Contrasting people of the “day” from people of the “night” out of 1 Thessalonians, I was encouraged in this quote from MacArthur by email and the hope it gives in fighting temptation. It’s a bit lengthy, but if you work through it, I think you’ll find it encouraging too:
“Now, it isn’t important to go in to all kinds of detail about the physical analogy, the breastplate and the helmet. What is important is you note what they represent. The breastplate represents faith and love, and the helmet represents the hope of salvation. Listen very carefully. You know if you know anything about the New Testament that these three come together quite frequently. Back in chapter 1 of this epistle (1 Thessalonians) and verse 3 you have the mention of faith, hope and love, that very familiar usage in 1 Corinthians 13:13 which says, ‘And now, abides faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love.’ This is the triad of supreme Christian virtues.
But what I want to say to you and what is very, very important for you to understand is that these are the three great defenses against temptation. Okay? If you want to deal with temptation in your life, these are three things you must understand and apply. I’m going to give you what right now is the most practical instruction you can possibly have as a believer with regard to dealing with sin in your life. So, if you’re concerned about dealing with sin in your life and overcoming temptation, you must know these things.
First of all, faith, a defense against temptation. In what sense? Let me say it this way: sin is a result of distrusting God. Sin is a result of distrusting God. That’s as clear as I can say it. God is worthy of your trust. Let me tell you how. You can trust in His person. He will be consistent with His attributes. He will never deviate from His character, never. He will never deviate from His character. He has perfect integrity. You can trust His person. He will do what is consistent with who He is. Secondly, you can trust His power. Nothing is too hard for Him. Nothing is too difficult for Him. Nothing overwhelms Him. No one can defeat Him. And no amassed circumstances cumulatively are more than He can unscramble and handle and overcome. You can trust His person, you can trust His power. Third, you can trust His promise. If He says something, He will do it. If He promises something, He will keep it. Fourth, you can trust His plan. He is unfolding a sovereignly controlled plan that is right on schedule. Nothing exists outside that plan.
If, then, I believe that God is consistent with His person, that God is all powerful, that God always keeps His Word and His promise and that God is unfolding His plan, then no matter what comes into my life if I trust God, I will not fall to temptation that questions God’s credibility.
Now, all temptation questions His credibility. Let me tell you why. For example, you’re tempted to worry. What does that mean? If you worry, what you’re saying is, “Yes, God, I know You said You’re in charge, and I know You said this thing wasn’t too hard for You, and I know You said You could handle it, and I know You’re working out a plan, I just don’t believe You,” right? I’m going to worry, which says, “God, I know You say You can be trusted, I’m just not sure You can.” When I lie, what am I saying? God says, “Obey Me and do what’s right and I’ll bless you.” And I say, “But in order to get what I want, I have to lie because if the truth is known I won’t get what,” So, what you’re really saying is, “God, I know You said You’d bless me if I tell the truth, but You’re wrong, it’s not going to work out the way I want it if I do what’s right, so I’ll do what’s wrong.” You’re denying God His own integrity.
If I commit adultery I’m saying to God, “Look, God, You’ve said that if I have faithfulness to my wife, You’ll bless my marriage, and if I love my partner in life You’ll bless that union, and You’ll fulfill me. But You know something, God? You’re wrong. I don’t believe You. I believe there’s more to be gained in an illicit relationship than in the one You’ve given me.” And that is an act of distrust against God. Faith always puts up the breastplate. It makes you impenetrable if you believe God, because sin is always a temptation not to believe God. God says do what is right and I’ll bless you. Satan says do this and you’ll have fun. Who do you believe? Do this and it will feel good. Who do you believe? It comes down to that.
And so, that’s why I always say, how you live your Christian life is directly related to, first of all, your understanding of God and your confidence that He is who He is. That’s why the most important thing you can ever learn as a Christian is not some kind of a formula to deal with temptation, the most important thing you can ever learn as a Christian is the fullness of the character of God and then grow to believe that. And if you really trust God, then those other things aren’t going to happen. You’re not going to fall prey to those temptations. If I believe that God is sovereign, that God is perfectly righteous, that God is all powerful, that God is faithful to His promise, and that God has a perfect plan for my life and every component in it is under His control, then I don’t question anything. I don’t argue with anything. I don’t violate anything, because I believe God. Faith puts up the shield.
Now, that’s the hard side. Any Roman shield had a soft side. Underneath that hard armor was soft cloth to warm the body. And that, he says, is love. It’s the breastplate of faith and love. Here’s the other side of it. All sin reflects a failure to love God. All sin reflects a failure to love God. What do you mean love? Delight in, listen carefully, delight in and devotion to God as the supreme object of my affection. Delight in and devotion to God as the supreme object of my affection. Now, listen to this very carefully. Whoever is the supreme object of my affection is going to control what I do. If I sin, what I have just said is, “Sorry, God, I am the supreme object of my affection,” right? I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m going to do what feels good to me. You’re not the supreme object of my affection. But if I love God supremely, Paul says in Romans 13, love fulfills the whole what? The whole law. I don’t need a law that says don’t make any graven images, if I love God supremely. I’m not going to make any. I don’t need a law that says don’t take the name of the Lord your God in vain. If I love God supremely I’m not going to take His name in vain. I don’t need laws that say don’t do this and don’t do that because it’s against the will of God, if I love God supremely, I won’t do those things.
So, the hard side of my breastplate, that resilient resistant strength, is that I believe God. And the soft side of it is that I love God. And between my love for Him, which is supreme, and my confidence in Him which is supreme, I become impregnable. You see, whenever you sin you have failed to believe God and you have failed to love God. You failed to believe Him because you believed Satan’s lie, the lie of your sinful impulses. And you failed to love Him because you loved yourself more and you wanted to fulfill yourself. Perfect trust in God and perfect love for God leads you to perfect obedience. So, Paul says, “Look, your behavior, the pattern of your behavior is now light, you’re children of the day, be watchful, get your armor on, trust God with all your heart and don’t lean on your own understanding. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and you will withstand the onslaughts of the temptations of the night.” The outer surface shines with faith, and the inner surface is lined with love.And then, he adds another protection that a soldier had to have: the helmet of the hope of salvation. You say, “Why does a Christian need to put on the helmet of salvation? Keep putting it on? Don’t we already have salvation?” Yes, but he’s talking about the hope of the future aspect of our salvation. It comes in three dimensions. We were saved in the past, the day we believed. We’re saved in the present, as we are kept saved by the continuing grace and forgiveness of God. And some day, there is yet a future element of salvation in which we are released from these bodies, these bodies are redeemed and become new, glorified bodies, and we enter in to the perfection of being like Jesus Christ. That’s the final dimension of our salvation; that’s what he has in mind here. This is a very simple point. He says you will protect yourself against temptation if your heart is filled with the realization of what you’re going to become.
You understand that? Of what you’re going to become. If you have the hope of eternal glory, if you know you’re the child of the day that will dawn into the greater and brighter day of eternal glory, you’re going to behave consistently with your identity. The hope of eternal glory, the hope of the coming of Jesus Christ, seeing Him face to face, hearing ‘Well done, good and faithful servant,’ receiving His reward, that hope preserves the Christian against the luring of the darkness. And it’s not an uncertain hope, it’s a certain hope.
So, as I really know my future destiny and know that I’m going to be with the Lord forever and I’m going to serve Him and honor Him forever and I’m going to someday be rewarded for my life, that purifies me. Remember 1 John 3:3, “He that hath this hope in him purifies himself, even as He is pure.” So, what is it that preserves and protects the believer? Faith, that is trust in God’s perfection. Love, complete devotion to Him as your supreme delight. And hope, the anticipation that someday you’re going to see Him face to face and receive the reward for what you have rendered. Faith, hope, and love are the defenses against the onslaught of the night.
When faith is weak, love is cold. When love is cold, hope is lost and sin results. When faith is strong, love is zealous. When love is zealous, hope is firm. And when hope is firm, righteousness results. Our defense against the debilitating deeds of the night is a strong trust in God in all things, a fiery love for Him, and a purifying hope in His glorious return and the day we see Him face to face.