This sermon is number 2 in a series of 6
Spiritual Warfare - Part 2
"The Belt Of Truth and The Breastplate Of Righteousness"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2014 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
[NOTE: This is a transcript of a similar sermon to the recording above, but preached on a different occasion] It's good to be back with you, and those of you who are here for the first time and weren't with us this morning, I'll be here for three weeks including today - and I'm looking at the subject 'Spiritual Warfare'. We're looking particularly at Ephesians chapter 6, so if you want to turn there with me please do that.
Let's pray together just before we come to God's word. Let's pray. Now I can get things wrong, I do it all the time, but I do detect a certain heaviness in the gathering. I don't know why that is, I don't need to know why, but I do detect a heaviness. Sometimes it can just be on me, and I sense that and nobody else senses it - but let's make sure now that we've got clear lines to heaven as we come to God's word. Let's make sure that we have ears to hear what the Spirit says to the church. Whatever that means for you, you deal with that. Let's come and even collectively ask the Lord to just lift whatever might be in our own personal space, or in this corporate atmosphere, that would get in the way as a blockage to divine communication tonight. Do you want to meet God tonight? Do you want to encounter the Lord? Do you want to hear from heaven? Let's come:
Holy Heavenly Father, we come to You in that name that is above every name, Lord Jesus Christ. We exalt Him, we extol Him, we give Him the highest praise - for we know that the highest place in heaven has been given to Him, and that all principalities and powers, and might and dominion, has been put beneath His feet. We thank You that He is Lord of all, and we thank You that one day - we believe, sooner than ever - every knee shall bow and tongue confess of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth. Lord, we can't wait for the day when the devil will have to say: 'Jesus is Lord'. Father, we just pray tonight that all of us would be completely and utterly surrendered to His Lordship. As we prayed this morning, we ask that this very space, that the atmosphere would be cleansed, that there would be a breaking of the powers of darkness, or even our own human spirits that are oppressed and heavy - the drag with it, Lord, such a darkness at times. We ask for a release, we ask, Lord, for cleansing for our sins; we ask, Lord, for the bondages that might be upon us to be broken; we ask for mental strongholds to be shattered; we ask that we would have a clarity tonight in the Spirit, whereby we would be able to see You. Beyond the sacred page, we seek Thee, Lord. We want to meet with You, we want to encounter You. Lord, deliver us from listening to mere preaching and coming to church. Lord, we are fed up with it, we want divine encounters, we want to experience the Living God, we want to know that we have met with the supernatural, eternal Deity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - the only wise God. Lord, we want You to come and meet with us tonight. We are struggling, many of us, Lord, in the battle, and we need to know how to overcome. We pray that we will have Your help tonight, that the Holy Spirit who inspired these pages, He will take them and apply them to our hearts, and open it up and, Lord, really make a change in our lives. We thank You for what You have already been doing today. We praise You and we give You glory, and we look to You further to do wonders in our midst here tonight, Lord. We don't limit You, we want to say that to You now by faith, Lord: we're not going to tell You what to do, we're not going to dictate to You what needs to happen at this meeting. We're completely - I know Lord, before You, I am, I trust, completely and utterly open for You to do anything. As if we needed to remind You, Lord, that nothing is impossible for You - we just want to affirm our faith in that: we believe that with God all things are possible. Thank You, Lord, we thank You for that. We pray that You will indeed manifest Your power and Your presence with us now, for Christ's sake, Amen.
Well, I don't want to repeat what I said this morning, save to say that we're looking at these opening verses of Ephesians chapter 6. We will read them together again, from verse 10, these opening verses concerning the armour of God: "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles", or the schemes, "of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints".
We are in a battle, that's what we emphasised this morning. There is a war on, and you need to be awake to the war. I'll not repeat myself - but there is a bit of a, what would you say, an irony about this war. We are fighting it, and yet the battle belongs to the Lord - and the end result, as someone put it well, 'I've read the back of the book and we win'. The Lord has the victory, and there is no doubt about this, that when the Saviour died on the cross, and when He was buried and then subsequently rose again and ascended to heaven, He defeated the devil. We've got to understand that: though the devil is very active presently in our universe, the fact remains that he is a defeated foe. His days are numbered! There are many scriptures that outline this. Some of my favourite are Colossians 2:15: 'Having disarmed principalities and powers, He', that is Jesus, 'made a show of them', or, 'made a public spectacle of them openly, triumphing over them in His cross' - isn't that a wonderful statement? Jesus has stripped the powers of darkness of all their diabolical ability to destroy humankind. That's wonderful.
First John 3:8 says: 'For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil' - that's why Jesus came into the world. Hebrews 2:14 says: 'Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil'. The word for 'destroy' there in Hebrews, and the word for 'destroy' in 1 John 3:8 that I mentioned, 'He was manifested to destroy the works of the devil', is the word 'luo' in Greek, which is actually the word for 'loose'. So the idea is that the Lord Jesus came into this world in human flesh to unpick at the seams the kingdom of darkness. He came to effectively demolish what the devil had built up, this great edifice of darkness. He came to dissolve, to sever Satan's rule and power. So through the Lord Jesus, His life and ministry, through His death and resurrection, the powers of darkness become unstuck - that's why He can say: 'I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it'.
Now you might be saying: 'Well, there is a bit of an irony here. It seems an apparent contradiction, because if that is the case, and if the devil is defeated, and if the Lord Jesus has stripped him of much of his power and all of his authority at the cross - then why do we see so much depravity and evil round about us? Why is it that I know my own struggles? Why do you say that we are in a fiery war with the enemy? Surely it should just be a breeze now if Jesus has defeated darkness?'. Well, you're missing out a very, very intrinsic element to spiritual battle and the armour of God - and it's this word 'take', take. Let me put it another way: if Jesus died for sin, does that mean everyone is saved? Of course it doesn't, that universalism. People are just not saved by default because Jesus died and rose again, they must believe on the Lord Jesus. What must we do? Repent, and believe the Gospel! Follow Christ!
Equally so: is it the case that through what Jesus did for us, now that we are professing Christians, that we now can just drift through our human existence without any opposition from the enemy? Of course not! That's why this imperative command is given: you've got to take the armour of God. As you read down each element of armour, it is often said 'Put on', 'Take up'. So there is something for us to do, passivity is not an option in the Christian life at all - and it certainly is not specifically in relation to spiritual warfare. We have got a part to play - and, incidentally, this is not just in this area, but in every aspect of the Christian experience, we have a part to play. That is not works, that's simply the way it is. Grace is God's gift that He hands out to us, and in Christianity He gives us everything on a plate - it's all of grace, from start to finish - but faith is our hand that receives it, faith is our hand that appropriates everything that He has provided for us. So from the very moment that we repent and believe the Gospel, and are justified before God, we are still to go on, through His grace, taking by faith. Romans says this: Christianity is from faith, to faith - it is a faith exercise from start to finish, it is a faith operation. You can't get anything without faith.
Turn with me to Exodus 12 for a moment. You will know that Exodus is a wonderful analogy, some would call it a type, of the salvation experience. The Israelites are in Egypt in bondage, a bit like we are captive to sin and to Satan before we are regenerated and come to Christ. Of course, the Israelites were commanded to take a lamb on Passover night, they were to slay the lamb, and from that sacrifice they would be covered by the blood, and the death angel that would come to judge the Egyptians would pass over them - because God would actually hover over the door, the Bible says - and that very night they would be able to escape, and they would go across the Red Sea, and eventually 40 years later enter into the Promised Land. That's a whole other story, but the point is: Exodus 12 gives us this Passover scene, and of course the Lord Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world. If you come to verse 22, you see in this analogy - of course it's an historical event that happened, but it points to spiritual truths in the Gospel - verse 22: 'You shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning'.
Now the hyssop there was just a herb, just a plant, like a branch, and they were to slay the lamb without blemish and without spot, a picture of the Lord Jesus; they were to pour the lamb's blood into a basin; they were to take this hyssop, and they were to use it like a paintbrush in the blood, and they were to daub the blood on the threshold and the doorposts, on the lintel and the doorposts - and they were to stay in the house. What would have happened if they had gone out of the house? They could have had all the blood of the lamb all over their door, and all over their lintel, and all through their house - but if they stepped out from under the blood, were they protected? No, they weren't. Can I tell you tonight - and this is going a little bit off the script - but there are a lot of Christians and they are, we would say, chancing their arm. They are sticking their neck out into areas of danger and darkness and sin, and they are presuming on the protection of the Lord. They are effectively testing the Lord and thinking: 'Well, I'm under the blood anyway, and God will forgive me, and I'm protected' - no. Obedience was the condition of being under the protection and covering of the blood. If you're disobedient - Hebrews, and I'm not getting into the theology of this chapter, we couldn't do it anyway tonight, but Hebrews says: 'If we sin wilfully, there remains no sacrifice for sins'. In other words, to put it in a colloquialism, you can't have your cake and eat it! You can't have a sacrifice for sins, and then go on sinning and expect that sacrifice to cover your sins. You don't find that in the Bible. What I'm wanting to emphasise is the necessity of appropriating the provisions that Jesus has given us by faith. So God has given us this armour, and we are able to overcome, but we've got to take what He gives us, and we've got to use it!
We hinted at 1 John 1:7 this morning, 'The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, keeps on' - the tense is present-continuous - 'goes on cleansing us from all sin'. How many evangelicals just quote that verse - and it gives great comfort, there is no doubt about it - but we ignore completely and utterly the context. The context is: 'If we walk' - 'if' means 'if', did you know that? 'If' is conditional. Now this might really scramble your theology, but I'm just sorry, because this is Bible: 'If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son keeps on cleansing us from all sin'. So if we don't walk in the light, and if we don't confess our sins and keep short accounts with God - in fact, if we continue in sin, and we blatantly ignore the warnings of God, does that mean that we just can be 'under the blood' and protected, and have no consequences? I don't think so. You work out the theology, and when you've got it worked out, you can come back to me and tell me all about it - but that's what the Bible says.
We have got to appropriate in truth and in obedience what God has given us. We are saved, thank God, but the word of God says: 'Work out your salvation with fear and trembling'. What God has put in, we've got to work out. Peter in his Epistle said: 'Add to your faith, virtue etc etc'. We've got a job to do: it is to add. We saw this morning that we need to sit in heavenly places in the blessings that we have, chapter 1, chapter 2; chapter 4 and following, chapter 5, we've got to walk in the calling werewith we have been called. Not only sit in our blessings in heavenly places, understanding what we have by faith, but we need to walk in obedience, in holiness, not grieving the Spirit, but being continually filled with the Spirit - then we are fit to face the enemy, and only then to put on the armour of God. This armour has to be taken up by faith and appropriated - do you do that? If you say: 'I don't know', it's probably because you don't. You would know if you were putting on this armour every day.
So let's look at the first piece of armour that we have here. I had planned to look at it this morning, but the preacher went on too long! The belt of truth - where are we? Verse 14: 'Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth'. Now try and conjure up, if you've ever seen it in the films or in history books, the Roman soldier in all his garb. It's strange perhaps that the apostle, inspired by the Holy Spirit, would start with a belt. When I'm praying I start with the helmet, simply because I just can remember it better going from the top to the toe - but he starts with the belt. What significance did this belt have? Well, in a sort of ceremonial garb, when he wasn't in action the Roman soldier wore a robe. Now a robe would get in the way when you were in battle, in fact a robe could trip you up if you were running - so whenever it was time to get ready for a fight, you would have to take this robe, and the robe would be rolled up and tucked into the belt. So basically this belt stopped you from tripping, and it also signified preparation for getting ready for the battle - it's a bit like the footballer or rugby player pulling up their socks or something like that. You're just getting ready, you're getting in the zone. It appears, scholars would say, that this belt almost held everything together, the rest of the pieces of armour. So it held the breastplate in, the sheath of the sword was on it and so on, and so this belt - though it is maybe one of the smallest part of the armour, it was intrinsic to holding the rest together. What is this belt? It is the belt of truth, and truth is what holds everything together for us as Christians.
You remember that I pointed out from Luke chapter 11 this morning that the strong man, Satan, he has a panoply, he has an armoury himself. His armour, effectively, is the opposite of everything that the armour of God is. We saw that one of his greatest devices is the lie. Jesus said Satan was a liar from the beginning. He also said he has come to steal, to kill, and to destroy. Now I'm telling you now, if you're going to make any progress in the Christian life at all, and if you're going to be able to stand in the face of the enemy, you've got to appreciate what a liar Satan is. The only way to progress in the truth is by the truth. Christianity is the truth. Jesus said: 'I am the way, the truth, and the life'. So if you want to go on in God, you go on via the truth, there is no other way. Yet so many of us as Christians are party to being receivers to the lies of the devil on a constant basis. We have our antenna out, and many of us are passive in our minds - what I mean by that is: you don't decide what you're going to put your mind on, to a lot of people that sounds like really hard work, 'Oh, that would be exhausting!'. It doesn't mean thinking all the time, it means deciding what you're going to let into your mind and what you're not. It's actually quite effortless, it's just a choice that you make. But a lot of us have passive minds, that is: we just allow our minds to be a completely open conduit that anything and everything can flow through. We allow all the insinuations and accusations of the enemy just to come in and out, and in and out, and the media will certainly help us in that regard - and if you just wash your brain with constant worldliness and the world system, the spirit of the age - don't think I'm against television or against this and that, there is a place for all these things in the right way - but many of us have just flattened ourselves out like the sunbather, and we just let every ray of darkness, not light but darkness, penetrate our being. We just give ourselves over in our minds and in our hearts.
Now, if that's you, it's no wonder that you're under oppression. I try my best not to do that, not all the time I have to say - but I try my best not to do that, and I find a big enough struggle. But if you've just thrown your arms up and said: 'Well, if you can't beat them, join them' - you might not say that and articulate it audibly, but in your heart that's what you've done, you've rolled over, you've capitulated. Really your habits, and your next-door neighbour's habits who is not a Christian, there is very little difference between them - and you're wondering why you're not really overcoming in Jesus Christ.
Let me be more personal to you: is there someone here tonight and you've actually believed a lie in particular, you've believed a lie about yourself. Maybe someone, a parent perhaps, has said to you: 'You'll never amount to anything, you're no good', or maybe a teacher has said to you - I know of people, you know, who don't sing in church because, do you know why? Because they think they can't sing - and some of them think they can't sing because a teacher told them in Primary School, 'You're tone deaf, shut up'. That's right! So they've told themselves, 'I can't sing', and so they don't sing. But maybe it's not a human being that has spoken this to you, maybe you have spoken this to yourself. You said to yourself: 'Oh, I'm this, and that, and the other. I'm useless, I'm a failure, I'm no good. I'm fat, I'm too thin, I'm too grey, I'm too wrinkly, I'm too this, that, or the other' - and you've started to actually agree with the enemy. Now listen to what I'm saying: when you make these pronouncements over your life, you're doing the devil's work for him. He is called the accuser of the brethren in Scripture, his job is just to come along and hammer the living daylights out of you - and he will gladly help you if you're going to hammer yourself. He will give you ammunition to just go at it, and he can take a wee rest because you're doing a fine job of your own!
Sometimes even in the Christian life we can do this. The only answer, the only answer for the lies of the devil is the truth: the truth defeats him. Can I say to you that ultimately the truth is a Person. In Scripture we could talk about the word of truth, that's the Bible; we can talk about the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit; we can talk about the pillar of truth, which is the church - but ultimately, essentially, the essence of truth is the Lord Jesus. You know, I know a lot of people - and I believe in sound doctrine and all - but they get so uptight about the truth: 'This is the truth, that's an error. This is the truth, that's an error'. It's important to be sound in doctrine, don't misunderstand me - but often what they're getting uptight about is their interpretation of truth, not the truth itself, but their interpretation of the truth. I know we have to be careful there, because you could say everything is an interpretation. Well, let me tell you this: interpretation is not infallible. The Bible is infallible, but your interpretation of the Bible isn't - there is a difference! But Jesus is the truth, so if I want to live truth, if I want to know truth, if I want to experience the liberty of truth - He is the One who said: 'You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free' - I need to know Him! It doesn't come from going to Bible College - not an awful lot does, it has to be said, these days. It doesn't come from getting all the commentaries that you can and memorising them. It doesn't even come from memorising Scripture - and that's a very beneficial thing to do - but that is not where it comes from, it comes from a relationship with the living, risen, Lord Jesus Christ, by His Spirit, where you get to know Him. That's how you get to know truth.
I know people who aren't too hot in their understanding of the Bible - what I mean is, they don't have a tremendous grip, but they instinctively know error, they can smell it a mile off - why? Because they know Jesus, and they know when something is not like Jesus, or if something is being done and it's not the way Jesus would do it. Are you with me? If you want to know the truth, you get to know Him. I want to talk a little bit more about truth in a few other ways. We need to listen to truth, we need to start listening to truth. Some of you have been listening to the devil, you've been listening to your own soul, or your own thoughts. Maybe you've been listening to those declarations or pronouncements over your life that were made by parents, or teachers, or bullies. You need to listen to the Lord.
Turn with me quickly to Philippians 4 - this is a wonderful portion of Scripture, Philippians 4. I wish we had time to look at it all, but just look at verse 8. A lot of it is about anxiety and how to get rid of worry and fears, how to know the peace of God, but here is an aspect that is essential - vital - if you're going to know God's peace of mind and heart: 'Finally, brethren, whatever things are true', true!, 'whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy; meditate on these things'. 'Oh', you say, 'that's very hard. Oh, that's very hard. What is meditation anyway?'. Do you want to know what meditation is? How many of you have ever worried? Put your hand up if you've ever worried - is there anybody with no hand up? I'll embarrass you if you haven't got your hand up now! Right, worry is meditation. You get a thing in your head, and what do you do? You go over and over and over, again and again, it's like that little tidbit of your beef from dinner on the back tooth there, and you're twirling it around and tasting it - that's worry. Or chewing the cud is another good illustration of it, chewing it, then down into the stomach, whatever the cow has, and then he vomits it up, and then he chews it again, and then he puts down, and up and down, and up and down - that's meditation, but that's when we do it on the lies of the devil, that's when we do it on negative things. But when we do it on truth, that's what we are meant to be doing: we are meant to be setting our affections and our minds on things that are above, and ruminating on what God says, not what the lies tell us.
Is that what you do? You say 'No', that's why you're in the fix you're in, that's why I am - because we expend our energies on that which is not truth. You see the list of things here in verse 8, go away and do that, and practice what is called 'threshold thinking'. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10 that he took every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ. Do you know what that means? Any thought that comes to the threshold of the door of your mind, and knocks and looks admittance, you just say: 'Well, are you truth or are you a lie?'. If it's a lie, you just say: 'Take yourself off!', and effectively what you're doing is, you're arresting that thought in the name, 'I'm arresting you in the name of Jesus Christ'. Take every thought in obedience to Jesus Christ, don't let it in, just don't let it in! Don't start thinking about it, like the temptation I talked about this morning - the cream bun, if you focus on it, eventually you'll be overcome. Don't start wrestling with the lies or the thoughts, just replace the lie with the truth. The lie is part of the enemy's armour, so if you want to defend yourself against his armoury, it's the truth - the truth will cancel out the lie. So, the devil says 'You're worthless!'. You say, 'No, I'm not worthless, the precious blood of Jesus was shed for me, I'm not worthless. God's word says I'm made in the image of God. Oh yes, I'm a sinner, I've fallen and I'm unworthy, but I'm not worthless. He has made me worthy' - so you should spend a bit of time on that one.
You need to listen to the truth, but you also need to speak the truth. This is a harder one. We all like the last one, but if you look at chapter 4 of Ephesians verse 25: 'Therefore, putting away lying', this is how we are meant to walk, remember chapter 4 verse 1, walking worthy, 'Therefore, putting away lying, 'Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbour', for we are members of one body'. Now this isn't just blatant lies - we tend to think of lies as a very clear-cut black-and-white thing, but this also includes little white lies - wherever that came from - or exaggerations. An exaggeration is a lie or a half-truth, or being economic with the truth. Slander, rumour is lying. You see, what we've got to realise is: these all give occasion for the devil. A lot of folk don't realise this - they just think it's inconsequential. We in the West, and in evangelical Christianity, are so naive about our words. In the beginning God said, 'Let there be...', and there was - that's Genesis chapter 1. John chapter 1, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God' - and He became flesh, Jesus is the Word. We know the power of the word of God, but so often we are ignorant to the power of our own words. We think it's inconsequential.
I want to tell you something, and this might sound like mumbo-jumbo to some of you - but do you see in a church context, do you see when wrong words are spoken out, they hang until they're cancelled out. They hang around until they're cancelled out. 'Never heard that before, where did you get that one?'. Well, there are consequences - do you remember Peter? How many times did Peter curse the Lord Jesus Christ? He denied Him, he betrayed Him, and he cursed Him - how many times? Three! Peter falls, he weeps bitterly when he sees the face of Jesus being taken away to be crucified, Peter really cracks up in himself, he is a broken man now - remember this is bombastic, bigmouth Peter, you know: 'I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that, I'll die for You, I'll walk on water', you know Peter - and now he just crumbles. I wonder was he overcompensating for weaknesses and inadequacies that he had in his own life - I don't know. But we come to John chapter 21, and they've been out fishing - he has jacked it in, this Christianity business, he's gone back to fishing - and they come back to the shore, and who is there but Jesus. Now I want you to picture the scene: He's on the beach, what's He doing? He's cooking breakfast, and what's He doing it over? A fire. So here is Jesus, here is a fire, here is smoke rising - deja vu. Would it remind Peter of anything in the courtyard where he betrayed the Lord Jesus, and denied Him before a slip of a young girl? So there are the same sounds, the crack of the fire; the same smell, smoke; the same sight, burning eyes - and through that cloud of smoke he sees Jesus' eyes, the way he did that night. Then Jesus asks him: 'Peter, do you love Me?'. How many times did He ask him that? What do you think Jesus was doing? Jesus was inviting Peter to cancel out what he had said with his mouth.
I hinted at this when I was leading in prayer this morning: I do believe it's important to confess things with your mouth, to actually speak things out. I don't think it's just some kind of form or ritual, I do think there is spiritual power in doing that - if nothing else other than it gets things up and out, but it's more than that. You even announce to heavenly realms, who witnessed what you have said before, that you're cancelling it out - but God hears it. It's the fruit of our lips, that's what the Bible talks about praise being: the fruit of our lips. You need to speak the truth, Ephesians 4:29, look at it a few verses after the one we have just read: 'Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers'. Unwholesome words - boy, I think often of James chapter 3 verse 1 that says: 'Don't many of you desire to be teachers, because you come into the greater condemnation'. When I think about some of the things I've said, and some of the ways I've said them - I don't feel good about it, but the Lord knows, and I've talked to Him about it. But, you know, words are so powerful.
In World War II there was a poster: 'Careless talk costs lives', the U.S. Navy had a saying 'Loose lips sink ships'. We really, I think, out of all the sins that we take least seriously, it is verbal sins. Yet Proverbs 18:21 is explicit: 'Death and life are in the power of the tongue'. The apostle James, isn't he clear? He says: 'Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so'. I've heard of cursing in the church context - I don't mean saying switchers and bad words, I mean saying this: 'If you leave this church, you'll never be blessed' - that's a curse. Did you know that's a curse? Because you're saying to that person: you're not going to be blessed! We have to be very, very careful what we say to people. We sometimes put it: put your brain in gear before you open your mouth, but really we would need to put our spirits in gear and make sure that we are in line with the Holy Spirit, because out of the heart the mouth speaks. Whatever is filling up your heart, that's what will overflow out of your mouth. Do we affirm people? Do we edify? That's what we are meant to be doing. Or do we curse? Do we pull down? I've had to analyse my ministry over the years, and I've had to ask the question: it's the easiest thing in the world to pull things down, any fool can destroy a thing, but to edify, to build up, to invest in people - that's a whole other thing.
This really applies, this truthfulness, to marriage in a big, big way. In marriages, are we honest? Are we honest about our feelings and our hurts, and issues that we have? Are we honest about our finances with each other? Is there an openness, a transparency, a vulnerability? You see, when we come together as two people, we are meant to lay down our independence - not lay down our identity, but we do lay down our independence - we don't become co-dependent, but interdependent. It's not that we can't live without the other person, but we choose to need the other person, and to share with the other person, and that means truthfulness - truthfulness, not deception, not hiding. There's a very interesting verse in 1 Peter 3 and verse 7, I'll read it to you: 'Husbands, likewise, dwell with them', that's your wives, 'with understanding, giving honour to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered'. Your prayers can be hindered - you're praying for a son or daughter, you're praying for your business, you're praying for a ministry, but you're not being honest, you're not being truthful. Your prayers can be hindered - God could be saying: 'Sort yourself out, tell the wife, be honest, then I'll answer your prayers'.
Do you know, one of the secrets to living this Christian life - and there must be millions of those, preachers say that all the time, and there are books written on it - but there is no doubt about it, and it's throughout the Sermon on the Mount in particular, the Lord's prayer, that our vertical relationship with God is dependent, co-dependent on our horizontal relationship with one another. That's why, when man's relationship with God broke down in Genesis chapter 3, his relationship with his brother broke down in Genesis chapter 4 and Cain slew Abel. That's why Jesus says: 'If you will not forgive your brother his trespasses, your Father in heaven will not forgive you'. There is another one the theologians love, 'Ah, but that doesn't mean, like, that your sins aren't forgiven!' - but, sure what does it mean then? What does it mean? You tell me what it means. It means if you want to enjoy fellowship with God and walk, knowing that the blood is cleansing you, with that assurance in your heart and your life, you've got to walk in light - that's why it says: 'If we walk in the light, we have fellowship one with the other', and that doesn't mean fellowship with God, that means fellowship with each other as brothers and sisters - but we think: 'Oh, I do God, but I don't do people. Christians! Eh? They do my head in!'. I can say 'Amen' to that one, no problem - but, you see, in this Book, there isn't anything about doing God and not doing people. If we have a problem with someone, and it's a lack of truthfulness and transparency, it's a sign that there is something not right with our relationship with God.
Do you see what this belt of truth is like? It really does hold everything together. If you can't get this one latched in, nothing else is going to happen. Brothers and sisters, we need to be truthful with one another - 1 John 1:7. Can I say a little word about leadership? I've found, and I've moved about quite a wee bit, and I've been in church leadership and made a whole heap of mistakes - and I find that one of the greatest hindrances to leaderships is a lack of transparency and honesty. Here's the way it goes, from the background that I have, which isn't that dissimilar to yours where there is a very strong eldership rule and lead. The danger of that is the old cliche is 'Oh, we are accountable to God' - so, basically you can get away with murder because you're accountable to God. I'm being serious: we also need to be accountable to one another. 'Oh, that's the tail wagging the dog' - you call it what you like, but you look at the New Testament: there was transparency and accountability even in leadership. What we do often when we are in leadership is, we get intimidated, because it's not easy. I'm not in any way trying to patronise or belittle folk in leadership, it's one of the hardest things to do at all is to lead in the church today - but with it can come fear and intimidation, and then we back off, and we start to keep things hidden and to ourselves - and that's when the enemy gets a foothold and has a field day, when we get afraid. Can I encourage you to do something - and you can throw it out in the bin if you like - but as far as is possible, in areas that do not breach confidentiality, try and be as open and transparent as possible. Listen to me: you don't need to fear the truth.
Do we have time for the next one? No? Yes? I've got one 'Yes' - I'll take that, that will do me! One yes will do! We will go to the breastplate of righteousness - the belt of truth, everything must be subject to the truth of God, and the breastplate of righteousness. Now what's all that about? Well, the breastplate, where did it cover? It covered the vitals, the organs. That, if you like, could be a picture of our emotional centre. The helmet, as we will see next week, covers the mind - and that's a huge area of a battlefield for the enemy, but the enemy does come at us, doesn't he, through our emotions? The enemy fires, it's called 'fiery darts of the devil', he fires these incendiary devices straight at our trunk area. The reason being, Proverbs 4 verse 23 says: 'Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life'. If the enemy can get a fiery dart into our hearts, he knows that he will overcome us. Now listen: this is the breastplate of righteousness, and that's a bit of a difficult word. You know, it's not a word that we use in regular speech in everyday life. A word that perhaps we would understand more is 'rightness', let's call it 'the breastplate of rightness'. This is what it is to be right with God.
I've said already: the devil is the accuser of the brethren, so what he wants to do is, he wants to throw mud at us - not just fiery darts, but mud. Fiery darts weren't enough, here's mud coming from the devil as well - and he wants the mud to stick. In other words, there will be times that he will accuse us of things that we have done, and we know that those are weaknesses in our lives, and so potentially we could go under because of the condemnation of the enemy. So this breastplate is in order that we would be protected in these vital areas of our spiritual life by the rightness of Jesus Christ. This is not our rightness, because we haven't got any - in fact, the Bible says in Isaiah chapter 64 verse 6 that our righteousnesses are as filthy rags in God's sight. Now a breastplate of filthy rags won't do anybody any good, will it? This is the righteousness of Jesus, this has come to us through the great exchange of the cross - when He took our sin. Just think of this book as my sin, all my guilt and shame on me, and really what - it's very elementary I know, and simplistic - but at the cross, there the sinless, spotless Lamb, like Exodus 12, He voluntarily takes upon Himself my sin. It's imputed to Him, and by virtue of Him carrying it away, I get His righteousness, the righteousness of God in Jesus - the great exchange.
He who was rich, for our sakes was made poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. He who knew no sin was made sin, made sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. So that means that when we do slip up, and when we do know what's deep within our hearts that God's still dealing with, and even though we confess our sins, He is faithful and just - praise Him - and we walk in the light; often the enemy still comes and hammers us. We feel miserable because we're such a failure, and we can't do it right, and all the rest, and this, that and the other - but what we need to do is: we realise that we are not standing on the sinking sand of our worth, but we're standing on the rock which is Jesus' righteousness, and we are covered by the breastplate of His rightness with God.
Is there anyone here tonight and the devil is really giving you a hammering? Maybe you have been trying to earn acceptance with God, and that can come from our backgrounds - that can come from feeling that we're not good enough, and maybe in our upbringing being told that. We can have perfectionist parents at times, or we are perfectionists in ourselves - and it's not just the highflyer that's the perfectionist, it's the dropout, because the dropout decides 'If I can't do it perfectly, I'm not doing it at all', and they just quit. We can bring that with us into Christianity, and we hammer ourselves and allow the devil to oppress us, and we're trying to relate to God on the basis of our human rightness rather than on the basis of Christ's rightness, His righteousness that is given to us.
This is about right-relatedness to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. You see it's His rightness when you're resting in it, and when you've appropriated it. This is not when you get saved - well, that's the first time you do it I suppose - but this is a constant appropriation of the rightness of Christ to stop these fiery darts of the enemy. So when I hear his accusations, and I know what I am - maybe not completely the way God sees all my frailties and weaknesses, but I have a fair idea of what I am - but when I hear him telling me what I am, and accusing me, and condemning me: Oh, isn't it wonderful? Upward I look and see Him there, who made an end of all my sin! Is that not brilliant? Is that not wonderful? Is that not worth praising Him for? That I can take His rightness, and I can say: 'Right, Satan, okay, you know me, I know myself, but Jesus covers me. You're not getting into my heart, you're not getting under my skin, because Jesus is my protection, Jesus is my covering'. Do you take the covering of the Lord Jesus and His rightness over you? Do you allow your Heavenly Father to protect you?
I don't know if I touched on this before, but there are a lot of folk who haven't had great relationships with their fathers or with their mothers. You know, father and mother is meant to be like a signpost to our Heavenly Parent, our Heavenly Father - and sometimes when we don't get a great illustration of that from our earthly father or mother, it sends us askew, and even the name 'father' sends shivers up our back, or at least leaves us cold rather than a warm fuzzy feeling inside. So when you talk about 'Abba Father' to some people, it turns them off, or does nothing for them. What you need to understand is that because you have not been protected or covered by your parents, or whatever, you could feel exposed, and you could fall into this mistake of trying to achieve God's relatedness, and not realising you've got it by grace - and if you take it by faith you will be covered and protected by your Heavenly Father. A lot of people, they need to learn to be healed from the hurts and the damages of the past, and then what they need to do is stop trying to protect themselves, stop trying to earn a righteousness before God, and just take your Heavenly Father's covering over you and rest in the rest of faith in Jesus' righteousness.
Boy, it's wonderful, isn't it? Take the armour of God. Let me leave this parting shot with you: learn the difference between conviction and condemnation. There is a difference. What's the difference? Well, the difference is both of them relate to sin, but conviction comes from the Holy Spirit, and condemnation comes from the devil when we break God's law. Our own sin condemns us, but the devil will heap it on. He is the accuser, he's the attorney that's coming against us. Now here's the key to know when we're experiencing the conviction of sin for things we've actually done, and when we are experiencing condemnation for stuff we haven't done or stuff we have done. Listen: when we confess and agree with God and ask for His forgiveness, the conviction stops - but if you still feel miserable after that, it's the devil's condemnation. Does that help you? If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. We only need to do it once too - if we really mean it, we will only need to do it once. He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us, deep cleansing from all unrighteousness. So if you still get this in your ear, and in your spirit and soul, it's not God.
Some of you are living under such condemnation, and sometimes it's Christians, and it's religious expression, and it's sugar coating of biblical truth that's on it - but it's condemning, and you're constantly being hammered into the ground, and there is no life, and there is no liberty, and there is no peace nor joy in the Holy Ghost - and it's not of God at all! It's the devil in religious garb! Isn't it wonderful to be able to say with Paul: there is now, therefore, no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus? No condemnation! Walk after the Spirit. We live according to the law of the Spirit in Christ Jesus, who has set us free from the law of sin and death. Therefore God has not given us a spirit of bondage to fear, but the Spirit of God's Son in our hearts, crying 'Abba Father!' - that's Christianity! Do you have that? Well, I'll tell you: if you're honest and truthful about your sin and your walk with God tonight, and you, by faith, just like the Israelites, dip in the hyssop, like a paintbrush in that basin applying the blood; if you come to God and say: 'This is what I am, and who I am, and what I've done, and I know it all too well, Lord. The devil gives me a hammering for it, but I confess it. I'm honest with You, and I want to walk in the light and I want do Your will. I ask You for Your righteousness, cover me with Your righteousness', He'll do it.
Let's pray. This breastplate is also called in 1 Thessalonians, 'a breastplate of faith and love' - what does that mean? Well, it's God's love that gives you Jesus' righteousness. Yes God is angry against sin, and the Bible even says God is angry against sinners, but in Jesus God has reconciled us to Himself. So this is a breastplate of love, He lovingly offers this to cover our sin and our wickedness. It's also a breastplate of faith, it will lie there in the armoury wardrobe until you take it down and put it on. I invite you again tonight, as I did this morning, if God has spoken to you, to be honest with the Lord - would you do that? Meet Him with truth, and He will meet you with His rightness and His grace. Put on these pieces of armour, the belt and the breastplate. Be honest with yourself - maybe you're in denial - be honest with God. You might have to be honest with a husband or a wife, or with others, with members in the church - there's nothing to fear in honesty, from God anyway.
Father, I just commit these words to You. I do trust, Lord, that they have been from Your heart and not mine. Lord, I pray that they will have a lasting effect and an impact. We commit each heart to You tonight, You know the issues. I just pray, Lord, now that all of us will make the choice - help us to feel the weight of our own responsibility - make the choice to walk in light, to walk in truth and not lean on our worth or unworth, but to always grasp in faith for the rightness, the right-relatedness that we have to You in Jesus. We thank You for the covering of the blood that makes You hover over us to protect us. Lord, give us the grace and strength not to step out from under it, never to step out from under it, never to trample underfoot the blood of the covenant. May this sense of Your presence go with us now. Help us in this week, may we have our armour on, and may we see battles won. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Don't miss part 3 of Spiritual Warfare: "Feet Fitted With The Preparation Of The Gospel Of Peace"
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This sermon was delivered at Ards Evangelical Church in Newtownards, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the second recording in his 'Spiritual Warfare' series, entitled "The Belt Of Truth & Breastplate Of Righteousness" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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