Tag archive

drawing near

Trusting God

in Daily Devotions
Trusting God
Trusting God
Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one.

Eph. 6:16
by John MacArthur, Drawing Near: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith

Key Principle: Intense spiritual warfare calls for intense trust in God.

An on-duty Roman soldier was always dressed for battle, but he didn’t employ his shield, helmet, and sword until the fighting started. But we as Christians must be ready for battle at all times because our enemy is relentless. We can’t afford to overlook a single piece of armor or to slip into complacency or neglect.

In that regard, Ephesians 6:16 says in effect, “Now that you’ve prepared for battle by girding your loins with truth, protecting your vital organs with the breastplate of righteousness, and securing your feet with the gospel of peace, don’t forget to take up your shield.”

Two types of shields were commonly used by Roman soldiers. One was a small, lightweight, round shield that was strapped to the soldier’s left forearm and was used to parry blows during hand-to-hand combat. The other, which Paul refers to here, was a large shield measuring about four and a half feet high and two and a half feet wide. It was made of sturdy wood covered with metal and a thick layer of oil-treated leather. The metal deflected arrows, while the oily leather extinguished the fiery pitch with which arrows were commonly swabbed. That type of shield was ideal for full-body protection.

In the initial stages of a battle, the front-line soldiers knelt behind their large shields to protect themselves and to provide a defense barrier for the troops behind them who were firing offensive weapons. The goal was to inch their way forward as a human wall until they could engage the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.

As a believer, the shield that protects you is your faith in God. If you never question His character, power, or Word, you’ll never fall victim to Satan’s attacks. That doesn’t mean he won’t besiege you; but when he does, his assaults will be ineffective.

Suggestions for Prayer: Faith is a precious gift from God (Phil. 1:29). Thank Him for it, and ask for wisdom to apply it properly when spiritual struggles come (James 1:5).

For Further Study: Read Romans 8:31-39. Meditate on the victory you have in Christ. What effect should that have on your daily living?

Selecting the Proper Shoes

in Daily Devotions
Selecting the Proper Shoes
Selecting the Proper Shoes
Photo by Oziel Gómez on Unsplash

Stand firm . . . having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.

Eph. 6:14-15
by John MacArthur, Drawing Near: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith

Key Principle: Standing firm while in the conflict requires the right kind of spiritual footwear.

I’ll never forget a game that took place at the Rose Bowl during my college football days. Being wintertime and late in the football season, the field was in bad shape from several days of rain and an entire season of wear and tear. However, the grounds crew painted the field green; so it looked much better than it actually was. I had two pairs of football shoes—one with long spikes for bad turf and one with short spikes for good turf. Thinking the field looked pretty good, I opted to wear the short spikes.

On the opening kickoff I caught the ball on the 4 yard line, took two steps, and immediately landed on my backside. That’s not unusual after a tackle, but in this case there wasn’t an opponent in sight! I had slipped in the mud; my shoes had betrayed me.

Proper shoes are important in athletics and are even more important when you’re fighting for your life. Roman soldiers took great care in selecting just the right shoe. Typically they wore a thick-soled semi-boot with straps securing it to the leg. On the bottom of the soles were hobnails that protruded like the cleats of a track or baseball shoe. The thick soles protected the feet from injury; the hobnails provided traction when maneuvering on the soil.

The Christian’s spiritual footwear is the “gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15). Romans 5:1 says, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” God has reconciled you to Himself through the death of His Son (v. 10). Once you were His enemy; now you are His child. Once He opposed you; now He is on your side.

No matter how difficult your circumstances may be or how many opponents come against you, realize that the invincible God of the universe is on your side. He makes war against His enemies (Rev. 2:16), and against Him no one can stand. So stand firm in that confidence. Focus on your Great Ally rather than on your feeble enemies.

Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for His peace, presence, and protection in your life.

For Further Study: Read Judges 7. How did Gideon demonstrate his confidence that God was on his side?

A Righteousness That Glorifies God

in Daily Devotions
A Righteousness That Glorifies God
A Righteousness That Glorifies God
Photo by James L.W on Unsplash

Stand firm therefore . . . having put on the breastplate of righteousness.

Eph. 6:14
by John MacArthur, Drawing Near: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith

Key Principle: A righteous life testifies to God’s transforming power and brings Him glory.

We’ve seen the importance of donning the breastplate of righteousness, but Scripture also discusses the consequences of failing to do so. These consequences serve as warnings to anyone who is prone to neglect righteousness.

If you’re not committed to righteousness, you not only make yourself spiritually vulnerable, but you also forfeit some of God’s wonderful blessings. David prayed, “Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation” (Ps. 51:12). His sin had robbed him of his joy and assurance. That’s true of us as well, because joy is directly proportional to obedience. If you’re pursuing greater righteousness, you’ll know greater joy.

You might also forfeit some of your heavenly reward. John said, “Watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward” (2 John 8). I believe that New Testament rewards are various capacities for service in Heaven. The greater your reward, the greater your capacity to serve God. Somehow your current righteousness and faithfulness to God affect what you will do for all eternity. Don’t allow sin and negligence to diminish your reward!

Without righteousness you will also suffer loss of opportunity to glorify God. When thinking or behaving unrighteously, you violate your reason for existence, which is to glorify God in everything (1 Cor. 10:31). Instead of exalting Him, you bring reproach on His name. Instead of causing others to see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven (Matt. 5:16), you breed confusion and mockery.

Peter says to us, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that . . . they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11). When unbelievers scrutinize your life, what do they see? Does your righteousness testify to God’s saving and sanctifying grace?

Suggestions for Prayer: Ask God to give you an increased hunger and thirst for righteousness as you seek to live to His glory today.

For Further Study: Memorize 2 Corinthians 5:21 as a reminder of God’s marvelous grace to you.

Developing Practical Righteousness

in Daily Devotions
Developing Practical Righteousness
Developing Practical Righteousness
Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

Stand firm therefore . . . having put on the breastplate of righteousness.

Eph. 6:14
by John MacArthur, Drawing Near: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith

Key Principle: Practical righteousness is moment-by-moment obedience to God.

We’ve seen the importance of putting on the breastplate of righteousness as protection against Satan’s attempts to pervert your thinking and emotions. But Scripture speaks of three kinds of righteousness: self-righteousness, imputed righteousness, and practical righteousness. Which did Paul have in mind in Ephesians 6:14?

Paul wasn’t speaking of self-righteousness because that is what the breastplate of righteousness is designed to protect you from. Self-righteousness deceives a person into thinking, “I can please God and reach Heaven on my own merit.” But Isaiah said, “All our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Isa. 64:6). Far from getting you to Heaven, self-righteousness will condemn you to eternal Hell because it rejects the merits of Christ’s atonement.

Similarly, Paul wasn’t speaking of imputed righteousness—the righteousness of Christ granted to every believer at the moment of salvation. This is also called “positional righteousness” because it results from your position or standing in Christ. Second Corinthians 5:21 says that God made Christ, “who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Every believer is clothed in the garment of Christ’s righteousness. You don’t put that on. It’s already yours in Christ.

Only practical righteousness remains—that which flows from obedience to God’s Word. Although in God’s eyes you are righteous in Christ, you must also pursue righteous behavior. In other words, your practice should match your position. That’s what Paul meant when he said, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). John added that “the one who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6).

As you learn to live in obedience to God’s Word, you’ll be protected by the breastplate of righteousness.

Suggestions for Prayer: Ask the Spirit to help you search your heart and to reveal any self-righteous attitudes that might be making you vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. Confess them, and then praise Christ for the true righteousness that is yours in Him.

For Further Study: Read Romans 3:10-23. What kind of righteousness did Paul describe here?

Guarding Your Mind and Emotions

in Daily Devotions
Guarding Your Mind and Emotions
Guarding Your Mind and Emotions
Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

Stand firm therefore . . . having put on the breastplate of righteousness.

Eph. 6:14
by John MacArthur, Drawing Near: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith

Key Principle: True righteousness begins with a right relationship with God.

A Roman soldier would often engage his enemy in hand-to-hand combat. At such times, the weapon of choice was the short sword, with which he sought to penetrate his opponent’s vital organs. For his own protection he wore a molded metal breastplate that extended from the base of his neck to the top of his thighs. It helped deflect any attacks aimed at his heart and abdomen.

The Roman breastplate has great symbolism in Paul’s analogy because to the Jewish people the heart represented man’s mind and thinking processes; the intestinal area or bowels represented the seat of feelings and emotions. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he” (kjv). Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jesus added, “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts” (Mark 7:21).

During spiritual warfare, Satan’s primary attacks target your thinking and emotions. If he can condition you to think and feel contrary to God’s Word, he has won a significant victory. That’s why he attempts to fill your mind with lies, immorality, false doctrine, and half-truths. He tries to blur the line between righteousness and sin by surrounding you with evil influences that increase your tolerance for sin. He clothes offensive sin in the blinding garment of entertainment. He puts it to music and masks it in humor to confuse you and deaden your spiritual senses. Satan wants to corrupt your emotions and draw you into sinful desires.

Putting on the breastplate of righteousness begins with a right relationship with God, who is the source of true righteousness. From that relationship flows the commitment to cultivate righteousness in your own life by learning and applying His Word. Therein lies the protection you need to safeguard your mind and emotions from Satanic deceptions.

Suggestions for Prayer: Focus on strengthening your relationship with God today. Commune with Him in prayer. Meditate on His Word. Seek His grace in responding thoughtfully and righteously to the temptations you face.

For Further Study: Read Proverbs 10, noting Solomon’s description of righteous people.

Pursuing Truthfulness

in Daily Devotions
Pursuing Truthfulness
Photo by Jonny Swales on Unsplash

Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth.

Eph. 6:14
by John MacArthur, Drawing Near: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith

Key Principle: Truthfulness is the best defense against Satan’s lies.

The first piece of armor Paul mentions in Ephesians 6:14 is the belt of truth. Roman soldiers of his day wore a tunic, which was a large square piece of material with holes for the head and arms. A belt kept the tunic from flying loosely and getting in the way in the midst of battle.

The phrase “having girded your loins” was commonly used for gathering up the loose material of one’s tunic or robe when preparing for battle or travel. It speaks of preparedness, as in Exodus 12:11, where God tells the children of Israel to gird their loins for their exodus from Egypt. Jesus used it in a figurative sense in Luke 12:35, where He warns us to gird our loins or “be dressed in readiness” for His second coming. Peter said we’re to gird our minds for action (1 Peter 1:13).

The Greek word translated “truth” in Ephesians 6:14 can refer either to the content of that which is true or to an attitude of truthfulness. Both are implied in the verse. In Ephesians 4 Paul combines both aspects in warning us not to be “tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (vv. 14-15). Instead, we are to embrace sound doctrine and always speak the truth in love.

The way to defend yourself against the cunning deceptions of Satan is to gird yourself with a thorough knowledge of God’s Word and a firm commitment to obedience. Yet many Christians remain vulnerable because they’re unwilling to do that.

Paul exhorted the Philippians to excel in “knowledge” and “discernment” and to remain “sincere and blameless” until in Christ’s presence (Phil. 1:9-10), and you must do the same. Never be content with your present level of spirituality. Keep learning and growing. Demonstrate an attitude of truthfulness that reveals your commitment to God’s Word and your readiness for battle.

Suggestions for Prayer: Is your life characterized by truthfulness? If not, you’re a ready target for Satan’s schemes. Confess this to the Lord, and ask Him to cleanse your heart and to give you a love for His truth. Begin today to apply His Word to your life.

For Further Study: Read verses 1-4 and 13-15 of 2 Corinthians 11, noting the tactics of Satan and his servants.

Resisting the Devil

in Daily Devotions

Take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

Eph. 6:13
by John MacArthur, Drawing Near: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith

Key Principle: Spiritual warfare isn’t as much a frontal attack onSatan’s domain as it is the ability to resist his advances.

Spiritual warfare has become a popular topic in recent years. Books, tapes, and seminars on the subject abound, but there is still much confusion. Some say we must rebuke and bind Satan in order to thwart his power and influence. Others say we must expel demonic spirits through “deliverance ministries.” Still others encourage us to band together to aggressively assault the strongholds of supposed territorial demons.

But spiritual warfare isn’t an outright frontal attack on the forces of darkness. Scripture says, “Submit . . . to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7); “Be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith” (1 Peter 5:8-9). The idea that Christians have the authority to rebuke or bind Satan is foreign to Scripture. Even Michael the archangel treated him with more respect than that (Jude 9).

Spiritual victory involves submitting to God, pursuing His will, keeping your spiritual armor on, being on the alert for Satan’s attacks, and then standing firm and resisting him “in the evil day” (Eph. 6:13).

“Evil day” is a general reference to the sin that exists in this world. As “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4), Satan will continue to produce evil until he and his forces are cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10-15). Then “the evil day” will give way to an eternal age of righteousness.

Countless people have pastored churches, taught Sunday school classes, led Bible studies, sung in choirs, and been involved in every conceivable area of ministry only to one day abandon their ministries and embrace the world. Somehow they stopped resisting the Devil and lost the courage to stand firm.

How about you? Is your commitment strong? Are you willing to stand firm for the Lord today?

Suggestions for Prayer: Ask God for the grace to boldly resist whatever might challenge your faith today.

For Further Study: Read 1 Corinthians 9:23-27. What was Paul’s great fear? What measures did he take to ensure spiritual victory? Are you taking the same measures?

Identifying the Real Enemy

in Daily Devotions
Identifying the Real Enemy
Identifying the Real Enemy
Photo by Ye Jinghan on Unsplash

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world-forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Eph. 6:12
by John MacArthur, Drawing Near: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith

Key Principle: Don’t confuse prisoners of war with the enemy.

Sometimes in the heat of battle we might lose perspective on who the real enemy is. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that our struggle isn’t against sinful people, but against the evil system and the supernatural forces that influence their attitudes and actions.

In his assault on the Kingdom of God, Satan has assembled a highly organized army of fallen angels. Paul categorized them as “rulers . . . powers . . . world-forces of this darkness . . . spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).

That isn’t a detailed description of Satan’s hierarchy but simply a general indication of its power and sophistication. Apparently “rulers” and “powers” are high-ranking demons. “World forces of this darkness” are possibly demons who infiltrate various political systems of the world, attempting to direct human leaders to oppose God’s plans. An example is a demon called “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” in Daniel 10:13 who withstood God’s angelic messenger to Daniel until Michael the archangel came to the rescue. “Spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” perhaps refers to demons involved in the most vile and perverted kinds of sins—gross immorality, occultic practices, Satan worship, and the like.

Those who reject Christ and God are unwitting prisoners of war—captured and mobilized by the enemy to accomplish his purposes. Tragically, when he’s finished with them he’ll abandon them, and they will go to an eternal Hell.

You probably know unbelievers who enjoy ridiculing your faith and making life difficult for you. Although that is hard to take, be patient, and don’t become embittered toward them. Ask God to make you an instrument of His love as you reach out to them. Also pray that God will remove their spiritual blindness, so they can see beyond Satan’s lies and recognize their need for a Savior.

Suggestions for Prayer: Praise God for delivering you from “the domain of darkness” and transferring you into “the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). Ask Him to use you today to break through Satan’s deception in someone’s life.

For Further Study: Read 2 Corinthians 4:3-7, noting why people reject the gospel.

Maintaining Spiritual Effectiveness

in Daily Devotions
Maintaining Spiritual Effectiveness
Maintaining Spiritual Effectiveness
Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash

Stand firm against the schemes of the devil.

Eph. 6:11
by John MacArthur, Drawing Near: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith

Key Principle: Satan wants to render you ineffective for Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 16:9 Paul says, “A wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” That’s typical of spiritual warfare. The more opportunities you have to serve Christ, the more adversaries you’ll face. That’s because Satan seeks to hinder your spiritual service.

Often seminary students ask me if ministry becomes easier over the years. In one sense it does because you learn better study skills, time management, and the like. But in a greater sense it becomes more difficult because as you labor in the Word, contend for souls, and struggle against your own weaknesses, Satan opposes you at every turn.

You can sense something of the difficulty of ministry in Paul’s words to the Thessalonians: “Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God” (1 Thess. 2:8-9). To the Ephesian elders he said, “Be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears” (Acts 20:31).

Every sphere of ministry is important—whether you’re a pastor, homemaker, factory worker, or student. Consequently, every ministry encounters opposition as Satan attempts to cause friction and discouragement within families, churches, and workplaces. Thus, believers must be humble and gentle toward one another, “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). When we do that, the Body of Christ is strengthened, and Satan can’t gain a foothold.

Ministry is hard work, and the obstacles are great, but the victories are even greater. So be faithful, knowing that God will reward you richly.

Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for the privilege of serving Him, even during the hard times. Thank Him for the encouragement you receive from His Spirit, His Word, and your fellow-believers.

For Further Study: According to Romans 8:18, what was Paul’s perspective on difficulties?

Attacks on God’s People

in Daily Devotions
Attacks on God’s People
Attacks on God’s People
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Stand firm against the schemes of the devil.

Eph. 6:11
by John MacArthur, Drawing Near: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith

Key Principle: Satan wants to catch you off-guard.

Yesterday we saw how Satan attacks God’s Word. Today we will see how he attacks God’s people. Persecution, peer pressure, and preoccupation are three weapons he employs with great effectiveness.

Persecution should never take Christians by surprise, because Scripture repeatedly warns us that it will come. For example, 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Yet, such warnings are often overlooked in the health, wealth, and prosperity climate of contemporary Christianity.

As the greed perpetuated by such a movement continues its assault on Christian virtue, many professing believers have come to expect a pain-free, trouble-free life. When trials come, they’re caught off-guard and are often disillusioned with the church or with God Himself. Some prove to be phony believers, whom Jesus described in His parable of the four soils—people who initially respond to the gospel with joy, yet fall away when affliction or persecution arises because of the Word (Matt. 13:21).

Satan also uses peer pressure as an effective weapon. Many people never come to Christ for fear of losing their friends or being thought of as different. Even Christians sometimes struggle with peer pressure, compromising God’s standards to avoid offending others.

Another weapon is preoccupation with the world. Often the hardest place to live the Christian life is in the easiest place. For example, becoming a Christian in America isn’t the life-threatening choice it is in some parts of the world. Some who stand boldly against persecution or peer pressure might falter in a climate of acceptance. Often that’s when the danger of spiritual complacency and preoccupation with the world is greatest.

To guard against those attacks, remember that God uses persecution to mature you and bring glory to Himself. Also, make a conscious choice each day to please God rather than people. Finally, evaluate your priorities and activities carefully. Fight the tendency to become preoccupied with things unrelated to God’s Kingdom.

Suggestions for Prayer: Ask God to keep you spiritually alert throughout this day, so the enemy doesn’t catch you off-guard.

For Further Study: Read Matthew 26:31-56. What might the disciples have done to avoid being caught off-guard?

Go to Top