The apostle Paul has given us the imperative to take up the whole armor of God. We are under attack from the devil and his tactics. We are also under attack from the spiritual forces of evil in the spiritual realm. Paul has described the Christian life as a struggle in which we are battling with these spiritual beings. Further, Paul has made it clear that we will fail in spectacular fashion if we try to rely on our own power and strength for the victory. But with the whole armor of God we are able to stand against all of these spiritual attacks that are made on our souls. In Ephesians 6:14-20 the apostle Paul is going to detail the various pieces of armor we need to wear that will be the strength of the Lord in our lives. Paul told us that we need every piece of armor to be able to stand. Therefore, each piece of armor that we read about is Paul telling us the tool God uses to strengthen our lives to stand in the evil day.
The Belt of Truth
The first piece of armor for the battle so that we can stand and walk worthy is the truth. It is easy to pass this piece of armor by and want to look at something that we might find more interesting. But there is a reason that Paul begins this description of the armor of God with truth. To help us see the critical nature of truth, Paul describes truth as the belt of the armor. The belt was critical for the warrior to be prepared to engage in battle. The belt is what held the tunic up and cinched everything into place. Truth performs this critical function.
To say that the first article of armor is truth tells us something obvious yet very important. There is an objective standard called the truth. Consider that if truth is not absolute, then there is no value in it as a piece of armor. We live in a time right now that says that there is no such thing as “the truth,” and if there is truth, then it is relative and depends upon circumstances. The popular way of thinking today is that you make your own truth. You can read online the concept that you are to make your own truth. But truth is an absolute, unchangeable standard otherwise it is not truth.
We live by this all the time in our lives. There are absolute standards that we use every day. If you get pulled over by the police for speeding, do you get to tell the officer that the speed he clocked you at is his truth, but your truth is that you were under the speed limit? Please also consider that it does not matter what your speedometer reads, his radar gun is the absolute truth. We have all experienced the failure of relativism when we drive. Have you noticed that the red lights apply to every else but the driver? If I’m in a hurry then it’s okay to run the red light. Again, will this work as an excuse when you are pulled over for running the red light? No, the law is still broken. The officer may extend grace to you and let you off with a warning or not pull you over, but you still broke the law.
Further, we recognize quickly the problems that ensure when we apply a concept that truth is relative or that you can find your own truth. My truth is to kill you when you do something I don’t like. Your truth is that I must not kill you. Who is right? The point is that truth is an absolute standard that cannot become a moveable, changeable concept or else it is completely useless. How can anyone say that something is good or bad or that something is “the right thing to do” and not admit that there is truth as an absolute standard to make that determination? It is not possible to say that Jesus or Ghandi or Mother Teresa or whoever you want to pick “did good” without admitting there must be an absolute standard to make that assessment.
Now, people will ask, “What is truth?” Like Pilate asked, the world argues, “How can we know the truth?” “What is truth?” The apostle Paul already told us the answer to this. Turn back to Ephesians 4:20-21. “But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus.” (Ephesians 4:20–21 ESV) The truth is in Jesus. This is why Jesus boldly would say that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Consider how often Jesus said this.
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17 ESV)
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31–32 ESV)
Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37 ESV)
If we believe anything about what is contained in the scriptures, then we must believe that there is absolute truth and that truth is found in Jesus and his words. Jesus and his words are the standard for what is truth. I want us to consider why this is so important to the battle we are facing with the devil. If we are struggling this battle, struggling with faith, or struggling with temptation, Paul is telling us that this is the first place to look. Are we looking at the truth? Are we clinging to the truth? Is truth tied around our waist like a belt? We cannot get anything right with possessing the truth. The truth is found in Jesus and in his words. Listen again to what Jesus said:
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. (John 8:44–45 ESV)
Why did he tell these people that they are like the devil? It is a pretty harsh thing to say it seems. Notice the parallel. The devil does not stand in the truth and there is no truth in him. These people are like the devil because they do not believe Jesus for Jesus tells the truth. We are going to be swept away by the lies of the devil if we are not standing in the truth. If we do not know the truth, we are going to believe every lie the devil sends into your mind. You are going to believe that lying is acceptable. You are going to think that pornography is okay. You are going to think your anger is justified. You are going to think that you need to put yourself first and think about yourself. You are going to think that you should not discipline your children. You are going to think that sex before marriage is fine. You are going to think you can get a divorce for any reason. You are going to believe all kinds of lies that are taught by the world and even taught in many churches because you do not know the truth and do not have the truth tied around your waist. I hope we see why the truth is so important. So many think they are in fellowship with God when in fact they are believing another lie of the devil.
Now we have another issue. In our world the truth is that there is no truth. Relativity is the truth, which is ironic since there is not supposed to be the truth. But this is because it is impossible to live life and make decisions without some sort of standard to guide us. Tolerance has become the new truth. Statements are made, “Intolerance will not be tolerated.” So someone will say, “How dare you tell us that this is wrong!” But our response in a world of relativism is, “How dare you tell us that this is right!” You cannot say that something that you are doing is right without some kind of absolute standard by which to make that assessment. But the world is going to live in the darkness of its futility thinking. This is the natural path with we declare that Jesus and his words are not the absolute standard for truth. Christians have always been considered intolerant and that was why they were persecuted by the Roman Empire. So we are not surprised by these things today. What we have today is nothing new in the history of Christianity.
My concern is how this has affected Christians. First, any religion or any denomination is not fine. The standard of spirituality today is simply that you go to church somewhere. Just go to some church and that is fine. Here is the problem. There is a standard of truth that is Jesus so you cannot just pick any church to go to. Churches are not the same because they are not doing the same thing or teaching the same thing. If they were, there would only be one church in each city. But the differences are many and important. You need to find Christians who are reading the truth of Jesus’ words and doing what he says. Worship is not saying that you are worshiping God. Worship is doing exactly what Jesus said without changing one word he said.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'” (Matthew 7:21–23 ESV)
God revealed the truth so that we would listen to that truth and obey it. It is the standard for our lives. So you cannot simply think that all churches are created equal as long as they say Jesus somewhere in the sermon. I hope you are coming here because the truth of the scriptures is taught every time we gather in every place we meet.
Second, there is a great lie that the devil has put forward that Christians have easily accepted without realizing it: moralism. The idea is that we are able to earn favor with God and justify ourselves before God by virtue of our behavior. This mode of thinking is religious, even “Christian” in its content, but it’s more about self-actualization and self-fulfillment, and it puts forward a God who does not so much intervene and redeem but basically hangs out behind the scenes, cheering on your you-ness and hoping you pick up the clues he’s left to become the best you you can be.
Rather than Christianity being focused on Christ, Christianity has become focused on me. How it makes me feel and how it makes me a better me. It is a picture of moral self-improvement rather than recognizing we are broken, sinful people who must give our wrecked lives to Jesus who can redeem us. We worship for how it makes us feel. We come to worship only if it is right for me or is convenient for me. We get upset when other Christians do not pay attention to us, serve us, visit us, be friends with us, give to us, or whatever we want because Christianity is all about us! This is the lie of the devil. None of what we are doing is about us but about God. This world is about God and his glory and not about us. You and I are not the truth. Jesus is the truth. Christianity is not that Jesus was a great moral teacher whose perfect moral example is something we are supposed to emulate! This idea misses the truth of the gospel! The truth of Jesus is that there is no one who is good and no one is going to heaven because all of us are wretched sinners deserving the wrath of God. We are nothing before him and are destined to eternal punishment as children of wrath. But God who is rich in mercy and love sent Jesus as the sacrifice for sins so that those who would have faith in Jesus would be saved from the wrath to come. This is the gospel! Now, because we have been saved we look to the example of Jesus to learn how we must change our thinking and actions from sinfulness to righteousness. But we are not here so you and I can be better people that will earn God’s favor. That simply cannot happen. The cross has made so that no one can boast before him.
We must live in this truth which will make us grateful and thankful to the Lord for saving us from the wrath we deserved to receive. This truth of God’s love and mercy will help you stand against the tactics of the devil. How can I sin again when God has rescued me from that sinful life that is destined for punishment! How can I return to sinful living when God has intervened in our lives and called us to walk worthy of the new calling? The truth changes everything in our lives.