If you’ve played DOOM in the 90s on the PC, then you’re all too familiar with this game’s constant gore and fighting off demons. id Software released DOOM recently for the XBox One and PS4, and for past lovers of DOOM, the gamer is not left disappointed. The graphics are filled with beautiful gore (never thought I’d put those two words together), and as soon as the game starts, you find yourself strapped to a table, breaking yourself free, and grabbing a demon’s face as you smash it to bloody pieces on the table. So far, we’re off to a great start in this legendary game.
You spend the rest of the game fighting through hundreds of hordes of demons. Carrying multiple weapons, you’re practically unstoppable. DOOM, I believe, is indicative of the human condition in which we are constantly at war with demons. However, unlike the space Marine in this game, we don’t use human devised weapons to fight demons. “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). Notice that when Jesus fought the temptation of the Devil, He didn’t use His own opinions or fists as a defense. Rather, He used the Word of God. Even when Satan twisted Scripture to suit his purposes, Jesus was still able to use God’s Word to fight against him. As a U.S. Army veteran, I pay special attention to Paul’s words about this spiritual warfare he talks about. We’re at war, folks. Not with other people, but with demons.
Don’t let this scare you. It might seem scary that we’re fighting demons, especially if you picture them like the Baron of Hell from DOOM above or whatever other image you think of from Hollywood films and TV series. Some of us may have experienced demonic attacks ourselves. I’ve experienced demonic attacks on several occasions, and I’ll admit that during the experience, I’m afraid. However, it never lasts, because I invoke the name of Jesus Christ and command the demon to depart from me, for I am a child of God and there is nothing it or the Devil can do to harm me. Every single time, it leaves. Or, I’ll use the last petition of the Lord’s Prayer (“but deliver us from evil”) as a guide to pray for protection against the Devil and his demons. As believers, we have nothing to fear from demons. They may oppress us and demonize us in our dreams and temptations, but they can never physically harm us as children of God. I won’t be talking as much about the game DOOM, since this is not a review, but more so about the human condition it shows us: constantly fighting demons.
The soldier’s armor in DOOM is probably incredible technology, considering it never breaks through the entire game, even though you constantly have to pick up armor shards so you won’t lose any health. Likewise, God gives us armor that never breaks. We have God’s protection because He clothes us in His armor. As He clothed Adam and Eve with garments of skin after their rebellion, so He clothes us in His armor to protect us from dark forces:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the Devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 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. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints… (Ephesians 6:10-18)
The Evil Day
This armor Paul exhorts us to wear represents both a promise of divine protection and an exhortation to battle. Victory is certain because Christ has already won the war, and so He has made us well-prepared for the coming battles. Immediately starting at verse 10, Paul tells us not to rely on our own strength, but to rely on the strength of God, for He alone gives us the strength to withstand these demonic enemies. Outside the Church’s doors lies her opponents: Satan and his army of demons, who wish to destroy us. But they can’t physically harm believers, so what do they do? They fester in our minds and spirit to try and confuse us and turn us away from God. As we wear the armor of God, we stand ready to face the Devil’s wiles. God helps us to remain aware and on our guard because we never know when the Devil will attack us. As we would say in the Army, maintain your situational awareness.
The Belt of Truth
Paul first tells us to fasten the belt of truth. Think of what the purpose of a belt is. A belt is used to support your foundation so you won’t fall. If you keep loosening your belt, your pants will fall down and you’ll just sag around with your pants around your ankles. Likewise, if you keep loosening the Truth in Christ—what God’s Word says about you as a child of God and who Jesus is—it’ll eventually just sag at the bottom of your spirit and you’ll start wondering why you’re sagging around in such misery. It’s not an advantageous position to be in. Instead of walking around in the Truth, you’re walking around in lies. In biblical times, soldiers would wear a tunic (see Exodus 12:11) and since they primarily engaged in hand-to-hand combat, a loose tunic would cause potential for danger. Something as simple as a loose belt could cause them to stumble and lose the advantage. So, a belt was necessary to gird up the loose ends of the tunic. We must, therefore, use the Truth revealed in Christ to gird up our spiritual loose ends to prepare for battle.
How do we do this? First of all, Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life,” and no one can come to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). Jesus Christ is the only way to God because He is the truth of God (John 1:14) and the life of God (John 1:4; 3:15; 11:25). In John 14:6, Jesus is using emphatic language in the original Greek—there is only one way to God, not many ways in which we can choose from, but there is only one way, and that truth is in Jesus Christ. Gird the loins of your spirit with this truth, for it is truth (Jesus) that shall set you free (John 8:32). As a genuinely saved and obedient follower of Christ, gird the loins of your spirit with the divine truth of freedom from sin given through Jesus Christ alone.
The Breastplate of Righteousness
Let me first identify what righteousness is. Righteousness is “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe” (Romans 3:22). Through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s righteousness is imputed to us. In spite of this reality, there is a danger of becoming self-righteous. As righteousness is through faith in Christ and submitting to God’s will rather than your own, self-righteousness is just the antithesis. In describing the Jews, Paul writes, “For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3). Instead of conforming to God’s Law, the Jews demanded their own traditions, hence Jesus’ words in Mark 7:1-13. Here, Jesus says to the Jews, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition” (v. 9). That is self-righteousness—demanding your own ways and traditions over the Word and ways of God. The Medieval Catholic Church also reminds us of this sinful pattern.
In biblical times, the breastplate of armor was an extremely tough, sleeveless piece of leather or other heavy material with an animal horn and hoof pieces sewn on, which would cover the soldier’s entire torso, protecting his heart and other vital organs. Throughout the Old and New Testaments we come across descriptions of God’s righteousness and holiness in numerous ways. God’s righteousness and holiness are one in the same—they’re both revealed in the Law and make us realize we cannot be righteous and holy through our works alone. Because righteousness, or holiness, is such a distinctive characteristic of God Himself, it is no wonder why the Christian’s primary protection from Satan and his schemes is the righteousness we receive from God through Christ. Examine the DOOM soldier’s armor to the right. Look at how battered, scratched up, dull, and dented his armor is, particularly what would be the “breastplate.” He’s been through various ordeals—he’s literally gone through hell, and yet he’s still walking and fighting. When considering romance, women often say they want their knight in shining armor, but I want to challenge this silly cliché. If a knight’s armor is shiny, has he been in any battles? Probably not. Or maybe he’s faced battles, but ran away because he’s a coward. Either way, he doesn’t know how to fight. I always say they should rather desire a man of God whose armor is battered, scratched up, dull, and dented to so many breaking points but still walking in faith because in spite of the tough ordeals he’s been through, this man of God knows how to fight the Devil and his demons and still walks strongly in the Lord. That is the man of God—and woman of God—one should desire to be with; not a glittery, shiny, prissy looking person. That is, someone who knows what it takes to stand with faith in the face of adversarial circumstances, and continues to walk steadfastly in the Lord.
As we walk in the faith, our breastplate of righteousness will take a lot of the blows. The righteousness of Christ is the very thing in which our identity lies, and the Devil wants so badly to crush that identity, so he constantly attacks it. Our armor will not stay shiny as we walk in faith. It will be constantly berated against with the Devil’s attacks. Peter gives us an exhortation: “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy'” (1 Peter 1:13-16). Wearing the breastplate of God’s righteousness received through Christ, and therefore as soldiers of Christ, prepare yourself for action—prepare yourself for battle every day. By being “sober in spirit,” it means you must be steadfast and maintain self-control with a clear mind. For by “preparing your minds for action,” you must be a sober Christian who is in charge of his or her priorities that are in line with God’s Word and His will as opposed to being intoxicated with the myriad allurements of the world. As we faithfully obey Christ while remaining in communion with Him, do not succumb to the former lusts that once enslaved you, “which were yours in your ignorance” before you received faith in Christ, nor conform to new lusts that come after you. God demands we be holy, and this holiness works in us through our Baptism as the Holy Spirit works His sanctification in us (see 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). Not wearing the breastplate of righteousness that comes by faith through Christ leaves us susceptible to our greatest enemy and his dark forces (see 2 Corinthians 7:1).
Feet Prepared with the Gospel of Peace
Roman soldiers wore boots that had nails in them, which would grip them to the ground during combat so they wouldn’t lose their footing. The Gospel of peace is the Good News of Jesus Christ—He is the only way to salvation and we are dead to sin and alive to Christ (Romans 6:11). The Gospel of peace reminds us of the confidence we have in Christ. Romans 5:5-10:
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly [which was us before faith]. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
This confidence allows us to stand firm, remembering the amazing will of God that Christ died for us while we were enemies of God, reconciling us to Him. And now that we are reconciled, we hold fast to the promise accomplished in Christ and the remembrance of that promise keeps us confident. Also, as we remain gripped to the faith in this confidence, we remain ready to proclaim the Gospel of peace to others so they may hold fast to this confidence just as we do, working against Satan’s agenda.
The Shield of Faith
I find it interesting that the one thing Satan desires to cripple and destroy (our faith) is the same thing that can take out his fiery attacks. This makes sense since it is God who gives us faith to begin with, so of course He can use the one thing Satan wishes to destroy as our greatest defense against the Devil. All defenses can be crippled, unless the one who fortified it remains within it. After all, faith as small as a mustard seed has the power to move mountains (Matthew 17:20).
Before the breastplate takes any damage, we have this huge shield that covers the majority of our body to ward off attacks. The faith Paul is talking about here is not the doctrinal faith by which we believe in Christ. The type of faith he’s talking about is continual trust in God’s Word and promise. After all, is that not what faith is? When we give in to Satan’s lies and thereby sin, it is because we fail to trust in God. Instead of trusting God, we trust whatever thing that does not come from Him. Here, we grasp on to God’s wisdom: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). That’s what faithful trust looks like—trusting God’s Word over our own, trusting His promises over Satan’s lies, and trusting God will lead us down the path of salvation.
The Helmet of Salvation
In the field of battle, the helmet is probably one of the most important pieces of armor you can wear, for it protects your skull and brain. If your head is severely damaged, it risks brain injury or brain bleeding that could lead to any number of unpredictable problems. The head is always the major target in battle. As soldiers in the Army, we were trained to fire our weapons center mass, which is at or around the chest area. But if you’re close enough, the temptation is to shoot the head. In ancient battles, I imagine soldiers tried arduously to cut off the heads of their enemies. After all, it’s a one-hit kill. That’s really hard to do if you’re wearing a helmet. It’s still hard to damage somebody’s head in modern combat with an M-16 rifle when you’re 100 meters away. The bullet doesn’t always fully puncture the armor.
Satan seeks to destroy the assurance of salvation we have. The weapons he uses are doubt and discouragement. In 1 Thessalonians 5:8, Paul says, “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” That hope—that assurance—is exactly what Satan seeks to destroy. Let’s discuss this word, “hope.” The Christian hope is not equivalent to the world’s view of hope. The world’s view of hope is one based on wishful thinking. When the world says they hope for something to happen, it is equivalent to saying they wish something would happen. Scripture, however, speaks of Christian hope a lot differently. Christian hope is an assurance based on facts. This is why Hebrews says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen… By faith we understand that the universe was created by the Word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (11:1, 3). Christian hope, then, is knowing. As Christians, we know our salvation is sealed in Christ’s hands, and none can snatch us away from Him (John 10:28). But Satan is a sneaky little bugger. He is our most subtle and insidious foe. He sneaks around, whispering just the right things in your ear to cause you to doubt and be discouraged of your salvation in Christ. If Satan causes you to doubt or worry about your salvation, do not fret; doubt does not mean your salvation is uncertain. Read Jesus’ words in John 10:28 over and over if you must. Satan cannot take you out of Christ’s hands! Here are some more of Jesus’ words to encourage you:
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).
The context of John 10:28-30, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”