The man was terrified. He told me that he was afraid of supernatural spirits. He had grown up in a secular, scientific setting, but he became curious about supernatural powers. He got involved with people who spoke of “white magic.” They had a cheerful, appealing view of witchcraft and nature worship. The contact with spirits was exciting, and the nature worship seemed respectful of the environment. At first he enjoyed it, but gradually the spirits grew darker and more evil. Within a few years, he felt trapped by powers he had never dared to imagine. By the time he spoke to me, he desperately wanted to be free, but he had a hard time believing it could happen. How could he escape these terrible powers? How could he recover from the damage to his soul? This man had chosen to get involved with unseen powers, and now he feared he was beyond hope.
Other people don’t make a choice to get involved with spirits; they are born into it. If your parents, relatives, and culture are wrapped up in spiritism, you grow up trying to please various spirits—perhaps the spirit of a particular house or river, the spirit of a tree or animal, or the spirit ruling a whole region. You believe your health and success depend on the spirits. If things go well for you, you figure the spirits are favoring you. If something goes wrong, you think a spirit is against you. This can be terrifying. You fear the spirits, and you fear other people who might influence the spirits. If somebody hates you, puts you under a curse, and turns a spirit against you, you might fear that nothing can break the spell. Nothing can save you.
If you grow up with spiritism, it’s hard to leave it completely, even if you hear the gospel of Jesus and start calling yourself a Christian. You might be baptized and believe something about Jesus. You might even be taught the truth that Jesus is more powerful than any spirit. But when a crisis hits, you might take the spirits more seriously than you take Jesus. The old traditional religion seems more real than Christianity. If you’re having problems, you might not be satisfied to pray to God about them; you might seek help from the old spirits. If you get sick, a tribal healer who knows how to deal with the spirits may seem more valuable to you than a pastor. You may think your illness comes from a spirit that’s against you, and the only way to be healed is to perform some ritual or to do something that persuades the spirit to stop afflicting you.
Some people might try to convince you that the spirit world isn’t real, that it’s all superstition. They might try to make you more scientific and sensible. But that doesn’t always help. Some fears and beliefs in spirits are just superstition, but sometimes real demonic powers are involved. Once you’ve felt the grip of a cruel supernatural power, it doesn’t work to deny the supernatural. You know that power is real. The only way you can be free is to have the help of someone with supernatural power even greater than the spirits who are harming you. Only the Lord Jesus Christ is strong enough to save you from all evil spirits.
The Bible speaks of spirits that affect our lives, and the experience of many people confirms that these spirits are real. It won’t work to say they’re not real. But even if they are real, even if people put curses on you, even if bad spirits attack you, don’t be terrified. Don’t try to make deals with the spirits. Don’t use traditional rituals to appeal to them. Don’t try to please the spirits in order to make your life easier. If you do that, you are falling into the spirits’ trap. You are playing by their rules, and you’ll never win that way. If hostile spirits have hurt you in the past and still want to harm you, don’t try to please them. Fight them and defeat them.
Many people are too afraid to fight. They are certain that the spirits control the future, and they don’t dare go against them. They don’t think they can win. If you feel that way, then your fear will come true—you can’t win if you don’t expect victory, if you have no hope of salvation, no certainty that your future is in the hands of the Lord Jesus. But if you belong to Jesus and have the sure hope of salvation, you can overcome fear, defeat the demons, and march toward victory. The Bible speaks of wearing “the hope of salvation as a helmet” (1 Thessalonians 5:8).
When evil spirits attack, you need a strong helmet. The ruler of the evil spirits is Satan, and he specializes in despair. He knows that if you are hopeless, you are also helpless against him. Satan wants you to think that you don’t have a future and that the world doesn’t have a future.
To accomplish this goal, Satan and his evil spirits use different tactics with different individuals and different cultures. In some cultures, the spirits make their power obvious in an effort to enslave people. In other cultures, the spirits keep a low profile and seek to undermine belief in anything supernatural, including God. Satan convinces some people and cultures that the spirits of their traditional religion control the future. Satan convinces other people and cultures that the supernatural world doesn’t even exist, that there are no spirits and no God, that mechanical laws of nature are the only reality, that there is no life after death for any individual and that the universe itself is headed for a future of total deadness. Satan’s methods differ, but his goal is the same: hopelessness.
People who pride themselves on a scientific mindset might not feel bound by enemy spirits, but they can be just as grim about the future. For instance, columnist George Will wrote an article echoing the belief among many educated people that the sun will eventually burn out and all life will be snuffed out. “Earth heads for frigid lifelessness.” George Will accepts the theory of biology that our past is rooted in animal ancestors, and he accepts the theory of geology that the earth, which provides humans with a livable environment for the moment, will someday change and make life impossible. “Although the planet is hospitable for the moment, it is indifferent—eventually it will be lethally indifferent—to its human passengers.” The secular, scientific mindset is as hopeless as a mindset terrified of hostile spirits. A universe without hope or meaning—this is what Satan wants you to believe.
If you go to schools which teach a mechanical universe, if you think humanity is headed for extinction, you need the hope of salvation as your helmet. The idea that the present world will come to an end and that people are headed for death isn’t exactly news, of course. The Bible says the same thing. In Isaiah 51:8 God says, “The heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever.” Even after you die, even after the world ends, there is new life and a new creation. When you believe that, you have a strong helmet of hope.
The Bible is amazing. It takes the spirit world as seriously as any traditional tribal religion, yet it puts these spirits in their place by declaring the supreme authority of Jesus and his victory over evil spirits. The Bible takes the death of humans and the end of the world as seriously as the grimmest scientific materialist, yet God declares the living hope of resurrection and a new earth. What a difference to have the helmet of salvation! What a difference to know that the ultimate power is not the spirits of traditional religions or the forces of matter and energy but the almighty power of the risen Lord Jesus Christ!
The Blessed Hope
Ephesians 6:17 says, “Take the helmet of salvation.” A similar statement in 1 Thessalonians 5:8 speaks of “taking the hope of salvation as a helmet.” Sometimes when the Bible speaks of salvation, it means having your sins forgiven, being made right with God, and rescued from Satan’s grip. In this context, though, the Bible is talking about final salvation. The hope of salvation is confidence in the second coming of Jesus, the final defeat of Satan and the forces of evil, the resurrection of the dead, and life in the new heaven and new earth.
This great hope for the future is a strong protection against Satan in the present. To resist Satan’s temptations and obey God, you need to be confident that even if evil seems to bring success for the moment, holiness triumphs in the end. This mighty hope enables you to keep saying “No” to Satan and “Yes” to God.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11-13).
When the Bible says to take the helmet of salvation, or to take the hope of salvation as a helmet, this is what it means: “we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Don’t be trapped by fear of any spirits or spells. Even if such things have dominated you and people around you, Jesus opens up a fantastic future. If you think only about the short term and not the eternal future, you might ask various spirits for help—and it might even work for a time. If you care only about getting over a sickness or improving your income, and if you’re willing to sell your soul by seeking help from the spirits, they may help you get what you want, but you will be their slave. Don’t let that happen. Trust Jesus. Jesus is more powerful than all the spirits combined, and he can set you free from their grip. Right now he can help you live in spiritual freedom, and at his second coming, he will bring joy to all who trust his salvation.
In the short term, though, Jesus might not give you all the success or health you were hoping for. Does that mean you should give up on Jesus and go back to spirits and try to get favors from them? No, even if Jesus doesn’t give you what you want right away, keep trusting him anyway. He knows what’s best for you, and if you trust him, you will be glad in the end.
In some traditional religions, the spirits offer ways to get them on your side, or at least to keep them from making you miserable. But these spirits are demons, and it’s deadly to deal with demons. Would you make business deals with someone you can’t trust, someone who lies constantly? If not, then why try to make deals with Satan? He lies all the time. Sometimes he threatens people who already belong to Jesus and tries to make them think they can’t be free from his spirits, but the fact is that a spirit cannot take over the life of someone who belongs to Jesus. If threats don’t work for Satan, he and his spirits may promise to make you happier, and they might even give you some short-term results, but their long-term goal is to keep you from Christ and to have you suffer in hell forever. Don’t make deals with lying spirits. Even if you get what you want for awhile, don’t forget: Satan gladly lets you have less problems if he can bring you to hell forever.
Think of Satan as a general who wants to destroy a country but first needs to get some people on his side before he can wipe them all out. He offers bribes and makes threats to get people on his side, but he still hates those who go along with him. After he has used them, he will torment and ruin them.
Or think of Satan as a murderous crime boss who bullies people to do what he wants or else pays them off to commit criminal acts. Eventually he has them killed after he has no more use for them. People in a crime syndicate may like the extra money and perks their boss gives them, but what good are those favors after he murders them? And even if he lets you live longer, what good are his favors when the crime boss is arrested by the authorities and punished? When he is punished, you also are punished for going along with him and doing his work. Satan is a crime boss who is headed for prison in hell. Those who make deals with him and his spirits will also be imprisoned in hell forever, unless they turn away from Satan to God.
Even so, it can be very tempting to go along with Satan, just as it can be tempting to take bribes to help an enemy general or a crime boss. If they offer you enough money, or threaten harshly enough, you may think your prosperity and your very survival depend on the spirits. But dealing with spirits destroys you in the end. That’s why God warns you not to seek help from other spirits or perform rituals to please them. God knows that those spirits only want to use you and ruin you. God wants you to have his joy and eternal life with him. God tells you to pray to him, and only to him. Don’t commit treason against God by going along with spirits who are God’s enemies.
If these spirits threaten you, don’t make deals with them, and don’t give in to despair. Take the helmet of salvation! Put your faith in Jesus. Place yourself under his protection right now, and keep looking for Jesus to return. Be ready to meet him. Jesus has already won the decisive battle over Satan, and when he comes again, the victory will be complete. So count on his victory over the evil spirits—don’t let the demons fool you. Don’t let them bribe and corrupt you with their promises of special favors and powers. Don’t let them discourage or crush you with fear. Let the hope of salvation be your helmet.
When you put on the helmet of salvation, you and the Lord have matching helmets. The Bible envisions the Lord putting “the helmet of salvation on his head” and promises, “The Redeemer will come” (Isaiah 59:17,20). When your helmet of salvation matches Jesus’ helmet, you are sure to win.
Count On His Coming
How do you put on the helmet of salvation? By counting on Jesus’ second coming and looking forward to it. The return of Jesus is not a minor, optional part of Christianity. It is at the heart of the faith, right along with forgiveness through Jesus’ death. The Bible says, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:27-28). If you are born again, you have a future focus. The Bible says God “has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… through faith [you] are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time… you are filled in an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:3-9).
This joyful anticipation of Jesus’ coming is a helmet of defense that protects against entanglement with spirits and false religion. It also protects against secularism without a future. Secularism denies the supernatural, teaches that death is the end of us, and that the world will keep running by mechanical laws of nature till it ends in ruin. That hopeless outlook destroys morality and meaning and becomes an excuse to chase pleasure. The Bible says that if this view were true, the logical response would be, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32). Have a blast while you last. Why not do anything you please, no matter how wrong it might be, no matter who gets hurt? If there is no God and no eternal future—no rewards for painful sacrifice and no punishment for selfish sin—then pursuing pleasure is the only point of existence. It’s no accident that in the pleasure-crazy societies of modern secularism, our educators teach theories which deny the supernatural and deny an eternal future. Satan attacks many minds with such thinking. When your head is under attack, you need a helmet: the hope of salvation.
We saw earlier that people who become Christians after growing up in a culture of spiritism may be tempted to go back to the old spirits when times get tough and Christianity doesn’t seem to be getting results. But what if you’re a Christian in a culture not of spiritism but of secularism? Well, there too, Satan will try to discourage you in tough times and make you wonder if Christianity is true and worthwhile. He tempts you to give up on the whole thing.
Satan doesn’t always try to persuade with clever arguments. Sometimes he tries to overwhelm your faith with disappointment and discouragement. If prayers don’t get the answer you want, if year after year goes by without Jesus coming back, you feel disappointed, and Satan makes you wonder if the Lord is real at all. If you’ve been fighting to be a better person and to make the world a better place but don’t see much improvement, you feel discouraged and wonder whether the struggle is worth it. Why keep fighting? If you struggle in your personal life, if you see the church losing ground, if you see society headed in the wrong direction, you may feel like giving up on Christ. You feel worn out, and Satan whispers, “What’s the use? Jesus will never come back. The eternal future is just a dream. The world is the way it has been and always will be. Get real. Give up. Just try to enjoy yourself for a few years before you die.”
At such moments, take the helmet of salvation. Remind yourself that God’s timing may be different from yours, but that Jesus will surely come to bring salvation to those who are watching for him and working for him. The Bible says,
Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night… But you, brothers, are not in darkness, so that this day should surprise you. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day… So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled… putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:1-9).
When Satan tempts you to give up on Jesus, don’t do it. Put on your helmet and say, “God has appointed me to receive salvation. I don’t know when the final day will come, but I’m looking forward to it. Meanwhile, I’m not going to let Satan drag me down or discourage me. I’m not going to listen to those who scoff about Jesus’ second coming and say it’s not going to happen. I’m going to pray that they will come to believe in Jesus and join his cause before it’s too late for them. Meanwhile, until Jesus comes, I’m going to take this hope of salvation as my helmet and keep fighting Satan.” Keep reminding yourself, “Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11).
Jesus says there will be hard times before he comes, and some who call themselves Christians will give up. “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,” says Jesus, “but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:12-13). The helmet of salvation protects you from fear and discouragement so that you can stand firm to the end. You don’t have to be terrified by events which terrify other people, especially if these events are signs that we are nearing the end. In fact, when things are at their worst, Jesus may be right at the door. Jesus says, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).
Satan is in the business of despair, of denying a joyful future. Whether he uses secularism or spiritism or some other method, he doesn’t want people to see that the future is Jesus. Satan wants non-Christians to keep ignoring the fact that Jesus is coming. Satan wants Christians to get weary of waiting and to give up on Jesus’ coming. But Jesus provides the helmet of salvation, the hope of his coming.
If you wear that helmet and live in the hope of Jesus’ return, your hope will be rewarded. Jesus promises, “To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations… just as I have received authority from my Father… To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Revelation 2:26-27, 3:21). Wear your helmet now, knowing that Jesus will someday replace your helmet with a crown.