Many college students cannot bring themselves to say that the Holocaust was evil (see Bloom, p. 67). One student said (in Reader’s Digest [Feb., 1998], p. 75), “Of course I dislike the Nazis, but who is to say they are morally wrong?” While these students deplore what Hitler did, they express their disapproval as a matter of personal preference, not as a moral judgment.
I wish that our cultural tolerance of sin and rejection of moral absolutes were only outside the church. But a study by George Barna showed that while only 28 percent of the general population expressed strong belief in absolute truth, among those who identified themselves as born-again evangelicals, the number dropped to 23 percent! (Cited by James Dobson, newsletter, Dec., 1991.)
If you have ever worked through one of the many personality tests, you will find some that have the strong response that they “know what they know, and they know what they do not know.”
It’s my hope that many Christians are able to ‘check off that box.’
When the apostle Paul tells us how to stand firm against these evil spiritual forces, he lists six pieces of spiritual armor to put on. Today we will examine the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness, which stand firmly opposed to the philosophical and moral relativism of our day.
- To stand firm against the enemy, gird yourself with the belt of truth.
For the Roman soldier, the girdle or belt was a leather apron-like piece that extended down to the thighs, protecting the lower abdomen and other private areas. The soldier tucked his robe or tunic into it so that he could move quickly and without encumbrance in the battle.
The main idea of a soldier girding his loins was that he was ready for vigorous action. Paul’s point in telling us to gird our loins with truth is that we cannot be ready to fight the enemy if we are not strong and ready with God’s truth.
When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, He used the same weapon that we have today: the word of God.
As the belt formed the foundation of the soldier’s armor, the truth is the foundation of the Christian life. This “truth” refers to the believer’s character as a person who can be relied on for the truth. It certainly also refers to the truth of God’s Word and his message in the gospel.
If we could not be absolutely sure of our faith, if we were not sure that Jesus is “the truth” (John 14:6), then there would be little use for the armor or in attempting to fight any battle.
God’s truth, as revealed to us through Jesus Christ, forms the foundation of victorious Christian living.
When the enemy, the father of lies (John 8:44), attacks with his lies, half-truths, and distortions, we believers can stand on the truth we believe.
The foundation for truth is the gospel, which centers in Jesus who is the embodiment of truth. As a result of our being new creatures in Jesus Christ through the gospel, we are to be truthful people.
But first, we need to answer the question:
Since God is the only essential reality in the universe, He is truth and the standard for all truth. Jesus referred to Him as “the only true God” (John 17:3).
If He is the only eternal, self-existent Being, then He is the truth, the only unchanging reality in the universe. He cannot lie.
The Hebrew word was often used of things that had proved to be reliable. Thus it often refers to God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises.
John 1:14 states of Jesus, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Jesus said (John 14:6), “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
God’s Word is His revelation of truth.
Jesus prayed (John 17:17), “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”
Paul referred to the Bible and its central message, the gospel, as “the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Therefore, any deviation from God’s Word is error or falsehood.
How do we put on the belt of truth so that we can stand firm against the enemy?
To stand firm against the enemy, gird yourself with the core truths of the gospel.
Paul writes (2 Cor. 4:4), “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
While sincere believers differ over non-essential teachings, on the core truths of the gospel, we must agree.
If the enemy assails you with doubts, go back to the bedrock of the gospel: Who is Jesus Christ? Are His claims true?
Did He die for my sins according to the Scriptures? Was He raised from the dead as the many New Testament witnesses testify? Have I experienced the change from blindness to sight?
To stand firm against the enemy, gird yourself with truthful behavior. Paul applies it by commanding (4:25), “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”
2. To stand firm against the enemy, put on the breastplate of righteousness.
The breastplate covered the soldier from his neck to his waist, front and back. Thus it protected his heart and other vital organs.
In Hebrew thought, the heart represented the mind and will, and the bowels were the seat of the emotions. Thus the breastplate of righteousness protects the believer’s mind, will, and emotions, areas where Satan often attacks.
What is righteousness? I define it as “being right with God.”
“Righteousness” provides a significant defense; it gives the evidence that we have been made right with God and that this righteousness has been given us by the Holy Spirit. Believers have been made righteous through the blood of Christ.
We first learned of this concept when we were told that Abrahan “believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Satan is ready for battle at every turn, willing to hit us unfairly from behind if given the chance.
Righteousness is the opposite of Satan’s complete wickedness. Satan seeks to thwart righteous living.
When the enemy, the accuser (Revelation 12:10), tries to convince us that we are not really saved, that we just keep on disappointing God, and that we’re “poor excuses” for Christians, we can stand up to him because of the righteousness we have been promised through our faith in Jesus Christ.
“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:22 niv).
How do we put on the breastplate of righteousness so that we can stand firm against the enemy?
(1). To stand firm against the enemy, put on the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Paul made the astounding statement (2 Cor. 5:21) that God made Christ, “who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
He wrote (Rom. 4:5), “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.”
The glorious truth is that we stand before God clothed with the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. That is our only hope for eternal life.
But Satan comes and gets us to focus on our sinful behavior. “Look at how you just exploded in anger! Look at how you lied to cover your tracks! Look at how you lusted after that girl! Some Christian you are!” How do you answer him if his charges are true?
You answer by applying Christ’s imputed righteousness: “You are right, Satan, I did just sin. But my eternal life does not depend on my sinless behavior or perfect track record. I am trusting in the blood of Jesus Christ and His righteousness credited to my account. Take it up with Him!”
As we walk as God’s children in this world, as new creatures in Christ, we will be growing in conformity to God’s holy standards as revealed in His Word.
Fruit takes time, but there should be evident progress in holiness and obedience. If there is a gap between our profession of Christ and our practice, the enemy will use it to attack us.
It almost never fails, that when someone comes in for counsel, a certain verse almost always comes up.
Philippians 4:8 (ESV) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
As Christians, we must learn to give our thoughts and emotions to God, and we must steer our thinking through verses like this one.
We are surrounded with gossip, innuendoes, lies, distortions, what we ‘think’ is true compared to what is actually true.
My dad taught me that when talking with children, to use a phrase “tell me the truth” is often difficult to interpret.
His advise? Tell me what ‘really happened.’
It almost always works.
We need us allow truth to change our mind and heart. It puts us in the correct ‘frame of mind’ to then tell God ‘what really happens’ in our life in order to get the cleansing and renewed ‘clean conscience.’