DEVOTIONAL 41: DON’T GO OUT UNARMED
This week’s blog gives you a glimpse into the lives of four mighty women of God and how they prepare for the battle against sin in different ways.
I Peter 4:12 is a very strategic verse for fighting sin:
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.
I Peter 4:1, tells us that Christ Himself suffered in the flesh and that we should prepare by arming ourselves with (His) same way of thinking. The second part of this verse links changing our thinking to ceasing from sin. I have had four wise women in my life who have had four very different approaches to arming themselves against temptation. All of these approaches are effective and worthy of emulating.
The first woman depends on Ephesians 6:13-18 that tells us to put on the whole armor of God:
13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
My friend Ann Kieffer, for many years, would rise every morning and literally dress herself with each part of the armor. Friends on a beach trip with her said they saw her rise early and go outside to pray, carefully fastening a belt they could not see, putting on shoes invisible to them, and carefully adjusting the helmet of salvation on her beautiful, sweet head. Before you think this is going too far, think about how aware she was of the truth, the gospel of peace, and the protection of her salvation as she made herself conscious of each one as she put them on every morning. If you know her, you know that God’s protection has been strong over her life. I can’t help but believe that this practice had much to do with it. Her willingness to take the Bible literally and to submit herself to an exercise that might look over the top to others may just be why God has been able to use her mightily in so many people’s lives as a prayer warrior. I know He has used her in mine.
Another friend has a quite different approach. Julie Van Gorp is co-founder of TrueViewMinistries.org, a wonderful ministry that helps women live without fear as they engage in a Christlike manner with our culture. She has a practice that may seem extreme when I first describe it. She told me once that when I had difficulty letting go of something, I should be dead to it. Now I had read many verses about dying to my selfish desires, to self in general, and to sin, so I complacently agreed. She said, “No, I mean really dead, like you are in a coffin. If you are dead to something, truly dead, you cannot feel it at all. The things that are bothering you today will not have any effect on you when you are dead and in your coffin.”
It was hard to argue with that, but it is more difficult than you think to be truly dead to resentment, jealousy, anger, or hurt. When I thought about the day I would someday be truly dead, I saw that she was right that these petty matters would not have any pull on me. I wanted to be dead to them now. And the Bible offers ample Biblical support for this thinking:
Romans 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Romans 6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
Romans 6:7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.
Galatians 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Colossians 3:3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Colossians 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity,passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Another example to me is my friend and long-time Bible teacher Carolyn. From Carolyn, I have learned two things: the Biblical view of authority and what Jesus meant when He talked about having the faith of a little child.
Carolyn’s global travel and her background in art history have given her more than the usual insight into what certain Scriptures mean. She has taught me to try to understand the context of what is going on in a passage and to understand the culture of the characters in familiar Bible stories. She brought these alive to me in our 6:45AM Bible study that I attended for fifteen years.
But Carolyn’s unique impact on women has been in modeling how to live joyously as a woman today while observing the Biblical principles of authority. Her respect and admiration for her husband was always evident whenever she spoke of Him, and he was one of the wisest and most compassionate men I have ever known. She would quote his advice and say, “Jimmy says…” In much the same way, when she would look for wisdom in the Bible, she would say, “Jesus says….,” with the same admiration, love, and childlike faith. And she has so much wisdom because of her reliance on Him and His Word.
The final example in my life for battling sin effectively is my mentor and first Bible teacher, Frances. She does not have a formula, and her advice has only been in the form of the example she is to me. We have walked side by side through blessings and tragedies, in times of peace and times of great attack from the world for thirty years. I can tell you that she consistently walks this earth following the example of Jesus Christ. The way we all aspire to respond to sin and to others is the way I see her responding day after day, year after year. When I try to come up with a reason her walk is so different from even most Christians’, I think of two things about her. First, Frances has a passion for purity and piety. She is consumed with the desire to understand these things better and has studied her Bible for decades to search what those words mean and how to accept them into her life. She is not doing this to teach a class or to appear saintly. She really wants to know about these attributes because she knows the Lord loves them. In this moment, you may have an image of Frances as being distant from her fellow sinners or holier than thou. Nothing could be further from the truth about this humble, unpretentious, fun-loving woman. She has blinders on to what others are doing wrong and concerns herself with the condition of her own soul. Hers is not an “I want to be better than my peers” pursuit of piety. Her eyes are only on Jesus and wanting to please Him. As she studies the words in her Bible and in the writings of Biblical teachers throughout the years, her walk is influenced by what she is pouring into her mind.
The second thing about Frances is that prayer and the Bible are her first responses to anything—good or bad. When something disappointing happens, her first line of defense is not to go tell everyone or to seek worldly solutions. You will find her taking the key words of the situation and scouring her Bible and praying. She gets alone with God, and the two of them have wonderful fellowship, even if what has driven her there is not wonderful.
And she prays constantly in private and in corporate prayer. It is tempting when we are mistreated or disappointed to talk and talk about our problems, but the bulk of Frances’ talk is just to the Lord. I am still learning from her.
What does this mean to you, to “arm yourself with the same way of thinking” as I Peter 4:1 says? Do you have your own go-to verses or approach? Would experimenting with one of the above strengthen you? To help you answer these questions, below are other Scriptures about ceasing from sin:
Romans 6:14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.