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Dressing For Victory--The Sword Of The Spirit

      I had just started college when the Christian world was overcome by the “What Would Jesus Do?” movement. Inspired by the book, “In His Steps” by Charles Sheldon, a youth group leader in Michigan began a grassroots movement to help the teenagers in her group remember the phrase. It spread nationwide, and suddenly bracelets bearing the initials W.W.J.D. became the latest rage in the Christian world.


     As I was thinking about this month’s topic in “Dressing for Victory”, I couldn’t help but think how applicable the phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” is to our discussion of using the Word of God as a spiritual weapon. After all, when we ask ourselves, “What Did Jesus Do when He in a spiritual battle?” the answer is: “He pulled out the Word of God and used it as a spiritual weapon.”


     But first, let’s refresh our minds, by taking a look at the passage we’re studying.


“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.


For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 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. (Ephesians 6:10-17)


     So far in this study, we’ve learned several facts from this verse:


#1. As Christians, we are all in a spiritual battle.


#2. God has given us spiritual weapons that we can use to defeat the enemy.


#3. It’s our job to learn how to practically use these weapons to win the spiritual battle in our own lives.


     This month, we’re going to talk specifically about how to practically use the Word of God as a sword in our lives to overcome the evil schemes of our enemy, Satan. I can’t think of a better way to do this, then to look to the Master’s example and see how Jesus used the Word of God as a sword to overcome His own battle with Satan while He was on earth. Let’s start by looking at Matthew 4:1-4.


“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness 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 shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”


      Let’s stop here for a moment and notice a few things.


      First, let’s look at Satan’s motivation: He tempted Jesus in an attempt to get Jesus to sin. In the book, “Intense Moments with the Savior” Ken Gire says, “The temptation was not to make Jesus doubt Himself, but to depend on Himself. Since the Father hasn’t lifted a finger to alleviate His suffering, why not take things into His own hands?” (39)


     Next, look at Satan’s methods: He appealed to Jesus’ natural fleshly desires. Notice that just like he does with us, the enemy was appealing to Jesus’ human appetites in an effort to destroy His spiritual life and ultimately thwart the plan that the Father had for Jesus’ life.


     Finally, notice how Jesus responded: Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’


     This is a direct quote from Deuteronomy 8:3. Jesus overcame the enemy’s temptation and the desire of His own flesh by using the Word of God as a sword and annihilating the enemy’s argument. Basically, Jesus said, “It doesn’t matter that I’m hungry or that I could misuse God’s power to fulfill my fleshly desires. God’s Word is the ultimate authority in My life, and this is what it says.” As He quoted the Scripture He was saying, “I will obey God’s Word and not succumb to temptation.”


     So how can we practically follow Jesus' example and win the spiritual battles in our own lives?   Let’s start by agreeing that many of the spiritual battles that Christians face on a daily basis come as the enemy tries to lure us into focusing on our physical, fleshly appetites. In Jesus’ case, He’d been fasting for 40 days and He craved food. The enemy attacked by trying to get Jesus to focus on His hunger, believe His hunger was the most important thing, and do what He had to do to fill His hunger.


     Today the enemy uses the same method of appealing to our appetites to get us to focus on our hunger and do whatever we need to do to fill our needs, even if it means turning away from God and falling into sin. The only difference is that our hunger doesn’t usually come from a 40 day fast. The appetites of our flesh come in many different forms.


    There is the temptation of our sexual appetites.


    Some people have an appetite for more money or things.


    Others people may have an appetite for revenge or anger.


    Perhaps another’s appetites could lead them toward violence or abuse.


    Some have an appetite for gossip, lying, drama, causing division or a host of other options. However, in the end, the result is always the same: When you allow your appetites to drive the car in your life, you will end up in a tragic wreck spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. That’s why one of Satan’s favorite battle plans is to get Christians to focus on their appetites, cause them to feel that it isn’t fair that God isn’t filling that hunger, and ultimately lead them toward the choice that it’s best if they abandon God’s way and fill their appetite on their own.


     It’s like James says in James 1:14-15: “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”


     Hunger—Sin to fulfill hunger---defeat---if unrepentant, spiritual death.


     That’s the enemy’s goal. How can we overcome?


     We need to do what Jesus did.


     We need to use the Word of God like a sword to tear down the devil’s evil schemes. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the Word of God is alive 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.”


     What did Jesus do when the enemy tried to get Him to sin by appealing to His hunger? He used the Word of God that was hidden in His heart and He used it to tear the enemy’s evil scheme to shreds.


      Let’s take a second look: “Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’’”


     Using Scripture as His standard, Jesus turned the tables on Satan. By doing this, Jesus was saying, “My natural hunger and appetites are NOT the driving force in My life. I don’t make My choices based on them. Instead, I make my decisions and choices based on the Word of God.”


     That’s how Jesus won His spiritual battle. If we want to live as victorious Christians and overcome the attacks of our spiritual enemy, we’ll have to do what Jesus did. We need to make Bible reading, study, and memorization a priority in our lives.


     If we want to follow Jesus’ example and walk in His steps in spiritual warfare, we’ve got to start by following His example by hiding God’s Word in our hearts. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You.”


     Now let’s get real. Can you handle some straight talk that might one day save your spiritual life? One thing that we need to recognize is that Jesus could use the Word of God as a weapon because Jesus knew what the Word of God said.


     One of the biggest reasons that modern day Christians aren’t living as victorious Christians, but falling prey to the enemy’s attacks is that there is an epidemic of Biblical illiteracy. Too many Christians don’t read the Bible, so they don’t know what it says. The basic truth is that if you aren’t reading the Bible and hiding God’s Word in your heart, you won’t be able to use it as a weapon when the enemy attacks. Instead, when the enemy attacks, you’ll go to pull out your spiritual gun and find that you have no ammunition.


     Remember: Jesus was only able to use the Scripture as a spiritual weapon because He knew what the Scripture said. Because He knew what the Bible said, He knew God’s standards, and did not fall for the cunning deception of the enemy that wanted Him to give into the desires of His flesh. If we as Christians, are going to do what Jesus did, then we need to do the same and be committed to hiding God’s Word in our hearts.


     The next thing we need to do to follow Jesus’ example in fighting the spiritual battle is to make a commitment to studying the Word of God so that we understand what the Bible means. Let’s look at why this is important as we study Jesus’ next temptation.


     Matthew 4:5-7, “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.’”


      This is very interesting. Notice that when Satan couldn’t get Jesus to sin against God by appealing to His fleshly appetites, the enemy tried to twist the Word of God to cause Jesus to go against God’s perfect will for His life. Just like he did with Eve in the Garden, the enemy tried to twist and confuse the God’s commands to win the battle. However, Jesus was not Eve and He was not so easily deceived.


     You see, even though Satan tried to use God’s own Words to tempt Jesus (and have no doubt, he was quoting directly from Psalm 91:11-12), Jesus was not defeated. Why? Because Jesus hadn’t just read the Word, He’d studied the Old Testament, and He knew what the Scriptures meant. He knew that these verses were a promise of protection, not an invitation to put God to the test or perform miracles on demand. Because He understood God’s Word, He was able to see right through the enemy’s scheme, tear it down and speak the Truth of God back into the situation when He quoted Deuteronomy 6:16 and said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”


     2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the Word of Truth.”


     You see, besides the Biblical illiteracy that comes from Christians not reading the Bible, there is another reason that too many Christians are not living victorious lives in Christ. The sad fact is that because many of the Christians who DO read the Bible, don’t take the time to study the Bible, they don’t understand what it means. Hence, any deceiver who comes along quoting a passage of Scripture or even something that remotely sounds like a passage of Scripture is able to manipulate well-intended people into believing and acting on lies that are totally contrary to what the Bible says.


     Quite frankly, there is only one way to properly arm oneself for a spiritual attack of this level---good old fashioned, Bible Study. Thanks to modern technology, the tools necessary for this task are literally right at our fingertips. While years ago, one might have been required to have a library filled with commentaries, Bible dictionaries, lexicons, and Greek/Hebrew dictionaries to thoroughly study a passage of Scripture, many of these tools are now available to download for free at www.e-sword.net.


     To begin studying a passage of Scripture, you start by reading a portion of the Bible. Perhaps you might want to read it in more than one translation (which is easy to do thanks to www.biblegateway.com) Then, turn to a reliable commentary such as the Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary or Barnes Notes on the New Testament (available under “Barnes” at www.e-sword.net) and read what scholars have spent years deciphering the original intent of the passage to mean. You can even do word studies to find out what the exact meaning of a verse in the original Hebrew and Greek. (Again, www.e-sword.net helps those of us with very little knowledge of the ancient languages find this information very quickly and easily.)


     As you use these tools and many more than are available to you at your Christian bookstore, you’ll move beyond just reading the Bible to understanding the Bible. When Bible study becomes a habit in your life, you’ll be following in Jesus’ footsteps. Rather than being easily deceived like Eve, the knowledge of God’s Word in your heart will enable you fight the enemy’s schemes and say, “That’s not what that Scripture means. You’re twisting God’s Word for your own purposes. This is what the Bible says, and this is what I’m going to do.” That’s how you wage spiritual warfare like Jesus did.


     Now, let’s move on and see one final way spiritual discipline that Jesus incorporated into his spiritual battle plan: Scripture Memorization. Jesus was able to defeat the enemy using the Word of God because He knew the Scriptures, He understood the Scriptures, and He was able to quote Scripture.


     Matthew 4:7-10, “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.’”


     Again, Satan tried to appeal to Jesus’ flesh. Turn away from God’s plan---skip the cross and all the suffering---achieve world domination and don’t worry about the redemption of mankind. The battle lines were drawn.


     How did Jesus respond?


     Just as He did every other time---He quoted the Word of God as He stood His ground saying, “I will obey God no matter what.”


     Essentially, this is where memorized Scripture becomes an incredible asset in a Christian’s war arsenal. Because one thing that I’ve realized in studying this passage, is that Jesus didn’t quote Scripture for Satan’s benefit. He quoted Scripture to let Satan know that He knew what God wanted and He was choosing to obey God.


     You see, Satan didn’t need to be reminded of what the Scriptures said. He already knew. In fact, the enemy probably knows the Bible better than most Christians. And he’s taken that knowledge and spent centuries trying to twist it and pervert it to deceive people. What he’s counting on is that YOU don’t know it.


     That’s why memorizing Scripture is such a great weapon. Because as you speak God’s truth out loud to defeat Satan’s lies, you’re letting Him know that you know what God’s Word says and you intend to obey it. You’re also reminding yourself, with all of your appetites and emotions, that the priority in your life is obedience to God’s Word. Like Jesus, when you quote Scripture you are saying, “I know what the Bible says, and I am going to obey it, NO MATTER WHAT.”


     That’s why it’s so important that we, as Christians, are committed to reading, studying, and memorizing the Bible, For as we said at the beginning of the article, we are in a spiritual battle. The Word of God is the sword we’ve been given to annihilate the enemy.


      Now the choice is ours. Will we choose to take up our sword and be prepared to use it so that when we are spiritually attacked, our weapon will be fully loaded and prepared to defend and defeat our enemy?


     You see, any soldier will tell you that the middle of the battle isn’t the time to start looking for and loading your gun with ammunition. No, you need to have that prep work done ahead of time so that you can use your gun to fight and win the battle. In the same way, you need to prepare your heart and mind ahead of the spiritual battle by reading, studying, and memorizing God’s Word. Then when the enemy attacks, you’ll be ready to fight, stand your ground and gain the victory using the Word of God that is already in your heart.


     It’s how Jesus fought His spiritual battles. Now will you Do What Jesus Did?

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