Bracing Integrity

Learning to Stand, part 1 (Eph 6:14)

First some background:

We met together before prayer-walking around the area, and were exhorted to view what we were doing as spiritual warfare. Which it often is. But I struggled a little when a friend – predictably using language from Eph 6 – then encouraged us all to pause to ‘put on our armour’. Err… What was I actually supposed to do at this moment? What exactly was I meant to be praying for, or claiming, in that instant when I tried to ‘put on the belt of truth’?

I have no doubt whatsoever that the Spirit was at work during those times, though I now question whether we really understood what Paul was intending by his extended metaphor concerning a soldier’s equipment.

I’ve come to believe that Paul is principally encouraging followers of Jesus to work at developing:

Disciplines of Thinking,

Habits of the Heart,

and Patterns of Behaviour

that will enable us to withstand the assaults of the evil one and his minions. Certainly, these things will also make us potent to ‘tear down strongholds’, but the primary purpose is to enable us to stand. And such character formation is unlikely to emerge out-of-the-blue in response to a brief prayer.

So…

“Stand firm therefore, girding your waist with truth.” (‘Girding’ is SUCH an under-used word!) What is this ‘truth’ that will help ‘brace’ us; that will enable us to ‘hold together’ when under pressure? The main idea seems to be our own truthfulness & integrity; an authenticity, honesty and consistency in our relationship with God and with others. God “desires integrity in the inner man” (Ps 51:6). Jesus was scathing about those who cultivated an image of spirituality that was not matched by the reality. And personal integrity mattered enormously to Paul (eg: 1 Cor 4 & 2 Cor 6).

But why is this relevant to spiritual warfare?

Because our enemy is above all ‘the accuser’, perpetually trying to undermine us by levelling charges of inconsistency and hypocrisy. And we provide him with ample ammunition if there is a lack of integrity in our lives.

If we are unsure of how we stand with God, then we will struggle to stand against our enemy.

Hence the Spirit works to shape us into people of genuine authenticity, and thereby give less ground for the enemy’s accusations. As our lives become increasingly braced with integrity, so we become less vulnerable; more able to stand.

Guard me, Helper of my Heart, against the little deceits and the overlooked inconsistencies in my life; my tendency to allow others to see me selectively, and hence assume that I am more ‘spiritual’ than I am.

But (my own heart quickly objects) I still persistently fall short. Surely my life can never align perfectly with my declared commitment to Jesus.

But then I hear these words: “This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: if our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.  Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask…” (1 Jn 3:19-21).

Whatever accusations and insinuations are hurled at us, the unshakeable truth remains that – even while integrity is still being formed in our lives – we stand on forgiven ground. And we need to hold this ground.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you.

(1 Cor 15:58)

Standing

“…that you may be able to stand…to stand your ground…and having done everything, to stand. Stand firm therefore…” (Eph 6:10ff)

The New Testament is full of references to our ‘posture’ as disciples; sitting, walking, resting, straining, kneeling, striving, running; even falling. But perhaps more than anything else, at least for now, I sense that the primary encouragement from the Spirit is to stand.

Stuff happens, and we get battered. Some may be the result of our own weaknesses and some from the weaknesses of those around us, for we can never love without being vulnerable. Some stuff assaults our minds and emotions, and some attacks our bodies. Some is just the fallout of living as not-yet-resurrected people in a still-deeply-broken world, and some is actively provoked by the powers that still seek to dominate. Whatever the immediate source, such powers will always and without fail try to exploit the stresses that assail us. “For our struggle is not against flesh & blood…”, and we are not unaware of the schemes of our enemy.

Whatever the contested space that we occupy at this moment, individually or together, the Spirit persistently whispers, (and sometimes shouts): “stand”.

And he offers us guidelines and instructions on how we can stand; the attitudes and actions, the habits and behaviours, that will enable us both to stand, and to withstand when days are difficult.

Helper of my heart – of our hearts – give us understanding of those things that will strengthen us, reinforce us, sustain us so that “having done everything” (and despite everything done to us) we remain standing for the king.

[With this in mind I’d like to try to unpack aspects of Eph 6:10-20 in a few blogs over the coming weeks.]