The Belt of Truth and Breastplate of Righteousness (Ephesians Sermon 48 of 54)
August 28, 2016 | Andrew Davis
War Against the Flesh, External Journey, Boldness & Courage, Temptation
A couple of years ago, it was the summer of 2014, I had the privilege to speak at a seminary graduation in Serbia. I was there with my daughter Caroline, and while we were there, we took a tour of a military museum in Belgrade in Serbia, and it was fascinating for me. I don't know how Carolyn felt about it, but I love military history. I think she said she had a good time. She's not here to defend herself this morning, but we walked into this museum and it was really extensive, it was amazing. I didn't realize how warfare has really shaped the history of Serbia and of the capital city of Belgrade. According to one display in that museum, since Roman times, 1st century AD until the present time, the little country of Serbia has experienced 143 wars. Now, to put that in perspective, I looked up on a website in the state of North Carolina, and there have been, since North Carolina was founded as a colony, only six wars in our history. Three of them were Indian wars. Actually four of them Indian wars, and The Revolution and the Civil War. Since the surrender of the Confederate army at Bennett Place, there's not been another war in our state. But in Belgrade in Serbia, there's on average, a war every 12 or 13 years. And what was cool about this museum, it was like an arsenal of different weapon systems, both offensive and defensive, over that 20 century history, and it was laid out in chronological order. So you went from the Roman times, which would have been in the times of the Apostle Paul, depictions of the suits of armor that Romans would have worn in different battles that were fought during the Roman era. And then it just, it continued to unfold and it was just fascinating to me, fascinating things.
The Celts were there for a time and the Ottoman Turks invaded in the 13th century, they came in, there was lots of battles against Islam, and then there were swords and shields and bows and arrows, and then eventually gunpowder, the development of guns, they actually had some very old weapons that were breech-loading muskets and different things, and then on through into the 18th century, 19th century, and on into the 20th century. World War I gas masks, machine guns, different things then on into World War II. Outside of the museum, they had all these German tanks, these panzers that were there, anti-aircraft weaponry, and then right up into the recent conflicts between the Serbs and the Croats. And so, as I was walking through this I was just amazed by the diverse historical arsenal of weapons, both offensive and defensive. 2000 years of Serbian military history.
Now, as we come to the text that we're looking at today, Ephesians 6:10-18, this section, and we're looking just at a portion of it today, Paul in effect is leading us through an arsenal of spiritual weapons, of defensive protection that the Lord has laid out for his children, laid out for us who are warriors in a different kind of warfare, a spiritual warfare. Now, I imagine that each of the citizens of Serbia or of Belgrade that lived through those 143 wars knew they were in a war. There's no doubt about it. The kind of terror and the upheaval that would come. But I would say, as I said last week, the overwhelming majority of Christians live their lives hour by hour, day by day, it seems, unaware of spiritual warfare, unaware of the fact that we have a vicious powerful resourceful enemy who is seeking our very lives at every moment. We're unaware of it and that's much to Satan's benefit. So, we are most certainly at war. When we come to faith in Christ, it is not true that all our problems in this world have ended. Actually quite the opposite. We may most certainly be confident that all our problems in the next world have come to an end. And praise God for that. The world of eternity to which we are heading is a world without death or mourning, or crying, or pain. And it is a world in which we will have no enemies at all. The gates of the new Jerusalem will stand open continually, and that's a clear evidence that there are no enemies left. But we have not arrived there yet. No, not at all. We have resourceful intelligent, powerful invisible enemies that are stalking us at every moment.
Now, a new Christian, having come to faith in Christ, may be somewhat bewildered to discover the nature of this warfare, not even know necessarily what's happening to him or her. A whole array of new griefs and woes and struggles that he or she never knew before. A new Christian may be stunned to find that they're barraged with temptations and thoughts and feelings and ideas that are deeply troubling. After the initial joy and peace, the euphoria of coming to faith in Christ that comes with conversion, they may find themselves struggling with assurance of salvation, or with new dark thoughts that they had never noticed, or didn't know that they were sinful, but now they're struggling with them. They may find difficulties with other people that they didn't have before. And then internal wrestlings, temptations, doubts, guilt and torment in their conscience they've never known before. And they may say, "What is happening to me? Where's all that joy and peace that I knew before? Why all the strife and turmoil? For a while as a Christian, I was happy and fulfilled and at peace. But now, what is this? What is going on?" Well, what's happened is you crossed over from darkness to light. As I prayed in my prayer, you were rescued from the dominion of darkness out of Satan's kingdom and brought into the Kingdom, transferred into the kingdom of light, the Kingdom of Christ.
Now before that transfer occurred, the Book of Ephesians tells us that “we were, all of us, dead in our transgressions and sins in which we used to live. When we followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. Satan. All of us, all of us lived among them at one time, gratifying the desires of the flesh, following its nature and its thoughts.” Paul says, “there like the rest, we were, all of us by nature, objects of wrath.” That's where we were, we were in Satan's kingdom, we were enslaved, we were in chains we could not see. And we were unaware of our true status, we didn't know really what was going on. Jesus spoke about how he rescues people from Satan's dark kingdom. How he actually does that, he likens Satan to an evil warrior, a strong man, fully armed, He calls him. In Luke 12 or Luke 11:21 and 22, He says, "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe." What that means literally is, his possessions are at peace at one level. I would put it similar to paralyzed, unable to move, causing Satan no trouble at all. But in Luke 11:22, it says, "But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which he trusted and divides up his spoils." So in that parable Satan is the strong man, fully armed, we were his possessions, we were at peace, or I would say tranquil and paralyzed dead in our transgressions and sins. Someone stronger is Jesus, he's the only one who's stronger. He comes and overpowers Satan, praise God, strips his armor, showing that Satan's armor is nothing compared to Jesus' omnipotence, and then he plunders his kingdom. We are the plunder, we're the spoils, we've been rescued. But having been rescued, having been transferred into the Kingdom of Light, we are then equipped and empowered and sent back into Satan's dark kingdom to rescue other souls who haven't been rescued yet. And at that point Satan becomes, as he always has been, but overtly now, our vicious enemy fighting us at every point.
We become targets of Satan's attacks. And we are called on in Ephesians chapter 6 verse 10 and following, to fight. We're told that we have a fight. Listen again to these words you just heard read, ”Finally be strong in the Lord." This is Ephesians 6:10-12, "Finally be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power, put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 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." So Satan tries to deceive us, that we don't have any fight at all. This warfare isn't really existing, but it is. He can trick us into thinking that the afflictions and the troubles that we're going through are merely natural. They happen to everyone else. They are troubles common to man. So this text calls on us as brothers and sisters in Christ, my call is to you, my spiritual family, to wake up, to realize what's actually going on, that you are at war, that Satan and his demons are at war with you. Satan is attacking you every single day. Perhaps you would say every hour constantly, and you have a responsibility to fight, you have a responsibility to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power, the might of his power. Now, why do you have to do that? What's at stake?
Well, I don't believe that Satan can kill you, spiritually. If you're a Christian, you have been given eternal life and he cannot kill you. But what he can do is he can prevent you from doing the good works that God has ordained that you should walk in them, and he can prevent you from being characterized moment by moment, by the fruit of the Spirit, that's what he can do. And that is devastating because then, effectively, he's rendered you worthless to Christ. We have these two journeys set before us, we've talked about it again and again. This is why God left us here on Earth, we are left here for the glory of God, and the progress we are to make in two journeys. Internally in holiness that we would become more and more like Christ. We are journeying to conformity to Christ, to be more and more like Jesus. And then externally to win the lost, locally right around us, and to the ends of the earth, to rescue them from Satan's dark kingdom. Now these journeys are going to be opposed every step of the way by Satan. He's going to fight you every step of the way. You must put on your spiritual armor and fight or you will make no progress. And so, that's what's at stake.
I. Walking Into The Armory
So now what I want to do this morning, is walk into the armory and begin looking at the full armor of God, to try and understand what God has provided for you for this warfare. And this, praise God, is not a museum of military artifacts. One thing that was common with all of the weapon systems and all of the depictions I saw at that museum is that every single one of them were obsolete, they've all been superseded by modern military technology. No soldier would ever want to take those weapons on a battlefield, modern battlefield, they'd be slaughtered. But the beauty of the spiritual armor that God's provided is that it will never be obsolete, it's been effective in every generation, it's got the power and the wisdom of God behind every article. It's as new and fresh and effective now as it was in Paul's day, and that's a powerful, powerful thought.
Now last week, we had three clear commands given to us in reference to spiritual warfare. In verse 10 through 12, you see it. First, “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” We talked about that last week. Secondly, “put on the full armor of God.” And then thirdly, “stand your ground in the day of testing,” “in the evil day.” Those are the three commands that we're being given here. So, be strong in the Lord, draw near to Jesus and in his mighty power. Secondly, “put on the full armor of God.” We're going to begin talking about that today, and then “stand your ground in the evil day.”
So let's talk about this full armor of God, the full armor of God. First thing that we have to note is that this is something that is crafted by God, not by us. This is going to be a key interpreted principle, it's not something we make, it's not something we craft in our garage and our workshop spiritually. It's external to us, it's handed to us by Almighty God, and it's something that we have the responsibility to take up and in some way, put on ourselves. That's the full armor of God, we could almost say full armor from God. It's God's armor as He's given it to us. And it is sufficient to meet every need, it's sufficient, it's enough, God has provided for us, we're fully equipped. It is high quality, it's 100% effective, it is impenetrable, much of this is defensive, it's impenetrable. It's durable, beautiful. I don't know what else to say. Lightweight, travels easily with you. High quality and sufficient for the warfare that we're going to face.
Now, in terms of interpretation, we just need to stop and say, "Is it appropriate for us to go slowly through this, and look at all of this carefully? Is this an allegory? Are we allegorizing these things? Are we going to try to take each article and spend a lot of time on it?” Now I have in my library a work by a Puritan, and that tells you something right there. William Gurnall, who wrote The Christian in Complete Armour, an extensive treatise on these nine verses. When I say extensive, you don't even have the first idea how extensive. It was published in three different volumes, 1655, 1658, 1662. Banner of Truth has published it in one thick book, about that thick. You open it up and the print is so small, that you need like a magnifying glass to read. It's over 1200 pages, on nine verses of Scripture. I think he might have taken it a little too far. Friends, be at peace. We're not doing anything like that here, but I think you can go so far in that. That's too far, maybe too much detail. It ends up just a gateway into just a topical study of various aspects of the Christian life. That's really what he does, and however helpful that is, I don't know that it's the best way to approach this, but you can go so far the other direction.
I think effectively, most Christians go the other extreme. They don't really look at the details of this, they don't really think that Paul put some intelligence behind the actual article of weaponry that he has, or shielding and how it lines up with this part of the body. And so they just skip the whole thing, say, "Well, whatever, just pray about it, just need to pray about it and then go," and you're going to get shredded, friends. Paul's saying he's not saying, "Just pray about it," he actually has some things to say. So I want to be somewhere in the middle, not too long or too short. I want to look at it and say, What is the article? How does he identify it? What does it correspond to in our salvation? And what are we practically to do about it? Why does he line it up with this part of the body, etcetera? And try to think about it at a reasonable length. I think that's the best way to handle it.
So first, this full armor of God is something we must put on. It's something that must be appropriated. I would say each of these elements to some degree, have to be put on your souls by thoughtful prayer, meditative or scripture-based meditation and prayer. And I would say that continually, not like every single instant, but again and again, not like one time in the morning and then you're good for the day. But as needed and again and again, we're going to come back to the idea of these elements. So I would say, thoughtful meditative prayer based on it. And there's a hymn that I think captures it very well for us. In 1858, a Presbyterian pastor named George Duffield Jr, penned the hymn, "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus." Maybe you've heard it before or sung it before. One of the verses says this, "Stand up, stand up for Jesus, stand in his strength alone. The arm of flesh will fail you, ye dare not trust your own." Now listen, "Put on the Gospel armor. Each part put on with prayer." So that's it, "where duty calls or danger, be never wanting there."
So the idea is that we would take up these elements, and based on, I think, an explanation I'm going to give you that will help you understand what we mean by you to them, put them on yourself. Put them, put them into your soul through prayer. At the end, in verse 18 he says, And pray in the Spirit, on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests with this in mind. Be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. He doesn't link that to any article of armor. It's really linked to all of them. And so, the idea is not just in a general amorphous sort of way, "Just pray about it." But in a meditative way, be mindful of the way that Satan can attack and how the Lord has provided for you in those areas. So, that's the approach we're going to take, in general. Now, before we go into talking about the two elements we're going to look at today, there are six elements of the full armor of God, we're going to look at two of them each week, God willing.
But I want to just talk about the nature of the spiritual warfare, what is actually happening, how does it work? And I have lots of images or ideas about this, but this is the one that I have for you right now. Fundamentally, Satan is hurling ideas at us. Concepts. He has, as I mentioned last week, access to our minds, he has the ability to insinuate thoughts into your mind, and then affect your feelings through the thought he is planted, and then affect your behavior from those two together. So thoughts plus feelings shaping behavior, that's the game, that's what he's trying to do. So the idea I have, the image I have here is of us walking on the strait and narrow path. You know how Jesus said, "Narrow is the gate, and strait is the path that leads to life and only a few you find it." So we, as Christians, we are walking this straight and narrow path, but the image I have now in the 21st century, I put it in a mall, so we're walking through the mall. So, picture you're on the straight and narrow but you're walking through a mall, the mall of the world, and every X number of feet, there's a store front left and right, and there are aggressive sales people right to the edge of the straight and narrow path and they're calling out to you by name, enticing you, telling you to come into their shop. They have some things for you, maybe tugging on your sleeve. They can't grab you by the arm, so that would be the idea of Satan, taking you over in contrary to your will, making you sin, he can't do that, but he's enticing all the time, pulling you to divert, to go off the path and go into the shop. And these shops are different temptations, ideas, concepts that can pollute and destroy us spiritually. That's the image I have.
Now, if you turn aside in the shop I pictured, I went in, in one of these malls. There was a candle shop, I was buying a candle for someone, and I was like, "Oh my goodness, the aroma was overpowering. I don't know how you could work there. And I talked to the gal at the desk. She said, "I don't even notice it anymore." And I think she must go home supersaturated by the various aromas of the candle shop. Or picture an incense shop or something like that, and if you get diverted and go in there, you're just breathing these noxious fumes, and they're affecting your breathing and they're getting in your hair. And in your eyes and in your clothes and when the Lord Jesus in his grace goes to leave the 99 that didn't wander and find you, who is wandering and brings you back by his grace, you're going to smell spiritually of the shop you were just in for a while. It's the image I have here. If you don't like that image, you can come up with your own, but that's the picture I have with spiritual warfare. It's an enticing, alluring battle of ideas. Affecting our emotions and eventually affecting our behavior. And the command here is that we are to put on the full armor of God, piece by piece, carefully, prayerfully, thoughtfully and many I would say as often as needed, many times a day, even. Alright, so let's look at the first element.
II. The Belt of Truth
The Belt’s Function
This morning, we're going to look at the belt of truth, and the breastplate of righteousness. Let's start with the belt of truth. It's the first item that Paul mentions here. It enabled the soldier to pull together all of his loose flowing clothing. You picture in the first scene you've seen movies and you've seen perhaps depictions and books, how people work too in this loose flowing clothing back then, but if you wanted to do any work, if you want to do any traveling, if you wanted to run especially, you had to kind of gather up your tunic together, and fix it with a belt around your waist, something like that. Peter uses the same image in 1 Peter 1:13, in the King James version. It says, "Wherefore, gird up the loins of your mind." So that's the same phraseology here. "gird up the loins” or “gird up your loins with truth." Now, NIV in 1 Peter 1"13 says, "Prepare your minds for action." That's the concept, but it's not a literalistic translation. So the idea here is you've got this belt pulling together everything into an efficient package held close to your body. So verse 14, "stand therefore, having girded inverted your loins with truth." That would be a literalistic translation. There actually is no noun here, there's no noun belt of truth, But most translations just try to objectify it by saying there is a belt of truth, But it's more of an action. The idea of girding up your loins with truth, now the loins are the reproductive organs, those part of the body that you treat, Paul says in another place, with special modesty. So the idea I have here is of truth coming very close to us. Truth drawn into the secret places and hidden places of our souls and I think David puts it very well, in Psalm 51:6, "Surely you desire truth in the inner parts, you teach me wisdom in the inmost place." So the idea is that truth is drawn into our very being. An absolute commitment to spiritual truth. That's what we're talking about here.
What the Belt of Truth Is Not
Now, one translation gives us the “belt of truthfulness” in other words, that we would be characterized by speaking the truth. That is wrong. Now in one sense it's obviously true, Paul says earlier in Ephesians that we're to put off, falsehood and speak truth, but that's not a Paul's talking about here, it's not our truthfulness rather it's again the whole armor of God or from God, this is truth from God truth that comes down from Heaven to Earth, truth that is absolute, unshakable. Like you can write it in stone because God did write it in stone, it's unchanging. This is absolutely vital. The concept of spiritual truth and this comes to us, it's mediated to us not by our feelings or what we think is right, but it comes to us by the Scripture, by the word of God. The Word of God is truth. Jesus said in John 17:17, "Sanctify them by the truth, your word is truth." Now the word of God is perfect. It's wholly free from error. The perfection of the Word of God is the basis of all the spiritual fighting we're going to do, Understanding truth, meditating on it, drawing it into us like a belt around our waist. We must be humble when it comes to spiritual things. We must be humble and say we know nothing, we've got to be told everything, from the Bible. God has to teach a spiritual truth.
Now, you may ask, "What's the difference between the belt of truth, and let's say later the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God?” I want you to know the six elements of spiritual armor, or spiritual weaponry that God gives us. There's a lot of overlap between them, and we're going to be covering some themes again, but I think we can make a distinction between the belt of truth and the sword of the Spirit, in this way. The belt of truth is more overarching, general truth that is, the Bible, the big themes, let's say. The truth of the scripture versus the sword of the Spirit is more of a surgically applied truth, a specific verse that meets a specific attack by the devil. And so, there's going to be some swordsmanship and skill that we'll talk about later, but that's the difference I would make. It's not a strong difference.
Our Need For The Belt of Truth
Now friends, do you not see how much we need this in our present day? Twenty first century Americans have been assaulted with the concept that there is no absolute metaphysical or spiritual truth. Or if there is, we can't know it. We are what's known as postmodernists, we're postmodernists, we accept truth claims from everyone. We're pluralists and we are hearing that it's arrogant to say that our metaphysical truth, our spiritual truth is absolute truth, and this is very much the battle ground that the church is facing in 21st century America, do you not see it? I hope you can see it. The idea that there is no absolute metaphysical or spiritual truth.
Have you seen that bumper sticker, coexist? I think about it a lot, I've looked up, the group that puts it out, you know how they take symbols from each of the religions and they spell out the word “coexist.” Which I said before, I think isn't it wonderful that groups like ISIS are planning on not killing Christians, any more. Praise God. Fundamentally, though, it's saying all of these religions are essentially the same. No one is any more valid than any of the others. Watching that movie in the early 1980s, I watched it actually last week, Gandhi. And as he led India to independence, a lot of his world views and his philosophies and religions, came out, and he would say... Again and again, these things like, “I am Muslim,” “I am Hindu,” “I am Buddhist,” “I am Christian.” He would say these things, As though really they're all teaching essentially the same thing. There's no one more valid than the other. And we are all of us children of God. In that sense, etcetera. That was his mentality, that is not the mentality of the Bible.
What I want to say the belt of truth is, is the idea of transcendent absolute spiritual truth coming to us through Scripture, fundamentally in its testimony to Christ as the Savior of the world, fundamentally focused on Christ, our savior. Jesus, when he was on trial before Pilate. You remember he was on trial because they were saying in effect he was leading a rebellion and sedition kind of thing. So they came to the issue of his Kingship, his kingdom. “Oh, you are a king,” said Pilate. Jesus said, "You're right in saying that I'm a king. In fact, for this reason I was born and for this I came into the world: To testify to the truth everyone on the side of truth, listens to me." That was the closest, most powerful invitation Pontius Pilate would ever receive. Listen to me, if you want to know the truth, Listen to me. Do you remember what pilot said? "What is truth?" Now, I don't mind somebody asking me, “What is truth?” and waiting for an answer. They think there might be an answer, Pilate didn't think there was an answer, he walked away. That's the problem, it's not the statement, it's the statement, plus walking away from Jesus, that's the problem and that's what we're living with. Those are our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends, they're saying, “What is truth?” and walking away.
The Centerpiece of the Word: The Testimony of Jesus
We, in our battle against Satan, we have to fight that and say “No, no, no, there is truth, the word of God, is truth, and Jesus is truth.” “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” John 1:1, John 1:14, "The word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us and we have Seen his glory, the glory of the only begotten who is from the Father, full of grace and truth." And he says in John 1:17, just a few verses later, "the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ," and He says very famously and clearly to our postmodern 21st century American scene. Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." There is absolute truth and his name is Jesus. Now, at the end of human history, Jesus will return with the armies of Heaven. John depicts this in Revelation 19:11-15, it says, "I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse whose rider is called faithful and true, with justice he judges and makes war, his eyes are like blazing fire and on his head are many crowns, and out of his mouth comes a sharp double-edged sword with which to strike down the nations." So that's where we're heading. That's the future. Truth comes back and brings judgment. Nothing is mightier than it is for this spiritual battle, that we're fighting with invisible satanic forces than Christ the truth or the Word of God as it testifies to Christ, the true Saviour. And we need this because Satan's kingdom is essentially a kingdom of lies. That's what it's all about, it's all about lying, he's filled with lies, we need the belt of truth, because Satan is lying to us. Isaiah said, "Woe is me, I'm ruined, for I am a man of unclean lips." Like I tell lies, and I'm surrounded by people who tell lies. Now my eyes have seen the King, the Truth, the Almighty, the Holy One.
Satan’s Kingdom of Lies
Now Satan has been doing this lying thing, from the very beginning of human history. He went to the garden, you remember how he approached Eve at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and he used those three strategies, he uses in every generation to question the word of God. First, just raising a question, "Did God really say that you must not eat? Just asking, just want to raise a question for debate and discussion. Just raising the question. Did God really say...” Secondly, a flat-out contradiction of the word of God, “You will not surely die.” That's a lie. They did die and so have all their progeny. And then thirdly, using a portion of the truth to contradict another part of the truth, "for God knows that when you eat of it, you will become like God, knowing good from evil," that's actually true, God said it himself, But it's harnessed to the temptation. So that's like the cults and the world religions, that use portions of the truth to ensnare people, that Satan masquerading as an angel of light false teachers can lure people in by the portion of the truth. Again, think about Islam and its monotheism, it's fierce assertion that all of the gods in the nations are empty idols and are nothing, and there is only one God, that's true, but that one God is not Allah, it's the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, it's a triune God. So it's partial truth and service to an overarching lie. Satan's been doing those same three things. We need to stand against that. John 8:44, Jesus said, “Satan was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him, when he lies, he speaks his native language for he is a liar and the father of lies.” So put it all together, Satan kills, he murders souls by telling lies. So what we have to do is we have to demolish the lies that he tells.
Practically: How Do We “Put On the Belt of Truth”?
Now, how does this work practically? Well, if we're going to put on the belt of truth, if we're going to make progress in our journeys we have to draw in the truth. Let's take the external journey, for example. If we're going to be missionaries, if we're going to go to the ends of the earth, if we're going to sacrifice financially, to send as David Platt, President of the IMB talks about limitless pathways of missionaries all over the world. If we're going to actually do that, we have to counteract some of the weakening lies that Satan has poured into the minds of American evangelicals, that weaken our commitment to unreached people group missions such as what? Well, such as “People who have never heard of Christ are okay, spiritually, they're fine.” That's called inclusivism. The idea that if you die without ever having heard the name of Jesus, you're fine spiritually. Do you realize how obviously false, that must be when it comes to mission work? Before you came to that village in India or in Central Asia, they were fine, spiritually, but now that you came, most of them are going to Hell because they rejected the Gospel. Thanks for coming. That doesn't make any sense. Instead, it says in Romans 10, "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How can they call then on one they have not believed in. And how can they believe in someone they've never heard of, and how can they hear without someone preaching to them and how can they preach unless they are sent as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.’” What does that mean? They were in darkness,enslaved to Satan, before the missionaries got there. We have to be active in sending missionaries to the ends of the earth.
You have to care about that belt of truth. It counteracts the lies of the devil. So practically, what are you going to do? What I'm going to say is immerse your heart and your mind in the Word of God every day. We're going to say similar things when I come to the sword of the Spirit, but I'm just saying embrace the concept of absolute spiritual truth, that the Word of God is truth, straight truth With no mixture of errors. Be continually feeding on God's word stored up within you that you might be transformed by the renewing of your mind, especially feed on passages that speak of Christ as the absolute truth, Think about his holiness, his nature, his great power, his purposes in the world. Have a sense of preparation. Get yourself ready "gird up the loins of your mind," get ready with truth. And especially look to see how Satan's temptations have a lie at their center. Like if you're struggling with sinning with the internet, lust with the internet, right? There is an undergirding lie there. It has to do with increased pleasure, it has to do with the fact that you're not going to be judged or condemned for it, etcetera. There's all kinds of an array of lives. See through it, and bring truth into that situation. Or when it comes to your finances, how you're spending, like your money is really your own, you can spend it however you want. Instead of giving your tithes and offerings to the church, and supporting the church's budget and sending missionaries out with finances, counteracting the lies of the evil.
III. The Breastplate of Righteousness
What is a “Breastplate”?
Alright, secondly, breastplate of righteousness. Look at verse 14, “stand firm then with the belt of truth, buckled around your waist and with the breastplate of righteousness in place.” Now, you can picture the breastplate. It was basically leather strapped around this section from just below the throat, down to the base of the abdomen in that area. And it was covered with a thick plate of probably bronze, back in those days. Frequently embossed with powerful decoration like horses, or other things, or lightning bolts or something. And it would be polished to a high shine, beautiful. And it protected the soldiers' vital organs, their heart and their intestines. All of these vital organs from attack by the enemy. Well, that's the breastplate. What is the breastplate of righteousness? Well, righteousness is that which corresponds to God's word and God's nature. Righteousness. Whatever is right. Whatever is pure, whatever's right, whatever's just. That's what righteousness is. So, it corresponds to God's justice. It corresponds to God's law, God's word. Lines up with God's standard, Psalm 19:9, "The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous."
Now, let me say again, just like it wasn't the belt of truthfulness, our truthfulness, it is certainly not the breastplate of our own righteousness. I sure hope you know this. Do you know that we send out soldiers in dangerous areas of the world with body armor on? And do you know that body armor has been developed by military scientists, the best military scientists that they have to make this effective body armor. What would you think if a soldier said, "You know, I didn't put on the body armor the Army gave me. I made my own." It's like, "Really? Tell me about that." "Well, I went in my garage, and got some pots and pans in there. Flattened them out a little bit, sewed them together and I did some other things." And it's like, "Dude, you're going to die. I would suggest you go get that armor the army has provided and put it on." Alright. Well, that's even more the case here.
Do you understand how effective Satan will be in shredding your own righteousness if you take the field against him, in your own righteousness? Do you have any sense at all of how he will be able to find the weak spots and the chinks in your armor and penetrate it? He's been doing that to people far more righteous than you or me, for centuries. Satan, literally, the word in Hebrew means accuser. He is the accuser of the brethren, he stands before God day and night accusing them. He has an accurate record of all your sins. He knows all your weaknesses, he knows what you've said and done. All of it. It's there and it will not be any protection. He will be able to recall your sins in an instant. "There is no one righteous, not even one," Romans 3:10. Isaiah 64:6, "All of us have become like one who is unclean and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags," or like a cobweb. You don't want to go into battle against a dreadful enemy wearing a cobweb for protection.
Christ’s Imputed Righteousness: A Perfect Shield
Now, no one in church history tried harder to put together his own breastplate of righteousness than did Martin Luther. You know the story, how he quit public life, went into a monastery, and spent hours and hours, fasting, and praying, and studying the Bible, and doing works of service to others, and doing whatever the authority is there in the monastery told him to do. And all of that ever happened, is he felt more, and more guilty, and more, and more in terror of the judgment of God, and more and more afraid of Hell. He knew that his real sin in nature was just being driven subterranean, it wasn't being dealt with. Now, if his righteousness can be shredded so easily, how in the world do you think you can stand up with your righteousness? You going to work harder? going to be more obedient? The greatest saints have been acutely aware of how wicked and vile they still were. King David, Psalm 40:12, "My sins have overtaken me and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head and my heart fails within me. My sins are more numerous than the hairs of my head." Paul said, "Here's a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am," not was, "am the worst."
Romans 7, "The very thing I hate," Paul said this, "the very thing I hate, I do. What a wretched man I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death?" You can't stand against Satan in your own righteousness, not at all. No, this must be full armor from God. This must be a breastplate of righteousness God made, and is giving to you and it is. This is the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ in the Gospel. That's what this is. This is the perfect righteousness of Jesus given to you as a gift and you're told to put on. The gift of imputed righteousness, essential to our salvation. That means that God credits Jesus' obedience to the law as though you had been obedient to the law. As obedient as Jesus. Says in Romans 3:20-24, "No one will be declared righteous by observing the law." Rather through the Law, we become conscious of sin, but now a righteousness from God, has been made known to which the Law and the prophets testify. This righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified. That is, declared righteous freely as a gift of God's grace by faith in his blood. God presented Jesus as a propitiation, a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. That's our righteousness. It's a gift. Put it on. Put it on. And how do you put it on?
Well, you put it on by faith. We are justified by faith. You trust that God sees you perfectly righteous in Jesus. And this is taught in many places in the New Testament. It is our only hope in this day of battle. Philippians 3:9, Paul says, "Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ," the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. That's what we put on. So, how do we put it on? Well, understand that the warfare that we have with Satan will be over our own sinfulness and his temptations and accusations. It's kind of like the old one two. I'm not a boxer. I’ve got some friends that are boxers. A left and a right, the combination. Alright. Left, right. How does it work? Temptation, accusation. It's a deadly rhythm. He'll draw you into sin and then accuse you. Draw, accuse. It's deadly. How does the imputed righteousness of Christ help that?
Basically, it enables us to resist temptations by helping us to see that we are no longer God's enemies, but we are safe and secure adopted children of God. And no temptation will kill us. It gives us a position of strength. No matter how I perform today, or behave, I am perfectly righteous in God's sight. Along with that, it gives you a sense of the beauty of that righteousness. The beauty of Christ's perfect obedience to the Father. It gives us a sense of being able to say with God that we love righteousness and hate wickedness. And that we are perfectly righteous in Christ. And then if we have sinned, it enables us to stand not in our own marred behavior but in the imputed righteousness of Christ.
Now, notice where it gets put. It gets put right here over the heart and the intestines, the gut. And I think there's a reason for that. In the Scripture, the heart and gut, the bowels, are the seat of affections and feelings, emotions. And we so often don't feel very righteous. You know what I'm saying? You don't feel like you are perfect in God's sight. We just are so mindful of our own sinfulness. And so, there's a protection for our feelings here. And you're like, "Well, the heart, that's where the affections are." The seat of what we love and what we hate, there's that, and then the feelings. In the KJV, they actually use the word, literally, “bowels.” Recent English translations moved away from the use of the word bowels. But in KJV and Philippians 1:8, it says, “For God is my record, how greatly I long after you and all the bowels of Jesus Christ." Alright, so NIV went with this, "God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus, with the feeling," but you know what I mean, that “gut.” Have you ever talked about that? The gut feeling. Alright. Would you ever get butterflies in your stomach? If I invited one of you to come up here right now, and let me see, hang on a second. See, some of you are like, "No. No, not me. Don't pick me." So, what are you feeling? “Butterflies. Don't do that. It will end our friendship.” Okay, butterflies. You get this feeling of butterflies, or you guys looking at a gal and you might want to ask her out. Okay? Husbands, remember when you asked your wife out the first time? You got butterflies. Remember when you got down on one knee and proposed? Butterflies. So, there's that feeling inside here. Feelings, emotions. Very vulnerable here, very vulnerable. Accusations come and we feel things. Same thing in temptations, we can feel drawn away from truth. We need the breastplate of righteousness. And we can stand up against Satan's accusations and we can glorify God by how we live.
Fundamentally, the transformation that happens in us, is we love righteousness like Jesus did. You know Jesus said this, "The Father, the one who sent me is always with me, for I always do what pleases him," isn't that powerful? I would just love to say, "Lord, for the last hour, I have done what pleased you." Let's start with one hour, and then wouldn't you love to get to the point where you could say at the end of a day, "Lord, today I always did what pleased you today." That's the perfect righteousness of Jesus. He loved righteousness and hated wickedness. And we get drawn into that, and we love holiness and we are transformed.
IV. Final Appeal
Assurance of Salvation Under Fire
One final word and then we'll be done. We are vulnerable specifically on the issue of assurance of salvation. Do you ever wonder as you're in warfare, you're in battle? One of the things, Satan's going to go after is your assurance of salvation. By the breastplate of righteousness, that's where your assurance comes. Not because you're such a great person, man or woman, but because Christ lived a perfect life and gave you a gift of salvation by faith in Christ alone is your salvation. Your assurance comes from putting on the full armor of God. So, when the time comes, and you have sinned and Satan is accusing you, you're able to put on the breastplate of righteousness and say, "You know, if we confess our sins,” 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness," and that is our righteousness.
An Appeal to Unbelievers
Alright. I want to just close by making a simple appeal. I've been speaking this entire time to Christians. The armor of God is for Christians only. I said at the beginning of my message that if you are outside of Christ, if you are not a Christian, you are already in Satan's kingdom. The Bible says that you are dead in transgressions and sins, even while you live, but there is hope for you. God, sovereignly, by his grace, brought you here today to hear the Gospel. And you've heard it. You've heard how God the king of the universe, sent his Son, who lived a sinless life under the Law of God, perfectly obeyed him every moment of his life, died on the cross as a substitute for our sins, rose from the dead on the third day, ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God. He is the savior of sinners just like you and me. Call on the name of the Lord and you will be saved. And then your warfare will begin. And you can put on the breastplate of righteousness and the belt of truth, just as we've been talking about. Close with me in prayer.
Father, we thank you for the time that we've had in your word today. We thank you for the truths of the word of God. Father, I pray that you would enable us to do our duty and to take our responsibility. What's at stake oh, Lord, is our own peace, and joy, and love in the Spirit, and the good works that you've ordained for us to walk in. Father, I pray, help us to fight the good fight of faith. And Father, for those that were providentially brought here, that have heard the Gospel today, bring them over from darkness to light, that they might know the savior. In his name we pray. Amen.