In the past series, “Live Free” (click here if you haven’t read it), we learned about where we find our true identity, what our true identity is, and what our true identity is not. But I also introduced the reality that we may know the truth about who we are—it’s believing it that ignites the battle within. We just can’t believe it and live it.
Have you ever wondered why?
Paul, a devoted follower of Christ and the writer of much of the New Testament, knew exactly why we can’t always live in our true identity:
“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. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:10-13 NIV).
Paul invites us to put on the full armor of God because he reminds us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. Let me explain what that means practically. In the “Live Free” series we talked about the different voices of our lives that have determined our identity our entire lives: the world, the accuser, other people, our experiences. While people may have hurt you in a way you can barely stand to recall, your struggle is not against that person, but against the way the Accuser will use that against you.
Our struggle is not against people. People are not the enemy. We have one enemy and he can use people to accomplish his mission. That enemy wants to use whoever and whatever he can to steal, kill and destroy us. We are in a spiritual battle every day and it’s time we learn how to put on our armor so that we can face that battle with confidence.
The Belt of Truth
“Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth . . .” (Ephesians 6:14)
One of my most embarrassing moments happened in the 4th grade. We were doing our quarterly fitness challenges, and I was always determined to beat the girls on the “two arm bar hang” where you hung from a bar in a pull-up position for as long as possible. Since I was so small, most of my classmates thought I was too weak—but they had no idea what I was capable of. I hopped on that bar and hung for a solid minute, trying to ignore my shaky arms. I stayed solid until I felt my gym teacher gently trying to pull up my pants as they had started to fall down. Fear immediately shot through me as I let go, dropped to the floor, and ran off to the bathroom (trying to ignore the giggles of my classmates as I ran).
I don’t even remember if I set the record in my class because I was too embarrassed to pay attention the rest of the day. 4th grade woes.
What I needed that day was a belt. And what we need—spiritually— is a belt of truth. Now, this belt of truth didn’t hold up a soldier’s pants—as you’ll see when we continue through this armor; either the soldier appears to have preferred to go pant-less, or pants were not considered to be a piece of clothing that the writer Paul considered to be worthy of a spiritual metaphor.
What did the belt do? A belt was used to fasten every part of the armor together so that it is held together on the soldier’s body. If the belt is not fastened, the soldier was likely to lose all or part of his armor. He would not only be more open to attacks, but he would also trip and fall. Falling with this amount of armor was deadly because it weighed so much. If you fell—there was little hope in getting back up. Falling was the most vulnerable place you could be.
Just like a belt serves to hold all pieces of the armor together, Truth is what holds every aspect of our faith, and thus, our identity, together.
This is completely contrary to what the world is preaching these days. The world is preaching that truth is relative. Whatever you believe to be true must be true for you. The world tells us to live our own truth.
But the essence of those definitions completely ruins the definition of truth. If everyone can invent their own truth, then truth doesn’t exist at all. There would be no truth.
As Christians, however, we do not have to live in this ambiguity. We can know Truth and we can wear it as a belt so that it firmly holds our faith together. We can define truth by looking at what Jesus says about truth:
“Sanctify [my disciples] by the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ ” (John 14:6).
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son who came from the Father full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” (John 8:31-32) (emphasis all mine).
Here we learn that God’s word is truth. Jesus is the truth. We learn that Jesus was full of truth. And we learn that the truth will set us free. We also learn that when we hold to Jesus’s teaching, we will know the truth.
So, to translate: Jesus is the word of God—truth—in the flesh and when we stick to his teaching and learn from him, we are truly free.
Beware of False “Truth“
Now, it can be really tricky to know Truth and not get caught up in false “truth.” We tend to easily follow the teaching of anyone who calls themselves a Christian without questioning or checking to make sure that his or her teaching aligns with the Truth of God’s word.
We are warned of this in 2 Timothy 4:2-4: “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
Paul is encouraging Timothy to preach the word and is warning him that a time will come when people will not put up with the hard teachings of Jesus anymore and they will flock to people who are teaching the very things that everyone wants to hear.
We don’t have to look far to see what Christians are easily flocking towards these days: “Following God will give you all that you need! Wealth, happiness, and comfort.”
“You don’t have to change to follow Jesus. You don’t have to actually give up anything for him.”
“Follow Jesus and he’ll give you the American Dream.”
“You don’t have to be involved with a church to be a Christian.”
“Sex before marriage is not a big deal. That’s just old religious stuff.”
“You can interpret the Bible however you want to.”
“You can believe in Jesus and live however you want. God loves you just the way you are.”
“You don’t really need to share your faith, that’s for the pastor to do.”
Why do we flock to those teachings? Because they’re comfortable. They’re what our “itching ears” really do want to hear. Of course we want to hear that God is going to give us a nice, comfortable and happy life where we can get all the benefits of God without any of our own sacrifice. Of course we want to join in with what the rest of the world is doing because it’s a lot easier to swim with the pack than it is to swim against them.
So, when someone labels themselves “Christian” and comes out with this kind of teaching, many Christians run to him/her and say: “Oh, thank you! I’ve always kind of believed this but didn’t think I was allowed since I grew up in a Christian home. But this makes so much more sense than what I was believing before!”
We say those things and we run from real truth because real truth is extremely uncomfortable and completely contrary to the rest of the world.
Truth won’t be comfortable. Truth won’t always make sense. You won’t find it on TV shows or movies. You won’t hear it on the radio. It won’t be talked about at your lunch tables or in your classrooms. It is a rare gem to be found in this world and it won’t be comfortable to live in the Truth.
But it is so worth it.
Let’s test it. What if we did take on all of those false truths that I mentioned before as our “Belt of Truth?”
“Following God will give you all that you need! Wealth, happiness, and comfort.”—Well, great! Until we experience extreme suffering. Then our faith falls apart because it all hinged on the truth that God exists to give me everything I want and need. He exists to bring me happiness and comfort. And the minute something happens in our lives to cause pain and suffering (which I’m sure has already happened to you), then we lose all of our armor.
“You don’t have to change to follow Jesus. You don’t have to actually give up anything for him.”—Perfect. I like my life just the way it is, but I heard Jesus saves you from Hell and I don’t want that. So throw him in my life like I throw salt on my fries. But then you start to realize that you’re not free. You’re not free from addiction or guilt or shame or anger or hurt or anxiety. Nothing in your life is different and you’re still searching for something to fulfill you. Maybe you’re experiencing that right now. Your life is the fries and Jesus is the salt. Your life is chicken nuggets and Jesus is the sauce. He may be nice to have around as you’ve sort of thrown him into your life, but you haven’t done anything to engage in a transformative relationship that Jesus actually commands from us. Your relationship isn’t a relationship at all.
When we do not wear our belt of truth, or we wear a false belt of truth, we invite pain, confusion, anxiety, bondage, anger, and frustration into our lives. We were connecting everything in our lives to that truth and that truth failed to deliver the freedom that Jesus promised.
We must seek the real Truth. But how?
Seeking Real Truth
We must seek Jesus.
It seems like the obvious or simple answer—something that feels cliche or too simple. But if we look back at the earlier scripture, we are reminded that Jesus is the Truth. And the only way to seek the Truth is to . . . seek the Truth.
And if we are going to do that, we have to stop ignoring the Bible.
I’m sure many of us have different experiences with the Bible, but most of the excuses I’ve heard are like this:
“It’s too hard to read.”
“It doesn’t relate to my life.”
“I don’t know what half the words mean.”
“I don’t have time.”
“I always forget to read it.”
I get it, the Bible is extremely hard to read. It’s not like a regular book where you pick it up and read it from beginning to end. It is actually a multi-genre work comprised of historical accounts collected over centuries and translated into different languages to become what it is today. It’s no ordinary book.
It is a beautiful thing to read the Bible with others, but you actually can read it on your own. The same Spirit who wrote the Bible lives inside you and can help you understand it if you only pursue Him.
Anyone who says it’s too boring or it doesn’t relate to your life has never taken the time to really understand it. There are some crazy stories in there that are unbelievable. And God’s incredible grace and love displayed throughout every page of the Bible is enough to flip our lives upside down. I promise you it relates to your life right this second.
And for those of you who say you don’t have time, check your screen time. You have time. You make time for what you believe is urgent and important. You would make time to read the Bible if you believed it was urgent and important. If you really cared, you would read.
So throw your excuses aside and get to know Jesus by reading the Bible.
As we get to know truth, as John 8 says, we are set free. If our belt is working correctly, we are able to move freely and all of our armor stays in place. And if we know Truth, we are free. We can be confronted with lies and arguments and we will firmly stand in Truth.
A Note About Learning From Others
There is an interesting internet phenomena that I’m noticing lately. Social media has become a place where all people have authority and credible voices. We can learn from anyone who has a lot of followers on social media—even if we have no idea whether or not they’re truly an expert. We’ve started to find “truth” based on how credible people are online.
This can be dangerous.
If we are not reading the Bible for ourselves and seeking to hold all pastors, teachers, and social media influencers against the Word of God, we are liable to fall into false truth.
2 Peter 3:15b-18: “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”
It is your job to spend time with God and study the Bible for yourself. We can absolutely use other people and other tools to get to know Truth, but ultimately, people can be flawed in their interpretation of truth. We can lose our secure position if we so easily believe twisted truth.
Putting it Into Practice
Here are a few steps you can begin to take in order to study truth for yourself:
- Read your Bible every day
- Pray before reading the Bible, asking God to reveal himself to you through the words
- Journal about what you are learning as you read
- Use Blue Letter Bible to help with learning what certain words mean or read some commentaries to understand the scripture
- Open your Bible during church to check where the pastor/teacher is getting the scripture and if (s)he is using it correctly
- Read and discuss the Bible with someone who knows more than you do, but don’t be afraid to ask a billion questions
- Ask reliable people for books that help you understand the history, context and language in the Bible
- Pray a lot
Truth matters. We cannot latch the other parts of the armor onto our belt without a solid foundation of real truth. Don’t waste time. Start seeking it today.
Next week we will be studying The Breastplate of Righteousness. Why do you always feel the need to be understood, justified in your actions and decisions, and right in the eyes of other people? You’re missing your breastplate of righteousness. Find out how to put it on next week.