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We have been discussing the reality of spiritual warfare and the tools God has given us to stand against the devil and the dark forces of this world.
He is the enemy who seeks to establish a counterfeit kingdom.
He opposes everything God loves.
He targets you and I as Christ’s ambassadors so we might not do our jobs.
If the advancement of the gospel is successful, Satan loses his foothold.
His defeat is certain and he will take as much down with him as he can.
God has called you and I to join the ranks of his army of foot soldiers to wage war against the enemy of our souls.
The truth functions like a belt as it is the central piece of our defense.
It is something we carry with us every day.
As we take our knowledge of the truth and apply it to our lives, it produces in us the righteousness that comes from God, which we wear as a breastplate.
As we grow in righteousness, we grow more into the image of Christ, reflecting more of him to the world around us.
The more we look and act like our king, the less likely we will fall victim to Satan’s attacks.
We are to equip our feet with the shoes of the gospel of peace.
With them, we must remain in a state of readiness to tell the good news of Jesus to anyone God gives an opportunity for.
We talked last week how this gospel of peace is not just for the unbeliever so they can receive salvation, but for the believer so he may be reminded of his salvation.
This week we take a look at the next piece of armor, which is the next tool in our defense against the devil.
Two weeks ago we looked at the Roman breastplate, which had a base layer of leather with metal plates sewn over it, which provided protection against melee weapons like swords, knives, stabbing and swinging motions.
The shield protected against projectiles like arrows and spears.
Flaming arrows were a common weapon used in ancient combat.
The Romans were very familiar with them.
They constructed shields made of wood covered with thick layers of leather.
They were massive, measuring nearly the height of the soldier carrying it.
When police carry riot shields today, it is very reminiscent of the Roman shield.
Notice that this verse is the only one which states the purpose of the instrument: to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
How does this work?
How can we use faith to extinguish flaming arrows?
Let us first understand what faith is.
Those of us who have been in church a long time are familiar with Hebrews 11:1, which provides a classical definition of faith.
Is this statement alone enough to define what we mean when we use the word faith?
I don’t think it is.
The author of Hebrews uses the next 39 verses to show us what he means by the first verse.
Faith is a word we use all the time and it is important to understand what we actually mean by the words we use.
Critics of Christianity accuse us of having a blind faith.
Is that true?
Is that what Hebrews 11:1 is saying to us?
Not at all.
What Hebrews 11:1 is saying is this:
Faith is confidence of a future reality in which we do not currently see.
As believers in Jesus, we are promised a future where sin is not present, where we will be in the presence of our Lord and creator for all eternity.
We are promised that we will be saved from the wrath to come because of Jesus’ atonement for our sins.
We are promised when we face judgment, we will not be condemned because Jesus is our advocate before the Father.
But is this faith blind?
No it is not.
Our faith is a combination of belief that God exists and belief in what he has promised.
Those who don’t believe charge us of believing in a God we have no evidence for but this is not the case.
This is about to get a bit technical, but stay with me.
We know scientifically the universe has not always existed.
A long time ago that was the running theory.
The universe has always existed.
But we discovered this isn’t true.
We now know that all of space, time and matter came into existence quite abruptly so we must explain how that happened.
This goes back to cause and effect.
The effect is the universe began to exist.
Therefore, something must have caused it to exist.
Whatever caused the universe to exist must be spaceless, timeless, and immaterial because all those things came into existence at once.
It is also personal because it had a will to bring everything into existence.
It is also intelligent because the universe operates under such precision that the probability of things developing exactly the way things are unguided is astronomical.
So given that something spaceless, timeless, immaterial, personal, and intelligent must have caused the universe to exist, I believe that describes who we call God.
My belief that God exists is not blind.
It is rooted in what I can understand through the availability of scientific discovery.
I believe God because of what I have seen him do in his Word and in my life.
There is a difference between belief in God and believing God.
There are a number of people all over the world that believe in God.
There are fewer who have taken the step to believe God.
Belief in God’s existence is not what makes us Christian.
It is our belief in what Jesus said about himself, his solution to our sin problem, and the future hope of glory that makes us who we are.
Biblical faith is trust in the power and promises of God.
When we believe Jesus, we are not asked to do so without evidence.
In fact, Jesus encouraged examining the evidence.
Let’s take a look at John 14.
Philip was looking for evidence.
This is the night of his betrayal.
The disciples just shared Passover with Jesus and he just told them of his coming betrayal.
This is discouraging news.
They know he is leaving so he is offering them words of comfort.
Philip thinks if Jesus can show him the Father, that will be enough.
What does Jesus point to as evidence?
Himself! “He who has seen me has seen the father.”
He then points to the things he has been saying.
“I don’t speak on my own initiative.
It is through me the Father does his work.”
So everything that comes from Jesus’ mouth are not just the words of yet another human prophet.
They are the very words of God.
But that’s not all.
Verse 11 is key here.
He says to believe not just the words he is saying, but the works themselves.
What are the works he is referring to?
Miracles are the things Jesus did to provide evidence for the things he said.
Remember when he turned water into wine?
Remember when he fed 5,000 men?
Then 4,000?
Remember when he calmed the storm in the middle of the sea of Galilee?
Remember when he walked on water?
Remember when he healed the blind, the lame, and the sick?
Remember when he healed people who weren’t even present?
Remember when a woman was healed just from touching his robe?
Remember when Jesus rose from the dead?
Jesus is saying to Philip, “Look at all I’ve done as evidence for what I am going to do.”
The future is uncertain.
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