Our Need of Gospel War Shoes
Called to Complete Warfare
In comparison to the breastplate or sword, we might think that our shoes are a matter of comparative indifference. Yet, it is not only against lethal blows that we must guard, but also against those nagging injuries that prevent us from fighting with confidence. Most believers do not fall in battle as a result of the “major” sins, although this sometimes happens, but slip and slide over the “little” sins, words and attitudes that harm our relationships, mute our witness to those around us, and burden us with guilt and frustration. God’s provision of war shoes reminds us that we must give attention to the smaller parts of our armor. The Roman soldier wore a military sandal with studs or hobnails. This gave him traction and enabled him to move quickly and confidently over a variety of terrain. A good breastplate and sharp sword will not do you much good if you slip in the mud and fall on your face.
It is the same with us in our warfare against sin and Satan. Little sins, such as impatience or speaking crossly to your children when you are displeased with them, are like the darts that enemies would hide under a pile of dirt or in guns and snares. Stepping upon one of these mines injured the soldier with insufficient footwear – not fatally perhaps, but if you cannot walk securely, you cannot fight effectively. Thus, God’s provision of gospel war shoes reminds us that our warfare is complete or total. We must pay attention to the little sins. A bad attitude, for example, or a complaining spirit or joyless life will prevent you from resisting and overcoming Satan as much as yielding to lust or pride or any of those sins that we think more serious. Our Commander, Jesus Christ, warned his disciples against idle words as well as against false doctrine. If Satan finds one kind of assault ineffective, he will attack where he finds less resistance and protection.
Provided with Complete Protection
The foot may seem to be unimportant, but a moment’s reflection will convince you that this small part of the body is critical (1 Cor. 12:15). The strongest, best trained soldier or athlete in the world can be sidelined with an ingrown toe nail, blisters, a sprained ankle, or a pulled muscle caused by shoddy foot protection or the wrong footwear. Many circulatory diseases manifest themselves first in the feet, often making it painful or virtually impossible to move without pain. Paul thus relates the “gospel of peace” to “properly shod feet.” It is a profound analogy. Our war shoes are the gospel of Jesus Christ, believed, understood, loved, and lived. Our Savior’s gospel protects us completely and provides a firm foundation for fighting sin and Satan at every point the battle is raging. His attacks are sometimes large-scale assaults against God’s truth and worship; at other times, they are like the hidden snares with which armies would mine the battlefield against an invader. The gospel of our Savior preserves us from being blown about by false doctrine, slipping over our personal sins, or falling into errors of judgment and practice that injure our faith, hope, and single-hearted devotion to Jesus Christ.
Standing on a Complete Foundation
Think of the feet as the “base of life.” The Christian’s base or foundation upon which the rest of his life is built is the gospel of peace. Never must we stray far from the cross, love for Christ crucified, and personal communion with him, or we shall become like a soldier going to battle barefooted. Every good and useful thing we do will only be as lasting, strong, and stable against Satan’s attacks if it has a self-conscious gospel foundation. We often forget this. The gospel is there somewhere in our thinking, but it is not the dominating foundation of life. It is not our shoes giving us stability and mobility in serving Christ. We get stuck in the mud of our own pet ideas and preferences and comfortable ways of doing things. Over time, the gospel gets lost in the mix, or our secondary convictions get confused with the gospel itself. Then, when we try to fight for God’s truth, it is like trying to run a marathon in galoshes or hiking up a mountain in slippers. We have the wrong shoes on.
Think of it like this. There are many important aspects of God’s truth – theology of the state, business ethics, doctrinal systems, and more personal issues like the family, marriage, and child-rearing. These are important, but they are not the shoes God has provided for us. They are more like the individual sword thrusts that Christians are called to give, depending upon their gifts, callings, and place in life. Yet, the shoes each of us must wear are the gospel of peace. In these other areas, we shall slip and slide, lose ground, and divide over them into warring fraternal camps unless each of us is able to look down and see that every Christian wears the same war shoes. This keeps us humble. If you think about it, footwear is often a fashion or social statement. Men spend a great deal of money on shoes that reflect their tastes, proclivities, and the attitude they wish to portray to others. As a Christian, we share one governing taste: the gospel of peace through Jesus Christ our Lord. And these shoes are humble and humbling. They are also effective against Satan, but this is because they are so humbling. The one thing that beats him every time is Jesus Christ, and him crucified. His crushed skull aches, and he must slink away defeated when the shards of the cross are pressed more deeply into him.
The Unparalleled Quality of Gospel War Shoes
A Firm Footing: The Gospel prevents sliding.
Consider, for example, the parent who must insist upon a certain aspect of Christian duty. He sees in his child’s sin rebellion against God and Christ. He is concerned, even heart-broken, especially if the child persists in his sin. He might try all kinds of things: yelling, guilt manipulation, harsh spankings, and finally fall back upon “don’t you see how this makes me look?” and “how could you do this to your family?” Every duty and sword-thrust against sin must be upon a foundation of gospel peace. A child certainly needs discipline, but the riches of Jesus Christ must be unfolded to him. The particular duty impressed upon him or the warning given must all be in terms of pleasing Jesus Christ and walking with him. Peace in our homes is but temporary if the child acquiesces out of fear; peace is permanent and joyful if it is based upon common commitment to Jesus Christ and his gospel. The Christian must wear these shoes everywhere. We defend a Christian view of the state and resist certain sins because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, yet too often we cover up our humbling gospel shoes with a veneer of conservatism in order to make their message more palatable to the world. It does nothing of the kind, and this is the reason that conservatism is doomed to defeat. The other side – and you can call them names, or warn of doom, and strive to resist – wears its shoes very openly, and so must the Christian. We are not soldiers of conservatism, survival, or racial purity but of the cross of Christ and his gospel. Wear any other shoe and you will be like a man trying to play football on an ice rink: slipping and sliding, never able to gain traction, flailing about trying to convince others of your opinion but usually coming away frustrated and feeling pathetic. This is because the only shoes that make Satan run away are the gospel of peace. They are made from the cross of our Savior.
A life based upon the gospel, therefore, will give you stability and balance. It may be better, for example, to lose an argument over educational philosophy or a political candidate in order to gain a soul or encourage a brother in the gospel. Clarity in these other areas can come later, for the only way to overcome statism, parental harshness or neglect, and the mounting threat of the sodomite revolution is to attack it at the foundations. These things are not wrong because we do not like them but because the crucified Savior is now the risen Lord. When men are gained to him and rescued from Satan’s snares, then these other areas of vital concern can be addressed upon a proper foundation. Often, however, we are unwilling to take the time to get to the shoes, if you will, the very foundations of the reason that modern life looks as it does. Why do Christian young men waste their time pursuing relationships with girls they are never likely to marry, often falling into many harmful lusts and sins along the way? Why do many Christians not think clearly about social issues, war, and economics? Why do Christian spouses fight over sex and finances? Why do churches divide over peripheral issues? Each of these and most other divisions occur because we forget the shoes we are wearing and must wear more proudly – the gospel of peace. Nothing we say has any power unless it is related to the sword coming out of Jesus’ mouth. No stand we take will be effectual unless it unashamedly makes its boast in Jesus Christ and calls men to build upon him as the only foundation, the only truth and life. If we are to fight effectively against Satan and resist sin, and promote righteousness in our families, churches, places of business, or nation, it must be in gospel war shoes. Jesus Christ is the righteousness of God (1 Cor. 1:30), and only through his righteousness can we have peace. There is no peace for the wicked (Isa. 48:22).
Mobility: The Gospel lifts us out of the mud.
Roman generals learned from Alexander that rapid troop movement and deployment were critical. Satan has many tricks up his sleeves, and one of them is to deceive Christians into spending all their time stuck in the mud of the past. It does no good to fight the old battles. Some are experts in dissecting previous battle grounds, but all the soldiers have moved to a different part of the field. History is important if it teaches us to fight where the battle is raging now. Many battles do rage for centuries. Internationalist globalism is one of them, as are education and the doctrines of Scripture and atonement. Yet, even these skirmishes have distinctly new manifestations and deceptions that the gospel gives us eyes to see and mobility to engage. Christian soldiers therefore need a certain degree of adaptability. Our Captain, Jesus Christ, is the only one who has perfect clarity and the complete battle plan. We must be ready to follow him. Maintaining tradition for tradition’s sake may make one comfortably smug and self-contented, but it will not beat the devil. Our Savior is not a defender of our particular cultural traditions but of his gospel. This does not mean that we should follow the salesmen of hipster Christianity, who are often willing to give up virtually any doctrine in order to be on the cutting edge of who knows what. Many leaders of the “New Christianity” have turned out to be nothing but Oprah Winfrey prophets of universalism and twisted love. When we look out upon the battle field, gospel war shoes will take us in the right direction, giving us adaptability within the confines of revealed truth. We shall be ready for sudden shifts in his leading or assaults of the enemy, assuming we have on the correct war shoes. This is because Satan’s main target is always the gospel of Christ crucified and the church that builds upon it.
Readiness: The Gospel is Christ’s Trumpet.
Yet, the gospel of peace is Christ’s trumpet. It is good news for the world. It is the single standard that defeats the devil, unites all true believers, and gives a unified front to a hostile world. When we hear his trumpet, we must be ready to fight, but sadly, we are often too consumed with our own affairs. “Let the preacher do it.” “My family takes all my time.” “I am tired after a long day’s work and commute.” There is something about gospel war shoes, however, that invigorates the weariest believer. You may have purchased a new pair of running shoes and felt something like this the next time you set out for a run. Your step seemed lighter, your stride more supported. Gospel shoes are like this. The more we understand the gospel, the greater will be our love for Jesus Christ. We shall be more joyful, even in the midst of pain and suffering. Paul wrote his “joy epistle,” Philippians, while in prison for the gospel. Our Savior spoke much of joy on that last night as his enemies were but a mile away preparing their assaults against him. What a difference between the Upper Room and the High Priest’s chambers! If we would have joy and peace in the midst of danger and difficulty, we must tie our gospel shoes firmly on. Daily we must think of our Savior and his love, recommit ourselves to him and his truth, and pledge to follow wherever he leads. It is vital to keep our shoes on at all times: at the end of the day, when we are alone, in our thoughts and relationships. Satan is always looking for a crack in our spiritual walls, a gap in our understanding and application and love for the gospel. He injures us most when we think, “All is well.” “Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall” – Peter in his pious pride; David wistfully on the wall rather than in the field fighting with his men; the doctrinally astute Ephesian church losing its first love. I dare say part of that loss was due to their forgetting their gospel war shoes, intense, intelligent, personal love for Jesus Christ and his gospel.
The Invincible Power of Gospel War Shoes
The gospel of peace – consider well what that means. Through our Savior’s blood and righteousness, his once-for-all sacrifice and powerful, sympathetic intercession at the Father’s right hand, we have perfect peace with God. He is our peace. We shall fall into sin, but our peace with God is not fundamentally broken. Through confession and sincere repentance looking unto Jesus, our assurance of peace is recovered. It is amazing the speed with which David moved in his penitential psalms from broken-hearted confession to earnest zeal for the Lord’s glory in the world. Gospel shoes always run home to Jesus, and from him they receive fresh supplies of grace and strength. Let Satan hurl his worst darts at us. Let the world ridicule. God is at peace with us! He is looking upon us with a father’s kindly eye. Satan is plotting evil; he is planning good – whose plans do you think will prevail! But our lives must be built upon the gospel. If you do not understand its importance, ask another believer, your pastor, someone who will take the time to explain that knowing Jesus Christ changes everything. He quenches fear, silences the guilty conscience, and restores hope and courage. He gives us his Spirit of wisdom, hears our every prayer, and is closer to us than our own shadow. Absolutely nothing in this life compares to having one’s life built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ.
Look at the madness of those who build upon another foundation, their fury when their wills are opposed, the way they would burn down the world to get what they want. Others are secretive, quietly enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin, but no happier for having tasted them. Jesus’ shoes will give you peace with God. They will inspire you with zeal and steadfastness in the cause of Christ. Shall I not fight for him who died for me? Above all, they will give you strength to stand and face the devil. He is the enemy. Can you face him with the shoes you are wearing? Have you any confidence that you will be able to overcome your sins and temptations? Wear these shoes and stand now. They are so powerful that they will bring you one day to stand before the living God and march you through the heavenly gates of gospel pearl. Sell all you have to have these war shoes. They will crush Satan under your feet (Rom. 16:20).