When I started as a student nurse, we were each given a length of grey petersham ribbon, to make into a belt - it wasn't grand or impressive! Only as qualified nurses could we wear the coveted navy belt with our own silver buckle. Then our belts became a status symbol - telling our patients that we knew what we were doing now - but that was really all it did. Functionally it did nothing, it was just for decoration - and sometimes it just got in the way.
We've been looking in our Bible study at the Armour of God as described by the apostle Paul in the book for Ephesians [ch6:10-18]. Last time we saw that as Christians, all of us are in a spiritual battle against a real enemy, but it's a battle in a war that has already been won. Our captain and example is the King of kings himself who has given us His power and strength to arm us for the fight and we do not go into battle alone – we are part of His army, the family of God.
The armour has been provided, and we need to put it on.
Our spiritual battle is not won by being passive observers.
Paul instructs us to put on the FULL armour of God in order to stand. Some bits of armour might look more shiny than others, but it seems a little odd for Paul to start off describing something so dull as a belt!
In some ways the belt of truth is a little like my nurse’s belt - to wear it does say something about who we are and the knowledge we have - but it’s far more significant than that, in fact it's foundational - think full-on girdle! – it holds everything together. A Roman soldier's belt would have been made of heavy leather with an apron to protect the lower body. It would have given him somewhere to keep his sword, but without it everything fell apart – you couldn’t run without tripping on your cloak, and you would be no good for battle.. There's a similar picture in Exodus 12:11 - to prepare for escape, the Israelites were to tuck their robes into their belts.
To have your belt on is to be ready.
We are used to using similar language when we say we need to "tighten our belts" when money is short or "fasten your seatbelt" when we're in for a bumpy ride, and the apostle Peter uses it too when he talks about being ready for Jesus’ return [1 Peter 1:13]. Paul says, we need to be ready, and put on our belt, but why is it called the belt of truth?
How does truth make us ready? What does Paul mean?
As we look back through the book of Ephesians we can see how Paul has used the word 'truth' before to give us some clues. In chapter 1 he refers to the truth of the gospel - the good news that Jesus has come to save his people - and later [ch2,3 & 4] the impact of that truth on us. As Christians we have become 'children of light', and so we are to speak the truth in love, and speak truthfully to one another.
The truth is more than what we know in our minds,
it is how we respond to what we know.
To know the truth does not simply mean to believe in your head that Jesus is the saviour, but to commit to that truth wholeheartedly. There is no such thing as 99% truth. The good news of Jesus Christ is our backbone and foundation, and all that we do is to flow out of the confidence we have in what we know to be the truth. There can be no half measures – either what God says is true, or it is not. It’s not something we can be half-hearted about.
We all know someone who says one thing, but does another. Paul says that's not enough for our spiritual battle.
In a war we need to rely on our armour, what we understand to be the truth is evidenced by what we do.
Our enemy, Satan, is the father of lies. His first tactic in the garden of Eden was to twist the truth and make Eve doubt God’s goodness. [John 8:44; Genesis 3: 1-5]
But we go into battle against him as the soldiers of Jesus, who IS the truth. Jesus describes himself as "the way, the truth and the life" [John 4:24] and
if Jesus is truth, then what he says must be true!
He has promised never to leave us, and has given us his Spirit to make us more like him. It is Jesus' armour that we wear. We are not battling for him, or on his behalf, we are battling in his name, and in his victory.
There are times when our enemy comes close and whispers his lies in our ears.
He tells us that we are too weak, or too broken to fight.
He says that we are unworthy, that God can't love us, isn't with us, that we are defeated - but we do not believe him.