Our emotions, self-worth, and trust come from the heart, an easy target for the devil. Since this is a spiritual battle, we must guard it with the weapons and armor God provides. The breastplate of righteousness is a source of protection. But we cannot stop there. The devil is cunning in his tactics. He also attacks the mind. That is why we need the helmet of salvation, to ward off the lies of the enemy, who wants us to doubt God and His saving work through Christ. For this, we are called to “stand firm” and put on the belt of truth; for shoes, we strap on the peace of the gospel; hold fast to the shield of faith and the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God, the only offensive weapon, but is needed when the devil is tempting us (Eph. 6:11-17, NLT). Speaking the name of Jesus will make the enemy flee every time. We have power accessible to us through the Holy Spirit.
Over the last few years, I have been in battles for myself and others, but I did not know how to access the armor before becoming a Christ-follower. Another step must occur before we can adequately arm ourselves against the devil’s attacks.
In Colossians 3:12, Paul gives us a comprehensive list of qualities we are to “put on” as Christ-followers. Among them are compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, and more than anything else, love. He adds the peace of Christ and thanksgiving in our hearts while singing praises and Spiritual songs. A thankful attitude promotes inward peace.
But this laundry list of attributes isn’t possible until we have cleaned ourselves up. We cannot do that on our own, but only with the help of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in the hearts of believers. Before we can “put on” these Christ-like characteristics, we must first “put off” the old filthy rags we’ve been wearing for years, our old self, which no longer fits. “Put to death therefore what is earthy in you; sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5, ESV). Paul adds we must put them all away, including “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth” (Col. 3:8-9, ESV).
“What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, which defiles a person” (Matt. 15:18, ESV). Those are words out of Jesus’ mouth. One of the things believers often have trouble with is the mouth. Foul language is not becoming of someone professing to be a Christ-follower. We must strive to become more like Jesus every day. It is a process, but the Holy Spirit helps us. We must work at it and ask Him for help.
We will never be perfect while we are on this Earth, but since God made us in His image, we are to reflect that to others through our actions and words. Every time we spew something out without pausing to think about what we are saying and how we are saying it and not taking time to ask the Holy Spirit to guide our talk, we are prone to making the enemy laugh. I would much rather aim to make God smile as often as possible. We all make mistakes from time to time, but God knows our hearts more than anyone, even us. Eliminating these things from our hearts will make more room for Him.
Paul’s message to the Colossians encourages them to make a decisive break from the old sinful ways they carried into their new lives as Christ-followers. It is a timeless message to all believers of all cultures. It is a process in which God shapes our new hearts over time. If you will, the change of “clothes” has already taken place, so we must align our behavior with our new identity. In prayerful discernment and humility, we will be more equipped to wear the armor, always staying alert, praying for all believers everywhere (Eph. 3:18, NLT).