Summary: The helmet is a metaphor for protecting the mind. The Apostle Paul wants us to guard our thoughts. If the devil can tamper with our thoughts, he can meddle with our lives. How we perceive Christ and His teachings affects all of life.
While conducting a raid in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan, a US Marine platoon received incoming sniper fire. One of the Marines was struck in the head and the bullet bounced off his Kevlar helmet. He assured his fellow Marines he was unhurt except for some ringing in his ears, and they continued their mission. Footage of the incident was recently put on YouTube. NCOs tell troops: “Trust your equipment; it will save your life.” Modern helmets provide ballistic protection with an unobstructed field of vision. There is a myth that wearing an Army helmet will cause baldness, but if that were true, all soldiers would look like me!
The iconic helmets worn by the Roman Legion were made of leather with bronze plates for protection, to include neck and cheek guards. Some helmets were entirely cast-metal, except for ornamental plumes of horsehair. Their primary function was to deflect blows from enemy broadswords and arrows.
The helmet is a metaphor for protecting the mind. The Apostle Paul wants us to guard our thoughts. If the devil can tamper with our thoughts, he can meddle with our lives. How we perceive Christ and His teachings affects all of life. Our beliefs determine our behavior, our direction, our destiny. In Romans 12, Paul talks about the “renewing of our minds.” We’re changed from the inside-out. We have a distinct Christian identity. In I Thessalonians 5 Paul tells us to put on “as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We’ve been issued the “helmet of salvation.” Salvation is God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We can be condemned by ourselves but not saved by ourselves. “There are no do-it-yourself Christians” (Eugene Peterson). “Salvation is not the end of our journey but the end of our wandering” (William Stoddard). Neither is it the end of our battle with sin. The battlefield of the mind is constantly under assault.
The devil would like to debilitate us by poisoning our minds. Falsehood comes in many subtle forms: It could be a university professor who derides biblical teaching, a television program that makes fun of faith, the influence of an unbelieving friend, a book that casts doubt on the person and work of Christ, a website that encourages readers to live any way they want. Such thinking blinds people to the truth. The psalmist writes, “I will set no wicked/unclean thing before my eyes” (Psalm 101:3). We need to appraise the messages that compete for our assent and reject false messages. We also need to be able defend the truth we profess. Proverbs 15:14 warns, “The mind of one who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly.”
Our enemy also wants to tear us down with negativity. We need to guard our minds. We cannot afford the consequences of negative thoughts. II Corinthians 11:3, “As the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts can be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” Sometimes we see what we want to see: we jump to conclusions, we have blind spots, we miss the big picture. When we’re having trouble controlling our thoughts--when we’re not seeing clearly--we need to go to prayer, feed ourselves with God’s word, and go to trusted friends for encouragement. Paul says in II Cor. 10:5, “We take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
I have counseled soldiers who had troubling thought-lives, who were consumed with lust, doubt, and fear. Shakespeare’s Hamlet complains that Denmark is a prison, but then admits that his “thinking makes it so.” Hamlet is a prisoner of his perception, and in his case there were consequences. We see life, not as it is, but as we are.
Where do destructive thoughts lead us? Roman soldiers were well-armed, but the Empire was imploding. How did Rome fall? Not from external threat but internal decay. The decline of Rome is attributed to several factors: A decline in morals, rampant materialism, a wide gap between the affluent and the poor, an obsession with sex, freakishness in the arts, and political corruption. Some historians also blame Christianity, which if practiced would have eliminated the other causes of decline.
The enemy would like to deceive and fill us with doubts; he is the “father of lies.”
What are some of the lies we believe?
• “My indulgence isn’t really so bad.”
• “I’m not responsible for my actions.”
• “I can’t help being the way I am.”
• “I have a right to be angry.”
• “I can’t be happy unless things go my way.”
• “I’m stupid; I’m a loser.”
• “My unhappiness is someone else’s fault.”
And there are many more. Perhaps you might draw up your own list. Such lies are what Alcoholics Anonymous calls “Stinking Thinking.” If we’re to defeat the stronghold of Satan’s lies we must saturate our minds with God’s word and replace lies with the Truth that will set us free!