Spiritual Warfare: The Armor of God: Helmet of Salvation - Philippians 2:5-8
As I mentioned last week, if you haven’t already figured it out, I’m a comic book nerd (as I heard a local island resident who is the same way refer to himself). And since last week’s illustration featured the well-known Marvel characters from Avengers, particularly Captain America and his shield in our discussion the Shield of Faith, I figure for the Helmet of Salvation, I would offer fair treatment in the comic world and turn to DC comics, and one of their oldest but lesser known figures…
Dr. Fate and the Helmet of Nabu. The helmet is both a blessing and a curse. Among other powers, it gives its wearer the power of flight, super-strength, invulnerability, telekinesis, and control of lightning. However, in putting on the helmet to confront and battle evil, the wearer also surrenders their personality to the spirit within the helmet.
Cap and his shield, Fate and his Helmet, equipping themselves for battle against the evil of their fictional worlds. We have been spending weeks talking about equipping ourselves for the battle with evil within our world…a battle that is not with flesh and blood requiring weapons of this world, but a battle fought in ways seen and unseen on a spiritual front. The enemy pulls out hatred, bigotry, deceit, and violence. We have seen those attacks this week, not only in the hallways of Douglas High School in Parkland Florida, but in the hallways of Congress, the hallways of locals stores and businesses, and even the hallways of our churches, as dissension erupts and blame is hurled in every direction. We, though, as followers of Christ, are supposed to know where the blame lies and who the real enemy is. We are called to this battle using not the weapons of the enemy but instead we put on the Armor of God and fight not our brothers and sisters of flesh and blood but the spiritual forces of evil and wickedness that lead a young man into the darkness and make massacre seem like an option.
We wrap the Belt of Truth about us—ensuring that we are surrounded by it –that Jesus is about what we are doing, what we are saying, and what we are thinking. When we are searching for the truth about which decision and which action is best for us, with the Belt of Truth, we let what Jesus would do or say direct what we would do or say—for Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In putting on the Belt of Truth, we declare that Jesus is not only the Truth, but His way is our way, and that in Him we find true life.
As we don the Breastplate of Righteousness, we declare that our righteousness is completely dependent upon God—that first, through the blood of Christ, we are declared as righteous, based not on our work, but on the work of Christ on the cross; then, through the breath of God, the Holy Spirit, we are moved from simply being seen as righteous, to being made righteous, as God remakes us into His Image once more. In wearing the Breastplate, we declare to the world that we have come on behalf of our King, the King of Kings, and about His work of reclaiming, redeeming, and restoring Creation to its original state of being “good.”
The footwear we shod our feet with differs from one of us to the other, but all for the sole purpose of declaring the Gospel of Peace. Whether we proclaim it through spoken word, singing, dancing, teaching, acts of mercy, or simply the ministry of presence as we sit alongside someone in their storm—we declare that Jesus has brought us peace with God, peace with one another, peace in the midst of the storms of life, and called to be peacemakers on behalf of the Prince of Peace.
We take up the Shield of Faith with which we are able to quench all the flaming arrow that satan sends our way. It is the faith that noting in all of creation can separate us from the love of God found in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is the faith that God’s design for our future is not one of darkness and doom, but of hope and wellbeing. It is the faith that we are not condemned but have found grace and forgiveness through Jesus. It is the faith that God will strengthen us to help us overcome any challenges we face. It is the faith that God will always be with us and we will never be left alone. It is the faith that every promise of God is true. It is the faith with which we connect with and support one another.
This morning we hear Paul’s call once more to put on the full armor of God…and that’s important to remember, it is the full Armor of God that we are supposed to be putting on. Not just one or two pieces, but all of it…the belt, the breastplate, the shoes, the shield of faith, and the piece we consider today. Today, we hear Paul’s invitation to take up, or better yet, receive the Helmet of Salvation. This Armor, is not something we just go out and build or forge ourselves. It all is laid out before us as a gift from God. If there was any doubt, it is settled today as we are told to receive the Helmet of Salvation from God. We could not, cannot, nor ever will be able to, save ourselves. Our salvation is completely dependent upon the work of Jesus through the manger, the cross, and the empty tomb. Through His birth, life, death, and resurrection, Jesus has brought salvation to all who will humbly receive the gift He offers.
Thus, though each piece of the Armor of God is important, this piece is the most critical. On the battlefield, especially in Jesus’ day, but I would say it would be true on any physical battlefield today, a harsh blow to the feet, to the legs, to the hands, to the arms, or even, sometimes, to the torso could be endured and survived. However, a blow to the head, whether from a sword, a spear, or some other weapon, would often prove fatal if there was no helmet to protect the soldier. Likewise, without the life-saving grace of God, the Salvation found in Christ Jesus, in our lives; without the Helmet of Salvation covering our heads; we are at risk of receiving a fatal blow that would leave us forever separated from God.
The significance of receiving this helmet from God and putting it on is threefold.
First, as I have already suggested, this helmet is a gift. Our salvation is a gift. There is absolutely nothing that we can do to earn the gift that is our salvation. The work of salvation was completely accomplished by Christ—no action on our part, not even our offering of a “salvation” prayer can earn us salvation. Many of you already know that I avoid some of the traditional language with regards to being saved. There are many who use the language, “I got saved on February 18th of 2018 when I took Jesus as my savior.” Others might say, “I was saved on February 18th of 2018 when I accepted Jesus into my heart.” Some may cry “semantics,” but I suggest that both of these traditional and well-loved sayings run the risk of putting our salvation back into being based on our actions—on our taking Jesus or our accepting Jesus and not on the work of Jesus.
I still remember the night when a young girl, about seven or eight years old, came and talked with me after an Awanas meeting. She was extremely upset. She said, “when I go back next week I have to tell them when and where I got saved, and I don’t know.” I know those leaders wanted the time and place that she prayed “the sinner’s prayer,” and gave her life to Jesus, however, I looked at her and said, “Go back next week, and when they ask you, tell them that you were saved two-thousand years ago on a hill called Golgotha.” Our salvation is a gift—it is not a result of taking Jesus as our Savior (because He is already our Savior), it is not a matter of accepting Jesus into our hearts (because our hearts only beat because of Him), and it is not because of giving our lives to Jesus (for they already belong to Him), it is about throwing up a white flag and surrendering our lives to the fact that there is nothing that we can do to earn salvation—Jesus completed the work and offers it to us as a gift.
The second and third aspects of the Helmet of Salvation are tied to the fact that it is a helmet…it is worn over the head.
The second reason being that we have to come to understand (a function of our brain) that our salvation is tied to God’s love for us—the fact that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him may not perish but might have everlasting life. God loves us and saves us, and saves those around us, not because they, or we, have gotten our lives straight or right with Him, but simply because He has chosen to love us and save us. The helmet of salvation is intended to protect us from attack and drive any doubts of God’s love and acceptance of us.[i] Evil is all about psychological warfare. It will try to make us doubt that God could ever love us. It will try to make us question whether our sins are really forgiven. At times where we may feel like we are the closest to God, it is going to throw back in our face memories of the worst sins we have ever committed. The helmet of salvation is there to protect us from those heavy blows reminding us that while all of our past may be true, salvation came as a gift, and God has proved His love for us in this way, that Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners…Jesus brought us the helmet of salvation while we were still wearing that comfortable sin-labeled ball cap.
Finally, and this is the whole reason I was drawn to Dr. Fate as an illustration. It was not because he was a superhero of faith, but it was because of what happens when someone puts on the helmet, for different individuals have worn that helmet over the course of DC comics history. When anyone puts on that helmet, who they were is no longer of significance, they become Dr. Fate—who they were fades away.
Likewise, when we put on the helmet of Salvation, we are called to let who we were and who we are, fade away. Paul tells the Corinthians, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see everything has become new!”[ii] He says to the Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”[iii] Paul makes it clear what this looks like as he tells the Philippians:
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.[iv]
Putting on the helmet of salvation, receiving the gift of salvation from God, and using it means that not only do we surrender to the fact that God has offered us the gift of salvation at no price, and accepted us as we are, but that as we receive that salvation, we are called to surrender ourselves to God, body and mind.[v]
As we surrender to God placing this helmet of salvation on our head, God, through the Spirit, cleanses us of all that we were before, removing that sin from us, and begins transforming us into the image of our Savior, until every aspect of our lives is a reflection of the One who brought us the gift of salvation. It is not an instantaneous thing; it is walking the path of redemption alongside Jesus. It is allowing God to transform our lives. It is spending time daily with Him, walking daily with Him, living each and every moment with Him—so that eventually we won’t ever have to stop and ask the well-worn question, “What would Jesus do?” because doing what Jesus does has become part of who we are.
My brothers and sisters, this transformation may be as painful for us as it appeared to be for Kent Nelson to put on Dr. Fate’s helmet. The transformation may call us to change our network of friends. It is not that we are not called to be friends with those outside of the faith—that is who Jesus often went to. However, if, rather than us leading our friends closer to Christ, they are leading us away from Him, we are called to find a new circle of support. It may be that this transformation calls us to change our employment. We may find ourselves in a career that, as salvation transforms us, we discover is incompatible with our faith—whether it is because we are asked to be dishonest or whether our employment endorses or provides for immoral behavior—and we are have to walk away from what may be a steady and certain income. The transformation will call us to change what we do with our money, our time, and even ourselves—as we realize they are not truly ours, but wholly and completely belong to God. This transformation leads us to giving them away, even to the point of sacrifice. As we grow into our salvation, we will find that God is radically changing our lives, not to strip us of ourselves, but to transform us into our true selves—who we were created to be—those created in the Image of the Living God.
Yet as much as it may change about our lives, we do not have to worry about our fate, our destiny, what the future may hold for us. For when we put on the Helmet of Salvation, as we find God transforming us, we find that our future is redeemed and forgiven. It is a future not filled with fear of what might come, but the certainty that when all is said and done we will find ourselves standing victorious in the blessed presence of God.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
[i] Murphy, Edward. The Handbook of Spiritual Warfare, Revised, “A Look At Each Piece of Armor: 5. The Helmet of Salvation.” (Digital Edition.)
[ii] 2nd Corinthians 5:17
[iii] Romans 12:2
[iv] Philippians 2:5-8
[v] Hayford, Jack W. Hayford, Mark. Kingdom Warfare (SFL), “Equipping for Battle.” (Digital Edition.)