“The Spirit’s Sword”: Resisting Temptation Through the Word
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Thursday, October 8, 2009 at 6:46pm
THE SPIRIT’S SWORD
Part of the “full armor of God” is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:13, 17). An old hymn speaks of “overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword.” The question here is this: how can we use the Word of God most effectively in our battle against temptation? For one thing, we must SEEK, KNOW, BELIEVE, and LOVE the truth of God’s Word. We know that when Jesus was tempted, he quoted Scripture (Matt. 4:1-11). Only an intimate familiarity with the Bible will enable us to do the same. When temptation assails us, by knowing Scripture we can quote a relevant passage and picture ourselves as holding it between us and Satan like a ready sword. At the same time we must believe that God’s Word is truly powerful enough to defeat the devil, being confident like Luther that “one little word shall fell him.” We must remember the imagery of Revelation 19:15, where Jesus is pictured as victoriously confronting His foes with a sharp sword coming out of His mouth.
It is indeed important to know and believe the truth, but something more is necessary to ward off temptation. These are exercises of the intellect, but temptation is an onslaught against the will. We can strengthen our wills to resist temptation only when we have developed a deep LOVE for the truth (2 Thess. 2:10). Loving the truth is really no different from loving God Himself. To love God “with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37) means to love his Word and hold it dear, and to want to honor Him by obeying it not just outwardly but from your heart (Rom. 6:17). To love God’s truth means to passionately embrace it, and to bind it to your very life and self. It means to make it such a vital and inseparable part of your very own being that you would rather die than go against it, that you would rather pluck out your eyes or cut off your hands than to use them to disobey God’s Word (Matt. 5:29-30).
We can cultivate our love for God’s Word by reading it and studying it, not just as an academic duty but as a devotional exercise. Both are important, but we must remember that these are two different things. All Scripture can be read devotionally, but some parts, such as the Gospels and the Psalms, lend themselves to this purpose more readily than others. Especially useful is a frequent reading of Psalm 119, which dwells on the Psalmist’s deep love for God’s Law. See vv. 1-5, 20, 35, 40, 44, 47, 72, 97, 103-104, 111-112, 127, 131.
Loving God’s Word is a protection against temptation because it is impossible to really love the Word without at the same time hating evil (Rom. 12:9). Because he loved God’s Law, said the Psalmist, he hated every false way and everyone who did not keep His Word (Ps. 119:104, 128, 158). “I hate and despise falsehood, but I love Your law” (Ps. 119:163).
Hating evil comes not only from knowing and meditating upon the laws and commandments of God’s Word, but also from knowing and embracing its gospel message. When we know that Christ died for our sins, and when we really understand what that means—that He actually suffered the equivalent of eternity in hell, that He actually took upon Himself the penalty that we deserve because of our sins—if this does not make us hate our sins, nothing will. There is truly POWER in the blood of the Lamb: not just power to take away the guilt and penalty of our sin, but power to take away our LOVE for sin and to replace it with a hatred for sin that will repel temptation before it gets close enough to entice us.