Most of us have sermons about faith coming out of our ears, but could we explain what faith is to others? Do we ourselves, furthermore, know how to “take the shield of faith?”
“Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. ” (Ephesians 6:16)
Whenever we see drawings of a soldier clad in battle armor, the shield is the most prominent element of self-defense. Similarly, in the war of the mind, knowing who we are in Christ is what keeps us grounded when doubts and concerns attack. But what, exactly, is involved in “taking the shield of faith?” More significantly, what is faith itself?
Many wrongly assume that faith is believing Jesus was real–either that He was truly the Son of God, or even that He was merely a historical figure rather than a figment of literary imagination. And while His existence is more credibly documented than most secular figures of history–and it certainly is true that He was God born in human form for the express purpose of taking the wrath of the Father upon Himself on the cross for our sins so we do not have to experience it–merely believing these truths is not faith. James clearly tells us, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” (James 2:19) Demons, who will spend eternity suffering God’s judgment, know not only that Christ is a historical figure but also that He is the Son of God, yet they are nonetheless damned. So what is faith that saves?
Part of our problem in understanding saving faith is that even many of us who claim to be Christ’s frequently do not really want to be His people. While we may think we do and even give verbal assent to these goals, we do not want to enjoy His presence and fellowship with Him, we do not want to recognize who He is and give Him glory for it, and we certainly do not want His will done here on earth. What we do want is to avoid Him in prayer and His Written Word, glorify ourselves by building our identities and engaging in self-fulfilling activities that actualize us, and further our kingdoms–our goals–in daily life. The evidence is that this is what we spend our lives doing. Whether we affirm our version of “Christianity” with words or actually grace the doorstep of a church becomes superfluous if we deny Christ daily with our lives. Titus describes this: “They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.” (Titus 1:16) The enemy wins the war on hearts and minds because it is not possible to convert someone to so something we do not value–neither want nor practice–in our own lives. So again, what is saving faith?
Christ came to save us from our sins. This is significant, because every deployment has a mission. Even before His birth, the angel told Joseph His mission: to save His people from their sins.That was the purpose for Christ’s incarnation and earthly life, yet the modern church has increasingly interpreted this to mean Christ came to save us from the penalty of sin, while becoming increasingly silent about our sin–indulged lives. Yet taken as a whole–which we must–the Bible has a message of abandoning our idols (the furthering of our agendas and building of our kingdoms), repentance (turning away from intentional and ongoing sin), and restitution (making things right as we are able to). That is the evidence of faith, and nothing less is a faith that saves.
When we do this and not before–when the complete Word of God has had it’s intended effect on us–then we can rest in the promises Christ makes to His people, because we ARE His people.
And herein lies the problem. Trying to rest in who we are in Christ without first repenting and genuinely becoming His people is like trying to build up a child’s self-esteem by telling him how valuable he is instead of teaching him how to fulfill responsibilities, through the doing of which he actually becomes valuable. Brainwashing ourselves with reassurances of Scripture which do not yet apply because we have not repented is not what defines us as Christian–genuinely repenting, trusting Christ and following Him defines us as Christian, and in the process we receive peace of mind and assurance of salvation.
Thus, taking up the shield of faith is not attempting to quiet our uncomfortable souls while we continue in disobedience. Taking up the shield of faith with which we can quench (extinguish) the fiery darts of the wicked one is repenting–turning away from our sin–and then securely resting in who we are in Christ.
Help us live active lives of genuine repentence, so that when the enemy of our souls attacks we can rightly claim the secure promises You have given Your people! Amen.