08 March 2007

The Armor of GOD (Part 2--Belt of Truth, Breastplate of Righteousness)

If you read your Bible long enough you will realize that it is a book filled with answers. So many times people will ask “well, where does it talk about this” or “what does the Bible say about that”. And, for the most part, whatever question someone might have, there is probably an answer to that question somewhere in the Scriptures. But, for as many answers as there are in here, there are also some very well-known questions. When GOD asked Cain where his brother Abel was, Cain replied, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” GOD asked Isaiah “Whom shall I send? Who shall go for us?” And when the scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus trying to trap Him in His words, He often replied with a question of His own.

Of all these, there is one question that was asked by one man, but that question is still being asked by millions of people today. In John 18, Christ tells Pilate, "...for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." Pilate then asked this question: “What is truth?” Many people have wondered throughout the years about the meaning of this question. Was it a sarcastic response, or was it a sincere desire to know the truth? Whatever the case, it is a question that many people today are searching far and wide to answer. What is truth? Well, that’s what we will be looking at today in our study of the armor of GOD.

We are in the 6th chapter of the book of Ephesians. And we are going to begin looking at the actual pieces of armor, how they fit together, and how we use them. We saw last time why we need to take and put on the whole armor. For one, we are commanded to stand and fight Satan when he comes to attack. We saw how we fight against an enemy that will not quit until he has us on the ground with his hands around our necks. But we also saw how we overcome that enemy, not in our own strength, but by keeping in mind what each piece of armor represents.

The first weapon we have against Satan is THE BELT OF TRUTH.
Verse 14a.
"Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth..."

What is truth? The “belt of truth” for all you Bibleman fans out there. Where is it? It’s right in the center. It’s not very wide. Some people today think that there is "truth", there is "what is not the truth", and in between there is a big, gray area. Let me put it to you this way: If we were to pluck a hair from our head—it might be easier for some than for others—that hair would be about 1000X wider than the distance between truth and lie.

How important is truth? Well, we see in the Bible that it is THE most important characteristic of GOD. Think about this: if GOD were not always 100% true, and we had to kinda guess about where His word was true, and where it wasn’t true, how could we even rely on ANYTHING that’s written in here? It is truth that holds everything together, even the word of GOD. Now, how do we know that we can rely on “every word that proceeds from the mouth of GOD” (Matthew 4:4)? First, in the book of Titus, Paul wrote these words: Titus 1:2--Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which goes hand-in-hand with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began… Notice that? He said “GOD, who cannot lie.” Not that He “won’t” or “doesn’t” or “probably may not”. GOD CANNOT LIE!!

In fact, another verse, Hebrews 6:17-18 says, God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the unchangability of His purpose, confirmed it by an oath, that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us Look at the words the writer uses in these two verses: The unchangability of His purpose; He confirmed it by an oath; it is IMPOSSIBLE for GOD to lie; we can have consolation, comfort, security; we can lay hold of hope. GOD cannot lie. What He says today, He will mean tomorrow.

Have you ever heard someone say, “Yeah, I'll meet you tomorrow, we’ll do…whatever.” What happens tomorrow? “Oh yeah, well, something came up.” Then you say, “Yeah, sure no problem.” MUMMBLE, MUMMBLE. Well, guess what? When it comes to GOD and His word, we don’t have to worry about that. If he says something’s gonna happen tomorrow, IT’S GONNA HAPPEN TOMORROW. Now, how do we use that knowledge that GOD keeps His promises, that GOD cannot lie, to our advantage when Satan comes knockin’ on the door? It’s actually simpler than people think. I didn’t say it was EASY, I said it was SIMPLE. You see, when Satan comes a-callin’, he may not necessarily come with an out-and-out, bold-faced lie.

Remember what he said to Eve? Genesis 3:1--"Hath God said, Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden?" Have you ever heard the phrase “there’s a grain of truth in that”? yes, GOD had said that there was A TREE in the garden that they could not eat from. But, GOD did not say that they couldn’t eat from ANY tree. But by now, he had Eve’s mind clouded, and then he comes with the outright lie, saying in Genesis 3:4, “Ye shall not surely die!” Now, Eve knew the truth. But she didn’t use it. She let herself get pulled along onto this lie, and I think we all know what happened next. Remember I opened today by talking about questions in the Bible? Well, if you think about it, the fall of man started with one question.

So what Paul says here when he tells us to gird our waist with the truth is he’s telling us to “surround ourselves with the truth.” After all, if you surround yourself with the truth, it’s easier to spot the lies, isn’t it? So we put on the belt of truth. Notice also that not only does this hold everything together but it also goes around us.

You know what’s funny is there are some well-meaning people who go on TV and write books telling us to “look for the truth inside of ourselves”. Can I be honest with ya? Looking for the truth inside of ourselves is like looking for oceanfront property in the middle of Montana. You ain’t gonna find it. Listen to what GOD Himself said in Genesis 8:21—the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth. Now, there are some groups out there who say they have the truth. And you know, they sound pretty convincing when they're telling you what they think is the truth. Some would say they “manipulate” the truth. But that’s not quite true. Because once you do ANYTHING to the truth, it automatically becomes a lie.

Who are some of these groups I’m talking about? For one, you have Jehovah’s Witnesses. They claim to have the absolute truth. Well, they’re wrong. Let me give you a sketch of some of the things they teach. One, they say that Jesus Christ was a created being. Wrong! They also teach another lie about Christ and that is, that before He was born in Bethlehem, He was the archangel Michael. I could sit here and give you all kinds of evidence from the Bible showing you how wrong that is. And I may in the future. You may ask yourself, “how can they make these claims?” it’s easy. They claim that the Bible has been mistranslated, they take the words that were written and twist them around and do what I call “mental gymnastics” to make their very own translation—called the New World Translation—that, quite frankly, is…wrong.

Another group that says they have the “absolute truth” is called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You may know them as Mormons. I grew up an hour away from where the Mormon Church started. They claim…well, they make all kinds of claims. It would take more like a month to tell you about all the claims they make. One of their beliefs is that GOD—Almighty GOD—had a beginning, and was created…as a man. Just like you and me. And one day, we can be a GOD—just like Almighty GOD. But, like the JW’s, they claim they are the only ones with the truth. They say that the Mormon Church has restored the truths that were lost or removed from the Bible. They have three books they call Scripture: The Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants. Oh, and they also use the Bible…”as far as it is correctly translated.” Sound familiar? Like the JW’s again, they claim that the Bible has been mistranslated. They try to undermine the reliability of the Word of GOD. Who is it that really loves to undermine the reliability of the Word of GOD?

What we need to remember about JW’s, about Mormons, is that they have been deceived. In fact, if you ask most people who don’t know much about either religion, they will say that these people are some of the most moral, most ethical people you could ever meet. They are. But they're not saved. They don’t know the truth. They’ve been blinded, and they need prayer. “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood.” That Mormon, the JW knocking on your door is not your enemy. The one who has blinded that person is the enemy.

So, what is truth? Our Lord Jesus Christ is truth. He said it Himself in John 14:6—“I am the way, THE TRUTH, and the life…” So, the first piece of armor is the “belt of truth”. It holds everything together. We put it on by staying in the Word, and through prayer, and by surrounding ourselves with those who know the truth. And by surrounding ourselves with the truth, we will be able to stand strong against Satan's lies.

Verse 14b.
"...having put on the breastplate of righteousness..."

How do we put it on, how do we use it? Well, what does it cover? It covers the lungs, the stomach, and the liver. But most importantly, it covers the heart. Now, how important is it that we guard our heart in times of battle? Listen to what Jesus said about the heart:
Matthew 15:8“This people draws near unto me with their mouth, and honours me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.”
Matthew 15:19"For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies."
And what is the greatest commandment of all? Matthew 22:37—Jesus said unto him, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." Our hearts are vulnerable. We need to guard our hearts against the wicked one. What does the Bible mean when it talks about the heart? Is it talking about a part of your body that pumps blood? Not quite. You see, when we read a verse like Proverbs 23:7, How a man thinks in his heart, that’s how he is, we could be tempted to ask, “Well, how does one think in his heart?”

Remember the verse from Genesis I quoted just a moment ago, that the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth. When the Bible talks about the heart, it is really talking about our emotions, our motives, our desires. We need to guard those things from Satan. We need to control our emotions, we need to check our motives, and we need to curb our desires. How do we do that?

Well, let’s look at CONTROLLING OUR EMOTIONS. Our feelings. Happy, sad, mad, envious. These are all emotions. And when we feel happy, sad, mad, envious, etc., it’s really easy for us, being the humans that we are, to allow our feelings to dictate our actions. Has anyone in here ever let their emotions affect how they treated somebody?
Happy: “It’s such a pretty day today. I think I'll call in sick.”
Sad: “Oh, I don’t feel like doing much of anything today.”
Mad: “So-and-so did this to me, so I’m gonna to that to them.”
Envious: “So-and-so thinks they're something because they got [whatever], I'll get something even better than that.”

You know our emotions can even affect our worship? In a good or even a bad way? And if we allow our emotions to tell us how we should worship, we start down a dangerous path. When I first came to Christ, and started watching Christian TV, I would watch some of those preachers, and their congregation would be hootin’ and hollerin’ and I’d think “Wow, this guy’s good.” But then I’d start listening to what they were saying. And I started realizing that it wasn’t the word of GOD these people were reacting to. It was the man doing the talking. He was just telling the people what they wanted to hear. Well, there are several times in the Bible when a king would be trying to decide whether to go into battle or not. His advisors and counselors would be telling him, “yeah, go for it!!” But, a prophet of GOD would tell him, “no, you better not.” But, some people only hear what they want to hear. And so the king would go to war….and be utterly defeated.

Listen to Ecclesiastes 9:3—…the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness [is] in their heart while they live… When someone does not know the Lord, their heart is set on madness. They seek comfort from a bottle, or some other type of temporary joy. But if we seek to find our joy in the LORD, listen to what it says in Psalm 97:11—Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.

We need to control our emotions; we need to CHECK OUR EMOTIONS. Did you know you can do the right thing for the wrong reason? Look at most big hospitals today and you’ll see many of them have a cancer wing, or a certain area dedicated to a specific type of research. Many of them were funded by one particular individual who donated a huge amount of money…to have their name put on the outside. Now, was it a good thing that they helped the place get built? Yes. But if the reason they gave was so they could look better in people’s eyes, or because maybe they thought they could gain some brownie points with GOD. Then they were doing it with the wrong motive.

The Pharisees were guilty of this as well. And in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed their wrong motives. And when He did, He emphasized 3 things the Pharisees did, but that they did for the wrong reason. Listen to what He said, in Matthew chapter 6:

“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.”

Do you see that? “Do not…as the hypocrites do…so they may be noticed…they have their reward in full.” Don’t be fooled. Satan can use the good things you do to cause you to sin. He can use your church attendance. “I come to church more than so-and-so.” He can use the gifts GOD has given you. “I know more about the Bible than so-and-so.” And ironically, Satan can even use your own humility against you. “I’m more humble than so-and-so.” What do all these have in common? Pride. Pride in comparing ourselves to others. But guess what? We are not to go around comparing ourselves to others. That’s easy. And the Bible has some harsh things to say about it:
Romans 12:3—For I say…to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think…
1st Corinthians 12:22-25—the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we think are less honorable, on these we give more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

After we control our emotions and check our motives, we need to CURB OUR DESIRES. I've talked before about these TV preachers that go around saying that if you're a Christian, you’ll be surrounded by material wealth. And they're good at it. They really know how to twist the Scriptures. Listen to some more words of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Matthew 6:19-21“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Luke 12:15"Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses."
And finally, these words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 5:11—He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity.

So, we guard our hearts with the breastplate of righteousness. We control our emotions, we check our motives, and we curb our desires. Now, what is that breastplate of righteousness we are to put on? The cross! The cross of Christ! 2nd Corinthians 5:21—For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
Jesus is our breastplate of righteousness. GOD takes Christ’s righteousness and deposits it into the account of all those who believe in Him. We can't be righteous on our own. We can't find the truth within us. We need to have Christ’s righteousness put upon us. That’s why Jesus came. The word of GOD made flesh, which dwelt among us, full of grace and truth, so that His righteousness could be posted to our account.

Have you ever made a deposit at a bank, and you hoped that it would be posted before that check bounced? Well, guess what. When GOD deposits Christ’s righteousness in our account, it’s there immediately. We can make withdrawals 24/7. We can never be overdrawn. And it’s good no matter where we are.

Let me finish up with these words from one of my favorite hymns:

When Satan tempts me to despair
and tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there,
who made an end to all my sin

Because the sinless Savior died
my sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
to look on Him and pardon me

Behold Him there, the risen Lamb
my perfect spotless righteousness
The great unchangeable I Am,
the King of glory and of grace

One with Himself I cannot die,
my soul is purchased with His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
with Christ my Savior and my God

He is our belt of truth. He is our breastplate of righteousness. And as another great old hymn says, “Hallelujah, What a Savior!”

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