Sunday, February 15, 2009

Get Pumped Up

I'm sure most of us are familiar with the picture of a coach giving his players a pep talk before the big game. I know I've seen many examples on the television, as well as experiencing some back in the days when I was active in sports. Everyone is suited up, ready to go out and do battle, and the coach calls everyone together for a last minute talk before they enter the playing field. How many of us though, have ever really given that picture a lot of thought? I mean, just why does the coach do that? Haven't they done all the preparation in the preceding week? Obviously, if so many coaches do it there must be a good reason and purpose behind it. Even more so if you look at the passage in Ephesians that we have been looking at and see that Paul essentially does the exact same thing.

We saw last week that Paul introduces us to our adversaries, and warns us of what we should expect as far as the their tactics. Now, in Ephesians 6:13-15 Paul in reality gives us a little pep talk before we go out and reminds us of the reasons we need not fear. In these verses Paul makes the point that there are three things God has already done for us that have prepared us for the battle we face.

At first, for the second time we are told to put on the whole armor of God, which, if you think about it, obviously is very important or Paul would not have repeated himself so quickly. But there may be another reason as well, and that is that we are being reminded because it is something that may be easily forgotten! I guess sometimes the simple things are the first to be forgotten, so Paul here is simply reminding us not to forget. From here Paul goes on to describe the first three pieces of our armor. I think it is important to note that when Paul reveals these three pieces, he introduces each with the past tense verb "having". In other words, we have already put these three on and he is simply reminding us that we are already wearing them. When was that you ask? Well, I believe what Paul is telling us is that we put these three on when we made our decision to allow Christ to come into our lives and asked forgiveness of our sins. In other words, when we became Christians, we were issued these pieces to wear once and for all, and Paul is simply reminding us that we are wearing them.

The first is the "girdle" of truth. I know, you really are surprised to find you are wearing a girdle, but let's see if I can explain this in a way you can understand. In the Roman Army, soldiers wore short skirts not unlike a Scottish kilt. ( I'm Scotch so I get it.) Over this, they wore a longer cloak which was cinched at the waist by a girdle, not unlike a wide belt. (See, it's not so bad after all.) When they prepared to go into battle they would tuck their cloak up under the girdle to free up their legs for quick movements. It was the first thing they did before battle, so what Paul is saying here is the first thing we need to do before battle is be reminded that we are fighting for the truth! When we made our decision to follow Christ, we decided Jesus was truth embodied, and we believe in His promises. We are not fighting for something that is false, but we fight for the truth of God, and His message to us. This is usually where Satan attacks us first, trying to get us to doubt the truth in which we have chosen to believe.

The second thing Paul tells us is that when we first believed, we put on the "breastplate of righteousness". Now it's easy to see that the breastplate protects our "vital" organs. These are the parts of our bodies that ensure our very lives. But what is righteousness to the believer? It is our standing before God, and the assurance that we are an acceptable sacrifice to Him. How often does Satan attack us with doubts about our worthiness to approach God? He points out our weaknesses, shortcomings,and failures hoping to cause us to doubt. What Paul is reminding us here is that when we believed, Christ became our "righteousness"; in other words although we can never do anything on our own to approach God, Jesus did it all by sacrificing Himself for us. It is His sacrifice, His righteousness, that allows us into the presence of God.

The third piece of armor Paul tells us about is the shoes we wear called the preparation of the Gospel of Peace. Now as someone who spent many many years running, I can tell you that good shoes are one of the most important pieces of equipment you need to run a race. How often does Paul describe our Christian lives as a race? And we are talking about a long one, not a quick sprint, so the shoes we wear need to go the distance. But the word translated "equipment" or "preparation" depending on your translation, actually means "readiness" in the Greek. So what Paul is telling us here is that the third piece of our armor is actually a mental one. It is the knowledge and confidence in the Gospel that gives us a "peace" or calmness and courage. In other words, there is no need to be afraid of anything Satan can throw at us because we are at peace with the knowledge of the Gospel we believe in.

How like a good coach Paul is being here. We are getting ready to go into battle for our Lord, and Paul takes the time to remind us that we are already prepared to do battle because we are wearing three pieces of armor that were gifts from God when we first made the decision to believe. All three of these are designed to give us confidence and peace going into battle. Are you ready?