Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wielding The Sword of the Spirit

The sixth piece of the soldier's equipment is his first offensive weapon. All previous pieces-the belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, and helmet-are defensive and protective. With this next piece, we actually gain the ability to advance on the enemy and drive him away. It's the sword of the Spirit. Paul writes, "And take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:17). The term for "Word" here is rhema, which indicates the spoken rather than the written Word. That is a crucial distinction. It calls for speaking the written Word to others and ourselves. A word like this has power only as the Holy Spirit energizes it. How do we gain the power to use the sword of the Spirit in this manner? The primary method is to hide the Word in our hearts, as Psalm 119:11 indicates. I like the psalmist's focus in this verse: "Your word {the best thing} I have hidden in my heart {the best place}, that I might not sin {the best purpose} against You." We must not think of the Scriptures as if they were magical words to chant or shout. Simply reciting the Scriptures without comprehension is meaningless. But when we understand and use them according to their true meaning, they become powerful truths to believe and apply in our lives. Jamie has learned the power of wielding this sword of God's Word. She came to my office in a state of hopeless despair. Five years earlier she had experienced a major emotional breakdown. She spent several weeks in a treatment facility for emotional and mental disorders. When she stabilized, she went home with hope,-really believing the Lord would help her. Jamie told me, "The next four years were wonderful. I could sense the Lord's presence and I functioned quite well." That was all to change abruptly. "Doubts kept coming into my mind," she said, "doubts about my salvation, God's love, His ability to keep me, and my ability to persevere to the end." One morning she woke up and sensed God was gone. "He left a huge emptiness, nothing else in its place." Jamie felt lost, abandoned by God and beyond hope. I was sure this wasn't true; sometimes God uses this sensation to wake people up to the truth that they aren't truly saved. But in her case, I was sure it was an emotional sensation, not a reality. That pointed me to the problem: Many people base their spiritual well-being on how they feel. It sometimes takes hours of counseling to help such people see that emotions are quite subjective and can be affected by many things. I tried to explain to Jamie that our Christian life is to be obedience-oriented rather than feeling-oriented. This didn't seem to register. The Lord then led me to Philippians 1:6, which mentions God's power to take us from where we are and help us arrive safely in heaven. I turned to the passage and handed her my Bible. I asked her to follow the verses with her eyes as I read, "{For I am } confident of this very thing, that He who begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." I personalized the verse using Jamie's name for "you" and requoted it. Then I asked Jamie, "How long will the Lord work in your life?" "Until Jesus comes, or I go to heaven." "Is this verse true? I asked. "It must be true," she answered. "It is the Word of God." Then I asked, "Is it true for you?" She began to weep as she said, "Of course it is true for me, because God said so." That opened a window in her mind. She saw for the first time that her salvation and perseverance were from God, not from her. Her protection was twofold: With the sword of the Spirit-the Word of God she was reminded to wear the helmet of salvation. Indeed, remembering her salvation chased away many doubts she had about God's love and His ability to keep her. Today Jamie knows she is a child of God. She is also confident that the Lord will continue to work in her life. Because she feels it is true? No, because the Scriptures say so. This is now the foundational bedrock for her belief in the faithfulness of God. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings

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