GETTING DRESSED FOR BATTLE
Genesis chapter 2 closes with the words, “The man and the woman were both naked, but they felt no shame.” Genesis chapter 3 opens with the words, “Now the serpent was more crafty then any of the wild animals that God had created.” In Genesis chapter 2 we read that Adam and Eve were exposed and did not even know it. All of their flaws, all of their shortcomings, all of their inadequacies were on display for the entire world to see and they were oblivious to this fact. In Genesis 3 we read of one that had the skills and knew how to take advantage of Adam and Eve’s naïveté. He was crafty, cunning, and he was also an opportunist. He just simply needed an opening.
Unlike Adam and Eve, people today are much more aware of their shortcomings and go to great lengths to cover them up so that they will not be exposed. In fact, even in Scripture we read about Moses who admittedly was not a great communicator and for fear of being exposed, he covered himself with Aaron. Moses protested so much that God appointed Aaron to be Moses’ spokesperson or mouthpiece. In the realm of politics we hear of individuals who do not necessarily possess the intellectual acumen surround themselves with people who are versed and knowledgeable about the world and history so that they will not be exposed. In business, successful business people develop teams staffed with specialists. These are men and women who are the best at what they do and their job is to make not only the CEO, but also the company look good by making sure every base is covered and none of the company’s shortcomings are exposed.
The reality though is that no matter how hard we try there is always someone or some entity that is slithering around looking for an opportunity to expose us, highlight our shortcomings, flaws and weaknesses. There are those who would like nothing better than to highlight we are not who we say we are and that a chasm exists between what we say and how we actually live or go about our business. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to take a little extra time as we get dressed to make sure we are covered. As we prepare to start each day we must be mindful of the fact that the world is watching us. They are watching to see how we handle life situations and circumstances and what our response will be. Our response will speak louder than anything we can say. More than anything else, our response will determine whether we covered or exposed.
One of the things that determines how we get dressed is our attitude. How we feel on any given day largely dictates what we put on that day. The Apostle Paul declares that when we get dressed each day we need to get dressed with an attitude. According to Paul, our attitude should be To Stand Firm in and through out each day. No matter what the enemy throws at us I will not be moved. There is a old Negro spiritual that says, “I shall not be moved, just like a tree planted by the water, I shall not be moved.” One of the things that I have learned over the years is to expect the unexpected. If we could prepare for it, it would not be called the unexpected but the expected. On any given day we really do not know what we will face or how things will work out. In fact, outside of ourselves there is very little in life that we can control. The one thing we can control is our attitude. The mindset we have going into the day sets the tone for how we will respond to what happens to us throughout the day. Perhaps, if we adjusted our attitude daily we might live a little more and worry a lot less. Maybe, if we developed an I shall not be moved attitude we might bounce back a little quicker and not have to sort through and work through some of the stuff people dump on us. It is one thing to say I will take whatever comes my way, but it is a whole other thing to say, whatever comes my way I will deal with. When we make up our minds to stand firm, it does not mean that we will not feel or we will become cold and callous in our approach to people and life. It simply means that whatever comes our way we will deal with it as it comes.
One of the things about a right attitude is that it is empowering. When you start your day with a right attitude you find you are equipped to handle circumstances and situations throughout the day as they arise. As a kid I used to love to watch Batman and Robin. I was totally enamored by Batman’s utility belt. It seemed as though Batman’s utility belt contained whatever he needed to help him in almost every situation. Batman was actually empowered in the knowledge that his utility belt contained all that he needed to fight his foes.
As children of God, we should also be encouraged to know that when we put on the belt of truth we too are empowered to stand firm and fight against our enemy. There is no defense against truth. It is interesting that after Paul talks about the attitude we should get dressed with he then moves on to truth and likens it to a belt. The purpose of a belt is to protect our integrity. A belt is designed to hold stuff up, to support, and to keep things from falling down leaving us exposed. Where I come from there is a saying, “a person’s word is their bond.” In other words, if you want to know the true measure of a man or woman, see if they keep their word. Are they people of integrity who hold to the truth of what they say? It is unfortunate that today, the truth is treated like an accessory. Accessories are things we mix and match. We match this accessory with this outfit and if it does not go with what we are wearing we do not wear it. Some people treat the truth the same way, situationally. When it comes to pointing out the truth about others it is a good thing, but when it comes to seeing the truth about ourselves it is not so good. The Apostle tells us that daily we must put on the belt of truth. Why? So we can stand against the lies of the enemy. Remember, the Bible tells us that Satan is a liar and the father of all lies. The reality is that the only way Satan can gain any ground in our lives is by getting us to believe a lie. Look at what happened to Adam and Eve – they believed a lie. One of the ways we combat Satan’s lies is to line up what we hear and see with God’s word. If what we hear and see cannot be found or reconciled with God’s word then it must be dismissed. Think about it like this, Adam and Eve were naked they had nothing to fight with. You and I have the truth against which there is no defense. As long as we are bound by the truth we will be able to stand firm in the truth and on the truth and cannot be knocked off our feet.
While we are protecting our integrity, we must also think about our heart. The writer of the book of Proverbs instructs us, “above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” We have all had our hearts broken at one time or another, because someone betrayed our trust in them. The Apostle Paul says, put on the breastplate of righteousness. It is important to understand that the breastplate of righteousness does not specifically protect us against a broken heart, but it does protect our hearts from being infiltrated by Satan. The heart is only of two places that Satan can conquer us. The Bible says, “it is out of the overflow of the heart that a person speaks.” Satan’s goal is to corrupt the heart by filling it with all kinds of junk like greed, envy, lust, jealousy, malice, hatred, anger, guilt, and resentment. Satan knows that for as long as we harbor these things in our heart we are not and cannot be useful to God, we cannot fully experience God or the blessings of God, and we will not reach the destiny or place that God has prepared for us. And so, God gives us the breastplate of righteousness to counter the devil’s corruption with what is right. The Bible says, “do not repay evil with evil, but rather repay evil with good.” When we do what is right in light of wrongs that have been committed against us, we bring shame on the perpetrator and liberate ourselves. Just like there is no defense against truth, there is also no defense against doing what is right.
As I stop to think about all of the articles that God gives us to get dressed for battle with, it occurred to me that they all focus on our character. Attitude, truth, and doing what is right, all of these are character issues that reflect not only our walk with God but also our position in Christ. Consider that a bad attitude not only says something about us, but it also says something about where we are in Christ. It is impossible for a person who considers him or herself to be a child of God to attract other people to Christ with a bad attitude. Similarly, how can someone who claims to live and embrace the truth of Christ struggle to tell the truth? And if doing the right thing for the right reason is not high on our list of priorities then how can we expect God to do right by us?
It is clear that the Apostle Paul wants us to pay close attention to our character, the inner you and me because it is reflective of the real you and me. In keeping with this theme, we are advised that our feet have to be fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Whereas, the truth protects our integrity, doing what is right protects our heart, walking in peace protects the entire Body of Christ.
Peace is one of those abstract things that people talk a lot about but really do not fully understand it until they have experienced it. Jesus speaks of giving a peace that passes all human understanding. The concept of experiencing something we cannot intellectually grasp or conceive of is mind blowing. However, once you have experienced it you soon realize that you cannot live without it. I think of my last year in Seminary, my late wife was dying, I had just sent my nephew to live with my brother, I had a number of projects that had to be completed in order to satisfy the academic requirements to receive my degree. In the midst of all of that I was still expected to preach weekly, fulfill ministerial obligations and work full-time. All I know is that the fact I am still here to tell about it is more amazing than accomplishing it all. The fact that I did not fall apart and go to pieces (that happened at graduation) is a testimony to the fact that Jesus gives a peace that is beyond the scope of all human comprehension. Walking in peace, specifically the peace that Jesus gives allows us to walk through the minefields and onto the battlefields of life and though we be shaken we do not become broken. You may become stunned, you may even become paralyzed momentarily, but eventually you regain your equilibrium, recover and keep on pushing. There are many churches that symbolically pass the peace of Christ. What I have learned is that before we can pass the peace of Christ or even share it, it must first be in us. We cannot live something we do not believe in and we cannot give something we do not have.
How do we get it? First, we have to get the gospel. We must first receive the good news of Jesus Christ and then we must be fitted with the peace of Christ. As we live with Christ and together we go through life Christ releases a little more of Himself in us and subsequently we gain more of His peace. So that with each landmine we step on the reverberations are felt less and less throughout our being and our recovery time is gets quicker and quicker.
Finally, we become so filled with Christ on the inside of us that our character is remade and we become living instruments of Christ’s peace. Everywhere we go we take the peace of Christ with us because the peace of Christ is in us and we share Christ’s peace with everyone we come in contact with. When this happens we then know that our character is fully dressed for battle and there are no character flaws or shortcomings that the enemy can use to expose us – because we are clothed in Christ.