Ephesians Study, Part 50: Spiritual Warfare --
The Belt of Truth and the Breastplate of Righteousness

Review:

Paul has told us in the previous verses that our ability to live our lives in a manner worthy of our calling as Christians is beyond our human ability.  He told us that the enemy is spiritual and not physical and that our only hope is to suit up with the full armor that God has provided for us, all of it.

Today we will start to learn about all of the armor that God has hanging on the wall for us to put on, and why each and every piece is so critical.  Over the next few lessons, we will learn that if just one piece is left off, we are vulnerable.

Last week, I hope you were convinced that this spiritual battle that Paul talks about is real, just as real as what we can see and feel.

So here is what Paul has just told us:

Today, Paul continues. Here again Paul says to put on all of the armor of God.  He says that we better not have a weakness because it will take all of the armor of God to withstand the evil forces.  He is going to list the specific pieces of armor, but before I go on let me focus on something that you might not have thought about.  If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, you are in this warfare. The enemy is out to disrupt your walk.  If you have not accepted Jesus you are one of the enemy's pawns.  So you are in the battle, one way or the other.

"What is Truth?"

Verse fourteen  has the first two pieces of armor.

Gird your loins with truth. That almost sounds glib.  Let's look that the term truth.  Do you remember what Pilate said to Jesus when Jesus was on trial before him?  Pilate said in a cynical and rhetorical way, "What is truth?" Pilate had just asked Jesus, "What have you done?"  (Why are you here?)

Think about it.  Few of us actually seriously raise the question of what is truth.  If you think about it, one of your most valued and desired assets is to know truth.  Whether you are an investor or a military leader or a judge or a parent or what ever you are, truth is very critical to your success.  Knowledge is power.  Truth is the key to success, fulfillment, victory or any worthwhile goal.  The pursuit of truth should be one all of your goals in everything you do.

We live in a dramatic time that has ushered in phenomenal changes in technology.  And yet, strangely, it has also brought new depths of depravity.  Devastating wars, monstrous weapons.  We have probably just entered one of the most bloody and revolutionary and unpredictable centuries in human history.  What an irony.  The greatest advancement at the same time that we have the greatest decline.  I would argue that one of the most significant declines in our modern world is the world's abandonment of truth.  Most of our universities today would teach that there is no such thing as truth.  They are teaching abandonment of truth.  In place of truth they teach relativism, that there is no absolute truth.  Each person gets to make up his own truth.  In a cultural war, truth will always be the first casualty.  Yet determining truth should be the cornerstone all of our lives.  What a man believes today he puts into practice tomorrow.  To believe in the wrong model of history or the wrong purpose of living will lead us to errors, great tragedies and dire consequences.  I would argue that the correct true view of God, man, history and to understand the truth of God is the key to sanity and fulfillment for each of us.  Most of us are carried along by information pandered to us by individuals with interests contrary to our own best interest.  Most of the assumptions of our society and our families and our nation demand re-examination.  The shock is that as you start to examine these, just like the assumptions we have been taught about the religious principles of the founding fathers of our country, you will find that many of them are false.  They have been altered and I would argue they have been altered by deliberate deceit.  If we will open our minds and challenge the lies and examine the assumptions fed to us, we can have a better life as well as better families and a better country.

The Belt:

Let's get back to Paul's instruction.  Gird your loins with truth.  The belt of the Roman soldier was between six and eight inches wide.  All of the body armor and weapons were attached to it.  So you see that truth is what holds all of our armor together.  Truth is the binding element. So the reality is that the belt is what gave the soldier freedom of movement, held the armor in place so he could be mobile and agile.  Truth is what gives us freedom of movement.  Truth gives you freedom with yourself, freedom with others and freedom with God.  Think about how much easier life is if you restrict yourself to the truth.  Nothing to cover up.  You don't have to try to remember what you said last time to make sure you give the same story this time.

Remember that you have to get prepared before the battle.  You don't try to get dressed after you are already in the fight.  After you are in battle, it is a little late to put on your pants. You cannot wait to gain combat knowledge until you need it.  You have to be prepared before you fight.

There is another definition of truth.  Of course we could find many, but one is "when the word and the deed to become one".  This sounds like you what you would expect to hear from an Indian chief in front of a teepee.  But when you stop and think about it, that is the ultimate truth.  The ultimate truth is the word of God, which becomes true as he fulfills his promises.

It is interesting to contrast the God of the Bible with the god of the Koran.  Allah of the Koran is capricious.  The Koran makes a big point of that.  Understand that the word capricious means unreliable.  The God of the Bible makes promises throughout the Scripture, and keeps them.  He is the opposite of capricious.  One of God's major attributes is that he keeps his promises.  The ultimate truth is the fulfillment of the promise that God made to Adam and Eve in the garden, the promise of a redeemer.  So the ultimate truth is Jesus.  In John 14:6 Jesus declares that.  Jesus himself is speaking.

And remember that he amplifies this by adding, That is a strong statement.  That is very uncomfortable for many people.  It sounds very narrow, as Wayne said last week.  Jesus said it was.

He said straight is the gate and narrow is the way.

If your understanding of God and salvation has a wide gate and there are a lot of people going through it with you, you got the wrong gate, you are crossing the wrong bridge, to the wrong destination.  And just so we are tying down the loose ends of truth, God tells us where truth is most important. Where is the most dangerous ultimate source of lies?  Ourselves.  We are our own problem How do you do that?  How do you renew your mind?  That is our challenge.  And the basic part a challenge is to know truth and base your life on truth, which is to gird your loins with truth.

Let's go on.  In the second part of verse fourteen, Paul lists a second part of the full set of armor.

The Breastplate:

Let me ask you a question.  What is your most important stewardship?  You have many stewardships.  You have a home, you have a job or a business, you have a family, you have assets.  But what is your most important stewardship?  Most men would say their career.  Most women would say their family.  But there is even one thing more important than those.  Your most important stewardship, bar none, is your heart.  Where is your heart, really?  That is the question.  It is interesting that the breastplate is the part of the Roman soldier's armor that was typically bronze, backed by leather.  The breastplate was intended to protect the vital organs.  A successful penetration of the breastplate would usually be fatal.  You could lose a hand or an arm or other parts of the body and survive, but if your breastplate was penetrated, most likely you died.  Typically that was all she wrote.  And what did the breastplate cover?  The heart.  So just as the soldier's breastplate protected his chest from the enemies attack, a righteous life protects a believer from assaults on our heart from the devil.

In talking about the breastplate of righteousness, Paul is talking about two things.  First he is talking about the integrity and uprightness of your personal life.  We're talking about personal integrity.  This ties us back to that concept of our fiduciary responsibilities that we dealt with a couple of weeks ago.  This includes loyalty to other people, your family and even your employer.  At the national level this is also true.  There is a famous quote by Alexis de Tocqueville, a famous French political writer who wrote extensively on the experiment of the American democracy, said "America is great because a she is good.  If she ceases being good she will cease to be great."  That is specifically why we should be concerned today.  It isn't about our federal debt.  It isn't about our military expeditions.  You could make a long list of what it is not, but those are all symptoms.  What is really scary is that our country is ceasing to be good.  That's what I termed last week the moral freefall.  We seem to see it all around us in government, in business and in individuals.  Many people who go to Washington and spend time in that environment, come home stunned by the level of corruption in our government.  The last couple of years have also made it very clear that business is also often corrupt.  Only recently have we seen any effort to reinstate high morals in business ethics in the American economy, but we're starting from a very low base.  I am encouraged by some things I am involved in where we are again insisting on decisions molded by the right thing to do, not just the most advantageous thing to do.

In our personal lives, everywhere you look, we have abandoned the idea of the sanctity of a commitment.  I talked about this when we where talking about fiduciary responsibility.  A man's word is no longer dependable.  Someone asked Norman Schwarzkopf, what is the biggest problem in America.  His answer, integrity.  We see it in marriage, we see it in business, we see it in politics and we see it in our personal lives.

But the other aspect of righteousness, which is perhaps even more important, is that the righteousness that is important is not yours.  There is a call for our personal righteousness but the righteousness that will protect you and me in this spiritual battle is not ours, it is God's.  If you have accepted Jesus, his righteousness is imputed to you and it is that righteousness that protects you.

His righteousness is essential.  The righteousness of Jesus, imputed to us, is what makes our breastplate impervious to the attacks by Satan.

Paul explains this in First Thessalonians 5, where he says in verse 8:

Next week:

...we will pick up with Eph 6:15 and a good pair of shoes.