"And for a helmet,the hope of salvation." l Thessalonians5:8
TWICE Paul writes about the armour of the Christian. In his letter to the Ephesians the Christian is fully armed except that he has no defence on the back, but here the armour is all-defensive. This epistle as a whole is absorbed with the truth of the coming of the Lord. Each chapter makes reference to it. Paul knew what a wonderful truth it was and how stimulating it was to Christian living, and throughout his apostolic ministry he never failed to keep the Coming of the Lord as a shining, confident hope before his converts in every part of the Empire.
It is more than significant, however, that while the armorial symbols here and in the letter to the Ephesians are not always identical, yet in the case of the helmet it is in both the hope of salvation. Paul's thought cannot be mistaken. He is not thinking of the helmet as a defence of the skull but of the mind; for the mind of the believer needs most careful protection. So much depends on our thinking! In some respects we may say that the activities of the thought life determine everything in life. How we think, what we think has a far greater influence upon us and others than we might care to know. If we think wrongly we cannot live rightly. If we think narrowly we cannot accurately see the truth. If our thinking is bounded by time it is to that extent limited, for to be governed in our thinking by what we can see and touch as if the world of reality were simply what was to be apprehended by our senses is obvious folly.
If to that one adds a truth very real to Paul, of the existence of deceiving spirits seeking to influence our thinking, then it will be apparent how much we need the helmet. Let any one here this evening realise this simple truth that when the preacher attempts to set forth the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in a congregation such as this, evil spirits at once take possession of the mind of every unbeliever present to create prejudiced thinking. The god of this world blinds the minds of the unbelieving! It is a startling fact and must be taken into account in the thinking of every Christian worker. There is no human argument, human oratory, human persuasiveness, human truth that can of itself open the mind of a man to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The truth of the Lord does not enter even into the mind of a child without every effort is first made by evil powers to confuse and confound the thinking of that child. 11 Corinthians, chapter 4 can never be overlooked by the preacher. Paul, therefore, wants us to understand that the believer, once the mind has been opened to the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ, must be careful to see that it is guarded with exceptional care. It is possible to have the mind opened to Christ and to enter into blessing, and then for the mind to go back to thinking along a carnal and material plane that will be devastating in its effect. It may be that for want of knowing this Christians are sometimes bewildered and self contradictory.
This may explain why Christians vary so much in judgment on things right and wrong. How then shall the mind be adequately protected? Paul's answer is clear. The only protection is the engaging of the mind in the hope of salvation. If the mind is rightly directed and controlled concerning salvation's hope then it will act correctly in all issues, personal, domestic, social, religious, marital, political and international. The mind is an entity. If it is not rightly conditioned about God and His Salvation it will err in some degree in all the other issues of life. Everybody knows that an obsession in one direction disturbs the balance of thinking on all and every other matter. What, then, is salvation's hope ? It is true, of course, that salvation is a present experience. if we are not saved before we die there is no evidence that we shall be saved afterwards. There is, indeed. much to declare dramatically that we shall not.
The Christian hope, however, is a present experience with an inward and unmistakable assurance of much more to follow. If a Christian is rejoicing in the hope, if he thinks much upon it, if his decisions in all matters are determined by his conclusions on the hope of salvation then his mind will be adequately defended against all and every form of deception to which it may be exposed. In the Christian Hope, therefore, we see
(1) THE PROMISE OF ETERNAL LIFE
Now the believer receives eternal life on the occasion of receiving the Lord Jesus Christ. If he does not recognise that fact it will mean nothing to him, but if he does he will soon be conscious that that life within him of God has its appetites and longings which will demand satisfaction. He knows that that life is communicated to him by the Lord Jesus and it is in that life only that he can have fellowship with God, for mortal man cannot have fellowship with God except on the plane of eternal life.
There is a point of contact between a cat and a canary but they are not on the same plane of life. There is contact between the human and the Divine but not a fellowship until the human individual receives by grace the life eternal which is Divine. Hence the Christian realises the supreme importance of life eternal. Nothing in human life can compare with it. To gain the whole world and to lose this life eternal, this gift of God, would be tragedy. Hence while the man of the world determines so much by the importance of his human life which is ready to die, the Christian determines everything by the importance of that eternal life which is the nexus of fellowship with God both now and through all eternity. Salvation's hope, in this respect, revolutionises his thinking. God's thoughts are always above ours but the child of God rejoicing in life eternal is thinking more nearly in line with the mind of God than the man whose only knowledge of life is human.
(2) THE ASSURANCE OF IMMORTALITY
This is a matter about which the man of the world thinks little, but his thinking will be altered when his mind is educated by the Spirit. The Scriptures declare plainly that when the believer fully trusts the Lord as Saviour, the Lord Himself confers on that believer the supreme gift of the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus when He reached heaven as a man was anointed with all capacity and power by God by the anointing of the Spirit so the believer is sealed with the Spirit. It is the Divine seal from heaven dwelling within the believer assuring him that when he loses this body of corruption he shall receive the body of incorruption.
This body has a life of perhaps 80 years and the unbeliever does not appear to think at all of what will be his condition in the ages of eternity to follow. The believer, however, is not in that position. Well aware by many increasing intimations of the limitations of his mortality he knows that God has sealed to him the gift of an immortal body in the world to come. As surely as the Holy Spirit dwells in his mortal body so surely is he bound to have a body of immortality in the life hereafter. It will be a body of incorruption suited to the life eternal he has received from Jesus.
He knows, too, that the greater the power of the Holy Spirit in his present body the greater will be the capacity of the body of immortality in the life to come. Hence his mind is again protected from the seductions of the mortal. He sees so clearly the awful horrors of sins of the body, of impurity, adultery, licence and lust. The sins that seduce the worldling and debase and injure the present body are seen to be inimical to every prospect of immortality. With what care then does he discipline himself in the body in order that the Holy Spirit may live through him the glorious life that is at once eternal and immortal.
(3) THE CONFIDENCE IN THE COMING OF THE LORD
Salvation's hope in this respect is a wonderful protection and indeed inspiration. It is difficult for anybody in these days to be altogether cheerful. Unwelcome facts are pressing in upon us. The fear of man today can be simply stated. We may prepare for war and in doing so find ourselves crushed economically. Millions of pounds will be spent this year by Britain on military, naval and airforce demands. Having spent money in the Middle East, we now have to beg America to let us off paying our debts. We cannot afford to make war of any kind. We are endeavouring to carry an obligation beyond our strength. On the other hand if we disarm we may suddenly find ourselves utterly ravished by some country that has been secretly preparing against us. What a future it is for the young people of Britain. But that is a minor problem in world affairs.
We are facing the uprising to some consciousness of their powers on the part of the coloured populations of the world and nobody can tell what the future holds or what we ought to do today to be ready against the challenge of to morrow. Nobody can tell? That is not quite correct, for the child of God can see something. Sorrow and trial and bloodshed are undoubtedly facing the world, in such a form and to such a degree as has no parallel in human history, but that is not the only fact of the future. On the great horizon of human possibility there is the unbreakable and unshakeable assurance that Jesus Christ is coming again.
We believe He is coming to put an end to war amongst the nations. We do not believe there is any human power that can do it, but we are equally sure that He can and He will. We believe we face a glorious moment when the heavens shall be rent, when the lightning shall flash, the trumpet sound and the world will be astonished and amazed at the presence of that Jesus Who for two millenniums it has utterly despised. Put not your trust in princes, or politicians but put your trust in God! He has pledged the return of His Son. Whatever Government you have in power will always fail before the intricate problems and perils of the modern world. Whatever organisation you have for peace will always collapse because nations are not concerned with what is right but what serves what they think to be their interests.
But the child of God knows that the Man Who pleased God by His complete obedience to the Father's will, Who died for our sins according to the Scriptures, is coming again. His feet shall stand on Mount Olivet. His glory shall be manifested, His sceptre stretched out to be obeyed and all kings, princes and politicians will be at His command. What an outlook that gives ! With the mind so protected there is no need for despondency but rather for hope. The darker the day the brighter the possibility, the greater the confusion the clearer the hope. With the mind thinking these thoughts and controlling our actions and attitudes we shall live as those who watch for the morning and who see in the darkness of tomorrow the entrancing possibility of a Divine intervention that will bring triumphant joy to the child of God.
Now it is for every one of us to obey the apostle's injunction and to put on the helmet of the hope of salvation. You may be a Christian who has not yet done so. I venture to say that if you have not yet put on this helmet you are in a medley of fear and in the quicksands of uncertainty. But put it on tonight! Tell the Lord this is to be the inspiration of all your thinking from now on. But you cannot have salvation's hope to govern and protect the mind unless you have first received salvation. Let the Lord be your Saviour tonight. The longer you put this matter off, trifling with it, lacking the courage to act, the deeper and more deadly will be your sleep in sin and your helplessness in the darkness. Plead with the Saviour to save you tonight and forthwith let your hope in Him garrison, protect, direct and dominate the mind.
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