06 May 2008

Verse by verse through Ephesians (6:14-6:15)

And post Number 1000! Yaaay!!!!

Ephesians 6:14-15

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace

Last time we looked at standing against the devil. That Pilgrim, in Bunyan’s classic The Pilgrim’s Progress, was not given any armor for his back—it was assumed that when Apollyon opposed him that he would not fear, but rather stand and fight. This is the same sentiment Paul encourages us with. Why should we be afraid of Satan? Of course we should always be mindful of him, and be vigilant against him. But fear him? For what reason? What can Satan do to us? What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us…Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. (Romans 8:31, 33-34). Satan can huff and puff and beat his chest all he likes. He can come against us with manifold temptations. He can play upon our fears and doubts. But he cannot make us do anything. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it (1st Corinthians 10:13).

We also saw that the armor we are to take, we are to take all of it. Not just a couple pieces. We are not to walk out the door unprepared for battle. For Satan never does. When he attacks, he has a specific plan. In verse 11, Paul calls these plans μεθοδεια (methodeia). Methods, precise schedules, battle plans. He knows how he is going to attack you. You don’t. Now, do you still think you can face him? Or will you flee when you see him?

In these verses we will be looking at today, we will see what the pieces of armor protect us from. That each one of them is specific against specific attacks. Keeping in mind that these words did not just spring up from Paul’s imagination, but were given to him by the Holy Spirit, we can know that there is a purpose for each piece listed, and a reason they are ordered as they are. God does not do anything or say anything the way He does without having a reason. Consider how He lists the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). First, love. Then upon love is built joy. Then upon love and joy is built peace. Then on love, joy and peace is built patience. Love, joy, peace and patience are the foundation for gentleness. And so on. Each attribute of the fruit of the Spirit is based on those qualities that came before. and in much the same way, each piece of armor listed here is given in a certain order, based on the first things building up the later things.

We’re not going to feel like we have won every battle. But if we remember that we are not the ones who do the fighting—it is God who fights for us—if we remember this, we will indeed overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). After all, look back at verse 10. Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Nowhere in Scripture are we ever taught to go it alone. Never are we encouraged to go into battle against Satan using our own skills and weapons. Rather, the weapons of our warfare are mighty through God (2nd Corinthians 10:4). And the armor we are to wear is God’s—this is why we are commanded to put on Christ (Romans 13:14; Galatians 3:27).

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth… Uh-oh. We’re in trouble before we even start. According to some, we can't know the truth. We cannot be sure of anything—except our doubts. Their idea of faith is to question everything. They are puffed up in themselves with this grandiose idea that they are so much smarter than we are because they have figured out that no one can know the truth. So, they have lost the battle before it has even begun. Because they are calling Jesus a liar. These people who claim to love Him so much that they would never dare to say they can know the truth—are indeed blaspheming Him by saying He lied to us. Yes, you read that correctly. They are blaspheming our Lord every time they say we cannot know the truth.

John 8:31-3131 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
John 14:6“I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
John 17:17“Sanctify them by Your truth; Your word is truth.”

Jesus tells us that we shall know the truth. And what is the truth? Or, rather, who is the truth? He is the truth. Now, when Jesus said, “You shall know the truth,” do you really think that He was just kinda giving us a pep talk, that He didn’t really mean that we would know the truth? Or do you think He was being honest, and that if we truly believe, that yes, we will know the truth? Or are you smarter than Jesus? Do you know what He meant better than He did?

So, what does he mean by gird your waist with truth? The phrase is in the middle voice, meaning it is something we do to ourselves. This requires action on our part. It is something that someone else cannot do for us. We must be the one who girds our own waist with the truth. How do we wear that “belt of truth?” For one thing, it goes all around you, and is fitted tightly to you. So for starters, we are to surround ourselves with truth. I’m sure you’ve heard the illustration about Treasury agents, and how they are trained to spot counterfeit bills. They do not spend their time studying what fake money looks like. Rather, they study real bills. And if they are intensely familiar with what a real bill looks like, it makes it that much easier to spot a fake. That is an illustration of our own need to be intensely familiar with the truth of Scripture so that when we see some phony baloney on TV preaching a bunch of mushed-up gobbledy-gook, it will be readily apparent to us. Someone once asked me “What’s the best way to spot a false teacher.” The answer: surround yourself with the truth. Then the lies will be obvious.

That is not to say we shouldn’t be aware of the enemy’s tactics and lies. Of course we should make ourselves as ready as possible for the time when the enemy will come against us, twisting the Scriptures and making them say something they're really not saying. This is why I am so determined to show the truth about the LDS church, and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society and the Roman Catholic Church. So that when you hear their lies, you will know the truth, and you can run from the lies.

Another thing about a belt is you wear it tightly to your body. The belt of a Roman soldier was designed to fit tightly around his waist in order to hold the other parts together. Without it, everything else would be useless. Much like our own lives. Without the truth—if we are not walking in truth—we are useless. So what does the enemy like to do? The first and clearest distinction of a false religion is to cast doubt on the word of God. To say that it is not reliable. That it has been corrupted, or that you need some guy in a funny collar to tell you what it means. Why do we have the Qur'an? Because “an angel told Mohammed” that the Bible had been corrupted. Why did we get the Book of Mormon? Because “an angel told Joseph Smith” that the Bible had been corrupted. Why do we have the New World Translation? Because the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society declared that the Bible had been corrupted and mistranslated. Why has the Roman Catholic Church steered so far away from the truth of God’s word? Because you can't know the truth unless Il Popa tells you what it means—and if you don’t believe him, then you are anathema.

What do all these groups have in common? They all tell us that we cannot know the truth unless we hear it from them. That we cannot believe Jesus when He said that we shall know the truth. That Jesus didn’t really mean what He said. Hmmm. That sounds familiar. Who was it that once asked the question, “Hath God indeed said?” (Genesis 3:1). Find the truth in God’s word. Hold fast to it. Bind it close to you that you may be fitted snugly with it, and you may spot the lies when they come along.

…having put on the breastplate of righteousness… Again, put on Christ. Christ is our righteousness. Our own righteousnesses, what do they count for? Filthy rags. If you are familiar with that quote from Isaiah 64:6, you know what the prophet meant. But if you are new to that passage, let me shed light on it. When Isaiah calls our righteousnesses “filthy rags,” he isn't comparing them to those old, tattered t-shirts you use to dust your coffee table. He’s talking about the cloths women would use during their “period of uncleanness.” Today, he would have called them “tampons.” Yes, in God’s eyes, all the things we do to make ourselves righteous are nothing but used tampons. Now just how good are you? All the good deeds you have done, trying to get brownie points, trying to balance out the scales so you have more “good deeds” than “bad deeds” and all you have been doing is soiling a bunch of tampons. Sorry if that makes you sick or disgusted—but God is sick and disgusted by all of our efforts at making ourselves clean by our own works.

So, what is the righteousness we are to “put on” as a breastplate? The righteousness of Christ, of course. After all, have we not become the righteousness of God in Him? That’s what Paul said in 2nd Corinthians 5:21For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. We are here exhorted to put on the righteousness of Christ to cover our hearts. After all, that is where our words come from . For as a man thinks in his heart, so he is (Proverbs 23:7). Therefore, whatever we allow to enter into our hearts comes out through our words, and we are defiled (Matthew 15:18-19), and we curse man who is made in the similitude of God (James 3:9). So, what does putting on the breastplate of righteousness protect? What does the Bible mean when it talks about a man’s heart? Mostly, our emotions, motives, and desires.

When we allow our emotions to dictate our actions, we are goners. Because our emotions are based in our feelings. And when it comes to discerning truth, and the proper way to act, feelings are not the proper barometer to use.
Jeremiah 17:9The heart is desperately wicked, and deceitful above all things. Who can know it?
Ecclesiastes 9:3the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live…
Genesis 8:21the intentions of a man’s heart is evil from his youth.

So, still relying on your heart to lead your mind? Beware. Because your flesh will go where your heart wants it to go. But if you are following Christ, and allowing your emotions to come under His control, then He will do the leading, rather than your emotions.

What about our motives? Are they pure? Are we doing things in order to be seen by men and get their approval, and their praise? Or are we doing our alms in secret, so our Father in Heaven can reward us openly? If we give a bunch of money to a hospital to build a new cancer wing, do we demand that they put our name on the outside? Consider these words of our Lord in Matthew 6:1-5“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full…When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full…Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.”

Notice a pattern there? Doing the right thing with the wrong motive. Because their hearts were far from God.

Then there’s the matter of our desires. Do we desire the things of earth, or the things of God? If our heart is set on things of the earth, then we will store up things on earth. And if our hearts are set on riches, will we ever be satisfied? No. Because once we obtain those riches, we will only want more riches. Ecclesiastes 5:11He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity.

Then the day will come when our souls are required of us, and we will stand naked before our Judge, and be told to “Depart!” Instead, may our hearts be set on things above (Colossians 3:2). Let us store up treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:20). Let our hearts not be filled with covetousness, for covetousness will exclude us from the kingdom of God (Luke 12:15).

Finally, let’s look at having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Would a soldier go into battle wearing sneakers? No. He would have his best boots on, so that he could stand firm and march as long as he was required. One thing to note about the shoes of a Roman soldier: They had thick layers of leather on the bottom, with cleats coming out of them. Why the thick layers of leather? The reason for that was, a lot of times, the country being invaded would take all kinds of sharp objects like pieces of metal, or bones, or broken pottery. And they would lay them out on the ground and cover them with soft dirt. So when the enemy came marching along, if they didn’t have good footwear, those pieces of steel, or glass, would go right up into their feet, and they would be crippled.

Kinda like the way Satan operates. He’ll try to lay a trap out there for you. He’s getting the battlefield ready the way HE wants it. Oh, I’m sorry. Were you under the impression that Satan fights fair? That he has some kind of code of honor he is duty-bound to follow? No, friend. Satan does not play fair. He will tempt you and lie to you and try to make you think that he is your friend. Don’t believe me? Ask Eve. What was his answer when she told them that they would die if they ate of the tree of knowledge? “Thou shalt not surely die!” (Genesis 3:4). Or perhaps you have forgotten what Jesus had to say about our accuser: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it (Matthew 8:44).

So we shod our feet properly. But what is this preparation of the gospel of peace? It is quite a cumbersome statement. The word “preparation” is translated from έτοιμασια (hetoimasia). It comes from the word έτοιμαζω (hetoimazo). This word literally means “to make the necessary preparations, get everything ready.” Of course we know that the gospel of peace is the good news that God came to us, wrapped Himself in flesh (John 1:14), gave His life as a ransom for our sins (Matthew 20:28), thus reconciling us to God (Colossians 1:20) while we were far off (Ephesians 2:12-14) and enemies of God (Colossians 1:21; Romans 5:10). So, what Paul is telling us here is this: We are to bind the gospel of peace to our feet, so that no matter where we go, no matter what snares and traps Satan has laid out for us, we will be prepared to walk through that minefield, confident that no matter what weapons Satan throws at us, no matter what kind of booby traps he readies, we will walk through that valley of the shadow of death and come out on the other side a stronger soldier of Christ than when we first entered.

Secure everything with the truth. Let the truth be the one thing that binds everything else together. Let the righteousness of Christ, and the will of God, be that breastplate that defends your emotions, motives, and desires from being influenced by that evil one. And let your walk be shielded from the snares of the enemy by walking confidently upon the fact that you are prepared for any opposition from Apollyon because you know and believe the gospel, thus putting you at peace with God.

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