Tuesday, September 27, 2016

At Peace to Stand with Peace (Ephesians 6:15)

"and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;” (Ephesians 6:15, NASB95)

The next piece of spiritual armor is the “shoes of peace.” Paul writes, “...and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.”

Military boots today are a whole lot different than they were two thousand years ago. The Roman soldier didn’t benefit from our modern technology, but he did wear sandals that were specially adapted for his needs. From the top they might have looked like a normal sandal, though being heavier duty with much more strapping to stay firmly in place. But what made them truly significant was what was on the bottom. Imbedded in the soles of their boots were hobnails which enabled the soldier to have a firm footing when he met the enemy in battle on certain types of terrain. These were not shoes for running --- either in retreat or for pursuing an enemy. In fact, Josephus, the Jewish Roman Historian tells of a centurion who, because he was running after his enemies while wearing “shoes thickly studded with sharp nails,” slipped and fell on his back on the stone pavement, where he was duly dispatched!

These boots served for marching. Their function was like today’s cleated football shoe. They gave the foot traction and prevented sliding. Most ancient battles were hand-to-hand and foot-to-foot, like on the line of scrimmage of a football game. These boots gave the roman soldier an advantage over his ill-equipped foes.

So, what do you think is the spiritual application of this? Paul says that like the soldier we are to shod our feet with the “preparation” of the gospel of peace. This word “preparation” means to be made ready or equipped. Maybe it would be better explained by saying that because of something somebody knows, they are then made ready and confident to fight.

There are many passages that speak of us bringing the good news to people such as Romans 10:15 where we read, “How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”” (Romans 10:15, NASB95). But this is not one of them. This has to do solely with the difference that the gospel makes in our lives and how it prepares us for to stand firm when attacked so that we can fend off the mental attacks of the evil one. The reality is that when we preach the gospel we are most likely to be the subject of attack by the evil one. But this has to do with the attack and not the preaching, and it is important to know where our shelter is in those times---as David said, “in the shadow of [His] wings.”

Paul’s point is simply to say that just as a soldier is easily defeated without shoes, so is a Christian easily defeated if he or she has not been prepared ahead of time by knowing that everything is okay between him and God. A Christian can easily be defeated by the lies of Satan if that Christian is led to believe that he or she has no peace with God or does not have the peace of God.

The idea of the believer being equipped with the good news of the gospel of peace refers to his confidence that he is no longer at war with God, but has been made at peace. Whereas we were once enemies of God (Romans 5:10) and at war with him, now we are saved by Jesus Christ. In Romans 5:1 we are taught that because we put our trust in Christ, we are at “Peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Apart from God any sense of peace is temporary. There is an uneasiness to our lives that we cannot touch, explain, or put a finger on, and it can manifest itself in a variety of ways from being alienated from others, always seeking to be the best, seeking constant approval, and the list goes on. There is this awareness that no matter how good things might be going, there is still something missing.

I felt this strongly in high school, even getting into Transcendental Meditation trying to quiet the struggle. But I quickly found that this was an empty pursuit. It was around this time that I wrote a poem that I think marked my life then and might speak to the lives of so many others. [Peace of Mind, Joe Burgess, 1973]

Clutching, grasping
Trying to find
That everlasting
Peace of mind.
Thinking, groping
Always hoping
There to find
That everlasting peace of mind.
Giving, taking
Flying free
Never catching
You or me.
In one ear; out the other,
There to find
Always another
Of that kind of everlasting peace of mind.

Without a standard, peace is always going to be subjective. Its only source is going to be how we feel at the moment. But this is not how God has called us to live. We are not to live by the seat of our emotions, but by the firm foundation of His truth, and His truth says that because of Jesus we have been made at peace with God. We are no longer strangers and aliens. We are no longer enemies. We are no longer lost and without hope. We are his beloved children and His hands are firmly wrapped around us. We have been made at peace with God, and because of that we can go into the world knowing the peace of God, knowing that whatever happens that our sovereign, totally in control, absolutely wise God knows what He is doing and that He has us firmly in His grasp.

We are at peace with God because our sin and our guilt were all removed on the cross. There is no more need to fear death or the rejection of God. Thanks to Jesus’ propitiating work, there is no reason to think that God is angry at us or that we are His enemies. Jesus took care of all of that, with his substitutionary death.

And because this is true, we not only have peace with God, but we have the peace of God. We stand in the confidence of God’s love for us, in His partnership with us, and in His commitment to fight for us. We have no need to fear any enemy, even Satan himself, because “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

In the upper room on the final night of his earthly life, Jesus told His disciples, and indeed all who follow him, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” (John 14:27) He gives us His personal peace. Maybe the best way to define this peace is to describe it as a deep sense of well-being, wholeness and that you are secure in the hands of God, regardless of your circumstances. This, in turn, gives us the confidence to stand firm and not flinch against the wicked one. This is what Jesus knew and this is what He gives us.

Hence, mentally and symbolically having put on the shoes of the preparation of the Gospel of peace is acknowledging and claiming the truth that we are at peace with God and therefore we have the peace of God. A Christian soldier who realizes these truths about himself, which came as a result of what Christ has accomplished, can stand firm no matter what the enemy throws at him. Satan’s accusatory lies will not move this soldier. His feet are firmly planted. With these shoes of peace firmly set, the Christian can hold his ground against any attack of the wicked one.

Those who know this peace with God and the peace of God are at peace with themselves and they also tend to work hard at settling quarrels, not starting them. They are the peacemakers. They tend to be more accepting, tolerant and find little pleasure in being negative.

So, this piece of armor, to “Shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” really is standing in the confidence which comes from knowing that one has PEACE WITH GOD AND THE PEACE OF GOD.

(Much of text of this post for today finds its roots in the class prepared for Calvary Crossroads on Spiritual Warfare as adapted from a sermon series by Bob Bonner.)

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