55 year old Phillip Cantos hated wearing a helmet when he rode his Harley. 11 years ago he joined a group in his native New York called ABATE: American Bikers Aimed Toward Education. ABATE is out to prove that helmet laws are unnecessary infringements on our freedom. They demand their repeal in all 20 states where they exist—including New York and Alabama. Every year ABATE has sponsors a protest ride, in which their members defy the law by riding their cycles down a stretch of highway without helmets.
Phillip Cantos never missed this event. On Sunday, July 3, 2011 he and 550 other bikers revved their way out of Onondaga, NY. At some point, Cantos’ bike fishtailed and he was thrown over his handlebars and he hit the pavement without a helmet. Shortly afterward, Phillip Cantos was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Trooper Jack Kelley told the media, "The medical expert…who pronounced him deceased stated that he would've no doubt survived the accident had he been wearing a helmet."
Now I don’t ride motorcycles, so I’m sure there’s a lot I don’t understand about why you should/should not wear a helmet. I know the few times I’ve worn a helmet it was extremely uncomfortable and just a little claustrophobic. But I also know if I even faintly suspect I’m going to get in a wreck, I’d wear a helmet in my car!
Helmets are good protection for lots of activities. Football helmets, baseball helmets, hard hats at construction sites are all meant to protect you from this vital part of your body. Because let’s face it: if you lose your head the rest of your body isn’t a lot of use to you.
I neglected to mention another group that uses helmets for protection: soldiers. Since ancient times helmets have been an essential part of a soldier’s defense. Even today, most soldiers never go into battle without their protective headgear. So it’s no surprise as the Holy Spirit inspires Paul to write about the armor of God, He commands us to always wear the helmet of salvation mentioned in Ephesians 6:17. Let’s talk tonight about putting that helmet on, and keeping it on.
If you’ve seen movies about Roman soldiers, you probably remember the helmets with brightly colored horsehair like a shop broom on top. Those colors indicated the rank of the warrior. The helmet itself was one piece forged from iron and lined with leather. Plates hung down along the cheeks, with another plate protecting the back of the neck and shoulders.
The helmet of salvation is not so flashy but it is just as important because it protects not your head, but your mind. The salvation we have in Christ protects our minds like a helmet from the attacks of the devil. Putting on and keeping on that helmet involves 3 things:
1. Knowing you are saved. (1 John 5:13)
One of the first things I was taught as a new Christian was never, ever doubt your salvation.
Doubt was the enemy of faith, the tool of the devil that can sabotage my relationship with Christ. To doubt my salvation, I was told, was to doubt the Lord. I had to keep telling myself I was saved, no matter how I felt. I had to just keep telling myself I was until I felt saved again.
But in the 34 years since I first asked Jesus to save me, there have been many days of doubt. I haven’t always been able to deny them. The little engine that could made it by repeating over and over again I think I can I think I can I think I can. But that didn’t work for me: I know I’m saved I know I’m saved I know I’m saved…wasn’t enough. I needed some way to know in my own mind that I was saved.
Fortunately, God provides a double assurance for all of us of our salvation which does not depend on our feelings.
I know I am saved first and foremost because of the Word of God.
1 John 5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
These words specifically apply to the John’s first epistle, but they also expand to cover all of Scripture. The Gospel is a call to repentance and faith, but it is also a promise that if we believe it, we are forgiven and accepted by God.
John 5:24 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
Romans 10:9 …if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
These two verses sum up many others that help you know you are saved. Our salvation is not based on our feelings, but on the promises of God that cannot fail. As long as I believe the Gospel, I know I am saved.
But there is another issue I need to confirm: how do I know I truly believe in Christ?
James 2:19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!
In other words, we need not only the Word of God but some evidence that we truly believe the Word of God if we want to know we are saved. Which brings us to another verse:
2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.
This verse is not encouraging us to doubt, but to examine our lives to see if there’s any fruit on the tree. You see, if you and I truly believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, there are fruits of righteousness that can be seen in our lives. There is a growing love for God and for others, a growing desire to be holy along with a growing hatred of sin. The fruit of the Spirit can clearly be seen in us: …love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… (Galatians 5:22–23). They may be tiny sprouts, but they are there. They will continually ripen until the time of harvest, when we die. They are the unmistakable evidence that we truly trust Christ as Savior and Lord.
Suppose for a moment I became a spokesperson for Weight Watchers. I’ve read all the literature, I tell you, and I’m convinced the program will help anybody who wants to lose weight. I could get excited and urge you to try it out. But anybody who can see me judges quite correctly whether I truly believe in Weight Watchers by my own weight. No matter how true the principles of weight watchers are, no matter how much I say I believe in them, what I truly believe can be seen by the difference it makes in my life.
Putting on the helmet of salvation means knowing you are saved because of the Word of God and because of the fruit of righteousness in your life. When the devil attacks your mind, tempting you to doubt your salvation, you point Him not to yourself or your own feelings, to God’s Word and how He has changed your life.
Putting on the helmet of salvation means knowing you are saved. It also means
2. Taking your thoughts captive for Christ. (2 Cor. 10:4-5)
If you ever come by for a visit to my home (and I hope you will—the door is always open!)
you will probably meet the family dog, Suzy Q. Beagle. Though she will bark at you like a raging Doberman, she’s really a friendly pooch who has never attacked a soul (unless you count squirrels.) We love her like part of the family. She has only one fatal flaw: she’s constantly trying to escape.
I sometimes wonder what a stranger who walks by when we first come home thinks when they see us open the door and hear us yelling back! Back! Get back! What in the world do they have in there?
We have a very spacious backyard which, the envy of any dog cooped up in a smaller area. Suzy has plenty of room to roam, plenty of freedom to do her business, plenty of room to sniff until her nose gets numb. The fence is there to give her space and keep her safe from the dangers outside the yard. But it’s not enough. She keeps finding ways to escape and roam the streets. We’ve given up chasing her, because it seems that just makes the whole thing more fun for her. We wait until she’s run her course, comes home and scratches on the door to be let in and face the consequences of her foolish actions.
My crazy beagle reminds me how wild our minds sometimes run.
Your thoughts can run wild with anger. When somebody insults us or mistreats us, our minds run wild with thoughts of revenge, how we can pay them back for what they did to us. If you let them, your thoughts will dream up violent scenarios of vengeance that you would never act on.
Your thoughts can run wild with worry. If you’re the kind who always pictures the worst-case scenario, you’ll see visions of losing all the people you love, all the things you have, even your own livelihood or life. You’ll lie awake at night, dreaming of all the dreary deadly possibilities your mind can conceive.
Your thoughts can run wild with lust, whether it’s a covetous desire for what you can’t have or a physical desire for who you can’t have, it can consume you. Lustful thoughts are never satisfied, even when you get what you want—they always want more.
Your minds can be like my beagle—always looking for a way to escape.
And the devil is more than happy to help your thoughts roam. He’s outside the fence, calling you, offering you everything you think you want. Which is why we have to put on the helmet of salvation by taking our thoughts captive.
2 Cor. 10:4-5 describes this dangerous devilish thinking as strongholds= ingrained habits of destructive thinking. Our mind has ruts which our thoughts naturally run to. Your mind may naturally run to anger or worry, or lust, or some other destructive pattern of thinking.
Or you may struggle with arguments/high thing= thoughts which exalt your thinking over God’s thinking, proud thoughts that doubt or deny God’s Word, doubts that will lead you to disobedience.
Putting on the helmet of salvation means pulling down and casting down these thoughts, refusing to dwell on them, rejecting this way of thinking and instead bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…
This is part of working out what Christ works into us at salvation. When we get saved, we make Jesus Lord of all our lives, including our thoughts. The Holy Spirit comes to live in us, and as Paul says in 1 Cor. 2:16 …we have the mind of Christ. God provides His own presence to help us take our thoughts captive. God builds the fence, provides us with the strength, but then we must practice submitting our minds to the Lord. Let your mind roam free, and you open yourself to defeat by the devil.
So exactly how do we bring every thought into captivity? First of all, you have to practice rejecting wrong thinking. Be selective about what you allow into your mind.
Somebody once said an open mind is fine as long as you’re careful what you shovel into it.
There’s an old computer term that works for our minds: GIGO= garbage in, garbage out. You cannot fill your mind with the devil’s garbage and expect to keep your mind submitted to Christ. You can’t watch filth on TV and expect not to have lustful thoughts. You can’t keep nursing a grudge and expect not to have angry thoughts. You cannot feed your doubts and expect your faith to flourish in your mind. You have to practice casting down thoughts that do not line up with God’s Word.
On the other hand, you must practice focusing on focus your thinking on thinking that pleases the Lord. You can fill your mind with God’s Word by reading the Bible, meditating on God’s Word, memorizing it. You can talk to Christian brothers and sisters who will build up your faith instead of feeding your doubts. You can ask the Lord to help you focus on what is positive in your life instead of always looking on the dark side.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Taking your thoughts captive for Christ takes practice. The more you practice the easier it becomes. The more you learn to make Jesus Lord of your thoughts, the stronger you stand against the attacks of Satan.
As the tornado neared her home in Joplin,MO Natalie Gonzalez ran to the bathroom and huddled in the tub with her 9-year-old son Augie... At the last minute, Natalie made her Augie put on a bicycle helmet. "At one point, the toilet flew up out of the ground and hit my son in the head…the bicycle helmet saved his life.”
If Augie was like most 9 year olds, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t too keen on wearing a bicycle helmet in a tornado. Some people would have thought it was just the act of one of those panicky mothers. But I’m certain it makes a lot more sense now.
No matter how safe you think you are, you need the helmet of salvation to protect your mind from Satan. Attacking your mind with his lies is one of his most deadly strategies, and without God’s protection, you will believe lies that can defeat you or even destroy you.
So tonight, I urge you to put on and keep on the helmet of salvation. If you don’t know without a doubt that you are saved, bring your doubts to Jesus and let Him give you the assurance you need by His Word and His Spirit. Commit yourself to take your thoughts captive to Christ, then, with the help of the Holy Spirit, practice controlling your thinking. A mind is more than a terrible thing to waste—it is a precious thing to protect. Do you have your helmet on?