The Armor of God: Part 7 - The Sword of the Spirit
by Aneel Aranha
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. (Ephesians 6:11-18)
Continued from Part 6: The Helmet of Salvation
No war has ever been won by a defending army. The army to win has always been the army that went on the offensive, the army that attacked and advanced, the army that demolished the enemy's strongholds, secured territory, and set prisoners of war free.
The gladius, or short sword, had a double edged blade and was a terrible stabbing weapon, short enough to wield easily in the crush of battle, and devastatingly effective.
Over the past several weeks we have seen how the Armor of God — the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel shoes, the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation — can protect us from the attacks of the enemy. There is one weapon in the armory, however, that not only lets us defend ourselves, but also enables us to go on the offensive, putting the enemy to flight. It is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
This mighty sword — crafted, tempered and honed by none other than the Holy Spirit himself — is a weapon of formidable power. We see Jesus himself wielding it to great effect when the devil came to tempt him in the desert.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: 'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"
Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."
Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
The devil attacked Jesus three times. Three times Jesus beat him back by using the sword of the Spirit — the powerful word of God! His first reply was from Deuteronomy 8:3, his second from Deuteronomy 6:16, and his third from Deuteronomy 6:13. And the devil fled, beaten.
If we are to resist the attacks of the enemy — and take the battle to him — it is vital that we learn to be good practitioners of the sword. This involves using the sword. A sword might look very pretty hanging on your wall but when the enemy comes at you, you need to have it in your hand. And you need to know how to wield it effectively!
Most Christians have a Bible in their house. Some give it pride of place on the altar stand, and while the respect given to it is merited, if the Bible isn't opened, read, believed, studied, meditated upon and lived, it is of precious little use in the war we are in. And make no mistake about it, we are in a war. It is a brutal, bloody war and we are losing! The evidence is all around us.
Everywhere you look you see the debris of evil. You see people sick with cancer, diabetes, heart problems, and a thousand other ailments. You see people hooked on drugs, alcohol, nicotine, pornography and scores of other bondages. You see people who are lonely. People who are scared. People who are hurting. People who are abused, physically and mentally. People suffering in so many different ways as a result of war, rape, poverty, starvation, terrorism and torture.
It makes my soul weep. It also makes me extremely angry, the anger as much at the loathsome creature who gleefully causes so much pain, as with us who permit him to do so. Why do we let him? Satan is a defeated enemy and the only reason he still rules the world is because we allow him to. Let us put an end to his reign now. Let us put on the armor of God, take the Spirit's mighty sword in our hands, and smash the enemy's strongholds wherever they exist and make him run for his miserable life! Jesus has shown us that it doesn't take much for him to flee. Jesus has also given us the power to fight him and beat him.
I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. (Luke 10:19)
To overcome the enemy, however, we have to learn how to use the sword of the Holy Spirit, which has the "divine power to demolish strongholds." How do we do this? We can begin by taking the sword off the wall and holding it in our hand. We can toss the sheath away as something we will never need again because this sword should never be sheathed. And then we can start training. Though we can get educated in the basic techniques of sword-fighting by people who know how to use the sword well, the only person who can truly teach us to master it is the Holy Spirit himself. It is, after all, his sword. And training takes place in his school: the School of the Holy Spirit.
The School of the Holy Spirit is a tough training ground where you learn many things, among which are developing the qualities that make for a good soldier of God. Sword fighting is just one of them. Like almost every other subject in the school, the training doesn't take place in a controlled environment, where you can practice using the weapon in safety. You are thrown straight away into battle.
The first lessons in use of the sword involve evicting the enemy from your own life, while simultaneously getting indoctrinated in how remarkably effective the blade is against the strongholds the enemy might have built in your heart and in your mind.
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
If you read the word of God for an hour each day, you will be a changed person in less than six months. I guarantee it. God's truth will penetrate into your heart, discerning your thoughts and attitudes and exposing any hypocrisy or deceit in them. It will also reveal all the sin in your life. Faced with such intense scrutiny from which there is no hiding, you will simply not be able to do anything but rectify whatever is wrong about your life so that you can stand up to God's piercing gaze. The strongholds will come crashing down and the devil will flee!
Once you have exorcised the devil from your life, kick him out of your home. Sit down with your family for some time in the morning and/or in the evening and read the word of God together. Your family will become as transformed as you. All the turbulence that might exist in your home; all the divisiveness, the violence, the tantrums, the sexual infidelities, the nagging, the disobedience, the disrespect and all other problems that the enemy has engineered will cease. I have seen the power of the word of God in my own family time and time again. If we ever begin to lose the peace and love that exists in our home, it is because we have begun neglecting reading the word of God together. The moment we resume reading it, peace and love reigns once again.
When you have your family set right, it is time to take the battle to the enemy, wherever he might be, but do not let the decision in this be yours. Wait on the Spirit to guide you when to use the sword, how to use it and where to use it. Then obey as he tells you. Expose sin where you find it. Call it by name, not the disguised phraseology invented by new age and humanistic philosophies. When you see people being lulled into complacency by the preaching of a soft gospel, wake them up by preaching its hard truths. They may not like you for it, but don't let it disturb you; you are a soldier in a war, not a beauty queen in a popularity contest and your task is to defeat the enemy no matter what the personal cost to you.
You might notch up some easy victories as you do battle, but remember at all times that you are in a war with an enemy who is utterly shameless. It doesn't matter how many times you thrash him or how many times he runs away; he will be back, especially when he senses weakness or fatigue. And like the coward he is, he doesn't fight you face-to-face or man-to-man. He will always sneak up to you trying to blindside you or come at you with a dozen of his lackeys in tow. He might succeed in wounding you at times. You might even fall on occasion. At such times remember the gospel assurance that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Go straight to your Father who will forgive you, nurse you back to health and send you to do battle again — stronger than before. Never ever forget that the victory against the devil has already been won; we just need to claim it.
... And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:15)
Even as I urge all of you to arm yourselves with God's sword, I have to stress some extra caution when it comes to using it outside of yourself and your family. Many of us don't train at the School of the Holy Spirit. We read the word of God, use our human intellect to obtain understanding, memorize verses like actors memorize their lines for a play, and then spout them at every opportunity we get, often totally out of context. This is a dangerous way of using the word of God and I have seen the people who do this cause immense damage and confusion as they preach utter nonsense.
Even more dangerous are the people who believe that God has poured his Spirit exclusively on them, giving only them a true understanding of Scripture while bypassing almost everybody else over the last 2000 years. Such people use the word of God to hack away mindlessly at anything that departs from what they imagine is right. From the gashing, gaping wounds that they create in God's body, it is obvious that their instructor is not the Holy Spirit but the enemy himself and they wield, not the sword of the Spirit, but the butcher's knife of the devil.
The only way that you can be sure that the Holy Spirit is the one guiding you is by the sort of man (or woman) you become when your training is complete. If you were trained by the Spirit of God, he will not let you go out into the world until such time that you are full of his power and bear his fruit in abundance, especially the fruit of love. If you are such a man, welcome to battle. It is time to reclaim the world.
May the Spirit — and his sword — be with you.
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Copyright © 2004 Aneel Aranha. All rights reserved.