The Belt of TruthPastor Lutzer | July 27, 2008
When we open our minds and hearts to sin, we’re open to having thoughts injected into our minds by the devil.
Selected highlights from this sermon
In our war against Satan and his demons, we need to put on the belt of truth. We need to affirm that God is truth, that truth is recorded in the Bible, and that truth was revealed in Jesus Christ.
Against the truth, Satan and his minions cannot stand. But he will do everything to make us disbelieve the Bible (or make us think it’s just an ordinary book), make us think our ways are better than God’s ways, and keep us from reading the Word of God.
Stand firm in the truth.
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God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. We’ve heard that many times, but there is a corollary and that is that Satan hates you and has a destructive plan for your life. There is in the world the devil. The devil is God’s adversary, initially created by God, but then of course, having fallen into the sin of pride, established his own dark, evil kingdom, and he wants us to be a part of it. As a matter of fact, it is perfectly possible that he has already made plans for our own individual downfall.
Satan can only be in one place at one time, but because he has demons that do his bidding, he almost gives the illusion of being omnipresent—everywhere at the same time. When you look at the Bible you discover that his name is Satan, which means adversary, but another name is the devil, which means accuser, or slanderer. As a matter of fact, it is possible for us to do the devil’s work.
There’s a very interesting passage in 1 Timothy 3:11 where the Apostle Paul is talking about wives of deacons, and this would apply, of course, to wives of elders, and all of us who are males as well, but it says that the wives should not be slanderers. The Greek text reads, “The wives should not be Diabalos,” they should not be devils. Do you realize that when we slander one another; when you get on the phone and you begin to criticize another Christian (sharing information that is of no value in rectifying the problem), you are doing the devil’s work?
Now, his method is very clear. What he does is he wants to inject thoughts into our minds that we think are our own so that we’re not afraid of those thoughts. For example, in Chapter 5 of the book of Acts, a couple by the names of Ananias and Sapphira decided to lie about the amount of money that they got for a price of land so they pretended they gave everything to the church. It was really a half lie or a white lie. Let’s suppose that they sold the land for $1,000. They gave $500 to the church and gave the impression that they were giving it all. Later on Peter walks into their home and says, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?” Now, if Ananias and Sapphira had known that the devil was there when they were eating their bagels in the morning and discussing this, they would have been terrified, but they didn’t know that because the devil is unseen, even though he put the thoughts into their minds to lie and therefore they obeyed him.
When you and I open up our minds and our hearts to sin, we open up ourselves to the possibility of having thoughts injected into our minds that are really put there by the devil. That is the nature of temptation. What kinds of thoughts does he put into our minds? Certainly thoughts about suicide, and not only that, in the Bible there are all kinds of sins that are associated with demonic activity—everything from divisiveness, hatred, false guilt, anger, occult practices, immorality, to rebellion. All of that Biblically can be traced back to ideas that Satan puts into our minds. So we are in a tremendous battle, and that’s why in our text today found in Ephesians 6 you’ll notice the Apostle Paul says in verse 10, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” Verse 11 says, “Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil,” and he has many schemes, and in this series of messages which is entitled The Invisible War, we are going to find out what those schemes are.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood.” That’s amazing. Many of the battles that we get into and many of the conflicts that we have, we attribute simply to flesh and blood. Well, flesh and blood may be involved, but remember back of all of that there may be indeed evil spirits. We are up against the devil. In fact, three or four times Paul uses the word against. He says, “We don’t wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Wow. What a battle we are in.
If you are here today, as a Christian, and you don’t think that you are in the battle and Satan is leaving you alone, maybe the reason is because you are not a threat to him. He knows that he can count on you to do nothing to advance the kingdom of light and so he simply says, “There is a Christian who may be a Christian, but he’s doing no damage to the kingdom of darkness. We’ll let him alone.” My friend, you and I are in a battle whether we like it or not. Satan hates us and he wants to destroy us.
Now, very quickly, the question is, how do we then put on this armor? Today I’ll deal briefly with the first piece of armor that is listed in the text. There are six in all. You’ll notice it says in verse 13, “Take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand (and Paul loves that word stand) in the evil day, having done all, stand firm.” Verse 14, “Stand therefore fastened with the belt of truth.
Let’s begin there with the belt of truth. The belt for a soldier basically held everything together. His sword would be on his belt. There are those who think that it was a kind of metal dress that is being spoken of here that basically was important to the entire soldier and the battle that he would face, and you’ll notice that the text says, “Stand with the belt of truth.”
Very briefly, what are some of the characteristics of truth found in the Scriptures, and then we’ll talk about their application? First of all, you find that truth is established by God. Jeremiah 10:10 says, “Oh Lord, you are true.” All throughout the Scriptures you will find that God is spoken of as truth. Always keep in mind that there is no standard outside of God by which He can be judged. God is the standard for everything. He is the middle C, so to speak, by which all other aspects of the universe and creation are judged, and so God is a God of truth.
Now, what does the devil do if he is the one who is the
father of lies? And by the way, he is. In fact, the Bible says regarding him, “Jesus said of the Pharisees, ‘You are of your father, the devil, and the desires of your father you will do.’” He was a murderer from the beginning and he did not abide in the truth because—notice this—there is no truth in him. Wow. No truth in him. When he speaks a lie he speaks of himself because he is a liar and the father of lies. Do you see Satan’s opposition to truth? He hates truth.
You ask, “Does Satan ever speak truth?” The answer is, yes, when he must. For example, in the New Testament there are stories of demons that were in the presence of Jesus, and a demon would say, “We know who you are, the holy one of God.” He had to confess it because he was in the presence of Jesus, but apart from that Satan will always lie. He will always deceive. It has been said that the only time you know for sure that Satan is telling the truth is when he tells you (if he were to tell you), “I am lying.” Then you could believe him because he always lies.
Years ago Bunyan wrote a book entitled, The Holy War. In the book he gives a demonstration of the kind of battle for our mind that we are involved in, and he talks about man’s soul as man’s soul. In fact, the name of the place is Man’s Soul, and Diabalos is having a discussion with some of the demons as to how they are going to trick man and deceive him, and one of them says to the other, “We will cajole; we will tempt them, but at the end what we do all the time is lies, lies, lies, lies, lies.” That’s Satan’s scheme.
Now if you are living with a person who is a deceitful person, a person whom you cannot believe, a person who will not tell the truth unless they are absolutely forced to; if the person is deceitful, he is in Satan’s pocket because he is a liar and the father of lies. So the minute truth is encountered he wants to distort it; he wants to deflect it; he wants to change it because he hates truth.
So what does he want us to think about God? Well, rather than thinking of God as being truth, the first lie that Satan always wants us to believe is that God isn’t good. You found that, for example, in the Garden of Eden. Satan came to Eve and basically said to her, “You mean that God said that you cannot eat of every tree of the garden? A god who restricts you can’t be a good god. God is not at all interested in you. He’s not interested in benefiting you. All that God cares about is Himself, but if you eat of the fruit of the tree that he’s asked you not to eat of, you will be like him.” So what Satan does is he comes along and tells us, “If you follow God, it is not the best way because God is not good.” He wants us to think wrongly about God.
He’ll also come to us and say, “God isn’t faithful, and you can’t depend on His promises.” For example, I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from every individual unrighteousness.” Now, some of you are still struggling with guilt over issues that God has forgiven, and one of the things that Satan does is he comes and he says, “God isn’t faithful. He has promised to forgive you if you have confessed it, and you have confessed it, but He cannot be relied upon to keep His word,” and so Satan wants us to disbelieve God and His truth, and so, whenever we sin deliberately, as Luther has pointed out, we have already thought wrongly about God. We’ve thought to ourselves that sin is actually a better way than God’s way. As a matter of fact, what Satan spends most of his time on is to try to get us to see that sin is something good, and that our own way is better than God’s way.
So, first of all, truth is established by God, and what Satan wants to do is to distort our view of God so that we don’t trust Him, we don’t believe Him, and we don’t believe that He’s faithful or good.
There’s a second statement that can be made about truth and it is recorded in the Bible. John 17:17 says, “Thy word is truth.” The Old Testament says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The testimony of the Lord is true (here’s the word) and righteous altogether.” Thy word is truth, so what does Satan want us to do? What he’d like people to think about the Bible is that it is an ordinary human book, that it is a collection of man’s wisdom, that it is a book that has benefits but it is not the word of God, and if it is the word of God, it is an incomplete word of God. We need other books to supplement it. That’s why you find in other religions that you always have other books, because the assumption is that the Bible isn’t sufficient, and we need another book, so you have the Book of Mormon. You have the book on Science and Health and a key to the Scriptures. That’s another book added to the Bible. You have the Koran. It’s a book added to the Bible. What Satan wants people to think is that the Bible itself is not reliable in and of itself. You need something additional beyond it so that you can really get to God, and so he wants to distort our idea of God’s truth.
By the way, how did Jesus regard the Bible? Imagine! “Heaven and earth shall pass away, and yet my word shall not pass away.” Wow. “Forever, oh Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.” Those are the kinds of convictions Jesus had and we can’t believe less than our Savior believed, can we? So we find that Jesus countered Satan with the Word.
There’s the great story that you already know, but the tempter came to Him and said, “Turn these stones into bread,” and Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” So there you had Jesus Christ affirming the Scriptures. Satan comes along and if he can get you to disbelieve the Bible, that’s the first thing he wants to do. If you believe the Bible and there’s nothing that can be done because you have come to the conviction that the Bible is God’s Word, the next ploy is for you to ignore God’s Word and to keep it on the shelf. You never read it, and you have no reading program whereby you are reading anything, and occasionally you take it from the shelf and hope that it will fall open at a place that might be helpful, but there’s no systematic attempt to say, “What is God saying?” So Satan wants us to do that because he knows that it is through God’s Word that we have victory over sin. “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word.”
So, first of all truth is established by God. Secondly, it is recorded in the Bible. Third, it is revealed in Jesus.
Imagine now! All of us like to think that we’ve taught the truth, particularly if you teach mathematics. Two plus two is equal to four. That seems to be a universal that everyone will accept. We all like to say that that is truth, but imagine a teacher of mathematics saying, “It is not just that I teach the truth but I am the truth.” We’d say, “Now you’ve taken this too far. You may teach it, but nobody—especially your wife—is going to believe that you are the truth, yet Jesus said that. Jesus said that He was the embodiment of truth. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” And so Satan wants us to think that Jesus is not the truth, and that there are other people who are the same as Jesus. I think the greatest distortion that Satan wants us to have
is our understanding of Jesus.
So you have today all these other Jesuses. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11, “Be sure that you do not believe in another Jesus.” So you have the Mormon Jesus. You have also the Santa Claus Jesus who gives you benefits of health and wealth without any repentance or without any faith in His name. You have also the cosmic Jesus that supposedly indwells everyone. You have many different Jesuses, and whatever Jesus Paul was speaking about when he spoke about that other Jesus, he thought that false Jesus was so close to the true one that he feared that the people of Corinth wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. That’s why he said (in context), “I am afraid that even as the serpent deceived Eve by his subtlety, so you shall be deceived by him also.” Why? Paul goes on to say, “It’s because you are believing in another Jesus.” You see the Jesus in which we must believe is the Jesus who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life”—the divine Jesus, Jesus the God-man, Jesus the Savior, Jesus, the one who we worship. That is the Jesus in whom we have put our confidence. All others are [not Jesus].
I’ve been thinking about this. What do you think Satan likes the most? Does he like to lead people into alcoholism and drugs? Certainly he does because he is the destroyer. The Bible says the thief comes to destroy, and he loves to see destruction. When you see a natural disaster on the news, or when you look at the tsunami or think of an earthquake (and we have all those images in our minds), those natural disasters remind us of what sin does. Sin destroys, but actually people who are alcoholics or drug addicts are not a very good advertisement for the devil. As a matter of fact, they may cause other people to look at them and say, “I’m going to go in a different direction than that.” Do you know what I think? I think Satan prefers something else. I think he’d like to have an educated man, well-dressed and articulate, stand in a pulpit and tell people that God is only love, and therefore you do not have to worry about your sin, and to tell people that the Bible is a collection of human wisdom that is good to read, but it’s not the Word of God, and then to tell them that Jesus is a good man who is a picture of us all, as Eckhart Tolle does in his book The New Earth, when he says that Jesus is the archetype (the picture of us all), and then on page 71 Tolle says, “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life,’ and what can be said about Jesus can be said about all of us. You also are the way, the truth and the life.” And then you have a book like that with millions upon millions of copies sold with even Christians reading it, and Satan is delighted because he has stolen (or attempted to) the glory from Jesus and has substituted another Jesus.
Truth is established by God. Truth is also recorded in the Scriptures, and truth is revealed to us in Jesus Christ. The Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. Now the Apostle Paul says that’s your belt. The bottom line in fighting the devil always is truth, and by the way, you’ve heard me say this before. If you have a problem with lying, I can assure you that you can overcome that problem and in a short period of time. All that you have to do is after you have said the lie and realize you have just lied, you confess to the person to whom you’ve just spoken and say, “Hey, you know what? I just lied to you, so I want to make it right.” Every time you lie, you make it right immediately. What you’ll discover is pretty soon you’ll say, “You know, this is silly. Why don’t I just tell the truth?”
Liars do the work of the devil. Deceitful people who tell you one thing and intend another do the work of the devil, and the Bible says in the book of Revelation, “And all liars shall have their place in the lake of fire. God hates lies because God is a god of truth.
How do we put this on though? How do you put on that belt? Well I think first of all what you need to do is to confess the truth. You confess the truth about yourself. You confess the truth about Jesus, and there are some of you listening here who have no personal relationship with Christ. You’ve never connected with Him. You’ve never received Him as Savior. The Bible says, “If thou shall confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in thine heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Honest people know that they are sinners. I was in Berlin this summer and I met a bunch of young guys—maybe six or seven—on the street, and I was giving them the Gospel. I just used the opportunity to share Christ with them, and I said to this one guy who seemed to be the lead speaker of the group, “Now you know that you’re a sinner, don’t you?” He staggered a little bit and he sort of said yes, and I said, “You’d better say yes because if you don’t say yes, you’ve only added to your sins by lying.” And then I said, “These guys, these friends of yours, they’re liars too, aren’t they?” Now if you say it that way, smile at least. All right? I was smiling. You know what our problem is? We’re so dishonest with ourselves, but if you know today that you’re a sinner and Jesus is the Savior and you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and you recognize that He is Lord and He is the Savior, and you believe in your heart in the resurrection, and you transfer your trust to Him, you shall be saved, the Bible says. You can be saved right now where you are. You can be saved, those of you who are watching by way of the Internet in perhaps eighty different countries of the world. You’re listening to this message and God has put you where you are so that you could hear that you can be saved no matter how great your sin. That’s one way in which we begin the process of wearing the belt of truth.
The other is that we need to do something with our feet. The Apostle Paul says over against Satan and his wiles that we are going to be discussing in this series, “Stand, stand, stand,” and then he goes on to say “Yes, there are times when we have to wrestle, but we have to stand, and we stand through reading God’s Word, through obedience and daily cleansing.” You know, it says in the book of James, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double minded,” and then it says, “and resist (that’s James’ term) the devil and he will flee from you.” You must resist him, and you resist him through the Word.
Many years ago I told you this true story about when I was at the University. I was working on a PhD, and I needed to learn French, and I had no background in French, and the way it was is the professor would take the journal off the shelf and he would give me a French journal and say, “Translate on sight.” I flunked it the first time, and as I recall, also the second time. The third time I was absolutely terrified. I could hardly eat breakfast. I think Rebecca remembers this because I was so nervous. When you’re really nervous you can’t eat. I began to realize that this anxiety is so acute that it may be demonic, so on the way to school I began to quote all the verses of Scripture I know. “Peace I leave with you.” I quoted them out loud in the car. You can do that if you are the only person there. “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication…” I quoted all the verses I knew on peace and quoted them over and over again, and the anxiety continued to drive me until I got to the university. I parked the car, and suddenly this deep overwhelming peace came over me. I walked into the professor’s office. He took the journal from the shelf. He handed it to me and asked me to translate, and I flunked it cold. [laughter} I walked out of there as if I were walking on air; I was so full of peace. I’m serious. When I got to the church that I was then the pastor of (Edgewater Baptist), my secretary said, “Why are you in such a good mood? What in the world happened to you?” I said, “I just flunked French three times in a row.” [laughter]
Students, if you have to flunk, do it victoriously, would you? [laughter and applause]. There have been many times, and by the way I did eventually pass French, but there have been many times when I just had to quote those verses over and over again and say, “I stand, I stand, I stand on the Word of God. This is what the word of God says,” and Satan doesn’t go away. Remember it says in the fourth chapter of Luke regarding Jesus’ temptations, Satan left him for a season, looking for a more opportune time. He’ll be back. He came back to Jesus three times, but if you continue to stand, and you continue to resist, finally the peace will come.
We are in a battle and God says the first piece of armor is truth. What you need to do is confess all the deception that exists in your life. That’s step number one. Get rid of the deception that you might put on the belt of truth.
There is a story about a painter. He painted a picture of a young man playing chess with the devil, and the agreement was that whoever lost would become a servant to the winner, and in this picture that was painted, the devil had just called checkmate in three moves. The look on the boy’s face was one of utter terror. Some of you chess players know that there was a very famous chess player by the name of Paul Morphy. I’ve read about him even on the Internet. Paul Morphy looked at that picture and stared at it, in his mind moving this piece, that piece, and that piece, trying to figure it out, and then he shouted, “Young man, there is a move you can make.” Wow. The painter had overlooked a move the young man could make.
Today I speak to those of you harassed by Satan, to those of you who find yourself in a battle that you seem to be losing, to those of you who have never trusted Christ as Savior as I mentioned earlier and your life is all messed up. I say to you today there is a move you can make. Jesus came to this earth and died on the cross and was raised to say to this world, “In the midst of this darkness, and in the midst of this mess, there is a move that can be made.” Jesus opens the door and says, “Come to me.”
Father, I ask in the name of Jesus that You may take these few thoughts, that you might help us to deal with our deceptions and that we might put on the belt of truth and be people who speak the truth, who love the truth; people who believe the truth, that we might experience Your blessing, and that we might stand against the many schemes of the devil.
Whatever you need to say to God you say it to Him right now, would you?
Father, we pray that you will receive these prayers, and for those who are struggling, help them to know that they can’t solve that problem right here. Some of them need to get with You and spend an hour giving everything over to You. Cause them to do that, in Jesus’ name, Amen.