Feature

Preventing Identity Theft

The full armor is Christ Himself

By

In one of my college Communications classes, our professor instructed students to break into groups of five. While one student stood in the middle of the circle, the other students were instructed to ask, “Who are you?” When my turn came, I responded, “I’m the vice president of the junior class.” “I’m the third of four children.” “I work at a hardware store.” At the end of the experience our professor noted that most of us didn’t answer the question. Instead of sharing our identity, we shared what we do or the roles we play.

He was right. We tend to define ourselves by what we do or who we are in relationship to others. Yet, few of us understand our true identities.

Paul didn’t make that mistake when writing to the church in Ephesus. Through this epistle, he goes to great lengths to remind us who we are in Christ. In the first chapter alone he writes that we are holy people adopted by God (v. 4), forgiven (v. 7), part of God’s plan (v. 11), and sealed by God’s Spirit (v. 13).

In Ephesians 6, Paul reminds us that the devil is working endlessly to induce spiritual amnesia. Satan wants us to forget who we are in Christ! How? By lying! Satan knows that through lying, if we forget our identities, we will also forgo privileges, power, and promises.

It’s not surprising that he works in this way. Satan is a liar (John 8:44). So it’s not really shocking that when Paul says, “You are chosen,” Satan whispers, “You don’t count!” Or when Paul says, “You are adopted,” Satan whispers, “You’ve been abandoned.”

That is also the way Satan tempted Jesus. At Jesus’ baptism, the Spirit of God descended on Him like a dove. “And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased’” (Mark 1:11). In that one statement, Jesus heard an amazing proclamation regarding His identity. Yet, immediately He found Himself facing a vicious onslaught of temptation from one who—by lying—was attempting to get Him to forget who He was. Satan lied by claiming to have power that never rightfully belonged to him. He lied by tempting Jesus with shortcuts that couldn’t bring the promised results.

The evil one continues to use the same tactics with us. If he can persuade us that we are insignificant in the eyes of God; that God doesn’t really love us; that our sins haven’t been forgiven, he can bring us down to a level where we are harassed by guilt, consumed by shame, and overwhelmed by doubt.

So how do we counteract the lies of the devil? In Ephesians 6, Paul describes a tool that’s accessible to every Christ follower: the armor of God.

If you are like me (and old enough!) the first image that may come into your mind when you read “armor of God” is that of a Sunday school teacher standing by a flannel graph board, dressing a solider one verse at a time. Each piece of the armor is explained, while the teacher reminds us about our responsibility to use the tools in our “arsenal.”

However, in looking at each of the pieces of the “armor” separately, we may be missing something. Paul’s intent was not only to view each piece as an individual tool but also to get us to see each piece as part of a complete protective covering. In verse 11 he notes, “Put on the full armor of God.”

Paul’s goal is to help us use the most powerful and prevailing resource we have. When we put on “the full armor,” we are literally covering ourselves with the presence of Jesus Christ. By putting on Christ, we are reminded of who we are in Him and are prepared to counter the lies of Satan. This is not to suggest that each piece of the armor is unimportant; what is urgent is that we not lose sight of the point that in putting on the whole armor of God, we are putting on the very presence of Christ—the most critical truth in facing evil.

The following chart breaks down these areas as they relate to each piece of the armor of God:

RESOURCE EVIL’S LIE AFFIRMATION OF IDENTITY NEED ADDRESSED
Belt of Truth You can be sure of nothing I have God’s revelation Certainty
Breastplate of Righteousness You’re not forgiven I am right with God Freedom
Sandals of Peace God is against you I am God’s friend Reconciliation
Shield of Faith Your life is hopeless I am confident in Christ Hope
Helmet of Salvation God has tossed you aside I am safe in Christ Security
Sword of the Spirit Life is out of control I am a part of God’s history Purpose

 

Think of it in terms of your car’s engine. In considering your car’s engine, you can break down the engine into separate parts. Each part is important. However, in focusing on each of your engine’s parts, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. What is the broader picture? Your engine as a whole! What is the broader picture in the armor of God? It’s the presence of the Christ!

When we focus primarily on the presence of the Christ who lives in us, we are then able to deal with the reality of evil by addressing three important questions. One, what are the lies of the evil one that need to be confronted? Each piece of armor either indirectly or directly responds to at least one lie from the evil one. It brings the lie of evil out of the darkness and into the light.

The second question is, “In what way does the presence of Christ affirm my standing before God?” Promises contained in this piece of armor remind me of who I am in Christ.

The final question is, “What basic need does this piece of armor meet?” When evil attacks our life, there are not only spiritual consequences but also serious psychological and emotional fallouts are often experienced.

Often, when the “armor of God” is taught, the focus is on what we have to do. We describe the elements of armor as being “defensive” or “offensive” weapons. With the belt of truth, we say, “I need to learn the truth and defend it.” With the breastplate of righteousness, “I need to act rightly before God.” With the Word of God, “I need to read and memorize.” Is there anything wrong with these actions? No! However, they could cause us to focus on our efforts instead of trusting in what Jesus has already done. In worst-case scenarios, these actions could even inadvertently lead us to works righteousness.

While I’m not suggesting we dismiss the role we play in dealing with evil, I am suggesting that we realign our focus on Christ. In doing so, we will recover what really lies at the center of the Christian faith: a living, breathing relationship with Jesus. By looking at our activities as secondary, we will focus on Him while relying on and relaxing in His grace. In addition, it serves as a reminder that the ultimate fight belongs to God and is based upon what He has accomplished.

When I was a teenager, I was often reminded by my father, “When you’re out, remember who you are!” When the evil one knocks, it’s tempting to forget our identity. When those moments occur, let’s hear the words of Paul to “put on the full armor of God,” realizing that in putting on the armor, we are actually putting on Christ, the one whose words are powerful and persuasive enough to confront the lies of evil and meet all of our needs.

1 response to Preventing Identity Theft

  1. Dear Chuck, Wow, this is really good. I want to read it again. I would like to share it with my family and youth at my church. Thanks so much!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Past Alliance Life Issues

Share

Get Involved...

Pray.

We cannot “Live the Call Together” unless prayer is central to all we do.
Pray with us »

Serve.

Is God calling you to service? We’re here to help you connect your passion with God’s purpose.
Serve with The Alliance »

Give.

Help build Christ’s Church by supporting the ministry and workers of The Alliance.
Give today »