Imagine for a moment you’re jolted awake from a deep sleep by the sound of somebody bursting through your front door. You hear the thud of heavy footprints headed for your room. You have only seconds to prepare to defend yourself. What weapon do you reach for?
In my home, your options are limited. The only guns we own shoot tiny plastic pellets. Jennifer has a ten year old can of pepper spray--somewhere. I keep two two heavy wooden walking sticks close to my bed. Not much deadly force on short notice.
Joshua, on the other hand, collects weapons like this (sword). My strategy in case of a home invasion is to distract intruders long enough for him to attack from behind and dispatch the enemy. I know: ingenious, isn’t it?
You may have a different strategy: a baseball bat, a can of mace, a real gun with real bullets—some weapon you keep close just in case.
A minister is preaching an outdoor service. During the sermon he declares, "You must let the Good Lord defend you!” Just then a wind blows open his coat and everybody sees he’s packing a gun. After church, someone asks him "If you let the Good Lord defend you, why do you carry a gun?" The preacher replies, "This is just to hold 'em off till the Lord makes His move.”
Imagine a different scenario: somebody you can’t see or hear is trying to invade your life. You sense his presence in the tug of temptation, the attack of despair, the nagging doubts that weaken your faith. This intruder is out to steal, kill, and destroy, you and those you love.
Your baseball bat can’t touch him. He giggles at your gun. No weapon formed by human hands slows him down, much less stops him. How can you stand against a stalker named Satan? In the armor of God there’s only one weapon of choice: the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. (Eph. 6:17).
To use this weapon effectively, you have to understand a couple of things. The first thing to keep in mind is:
1. Your weapon is empowered by God.
There are several reasons why I don’t own a gun, but if anybody ever breaks into our home,
I’m probably going to wish I could get my hands on one. And even though I’m not a violent man I would wish for some serious firepower. When it comes to my family’s safety, I don’t want a cap pistol—I want a shotgun.
God provides you and I with a much more potent weapon to defend us against the devil.
When he calls it the sword of the Spirit, he’s saying it’s a weapon empowered by the Spirit. Just as a gun doesn’t depend on your power, so this sword does not depend on your power, but on the power of the One Who gives it—the only power that can stand against the devil.
The Bible tells us the Word of God has power that other words do not.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The Word of God has the power to slice through the externals down to the core of who you are, to lay bare your thoughts and intentions. It slices through the deception of the devil to lay bare who he is and what he’s doing.
Jeremiah 23:29 “Is not My word like a fire?” says the Lord, “And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”
As a fire consumes and destroys, God’s Word burns away hypocrisy and deception like flames consume a pile of dry autumn leaves. Like a hammer it shatters our illusions and pretense, leaving only the indestructible truth. This is the power of the sword of the Spirit.
It’s the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. The first Greek word I ever learned in college was the word logos= word. It’s the one used often in the NT to refer to the Scriptures as a whole, all the revelation contained in the Bible.
But Paul uses another word here: not logos but rhema= words being spoken by God. These are portions of Scripture “spoken by the Spirit” for a specific purpose or specific situation.
When Jesus is tempted in the wilderness by Satan, He draws from the entire OT (Logos) to counter each temptation with a rhema= specific portion of Scripture.
Matthew 4:3–4 3Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
Jesus applies a specific portion from Deut. 8:3 to counter this specific temptation.
The sword of the Spirit is not just the Scriptures as a whole, but a specific portion of Scripture applied to a specific need or situation. It is the Word of God applied by the Spirit of God against the enemies of God.
The sword of the Spirit has a power no other weapon has. And yet so many people try to use other weapons to defeat evil.
They use words from people like Dr. Spock, Dr. Phil, Oprah, grandma or grandpa, their best friends. They trust in the words of science or politics or positive thinking to combat their problems. That’s like grabbing a bag of cotton balls to throw at somebody who breaks in your house. It may be nice and soft, but it’s not going to protect you.
The only power you have to stand against the devil is the sword of the Spirit, empowered by God. But you also need to keep in mind:
2. Your weapon requires knowledge and skill to wield it.
I don’t know much about weapons, but I know there’s more to using a gun than just
picking it up and pulling the trigger. I know there’s more to using a sword than just swinging it around, hoping to connect with your opponent. I know there’s more to using the sword of the Spirit than just spouting off religious words. It takes knowledge and skill to wield this sword.
It takes knowledge of what the Word says. Jesus makes a promise in
John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
He will teach you all things. When it comes to understanding the Bible the Holy Spirit is our Teacher. He can teach us by ourselves and He can teach us through others.
If you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit lives in you, helping you understand the truths of God’s Word. The first thing you ought to do every time you pick up your Bible to read it is to pray, Holy Spirit, please teach me; help me understand Your Word. You and I can learn a lot just by reading and studying Scripture for ourselves.
But the Holy Spirit also uses other people to help us understand the Bible. We depend on others to translate the Bible into our language. There are many writers whom the Holy Spirit gives insights into the Scriptures who can help us understand what we read. Remember Philip and the Ethiopian?
Acts 8:30–31 30So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?”…
The Holy Spirit uses other people: preachers and teachers and scholars to help us understand His Word. Books like Bible commentaries and the writings of godly men can enlighten our minds to understand what God says.
Now you have to be careful that you don’t confuse what good people say with what the Good Book says. Their words can never replace the Word of God, but they can help me understand what God is saying.
But notice the second thing Jesus says: the Holy Spirit will bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. This word remembrance is very important. Before you can remember something, you have to know it. I can’t remember something I never knew. The Holy Spirit cannot bring anything back to your remembrance that you never knew.
So we have to know the Word of God in order for the Spirit can bring back to our remembrance the rhema=the portion of God’s Word we need for a particular need or situation.
This requires following the example of the psalmist who prays in
Psalm 119:11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.
The Word of God has to leave the printed page and get stored in your mind and your heart. You have to saturate your mind with the Word of God, memorize key Scriptures so that when you face the devil, you have ammunition to defend yourself. Let me offer you some examples:
• You need the sword of the Spirit to stand against temptation. One of the best habits
you can have is to memorize verses that deal specifically with your most common temptations.
If you’re dealing with the temptation of covetousness/discontent what verse could you use?
Hebrews 13:5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
What if you have a problem with your temper?
James 1:19–20 19So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
What if your problem is bad language?
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.
What about Sunday morning when you feel like hitting the snooze button?
Hebrews 10:24–25 24And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Another important area:
• You need the sword of the Spirit to combat your fears. Fear and worry are two of the
devil’s favorite weapons. Knowing the promises of God helps us stand strong in the face of fear.
Psalm 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Philippians 4:6–7 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
The Sword of the Spirit is empowered by God, but it requires knowledge and skill to wield. The more you read your Bible, the better you will be able to parry your temptations and your fears. Without knowing the Word and remembering the Word, you are a sitting duck; but with the Word, you are a mighty warrior standing victorious against your enemy.
I recently read of a high-school student whose band performed on a Caribbean cruise. One night his buddies tried to entice him into the ship’s bar, but Chad, whose mother was an alcoholic, had memorized verses from Proverbs about alcohol abuse. He explained to his friends that addiction ran in his family, then he had the courage to quote Scripture to them: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” (20:1)
They replied, “Come on, Chad. Just one beer won’t hurt.”
He replied, “At the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper” (23:32). They accused him of rejecting their company, to which he said, “If sinners entice you, do not consent.” (1:10)
“Leave him be,” he heard one of the young men say to the others. “He’s so full of Scripture we can’t do a thing with him!”
Wouldn’t it be great if the devil said that about you? He/she is so full of Scripture, I can’t do a thing with them! It can happen, if you’re willing to know the sword of the Spirit and use it skillfully.
Nine-year-old Aaron comes home from the playground with a bloody nose, black eye, and torn clothing. While his father patches him up, he asks his son what happened. "Well, Dad," says Aaron, "I challenged Larry to a duel. And, you know, I gave him his choice of weapons." "Uh-huh," said the father, "that seems fair." "I know, but I never thought he'd choose his big sister!"
It’s time for you to choose your weapons.
You don’t have to go looking for your enemy—He’s already looking for you.
1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
Satan and his demons are always on the prowl, always ready to jump in and attack your life, invade your thoughts, destroy your faith. You must choose your weapons carefully before he makes his move, or you may not survive the attack.
Let me make a suggestion: take up the sword of the Spirit! Read the Bible not as the word of man, but the very Word of God. Every time you pick up your Bible, before you start reading, ask the Holy Spirit to teach you. Ask Him to use others to help you understand His Word.
As you read the Bible, grab some ammunition. Store God’s Word in your mind and in your heart. Spend some time thinking and studying about what you’re reading. Sharpen your sword, so you will always be ready to stand against your enemy, the devil.
And when the devil comes trying to break down your door, grab God’s weapon of choice-the sword of the Spirit—and send him running.