The Armor of God: Part 2 - The Belt of Truth
by Aneel Aranha
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. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. (Ephesians 6:11-18)
Continued from Part 1: Welcome to Boot Camp
A belt is what holds up your trousers. If it isn't buckled tight, your trousers aren't secured, and having them fall — as anyone who has ever had his trousers drop in public knows — is a sight both unseemly and embarrassing.
The cingulim, or belt, was a soldier's badge of office, worn with the tunic at all times. The "apron" of decorated leather strips gave some protection to the groin in battle. Also, the jangling noise made by the apron when the legionaries marched helped to intimidate the enemy.
The belt — the belt of truth in our armory — is what the enemy always goes for in battle, especially when it is at its fiercest. He knows that if he succeeds in cutting it loose, not only does he make you the laughing stock in the battlefield, he renders your defenses without power. Draw a mental picture of yourself waving a sword at Satan with one hand while you clutch your pants with the other and you will see what I mean.
It becomes essential, therefore, to have our belt of truth on at all times, firmly buckled, so that we don't give the enemy the opportunity to incapacitate us. But what is this truth that we should wear?
In Scriptural usage, truth has three meanings. One is truth in word and deed — the opposite of falsehood. Another is truth in the heart — the opposite of hypocrisy. And the third is truth in God. All three truths are the links in the belt that God asks us to wear.
Truth in word and deed is essentially honesty. We normally associate honesty with not telling a lie, but honesty goes far beyond that. It involves complete truthfulness in every single thing that we say and do.
Most of us are not honest. Even the more righteous among us believe that a certain degree of dishonesty is required if we are to survive in this world and, consequently, go through life perjuring ourselves in a million little ways.
We will never be able to wear the belt of truth unless we are able to reprogram our words and actions so that they are governed, not by what the world wants, but by what God expects of us. We can however, use the eyes of the world to achieve this purpose and I discovered an excellent way of doing this early on the Christian road. (I believe I owe Neil Anderson the credit for this, but I can't be sure!) It consists of picturing everything you do displayed on a huge screen for the entire world to see. If there is anything that you say or do that you do not want anyone — even one single person — to see, you had perhaps best not be saying or doing it.
Your mind (read: the enemy) will occasionally justify some actions as necessarily valid only for a restricted audience, but do not let this fool you. Everything you do has to be for universal viewing, which includes your son, your mother, your great aunt, your neighbor and, if you are talking about a friend, that friend!
The second meaning is truth in heart. Christians have hypocrisy down to a fine art. We run down our brothers and sisters from other denominations as heretics, denouncing everything they preach as going against the teachings of God, and then we demonstrate our own grasp of Christ's teachings by trying to beat the "real" truth into them — verbally or otherwise.
We run down our brothers and sisters from other religions as being fanatics because of their dedication in practicing their faith, while we, who do little beyond paying token obeisance to God, claim to be people of true faith! We disparage everything and everybody, believing that we have the monopoly over the truth — each one his own version of it, of course — and everyone else has got it wrong.
Such arrogance plays right into the enemy's hands. Rather than working to keep our own belts buckled, we keep trying to unbuckle the belts that others wear! The consequences are, quite naturally, disastrous and have the enemy snickering away in glee!
A good step in ensuring that this link in the Belt of Truth is always intact is learning to listen in humility to anything anybody says. I spent most of the first year of my Christian life listening to people. It didn't matter who they were or what their religious persuasion was or how smart or stupid they appeared to be. I listened to them all without argument, merely soaking in everything like a sponge, throwing an occasional question to clarify something that I didn't understand. If I did anything else, the Holy Spirit would immediately tell me to shut up! It was good advice, because you learn more when you listen. It also teaches you humility of heart, which goes hand in hand with truth in the heart.
There are other untruths in the heart as well like pride, selfishness, jealousy, envy, bitterness, hypocrisy, deceit and even worry. While sins in word and deed are corrected relatively easily, such sins of the heart can be remedied only by the Holy Spirit, which we come to now.
The final truth, and without the doubt the most important truth, is truth in God. "I am the truth," said Jesus. Our concepts of truth are not something that we decide by ourselves, but based on a truth outside of ourselves. It is often referred to as Absolute Truth. This truth is Jesus. Not only is He the third and most important link in the belt that we are asked to wear, He is the material that runs through the entire fabric.
When we accept the fact that Jesus is the truth, we accept that everything that he said is true and if we use what he said as a way of living our life, then we will assuredly be walking in the truth!
Jesus is also the Word (John 1:1; Rev 19:13). This makes the Word the truth as well. Understanding the Word as truth isn't easy but to ensure that we wouldn't be handicapped as a result of this Jesus promised us a guide — the Holy Spirit.
"All this I have spoken while still with you," Jesus said before he ascended into heaven. "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:25)
The Holy Spirit leads us into the truth and will explain a lot of things as we delve into it. He will convict us when necessary. He will cast light in the shadows of the heart where sins are hidden. He will peel off the masks of deceit that we wear. He will reveal the truth to us.
We need to remember that the enemy will often try to subvert the truth, and those not entirely filled with the Holy Spirit can be misled. To prevent this from happening, my recommendation is to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church. There is two thousand years of thought and wisdom that has gone into them, all with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
On occasions when you need to make decisions on your own, ask yourself if what you do will bring you closer to God or take you away from him. If it brings you closer to God, you simply cannot go wrong.
A few words of caution
There are times when the Belt of Truth that you wear around your waist might crack. You might do something that you shouldn't have done. Do not attempt to patch up the belt on your own or try to hide the break from view and pretend that nothing untoward has happened. Though this might be the only mistake that you have made in ages it is enough to leave you open to the enemy's assaults and a quick fix could prove extremely dangerous. Simply acknowledge the belt is broken and ask God to fix it. This consists of admitting you made a mistake and seeking God's pardon. If you do this with no attempt at a cover up you take away all power the enemy has over you.
If you are in ministry, such a confession might have to be made in public as well. This does not necessarily signal the end of your career as a spiritual leader. People will understand if you admit to weakness, and perhaps even respect you for it. They will not be as ready to forgive a cover-up that is later exposed.
May the Spirit be with you.
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Copyright © 2004 Aneel Aranha. All rights reserved. Pictures and text for The Cingulum from Ancient Rome by Simon James (Eyewitness Books). All rights reserved.