THE HELMET OF SALVATION

EPHESIANS 6:17

 

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            Life is just a bowl of cherries ... at least, according to a song Ethel Merman sang in a 1931 movie.

            Life is a box of chocolates ... according to Forrest Gump.

            Life is a highway ... I want to ride it all night long ... sang the country music group Rascal Flatts.

            Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can ... or so said the actor and entertainer Danny Kaye.

            Life is difficult, complicated and beyond anyone’s total control ... according to J. K. Rowling who spoke those words as part of a Harvard Commencement Address.

            Life is a long lesson in humility ... according to the Scottish author J. M. Barrie who gave us Peter Pan.

            What do you think the Bible would say?  According to the Bible life is ... what?

            One answer to that would be “Life is a battle.”

            The Bible mentions three main conflicts every Christian faces. Jesus mentions one, and the Apostle Paul mentions two.  In the Upper Room Jesus informs his followers about a conflict between his followers and the world.  John 15:18.  Page 878 of your pew Bible if you want to follow along. 

 

            The world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you.  If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own.  Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world - therefore the world hates you.  

 

            Then there is the conflict the Apostle Paul mentions Galatians chapter 5.  It’s the conflict between the flesh and the spirit.  If you so desire, turn with me there to page 948 of your pew Bible, to Galatians 5:16.  Paul writes,

 

            Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.

 

            So those are two conflicts we face daily as Christians: the conflict between us and the world and the conflict between the spirit and the flesh.  Finally, there is the conflict we have been studying in our sermon series:  the conflict between followers of Christ and the forces of evil.  So, as followers of Jesus Christ we are fighting conflicts on three fronts: the flesh, the world, and the forces of evil, and the question is, given how thinly we are spread fighting these battles, what do we need to do to prevail? 

            Well, Paul says to win the battle you need to be prepared to fight.  You need to put on the whole armor of God each and every day, and thus far we have put on four pieces of that armor: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes that will prepare is to proclaim the gospel of peace and the shield of faith.  Today we turn our attention to the helmet of salvation.

            A Roman soldier wouldn't go into battle without a helmet.  I mean,he'd be foolish to do such a thing.  Now Roman helmets were made out of basically two things, leather with some patches of metal on it, pieces of metal or else those molded, solid cast helmets, we’ve seen with the plumes, like the one on the back of our bulletin.   Of course, the helmet protected a soldiers head from all sorts of blows, particularly the blows from a broad sword.  A broad sword was was three to four feet long, longer than a yardstick, and it had a massive handle that you held with both hands like a baseball bat.  And you just lifted it over your head and went around trying to create split personalities, basically.  Interesting enough, a skeleton was recently discovered in a dig that had a cleavage right through the skull that they assume had been made by somebody who flattened a broad sword right into the poor person’s skull.  So the helmet was very, very necessary.

            Using this military metaphor, the helmet Paul tells us to put on is the helmet of salvation, and I want to say something about that.  I want to talk about what we are putting on when we put on the helmet of salvation.  When we put on the helmet of salvation we are putting on three things.  We are putting on the the past, the present and the future because salvation has three aspects to it.  I'm going to get into a little theology now so just get comfortable, and concentrate, and let's see what we can learn about this helmet of salvation.

            Let me define the three aspects of salvation.  The past aspect of salvation frees us from the penalty of sin.  In other words if you say to me, “Are you a Christian?  When did you become a Christian?”  Or if you were of a particular faith background you might say, “When were you saved?”  I went to a non-Presbyterian seminary.  A number of its students were Presbyterian, like me, but a number were not, and some of the more conservative evangelical types, especially the Baptists would ask, “When were you saved?”  A Presbyterian would not likely put it that way.  We would say something like, “When did you give all you knew of yourself to all you knew of Jesus Christ?”  or if we were a Presbyterian from a hundred years ago, we would have asked, “When did you sense that you were part of the elect?”  We would not say, “When were you saved?” because that’s not Presbyterianese. 

            Anyway, in response to the question, “Are you a Christian?”  I would answer, “Yes.”  If they followed that question up with, “When did that happen?” or Baptist language “When were you saved?” I responded, “It happened in 1967, at the age of nineteen.   I confessed Jesus Christ, invited him into my life at a YMCA camp, Camp Fox on Catalina Island.”  And all that was in the past.  When I confessed Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, my sins were placed on him on the cross, as it were, and Christ paid the penalty for my sin.  That's in the past.  The penalty is paid.  So the past aspect of salvation is freedom from the penalty of sin.

            Then, there’s the present aspect of salvation.  That refers to freedom from the power of sin.  According to the Bible sin no longer has what?  It no longer has dominion over us.  As Jon Braun’s book title puts it, It Ain’t Going to Reign No More.  Sin has no reigning power; sin has no dominance.  Why?  Because the power in us is greater than the power in the word - we are no longer helpless in the face of sin - and because  "He who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  That, by the way, comes from the Apostle John in the first chapter of his first letter.  We are being saved now continually as Jesus constantly cleanses us.

            So, when we are putting on the helmet of salvation, we are putting on the first two aspects of salvation.  We have been saved from the penalty of sin, and we are being saved from the power of sin, but there is one more aspect to salvation, and I’m starting to sound like one of those infomercials at this point.  Order today and you not one get this and this, but we’ll through in an extra set of knives for free! 

            Well, our extra set of knives is the future aspect of salvation.  In the past we've been saved from the penalty of sin.  In the present we are being saved from the power of sin.  In the future we will be saved from the presence of sin.  There will come a day when sin will be no more.  That's right.  We know that because the Book of Revelation says there'll be no more death, and the wages of sin is what?  Death.  No death, no sin.  And we'll be like him.  In First John 3 we read, "We'll be like him; for we shall see him as he is."  And he is sinless, spot­less and without flaw, without blemish. There's coming a day when we'll be saved from the presence of sin.

            To sum up: salvation has happened, salvation is happening and salvation will happen. Has happened - that's justification.  Is happening - that's sanctification.  Will happen - that's glorification.  When we put on the helmet of salvation we are putting on all three: past, present and future. 

            Trudy and I had half season tickets to the Storm Chasers this past year, and we bought extra tickets to the playoffs, and on Tuesday night, a young family set in front of us.  They had their two children with them, an eighteen month old boy and a seven week old daughter, along with the children’s grandfather.  Well, about the seventh evening the eighteen month old noticed us, and was he ever cute, and his father and grandfather were so proud of what he could do.  They would ask him questions and he would respond.  They asked him, “How big are you?” and he would raise his hands over his head.  And they asked him, “How strong are you?” and he would extend his arms to his side, bend his elbows and show us his muscles.  And the asked him, “How cute are you?” and he put index fingers on his cheeks and twist them a bit, showing us how cute he was.

            And he was cute, and here’s the point.  That eighteen month old knew he was so big, so strong, and so cute.  He had absolute confidence in those three things.  Do we have absolute confidence that we have been freed from the penalty of sin, that we are being delivered, right now, from the power of sin, and in the future do we know we that we will be completely spared from the presence of sin?  

            You see, the helmet of salvation is about confidence.  It’s about standing tall in what Jesus has done for us, is doing for us, and will do for us.  When a Roman soldier put on his helmet it made him look impressive.  It made him look a foot taller.  Are we standing a foot taller, an eternity taller because we have put on the helmet of salvation?  

            Do you know what Old Redlegs wants to do?  He wants to take away our confidence in Jesus Christ.  Earlier in the message, I mentioned that a helmet particularly protected a Roman soldier’s head from blows, particularly the blows from a broadsword.   Well, Old Redlegs wields a broadsword and he wants to belt us right in the head with both sides of it.  He wants to belt us with discouragement and then come back the other way and belt us with doubt.

             Have you ever gotten discouraged?  Has Old Redlegs ever belted you in the head with it?  I mean, maybe you were giving a lot and not getting much in return.  You were living this Christian life, and were setting yourself apart from the world, and I mean you were really living the Christian life -- not cussing, opening doors for people, not gossiping, reading your bible, suffering through my sermons, taking me to lunch, and what happens?  You don’t get that job or you don’t get that promotion. Great blessing, huh?  Great payoff for putting it on the line for Christ. 

            Or you've been reading your Bible every day and your spouse is just as cranky as ever.  I mean your new found spiritual discipline hasn't had a major affect on him or her at all. 

            Or you've been going to church for so many years, and look at your kids.  They don't respect you anymore than they ever did.  And so, we begin to get discouraged.  You've been teaching a class for so long and you wonder whether anybody gets anything out of it.  And you get real discouraged, and that’s just one of the things Old Redlegs belts us with. 

            The other thing he wants to hit us in the head with is doubt.  How do you know you're really a Christian?  Are you sure you're really saved?  You don't deserve it.  Look what you just did.  Look how you acted.  Do you think that's a manifestation of being a Christian?   And that’s Old Redlegs broadsword.  He swings it and hits us with doubt and discouragement, so we need to put on the helmet of salvation daily which will protect us and remind us that we can live confidently, freed from past, empowered in the present, and filled with hope for the future. 

            Former French prime minister Georges Clemenceau fought many duels with various rivals.  On one occasion, he surprised his second by asking the attendant at a Paris railroad station for a one-way ticket to the duel. “Isn’t that a little pessimistic?” asked the second.

            “Not at all,” Clemenceau replied. “I always use my opponent’s return ticket for the trip back.”

            You’ve got a one-way ticket to heaven.  Put on the helmet of salvation.  Ward of the blows of discouragement and doubt.  Live confidently in all Jesus has done, is doing, and will do for you.  Amen.