Tag Archives: Christ Jesus

The Shield of Faith (= God?!)

Worship Meditation on the Spiritual Armor

You, O Lord, are a Shield about me, my Glory, and the Lifter of my head. … The Lord is my Strength and my Shield.  In Him my heart trusts, and I am helped.  My heart exults and with my song I give thanks to Him. … Behold our Shield, O God.  Look on the face of Your Anointed! … Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand vs. the schemes of the devil. … In all circumstances, take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one. … Fight the good fight of the faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession … Do not throw away your confidence which has a great reward. … My righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.  But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. … Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. … Without faith it is impossible to please [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him. … Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world ~ our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? … Psalms 3:3; 28:7; 84:9; Eph. 6:11,16; 1 Timothy 6:12; Hebrews 10:35,38,39; 11:1,6; 1 John 5:4-5 (English Standard Version)

This semester we are introducing our Tuesday night Kids Clubbers to the spiritual armor which Jesus Christ purchased and then gives to His people, by grace … so that we can win against sin.  God gives these to us, and then we put them on, daily:  the Helmet of salvation, the Breastplate of righteousness, the Belt of truth, our feet shod with the readiness of the gospel of peace, the Shield of faith, and the Sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God).  “But what about prayer?!” some ask.  Prayer is the way we put on the armor pieces.

Consider many examples of inadequate shields which fail to do a good job because they are too small, or they are strangely shaped, or they are unwieldy, or they are soft and so easily pierced.  Compare these to effective shields (especially from ancient times):  A good shield is large enough to protect.  It has a good handle on the back.  It can be moved or wielded quickly in order to cover the exposed and weak areas of the soldier’s body.  Or it might be large enough to cover the body, going all around it!

Especially in a battle unit or in a company of soldiers, through organization and attentive listening to the commander, twenty or more soldiers with their shields can become like a many-plated turtle, protecting each other and especially the prince (or some other vital person or item) hiding safely in the middle of them.  Some shields were covered with leather, then soaked in water; this explains Paul’s specific reference to the shield of faith being able to extinguish the enemy’s flaming arrows or darts.

A shield and a breastplate are not redundant; though they perform similar functions, a shield can be moved to protect the weakness of the moment … but only if the soldier is awake and alert!  In the spiritual reality which this armor analogy pictures, weak areas are like our doubts, questions, anxieties, and immaturities.  A shield can be trusted if it proves itself to be solid and effective time after time.  It should be used as often as it is needed, as many times as you are being attacked.  But there is only one FIRST time to use the shield.

Faith is too often depicted as a one-use gift:  “I expressed faith in the Lord back when I was first saved.”  First faith is good and necessary:  “I will now trust in God.”  But if it is real faith, then God’s people will keep on trusting, believing, “faithing” … until there is no more need for faith.  Oh, when is that?!  When we are in heavenly glory, face-to-face with Jesus, and there are no more attacks, no more promises remaining which are not fulfilled, and where everything for which we have hoped is being seen.

There are many Bible accounts where “the shield of faith” is needed to protect the people of God in their weak moments:  when Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac on an altar; when David went forward against the giant Goliath; when the faithful prophets (and later, apostles) were called by God to say hard but true things to angry audiences; when Peter was walking to Jesus on the water; when Jesus Himself was on the cross (experiencing His Father’s perfect wrath, yet committing His spirit into His Father’s hands).

In all of those examples and in your own particular story, the most impressive thing is not the human faith, but the faithfulness and the trustworthiness of God.  We can have faith in God-our-Shield because He is faithful, strong, and true.

The Sound of Silence … and What It Means

Surely our griefs He Himself bore and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.  But He was pierced through for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities.  The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.  All of us like sheep have gone astray.  Each of us has turned to his own way.  But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.  He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth.  Like a lamb that is led to slaughter and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. … The high priest stood and said to [Jesus]:  “Do You not answer?  What is it that these men are testifying against You?”  But Jesus kept silent. … While He was being accused by the chief priests and the elders, He did not answer.  Then Pilate said to Him:  “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?”  [Jesus] did not answer him with regard to even a single charge, so the governor was amazed. … Jesus was saying:  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” … [Jesus] said to [the thief]:  “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” … When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother:  “Woman, behold, your son!”  He said to the disciple:  “Behold, your mother!” … About the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying:  “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is:  “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” … After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill Scripture, said:  “I am thirsty.” … When Jesus had received the sour wine He said:  “It is finished!” … Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said:  “Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit.” … Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, & yielded up His spirit.  Isaiah 53:4-7; Matthew 26:62-63a; 27:12-14; Luke 23:34,43; John 19:26-27; Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; John 19:28,30; Luke 23:46; Matthew 27:50

[The preacher pauses for twelve full seconds, then speaks]:  We are not very comfortable with silence!  I wish I had a brain-scan for each of you as you observed my silence … assumptions ranging from:  He is so nervous. … Maybe he’s stupid!He’s lost his voice. … Maybe for a nice change he doesn’t have anything to say (wrong)!  A universal thought must have occurred:  “Too bad those twelve seconds were wasted; we will never get them back.  A lost opportunity for instruction, etc.

Many of the youth with us today gave attention to teachings brought by Pastor Kyle Borg on the seven sayings or words of Jesus on the cross.  Our call-to-worship today (above) included all of those.  Perhaps Jesus said other things not recorded in Scripture, but the words we do have could have been stated in thirty seconds.  As a portion of His six hours on the cross, Jesus’ “quiet-time” represented about 99.9% of all His time on the cross.  That’s a lot of silence (no doubt, more awkward than mine this morning).  The disciples and Jesus’ other followers, even His sworn enemies, likely desired more “last words” from Jesus.

Consider, then, why not more?  Why was Jesus so silent?  Please, do not perceive that Jesus was so quiet because He was unconscious.  He specifically swore off chemicals which would have induced such a numbness, because Jesus desired to be all-present for the ordeal.  So then, why?

  1. Have you ever tried to speak, when hanging on a cross?!  I will not get into the science of it, but if every breath was designed to hurt as a criminal was hanging on a cross, then surely each word would have been very painful.  A “chatty Jesus” would lead many skeptics to doubt that Jesus really was on a cross, or to conjecture a mystical non-human Jesus evidently escaped the pain of it.
  2. With the almost six hours that Jesus had when He was not interacting with humans, is there Anyone else Jesus might have been interested in talking to?!  His Father, of course.  I do not perceive it as selfish to consider that, during Jesus’ “quiet-time” on the cross, He might have been serving already as our Great High Priest before Holy God, listing and accounting by incident and name the specific sins and sinners He was representing, then and there.  More thoroughly than any priest before Him, Jesus Christ’s perfect mind could know each sin that required a covering, and in prayer He could offer up Himself to God for that one, then that one.  Not wasted time!
  3. And I suggest this points to the greatest reason for Jesus’ predominant (99.9%) silence:  If I were up there on the cross, convinced I had been wrongfully convicted … wow, the storms of protest:  “Not fair!  Wrong guy!  Call my attorney!  You blew it.  I am innocent!”  But Jesus, amazingly quiet.  NOT just because Jesus was at peace about this plan of the ages … but because they did in fact get “The Right Guy”!  Wait, am I saying that Jesus was guilty?  Hold off on your answer, to at least hear this hint that my question is more complicated than it appears:  Jesus was not personally guilty of sin and rebellion against God, but in that He was bearing my sin, Jesus did have sin upon Him.  He was guilty-via-substitution.  Jesus Christ became sin for me, so that I can be regarded as the very righteousness of God.  Where my loud cries would indicate an attempt to get out of an unfair fix, Jesus refused to put up a protest, as this was the plan of our Triune God, and Jesus was bearing the just penalty for my rebellion.  Yours?!  In the face of this, we should be in awe … sometimes reflected in a still silence, other times shown by loud, exuberant praise (especially since He is risen).

The Breastplate of Righteousness

In [the true Shepherd’s] days, Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely.  This is the name by which He will be called:  “The Lord our Righteousness.” … Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. … I count all things loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, [that I may] be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God depending on faith. … How can a young man keep his way pure?  By guarding it according to Your word.  With my whole heart I seek You.  Let me not wander from Your commands.  I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.  [Jeremiah 23:6Matthew 6:33Philippians 3:8-9;Psalm 119:9-11]

Please keep praying for this congregation’s Kids Club and the covenant children who are benefiting from your commissioning of our Children’s Ministry Leaders for several years now.  In the first year the children considered simplified catechisms about the basic gospel message.  In this second year we have sampled the fruit of the Spirit (from Galatians 5) & now the spiritual armor (from Ephesians 6).  We are learning about all six armor parts and how we put them on (through prayer):  the Helmet of Salvationthe Breastplate of Righteousnessthe Belt of Truthfeet shod with the Readiness of the Gospel of Peace (whew!), the Shield of Faith, and the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.  Though we are instructed to obediently put these on, we see them in the first place as gifts of grace from our Savior Jesus Christ, who bought them for all of His people at great expense (His own blood).  Jesus defeated Satan, but these armor pieces help us to “Win Against Sin” every day (that’s the goal)!

Recently we learned about the Breastplate of Righteousness; this involved simple principles which we believe even some adults can understand!  “Righteousness” involves being completely right or good before God, as He defines it (that is, perfectly perfect)!  Nobody here (among the mere humans in this room) is that or achieves that.  This sad reality matches what Scripture tells us, then, that we begin our lives as enemies of the holy God.  Far from having God’s help to “Win Against Sin,” we ourselves were actively fighting against the all-powerful God, who always wins against all of His foes.

So we are doomed, unless God in His mercy works a rescue plan:  He does!  This involves His perfect Son (Jesus) becoming a man, living a perfectly righteous life (proving Himself to be God’s Friend, not His enemy), but then still paying the penalty which God’s people deserve for their rebellion, their sin nature, and their many individual sins.  Once finished (and it is … our full release and debt paid for), the Lord our Righteousness (Yahweh Tsidkenu is one of the many names God announces for Himself) supplies all of His people with His own Breastplate of Righteousness (or we might even regard it that Jesus Himself covers us, in the fullness of His resurrected life).

A breastplate provides covering for the chest area, making a hard barrier against weapons that would otherwise pierce the heart and lungs (etc.).  So this covering is a matter of life and death.  In the first place, this breastplate (which is the righteousness of Christ, OR the righteous Christ) covers us from the holy wrath of God the Father.  One fascinating feature of this particular breastplate model (which has a reflective surface) is that what God would see is Himself!  But that old fight is over, done, and finished … behind us for those who are adopted by God, but not a thing for us to forget.  Our happy union with the perfect God depends upon Jesus Christ.  Then the Breastplate of Righteousness becomes that protection against Satan and his dark forces, to help us Win Against Sin in daily battles.

  • But on Day 1 … I forgot to put on any breastplate.  So I was pretty much toast.  Sin won that day.
  • So on Day 2 … I remembered my breastplate … and I do mean MINE!  It was way too thin (like Saran wrap)!  Sin won again.
  • So on Day 3 … pain was a good teacher, so I put on Christ’s righteousness.  But Satan is clever, and he worked all day to remind me of my sins, weaknesses, and failures (past and present).  Dropping my guard (that is, switching out Christ’s armor-plating for my plastic wrap!), sin won again.
  • So on Day 4 … we taught the kids to truly battle against the world, the flesh, the devil … and sin … pointing one and all (especially the self) to the natural, achieved, proven, expensive righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We are more than conquerors … eternally and daily … through Him!