Last Sunday I was over at my inlaw’s house and watched a good little John Bytheway DVD called “Standards Night Live.” I really don’t know much about John Bytheway except for his fun, but corny songs about being a Mormon and missionary, etc. However, I really enjoyed this DVD and something he said in it has caused me to reflect all week.
He discussed the famous and important scripture in Ephesians 6 about putting on the full armor of God. He also mentions that of the things Paul suggests to have in defending against Satan, there is only one item suggested to use as an offensive weapon and that is the sword. In Ephesians, Paul says the sword of the Spirit is the word of God . John Bytheway goes on to discuss the tactics of Satan are to get us into situations where we loose the Spirit so we won’t have any offensive weapon against Satan.
As I have pondered this, I’ve thought of a few things. First, I thought it was interesting how Paul describes the Spirit (word of God) as a sword and I thought of other scriptures that have this imagery. Next, I contemplated instances in my life when I have “let my sword down” and wondered what I could have done differently. Finally, I wondered about how one can recognize the Spirit and have it return once it is gone. I will share my thoughts on each of these areas.
The Spirit (Word of God) is as a Sword
Some scriptures that come to my mind that have the imagery of the Spirit being as a sword include:
Hebrews 4:12: “For the aword of God is bquick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged csword, dpiercing even to the dividing asunder eof soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a fdiscerner of the gthoughts and hintents of the heart.”
Helaman 5:30: “And it came to pass when they heard this avoice, and beheld that it was not a voice of thunder, neither was it a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but behold, it was a bstill voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul—”
3 Nephi 11: 3: “And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a avoice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a bsmall voice it did cpierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.
Each of these examples include similar characteristics. I’ll highlight a few of them. First, the Spirit (or word of God) is described as being able to pierce (or prick). Second, each example states it doesn’t just pierce lightly, but to the soul (or heart). The questions then arise what is the Spirit piercing and why is it important to be pierced all the way to the soul? We could go into many details just on these two questions, but some of the thoughts I have on this include the Spirit is piercing through the pride, passions, prejudices, “hardness of heart,” and sin of the natural man. Some people call this “being born again” or “putting off the natural man.” It is important to pierce us to the soul because if it just touches our physical senses or our mind it won’t leave as lasting of an impression on us. As seen in following verses in Acts 2, the Spirit touches their souls and they feel moved to action by being baptized. In our own lives, once we feel the Spirit, I feel it is prompting us to action as well…maybe visit a friend, or help a family member. In my experience it has always been to do something good.
Another similarity in three of the four examples is the fact that many of the people don’t even realize they are feeling the Spirit and when they do, they don’t know what to do. This also is a whole other discussion, but I simply want to point out that it is important to be able to recognize the Spirit. I know many times in my life I haven’t recognized the Spirit because I’ve been too busy or prideful to listen. If we humble ourselves and quiet our own spirits as these people did, we will not only feel the Spirit, but recognize it as well. This is crucial in our spiritual development.
Letting our Sword Down
Most recently, I posted on Steps to Avoiding Apostacy, which in my mind are steps to avoid loosing the Spirit. I feel that all of us are in a “state of apostacy” so to speak in that we all sin and come short of God’s glory. If we work on these steps we can continuously feel closer to God’s Spirit and keep our swords up. It is important to note that we will always come short of the glory of God and that it is through His mercy that we are able to be granted the Spirit. It is our duty to do everything we can through the knowledge we’ve been given to keep the commandments and stay close to the Lord.
The scriptures say that if we “withdraw ourselves from the Spirit of the Lord” we are left to our own devices and led by the “evil one” because God doesn’t dwell in “unholy temples” (Mosiah 2: 36-37). Further scripture states the Spirit withdraws when we try to cover our sins and not confess them, become prideful, and harden our hearts.
The scriptures show many examples of people who both let their sword down and who kept the sword up. The consequences are like night and day. Examples off the top of my head for those who let their sword down include: King David, Solomon, Sampson, the Saducees and Pharisees, and there are many others. Those who kept the sword up include: Joseph (coat of many colors), Paul, Stephen, and Jesus.
If we were to compare each of these examples, again it is like night and day. Joseph kept the sword of the spirit up and denied Potiphar’s wife. He became more confident in the Lord and eventually a great ruler. David and Solomon both let the sword down and led lives led lives contrary to the Lord. David was very repentant, but could have avoided much heartache had he kept his sword up. The Saducees and Pharisees are very good examples for those of us who profess belief in God and the scriptures. They were so focused on the word of God and the letter of the law that when the new law came through Jesus they didn’t recognize it and crucified the very One whom they had been waiting for. This again is another topic, but how often do we get too focused on something other than the Lord and/or put ourselves in a situation to loose the Spirit and therefore “crucify the Lord afresh” as stated in Hebrews.
As I contemplate my own life and wonder what I could have done differently to keep the Spirit in my life, I firmly believe turning to the Savior’s example is the best way.
For instance, when I feel tempted to do something I know is wrong rather than ”tarrying” like David did and contemplating the sin and rationalizing it, whatever the sin is or however big or small it is, if I simply say “get behind me Satan,” like Jesus did I will be much better off. When people tried to logically prove things or twist Christ’s words in many instances, he kept silent in quiet dignity rather than try to prove his point or why He was right. He remained humble, prayerful, grateful, and was a perfect example of what we need to do to keep the Spirit.
However, we’re not perfect and we’re going to let our swords down at some point. This means we need to know what to do in order to get the sword back up.
Getting the Sword back Up
Obviously since the “sword of the Spirit is the Word of God,” it is imperative to “get into” the Word of God in order to receive the spirit. However, it’s a catch 22 because if we’re reading or hearing the word of God without the Spirit, we won’t recognize it. I feel there are a few steps involved in getting our swords back up. First, we need to recognize the Spirit is gone. Secondly, we need to relax and put ourselves into a position to recieve the Spirit. Third we need to repent. Finally, we need to make efforts to put our guard back up.
What did people in the scriptures do to get the Spirit back? I mentioned King David as one who fell away, but he returned again to the Lord. He recognized his sin and became very humble and contrite for the rest of his days. He relaxed and invited the Spirit of the Lord when he wrote many Psalms unto the Lord and prayed. When praying, he repented of his ways and made effort to not commit the same mistake again, which he didn’t.
Another example is the anti-christ, Zeezrom in the Book of Mormon. He was deceived and openly rebelled against the people of the Lord. However, when he opened his heart and allowed the Spirit to penetrate his heart, he was able to get the sword back up and he preached repentance the rest of his life. Other examples in the scriptures that are similar to this include the sons of Mosiah, Alma the younger, and Saul (Paul) in the Bible.
Some things I do to get the Spirit back into my life once I realize it’s gone include: prayer, scripture study, go to the temple, visit nature, listen to music, write music, serve others, and think of things I’m grateful for. Once I’ve recieved the Spirit, I note what I did to lose the Spirit and make plans as to how to avoid the situation again.
In conclusion, I hope these things I’ve learned and contemplated help whoever comes across them. If you know of additional scriptures or experiences of people in the scriptures, your own personal life, or other stories, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you do to maintain the sword of the Spirit in your life.