Spiritual warfare 2: The belt of truth

Outline notes from sermon preached on 13th May 2012

 

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” [Ephesians 6:12]

When we really believe this it is life changing.  When we really have this Biblical worldview in our hearts, it gives us the foundation for victory in our spiritual warfare. 

In our materialistic culture, where most people believe 70 or 80 years is our lot in life, we want heaven on earth and as much leisure as possible before we die.  Indeed there are many blessings in this life.  But to enjoy these blessings we need to embrace this biblical worldview of our Christian life as warfare.  Though we recoil from the idea of struggle, trials and difficulties, it is our experience.   And the fact is that as Christians, the powers of darkness will do everything in their power to keep us away from God and enjoying his blessings.

I remember years ago when we were newly married, and we asked ourselves, “Why do we argue on Sunday morning, just before we are about to go to church?”  Then we recognised it as a spiritual attack and came together to resist it in prayer.

I remember in my early Christian days going to a Christian conference, and feeling so negative all through it.  There were so many things about the conference I didn’t like!  But then, as soon the conference finished, all the negative-ness I had been experiencing lifted!  I realised I had been robbed of the blessings God wanted to give, and I determined to resist these attacks in the future.

We need to realise the schemes of the devil.  He is is a liar and the father of lies; he lies to us about God, ourselves and other Christians.  He is a robber who wants to steal the blessings God want to give.  He is a murderer and wants to kill and destroy all that is good and true.  This is what Jesus taught,

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. [John 10:10]

One commentator says about Satan’s attacks on God’s people, “Seldom does Satan ever attack openly.  His strategies as ministered by his devils are nearly always unseen, shrewd, and perfectly tailored for the victim … he is evil beyond comprehension and without conscience or principle.  He is diabolically cunning.  And he is after us!”

He is called the Serpent because he is so cunning.  He is called the Old Serpent because he’s been at it from creation, and he is well able to outwit you and me.  So, Paul is saying here that we need to be aware of this unseen battle, and to take a stand against the devil’s schemes.

Paul gives two commands:

1.       A general command to, “Be strong in the Lord”

When soldiers go into battle, they encourage each other to be strong, to be brave.  Paul is giving the same encouragement: be strong in your walk with God; be strong in your witness; be strong in your suffering; find spiritual strength in the Lord!

There is in the Bible what has been called a theology of weakness.  However nowhere in the Bible does it tell us to be weak.  I found 33 verses where it tells us to be strong, for example,

“Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” [Psalm 27:14]

“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” [Isa 40:29-31].  

We can draw on the strength which God provides, especially when we feel weak.

2.       A specific command to, “Put on the whole armour of God”

In our spiritual warfare we need the whole armour of God.  When I became a Christian I realised God’s call required a wholehearted commitment.  I knew could not respond with a half-hearted commitment.  I couldn’t say to God “You can have part of my life, but not all of it.”  then I discovered that when we give ourselves completely to Him, He gives himself completely to us.  He has provided a complete set of armour for our warfare. Let’s look at the armour, though I will only have time for the belt of truth this week.

Paul begins, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist.” 

A Roman soldier tightened his belt to get ready for combat.  The process of tightening the belt drew up his tunic and held all his armour in place, without which he wouldn’t even be able to keep his trousers up.    Paul is saying here that truth has the same function in our spiritual warfare.  It holds everything else together.

But what is truth?  What does Paul mean here by truth?  Society today finds it hard to believe there is such a thing as objective truth.  It may be true for you, but it isn’t true for me!  The only thing we can be absolutely sure is true is that there is no absolute truth!

However the Bible does speak about truth.  I think Paul is referring here first to the truth revealed in the Scriptures, the revelation of God recorded through historical events and other writings such as the psalms and prophets.   As a Christ follower, Paul now understood the Old Testament to speak about Jesus, the Messiah.  In Ephesians 4:21 Paul refers to “the truth that is in Jesus.”  This truth is not only truth found in a book, but is truth embodied in a Person, Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” [John 14:6]

So Paul is talking about the truth about God, the truth about us, the truth about history, especially the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the truth about the future.  It is this truth that is in Jesus which we need, and without which we will not stand a chance in the spiritual battles that come our way.

We need to hold tightly to this truth which is found in the Scripture.  If we don’t, all the other weapons of our warfare will clatter to the ground in disarray, and we shall not be able to stand.  This is why we need to know the scriptures, and make time to study together.

There is power in the Scriptures.  Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” [John 8:32].  The power of the truth of the scriptures is the reason why the Bible has been so furiously attacked over the centuries and today.  Satan knows the power of the truth of Scripture to set people free, which is why he is so forceful against them. In our spiritual warfare, Jesus is our ultimate example.  How did he handle direct attacks from Satan when he was tempted in the wilderness? [Matthew 4:1-11]  He answered each temptation in the same way with the words “It is written …”   He didn’t quote the Rabbi’s, though these theologians had interesting things to say.  When he was attacked spiritually, he used the truth of God’s word.

If we know the truth as it is in Jesus, it is more than theory, it is a truth which we live out in our lives.

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour.” [Eph 4:25]

Truthfulness is not something that comes easily to the human race!  Just look at the media and our politicians.  It’s not just them!  It doesn’t come easily to us either.  Yet as Christians we need to learn to speak truthfully to each other, and coming in this opposite spirit counters the devil.

We also need to be aware that the devil peddles false teaching.

“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” [2Co 11:13-14]

Knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus will enable us to discern truth from error, and to stand against this kind of deception.  False teaching usually looks very attractive since Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  True teaching will open up the Scriptures for us and draw us to God.  False teaching will contradict the Bible and lead us away from God.   False teaching isn’t necessarily false at every point.  It can contain truth … as well as a lot of half-truths … which is why it can be so deceptive.  Also, teaching from a true teacher isn’t necessarily true at every point!  Mistakes can be made, and no-one is infallible, though it should be generally true.   A good question to ask is, “Is this teaching Trinitarian? Does it acknowledge Jesus as the incarnate Son of God?”  On this basis it is easy to see that the two significant doctrines in the UK today – secular atheism and Islam, fall short of this test.

So how is the spiritual battle going?  Do you need to tighten your belt to stand in the battles you face?  Are you increasing in your knowledge of God?  Are you living your life as a truthful and honest person?

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2 Responses to Spiritual warfare 2: The belt of truth

  1. Pingback: Be strong and of good courage! For the Lord Your God Is With You « bummyla

  2. Pingback: In God We Trust: True of False? « He Dwells — The B'log in My Eye

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