Summary: The ultimate protection to carry us through the dangers of this world and the next is to experience God's salvation.
This morning we move to the 5th piece of armor that God has given us, his protection so that we don't have to be shaken and battered by our fallen world, so that we can stand strong. God wants us to be able to stand strong and firm, even in the difficult world in which we live. Today we move to the helmet of salvation. Just as the helmet protects our heads, a body part that is just plain essential to life, the part of the body which makes us really ourselves, where we think and act, God's gift of salvation is the greatest of gifts. It protects our very essence. If everything else fails and we know God's salvation, we are OK. If we know God will save us, what do we ever need to fear?
Our text for this morning is, again, Ephesians 6:10 17. "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
Methodists were once noted for a strong emphasis on personal salvation. And why not? It's very biblical. Jesus told even the religious leader, Nicodemus, "You must be born again, (or born from above)." But in recent years we have struggled with the concept. I think we've developed an allergy to those people who try to put being born again into a box, saying you have to have a certain experience, sudden, emotional, for it to be real. United Methodists usually see through that. When Jesus told Nicodemus about the new birth he guarded against that kind of thinking by saying that being born again is like the wind, it’s unpredictable . You can't put it in a box. We can't dictate to God that someone can only be born again a certain way.
So I fear that we really have developed an allergy to the idea of being born again. We can be so careful not to squeeze people into a mold that we don't give any guidance at all. We can be so patient to let God's Spirit work gradually that we don't give the process the encouragement that it needs. Mostly I speak to our congregation as people who know Christ and have really been converted. And mostly I preach on themes for those who are already converted. But there may well be some here who have gotten comfortable doing church things, but have never gone all the way to making a personal commitment to Jesus Christ and never yet experienced God's salvation for themselves. And if you are out in the battle without the protection of the helmet of salvation, you are very vulnerable to the devil’s accusations that God can’t love you so you need to go it alone. If he can convince you of that one thing, he’s happy. He has cut you off from your God.
So this morning, as we talk about putting on the helmet of salvation, I want to try to explain as simply as I can how God's gift of salvation works, how we can put it on. This is the most important issue of our lives, so I encourage you to think very carefully about what I say.
The plan of salvation can be summarized in four basic concepts. Let's run through them together.
The first concept is that God loves each and every one of us and God's will for each of us is for a good and abundant and eternal life. God's plan for you is nothing but good. It's a better plan than anything you could come up with yourself, to be a person who really is in the very image of God. What a high calling! It includes the Old Testament idea of shalom, of living in right relationships with all those around you, right relationships with family and with neighbors. Right relationship with God, so that we have no need to fear or hide. It includes the New Testament concept of the abundant life, to be all we can be, to be strong and capable, whole and free, to live a life of love and joy. That's the goal. That was God's plan. Can you dare to dream of such a life for yourself?