In modern military uniforms the belt is used to (1) hold up the soldier’s pants, and (2) carry some of the soldier’s weapons. In ancient times the belt was just as important. For citizen-soldiers (vs. professional, uniformed soldiers), the belt held up the lower half of the soldier’s tunic or robe, so he could run and move about freely. The belt also served as the lower strap of the breastplate, which it held in place against the soldier’s body. And like modern belts, the ancient belt was used to hold a sword or dagger.
The Ephesians 6 text on the armor of God lists first "the belt of truth."
There are two aspects of truth which this "belt" utilizes in our battle against Satan and his forces. First is
...that is, God’s truth... truth that is true, whether we believe it to be true or not.
As an example, for thousands of years, people believed the world to be flat. Yet the actual truth was that the earth was quite a different shape - a sphere - regardless of what people believed to be true. If this principle holds up in the physical world, how much more does it apply to the spiritual realm?
2 CORINTHIANS 4:1-2A REBUKE FROM A CLASSMATE’S WIFE:
Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
Back when I was a college student, preparing for the pastoral ministry, I and a couple other of my friends had the opportunity to share a meal in the apartment of one of the very few married students. I shall never forget the conversation we had following the meal.
It seems that my friend’s wife had grown up in a Christian faith expression different than our own. The church to which she and her parents had belonged was in the historic Protestant tradition. Her recent confirmation instruction into the Lutheran faith was still fresh in her memory. And her transition in faith and church life was the topic of our conversation - we who had been born and bred in Missouri Synod Lutheranism were curious about her insight and experience. I was totally unprepared for her response to our questions. She virtually scolded us, as she said, "You guys don’t appreciate the treasure you have!" What was she talking about? "In our church," she continued, "we were taught that it really didn’t matter what you believed, because we all assumed that faith was strictly a private, personal affair. We didn’t dare ask the tough questions, because we were convinced that no one could possibly know the answers. But you Lutherans are not afraid to ask the hard questions, because your response is always the same, ‘What does God say about this? What does the Bible say?’ And you search the Scriptures for a definitive answer, and are not afraid to take a stand on it!"
Indeed, isn’t that what Martin Luther himself said, when called into court before the Emperor on charges of heresy? "Unless you can prove from the Bible that I have made wrong statements and have spoken contrary to God’s Word, I refuse to recant. My conscience is bound in the Word of God. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen."
My wife tells me that she once, although briefly, held a membership in the same denomination of which my college friend’s wife belonged. Georganne says that the new members' class merely consisted of a meeting with the pastor, where he explained the worship schedule, he outlined all the programs and activities of the congregation, and he welcomed the new flock with an opportunity for any of them to ask questions. The brief discussion on faith and doctrine could be summarized as, "You can believe whatever you want to believe. We are very ‘open’ here." Lacking the Belt of Truth, it’s no surprise the church’s pants are falling down... both spiritually and literally.
And Here We Stand... the importance of this Belt of God’s Truth in our corporate battle against the devil, his principalities, is the reason we as a church body, and as a congregation, hold so tenaciously to the truth of God’s Word and it’s authority in our life and teaching.
The belt of objective truth is not only for the church to wear. It is mandatory equipment for each Christian.
We live in an age when the official state religion is moral relativism. And the official creed of this popular religion is: "There is no absolute truth." And that's supposedly absolutely true: there is no absolute truth... (huh?) And if you should be so Neanderthal as to hold to a differing opinion, you are branded as "intolerant" and should you publicly profess your faith in the One who is The Absolute Truth, you have committed a hate crime, in that you dare to call anyone’s actions, attitudes, or lifestyle as "sin."
Nowadays, the Bible’s "Gospel in a nutshell" is no longer John 3:16 ("God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life") but now is Matthew 7:1 "Judge not, that you be not judged." To be sure, the world will judge you as intolerant.
When Jesus was on trial for His life, one of the charges brought against Him was, "He deserves to die, because makes himself out to be a king."
John 18:37-38Just moments before this trial, Jesus had responded to a similar question from His disciples by saying: "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me." He didn’t say, "I am a way; I am one of many truths; and I am an example of how good people should live," as much as modern society, and even the modern church would put those words into his mouth. That’s not what he said. Yes, He was exclusive. Yes, He was narrow. He made no apologies for it: He said "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matthew 7:13-14)
Pilate therefore said to Him, "Are You a king then?" Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."
Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?"
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth... For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
2 Tim 2:15
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
The Bible is full of famous examples of those who stood and fought, armed with the belt of Truth. Among them are Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, more commonly known as "the Three Men in the Fiery Furnace." They were threatened with death, and even order executed, because they refused to bow in worship to anyone except the Lord God of Israel. (Daniel 3)
Do Christians today face that sort of test?
A little over one year ago, April 20, 1999, to be specific, three High School girls faced a similar test. They were Cassie Bernall, Rachel Scott, Val Schurr, students at Columbine High School in Colorado. Looking down the barrel of a gun, each one heard a fellow student ask, "Do you believe in God?" Each of the girls answered unhesitatingly, "Yes." Then to each, the gunman asked, "Why?" And before he would allow the girl to answer, he pulled the trigger. The girls not only won the spiritual battle armed with the Belt of Truth, but Cassie and Rachel won the war in glory. Val survived her several wounds, with a deeper commitment to her Lord.
Cassie Bernall’s story made immediate headlines, and has encouraged thousands of young people who understand that the only faith worth living for is the one that is work dying for. Rachel Scott’s father, Darrel Scott, has gained some notoriety as he as traveled the country, speaking to school and church groups, and even addressing a Congressional panel in Washington. When he is asked, "Why is there so much violence in our schools?" His answer is simply, "When you take God and His standards out of our schools, and out of our public life, what do you expect?"
I recall in the days following the Columbine shooting, the topic of Cassie Brunall’s confession of faith was discussed at length on the Dallas radio talk shows. Callers uniformly agreed that Cassie had no choice but to answer her assassin’s question ("Do you believe in God?") as she did. They saw it as an authentic test of her faith. Talk show hosts, on the other hand, were quite insistent that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were only crazed madmen, and they were killing anyone in their line of sight, so it wasn’t legitimately a faith issue. And it would be perfectly within Cassie’s right in that moment of terror to do the "sensible" thing and say, "No," in the slight chance she could come out of that situation alive.
Yet in all that discussion on hypotheticals, nothing was said about the fact the Cassie herself had only a few months earlier been sucked up in the same cultic mindset as her assassins. Like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Cassie Bernall was bitter against anyone in a position of authority. Like Harris and Klebold, Cassie was fascinated with death, with all its dark music, dress, and Satanism. She often corresponded with a friend on how they might kill their parents, kill their least favorite teachers, and then as a final statement, kill themselves.
Then through the prayers of her parents, their selfless intervention, and with the help of friends from church, the Lord Jesus snatched the soul of Cassie Bernall out of Satan’s control. Cassie’s despair was replace with hope. Her darkness was replace with light. Her anger and bitterness was replaced with genuine joy. Her hatred was replace with love and forgiveness. Her fascination with death was replaced with the assurance of life.
Two days before her death Cassie wrote the following:
Now I have given up on everything elseEven if it might cost her her life, Cassie Bernall had no choice but to answer the question, "Do you believe in God?" with "Yes." Even if the question meant nothing to her assassin, the question and its answer meant everything to Cassie, even if it might end her earthly life.
I have found it to be the only way
To really know Christ and to experience
The mighty power that brought
Him back to life again, and to find
Out what it means to suffer and to
Die with him. So, whatever it takes
I will be one who lives in the fresh
Newness of life of those who are
Alive from the dead.
What we have been discussing here is the matter of "objective truth," the Truth concerning God and His Word, truth that is a reflection of His character. But there is also the matter of...
...truth that is a reflection of our character, that is, truthfulness, honesty, integrity. It’s what you do with somebody else’s software. It’s what you do on your income tax forms with regard to the job you did when you were paid in cash.
Character is not measured by how other people evaluate you. Character is tested by what you do when no one is looking
We have a sad example of this matter of truth telling in the Scriptures, the story of a couple named, Ananias and Sapphira, who, in the act of doing a very charitable deed that would benefit many other people, died because their subtle dishonesty.
Acts 5What was the issue here? Truth!
1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property.
2 With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet.
3 Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?
4 Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God."
5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.
6 Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
8 Peter asked her, "Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?" "Yes," she said, "that is the price."
9 Peter said to her, "How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also."
10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
Was God a bit too severe in dealing with this situation? After all, it was just a small "white lie."
A harmless "white lie..." Have you ever told one of those? I confess, I have. And has any one ever told you a harmless "white lie?" It’s odd, but I have never been told a harmless, white lie. No, when I discover someone has lied to me, it’s a bold-faced, lying-through-your-teeth kind of lie. Have you ever noticed that harmless white lies are only white and harmless to the liar?
And when I discovered that someone I have trusted lied to me, or worse yet, lied about me, I am deeply hurt. And then I can better understand how GOD feels about my honesty in my relationship to Him, and in my representation of Him to others.
Unfortunately, a discussion on honesty too often deteriorates into a philosophical debate on hypothetical situations when lying is the right, noble, loving, and virtuous thing to do, making honesty a merely optional situation ethic (much as it did on the Dallas radio talk shows regarding Cassie Brunall's dying testimony).
CORRIE TEN BOOM, in her classic account of her family’s involvement in Dutch underground during the German occupation in World War II, tells about the dilemma and danger caused by her older sister’s insistence on always telling the truth, no matter the cost. In her book, The Hiding Place (copyright 1971, Chosen Books), she reports an incident when she, another sister, and her father were visiting her Sister Nollie on the event of a birthday celebration...
We were chatting in the kitchen with Cocky [one of Nollie’s three daughters] and Katrien [a elderly Jewish woman living with them] when all at once Peter and his older brother, Bob, raced into the room, their faces white. "Soldiers! Quick! They’re two doors down and coming this way!"Corrie’s sister Nollie eventually got her test just as her daughter had. Only this time, Nollie’s honesty resulted in her own arrest, and the arrest of a young Jewish woman they had been harboring. Nollie was taken to the city jail, while Annaliese, the Jewish girl, was held in confinement with nearly 40 others waiting deportation to an extermination camp in Germany.
They jerked the table back, snatched away the rug and tugged open the trapdoor [to the potato cellar]. Bob lowered himself first, lying down flat, and Peter tumbled in on top of him. We dropped the door shut, yanked the rug over it and pulled the table back in place. With trembling hands Betsie, Cocky, and I threw a long tablecloth over it and started laying five places for tea.
There was a crash in the hall as the front door burst open and a smaller crash close by as Cocky dropped a teacup. Two uniformed Germans ran into the kitchen, rifles leveled.
"Stay where you are. Do not move."
We heard boots storming up the stairs. The soldiers glanced around disgustedly at this room filled with women and one old man. If they had looked closer at Katrien she would surely have given herself away: Her face was a mask of terror. But they had other things on their minds.
"Where are your men?" the shorter soldier asked Cocky in clumsy, thick-accented Dutch.
"These are my aunts," she said "and this is my grandfather. My father is at his school, and my mother is shopping and..."
"I didn’t ask about the whole tribe!" the man exploded in German. Then in Dutch: "Where are your brothers?"
Cocky stared at him a second, then dropped her eyes. My heart stood still. I knew how Nollie had trained her children -- but surely, surely now of all times a lie was permissible!
"Do you have brothers?" the officer asked again.
"Yes," Cocky said softly. "We have three."
"How old are they?"
"Twenty-one, nineteen, and eighteen..."
Upstairs we heard the sounds of doors opening and shutting, the scrape of furniture dragged from walls.
"Where are they now?" the soldier persisted.
Cocky leaned down and began gathering up the broken bits of cup. The man jerked her upright. "Where are your brothers?"
"The oldest one is at the Theological College. He doesn’t get home most nights because..."
"What about the other two?"
Cocky did not miss a breath.
"Why, they’re under the table."
Motioning us all away from it with his gun, the solider seized a corner of the cloth. At a nod from him the taller man crouched with his rifle cocked. Then he flung back the cloth.
At last the pent-up tension exploded: Cocky burst into spasms of high hysterical laughter. The soldiers whirled around. Was this girl laughing at them?
"Don’t take us for fools!" the short one snarled. Furiously he strode from the room and minutes later the entire squad trooped out...
It was a strange dinner party that evening, veering as it did from heartfelt thanksgiving to the nearest thing to a bitter argument our close-knit family had ever had. Nollie stuck by Cocky, insisting she would have answered the same way. "God honors truth-telling with perfect protection!"
Nollie remained joyful and full of faith. She told friends, "No ill will come to Annaliese. God will not let them take her to Germany. He will not let my obedience to Him cause her to suffer." Six days after her arrest, members of the Dutch underground broke into the building where the Jews were being detained, and freed Annaliese with the others. Six weeks after that, Nollie was unexpectedly released from jail with a fresh appreciation for truthfulness as a weapon against evil.
I don’t know any of us who has faced death as the possible price for honesty. I do know of some folks who have lost their jobs because they refused to file a dishonest report for their company, or they have lost their careers because they blew the whistle where they could have avoided trouble by just keeping quiet.
For most of us, however, the price of honest is simply the risk of embarrassment, or the risk of lost respect, or the risk of financial loss. A long time ago, I learned that a prime reason why I am reluctant to obey God in matters of integrity is that I don’t really trust Him. I don’t really believe He can take care of me, so I gotta get out of my mess my own way.
He who covers is his sins will not prosper.
But whoever confesses them and forsakes them will have mercy.(Proverbs 28:13)
Part 3 - The Breastplate of Righteousness
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