Sermon preached on March 21, 2010 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.
Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
The singer, song writer Carly Simon once told of her reaction when she was 10 years old and heard that her father had had a heart attack. She said,
"That demolished me. So freaked out. 'I would knock on wood 500 times every night thinking that would keep him from dying. Compulsive behavior. The fact that he didn't die the first night I did it meant I had to keep doing it. I was so scared. I eventually began knocking less, getting it down to 300, then 100 in the last year, then he died.'"
It's amazing when you're young how you think that things like knocking on wood will somehow change other events. Knocking on wood is not a good strategy for protecting your father. There's no truth to the fact that it will give you what you want.
If you want to be protected, you need to be protected by something that is actually going to protect you. As far as Christian living goes, the apostle Paul tells us that our protection is the truth. He wrote, Ephesians 6:14
"Stand firm then,
with the belt of truth
buckled around your waist,"
Part of a Roman soldier's armor was his belt. Peter O'Brien writes, (Peter T. O'Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, PNTC; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999)
"For a Roman soldier this belt probably refers to the leather apron which hung under the armor and protected the thighs, rather than the sword belt or the protective girdle worn over the armour. The idea of fastening clothing securely around one's waist signifies preparation for vigorous activity (Luke 12:35, 37; 17:8), in this case, readiness for battle."
John Stott adds, (God's New Society, p. 277)
"It ensured that he was unimpeded when marching. As he buckled it on, it gave him a sense of hidden strength and confidence."
Tucking your long flowing garments into the belt in made it so that Roman soldier could move effectively. They were unencumbered by their clothing. There are three things that we should note here.
The first is drawn from the fact that we are told that
readiness for battle is related to truth.
The truth is foundational for our lives. In his classic study, "The Christian in Complete Armor", William Gurnall wrote, (p. 292)
"The loins are the chief seat of bodily strength. Of behemoth it is said, 'His strength is in his loins,' Job 40:16. The loins are to the body as—the keel to the ship. The whole ship is knit to that, and sustained by it. And the body is knit to the loins; if the loins fail, the whole body sinks, hence to 'smite through the loins' is a phrase to express destruction and ruin, … weak loins and a weak man."
I know that's true because whenever my lower back gives out, it puts me on my knees and I can't do anything else to protect myself.
Thus what the seat of bodily strength needs is the truth. Indeed, this is one of the great blessings of the Spirit. In John 14:17 Jesus called the Holy Spirit that lives in us the 'Spirit of truth'. He is the One that will lead is 'into all truth'. (John 16:13) Truth is foundational for our lives, for us to be successful in the battle our enemy wages against us.
You are to put on the belt of truth. This makes you prepared for battle.
There are two ways in which this is true.
First, you need to know and believe the truth.
If you're going to be successful as a Christian you need to know what you believe. There are so many lies in our society that if you are going to stand you need to have clear and accurate views about what is true.
One of the most basic things that Satan does is assail the truth. In John 8:44 said to His opponents,
"You belong to your father, the devil…
He was a murderer from the beginning,
not holding to the truth,
for there is no truth in him.
When he lies, he speaks his native language,
for he is a liar and the father of lies."
In Genesis 3:1–5 we read about Satan's lies to Eve. He said,
"Did God really say, 'You must not eat
from any tree in the garden'?"
When Eve explained that they were only forbidden to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden, Satan said,
"You will not surely die.
For God knows that when you eat of it
your eyes will be opened,
and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
Satan lied. He deceived her. Don't let him deceive you.
We live in a very strange society where the lies of Satan abound. It's amazing what people will tell you is true.
Last month I saw a headline in North Country Online that read was about a gathering of students at SUNY Potsdam called, "Standing on the Side of Love". What was the gathering about? It was part of a nationwide campaign is promoting full equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. If you're not with them—you're not standing on the side of love. Soon people who believe homosexuality is sinful are going to be considered guilty of fostering hate. Standing on the side of love—it's not that at all. It's a lie.
Before he was savagely murdered last year, Dr. George Tiller was an advocate of abortion. He ran an abortion clinic and his employees said that he did not have any moral qualms about his work because 'he defined it in terms of saving women's lives and giving them freedom to determine their futures. I quote,
"We have made higher education possible," he said in a speech. "We have helped correct some of the results of rape and incest. We have helped battered women escape to a safer life. We have made recovery from chemical dependency possible. We have helped women and families struggle to save their unwell, unborn child a lifetime of pain."
(New York Times, July 26, 2009)
Can you imagine? That's a lie. He could use all the flowery and noble language he wanted, but that would not change the fact that abortion is a very cruel, calculated and inhuman act of murder.
It's the same way with euthanasia. Such murders are not considered wrong by many in our society. It's considered something that is good. They will tell you that if someone is dreadfully sick or in terrible pain, that they,
'must be allowed to die with dignity if they so choose'.
They even want doctors to be involved in the process to make it less traumatic and painful. It's called 'death with dignity', but that's a lie from Satan.
Many in our society tells us that teaching teens about sexual abstinence doesn't work, that it's much better to teach them about sex and give them condoms. That's a lie from Satan that takes hope and confidence away from Christian teens.
Some will tell you that it's good to live together before marriage in order to find out if you're compatible. That's a lie. Some will tell you that adultery is good in certain situations, like if you found your soul mate. That's a lie. Thy will tell you that working on a marriage is often bad and unhealthy. It's better to throw your wedding vows out the window than to stand by your word. It's a lie.
Not long ago Apple Computer purged it's app store for its iPhone of many, sexually explicit apps. It had a policy to not have porn in its app store but some questionable apps had slipped in and they were removed. Many people don't like that. Tim Bray, a well-known computer wizard, recently started working for Google and criticized Apple's move. He wrote,
"The iPhone vision of the mobile Internet's future omits controversy, sex, and freedom, but includes strict limits on who can know what and who can say what. It's a sterile Disney-fied walled garden…”
He's saying that Apple's censorship of pornography in its app store is bad. It's a lie.
On Oct. 3 of last year the Wall Street Journal had an article about whether Roman Polanski should have been arrested for in Switzerland for a crime he committed in the early 70's here in the United States. It had the reaction of Harvey Weinstein, a film producer. Mr. Weinstein said that Polanski should be set free at once, and said that,
"Hollywood has the best moral compass, because it has compassion."
Hollywood has the best moral compass? Wow. It's a lie.
Now I could go on and talk about many other sins and how they're accepted in our society and how some sins are even somewhat acceptable in churches. But I think you see my point—the world is so full of lies that if you're going to be successful as a Christian you need to know what is true and hold to it. Otherwise you're going to be a very ineffective Christian. Satan is a deceiver. He is the father of lies. He attacks the truth.
A key element in your success in the Christian life relates to your believe the truth and stand upon it. Charles Hodge writes, (Ephesians, p. 382)
"To enter on this spiritual conflict ignorant and doubting, would be to enter battle blind and lame. As the girdle gives strength and freedom of action, and therefore confidence, so does the truth when spiritually apprehended and believed."
John Eadie puts it more succinctly, telling us that the belt of truth is, (Commentary on Ephesians, p. 467)
"the assured conviction that you believe, and that it is God's truth you believe."
We are not to be ignorant of or doubting about the truths of Christianity. To help us see this, let's consider an episode from John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. It shows what happens when we're ignorant of the truths of God's Word. At one point on their Journey to the Celestial City, Christian and Hopeful left the King's Path. They climbed over a gate and started walking in By-Path Meadow, because the way seemed easier there. But soon they realized that the way in the meadow was dangerous, for there were pits to fall into. They tried to get back to the way of the King but a fierce storm came up and the waters prevented them. Late that night, exhausted, they fell asleep. In the morning Giant Despair, whose castle was nearby, found them and brought them back to his castle and put them in a dungeon. Every day he would beat them mercilessly. He kept telling them that there was no hope for them. He offered them poison to drink, and told them that the next week he was going to kill them. Christian and Hopeful were in a desperate situation. Bunyan wrote,
"Now, a little before it was day, good Christian, as one half amazed, brake out into this passionate speech: What a fool, quoth he, am I, thus to lie in a stinking dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty! I have a key in my bosom, called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any lock in Doubting Castle. Then said Hopeful, That is good news; good brother, pluck it out of thy bosom, and try.Then Christian pulled it out of his bosom, and began to try at the dungeon-door, whose bolt, as he turned the key, gave back, and the door flew open with ease, and Christian and Hopeful both came out. Then he went to the outward door that leads into the castle-yard, and with his key opened that door also. After he went to the iron gate, for that must be opened too; but that lock went desperately hard, yet the key did open it. They then thrust open the gate to make their escape with speed; but that gate, as it opened, made such a creaking, that it waked Giant Despair, who hastily rising to pursue his prisoners, felt his limbs to fail, for his fits took him again, so that he could by no means go after them. Then they went on, and came to the King's highway, and so were safe, because they were out of his jurisdiction."
If you as a Christian don't know God's Word and His promises you'll be ill equipped to do anything for the Lord. If you don't have confidence in the Word of God, you'll be ineffective in the Christian life. Ephesians 4:14–16 tells us how we need to together grow in Christ and become mature. Paul wrote,
"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 men in their deceitful scheming.
Instead, speaking the truth in love,
we will in all things grow up into him
who is the Head, that is, Christ."
William Gurnall writes, (p. 292)
"If the understanding be clear in its apprehensions of truth, and the will sincere, vigorous, and fixed in its purposes for that which is holy and good, then he is a strong Christian; but if the understand be dark or uncertain in its notions, as a distempered eye that cannot well discern its object—not able to bring its thoughts to an issue… and the will be wavering and unsteadyÖ here the man is weak, and all he doth will be so."
Sinclair Ferguson writes about Satan and his lies, (p. 176)
"in his cross-hairs he is always focusing on the destruction of these five things: (i) The Word of God and its reliability; (ii) The character of God and his generosity; (iii) The righteousness of God and his absolute dependability; (iv) The enjoyment of God and its abundant pleasures; (v) The fellowship of the people of God and its harmony and unity."
Don't let Satan fool you. Stand with the belt of truth around your waist.
The second way in which the belt of truth prepares you for battle is that, if you're living the truth,
it enables you to face the enemy with confidence.
There was another belt that Roman soldiers wore, an outer belt, known as the cingulim. It was a soldier's badge of office. It had an apron part consisting of decorated leather strips. These also gave some measure of protection but seemed to be primarily for decoration, or intimidation. Some have suggested that the jangling noise made by the apron when the legionaries marched intimidated the enemy.
Thomas L. Constable wrote,
"A man of integrity, with a clear conscience, can face the enemy without fear."
John Calvin writes,
"Truth, by which he means a sincere mind, he compares to a belt. Now, a belt was, in ancient times, one of the most important parts of military armor. He looks therefore to the fountain of sincerity, for the purity of the Gospel ought to purge us from all guile, and to cleanse our hearts from all pretence."
If you live according to the truth, Satan will not be able to easily stop you like he can with someone who practices hypocrisy. Sinclair Ferguson writes, (p. 181)
"the integrity and consistency that is produced in Christians by the truth of the gospel. God looks for 'truth', integrity and reality in the inner man (cf. Psa. 51:6) … Without this we are open to the blackmail of Satan, and ever-exposed to his ability to accuse us of hypocrisy."
If a Christian commits sin and hides it and denies it and it comes out that he was lying and that he actually committed the sin—he loses all credibility and not only is his witness discredited, but the message of the gospel is compromised.
Christians, be people of integrity. As the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 2:14–16,
without complaining or arguing,
so that you may become
blameless and pure,
children of God without fault
in a crooked and depraved generation,
in which you shine like stars in the universe
as you hold out the word of life"
Your credibility as a Christian is related to the truth. When someone who is walking in the truth—Satan will not be able to intimidate or accuse him. You Christians need to be sincere, without hypocrisy, without duplicity. You need to follow the footsteps of Jesus. Isaiah 11:5 says about the Messiah,
"Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist."
But it's interesting that the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, called the LXX, renders it a little differently. Peter T. O'Brien writes, (The Letter to the Ephesians PNTC; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999),
"The apostle's language clearly alludes to the LXX of Isaiah 11, which declares of the Messiah: 'With righteousness shall he be girded around his waist, and with truth bound around his sides' (vv. 4–5). Within its Old Testament context the rule of God's Anointed One in the divine kingdom will be characterized by righteousness and truth."
The Messiah would be equipped with the belt of truth. We see Jesus using this in John 8:45-46. He said to His opponents, (HCSB)
"I tell the truth,
you do not believe Me.
Who among you can convict Me of sin?
If I tell the truth,
why don't you believe Me?"
Jesus could go forth with confidence because He knew that His life was consistent with His message. Only having truth bound up in your life can give you this.
Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, what this shows you is that
you are in danger of a fatal wound.
You don't know what truth is. You've fallen for Satan's lies. You can't see the glory of Jesus Christ. Your eyes are blinded and Satan has you focusing on the worthless things of this world. You're totally deceived. And now the very core of your being is vulnerable. Satan is getting ready for the fatal blow. You're just knocking on wood. That's not going to save you. Only the truth of Jesus Christ can prevent Satan from delivering that last deadly thrust. Turn to Jesus. Ask Him to save you. Find life, protection and victory in Him.