In continuation of our discussions on the Armor of God and Ephesians 6 (see Are you an unlikely hero? and Our heavy armor), I will be delving more deeply into each of the elements of the armor that we, as believers, are asked to take up.
Today we are talking about the belt of truth and how that helps us make the right decisions when we are tempted.
The new testament was written during the time of Roman occupation of the Holy Land. In consideration of this, let’s look at the meaning and significance of the baldric (belt) of Roman military armor, which was usually slung over one shoulder.
The baldric served two purposes:
- It was the place to hold weapons
- It indicated a Legionary’s position or rank
Putting on the belt of the truth of God serves the same purpose in our spiritual battles. Any weapon we use for defense against the enemy’s attacks, or attacks from other people, must be sheathed in the Truth of God as revealed in his Word (the Bible). Secondly, God’s word signifies believers as warriors in God’s army. When we wear the belt of truth we display this status proudly.
I sometimes question why some moral decisions are still so difficult for me to make. I find myself questioning my spiritual maturity and doubting my calling into ministry. “If I am spiritually mature,” I tell myself, “then these things should not be tempting me.”
This is a lie and I am slowly learning to make a conscious choice that instead of berating myself for being tempted, I will be glad I have come to a point where I recognize moral dilemmas and react according to God’s will, instead of my own. (Most of the time, anyway…I can’t claim perfection until I am on the other side of heaven)
The Bible never promises we won’t be tempted, or that temptations will lessen or cease once we are spiritually “mature”. In fact, the enemy tends to fight harder the closer you get to God. But the Bible does promise that as we grow spiritually we will learn to discern the devil’s tricks, and that God will always help us to make the right choices.
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
One certainty in life is that you will be tempted. That is just part of the package we get when we are born into this fallen world.
Even Jesus was tempted.
Matthew 4:1-11 gives an account of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. I find it interesting that this occurred right after his baptism and at the start of his ministry journey. The enemy is an opportunist and he strikes out of his own fear. He is more likely to attack when you are walking the path God has laid out for you, or when you are at your weakest.
The devil is also a smart enemy. He rarely comes out charging with guns blazing. His lies are always grounded in truth and appealing to fleshly desires. We are less likely to recognize the attack this way.
Jesus was fasting and hungry, so the devil offered him bread:
“If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (Matthew 4:2)
And God had placed in Jesus’ hands a grand mission, so the devil offered him power:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8)
I love how Jesus responded to these temptations. He unsheathed his weapon from the belt of truth and turned the lie around by negating it with the Truth of God’s word:
Jesus answered [in response to Satan’s suggestion to turn stones into bread], “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:4)
Jesus said to him [in response to Satan’s offer of world domination in exchange for Jesus’ worship of him], “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” (Matthew 4:10)
And so, one of the ways God helps us resist temptation is in the word he has already made available to us. If a decision you are considering goes against the word of God, it is NOT the right decision. No matter how you might justify it.
And believe me, I know all about justifying sin!
One of the ways I justified my sin was by saying to myself (and sometimes to others) “Okay, so Jesus resisted temptation. Duh, he’s the son of God. God cannot expect me to live by those same standards.” I think I envisioned Jesus sitting on a rock in his robes, staring up to heaven with a halo and a shining light behind his head (ala every stained glass portrait of him I’ve ever seen), and answering Satan with the calmest and most careless of tones.
But as I began to study the Bible more I saw the errors in my thinking. Hebrews 2:18 tells us that Jesus suffered from temptation. Yes, he was God incarnate, but in taking on human flesh he took on fleshly desires. So when he was starving in the wilderness, I am willing to bet that he considered – if even for a moment – turning that stone into bread. Temptation would not torment us – we would not suffer – unless we found the choice difficult to make. This must have been true for Jesus, as well.
The second part of Hebrews 2:18 reminds us that because Jesus was tempted just as we are, and in the exact same ways, he is able to help us. Jesus is not the pious preacher scowling down at you for making a mistake, or for even considering making a mistake. He is the war-worn supporter, walking beside you, shaking his head and saying “Yeah, I know what this feels like. It’s rough, isn’t it? Let me help…”