Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist
Truth in a post modern world?
Pilate once asked Jesus, ‘What is truth?’ That’s a very up to date comment in our post-modern world, isn’t it? People are very reluctant to believe in a universal truth. We live in a day where something may be true for you but it’s not true for me. We mustn’t get into this kind of thinking.
Some sentimentally claim that the truth is so wonderful that it defies definition. Others say that Paul is referring to the belt of truthfulness or integrity. I’m convinced that it doesn’t mean that either. Rather, Paul is referring to objective gospel truth. We follow one who said, ‘I am the truth’. We’re not on a search, nor are we mystics. The Bible says that in these last days God has spoken to us through His Son. Jude refers to ‘the faith once delivered to the saints’ – and we need to buckle on this truth.
Life shaping truth
Today people are raised on self-indulgence in a fragmented aimless society which is based on rampant individualism and consumerism. Paul encountered these things in his day. Christian soldiers don’t need to add a little religion and moralism to lives that are rooted in independence and selfishness. They don’t need to read books about finding fulfilment in their true self and becoming wonderfully successful. Their previous world view must be completely deconstructed.
Truth is the axe that cuts to the root. It deals with our true identity and why we’re on the planet. We’re not here for ourselves; we’re here for God’s glory. We’re here as his creatures. We live for Him and give thanks to Him. We need to be shaped by truth. The Roman soldier’s belt was gathered around his garments and stopped him tripping over. It held him together and gave him security. So this truth is meant to shape the way we think. If, like a belt, it doesn’t hold us together, we haven’t properly applied it.
Paul says, ‘You became obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were committed’ (Rom. 6:17). This verse includes mind, heart and will. You received this teaching in your heart and you became obedient. You might think that the Word was committed to you, but Paul doesn’t say that. He says that you were committed to the Word.
The commentators tell us that the idea here is of something being poured into a mould which shapes whatever is poured into it. You were committed to this truth. You believed it, received it and willingly gave yourself to it. Now it takes away your original sinful shape and moulds you to think biblically. You develop a settled conviction governing your life and choices. No longer is Christianity something that you do for a couple of hours on a Sunday plus the reading of a good book. You’ve been poured into a mould that completely changes the way that you evaluate yourself – your relationships, your job, your money, your leisure time and your purpose in life. It’s a totally new way of thinking.
Truth to fight with
Be girded with truth. Buckle truth on. Take seriously what God says in his Word. Once you’ve been poured into that mould, you won’t allow your emotions to rule your life. Maybe you say, ‘Well I don’t really feel God loves me’. This kind of thinking is totally irrelevant. It just reveals that you haven’t girded yourself with truth. Didn’t Jesus say, ‘The Father himself loves you’? Or maybe you say, ‘I don’t feel God is very near to me at the moment.’ What are you talking about? Didn’t Jesus say, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’? You’re in the wrong mould. Challenge your thinking. Be strengthened. Be a good soldier. Get the armour on! Don’t entertain irrelevant thoughts.
Paul speaks truth into all kinds of situations. In his letter to the Philippians he comments on a disagreement between two women and tries to get them together. Then he writes, ‘He who was in the form of God did not count equality with God as something to be grasped but humbled himself and taking on human form he humbled himself and became a servant even to death, even on a cross.’ Wow! Dozens of doctrinal study books have been written on the mighty truth of the incarnation. Paul is actually using it to stop two women fighting! Truth invades our lives and changes the way in which we relate to each other.
One proverb says, ‘Fools hate knowledge’. Instruction without fear of the Lord is mere information. You have to receive it with the fear of the Lord or it won’t defend you.
Paul isn’t talking cold theology. He’s looking for behavioural change based on the fact that God became man and dwelt among us. Jesus lived an amazing life of power, healing, mercy, grace, wisdom and love. The hands that only reached out to heal and bless were smashed to a cross where he was crucified for us. God’s holy, pure wrath fell on him and now God has raised him up and given him glory. He conquered death and was raised to life. We live in the light of breathtaking truth about Christ. We call it the good news, the gospel – it’s the belt that’s meant to change us and to shape our world view.
This post was adapted from the 2nd of three sermons on the Armour of God preached at Together on a Mission 2010