The Shield of Faith | Ephesians 6:10-20
Brian Hedges | February 24, 2019
Let’s turn in our Bibles this morning to Ephesians 6:10-20. We’re continuing our study this morning on the armor of God. The series has taken us through the first three pieces of the armor so far, and this morning we’re looking at the fourth piece of armor, the shield of faith.
In the course of this series, we’ve seen that we have a battle to fight as believers. We are engaged in the good fight of faith, it’s a spiritual warfare; and we’ve seen that we have an enemy to face, and it’s an enemy who is spiritual in nature. We’re not fighting flesh and blood, we’re not wrestling against flesh and blood, but against these “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” And we’ve seen that we have orders to follow; we are to stand, and we are to be “strong in the Lord and in the power of his might,” and we are to clothe ourselves with the whole armor of God.
The armor of God, as we’ve come to understand in this series, are the practical applications of the gospel to our lives. So it really has to do with our obedience and our appropriation of the gospel to our lives. You remember the old hymn says, “Put on the gospel armor, / Each piece put on with prayer,” and that’s what we’re trying to do in this series.
This morning we’re looking at the shield of faith, which is the fourth piece of armor. As I’ve done with each one of these messages, I want to begin by just reading the full passage, verses 10 through 20, just so we have the whole context in mind, and then we’ll dig into verse 16 and look at this fourth piece of armor.
Let’s hear God’s word.
“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, once again, I just want to give a fairly simple framework for this message, and I want to just ask three questions:
I. What Is the Shield of Faith?
II. How Does This Shield Protect Us?
III. How Do We Take It Up?
Okay? Three simple questions.
I. What Is the Shield of Faith?
Number one, what is the shield of faith? A lot of times, when you and I think of a shield, we may think of a buckler. We think of a small, round shield, or some of you may think of Captain America’s shield, right? The shield under consideration here did not look like that. It wasn’t a round shield; it was, rather, a rectangular shield; it was almost a door-shaped shield, two-and-a-half feet wide and four feet long. So it was a large shield. It was large enough that a Roman soldier could crouch behind the shield so that it would cover his entire body.
The shield was made to withstand all kinds of ammunition from their enemies as they went into battle. It was made of wood that was then covered in leather and lined around the edges with metal so that it wouldn’t fray or tear apart. They would dip these shields into water before they went into battle, so that when the flaming arrows and spears came at them, it would put out the flame and they would be able to deflect those missiles from enemy soldiers as they win the battle. That’s the shield.
The shield really served two basic functions; it served both as their protection, which is pretty obvious, but it was also a part of the honor of the soldier, because oftentimes on the shield there would be emblazoned on the front of that shield the coat of arms or the symbol for the army as they’re marching into battle, and it was part of the soldier’s honor that he would hang onto that shield, that he would not lose it.
There’s a story that comes from the Spartan wars, where a Spartan mother told her son, “Carry your shield or be carried back on it!” In other words, don’t leave in the heat of battle, don’t defect, don’t run away, don’t retreat; you either stand fast with the shield or you are carried back upon the shield.
In the same way, for the Christian, the shield of faith (that is, faith) is both our protection and it’s our badge. It’s our badge of honor. Our faith is what identifies us as believers in Christ, and our faith is absolutely essential for our victory in this spiritual battle. You remember the passage we just read from 1 John, “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.”
So that’s the shield, and I think it’s also helpful for us to just think about what faith is. What do we mean when we say faith? I’m going to give you these three aspects of faith (you can see them on the screen), but before doing that, let me just say what faith is not, because I think there’s a lot of confusion about just what faith is.
A lot of people, when they think about the faith, they think of the phrase “blind faith,” or “a leap of faith.” Maybe one of the best pop-cultural illustrations of this is one of the Indiana Jones movies. You remember this? In one of the Indiana Jones movies. This is when he’s after the holy grail, and he’s in this cave or this temple or something, and he comes to a place where, between him and the chamber where the holy grail is kept, there’s this vast chasm in front of him. There’s no bridge, there’s no way to get across. He’s been given a clue, and the clue goes like this, “Only with a leap from the lion’s head will he prove his worth.” He finally decides, “Well, it’s a leap of faith!” Just a leap of faith. So he just steps out over this chasm, and when his foot comes down he realizes there’s an invisible bridge.
A lot of times, that’s what people think of faith. They think it’s just leaping into nothing, it’s a leap of faith, it’s blind faith. I don’t think that’s the biblical definition of faith at all.
Now, it’s true, of course that Scripture tells us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen,” and we are told in Scripture that we “walk by faith and not by sight.” So in that sense it’s true that we don’t operate in faith by looking at the things that we can see with our physical eyes. But that’s a far cry from blind faith.
Faith, in Scripture, is always defined by its object, and the object of faith is God himself and the promises of his word, and especially his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as it is revealed in the gospel. So faith derives its strength from its object, and it’s a solid object. So when we’re talking about faith we’re not talking about blind faith; we’re talking, rather, about the whole-souled response of the heart to God. I say “whole-souled” because it involves both mind, the heart, the affections, and the will.
Theologians define it with these three terms: knowledge, assent, and trust. Knowledge; that corresponds with the mind. Faith knows something. Faith relies on the sure foundation of the word of God, and faith knows this word, relies on this word, believes this word. Faith also assents to this word. That means that with our hearts we agree with it. With our hearts we accept it, we welcome it, we receive it. Then there’s trust. That’s the act of the will, by which we really entrust ourselves to God’s truth.
So all of this is involved in faith. Faith involves mind, heart, and will; knowing, believing, and trusting in God’s word. And the shield of faith - we exercise the shield of faith, or take up the shield of faith, when we respond with our whole souls to the truth of Scripture.
II. How Does This Shield Protect Us?
So, how then does this shield protect us? How does the shield protect us?
In the same way in which the shield protected the Roman soldiers’ entire bodies, so we can also say that the shield of faith protects the whole person of the Christian. Faith is the exercise of the mind, heart, and the will, but faith is also the protection of the mind, the heart, and the will.
If you want to protect your mind, you protect your mind with the shield of faith. You protect your heart with the shield of faith, you protect your affections, your desires, your conscience with the shield of faith, and you protect your will, which we might think in terms of the feet, the legs that move us into battle. Remember last week we looked at the readiness given by the gospel of peace, and the direction, the mobility, and the stability in our walk with Christ. That is also protected by faith.
In fact, the Puritans liked to call attention to this, that the armor protects not only the man himself, but it protects the other pieces of the armor as well. In fact, the Puritan William Gurnall said that it is “armor for the armor. It is the grace that preserves all other graces.”
The reason he said that is because Scripture says that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6), and, “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14), and there are many other passages that emphasize the priority of faith and the necessity of faith and how faith is essential for every other aspect of our spiritual lives.
You will never be a sincere Christian without faith. You can’t be a true Christian without faith. So the belt of truth is protected by faith. You will not be a holy Christian without faith! You remember how the apostle Paul says in Acts 26 that we are “sanctified by faith.” You will never be a peaceful Christian without faith. The shoes of the readiness of the gospel of peace? Well, how is it that we get peace? How do we get this readiness? How do we get this peace in mind and heart? “Peace of conscience, peace with God [that] we obtain through Jesus’ blood.” We get it through faith.
The apostle Paul in Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you.” Why? “Because he trusts in you.”
You see, faith is essential to every other piece of armor. Faith is essential to every other aspect of the Christian life, and of course, it’s essential for salvation. We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). Next week we’ll look at the helmet of salvation. And faith is the only appropriate response to the word of God. The sword of the Spirit is wielded with the hand of faith. Faith is armor for your armor! Faith is essential to the Christian life.
One of the great Puritan authors was a man named Walter Marshall, and I’ve mentioned him before, but it’s been some time now. Walter Marshall was a Puritan pastor who had a sin problem. He just couldn’t seem to get victory over his habitual sins, and he was really troubled by this. He was a pastor! Think pastors don’t struggle with sin? They do, and Walter Marshall did.
So he’s reading his other Puritan brothers - these are these 17th-century, you know, Church of England and independence, writing these practical guides to the Christian life. Walter Marshall’s reading them, not helping him. He just couldn’t seem to get a handle on his sin problem.
Finally he went to one of his fellow pastors whom he really trusted (he was a man named Thomas Goodwin) and he just confessed all of his sins to Thomas Goodwin. Thomas Goodwin was a very Christ-centered man; he’s one of the greatest of those Puritan theologians. Goodwin listened to Walter Marshall’s whole confession, and when he was done he said, “Brother, you’ve left off the worst of all sins. You didn’t confess the sin of unbelief.”
That’s what changed Walter Marshall’s life, when he began to understand that the root of all of his other sin problems was a lack of faith, it was unbelief, it was a failure to believe, to really trust in Christ. As he began to do that, his life was absolutely changed and transformed and he preached this wonderful series of sermons, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, which was later published as a wonderful, wonderful book.
The shield of faith. Faith is absolutely essential.
Then it’s essential because it protects us from the flaming darts of the evil one; that’s really the focus of this passage, isn’t it? This is a reminder that we are engaged in spiritual conflict with a personal, spiritual being who is malicious and wicked and who is evil. He is called the evil one. It’s not simply you quench or extinguish the flaming darts of the wicked, generally speaking, but is the wicked one, the evil one. So this is a description of Satan, who is the chief, the captain of all this host of spiritual forces that are arrayed against us. We’re under attack, and the weapon with which the evil one and his horde attack us, the weapons are called flaming arrows, or flaming darts.
Now, the word that’s used here could refer to a short arrow or dart that would maybe be shot from a bow. These would often be wrapped in some kind of combustible material, or maybe dipped in pitch, and then they would be set on fire before they would be shot in the battle. There are reports of Roman soldiers who would come through these battles and would count hundreds - literally hundreds - of these arrows fastened onto their shield, that they had caught in the battle.
I don’t know if you remember John Bunyan in The Pilgrim’s Progress, where he talks about Christian when he encounters Apollyon, and he says that he encounters these darts that were coming to him “thick as hail," like a hailstorm of darts against him. So these flaming arrows. The word could also refer to a javelin, so something that’s a large as a spear, a large spear that would be hurled or thrown with the arm.
In both cases, the shield was absolutely essential to deflect the attack of these missiles, these projected darts and arrows and spears that would come through the air. The shield was absolutely essential for protecting them.
There are two qualities, of course, to these darts and these arrows: they pierced and they burned. If they pierced a vital organ, it would be a mortal wound. But even if the arrow just caught them on one of the limbs, if it was on fire...well, the soldier would burst into flame, right? So it was absolutely essential that they had the shield to fight these arrows.
Now, what are the spiritual equivalents? Satan’s arrows that come against us, and I suppose we could say virtually all sins and temptations would be these arrows, but I think there are some in particular that would be helpful for us to consider, and I just want to suggest some examples to you.
(1) Perhaps one that many of us fight against is the flaming arrow of fear. The flaming arrow of fear. Do you ever face this? Do you ever find yourself - you’re in a situation where all of a sudden you just find yourself beset with fear and anxiety? Maybe you wake up in the middle of the night, and a thought comes into your mind, and you find yourself in fear. Maybe you’ve had a panic attack. Maybe you find yourself in some kind of a situation where fear is just your constant companion.
How do you use the shield of faith against the flaming arrow of fear? Well, you use the promises of God in Scripture and exercise faith in those promises. The psalmist says, “When I am afraid I put my trust in you,” Psalm 56:3. Let me give you some specific examples.
When you fear the unknown circumstances of the future, you preach the word to yourself. You might use Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Or when you fear the loss of a loved one or the loss of something which gives you a sense of security and well-being in life and you think, “How am I going to make it if I lose that person or if I lose my job or if I lose this aspect of my life? If this is taken away from me, how in the world am I going to make it?” You remember the promise of Hebrews 13:5, where God says, “I will never leave you, I will never forsake you.”
Do you ever fear old age? When I was young I never feared old age. Now that I’m middle-aged, I’m starting to understand how the body begins to wear down, and I have aging parents and in-laws and I’m seeing the effects of old age and health problems creep in. I know what it is, now, to be a little bit concerned about what’s going to come in the future.
Do you ever fear old age? Here’s a verse for you, Isaiah 46:4, “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you; I have made, and I will bear; I will carry, and I will save.” God promises to be with you even into old age!
Do you fear death itself? Philippians 1:21, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Listen, Christian: you don’t need to fear death. In death you lose nothing that is not abundantly made up for with the presence of Jesus Christ. Immediately in the presence of God… Death is gain, Paul says. Why? Because you gain Christ.
Do you ever fear that your faith is so weak that you could turn your back on Christ, that you could make peace with sin, that you could die as an apostate, you could turn away from the faith? Counsel yourself with this word, lift up the shield of faith: Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” That’s how you use the shield of faith against the flaming arrow of fear.
(2) Here’s another one: the flaming arrow of doubt. Do you ever doubt whether God will really forgive your sin? You have doubts that you’re forgiven, you have these accusations coming from the enemy. What do you do? You hold up the shield of faith and you believe the promise of 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.” Or Romans 8:33-34, “Who can bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died; more than that, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
I love the words from one of those great hymns from John Newton. He says,
Bowed down beneath a load of sin,
By Satan sorely pressed,
By wars without and fears within,
I come to thee for rest.
Be thou my shield and hiding-place,
That, sheltered near thy side,
I may my fierce accuser face
And tell him thou hast died.
That’s how you fight the accusations, the doubts that come. “Am I really forgiven? Am I really saved? Do I really have assurance? Is there really no condemnation?” You believe the promise of the word of God, you rely on that with your whole soul. You tell the evil one that Christ has died.
Maybe you’re facing the flaming dart of doubt regarding God’s provision. “Will God really take care of my family? Will God really provide for me in this financial situation?” You hold up the promise, Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply every need of yours, according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
(3) Here’s just one more: the flaming arrow of despair. One of the Puritans, William Gouge, thought this was especially the flaming arrow: despair, absolute despair, believing that “God has forsaken me, there’s no hope.” Maybe there’s someone here this morning who’s right on the brink of it. You feel so discouraged, you feel so downcast.
What do you do? Once again, you hold up the shield of faith by believing the promise of God’s word. You quote the Scriptures to yourself. Psalm 42, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for he is your salvation…”
You remember in The Pilgrim’s Progress when Christian and Hopeful find themselves locked up in this castle, and the castle’s called Doubting Castle. The castle is owned by Giant Despair, and Giant Despair locks them up, they’re in these chains. He comes to them day after day. They’re locked in their for four days, he comes down into the dungeon and he’s beating them with his cudgel, and he’s taunting them, he’s mocking them. He’s telling them, “There’s no hope for you; you’re never going to get out.” He even suggests to them they should kill themselves, they should commit suicide. That’s what despair can feel like.
Do you remember how Christian and Hopeful got out of Doubting Castle? They’re there for four days, until suddenly Christian remembers that in his breast, that is, in his chest pocket, he has a key, and the key is called Promise. He pulls out the key of promise, and with the key of promise he’s able to unlock every one of those locks, every padlock, every gate, every door, and he finds his way out of Doubting Castle and away from Giant Despair!
Listen: the way to fight the flaming arrow of despair is to use the shield of faith! Whatever the arrow is, whatever the temptation is, whatever the emotion, whether it’s an accusation or it’s a desire or it’s a fear - whatever it is, the way to fight it is with faith, and it’s the only way! Faith is the victory. This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.
So that’s how it protects us.
III. How Do We Take It Up?
How, then, do you take up the shield of faith? How do you take up the shield of faith?
I just want to give you a list of spiritual disciplines or means or ways of taking up the shield of faith. This language (you might have noticed this) is slightly different. Paul does not now say, “Put on the shield of faith,” he says, “Take it up.” The first three pieces of armor were to be put on, they were to be fastened to the body. The last three pieces of armor are not fastened to the body, they are taken up, they are held.
The idea here is that activity, an immediate activity, is involved. When you’re marching into the battle you take up the shield of faith, you’re holding it on your arm so that while you’re engaged in the conflict this is in your arm, it’s in your hand, and you’re using it. So part of what we have to learn to do with faith is to use the faith, use our faith, exercise our faith and apply it. So let me give you five ways of taking up the shield of faith.
(1) Here’s the first: hear the word of Christ. Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” I think “word of Christ” there especially means the gospel, but it’s true of Scripture, the word of God, that as we hear the word of God faith is born. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”
Do you remember that Martin Luther said that a Christian’s only organs are not eyes, but ears? That’s kind of a curious way to talk. What he meant by that is that we live not by visions - Luther wasn’t a mystic. We don’t live by visions, we don’t live by those kinds of mystical experiences; we live by the word, and we hear the word. We are to receive the word by hearing.
I want to tell you, I think there’s something especially powerful about gathering with God’s people, assembling with the congregation of God’s people, to hear the word. When we get to the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, I’m going to talk all about reading the word and how you need to read the word. You need it privately, you need it personally, you need it devotionally. But here’s a plug for regular, consistent, weekly worship, where we come together to hear the word.
You know, when I read church history, what’s amazing to me is how hungry people were for the word. Did you know that John Calvin in Geneva preached about 15 times a month? There was such hunger for the word of God. There were times when Martyn Lloyd-Jones in Wales, during that revival under his ministry, where he was preaching almost every day of the week. He would be preaching on weeknights, and the crowds would be such that they would open the windows because people were standing outside so that they could hear the preaching of the word.
It rebukes our lack of hunger. We don’t hunger for the word enough. I think if we just realize how vulnerable we are to the attacks of the evil one, how desperately we need faith, and how “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ,” we would have more hunger.
Now, the wonderful thing today is we don’t have to have services every day of the week, because you can get online and you can listen to the best preachers in the world! That’s no substitute for coming to church. We need to come together. But listen, listen to these guys! Listen to a John Stott or a John MacArthur or an R.C. Sproul or a Chuck Swindoll. Listen to these great preachers of the word. Fill your heart and your mind with the word of God. Hear the word, so that your faith will be strengthened. That’s first: hear the word of Christ.
(2) Secondly, pray to the interceding Savior. Pray to the interceding Savior.
I have two things in mind here. I have, first of all, your own prayer life. Calvin called prayer “the chief exercise of faith.” The main way that you exercise faith, Calvin says, is to pray. “Prayer is the chief exercise of faith.”
You remember how in the letter to the Hebrews the writer holds out Christ, our great High Priest, one who is sympathetic to us, one who is tempted in every point as we are, yet without sin. “Therefore,” he says, “let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we might find help in the time of need.”
Coming to the throne, praying, asking God for help. That’s one of the ways of strengthening faith. Faith is the gift of God, therefore ask him for it! Ask him to strengthen your faith. Ask him to build your faith. Ask him to give you faith. If you don’t feel like you have any faith at all or if you feel like your faith is weak, say, “Lord, strengthen it! Give me this gift of faith.”
But then I also just want you to note here that the person you’re praying to, you’re praying to and through the interceding Savior. It’s not merely your prayers that give you faith; it’s Christ’s prayers for you. You remember when Peter, he was so self-confident. Of all the disciples, he was the one who said, “Lord, I’ll never deny you.” You remember what Jesus said to him? He said, “Simon, Simon, Satan has desired to have you, that he might sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith will not fail.”
The great confidence that we have as believers in Jesus Christ is that Christ, our High Priest, is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he “always lives to intercede for us,” Hebrews 7:25. Pray to the interceding Savior. Look to the interceding Savior and ask him to strengthen your faith.
(3) Here’s number three: fix your hearts on unseen, eternal realities. Read Hebrews 11, that great chapter, the “hall of faith” in Scripture. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (v. 1).
Do you remember how these patriarchs, these great heroes of faith of the Old Testament, how they lived? They lived by faith, they obeyed by faith. Abraham, you know, left his family, left his country, searching for the city, the city of God, “not obtaining the promise," but living by faith in the promise. He had his eyes set on eternal realities, and so it should be for us.
Paul in 2 Corinthians 4 says, “We do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this slight, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
One reason we have weak faith is because we don’t have an eternal mindset. We are so consumed with today’s troubles rather than thinking about eternity. Fix your mind and your heart on unseen, eternal realities.
(4) Number four, lock shields with fellow soldiers. Here’s one feature of the shield I haven’t told you about yet: the shield of a Roman soldier had a beveled edge. They’re somewhat curved in their shape and they had a beveled edge, and they were made so that they could lock together, so that a battalion of soldiers, as they were marching to war, they could lock those shields together, crouch down behind them, and they have a formidable defense, a wall against which to face their enemies.
I don’t know if Paul has that in mind or not, but I think the image, at least, is suggestive of what Scripture tells us about our need for one another. We need community. We need the church, and we help one another in our faith. Paul, in Romans 1, tells the Romans that he wants to come visit them, he wants to come visit them in Rome, so, he says, “I can impart to you some spiritual gifts, so that we may be mutually encouraged by each others’ faith.” He wants to be encouraged by their faith, and he wants to encourage theirs. That’s what spiritual gifts are for, to build up faith.
Or in Hebrews 3 you have this warning, “Take heed, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief,” which is the opposite of faith, “and departing from the living God.” What’s the solution? “But exhort one another every day...lest your hearts be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” You need Christians in your life. You need brothers and sisters that you can sit down with over lunch or coffee or that you can send a text to or that you can call on the phone in a moment of weakness, in a moment of vulnerability, and say, “Pray for me, that my faith will not fail!”
You need a small group, you need a class; you need to be engaged in community! Don’t sit on the sidelines in the church! Don’t always be on the margins! Get plugged in, get involved, and build real Christian friendships so that you can strengthen your faith. Lock shields with your fellow soldiers.
(5) Then finally, here’s the last thing. look to Jesus, the great object of faith. Listen, faith derives its strength not from itself, but from its object, and the object of faith is Jesus Christ. We run the race set before us (Hebrews 12:1-2), “looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” So you look to Christ, you focus on Christ. If you don’t focus on Christ, you’re not going to win in the battle.
Let me mention an illustration from one more of the Puritans; this is William Bridge. William Bridge, I thought, used a very vivid illustration or word picture about how to deal with temptation. He said to think of temptation like a candle. You’ve all had the experience of you try to blow out a candle and the flame doesn’t actually go out. Especially you’ve experienced that if you’ve ever had trick candles, right, on a birthday cake.
But in the old days, they lit their houses with candles, they have these taper candles and so on. He says you tried to blow it out, you thought it was out, and then the flame comes back. He says, “So a lot of you, you try to blow out the flame of your temptations with resolutions and with vows and with trying harder,” and he says, don’t do that; instead, “dip the candle in the blood of Christ, and let that quench the flame,” in the same way that you would dip a candle in water and it completely puts it out. “So,” he says, “quench the flame of temptation with the blood of Jesus Christ.” You look to Christ.
Spurgeon said it as well as anyone. Let me read this, and then we’ll draw to a close. Spurgeon says, “Remember, sinner, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee, it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee, it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that is the instrument; it is Christ’s blood and merit. Therefore, look not so much to thy hands with which thou art grasping Christ as to Christ. Look not to thy hope, but to Christ, the source of thy hope. Look not to thy faith, but to Christ, the author and the finisher of thy faith. If thou dost that, ten thousand devils cannot throw thee down.”
Look to Christ. He’s the author and the perfecter of your faith.
I don’t know where you are this morning in your spiritual life. If you are someone who feels that your faith is weak, the exhortation to you this morning is to look to Christ to strengthen your faith, and then use faith as you exercise it in him. If you feel that you don’t have faith at all, guess where you get it? You get it from Christ, so you look to Christ!
Really, the solution for all of us, and the way to hold up the shield of faith for every single person this morning, is simply this, to look to Jesus Christ, the author and the perfecter of our faith. So look to Christ this morning, and in so doing you’ll hold up the shield of faith and extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Let’s pray.
Our gracious God and Father, we thank you this morning for the gospel, for the good news that there is salvation in Jesus Christ. We thank you for the promises of your word and how your word can strengthen our faith and nourish our faith. We want to obey the commands of Scripture. I’m thinking of Jude, who says, “Build yourselves up in your most holy faith.” Lord, would you help us to obey that command?
Would you help us this morning to examine ourselves to see, first of all, whether we are in the faith, and then to see where we are in the maturity of our faith. And then for every single one of us, would you help us in these moments, especially as we come to the Lord’s table, would you help us to look not at the elements, but to look through the elements to Jesus Christ and him crucified? May Christ be the great object of our faith. May he be our hearts’ trust and delight. May we submit ourselves to him, commit ourselves to him. May we see in Jesus Christ all the resources that we need for life and godliness, all spiritual blessings given to us in and through Jesus Christ.
I pray that you would draw near to us as we come to the table this morning. May we come with true hearts, in faith and trust in you. We pray that your Spirit would minister to us in these moments. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.