I have never fought in a war. I was too young to fight in the second world war, although my parents did, or to do National Service, although I do have friends who have served in each of the forces and seen combat in Northern Ireland, in the Falklands and in Afghanistan. But most of us have never fought in a war.
Actually, that’s not correct. Because the Bible tells us that we have all been in the middle of a war for our whole lives. The Bible tells us that there is a war which has been going on since the beginning of time and will continue until time ends. This war is unseen – but just as real and just as deadly as all the human conflicts we could name. There’s a war on between good and evil, between God on the one hand and the devil and all the powers of evil on the other hand.
Ephesians 6 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 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.
Here is the battle which is raging behind the scenes of human history and behind the scenes of our own lives, 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.
The good news is that Jesus has already won the decisive battle. Through his death on the cross and the triumph of his wonderful resurrection Jesus has defeated the devil and all the powers of evil once and for all. The outcome of the war has been decided, but until Jesus returns in glory we are still caught up in the mopping up operations. Although they have already been defeated, the devil and his demons are still fighting to drag Christians down. So the Bible calls us all to put on the armour of God.
Ephesians 6 13 Therefore put on the full armour 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.
This is all that God calls us to do. To stand. To stand our ground. Not to let the devil drag us down. Not to let the devil drag us away from God. To hold firm to our faith. To hang on to the victory which Jesus has won for us. And to stay standing.
To help us to stand firm, God has given us armour to wear. This is a picture from the Roman army of the kind of armour they used to wear. And Paul spiritualises these pieces of armour and says here are six things all Christians need if we are going to stand firm for God in the spiritual battle we are caught up in. Six things which will keep us safe from the attacks of the devil and his minions and which will give us victory.
13 Therefore put on the full armour 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. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
The armour of God. Six pieces of spiritual armour Christians need to “put on” to help us to stand firm against the devil and all his evil schemes. And the first piece of the armour of God is the belt of truth. Truth. In a way, truth is not only a piece of our Christian armour but it has also become part of the battleground. The devil is a liar and a deceiver. He deceived Adam and Eve and the devil has been deceiving people ever since. Truth is a great defence and a powerful weapon in our battle against the all lies the devil tells. So it is not surprising that the devil has attacked truth and people’s understanding of what truth is, especially in recent years. We can recognise at least three ways in which the devil has tried to distort the importance and the meaning of truth.
We no longer live in a world where everybody we know believes the same things. Through widespread travel and migration and modern communications we live in a multi-cultural multi-faith world. This is what is meant by pluralism. There are different world religions believing different things to be true. This has produced a supermarket of beliefs which gives people the impression that it doesn’t matter what you believe – the impression is that all those different ideas are true. And that is the lie the devil wants people to believe. It is a lie because these competing world religions are NOT the same. Different ideas about God are NOT all true.
Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
The one true God, Creator of heaven and earth, has revealed Himself through his one and only Son Jesus Christ. Other gods are false. We only find the truth in Jesus! Aldous Huxley once said, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Just because lots of people believe in other religions does not mean that all religions are true. The facts of the incarnation and death and resurrection of Jesus cannot just be ignored. Christians need to stand firm for the truth and resist the lies the devil is telling.
For thousands of years everybody knew that if something is true then it is true for everybody everywhere. Truth is universal. The lie the devil is telling today is that truth is no longer universal. Instead truth is relative. The devil wants to deceive people into thinking that truth can be different for different people. What is true for me need not be true for you. That is what is meant by privatisation. Truth is now personal and private and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. We are expected to be tolerant of other people’s opinions. And it is politically incorrect to tell people that you are right and they are wrong.
Among other things, this leads to the pressure on Christians to stay silent about our faith. The devil had been telling the world for decades that it is rude for Christians to be forcing their “opinions” on the world. And the world is falling for that lie.
Last week the Junior Common Room of Balliol College Oxford banned Christian Union representatives from taking part in their Freshers’ Fair over concerns over the potential harm Christians might do to new students.
JCR vice-president Freddy Potts, on behalf of the JCR committee, reportedly told a CU representative: “We recognise the wonderful advantages in having CU representatives at the freshers’ fair, but are concerned that there is potential for harm to freshers who are already struggling to feel welcome in Oxford.”
He added: “Christianity’s influence on many marginalised communities has been damaging in its methods of conversion and rules of practice, and is still used in many places as an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism.” (Guardian 9/10/17)
That is just one example of the impact of privatisation on Christian freedom, in Oxford, a centre of learning where freedom of speech and freedom of religion should be championed, not stamped on. Christians need to stand firm for the truth and resist the lies the devil is telling.
We live in a world of spin and an age of image manipulators. It doesn’t seem to matter what is actually true any more – all that matters is what seems to be true. What appears to be true. What feels like it is true. What is most plausible. It is as if we have moved beyond truth.
A year ago Oxford Dictionaries declared “post-truth” as its 2016 international word of the year,
“Post-truth” is defined as an adjective relating to circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals.
Oxford Dictionaries said: “Fuelled by the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust of facts offered up by the establishment, post-truth as a concept has been finding its linguistic footing for some time,” he said. “We first saw the frequency really spike this year in June with buzz over the Brexit vote and again in July when Donald Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination. … I wouldn’t be surprised if post-truth becomes one of the defining words of our time.” (BBC News website 16/11/16)
Post truth – emotional appeals over-riding objective facts. We are indeed living more and more in a “post-truth” world! 30 years ago you could ask people to consider the life of Jesus and answer the rational question, was Jesus mad? Was Jesus bad? Or was Jesus God? Using CS Lewis’s words, was Jesus a lunatic, or a liar, or was He really Lord of all? You could ask people to think logically about who Jesus is. But nowadays if you ask somebody to think about whether Jesus was mad, bad or God, you will probably get the answer, “who cares?” In this post-modern world reasoning is irrelevant. Image is everything. People make even important decisions in life not based on logic but based on their feelings which depend on outward appearances. Whether something is true or false doesn’t matter. What matters is how it makes people feel. It this plausible? Is this convincing? What is my gut feeling about this? People really don’t care about whether Jesus’s teaching and his claims to be God were true or not. All most people will care about is whether your presentation of the gospel is entertaining. Plausibility. Christians need to stand firm for the truth and resist the lies the devil is telling.
So the devil has attacked truth which is true for everybody with pluralism, lots of different truths, with privatization, truth is just a matter of opinion, and with plausibility, does something feel like it is true. We can see the battlefield in places where Christians are not allowed to speak about their faith in public, in case somebody gets offended, and in this world of political correctness offending people has been redefined as “harming” people. .
We can see this erosion of truth in debates about Same Sex Marriage and the next big issue, gender transition. Stores are removing gender distinctions between boys and girls in their ranges of clothing. Children are being encouraged not only to explore their sexual orientation but even to explore their gender. All this is only possible because truth is no longer universal. Truth is relegated to a matter of opinion and everybody’s opinion and everybody’s choice has to be respected. But in all these debates we really do not need to hear lots of different opinions. Christians need to understand and listen to God’s truth revealed in the Bible and through the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to stand firm for the truth and resist the lies the devil is telling.
And even within the church, post-truth has begun to get a hold. The Bible clearly teaches the reality of hell – but to some Christians that doesn’t “feel” right, so they ignore what the Bible teaches and say, “there is no hell.” The Bible clearly teaches that judgment day is coming – but that makes some Christians “feel uncomfortable” so instead of sticking to what the Bible says some people are teaching that everybody will be saved in the end. Christians need to stand firm for the truth and resist the lies the devil is telling.
The founder of the Reformation, Martin Luther, said this in a sermon in 1531.
(The Church) must have people who can beat down their adversaries and opponents and tear off the devil’s equipment and armor, that he may be brought into disgrace. But for this work, powerful warriors are needed, who are thoroughly familiar with the Scriptures and can contradict all false interpretations and take the sword from false teachers—that is, those very verses which false teachers use and turn them round upon them so that they fall back defeated.
But as not all Christians can be so capable in defending the Word and articles of their creed, they must have teachers and preachers who study the Scriptures and have daily fellowship with it, so that they can fight for all the others. Yet each Christian should be so armed that he himself is sure of his belief and of the doctrine and is so equipped with the sayings from the Word of God that he can stand up against the devil and defend himself, when men seek to lead him astray.
Truth is under attack more than ever before. We all need to stand up for the truth. We all need to put on the belt of truth which will protect us from the lies the devil is telling. Jesus said, “I am the truth.” “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”