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We have already established that the forces of Heaven and the forces of Hell are actively engaged in a spiritual battle. And we, as God's children and servants, have been enlisted in His army. God's goal is to build up His kingdom and tear down the devil's kingdom. And each time that we prophecy, we take ground from the enemy. Each time that we share a vision or interpret a dream, we attack Satan's stronghold and cause damage to his interests. And Satan will not take this laying down, he is going to fight back. He is going to counter attack. In fact, the more God uses you prophetically, the more the enemy will counter attack you. The more damage you do to his kingdom, the more he is motivated to try and get rid of you, to try to stop you, to try to take you out.
Satan and his forces have been opposing God's prophets since the very beginning. They have caused some to be stoned or killed or thrown into prison for speaking forth God's word. But God has put His protection over some of His prophets, forcing Satan to look other ways to try to take them out or make them ineffective. The devil has come up with quite a repertoire of strategies to counter attack God's prophets. He used negative and difficult circumstances and complaining and murmuring to try to undermine Moses' leadership authority. He used attractive lies to manipulate the prophet from Judah into disobeying God by breaking his fast, resulting in his death. He used discouragement and mind games against Elijah and make him try to disqualify himself and give up the ministry God had called him to. He incited economic and civil leaders to riot against Paul (who wrote a large portion of the New Testament) to get him arrested and unable to travel and minister.
In short, the devil has an arsenal of spiritual counter attack strategies to use against those who God uses to speak His words and advance His kingdom. But God won't leave us defenseless against the enemy attacks.
Eph 6:12-13 tells us that God gave us special armor to protect us from these enemy attacks, and to enable us to stand our ground. We are engaged in a spiritual battle, so we need spiritual armor to protect us. Eph 6:14-17 details what that armor is. It says, "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."
Let's look briefly at each piece of armor and the area it protects.
BELT OF TRUTH
Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6) And He gave us insight about the relationship between truth and light in John 3:21: "He who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God." Jesus also said, "this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed."
Jesus' truth is a truth that sets us free from the "dark secrets" of the past. What is a dark secret? It is something where shame rules over us and we want to keep the information hidden. And where there is shame, there is an enemy bondage over us, which can effect our ability to serve God.
Jesus does not conceal our past faults and weaknesses. He has a different strategy -- He brings them to the light and releases forgiveness so that they have not more power over us. (Of course, if our past contains criminal things with legal repercussions, such as killing someone or robbing a bank or abusing a child, then you will still be subject to the laws of the land.) But once you confess and repent, the Lord does not condemn you for them anymore.
Jesus does not want us to conceal our faults and weaknesses, He wants us to bring them to His light so that we can be "fixed", transformed, made pure and holy. He does not want our past to have power over us -- He wants us to be totally under His power and Lordship.
Think how the devil could use "dark secrets" from the past against prophets. He could use it like blackmail -- "if you deliver that word I will expose the thing you are trying to keep hidden." That would give him a powerful tool to use against us, he could keep us from obeying God and speaking forth His word. But when we come to God's truth, we come to His light and we do not have any more dark secrets left to hide.
God is able to set us free from the mistakes and failures of the past. He is able to break the power of sin over us, and He empowers us to walk in His light. Jesus expanded on this in John 8:31-36: "Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, 'If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.' They answered Him, 'We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, "You will be made free"?' Jesus answered them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."
And the "belt of truth" is this freedom from sin that Jesus talked about. We don't need to keep things hidden anymore -- we are able to bring them to His light and receive His forgiveness. Then the enemy does not have anything left to blackmail us with.
BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
The enemy loves to counter attack in the area of our feelings and emotions. He wants us to feel down, discouraged, depressed. He wants to give us the nagging feeling that maybe we've accidentally sinned against God and that God is somehow mad at us, even though we don't know why. This type of attack is very common against prophetic people, it often comes as the "low" after the "spiritual high." Even Elijah was vulnerable to this, and he was among the greatest and most powerful and anointed prophets in the bible. The enemy still uses this attack today. Many prophets seem to be vulnerable to it. And that is one of the reasons that God gave us the breastplate of righteousness -- to protect us from attacks on our emotions.
A breastplate is designed to protect the heart and other vital internal organs -- such as the lungs, stomach, gut. We tend to think of the heart as the center of our feelings and emotions. In biblical times, they considered the gut to be the center of a person's emotions. The breastplate protects both of the areas. If an arrow or spear came to an unprotected persons' chest, it would pierce right through their skin and settle into a vital organ and kill them. But if a person wore a breastplate, the arrow or spear would usually deflect off. There would be a lot of pressure and probably a lot of bruising. The attack would still be painful, but it would not be fatal.
The breastplate is similar to a bullet-proof vest today. When a person is shot in the bullet proof vest, the force of the bullet will usually knock him down and knock the wind out of him. It is a lot like being slugged in the gut. It may even knock him unconscious for a brief period. The vest does not protect him from the force and pain of the impact, and it does not keep him from knowing he has been hit. But the vest serves a very important function -- it keeps the bullet from penetrating and destroying his internal organs and killing him.
The breastplate of righteousness does the same thing for us in protecting us from Satan's fiery darts of condemnation and accusation. The pain or sting of the initial contact may momentarily disable us -- just like the person wearing the bullet-proof vest might get knocked to the ground by the impact of the bullet. We may have the low after the high, but it won't last very long. It can't get inside of us and stick to us, because Romans 8:1 tells us "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." The devil will try to come at us with condemnation. We may have a brief period where he controls our emotions and where we feel that maybe God is mad at us. The enemy does that to us to try and separate us from God.
But the devil won't be able to separate us for very long because we know the truth about the forgiveness of sins -- that God will always forgive us and restore us to right relationship with him. The righteousness that Jesus purchases for us on Calvary is expressed in 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Through the righteousness of Jesus, we do not have to be separated from God -- we don't have to be afraid of approaching Him, no matter how dirty we feel, because Jesus has taken care of our sins and failures on the cross. So, whenever anything seems wrong in our relationship with God, we simply run to Him and receive His forgiveness.
The breastplate of righteousness allows us to get and remain in right relationship with God. Then if the enemy counter attacks us and tells us that we are not right with God, our tendency is to run back to God and seek Him and allow the reality of the forgiveness of sin to wash over us. When Elijah was in the emotional pit of despair, he ran back to God by going to the place where he knew God could be found -- Mount Horeb. And as he turned to God, God met him there. He manifested Himself to Elijah, He strengthened Elijah, He reassured Elijah of his commission and He gave Elijah a new job assignment. The breastplate of righteousness is our defense against those "spiritual down" type of counter attacks. It enables us to run back to God where we can meet with Him and be strengthened and restored.
(Our next lesson will look at more of the armor, and how it defends us from enemy counter attacks.)