March 30, 2020

Put On Your Thinking Cap - The Helmet of Salvation (The Armor, part 13)

Thus far in our study of the Whole Armor of God, we have established that the Belt of Truth represents salvation by acceptance of Christ as Lord and Savior, the Breastplate of Righteousness protects us from the consequences of sin by engaging in good behavior, the “boots” of preparation get us ready to spread the gospel of peace, and the Shield of Faith adds a layer of protection which keeps us spiritually safe, even when all else fails. In this installment, we will look at the Helmet of Salvation.

At this point, alarm bells might be going off in your head. ..
Wasn’t the Belt of Truth all about salvation?
Is the helmet just a repeat of that?

Keep calm and read on, dear reader, because the Helmet of Salvation plays quite a different role in our spiritual lives than the Belt of Truth. We can understand this better by considering the function of the Roman soldier’s helmet, or galea.

Photo by R. Gino Santa Maria
The galea in its simplest form consisted primarily of a skull cap of iron or brass.  Some versions included cheek flaps made of leather or other perishable material, while others sported hinged cheek plates of iron or brass.  Regardless of the material used, the flaps tied together below the chin, both securing the helmet and adding protection for the cheeks, mouth, and chin.  Some models of the galea had a rear neck guard, while cavalry helmets often featured a full faceplate, with only eyeholes cut out.  All versions of the helmet included an inner liner (probably of wool) which provided vital cushioning for impacts.

But what about the spiritual symbolism? Three times in scripture, a helmet is linked to salvation. 

Isaiah 59:17 (ESV)
…and a helmet of salvation on his head.

…putting on… as a helmet the hope of salvation.

Take the helmet of salvation…

Since a physical helmet protects the brain, we can safely establish that the spiritual helmet protects our minds.  There must, therefore, be a relationship between salvation and our own way of thinking.  The following passage presents a well-known and widely-quoted scripture about how God thinks versus how we think.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

What we think about is serious business, and it affects everything we do.  When we sin, no matter what the sin is, it starts with a thought.  Jesus even teaches us that simply entertaining the thought of a wrong action is sin:

Matthew 5:28 (NKJV)
“… whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Sometimes we resist the thought, put it out of our minds, and remove ourselves from the temptation.  That is what we should always do.  But unfortunately, we all often fall prey to the temptation, even when we know it is wrong.  We like to say, “I just couldn’t help myself,” but this, even if it hurts and embarrasses us to acknowledge it, is a lie. 

Every action is the result of a choice. If we are tempted to perform an action, but we know that it is wrong to do so, we have no excuse for going ahead and doing it anyway.  The simple knowledge (or even the suspicion) that the action is wrong should be sufficient for us to make the choice to avoid such behavior.  Even in the case of addicts (be it drug addicts, alcoholics, sex/porn addicts, over-eaters or anything else), once they have figured out that what they are doing is wrong (sinful), they are responsible for stopping that behavior.  This sounds simple, but it is far from easy to do. It requires not only behavioral modification, but a change in the way one thinks.

This is where the helmet of salvation comes in.  It represents the change in one’s way of thinking after accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior (by putting on the Belt of Truth). God gives us a verb to associate with this piece of armor and its related spiritual meaning.  God says to “take” the helmet - we have to put it on and use it!  We have to consciously and purposefully submit our minds to the lordship of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).  This means that we now have the God-given power to choose what thoughts we will allow to stay in our minds.  When a sinful thought enters a Christian’s mind, he or she must immediately choose whether to let that thought remain, or to banish it from the mind’s conscious thinking.  Obviously, the correct choice is to banish such a thought, but it is rarely an easy task. 

The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.

There are few things in life which I enjoy more than a good cheeseburger. I am also overweight; no doubt in part because of my love of cheeseburgers (though to be fair, pizza, burritos, and my wife’s spaghetti should also shoulder a bit of the burden of guilt in this situation). I am admittedly guilty of the sin of gluttony. It’s something I struggle with on a daily basis, and my waistline is a pretty accurate indicator of whether I am currently winning the battle of the bulge or losing it.

This kind of ongoing struggle with sin is typical of the temptations we all face in our spiritual battles every day of our lives. How do we avoid sin? How do we avoid temptation? How do we lose weight when every other billboard along the highway is advertising cheeseburgers?

I can’t count the number of times I have heard someone say (with regard to a temptation), “Just don’t think about it.” This advice is both excellent and horrible: excellent because if one can successfully stop thinking about the temptation, one can more easily avoid it; but horrible because simply telling oneself, “don’t think about it,” is a sure-fire way to ensure that one continues to think of nothing else. For example…

Do not think of a white elephant.

I’d be willing to bet money that you just thought of a white elephant. Trying not to think of a thing actually keeps that thing active in your mind. Instead of trying to avoid thinking of the object, person, or situation in question, you have to actively divert your mind onto another topic altogether.

Paul states both the problem and the solution very simply in the book of Romans:

Romans 8:6 (ESV)
…to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

The key to getting rid of a pesky thought is not to just “try not to think about it.”  You have to divert your mind altogether; replace the problematic thought with a completely different one!

…whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

To meditate is to think about something consciously, purposefully, and deliberately, focusing only on that one solitary thought.  Many people choose to recite and meditate on scripture when they are faced with a temptation or a serious problem.  This is a wonderful solution!  By reciting scripture, we remove our focus from the temptation or problem. We consciously, purposefully, and deliberately center our thoughts upon God, His teachings, and His will for our lives.  For the Christian, having at least a few scriptures memorized is vital; the more, the better! 

There are scriptures which you can use to replace sinful thoughts in an instant, no matter what your particular situation might be.  Put on the Helmet of Salvation and allow the Truth of God’s Word to lead your thinking. 


The Final Cut (The Armor, part 18)

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