Holiness and the Armor of God
Holiness is a word you don’t hear much in today’s church culture. After all, the trends of our day have focused on making it fun to go to church and that means avoiding any talk of things that do not sound like fun. Things like sin, repentance, surrender.
That word has an otherworldly ring to it, and many associate it with the negative expression “holier than thou” or the icons of yore that depict superhuman saints with halos and sad or stoic expressions on their faces.
But that is not what holiness means. Holiness is an important part of our true identity in Christ. Check out this verse in 1 Peter 2 that perfectly summarizes who we are:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.“
(1 Peter 2:9)
Yes, you read that right. A holy nation. A nation chosen by God, with the mantle of priesthood by which we represent the world to God in prayer and God to the world in the proclamation of the gospel, and a people possessed by God.
The Greek word for holy is “hagios.” It literally means “different.” It implies a lifestyle and a way of thinking and doing that is the complete opposite of the world. In the Old Testament, God gave numerous laws to the people of Israel shortly after they were rescued out of Egypt. Those were intended to ensure that their way of life and their behavior showed clearly that they belonged to God, and not to any of the cultures around them that followed after other gods.
Through our repentance, which signifies a one hundred eighty degree turn in direction, the forgiveness of our sin, reconciliation, and relationship with God, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we become holy. It is a holiness we cannot develop by following rules. It is developed in us by the Holy Spirit.
“..for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
Holiness is a state of being that is God’s gift to us in Christ, and He slowly but surely develops that state of being in all our thoughts, feelings, decisions, words, and actions.
We can hinder that process, or we can help it. We can hinder it by staying friends with the world (see James 4:4) and looking there to keep fulfilling the desires of the body and the mind (Ephesians 2:3). We can coast through our comfortable lives and limit our interaction with God and His Word to whenever we have a need or go to church. God doesn’t force His workmanship on us.
Or we can help, by developing a life of unceasing prayer (see 1 Thessalonians 5:17), by devoting ourselves to a Spirit-led daily engagement with His Word, and by intentionally stepping into our true identity as members of a holy nation and a people of God’s own possession.
That is where the armor of God comes in. Because the flesh and the world aren’t the only things attacking our holy identity. Satan will do what he can to convince us that we’re no different than unbelievers who still have both feet firmly planted in the ways of the world.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”(Ephesians 6:10-18)
The battle for holy words, actions, and attitudes that set us apart from the world and make us visible as the people of God begins in our minds.
That is what the armor of God is all about. It is a series of mindsets to hold on to against those that Satan and his demons seek to lure us back into, modeled after a Roman tunic. You can tell to whom an army belongs by their uniforms. That was a fact even in Roman times. Thus you can tell a Christian by his armor. That armor is perfect because it is fashioned by God. It perfectly protects us from every trick in Satan’s book:
Lies and deception are countered by our immersion in truth.
Condemnation is countered by the righteousness we have received as God’s gift.
Laziness is countered by a readiness to serve that comes from the gospel of peace.
Doubt (along with discouragement and distraction) is extinguished by faith in the promises of God.
Worldly principles are replaced by our mindset on the things that are in keeping with our salvation.
Ungodly arguments against the gospel are destroyed by the Word as it richly indwells us.
The caveat is that we are diligent in putting on this armor every day. A soldier is pretty much a goner if he forgets to put on his battle dress and keeps his weapons close at hand. God’s armor is designed to protect the holiness we have received as a gift in response to our repentance.
For that reason, I make it a point to put on the armor of God every day before I get going. It goes something like this:
“Father in heaven, thank you that you have given us a perfect armor to stand against the schemes of the devil. Today I go out in your truth and refuse to agree with any falsehood. I go out in the righteousness you gave me that was purchased for me by the blood of Christ, and refuse to give in to any accusation or condemnation. I go with the readiness to serve that comes from the gospel of peace and pray that you bless those I come in contact with through my words and actions. I stand in faith to counter any doubt, discouragement, deception, or distraction. I set my mind on you in accordance with my salvation and citizenship of your kingdom. I want you to be uppermost in both my thoughts and my feelings and not get drawn back down into worldly thinking, depression, hopelessness, or anxiety. And I go out with your Word, letting it dwell in me richly, so I can defeat any argument set against the gospel of Christ or against my faith in Him as my Savior and Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
There is one more component we must not forget: the Roman armor had no protection for the back, and so it relied on soldiers to attack in teams whereby they protected each other’s vulnerabilities. That is why Paul ended his description of the armor of God by saying that we must pray for all the saints. We must protect each other’s holiness by regular intercession for our fellow believers. The pursuit of holiness is an individual as well as a group responsibility.
After all, we are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). There is no more compelling argument than that the Holy Spirit indwells us. He can’t live in an unholy, neglected temple. His presence in us should compel us to do all we can to not hinder God’s sanctifying work in us, and help Him by unceasing prayer, devotion to His transforming Word, and the faithful wearing of the spiritual armor He has designed to protect us.
And that should be front and center in the teaching of the Church, even as the onslaught of evil and worldliness is growing by the day and the firm standing of Christians is being challenged more openly and forcefully.
I pray that God’s Church awakens to a sense of urgency to stop thinking about how best to make church fun, and to help the people that gather there pursue holiness, intimacy with God, and being battle-ready.
How are you praying for holiness in your life? Are you donning the armor of God daily? Share your thoughts and prayers below.
(Used with permission. The Deeper Life, by Remco Brommet. Photo Credit: Canva)
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