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How should Christians think about war? On this episode, Dr. Stephen Nichols discusses how Augustine helps us to approach this question from a Christian perspective.

Just War

Augustine of Hippo provided the church with a number of crucial phrases. We have the phrase ex nihilo, meaning that creation was made out of nothing. Another phrase that Augustine gave us is not only important for the church but actually one that’s important for political philosophy. The Latin expression is jus ad bellum, or “just war.”

Augustine’s thinking on the topic grew out of his circumstances. In 410, as the Visigoths were laying waste to Rome, the Romans blamed the Christians and their refusal to participate in the civic religion for the city’s downfall. Augustine wrote an apologetic response: The City of God. In this book, Augustine provides helpful guidance for thinking about what it means to be a Christian in challenging times. But he also sketches out his idea of a just war. He laid out two components to his theory of just war: the first concerned legitimate reasons for going to war, and the second concerned how a state or a military ought to conduct itself in order to wage war in a just manner.

These were important questions for Christians. Many Christians up until Augustine’s day were pacifists, based on their reading of the sixth commandment—“Thou shalt not kill.” Augustine thought about the issue a little bit differently. His reading of the New Testament, and particularly regarding Christians’ obligation to the state as outlined in Romans 13, led him to believe that the state does have an obligation in waging war. So he moved away from a pacifist understanding of war. But how are we as Christians to approach the topic of war from a Christian perspective? This is where Augustine helps us. The first thing he does is ask how we are to think about war and about the point of war. It sounds counterintuitive, but this is what Augustine says: “We wage wars because we are interested in peace. It is ultimately peace that we seek, not war, and war is a means not to itself, but it is a means to peace.” He goes on: “For it is the wrongdoing of the opposing part which compels the wise man to wage just wars, and this wrongdoing, even though it gave rise to war, should still be a matter of grief to man because it is man’s wrongdoing. Let everyone, then, who thinks with pain on all these great evils—so horrible, so ruthless—acknowledge that this is misery.” Augustine is saying that war is misery, but it is necessary for peace.

In thinking about war, Augustine lays out criteria for a just war, reasons why a nation should go to war. He makes the case that, first of all, war should be a last resort. Are there other options? States should exhaust diplomatic options before going to war. He then asks, what are the parameters of war? He talks about whether the war will end once the cause for the war is avenged and the reason for the war is accomplished. He asks if there has been a wrong committed that warrants a war. Then he asks, is force used properly? In a war, there should be a distinction between combatants and noncombatants, and civilians should be protected. In asking these questions, Augustine helped us as Christians to think about just war.

Stay connected with 5 Minutes in Church History by getting the weekly podcast on iTunesSoundCloud, or via RSS. You can also subscribe to the blog via RSS and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

 (This podcast is by Ligonier Ministries. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Matthew Vines is Wrong Regarding Homosexuality and the Bible

Matthew Vines is the founder of the Reformation Project, which has nothing to do with the Protestant Reformation. It’s an attempt to reform church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity. Vines authored a book entitled God and the Gay Christian, in which he attempts to argue that God is actually for homosexuality. (R. Albert Mohler Jr. then wrote a response to Vines, available here).Matthew Vines is wrong regarding homosexuality and the Bible

In his reinvention of the text, he says that Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed because of the same-sex fornication. The men of Sodom wanted to have sex with the two angels who came to rescue Lot from the wrath of God, but this was a threatened gang rape.

“God sent two angels disguised as men into the city of Sodom, where the men of Sodom threatened to rape them. The angels blind the men, and God destroys the city. For centuries, this story was interpreted as God’s judgment on same-sex relations, but the only form of same-sex behavior described is a threatened gang rape.” – Matthew Vines (from the video, “God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships)

Vines says the real reason Sodom was destroyed is given in Ezekiel 16:49.

“Ezekiel 16:49 sums up the story’s focus on violence and hostility toward strangers: ‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, over-fed, and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.’” – Matthew Vines (from the video, “God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships)

So, even though Vines acknowledges the Sodomites wanted to rape visitors, he still insists Sodom was destroyed because they didn’t invite the angels to dinner.

Ezekiel 16 is one of the most shocking chapters of Scripture, with its use of sexually explicit language.

Jerusalem was unfaithful to God who labeled the city a promiscuous whore. In addition to being prideful and uncharitable, God said Jerusalem was guilty of all Sodom’s abominations – having at one point employed male prostitutes.

How sick is your heart, declares the Lord God, because you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen prostitute. (Ezekiel 16:30)

 And your elder sister is Samaria, who lived with her daughters to the north of you; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you, is Sodom with her daughters. Not only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways. (Ezekiel 16:46-48)

And there were also male cult prostitutes in [Judah]. They did according to all the abominations of the nations that the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. (1 Kings 14:24)

So, that passage really doesn’t work in Vines’ favor. He also ignores other passages, like in Jeremiah and Jude, that mentioned the sexual and unnatural desire of the infamous Sodomites.

But the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a terrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah. (Jeremiah 23:14)

Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 7)

According to the Bible, homosexuality is a serious sin, worthy of the wrath of God. But, it’s not an unforgivable sin. Those who repent are washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor the swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6;9-11)

…when we understand the text.

(This video is by WWUTT. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central.)

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(The following was originally published at CareyGreen.com.)

When it comes to your life and business, what do you HUNGER FOR?

In Matthew 5:6, Jesus said,

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.”

Within the business community it’s all to easy to hunger and thirst for lots of things… and righteousness is pretty far down the list. We hunger for success, for respect among our peers, or the next big account. The list of the things we desire goes on and on and on.

Don’t get me wrong – these aren’t necessarily bad things.

But, they are things that, if they are improperly prioritized, our entire lives can get messed up, even beyond our business.

Greed and ambition can be powerful forces – and for negative reasons, if allowed to get out of hand.

So, take some time to ponder this verse. Jesus promises that if we hunger and thirst for RIGHTEOUSNESS, then we will be filled. Filled with what? Well, that seems to be obvious: righteousness.

I believe that from a righteous character flows everything else that you may be striving for. Success, integrity, proper branding, professional relationships with clients… everything flows out of the righteousness the comes from Jesus Christ when that is what we pursue.

So take some time, clear your mind, and reset your mindset. Focus on your purpose of doing your business for God’s glory and for the good of the world. Then move ahead along those lines.

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It is without a doubt THE single most unpleasant topic in all of the Bible. The subject of this week’s PODCAST: God’s wrath.

We discuss it here because here in Matthew 10, Jesus made reference to the iconic display of God’s wrath: the twin-cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

And for good measure, Jesus also referred to “the day of judgment.”

Since Jesus brought it up, we will bring it up — unpleasant or otherwise — providing some Much-Needed-Clarification to an Often-Misunderstood topic.

Upon reflection, I suppose the overarching questions raised by this sobering subject are these: Is Jesus a gentle Jesus? Is Jesus a wrathful Jesus? Or both?

And if both, how does the one (gentle) square with the other (wrathful)? Especially in light of what happened in Sodom and Gomorrah.

My friends, as always, we have a ton to talk about.

Let’s begin by reading Matthew 10:14-15

14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

Now, to contradict the commonly-held opinion that God is an angry God, know this: Nowhere in the Bible does it describe Him as such. Jesus, quite clearly defined Himself as gentle, but never as angry. I know that He did get angry a grand total of four times: twice when He cleansed the temple of its money changers and thieves; when He healed a man on the Sabbath and the religious leaders accused Him with their hardened hearts; and at the Pharisees when they demanded so much of the people and never lifted a finger to relieve their burdens.

Four times. Over three years. Each time for very good reasons.

It is most important to note that Jesus’ anger was the exception, not the rule. It was rare and uncharacteristic of Him. It did not define Him. Gentleness did.

And the same can be said about God.

As Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” The two are one in the same.

Cases in point: God got angry at the time of the flood, at the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, during the ten plagues in Egypt, and when He wiped out the Assyrian army.

Four times. Over thousands of years. Each time for very good reasons – extreme circumstances that demanded extreme measures to stop what had become a malignancy in the human race that threatened to devour all humanity.

But, what were the triggers that put God to those points, and are we headed in that direction?

Genesis chapter 6 describes the first of the four times God was angry:

The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. And the Lord said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them.” But Noah found favor with the Lord.

Extreme measures in the face of extreme circumstances.

Yet, even in the face of all this, He withheld His judgment for 120 years! He also provided for the salvation of a remnant: Noah, his family and anyone else who would have repented of their evil ways, as Peter wrote in 2 Peter 2:5 –

Noah warned the world of God’s righteous judgment.

It took Noah 120 years to build a boat because he was also preaching… warning people of what was coming!

Now, as extreme as it was that God flooded the entire earth and wiped out the evilness that was spread throughout mankind, His grace was still noticeable all over this story!

Then, there was Sodom and Gomorrah’s extreme behaviors that drove God to anger. We read about it starting in Genesis 18:20-32

20 So the Lord told Abraham, “I have heard a great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah, because their sin is so flagrant. 21 I am going down to see if their actions are as wicked as I have heard. If not, I want to know.”

22 The other men turned and headed toward Sodom, but the Lord remained with Abraham. 23 Abraham approached him and said, “Will you sweep away both the righteous and the wicked? 24 Suppose you find fifty righteous people living there in the city—will you still sweep it away and not spare it for their sakes? 25 Surely you wouldn’t do such a thing, destroying the righteous along with the wicked. Why, you would be treating the righteous and the wicked exactly the same! Surely you wouldn’t do that! Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?”

26 And the Lord replied, “If I find fifty righteous people in Sodom, I will spare the entire city for their sake.”

27 Then Abraham spoke again. “Since I have begun, let me speak further to my Lord, even though I am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose there are only forty-five righteous people rather than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?”

And the Lord said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five righteous people there.”

29 Then Abraham pressed his request further. “Suppose there are only forty?”

And the Lord replied, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the forty.”

30 “Please don’t be angry, my Lord,” Abraham pleaded. “Let me speak—suppose only thirty righteous people are found?”

And the Lord replied, “I will not destroy it if I find thirty.”

31 Then Abraham said, “Since I have dared to speak to the Lord, let me continue—suppose there are only twenty?”

And the Lord replied, “Then I will not destroy it for the sake of the twenty.”

32 Finally, Abraham said, “Lord, please don’t be angry with me if I speak one more time. Suppose only ten are found there?”

And the Lord replied, “Then I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten.”

There weren’t even ten righteous people in the whole citizenry of those two cities! And the handful that God did find (Lot and his family), God spared! So, what was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? Homosexuality? Approval of gay marriage? Lack of hospitality to God’s angels? It actually was a perversion so wicked that the whole earth hasn’t seen anything like it sense, as we read in Genesis 19:1-10

That evening the two angels came to the entrance of the city of Sodom. Lot was sitting there, and when he saw them, he stood up to meet them. Then he welcomed them and bowed with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “come to my home to wash your feet, and be my guests for the night. You may then get up early in the morning and be on your way again.”

“Oh no,” they replied. “We’ll just spend the night out here in the city square.”

But Lot insisted, so at last they went home with him. Lot prepared a feast for them, complete with fresh bread made without yeast, and they ate. But before they retired for the night, all the men of Sodom, young and old, came from all over the city and surrounded the house. They shouted to Lot, “Where are the men who came to spend the night with you? Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!”

This is an entire town full of men who wanted to rape angels!

So Lot stepped outside to talk to them, shutting the door behind him. “Please, my brothers,” he begged, “don’t do such a wicked thing. Look, I have two virgin daughters. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do with them as you wish. But please, leave these men alone, for they are my guests and are under my protection.”

“Stand back!” they shouted. “This fellow came to town as an outsider, and now he’s acting like our judge! We’ll treat you far worse than those other men!” And they lunged toward Lot to break down the door. 10 But the two angels reached out, pulled Lot into the house, and bolted the door.

Talk about extreme! So, if you are fearful that God is going to pour out His wrath on Oregon for their progressive stance toward marriage equality, know this – even Oregon hasn’t reached Sodom and Gomorrah’s level of perverseness. And there are certainly at least ten righteous people in the state.

But, back to Genesis…

11 And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they became weary trying to find the door.

God couldn’t let this type of behavior spread across all of mankind. It had already spread too far in that every man and boy of the city were compromised!

And, once again, before God poured out His holy wrath, He pulled out the Godly remnant.

Then there were the ten plagues sent to Egypt. Talk about mercy, this was after God’s people had endured 400 years of tortuous slavery at the hands of the Egyptians. And all they had to do was let God’s people go, and not a single gnat would have fallen upon Egypt. And after each plague, if Pharaoh would have released the Hebrews, his people would have been spared the next plague. The judgments would have been turned off like a faucet.

Then, there were the Assyrians. Now, Hezekiah was a very Godly king of Judah – one of the few. When the Assyrians invaded Judah, Hezekiah send messengers begging them to spare Jerusalem. And Assyrian king replied in the extreme:

Don’t let your God, in whom you trust, deceive you with promises that Jerusalem will not be captured by the king of Assyria.11 You know perfectly well what the kings of Assyria have done wherever they have gone. They have completely destroyed everyone who stood in their way! Why should you be any different? (2 Kings 19:10-11)

What the Assyrians did – and even bragged about it – was, dare I say, more barbaric than that ISIS is doing throughout the Middle East today.

But, the Assyrian king didn’t end his taunt there. He went on to taunt the God of Israel:

 12 Have the gods of other nations rescued them—such nations as Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Tel-assar? My predecessors destroyed them all!

You see, if God had not intervened, His people would have been totally obliterated from the earth, as the Assyrians did to the missing ten tribes of Israel that was to the north of Judah. God had to intervene, otherwise there would be no Jerusalem today. There would be no Jews today. There would be no Jesus today.

So, here is how king Hezekiah responded:

14 After Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it, he went up to the Lord’s Temple and spread it out before the Lord. 15 And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the Lord: “O Lord, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. 16 Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God.

17 “It is true, Lord, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. 18 And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all—only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands. 19 Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Lord, are God.” (2 Kings 19:14-19)

And God answered Hezekiah’s prayer in a mighty way:

35 That night the angel of the Lord went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. (2 Kings 19:35)

God decimated their army. It was an extreme response to an extreme set of circumstances that resulted in Jerusalem and a remnant of God’s people being preserved at a time when the threat was aimed at annihilating them once and for all.

All four of these stories underscore this fact: God’s anger is the exception, not the rule. It is rare and uncharacteristic. It doesn’t define Him. It’s always the last resort, never the first.

Now, when we previously spoke about miracles, I pointed out certain rare, specific ages of miracles (during the times of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus to name a few). And, while God does miracles today, we are not living in an “age of miracles”, as exemplified by these eras. Miracles today are the exception, not the rule.

The same can be said about God’s anger and wrath – and even more so.

Yet, I hold that – contrary to many who believe that God is about to come against America as a response to our nation’s sins and rejection of His will – I believe that God has already come against America.

He already has.

Did you get that? We are not in danger if His wrath coming someday soon. It has already happened.

Why do I say this? Because the Bible does.

Firstly, I submit that the raining down of fire and brimstone is not God’s typical wrath. That was a one-time event on Sodom and Gomorrah. Same with the flood and the sending of the angel of death to kill the firstborn sons of the and the Assyrian army.

Instead, I refer to Romans 1:18-23, and Paul’s crystal clear definition of what God’s wrath looks like.

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Paul is writing about a nation, empire even, full of people who though they are surrounded by God’s creation and have an innate knowledge of God, they willfully choose to reject Him, think that they are wise yet become foolish in their pursuit to replace God with anything else.

So, what does God do? Tie them to the floor and force His truth on them?

No.

The thing about God that scares me the most is that, given enough time, He will give us exactly what we want.

That is the wrath of God.

Paul describes it as he continues in Romans 1:24-32

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

You see, if we choose to reject God, He will allow us to live without Him. That is God’s wrath – a life without Him and all that comes with Him.

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Ephesians 6:13-15 says

Take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

You see, Roman soldiers wore special sandals with pieces of rock, metal or glass embedded into the bottom of the soles, much like today’s football cleats. This enabled them to move more quickly, stop on a dime, change directions in a split second, all without falling like someone they may be doing battle with who wore smooth soled shoes that would slip and slide along the ground.

So, for today’s Christians, it’s important that we prepare ourselves with the Gospel of Peace in order to keep our footing as we walk along life’s paths.

But what is the Gospel of Peace and how are we supposed to prepare ourselves with it?

One way is by memorizing the Gospel message: God loves each of us; but mankind is separated from God as a result of our sin; thankfully, Jesus Christ, God’s Son, died on the cross and rose from the dead in order to pay the penalty for our sins and close the gap between us and God; but the decision is ours to place our faith in Jesus, receive His gift of eternal life in heaven and make Him the Lord of our lives while here on earth.

It’s really that simple. Know the Gospel.

Know that God loves each and every one of us. He sent His Son Jesus who, even though He was sinless, died for our sins. Jesus then rose from the dead to prove that He is the Son of God. And each of us can know Him and have eternal life in heaven by believing that Jesus is the Savior that He claimed to be.

You see, mankind’s big problem is that we have all sinned against God and lost our intended relationship with Him. So instead of having constant peace, as God wants for us, we have disorder, friction, chaos, and all the things that would reveal that we are not connected to God. That’s why the verse in Ephesians calls it the Gospel of Peace.

Jesus Christ, through His death and resurrection, did away with the separation between God and man, and allowed us the opportunity to have peace with God once again.

Paul continues in Ephesians after talking about the Gospel of Peace:

in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

This is the next piece of armor that Paul describes: the shield of faith!

Roman soldiers used many different types of shields – small handheld ones used in hand-to-hand combat used to fend off an opponent’s sword. But the one that Paul is talking about is a huge one, often consisting of a pair of large boards bound together with specially treated leather covering the outside. These shields would be used by the soldiers who were on the front lines of the battle. As the enemy would, from afar, launch flaming arrows at the garrison, the Roman soldiers would use these specially made shields to block, fend off, and extinguish the enemy’s flaming arrows.

As we go through life as Christ-followers, we will find ourselves ambushed by “flaming arrows”: temptations, false accusations, depressing thoughts, distractions of all sorts and traps that would keep us from listening to the Spirit of God, who wants to cleanse, fill and empower each of us. But, if we shield ourselves with our faith, we can withstand those attacks!

Finally, Paul writes:

And take the helmet of salvation…

The helmet would (obviously) protect the Roman soldier’s head. For us, by making Jesus the Lord of our lives, our thought life is then run through a Godly filter. When what we think about and how we think is founded on the truth of who God is, then we are protected from Satan’s attacks and lies. We develop this foundation by reading the Bible and getting to know more about Jesus through His Word, prayer, and communication with God.

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Ephesians 6:12 says – 

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

What this means is that our existence here on the planet earth is a warfare.  Satan is our enemy.  He is against us. And he wants to kill, steal and destroy the life that God came to give us through creating us in His image. 

Satan was very successful in the Garden of Eden.  His strategy, or game plan, there was to work on the desire to be like God that Adam and Eve had.  He used this to cause them to sin, and of course we all know, that’s when death entered into the world.  Separation from God was now an everyday reality, and we were kinda left on our own.  Mankind could always turn around and draw close to Him, but it would never be the same as it was back in Eden.

The result today, as it says in Ephesians, is that we struggle against forces of darkness, and the spiritual forces of wickedness and this is taking place in the heavenly realms.

So, here we are – people wanting to do what is right – but on our own, we don’t have the power.  That’s where the Spirit of God comes into our lives and gives us what we need to combat all the schemes of the evil one through the full armor of God.

13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:13)

You know that we are living in an evil day.  In our country, ever since we turned off our ability to have the freedom to read the Bible or pray in public, we have moved away from God.  So, we’re experiencing today things going downhill quickly as we see the world embrace what we used to call evil and wrong.  Nowadays, right and wrong are hard to discern – unless you are a child of God and His Word is in your life.  This is why the Bible says that we need to put on the full armor of God – not just a piece of it, but all of it!

14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, (Ephesians 6:13) 

I find it very interesting that Roman soldiers wore around their waists something that looked like a little miniskirt.  It was actually very strategic.  It was made of leather strips so that it could move and flow with the soldier’s movement without encumbering him at all.  Yet, the leather was thick enough that it could stop the cutting blow of a sword.  Just like a Roman soldier girded his loins with this protective garment, so should we gird ourselves with God’s truth.

But what’s the truth?  John 14:6 quotes Jesus when He said:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

John also wrote that as we continue to grow in our walk with God, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free from the deception and the schemes that Satan wants to use to draw you away from God.  So, the truth is an absolute entity in and of itself that everything in this world relates to regarding whether or not it is consistent with it.  Therefore, protecting our midsection with God’s truth is super important!

…and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, (Ephesians 6:13)

Now, the Roman soldiers had a piece of protective equipment that covered the entire front of his torso.  It protected all of his essential organs from attack.  But how can we put on a “breastplate of righteousness”?  Well, when you sin, if you confess your sin to God, He cleanses you from all unrighteousness and makes you righteous. (1 John 1:9)

So, in our daily battle with Satan, as he tries to cause us to stumble, accuses us and makes us feel guilty and tries to divert us away from God, he attacks us at our heart with his lies.  But, we can put on the breastplate of righteousness by walking in the reality that God is forgiving and cleanses us totally and completely when we confess our sins.  This gives us the righteousness that can only come through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.  This trust in what God has done and continues to do for us protects us like a breastplate as we battle for the Lord!

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Ephesians 6:10-20 draws a parallel between what Roman soldiers wore into battle with what we Christians need to prepare ourselves with for our daily battle against the things that would lead us away from God’s will for our lives.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

In today’s installment of “Meeting People Head On”, we will begin by talking about the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

Now, in the Greek language, there are a couple words that are used for the English “Word”. The particular one that Paul uses here in Ephesians is not the typical “Logos”, which means the full, encompassing being of God or Jesus Christ, but “Rehema”, or utterance of God to our hearts.

So, if we are supposed to take the “Rehema” of God into every day of our lives, we need to be memorizing Scripture so that the actual sentences, or utterances, of God’s word can be ours for the wielding!

What is most interesting about this part of the Full Armor of God, is that while all the other pieces we’ve discussed are defensive, this one – the sword of the Spirit – is the only one that is meant to be used for offense against Satan.

We need to use the Bible – the word or Rehema of God – in our own lives, as well as in sharing the Gospel of Christ with other people. It’s these individual truths that are all throughout Scripture that will help you with your daily decisions and attitudes. They give you guidance and insight on how to fight the good fight against Satan in this battle for you to be all that God wants you to be.

The next paragraph of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians talks about prayer:

18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

 

Satan will often accuse each of us about not praying enough. I know, it sounds weird – why would he want you to pray more? It’s not that he wants you to pray more, but he knows what is important to you and will use whatever method he can, including accusations and lies, to distract you from drawing closer to God.

These verses show that the Spirit of God is the key to our moment-by-moment relationship with the Lord. So, “praying in the Spirit” is simply being a Christian who is filled with the Holy Spirit, listening to what the Spirit has to say to you, so that you can pray according to the leading of God’s will.

It’s not necessarily that you have a “prayer language”, which the Bible lists as a giftedness in this area for some people, but simply sensing and yielding to the promptings of God’s Spirit in regards to what to be praying for. You will receive insights from God that can only come from Him. And best of all, you will see results from your prayer life!

I hope that you have many other Believers in your life who you are praying for. As we pray for one another, persevere with each other, and continually encourage one another through the tough times of life, that’s when we will regularly see God’s working in our lives and answering our prayers. Just as Paul asked the church in Ephesus to pray for him, we need to pray for other Christians today in the same way.

When you became a Christian, the Bible says that you were also made a minister of Christ. You are now a person who should spread the Word of God and be used by God because you know His Word. All of us have the same calling as Paul did: to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.

Think about it – when you became a Christian and made the decision to follow Jesus, why did He leave you here on earth at that moment? Some might say that it is so that you can get to know Him better. But, if that’s the case, it would be better to die right away than to stay here on earth. Any of us would get to know Jesus better in heaven than here, right?

The truth is that God left us here to witness and share Jesus’ truths and to be someone He can use in the lives of other people. So, like Paul, we need to have the boldness – or freedom – to speak wherever we go about Jesus Christ. And, we need other Christians to be praying for us in this daily endeavor. To be bold, you don’t need to be an extrovert or charismatic, you simply need to have the freedom (from internal hurdles as well as external) to talk about and show the world who Jesus is.

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Ephesians 6:13-15 says

Take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

You see, Roman soldiers wore special sandals with pieces of rock, metal or glass embedded into the bottom of the soles, much like today’s football cleats. This enabled them to move more quickly, stop on a dime, change directions in a split second, all without falling like someone they may be doing battle with who wore smooth soled shoes that would slip and slide along the ground.

So, for today’s Christians, it’s important that we prepare ourselves with the Gospel of Peace in order to keep our footing as we walk along life’s paths.

But what is the Gospel of Peace and how are we supposed to prepare ourselves with it?

One way is by memorizing the Gospel message: God loves each of us; but mankind is separated from God as a result of our sin; thankfully, Jesus Christ, God’s Son, died on the cross and rose from the dead in order to pay the penalty for our sins and close the gap between us and God; but the decision is ours to place our faith in Jesus, receive His gift of eternal life in heaven and make Him the Lord of our lives while here on earth.

It’s really that simple. Know the Gospel.

Know that God loves each and every one of us. He sent His Son Jesus who, even though He was sinless, died for our sins. Jesus then rose from the dead to prove that He is the Son of God. And each of us can know Him and have eternal life in heaven by believing that Jesus is the Savior that He claimed to be.

You see, mankind’s big problem is that we have all sinned against God and lost our intended relationship with Him. So instead of having constant peace, as God wants for us, we have disorder, friction, chaos, and all the things that would reveal that we are not connected to God. That’s why the verse in Ephesians calls it the Gospel of Peace.

Jesus Christ, through His death and resurrection, did away with the separation between God and man, and allowed us the opportunity to have peace with God once again.

Paul continues in Ephesians after talking about the Gospel of Peace:

in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

This is the next piece of armor that Paul describes: the shield of faith!

Roman soldiers used many different types of shields – small handheld ones used in hand-to-hand combat used to fend off an opponent’s sword. But the one that Paul is talking about is a huge one, often consisting of a pair of large boards bound together with specially treated leather covering the outside. These shields would be used by the soldiers who were on the front lines of the battle. As the enemy would, from afar, launch flaming arrows at the garrison, the Roman soldiers would use these specially made shields to block, fend off, and extinguish the enemy’s flaming arrows.

As we go through life as Christ-followers, we will find ourselves ambushed by “flaming arrows”: temptations, false accusations, depressing thoughts, distractions of all sorts and traps that would keep us from listening to the Spirit of God, who wants to cleanse, fill and empower each of us. But, if we shield ourselves with our faith, we can withstand those attacks!

Finally, Paul writes:

And take the helmet of salvation…

The helmet would (obviously) protect the Roman soldier’s head. For us, by making Jesus the Lord of our lives, our thought life is then run through a Godly filter. When what we think about and how we think is founded on the truth of who God is, then we are protected from Satan’s attacks and lies. We develop this foundation by reading the Bible and getting to know more about Jesus through His Word, prayer, and communication with God.

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Ephesians 6:12 says –

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

What this means is that our existence here on the planet earth is a warfare.  Satan is our enemy.  He is against us. And he wants to kill, steal and destroy the life that God came to give us through creating us in His image. 

Satan was very successful in the Garden of Eden.  His strategy, or game plan, there was to work on the desire to be like God that Adam and Eve had.  He used this to cause them to sin, and of course we all know, that’s when death entered into the world.  Separation from God was now an everyday reality, and we were kinda left on our own.  Mankind could always turn around and draw close to Him, but it would never be the same as it was back in Eden.

The result today, as it says in Ephesians, is that we struggle against forces of darkness, and the spiritual forces of wickedness and this is taking place in the heavenly realms.

So, here we are – people wanting to do what is right – but on our own, we don’t have the power.  That’s where the Spirit of God comes into our lives and gives us what we need to combat all the schemes of the evil one through the full armor of God.

13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:13)

You know that we are living in an evil day.  In our country, ever since we turned off our ability to have the freedom to read the Bible or pray in public, we have moved away from God.  So, we’re experiencing today things going downhill quickly as we see the world embrace what we used to call evil and wrong.  Nowadays, right and wrong are hard to discern – unless you are a child of God and His Word is in your life.  This is why the Bible says that we need to put on the full armor of God – not just a piece of it, but all of it!

14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, (Ephesians 6:13)

I find it very interesting that Roman soldiers wore around their waists something that looked like a little miniskirt.  It was actually very strategic.  It was made of leather strips so that it could move and flow with the soldier’s movement without encumbering him at all.  Yet, the leather was thick enough that it could stop the cutting blow of a sword.  Just like a Roman soldier girded his loins with this protective garment, so should we gird ourselves with God’s truth.

But what’s the truth?  John 14:6 quotes Jesus when He said:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

John also wrote that as we continue to grow in our walk with God, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free from the deception and the schemes that Satan wants to use to draw you away from God.  So, the truth is an absolute entity in and of itself that everything in this world relates to regarding whether or not it is consistent with it.  Therefore, protecting our midsection with God’s truth is super important!

…and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, (Ephesians 6:13)

Now, the Roman soldiers had a piece of protective equipment that covered the entire front of his torso.  It protected all of his essential organs from attack.  But how can we put on a “breastplate of righteousness”?  Well, when you sin, if you confess your sin to God, He cleanses you from all unrighteousness and makes you righteous. (1 John 1:9)

So, in our daily battle with Satan, as he tries to cause us to stumble, accuses us and makes us feel guilty and tries to divert us away from God, he attacks us at our heart with his lies.  But, we can put on the breastplate of righteousness by walking in the reality that God is forgiving and cleanses us totally and completely when we confess our sins.  This gives us the righteousness that can only come through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.  This trust in what God has done and continues to do for us protects us like a breastplate as we battle for the Lord!

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In this week’s podcast, we take a look at the first few verses of Romans, chapter 12.  Specifically, we compare how today’s culture might influence our decisions and contrasts them to what the Bible says we should say and do with our lives.

This week’s topics include:  what we should wear, what we should drive, who should we have as our friends, should we live with our significant others before getting married, is it ok to smoke pot… and much, much more.

Romans 12:1-3 (TLB)

12 And so, dear brothers, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living sacrifice, holy—the kind he can accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Then you will learn from your own experience how his ways will really satisfy you.

As God’s messenger I give each of you God’s warning: Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you.

1 Peter 4:1-5 (TLB)

Since Christ suffered and underwent pain, you must have the same attitude he did; you must be ready to suffer, too. For remember, when your body suffers, sin loses its power, and you won’t be spending the rest of your life chasing after evil desires but will be anxious to do the will of God. You have had enough in the past of the evil things the godless enjoy—sex sin, lust, getting drunk, wild parties, drinking bouts, and the worship of idols, and other terrible sins.

Of course, your former friends will be very surprised when you don’t eagerly join them anymore in the wicked things they do, and they will laugh at you in contempt and scorn. But just remember that they must face the Judge of all, living and dead; they will be punished for the way they have lived.

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