Jesus Alone is the Full Armor of God
When I was fourteen, I had a motorcycle wreck on the highway after church one night. That’s right, at fourteen years old I was riding a motorcycle on the highway! What were my parents thinking by allowing me to ride a motorcycle on the highway? Great question – one I have asked my parents more times than I can count.
Generally speaking, the proper attire for riding a motorcycle consists of something like a helmet, a leather jacket, boots, and leather chaps. The leather provides a protective barrier between the rider and the pavement; however, I was not wearing any leather. Not only was I not wearing any leather, I was wearing nothing more than sandals, basketball shorts, a t-shirt, and a helmet.
Even though I was wearing a helmet, nobody in their right mind would say I was dressed and ready to do battle with asphalt at 60 mph. Needless to say, I broke a few bones and had road rash up and down my body. I could have saved myself a lot of pain if I had only put on the right clothes.
The Christian experience is similar. So often we attempt to dress for battle, but we put on all the wrong clothes.
In the book of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul paints a picture in chapter 6 of how the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the very thing that prepares the Christian for battle, much like armor prepares the Roman soldier for battle or leather prepares the road warrior.
It is easy and tempting for we as youth leaders to preach this passage and fail to give students Jesus. In my own teaching, I have instructed students to put on the belt of truth by knowing and memorizing the Scriptures. I have directed students to put on the breastplate of righteousness by calling teenagers “to not drink, smoke, chew, or run with the girls who do.” I have called young Christians to put on the shoes of peace by not gossiping and fighting with their peers.
When preaching Ephesians 6 over the years, I have given a lot of good advice to students but, I have not given them Jesus.
The error is subtle but has eternal significance. Encouraging students to do things like read their Bible, attend youth group, memorize scripture is important. However, students can do all those good things and still miss the gospel. Students can clothe themselves in good deeds but fail to clothe themselves in Jesus.
The full armor of God is not found in good deeds, but in Christ’s death and resurrection.
When We Offer Jesus as the Armor of God
The shoes of a soldier provide a firm footing for battle; Jesus provides peace between the Christian and God, as well as peace in the midst of a world filled with sin and suffering.
The belt holds the soldiers armor together; the truth of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection hold all of Christianity together – without Jesus, other aspects of the Christian faith completely fall apart.
The helmet protects the soldiers head, thus giving him the confidence to engage in battle; the helmet of salvation provides the young Christian the confidence to know that his past, present, and future sins are forgiven in Christ.
The shield is the protective barrier between the soldier and the attacks of this enemy; the shield of faith is the belief that Jesus is better than the tempting attacks of our enemy.
The sword is the soldier’s only offensive weapon; the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. Just like Jesus when battling Satan, the Word is the very means by which our students will put to death the darkness and sin that is in their lives.
The breastplate is the only thing standing between the enemy and the soldier’s heart; the breastplate of righteousness is the righteousness of Jesus that the Christian receives at salvation. Jesus is our righteousness. In Jesus’ death on our behalf, God the Father views the Christian in right standing and, therefore, fights for us.
As the soldier puts on armor for battle, let us encourage our students to put on Jesus.
May we not call them to more religious activities or weigh them down with mere moralism and behavior modification. This is false armor; religious activities are nothing more than a fabricated veneer which is brittle and unable to protect against the flaming darts of the evil one. Moralistic behavior modification is constricting and clothes the Christian in good works rather than Christ.
Rather, may we call students to put on Christ. May they put on Christ by knowing him through the Scriptures. May students put on Christ by walking in the righteousness that he has earned for them. May students put on Christ by putting their faith and trust in him. May students put on Christ by trusting that He is better than what the world has to offer. May students put on Christ by finding rest in knowing that Jesus has given them peace with God.
May students put on Christ by receiving the love, grace, and salvation God has extended to them through Jesus!