Every kingdom ultimately is faced with war. They may not want it, prepare for it or know how to move forward, but it is often the case the that enemy on the march decides when and where the war takes place. That kingdom that determines they want no part of war no matter what and that they will remain neutral in all circumstances will be conquered by every enemy that moves against them. That is true even when it is a spiritual kingdom over which the Prince of Peace reigns as king. God’s kingdom is always trying to be at peace, preaching a gospel of peace. In Romans 14:17 Paul said “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking but about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Then in verse 19 the challenge was, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”
It was the same Paul who wrote the powerful letter to the church in Ephesus that spends tons of time and effort to help us understand the nature of the church that Jesus is head of. When he was near the conclusion of that letter he said, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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. 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. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth, buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:10-17)
Add to this the statement Paul made in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6. “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.” The Book of Revelation is a symbolic story of God’s kingdom at war against the kingdom of Satan and all the worldly tools he uses to fight against God and His kingdom.
Consider some basic lessons from these descriptions of the Kingdom of the Lord at war. First, as in every war, it is imperative to know for certain who the real enemy is. If the enemy can somehow turn the army of God against itself, then his kingdom will spread all the more. When Jesus was accused of performing his miracles by the power of Satan he laid out one of the most powerful lessons ever when he said that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. If Satan’s kingdom is divided against itself it will not stand. If Jesus was right that a kingdom divided against itself can’t stand, don’t you suppose the point applies to His own kingdom? Listen to Paul’s statement. Our enemy isn’t against flesh and blood. It isn’t people of any sort. Our enemy is the devil and his demonic forces, the spiritual forces of evil in the highest realm. When disciples of Jesus turn on each other to try to pull one person or idea down while elevating their own the kingdom is hindered. What a difference that is from Paul’s attitude when in the Roman jail and learning that some were preaching out of bad motives. He was sorry for their wrong motives but still rejoiced that Christ was being preached (Philippians 1:12-18).
Second, notice that the armor to fight the kingdom battles aren’t like the ones the world uses. If we try to fight the spiritual battles using the world’s weapons we simply fall into the Satan’s army while thinking we are fighting against them. To fight a spiritual war you must use spiritual weapons. Fighting God’s battles with the world’s weapons puts us into the wrong situation every time. Notice the weapons are all personal, rather than corporate. Also, it is necessary for each person to put on the full armor. Trying to fight the battle for the Lord with a partial armor leaves us vulnerable and harms the rest of the army. The spiritual armor covers each vital organ in the body. With that armor we can stand our ground no matter what form of attack Satan’s army brings. God’s weapons are mighty tearing down strongholds of Satan.
Look closely at the different elements of that armor and imagine yourself getting up each morning and putting on your armor as you prepare to go out into the world. Just as we make certain we are bathed, shaved and dressed we must put on the full armor of the Lord. Notice this is the uniform given by the powerful God we serve. While the armor is individual, it isn’t one that we each choose for ourself. It is like serving in any army. We must put on the uniform given and can’t simply pick out the type uniform we will wear each day.
God’s armor begins with a belt that can pull all of our other garments in close so we can fight the Lord’s battle. It is the belt of truth. This is a belt of integrity. It isn’t just that we hear the truth of God and go out to tell that truth to the world. It is that personal truth that makes us strong when we speak because we aren’t afraid that somehow we will be found out as not being real or not telling the truth about something. A couple of years ago I was speaking at a different city than where I live and was telling a story of something that had happened in another city hundreds of miles away. At the end of the presentation I was giving to a group of men at a leadership gathering, a man stood up that I didn’t know but the people there obviously did. He said, “That story that Leon just told, I want to add something to it. I was there when that happened living in the city and a part of that church. I want you to know it took place just as he said.” I’ve thought lots of times, what if I had changed it some to make it a better story? To fight the battles against Satan’s army it is vital that we tell the truth, live with honesty and integrity all the time.
To protect the heart we need a breastplate and in a spiritual battle that breastplate is to live a righteous life. Certainly we aren’t ever righteous person on our own. “None are righteous, no not one.” We can work at doing the right thing. But no matter how hard we attempt to do right, we fail and mess up. But what is absolutely amazing is that Jesus paid the the price for out sins by having them placed on his account and then dying for the sins of the world. But it is better than that. When we live by faith and give ourselves to him, God takes the righteousness of Jesus to our account (Romans 4).
When we go out to battle against the enemy we must have on our feet the right shoes. You don’t go out to play football with tennis shoes on. The footwear that we need for spiritual battles is the preparation to share the gospel of peace with others. It is that readiness to tell others the good news of Jesus with those living in sin and with those who would stand against us and for Satan.
We must have the proper shield. The Roman soldier had two kinds of shield. One large oner hat covered the whole body or a small one that the soldier could maneuver easily to protect themselves. The shield that we must have is one of faith in Jesus as Lord. Faith isn’t just believing that Jesus is God in the flesh. It is trusting Him to do every thing that He has promised. He said when giving the charge to make disciples of all different people, that he would be with us all the time. The writer of Hebrews declared he would never leave or forsake us. When I trust that He is there with us, we aren’t alone and can’t face the enemy with power. That shield of faith will help us extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
To protect the head we need the helmet of salvation. Likely the point is more than just begin saved but that one knows of their salvation and feels secure in their relationship with the Lord. If I’m always wondering if my life is really right with the Lord I’ll have an extremely difficult time fighting against the Lord’s enemies.
Finally, we need the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Interestingly, the word for sword here doesn’t refer to a long sword or even one of the chopping axe type swords for making some mighty attack against the others. It is the word for a small dagger type sword. It was used up close and personal. It wasn’t so much an attack instrument as a defense weapon. It isn’t used indiscriminately to go on some kind of rampage against the world and sin. It is an instrument for precision. Remember a sword doesn’t need defending it is used to defend. We need to prepare the our minds for battle by studying the word regularly planting that message deeply into our being. Then as we face challenges in life we can call up the word of the Lord as Jesus did when facing the temptations Satan brought on Him. Each time his appeal was to what was written to win the battle.
The kingdom of the Lord is a mighty kingdom. It will eventually win the battle against sin. If we want to be on the winning side we must stay with the Lord and fight the battle with the full armor of the Lord all the time.