Do you think of yourself as a soldier? Do you feel you are at war? In one sense you do because the Bible says it. Yet it is easy to forget. The enemy is invisible and pretends that he does not exist and so we are lulled to sleep. But we have a real enemy with large and powerful forces at his disposal. Wake up and fight! There is no way that we can make it to heaven without fighting.
Our enemy is the devil. He has been around for thousands of years during which time he has tempted millions of people. He has trained on the job and has lots of experience. We cannot see him and that gives him a deadly advantage. Further, he has us under constant surveillance. We do not have to speak out for him to hear. He has no physical ears but can hear the thoughts going through our minds. He can whisper into our hearts in such a way as that we cannot readily distinguish his words from our own thoughts. Unlike God, he is not able to be present in more than one place at once. However he has millions of devils under his command and so, wherever we are, devils are never far away. He does not know everything but he is highly intelligent and being thousands of years old he has acquired a vast amount of knowledge.
The Wiles of the Devil
He has many of these. For example, he mixes truth with error. Obvious heresy is easily rejected but when camouflaged with a good dose of truth it is absorbed. Sometimes he emphasises an important point of doctrine but does so at the expense of another point which is disastrously ignored. He can readily quote (or rather misquote) Scripture, which he knows better than any of us. He tempted Christ in this way. Sometimes he appears as an angel of light and would succeed in deceiving the elect to their destruction if that were possible. On other occasions he promises that good can be achieved through evil. The end does not justify the means and we must never do evil that good might come. He is the ruler of the darkness of this world who loves to darken the understanding of men and women. One of his commonest ploys is to strengthen people in the belief that he does not exist. Nowhere in this world are we free from this frightening and powerful enemy.
His great concern is to get us to sin and to do so more and more. He wants us to hurt God. Indeed his aim is to stir up everyone to fight against God. He knows that his battle with God is doomed to failure and that he will soon be cast into hell, yet he is so fanatical that he will fight to the finish. Even in hell he will be yelling his blasphemies against God. He hates the Creator and enjoys destroying. Because God loves His people Satan hates them. He will do all he can to spoil your peace and joy and make you feel miserable. He tries to seduce Christians into backsliding and so to bring shame on God and His church. If he can persuade you to lead others astray or to turn folk from Christ he is jubilant.
It is intimidating in the extreme to have such a powerful foe, but God does not leave us to the devil’s mercy. We are provided with armour which is adequate. It is made by God and specially designed for the purpose.
- Belt of Truth. The soldier has to ensure that his flowing garments will not hinder him. Fastening his belt and tucking in his clothes leaves him ready for action. This belt of truth is so important. Deceit and hypocrisy leave us vulnerable to the enemy. Be sincere and hate lies and you will stand strong.
- Breastplate of Righteousness. It is also called the breastplate of faith and love. This is ethical righteousness. Anyone who is careless about morality is in great danger. Yes, we are justified by faith alone but the faith that justifies does not remain alone. Antinomianism is very common today and as Rabbi Duncan said it underlies every heresy. This is the idea that you do not have to bother about God’s law. God forgives your sins and therefore you can live as you like. If we are to stand against Satan we need the breastplate and must strive and struggle to live a holy life. Divine sovereignty in protecting us does not annul our human responsibility.
- Gospel Shoes. It is said that Caesar’s victories were due to the superior footwear of his soldiers. The enemy was caught unprepared by his amazingly fast marches. We too need good shoes. These are the Gospel of peace. It is wonderful to know that Christ died for our sins and rose again. The full price has been paid for our deliverance. When Satan says there is no hope for us and that we might as well give up, he is lying. We have a great Saviour and can be at peace knowing that victory is sure.
- Shield of Faith. The devil shoots burning darts at us to set us on fire. He says there is no God or that God is not fair or that God does not love us. These darts are quenched by faith. We cling to God in trust.
- Helmet of Salvation. It is called in another place the helmet of hope. When Satan says this or that is exciting and that you will enjoy it and be thrilled by it, you need the helmet. You have been saved. There is a wonderful reward waiting for you in heaven. Why sell your soul for the trivial things which Satan offers? What shall it profit a man though he gain the whole world and lose his own soul (Mk.8:36)?
- Sword of the Spirit. Jesus used the sword of God’s Word very effectively in chasing Satan away. We must know our Bibles well. Study the Scriptures. Fill your minds and memories with it. “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written…”
- Prayer. This is a powerful weapon. It underlies and overshadows all the rest. It is vital both in attack and in defence that we use all prayer, always, with all perseverance, for all the saints.
The devil is mightier than we but God is almighty. There is no way in which we by ourselves can resist Satan’s wiles. Yet with God’s help we shall persevere and we are more than conquerors. Satan shall be bruised under our feet shortly (Rom.16:20).