A Simply Divine Outfit!

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by Linda Rex

Last week I did my best to come up with a blog to post, but due to my involvement with vacation bible school (VBS), and other family and work responsibilities, I found myself drawing on empty when it came time to write. But I would like to share what stood out in my mind from our work with the young people in the Old Hickory community.

The topic of our VBS last week was the armor of God. At first, when we were reviewing the curriculum at one of our planning meetings, I and others were struck by the emphasis it had on our human efforts to put away sin and defend ourselves against Satan’s attacks. Our challenge was to revise the curriculum in such a way as to put Jesus Christ as the foundation and center of it rather than our own human efforts.

It is my personal belief what is lost in most discussions and devotions about the armor of God is the reality that each part of the armor is in essence Jesus Christ himself. Even the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, points us to the living Word, Jesus Christ. To separate each part out individually as if it stands on its own is to miss the point of this whole passage.

Paul starts out this section of scripture by saying, “…be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” God’s might is our might, his strength our strength. In Jesus by the Spirit we have the capacity to resist evil and the evil one. It’s not something we have to figure out or do on our own.

We need to beware of any way of looking at scripture which casts us back upon ourselves, as if we are capable of resisting or overcoming evil on our own, or are responsible to do so. Trying to overcome or resist evil on our own by keeping the law or doing lots of good deeds is basically human religion. And such a religion does not save us—rather it can enslave us and bind us to unhealthy and unfruitful ways of living and being.

What Paul seems to be saying here in Ephesians 6 is we have an adversary who is always scheming against us, and there are forces of evil at work which impact our lives on a daily basis. But we have a simply divine outfit laid out on the bed for us—we just need to put it on and stand firm in Christ, while resisting the devil’s efforts to deceive or distract us.

Salvation isn’t something we have to make sure we run to the boutique and buy, but rather something Christ has already done in his life, death, resurrection and ascension. We have been delivered from sin and death by the Son of God, who was victorious over them. But there is an action we do—we pick up the helmet of salvation, and we put it on. We experience a change in our mind and heart—we repent and turn away from our self-centered ways of thinking and being, and we turn to Christ. We stop trusting in our human efforts to save ourselves and start trusting in Christ instead. We put on Christ.

The thing is, the helmet of salvation isn’t something you take off and put back on. Salvation just is, because Christ has done it and won’t go back on his action of taking our humanity on and redeeming it. So we just receive this gift and live in the truth of it from now on. Our decision to live in the reality of our salvation in Christ does not alter whether or not Jesus saved us. It merely enables us to enjoy all the benefits of what he has done for us and in our place, and what he is doing today by his Holy Spirit. It is life-transforming.

This theme of putting on Christ can be found throughout this whole discussion about the armor of God. When we put on Jesus Christ, we are wrapping around ourselves the truth of who God is and who we are in him. Jesus is our belt of truth. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life—we draw our being and life from him as the One through whom and by whom all things were created. As made in the image of God, through the Spirit we reflect Jesus Christ, the One who is both God and man—he is our perfected humanity. The truth about our existence is found in him. Whatever lies may be said to us or we may believe need to be held up against this plumbline, recognized for what they are, and discarded. The truth of our being, which is found in Jesus Christ, orients us toward our true north, our heavenly Father, in every area of our lives as we live and work in community with others.

The gospel of peace—how the Word of God took on our humanity to bring us peace with God and peace with one another—is the story of our lives. This good news, who is our Savior Jesus Christ, has transformed our lives, and we spend our existence sharing this good news with others. We don’t hold grudges or refuse to forgive people’s slights against us because we are living in the reality of and sharing with others the immense gift of grace given to us from God through our Lord Jesus Christ. All the human barriers we place between ourselves are removed in Christ, because he has made us one in himself, taking on our humanity and redeeming it. Because Christ is our life, we walk in him in the Spirit, in this path of grace and peace he has walked before us, in our place and on our behalf.

As we put on Christ as our footwear, we also put him on as our righteousness. Jesus is our right relationship with God and one another. God has reconciled to himself all things in Jesus Christ. In Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension we are brought up into the very life and being of God himself, at one with the Father, Son, and Spirit, and in Christ, made at one with every other human being. We put on Christ by living in the truth of our reconciliation and our right relationship, by being truly reconciled with God and one another, because of Jesus’ finished work.

Even when it comes to faith, we are reminded to turn to Christ for the faith we need when we are being assaulted by the lies of the evil one. The one weapon the devil uses against us over and over again is the lie which says God is not good and is not trustworthy, and he does not really love and care about us. When these lies begin to overwhelm us, we need to draw upon Christ’s perfect faith. Jesus trusted his Father implicitly, even when he hung dying on the cross and it seemed to his human mind his Father had forsaken him. Jesus’ perfect faith caused him to trust his Father even at the very end of his suffering—this faith is ours. All we need to do is ask—to pick up the shield—to put on Christ.

So we have put on Christ, and it seems it is not enough for us just to have our armor on. God also gives us an offensive weapon—the sword of the Spirit. The capacity of the word of God to penetrate down to the core of our being is made possible through the living Word, Jesus Christ, by his gift of the Spirit from the Father. It is Christ at work in us by his Spirit which transforms us and enables us to effectively live out and share the gospel of peace. It is the Spirit of truth at work within which enlightens us and enables us to see and walk in the truth who is Jesus. Any faith or righteousness which may well up within us is the work of the Spirit, who writes God’s ways on our minds and hearts, gives us the heart to obey, and enables us to live in accordance with the truth of who we are in Jesus Christ.

The centrality of Christ to this entire discussion on the armor of God can be clearly seen when we start and begin with Jesus as the One who is the Word of God come into our human flesh. This can be a comforting and encouraging study when we do it this way. It’s not up to us to do this battle with the enemy all by ourselves. Rather, it is a battle Jesus already fought and won, and he shares his decisive victory with us as we respond to the Spirit’s work, and put on and use the divine outfit he created for us in his life, death, resurrection and ascension. Jesus Christ is our mighty warrior, and we get to participate by the Spirit in his perfect deliverance against sin, evil, and death. What a blessing!

Dear Abba, thank you for giving us, in Jesus and by your Spirit, total victory over evil, sin, and death. Thank you for giving us this perfect armor to wear, and the sword of the Spirit to wield. Grant us the grace to daily put on Christ and to respond fully to the Spirit’s work in our hearts and lives, and in the world around us. May we trust in you fully, resting in Christ, and drawing upon the Spirit each day. Amen.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 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. 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. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of 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. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:10–17 NASB

Being Truthful vs. Truth of Being

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Honeysuckle on the fence
Honeysuckle on the fence

By Linda Rex

I don’t know if there is such a thing as social dishonesty, but I think there ought to be a term for fudging the truth for the sake of one’s relationship with others. Maybe it’s called telling a white lie. I guess, in reality, the real term for it would be hypocrisy. But none of us want to be accused of hypocrisy when all we want is to avoid hurting someone or to keep other people’s good opinion of us.

One of the most powerful tools of destruction when it comes to domestic violence is silence. In destructive relationships there is a rule, unspoken or not, that what happens within the relationship or family stays within it. Nobody is allowed to tell the truth about what is going on, no matter how hurtful or wrong it may be.

This type of silence and our “social dishonesty” create relationships based on a lie. It becomes very difficult to determine exactly what is true and what is false, because what is being said and done does not come from a place of safety, transparency and authenticity but from a place of fear, shame, guilt and/or manipulation. Rather than living out of truth, we live out of something we are not.

At some point God will bring all of us to the place where we have to face the truth of who we really are inside. And most of us are so terrified by the thought of what we might find there that we will do anything we possibly can to avoid this confrontation.

What if we discover, or worse yet—if someone else discovers—we’re not the image we’ve been trying to portray all these years? What if the truth about who we are is that we are a smuck, a selfish, thoughtless idiot? What if all the hateful things that have been said to us over the years are true? What if we really are worthless, useless and deserve only to die like our mom or dad told us over and over as we were growing up?

We so often seek to be what we are not, or believe that we are not, because that is what is expected of us. We hold each other to impossible standards, which none of us are capable of fulfilling—this is the result of a society built on the lie that to be truly human is to be attractive, charismatic, athletic, clever, smart and talented. Just like the Greeks who worshiped the perfect human form—we worship the superhuman who can do impossible feats.

Even though there is no such thing as a supermom, women still feel driven to “do it all”—have the perfect body, the perfect family, the perfect job, and the perfect home. Even though Superman is just a story, men feel the pressure to have the perfect physique and to be a person of presence and power in the marketplace or industry—wherever they work and live.

For those who seek to be moral people, there are the impossible standards that we hold ourselves and other people to. I know from personal experience how destructive and self-defeating it is to try and live up to someone else’s or my own interpretation of the Bible’s commandments. The best we can do is to keep up appearances and to hope that no one finds out the truth about who we really are.

At this point, I think it might be helpful to reevaluate our self-concept. We are so resistant to people finding out the truth about who we are because we believe the truth of our being is that we are awful, horrible monsters. I appreciate William Paul Young’s observation that when we try to live out of this lie—that the truth of our being is that we are evil and depraved—we find ourselves unable to become what we ought to be. We expend a lot of effort hiding, self-medicating or self-destructing as a result. We need to change the way we think about ourselves and about what the truth of our being is.

As I was reading 2 Corinthians 4 this morning, it struck me that if we could truly grasp the reality that Jesus is the truth, the truth of who we are, our lives and how we think and act would be entirely different. When we look deep inside ourselves, often all we see is evil and depravity. But God calls us to look further.

God shines the light of his Spirit in our hearts because he wants us to see ourselves honestly and in reality. We need to see that the evil and depravity, whatever form it may take, is not the truth of who we are. Whatever evil and depravity may lie at the heart of our being, along with all the good stuff that we are as well, died with Christ and rose with Christ.

The truth of our being is that we are made in the image of God and declared to be very good—and so God in Jesus Christ redeemed and redeems us so that we, in truth, are and can be that very thing. We need to see the truth of our being as being defined by Jesus Christ, who is our life and the truth of who we are.

This does not mean that we stop being ourselves, but rather that the ourselves that we are have been redeemed and made new. When we find ourselves living in ways that do not coincide with the truth of who we are in Christ, that is when we are living a lie. Evil and depravity no longer define us—no matter what anyone may say—Christ does. So our entire life now is sacred, devoted to God, to be lived in agreement with the person God has declared us to be.

This is why I love the Voice translation of 1 Cor. 1:6 which says that our life story confirms Christ’s life story. How we live now is a confirmation of the very nature and life of Christ. We are uniquely ourselves but we live in and with God in Christ by the Holy Spirit—a life surrounded by, filled with, and defined by God, and no one else.

This makes living authentically a whole lot easier. We’re not held to any standard other than the life of Christ. Since his life, death, resurrection and ascension is ours and we are united with him, our faults, failures and idiocyncrasies are redeemed. We are new creatures.

We can have hope in the midst of our faults because we can know that, as the apostle Paul points out, we have the treasure of God’s very presence and life in these “jars of clay”, right within our humanity. When we are criticized or ridiculed by others, we can look at ourselves with honest eyes, with a willingness to see the truth. Are we indeed what they say we are, or is there some part of us that is in the process of being redeemed by Christ and we need to participate in that process?

Because there will always be some brokenness in us that God is working with as long as we are in this human flesh. We will have the appearance of being faulty as long as we are not yet fully transformed into Christ’s likeness. It is a process—from glory to glory. We cannot just focus on what is seen, but must trust in what is unseen—that God is at work, transforming us and making us what he means for us to be.

This creates the groundwork for authentic, transparent relationships that are truly loving. In a relationship based on this foundation of Christ, both parties are able to be honest and truthful with one another because there is always Christ between them. They each live and walk in truth, leaving no room for “social dishonesty” or destructive silence, because at the same time, they are walking in grace and love. And this describes the Triune life we participate in through Christ and in the Holy Spirit. May we each experience this blessing of authentic relationship today and every day, and forever.

Thank you, God, that you have included us in your divine life and love. Thank you that you define who we are, and that you are at work redeeming us by the Spirit, renewing us and making us what we were meant to be. Grant us the grace to trust you, allowing you to work your process of renewal in us and participating with you as we live in agreement with the truth of who you have declared us to be. Through Jesus our Lord and by your precious Spirit. Amen.

“… we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:2 NASB

“Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” 1 Corinthians 4:5 NASB