Approaching the Throne

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

Psalm 51:16-17

When we come before the Father in our one-on-one time with Him, most of us understand that the weight of sin, shame, and guilt drop off of us. We are washed clean from sin, set free from shame, and no longer carry the guilt we came in with. But those aren’t the only things that we shed in His presence.

A couple years ago, I had this internal vision (a movie that plays in your mind’s eye) while praying. I walked up glass steps and found myself on an elevated platform. It was a long, thin aisle that led to the throne of the Lord. It was crystal clear. There were throngs of angels to my right and left “standing” on a lower level. Imagine a stage at a rock concert that has a runway jutting out into the audience. Now imagine the lead singer out on the runway surrounded by the crowd below him but still elevated on the platform. That’s what it looked like.

As I walked toward the throne on this clear, elevated runway, I could tell that I had “gear” on. Imagine a belt full of weapons and other items that you might see a 17th century Musketeer wear. I had a sword at my side and a scroll tucked in the back part of my belt. I also had two glowing spheres, one blue and one green. And there was a cloak-type-thing on my shoulders.

As I walked to a certain point, I wasn’t allowed to go any farther. An angel informed me that if I wanted to keep approaching the Lord I’d have to take off all the gear. I understood instantly that this gear represented gifts of the Holy Spirit, spiritual weapons, and things I had been given to fight the good fight of faith. It was also the armor of God (Ephesians 6:14-18). Yet, in order to get closer to the Father, I had to shed it. I couldn’t come into His presence with all the gifts and spiritual armor I had been given over the years. I had to come with nothing–just a white robe and nothing else. I had to come simply as a son.

Isaiah 64:6 says, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” We often think of our sin as filthy rags. But the closer we approach the throne of grace, even our “righteous acts” are like filthy rags. We must unload all of our burdens, including all the good things. When we come before God, we not only unload our sin but also our responsibilities that come from family, work, and church. We unload our gifts and our talents too! We come with nothing to offer but ourselves.

We are striped down until all the things that we identify ourselves with are gone. We are left only with our two core identities. We approach God as a creation of the Creator–a human being–and a re-creation of the Redeemer–a child of the Father.

Are you ashamed of something in your spiritual life? The good news is that you don’t have to carry it with you into God’s presence. He invites you to lay it down.

Are you proud of something in your spiritual life? I’m so glad, but God invites you to lay that down as well. If you want to draw nearer to the throne of God, you must shed all the good things too. The closer you get to God, the less you can take with you.

Roman Spear

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 

Ephesians 6:18

Out of all the armor listed in Ephesians 6 there is one major weapon missing that Roman soldiers would have always had with them. The spear was their main offensive weapon. While fighting may have eventually devolved into hand-to-hand sword fighting, it would have started with a phalanx of shields and spears.

While Paul doesn’t specifically call prayer the “spear of the Spirit,” by putting it last in the list, that is the impression we get. By the time Paul got to the end of this list of armor, the Ephesians would have all been wondering, “But what about the spear?” Its absence was too conspicuous to miss. By Paul concluding with the need for prayer “on all occasions” he was saying that prayer is our main offensive weapon, just like the spear for the Romans.

But what is praying in the Spirit? Is Paul talking about praying in tongues here?

In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul does connect praying in the Spirit with praying in tongues:

For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.

1 Corinthians 14:14-17

I believe praying in tongues is one of the ways to pray in the Spirit but is not the only way. I believe praying in the Spirit means that we are not just saying cursory prayers, but that we are connected to the Holy Spirit as we pray. I believe we are praying in the Spirit any time we connect our hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit’s leading as we pray.

When we pray in the Spirit, we not only launch javelins in the spirit realm for the sake of the people we are praying for, but there is also a “building up” that happens to us as we pray. Jude says:

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

Jude 1:20-21

In Romans, Paul articulates how praying in connection to the Holy Spirit helps us as we pray:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

Romans 8:26-27

In the Ephesians 6 passage, Paul is clear that praying in the Spirit can take the form of “all kinds of prayers and requests.” This means that praying in the Spirit can look like intercession, prayer of petition, prayer of command, prayer of praise, declarations, praying in tongues, and even just silent listening prayer as we wait on the Lord. Praying in the Spirit is more about the connection between our heart and the heart of God and less about what comes out of our mouths.

Some of the most powerful prayers I’ve ever prayed were never articulated in words at all. They were times when I was simply weeping over someone as my heart connected to the heart of God.


Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:17

The sword can be used for defense but is mostly an offensive weapon. The sword of the Spirit is the word of God. But the Greek word used here for “word” is rhema. Logos is the more common Greek word for “word.” Logos refers to God’s word in its entirety. That is why Jesus is called the Logos of God (John 1:1-4). The whole Bible is the logos of God (Hebrews 4:12). Rhema refers to the spoken-word and is a subcategory of logos.

This is really important to understand because Ephesians 6 says that it is the rhema of God that is the sword of the Spirit. Have you ever been reading the Bible (the logos of God) and suddenly the Holy Spirit highlights a passage that seems to speak directly to you in that moment? That’s an example of when the logos became rhema. The Holy Spirit spoke that word directly to your heart.

Or, have you ever been listening to a sermon on a passage of scripture (logos) that you’ve read a thousand times, yet for some reason the Lord speaks through that sermon in a powerful way? That’s an example of when the logos became rhema. The rhema word of God is like a weaponized version of the logos.

It’s not enough just to quote Scripture and think we’re wielding the sword of the Spirit. Satan quoted Scripture as he was tempting Jesus in the desert (Matthew 4:6). Demons know Scripture better than most Christians; they know it well enough to distort it, manipulate it, and trivialize it. 1 Timothy 4:1 says, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”

I saw this a lot in seminary and still see it in my friends who espouse ever more progressive theologies. The authority of Scripture gets eroded with every new interpretation that is introduced. And that’s the point of deception. The point isn’t to get people to avoid Scripture. The point is to get them to misuse one part of Scripture in order to reject the clear teachings of the rest of Scripture. The point is to get this next generation to manipulate Scripture to fit the lifestyle they are comfortable with.

The sword of the Spirit is when the Holy Spirit takes the logos and lights it on fire so that it becomes the weaponized rhema of God. Scripture that is being manipulated to fit the cultural agenda will always sound reasonable and yet have no power to it. That’s one way to tell if it is truly the rhema of God. Rhema always carries with it the power of the Holy Spirit to convict and transform.

The Sadducees were asking Jesus a question trying to manipulate the Scriptures to fit their worldview, and Jesus responds with his own question, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?”(Mark 12:24).

The apostle Paul gives Timothy a list of how corrupted people will be in the last days, and, included in that list of characteristics, he writes, “treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power”(2 Timothy 3:4-5). When people use Scripture to have a form of godliness but deny its power, it’s not the sword of the Spirit; it’s not the rhema of God. Rhema comes with power because it is spoken by the Holy Spirit through a person.

In order for us to speak the rhema of God we must actually know and believe the logos of God. If I don’t trust Scripture to be true, then I’ll never speak the rhema with power and authority. One of the secrets to the success of Billy Graham was that he had the audacity to believe the Bible. Because he did, when he spoke the gospel, the logos became rhema and hundreds of thousands of people were saved.

It is why right now around the world churches that affirm the Bible and the Holy Spirit are booming and the progressive denominations that have dissected the Bible are shrinking rapidly. They’ve undermined the logos and completely lost the rhema. They are completely unarmed, swordless as the enemy attacks them.

The Truth–The Whole Truth

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…

Ephesians 6:14a

Truth is what keeps us from being caught with our pants down. Our culture has become so accustom to lying and to liars that people can’t tell anymore when they are bending or shading the truth. It has become a habit for many to tell “little” white lies. Yet, we are told here–unequivocally–that one way we stand firm against the schemes of the enemy is to have the belt of truth buckled around our waist.

The word in the Greek that communicates this idea of having the truth “buckled around your waist” is a compound word that combines the word “to gird” with the word “all around.” We get the idea here that Paul is saying the truth should be wrapped around us on all sides until we are fully encompassed by it.

Truth is an exposing light. This is why the enemy is a deceiver and a liar. He hates the light. Truth is sunlight, bringing life, warmth and light. But when our eyes have been so accustomed to darkness, light can be scary at first. This is how Jesus explained it to Nicodemus:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

John 3:19-21

Truth not only brings light, but it also brings freedom–freedom from darkness, from sin, from deception. “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free‘”(John 8:31-32).

Paul gives us a picture of what can happen when we have a constant dose of loving truth spoken into our lives:

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 

Ephesians 4:14-15

My 9-year-old son helped me see something a few days ago about the armor of God that I had never seen before. We were talking about the sword of the Spirit and how it is the word of God (Ephesian 6:17). And then, in passing, he mentioned that it must hang on the belt of truth. This blew my mind! I had never thought of this before.

Swords are sheathed on a soldier’s belt. Our sword, the word of God, hangs on the belt of truth. Our source of truth is not our opinion; it is not what our culture is saying at the moment. Our source of truth is the word of God. Every word God speaks hangs on truth.

Weapons and Armor

1Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

Ephesians 6:11

Paul tells the Ephesians not only to “be empowered in the Lord” (verse 10) but also to “put on the full armor of God.” The word there in the Greek for “full armor” is the compound Greek word panoplía (pan = all + hoplia = weapons). The list of weapons in Ephesians 6 will include defensive armor but also offensive weaponry.

Romans 13:12 says, “…let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. That word translated “armor” here is really the Greek word for weapon (hopla). Light is armor for the believer; light is also a weapon that we can wield.

2 Corinthians 6:4 & 7 says, “Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses…in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left…” The word here translated as “weapons” is that same Greek word (hoplon).

2 Corinthians 10:3-4 says, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” Again we see the word weapons (hopla) is the same one used in the other passages.

The passage that I find most interesting regarding spiritual weapons is Romans 6:13 which says, “Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.” The word translated here as “instrument” is actually the Greek word for weapon (hopla). Parts of our being actually become weapons.

All of this points to a few truths that we need to hold on to. First, we are not left defenseless against the enemy. We have been given armor and weapons to fight the spiritual battle that we are in. But we must put on the armor and we must take up our weapons. So many Christians don’t know they are in a war, and so they leave all their gear piled on the ground. They are sitting ducks, deceived into believing there is no war.

Secondly, while we have been given spiritual weapons and armor, we’ve also been given a physical body, a mind, a will, emotions, and senses, all of which can become weapons. The question is not whether they are weaponized, but for whom. All of these parts of us surrendered to the Lord in obedience become weapons for God and His Kingdom. Yet, when we “offer any part” of ourself to sin, it becomes a weapon in the hands of our enemy.

Finally, the whole point in having all this armor and all these weapons is in order to take our stand against “the devil’s schemes.” That word translated as “schemes” is the word methodeía in the Greek. It’s where we get our word “method.” Here it means “organized evil-doing.” Just as the mob does not do haphazard or sporadic crime, but instead engages in strategically planned and organized crime, that is how Satan operates with evil. He has a plan of attack that is strategic and organized. We must have our armor and our weapons ready so that we can take our stand.