we can’t please God. The Bible says in 1 Peter, in fact, that it is our faith that is to the honor and the glory of God at His appearing. I personally want to have something for the honor and the glory of Jesus at His appearing, and I pray that I have some faith. Now He gives us the faith through His Word, so it’s actually all of God, but C.S. Lewis said, there is no faith that so honors God (and I’m paraphrasing) than the person who looks around and sees no reason to believe in God’s care, sees no reason to trust Him, and yet goes on believing God’s bare word anyway. The person who does that has the shield of faith, and Satan sends those arrows, and they hit the shield and they fall to the ground.
So what we need is one another, we need to review what God has said, and we need to uncover the lies we have believed. In an ideal world it would be wonderful if, after this message, I could give an invitation and ask people to come to a certain room. Most of our rooms are all taken after this, but I would like to counsel you as a group, or, if I were counseling you as an individual, we’d talk about the lies that you have believed. What is it that you have believed about God that is a lie? What is it that you have believed about sin that is a lie? And some of you who are skirting all this would have to face it directly and to say, “What is it that I have believed that is not Biblical?” You have to identify those lies. In fact, the passage of Scripture I might use if I were counseling a group (and sometimes I have about these matters) comes from the book of James where he says in chapter 4, “Humble yourselves before the mighty hand of God,” and then he says, “Submit to God.” He also says, “Cleanse your hands you sinners and purify your mind, you double-minded.” We have to get rid of our double-mindedness, and it’s in that context that James says, “Resist the devil,” and if you resist he’ll flee from you. Now that does not mean he won’t be back. Jesus proved that. He used the Word of God against the devil three times, and it says in the Gospel of Luke, “Satan departed from him waiting for a more opportune time.” Don’t ever think your battle will be over. Don’t ever think you have outgrown spiritual warfare.
My father was 100 years old, and as you know he’s a lot older than that now, when Satan brought to his mind the sins of his youth, and he went to my mother and said, “You know, Satan is just assaulting me about my past sin,” and he was going to ask forgiveness for his sins, but my mother wisely said, “No you don’t. This is not a time to ask for forgiveness for sins. This is a time to praise God that your sins have been forgiven.” [applause] I thought, “How remarkable that at the age of about 100 the devil should still assault my father who lived a godly, righteous life all of his days, and still throw up those sins of his youth.” I’ll tell you the only time you are safe from the devil’s assaults is when you pass from this life to the next, and you are in the presence of Jesus. [applause] The devil will hassle you until you die.
So what we need to do is to uncover the lies, and then as James says, we have to resist the devil. Sometimes this can’t be done just in a few moments. We’re talking here about some of you who need to go home and you need to spend time alone (maybe an hour, maybe an hour or two) and really wrestle this out with God, to be willing to face what you believed. Your shield is in the dirt. You’ve asked other people to help you pick it up. They are going to be praying for you. They are going to be encouraging you, and you are not going to give up until the devil must flee.
Somewhere I came across this quote from a missionary—I think in New Guinea. You know, when you work on the mission field it must be very discouraging, and by the way discouragement is always of the devil. You see, in discouragement you begin to put down your shield because discouragement says, “God isn’t going to be there for me. He’s not really believable anyway, and I’m just going to have to make it somehow and he’s not going to be there. When I bungee jump he’s not going to catch me.” So this missionary wrote these words. “Man, it’s great to be in the thick of the fight, to draw the old devil’s heaviest guns, to have him come at you with depression, discouragement, slander and disease. He doesn’t waste time on a lukewarm bunch. He hits good and hard when a fellow is hitting him. You can always measure the weight of your blow by the one that you get back, when you are on your back with a fever and the last of your strength is gone, when some of your converts backslide, when you learn that your most promising inquirers are only fooling, when your mail gets held up and some of your friends back home don’t even bother to answer your letters. Is that a time to begin mourning? No! That’s the time to pull out the stops and shout “Hallelujah.” The old fellow is getting it on the neck and he’s getting it back now. Heaven is leaning over the battlements and watching and wondering if we will stick it out. When the angels who are with us see our unlimited reserves, the boundless resources, the promises, and as they see the impossibility of failure, how disgusted and sad they must be when we run away in defeat.” Wow! Isn’t that great? There’s a missionary who says, “I’m going to go on believing those promises no matter what, because without faith it is impossible to please God, and those who come to God must believe that he is, and that he rewards those who diligently seek him out. They are the ones who keep that shield of faith by being in the Word, being in prayer, and being with fellow believers so that they can detect Satan’s lies, and they can say with authority, ‘Be gone, Satan, for it is written,’ and they stand on the word of God, and the trial of their faith (as I mentioned) being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”
Fellow Christian, pick up that shield! And if you are here today and you’ve never trusted Christ as Savior, I have to tell you that without Jesus you don’t have any armor. Without Jesus there is no armor. The arrows just come and they fling through you, and all that you can do is get on drugs or on alcohol (or something like that) to deaden the pain; that’s all you can do. Trust Christ who died for sinners, whose death on the cross was a victory over Satan. Take his side in the conflict, because I can tell you there is no doubt as to who the winner is. [applause]
Let’s bow together to pray.
Our Father, we ask today for those who have given up hope along with the shield of faith, with hope and love and peace. We ask today, Father, that you might renew our faith in your promises. Help us to pick up the shields of one another, to encourage, to strengthen, to be part of all that you plan to do here at The Moody Church, and we pray that our victory might be translated into the victory of others as brothers and sisters in Christ hold hands and say, “Let’s together defeat the enemy in the powerful name of Jesus.”
Now before I close this prayer, what is it that you need to say to God, my friend? Some of you need to say, “God, I’m going to deal with these issues. I’m going to listen to this message a second time.” Some of you need to say, “Lord, you need to save me.” Some of you need to say, “Lord, who shall I go to who will help me in the battle?” What is it that you need to say to God?
Father, hear the cry of everyone who is praying to you right now. Listen, we pray, oh Father, and answer. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.