Take Up the Helmet of Salvation | Ephesians 6:10-20
Brian Hedges | March 3, 2019
Turn to Ephesians 6, and we’re continuing our study this morning on the armor of God. We’ve been working through this passage of Scripture in a series called “Dressing for Battle: The Gospel Armor for the Fight of Faith.” We’ve seen that we’re in a warfare, we’re in a spiritual battle, it’s not a warfare against flesh and blood, against human foes, but against these spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. And Christ, our Captain, has given us everything we need for fighting this battle. He’s equipped us with the whole armor of God.
As we’ve seen in this series, the armor of God is really a picture. It’s a metaphor for the graces that are given to us in the gospel, and this passage is all about the application of the gospel in our lives, how we put it into practice, how we arm ourselves with these various graces, truth and righteousness and faith and so on.
This morning we come to the fifth piece of the armor. So we’re close to the end of the series now —we have two more weeks after today. This morning we’re looking at the helmet of salvation. So we’re going to read the passage, Ephesians 6:10-20, and then start digging into this passage together. Let’s read it.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”
This is God’s word.
So, what is this helmet? That’s the first question to ask, and then why is it needed, and then what difference does it make?
I. What Is This Helmet?
What is the helmet? The soldier’s helmet — that’s pretty easy to understand — was given to protect the head. It was made of leather and metal, and it actually protected not only the head, but it protected the shoulders and the back of the neck.
I had a fresh illustration — understanding of why it’s important to protect the neck this week. There is a group of us who are doing security training here at the church, and so we had a state trooper who was in, I guess this was on Thursday night, and he was working with us. He was showing us the different clusters of nerves in the body, okay?
One of the clusters of nerves is called the brachial plexus, and it’s right here, right here in the neck. I was partnered with Curt Miles, and the assignment was the do a karate-chop right there on the brachial plexus, and I think Curt didn’t want to hurt me, so he didn’t do it very hard. This guy, named Dan, he’s walking through the room checking with every group. He said, “Did you feel it?”
I made a terrible mistake. I said, “No, I didn’t really feel it.” He’s like, “Sit down!”
So I sat down, and he turns my head this way, and he gave me a karate-chop right there. I felt a shock through my whole body. I mean, it was just like the entire side of my body when he hit the brachial plexus.
Now, you can imagine the damage that a Roman broadsword would do if it hit that part of the neck! So the soldier’s helmet was designed to protect the head itself, but also the neck and the back of the shoulders. It was a crucial piece of the equipment for protecting the soldier.
Paul tells us that our helmet is salvation. Put on the helmet, or “take up the helmet of salvation.” I think we have to understand what Paul means when he says, “Take up the helmet of salvation.” So it’ll help us to maybe step back a little bit and try to understand salvation in its broader biblical perspective.
Many of you have heard this before, but salvation in Scripture can be spoken of in three different tenses. We can think of salvation in the past tense, in the present tense, and in the future tense. Alright? So it’s true to say that we have been saved, and most of the time, when Christians talk about salvation, they’re looking backwards. They’re saying, “When I was saved when I was a child,” or, “When I became a Christian and I was saved as a young adult,” they’re looking backwards, right, to their salvation.
The Bible does that as well. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace we have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God.” Or Titus 3:5 talks about how God has “saved us, not because of works of righteousness that we have done, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit.”
Over and over again in Scripture, Scripture describes salvation in these past tense terms. It’s something that has happened to us. Especially when the Bible is using some of the other language about salvation, it will often look to the past, to this event that happened sometime in our spiritual journey when we came to Christ, we were called by God’s grace, by his word, and his Spirit; we are brought out of darkness, into marvelous light. We were justified by faith in Christ, we were declared righteous in the sight of God, we were set apart, sanctified for God’s good pleasure and his good purposes… We became Christians, we entered into the family of God. We believed on Jesus, we received him, and we became the children of God. Salvation is a past event, something that has happened to us.
But Scripture also uses the language of salvation to describe something that’s ongoing, so salvation in the present tense; not only that we have been saved, but we are being saved. So here are a few examples.
1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Now, right there, Paul’s writing to Christians, right, but he says we are being saved. So salvation is this ongoing process as Paul uses the word there. 2 Corinthians 2:15: “We are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved.” Right?
Or, here’s one more example, Philippians 2:12, where Paul tells us to “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in [us], both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” So salvation there is something we are to work out, but it’s something that God has already worked in. He’s worked in us, and now we are to work it out. We are to flesh it out. We are to apply it. We are to see the outworking of this experience of salvation in our lives, and that’s an ongoing responsibility.
Usually, when we’re using the language of sanctification or holiness, we’re thinking in those terms. We’re thinking about the progressive, ongoing journey, the walk that we are to walk with Jesus Christ, the walk of faith. We’re thinking about the race that is set before us that we are to run with faith and with endurance, or we’re thinking about the battle, as we are in this series. There’s a battle to fight, and that battle includes not only the past victories that Christ has already won, it includes not only the decisive, final, future victory of Christ over sin and Satan and death and hell, but it also includes our daily skirmishes with the flesh and with the world and the devil, and how we overcome in these skirmishes by faith. All of that’s part of our present salvation.
Then there is salvation in the future tense. We have been saved, we are being saved, and we shall be saved. I think this is, perhaps, the dominant note, actually, in the New Testament, that when salvation is described its usually future in its orientation. Here are some examples.
In Romans 13:11, Paul says, “Besides this, you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” Again, he’s writing to Christians, but he says, “Your salvation is nearer now than when you first believed.” They’ve already believed, they’re already Christians, but he says, “Your salvation is nearer now.” What’s he thinking about? He’s thinking about the consummation of salvation. He’s thinking about the second coming of Christ. He’s thinking about everything being wrapped up in the end, and he’s saying, “You’re to live in light of this.”
We had it in our assurance of pardon this morning, after our pastoral prayer. “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood,” (there’s salvation it the past), “much more shall we be saved [in the future] by him from the wrath of God.” Now that’s an important verse, because it shows what we’re being saved from. We’re being saved from the wrath of God. You see, the wrath of God has not come yet. The wrath of God is coming, and that’s why John the Baptist said, “Flee from the wrath to come.” There’s judgment coming on planet earth! This world is going to be judged by Jesus Christ when he comes again. Paul tells us that if we’ve already been justified by his blood, if we’re already declared righteous in the sight of God by the blood of Jesus, how much more can be confident that we will be saved, we will be rescued from this coming judgment. “We shall be saved from the wrath of God.” 1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Again, this is something in the future that we are to obtain.
One more. 1 Peter 1:5 says that we are “guarded through faith [by God’s power] for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” I mean, that just seals the deal, doesn’t it? There’s a salvation that is going to be revealed in the last times. So we’re thinking eschatology here. We’re thinking doctrine of last things. We’re thinking about when Jesus comes again.
You know, so much is going to happen then. We have already experienced a decisive salvation if we are converted, if we’ve been born again by the Spirit, if we’ve been justified by faith in Christ. We’ve already been set apart, we’re in this process of sanctification and perseverance. But listen: though you have been truly changed, you have not been totally changed. Though you are a new creature, you’re not totally new. You’re still waiting for the fullness of your salvation. You’re waiting for the day when sin will be banished from you, done away with once and for all. You’re waiting for the day when your body will be redeemed, not just your soul.
If you’ve died before Jesus comes again and you die in the Lord, when Jesus comes back you will be resurrected in glory! The Scriptures tell us that our bodies will be made “like unto his glorious body.” We will be transformed. We will see him, and in the twinkling of an eye everything will be changed! It’s the redemption of the body, it’s the glorification of the person. It’s when we become like Jesus Christ. That is the salvation we are looking for. That is the hope of our salvation. That’s what we’re hoping for.
I believe that when Paul says, “Take up the helmet of salvation,” that’s what he has in mind. He’s thinking about this future orientation of our salvation. He’s thinking about the salvation that is yet to be revealed in the last time.
Let me tell you the main reason I think that; it’s because of a parallel passage in 1 Thessalonians 5:8-10. Let me read it. Paul here is talking about when the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, and he’s saying we once were in darkness, but now we are in the light. We’re people of the day. In verse 10 he says, “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we are awake or asleep…” and by asleep there he means we’ve died, we’ve passed away, we’re asleep in the Lord. “...whether we are awake or asleep, we might live with him.”
Is that clear? The hope of salvation is the salvation that is yet to be obtained. This is salvation that God has destined us for. That’s the hope of salvation, and I think that’s what Paul has in mind when he says, “Put on the helmet of salvation.” He means the helmet of the hope of salvation, salvation as it’s considered in the future.
II. Why Do We Need This Hope?
Now, why is this important? Why do we need this hope? Why do we need this hope? The reason is because when people don’t have hope, when they’re hopeless, they give up. When people are hopeless, they quit. When people are hopeless, they shrink back. Right?
We all know this in our personal lives. We know that when we are hopeless about a situation we just kind of throw up our hands and we give up and we quit trying, we quit laboring, whatever. If you’ve ever been in what felt like a hopeless job, it’s dead-end job, you just kind of lose your motivation to work hard, you don’t feel like there’s any future. Or if you’re in a relationship and it just doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere and it’s hopeless, it’s so easy to throw in the towel and just give up. We know this in our personal lives, and it’s also true in our spiritual lives.
I think one of the greatest illustrations of this is a story about Florence Chadwick. You remember this? Florence Chadwick was the first woman to swim the English channel, and in 1952 she was swimming from Catalina Island all the way to California. So this was several miles; I don’t remember how long it was, but several miles. It was a long swim, no one had ever done this before.
She was able to do this, she had the ability, she had the strength and endurance; she’d already shown this in swimming the English channel twice. But when the day came for her to swim from Catalina Island to the coast of California, there was a terrible fog that day, and she couldn’t see ahead of her. She was in the water for 15 hours! She swam for 15 hours, and of course, there were boats around her, there were people there to help her if she got into trouble. They were trying to encourage her to press on, to keep going, to keep going, and she just couldn’t see because of the fog, and she was so tired, she was so weary, that she finally gave up, and they pulled her into the boat.
Then she realized, afterwards, that she was less than half a mile from shore. She said, “All I could see was the fog. I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.” She lost hope, because she couldn’t see clearly.
What the Scriptures do for us is they blow away the fog so that we can see the shore, we can see the future, we can see what’s coming, so that we have hope! The Scriptures describe for us what our future is in Jesus Christ, and then encourage us over and over again to hold fast to the confession of our hope. So we need this hope.
Now, why is it that we need the hope? We need it, of course, because hopelessness will discourage us, but why does Paul say [to] put it on like a helmet? “Put on the helmet [of the hope] of salvation.” How is it that hope is like a helmet?
I think, when you think through these pieces of the armor as we have been doing together, every piece Paul attaches significance to for some reason. Okay? So, for example, we looked at the belt of truth, and we saw that that was integrity, it was sincerity, it was this girdle, this apron that bound everything together. It had to do with girding up the loins, you know, pulling up the robes of the tunics, to be prepared to go into battle. It really has to do with the will, the integrity, and the sincerity, and the single-mindedness of one’s will, binding everything up, uniting everything. “Unite my heart to fear your name.”
We looked at the breastplate of righteousness and we saw that that’s holiness, it’s practical righteousness, and just as the breastplate covers the vital organs (the heart and the lungs and so on), in the same way the breastplate covers the Christian’s "vital organs:" his heart, his affections, his desires, his conscience. Holiness protects us in those vital ways.
We talked about the shoes of the readiness of the gospel peace. Just as shoes protect the feet, so the shoes of the gospel of peace prepare us and make us ready so that we’re stable, giving us traction in our stand against the evil one, giving us mobility in our walk with Christ. It protects us in our walk, in our feet, metaphorically speaking.
The shield of faith, we saw last week, protects the entire body, the entire armor. The shield was large, and faith protects everything else.
What does the helmet protect? It protects the head, and hope protects the Christian’s head. It protects the mind, the understanding. In particular, I would say that hope protects our mindset, our perspective, and our motivations, so that if we have this hope, we’re wearing this hope, and we have it clear in our minds, it keeps our mindset right, it keeps our perspective right, it gives us an eternal perspective. It keeps our worldview right, so that we’re thinking in the right way about our world and our place within the great timeline of history. This is so important, that we have the right worldview, that we have the right perspective, and that the Christian hope of salvation helps us.
Now, let me just set this in contrast to other worldviews. I’m going to do this quickly, and this is going to be unbearably frustrating to the three or four philosophers that are in the room, because I’m going to be really reductionistic. I’m just going to simplify things here. There are lots of nuances I’m not going to get into.
But you can basically boil down (again, simplifying a little bit) - you can basically boil down most of the philosophies and religions, worldviews of the world, into three categories.
There is materialism, in which matter is all that exists. Matter is all that exists. You don’t have a soul, you have a brain, but it’s material, and that brain produces thoughts and emotions and so on, and you have a brief little time on this planet that’s in this vast cosmos, where matter is the reality. It’s a material worldview.
In this worldview, life is either meaningless (if you’re a nihilist) or life is what you make of it, and you create meaning for yourself (if you’re an existentialist). So, in this worldview, because there’s no divine, there’s no supernatural, there’s no God, there’s no eternity, there’s no heaven and hell, there’s no afterlife, there’s just life as you make it right now. So "salvation" in this kind of a worldview, is basically to live as long as you can and live as well as you can.
Now, I don’t want to be unfair to this worldview. There are plenty of good, moral people who believe this, and they live altruistic lives for the sake of others, because they believe the best that they can do is to live for some cause greater than themselves that will live on after they die. But they have no confidence that they’re going to go to heaven after they die or that there’s going to be resurrection at the end of the age or they’re going to live forever, or anything like that. This is a materialistic worldview.
Here’s the second worldview: it’s what we call pantheism. In pantheism, everything that exists is god, and matter is more or less an illusion, or a mask, or maybe an extension of the spiritual world. Everything is in included in the spiritual world. So, the tree, that’s part of god; and the earth, that’s part of god; and the sky, that’s part of god; and you’re part of god; and we’re all part of this universal cosmic soul.
In this worldview, history and time it cyclical and it just goes around and around and around. Things happen over and over and over again, and this just goes on forever and forever and forever. So a lot of people who believe this (this would include Hindus and many Buddhists), they believe that the way you live now will determine something about your future, and if you live a bad life you get bad karma, which basically means you’ll be reincarnated and you’ll suffer more in a future life.
The goal, the "salvation," in this worldview, is to escape the cycle. It’s not eternal consciousness and happiness; it’s basically to escape the cycle, it’s to get out of the cycle, so that you achieve nirvana and you blend back into the cosmic soul, the universal soul, the universal consciousness. That’s the goal. That’s what you’re living for.
Well, Christianity belongs to the third worldview, and it’s called theism. Theism says that matter exists as the creation of God, that God is transcendent, he is above and beyond all material things, he created it, he is distinct and other from it. But matter is real, just as there’s spiritual reality. There’s reality on both sides. God is the Lord of heaven and earth, he’s the Creator, he’s the Judge, and so on.
In theism and in Christianity, time is linear, which means there’s a beginning point and there’s an ending point. It means that history is going somewhere. It means that there is life after death, and, because you are a created being with an immortal soul, you will live forever, you will have everlasting and eternal consciousness, either in heaven or in hell.
In a Christian worldview, salvation is the restoration of creation, and its eternal life in a new creation, in a newly created world. It’s not just a disembodied soul living with Jesus forever. It is the soul redeemed and reunited with a resurrected body, just like the body of Jesus Christ, living in a recreated heaven and earth that goes on forever but is marked by peace and by righteousness.
Now that’s a Christian worldview, and that’s where hope fits in. Hope fits into this Christian worldview, where we have this understanding of how time works and what salvation is and so on. It teaches us that because Jesus died and then rose from the dead, we have hope. We are “born again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you" (1 Peter. 1:3-4). That’s what we’re waiting for.
Now, when you get that, when that doctrine begins to click, when that begins to make sense for you, when you begin to understand what is at stake, when you begin to understand that there is eternal, everlasting consciousness and eternal life, and you begin to realize that your best life is not now, but it’s later; that will radically shape the way you live.
Now, I want to give you an illustration of this. I don’t do this very often; I’m going to actually do an object lesson this morning! Okay? I’m stealing a little bit from Francis Chan, but I’m going to modify a little bit.
This is a tape measure, and I want you, for the sake of this illustration, to just take the smallest unit of measurement on this tape measure, which is one sixteenth of an inch, and let’s say that represents one human lifetime, basically 80 years. Okay? I think it’s 78, 79 for males, the expected lifespan, and it’s the in the 80s for females; but basically 80 years, and a few very fortunate people will live to be 85 or 90 or even 95 or 100, and some people, of course, die much younger. But the average lifespan of someone in the United States of America today is about 80 years; that’s one sixteenth of an inch, and you can’t even see it, but it’s right there. It’s about a fingernail.
Now, if we take that unit of measurement, that means that this right here, this first inch, that would represent 1,280 years of human history. That would be everything that’s happened in, you know, the last millennium and a quarter. So, the Reformation and the Enlightenment and the founding of our own country — all of the things that we think of as recent history, all of that happened just in the last few hundred years.
I just want you to think about your life, this little sliver of time, in comparison with eternity. I’m going to have Andy help me here. So Andy, come here; let’s stretch this out. Just pull it out. Okay, stop right there.
Now I don’t know how far that is; that’s maybe eight feet or so. That’s thousands of years. That’s thousands of years. Okay, that’s a long time. I just want you to think about what eternity is going to mean. Eternity is going to be a really, really long time! It’s going to be time without end. Okay, Andy, keep walking. Just walk all the way, just go as far as you can; keep going, keep going, keep going. You’re going to get all the way...okay, there’s the end. Alright? That’s 25 feet, which would be 32,000 years.
Now listen. Thirty-two thousand years in eternity, you’re just going to be getting started! Now if Andy could just keep walking, and this thing just went on forever and ever, imagine how many years it would be if he walked all the way to Chicago, right? Or if he went all the way around the world once, or he went all the way to the moon. I mean, that’s a lot of time!
This is what I want you to get, Christian: your little life, right here, 80 years…listen. All of your suffering, all of your sorrow, all of your sin, all of your disappointment, every loss you ever experience, every painful thing, every “bad” thing that ever happens to you happens right there, in one little sliver of time, 80 years! And then, forever and ever and ever, eternal life and joy and peace and righteousness and hope and joy and happiness, forever, in the presence of God with Jesus! That’s the hope! Do you get that?
Alright, Andy, you did a good job. Give Andy a hand.
Our hope is an eternal hope. It’s a hope of salvation, and the salvation immeasurably recompenses everything that you could possibly suffer for the sake of Christ or as a Christian or in this life that you endure in your little sliver of time, 80 years. If that’s true, it means there is incredible hope, and it should radically change the way we live, if we have that perspective.
III. What Difference Does It Make?
So, how does it change us? What difference does it make? That’s the third and final thing, and I just want to give you five ways that this should affect us, five differences that it makes. I want you to think of it in these terms: I’m going to give you five exhortations, okay? So I’m going to word these as commands, because the Bible, more or less, words these as commands. But they are commands that are rooted in the hope. I think putting on the hope of salvation as a helmet means living like this. It means living with this mindset, with this worldview, with this perspective, so that it shapes us in these particular ways. We could get more, but I’m just going to give you five.
(1) Here’s the first: grieve not. Grieve not. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, Paul says, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep,” again, this is a euphemism for death, those who have died, “that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so through Jesus God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”
Paul’s writing here to Christians who have lost some of their Christian brothers and sisters, some of their Christian family members; they’ve died, and they’re mourning over them, and they’re afraid that they’ve missed out on the resurrection. Paul is saying no, they’re going to be resurrected when Jesus comes back! They’re going to rise! They’re going to come out of the grave, they’re going to meet him in the air; they’re going to be resurrected. So don’t grieve as others do who have no hope. So I’m saying grieve not.
Now, there is a Christian way to grieve and to mourn, okay, so I’m not saying you can’t grieve at all. But you don’t grieve the way the world grieves. You don’t grieve as if there’s no reunion. You don’t grieve as if, when your Christian brother or sister or spouse or child died, you don’t grieve as if it’s all over and you’ll never see them again. For the Christian, death is not an ending point, it’s a transition point. It’s a transition from this life to the life to come. If we believe that, my, how that should shape the way we grieve!
I want to tell you, when my mom started showing symptoms of early-onset dementia and Alzheimer’s, over a decade ago now, there was some grieving. There was some grieving. I shed some tears over that. But the doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus Christ never had been more precious to me than it was when I began to encounter these things in my family.
You know, my mom, she probably doesn’t recognize me now. Every time I see her, I mean, she can’t verbalize my name, she can’t talk or communicate or anything like that. I’ll see maybe half-a-second, a glimmer of recognition, maybe half-a-second. I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going on. It’s sad; it’s sad every time.
But I want to tell you: I’m going to be with my mom again, because she was in the Lord! She knows the Lord, and her mind is going to be resurrected. Her body, her frail body is going to be resurrected and beautiful and glorious, like the resurrection body of Jesus Christ. That hope frames and checks and holds in limitation the grief and the mourning that we all feel for her. Of course we grieve, but we don’t grieve as those who have no hope.
Those of you who have lost a child or you’ve lost a loved one, and I know there are many in this room who have experienced some kind of personal loss, I want you to know that your loss will someday give way to incredible gain as you are reunited with the Lord Jesus and with your family member in Christ. So grieve not as those who have no hope.
(2) Number two, encourage others. Encourage others. This is also part of Paul’s exhortation in 1 Thessalonians, both chapters 4 and 5. Chapter 4:18, “Therefore encourage one another with these words,” or the King James, I think, says, “Comfort one another with these words.” Same thing in chapter 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
You and I need a biblical eschatology. We need a biblical doctrine of last things. We need hope, we need to know what to expect. We need to confess, as we do week after week when we confess the apostles’ creed, “I believe in the resurrection of the dead and I believe in the life everlasting.” We believe it! We believe it. We are staking our claim that this is true, and Paul says, “Comfort one another, encourage one another with these words.” We need to build each other up by reminding one another that this world is not all there is. There’s more to come! Your best life is coming when Jesus comes again. We need a resurrection hope, a resurrection expectation. So encourage others.
(3) Number three, be holy. Be holy. 1 John 3:1-3 (I love this passage), “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him. For we shall see him as he is.” Isn’t that good news? We’re going to be absolutely transformed. We’ll see Jesus in all of his glory, and you are then made glorious. “We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is,” and (verse 3), “everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.”
This is one of the most essential motives for living a holy life, is that someday you’re going to be like Jesus. You’re going to meet Jesus face-to-face. You’re going to be transformed and like Jesus in every way, so start being like Jesus now! Start purifying your life, start pursuing holiness for Jesus’ sake.
(4) Number four, work hard. 1 Corinthians 15, the great resurrection chapter. Paul gives his lengthy defense of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he tells us that if Christ is not raised then our faith is in vain, we are yet in our sins. It’s all a crock if Jesus hasn’t really been raised from the dead, if there’s no resurrection.
But then he exults in the confidence that he has in both Jesus’ resurrection and in the future resurrection that we are waiting for. He says in verse 54, “When the perishable puts on the imperishable and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory; O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Therefore,” get this, “my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
You want to know what your motivation ought to be for signing up to serve in children’s church? Your labor in the Lord is not in vain. What your motivation should be to prepare one more Sunday school class, one more Bible study, to host people at a small group, to share Jesus with others, to give generously to meet the needs of others? All of the work that we do as Christians, we get so tired, right? You get so weary! It’s so easy to get weary in our labor for Jesus when we’re not remembering what we’re doing it for and when we’re not remembering that the rest is to come. This isn’t rest! This is work time! But eternal rest is coming; now’s the time to labor, now’s the time to work, now’s the time to get busy, Christian! Work hard for Jesus. Throw yourself into Christian ministry.
Listen, I’d rather burn out than rust out. I’d be happy if I died in the pulpit. May the Lord give us grace to keep going, to persevere, to work hard, to labor, to not start taking it easy.
(5) Finally, number five: hold fast. Hold fast. Four times the book of Hebrews tells us to hold fast. Hold fast the confession, or hold fast the hope of our confession. Here’s just one, Hebrews 10:23. It’s all about how we have a high priest who has opened this new and living way through the curtain of his flesh. He’s cleansed our conscience with his blood, and because of this, the writer says, “let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”
I was reading Martyn Lloyd-Jones this week, and I was reading him on the helmet. The most interesting thing he said in the whole chapter was this: he said the entire book of Hebrews is a commentary on the helmet of salvation. Now, it’s not literally. I mean, there’s no actual connection between the helmet — that language is not used in Hebrews. But what Lloyd-Jones meant, I think, is right. The entire book of Hebrews is about hope. It’s about the salvation that we are to persevere towards. It’s about our endurance. It’s about holding fast, it’s about not giving up, it’s about not being sluggish, not shrinking back; but rather, holding fast to Jesus and looking to him.
So I would encourage you, if you need an infusion of hope in your Christian life, read the book of Hebrews, and then the other book to read is the book of Revelation. You say, “I don’t understand the book of Revelation.” That’s okay; I don’t really understand it either. I mean, I don’t understand a lot of it. I understand the main point. You know what the main point of the book of Revelation is? Jesus is going to win. That’s the main point. I can’t explain, you know, all the horns and dragons and all those things; there’s a lot of stuff that’s kind of mysterious, and there’s a variety of interpretations.
That’s okay; don’t worry about that. Read that book and see how, over and over and over again, Jesus is the triumphant King, he is the Lord of heaven and earth, and he will vanquish every enemy, and we who are in Christ will overcome. We will overcome. How do we do it? We overcome "through the blood of the Lamb and through the word of our testimony and not loving our lives to death." That’s hope. That’s hope. It’s putting on the helmet of the hope of salvation.
Let me just end in this way. I love C.S. Lewis’s Narnian books, and I’m reading, right now, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to my youngest daughter, Abby. We’re just kind of starting through the series. But do you remember the last page of The Last Battle? I love this. It’s when everything is kind of coming to an end, and Aslan meets the Pevensie children, and there’s been a railway accident and they’ve all died, but now they’re meeting Aslan, and he’s explaining what has happened and what’s about to happen, and it’s just a beautiful picture of the hope of the Christian, and I want to read it to you.
“‘There was a railway accident,’ said Aslan softly. ‘Your father and mother and all of you are, as you used to call it in the Shadowlands, dead. The term is over, the holidays have begun. The dream is ended; this is the morning.’
“As he spoke, he no longer appeared to them like a lion, but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. For us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after; but for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their lives in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page. Now, at last, they were beginning Chapter One of the great story, which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
Brother and sister in Christ, we have such an amazing hope in Jesus Christ. We have hope of a future inheritance that will never be taken away from us, we have hope of eternal life, we have hope of resurrection, we have hope of a new heavens and a new earth. We have hope of salvation! Are you clinging to that hope? Are you wearing that hope like a helmet? Is that hope framing and protecting and guarding your mind, your mindset, your perspective, and your orientation, the way you live life in the world? Let me exhort you and encourage you this morning, grieve not as those who have no hope, but encourage one another with these words, purify yourself even as Christ is pure, work hard for Jesus, and hold fast to the confession of your faith. Let’s pray together.
Our gracious Father in heaven, we thank you so much for the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. We thank you for Jesus’ death and resurrection. Thank you that he defeated death and that in rising from the dead he showed once and for all that the victory has been won, the work is finished, and that salvation is sure for all who believe.
We pray this morning that you would encourage us with these truths, that you would sustain us with this hope, and that you would help us live in firm confidence and faith in these things. May it make a real difference in our lives and the days to come, in the weeks to come - in the rest of our lives, may we live in the truth of these realities.
As we come to the Lord’s table this morning, we pray that we would meet with the Spirit of the living Christ himself, that this would be more than just the stirring of our memory, but it would be the feasting of our souls on Jesus Christ, the bread of life. Help us to look through the elements. We know that, in and of themselves, the elements are nothing, but they are symbols that point us to a real spiritual reality, the body and the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, broken and shed for us. May we look to Christ as we come to the table, and may our hearts be strengthened as we take and eat. So draw near to us in these moments, we pray in Jesus’ name and for his sake, Amen.