Summary: As Christians, we are to be continually ready for battle with the enemy. Truth, righteousness and confidence in our reconciled standing before God will give us the strength to stand ready for the battle.
1. The first key to readiness is standing resolute before the enemy (6:14a)
2. The second key to readiness is standing righteous before the enemy (6:14b)
3. The third key to readiness is standing reconciled before the enemy (6:15)
I read in the news that Russia tested some new missiles this week. For several years, America has been testing a new missile defense system. It has passed enough tests that plans are being made to deploy parts of the system to Europe soon. As a matter of fact, we are planning on sending systems to Poland and the Czech Republic. As you know, those are now NATO nations, but they used to be part of the Soviet Union. Apparently all of that missile defense activity has made the Russians unhappy. On Tuesday, they had a news conference about their missile tests. Of all the claims they made about their successful missile tests, one stood out. Vladimir Putin said, “As of today, Russia has new tactical and strategic complexes that are capable of overcoming any existing or future missile defense systems.” Wow, that’s a blast from the past, isn’t it? If I didn’t know better, I would have thought I was reading news from 20 or 25 years ago. Missile shields and ICBMs were common newsmakers during the Cold War, but who would have expected that we would be talking about them again? I pray that those days don’t come back. Those are some “good old days” I can do without. You remember those days—the world was divided into two camps—NATO headed by America and the Warsaw Pact headed by the Soviet Union. We were in a huge arms race including a nuclear arms race. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, large portions of the public lived in fear of “the bomb.” But that fear was turned to preparation. People built bomb shelters out of fear of nuclear war. They stocked up and stored food and supplies. Nuclear bomb drills were more common in schools than fire drills. The government’s official policy was containment, but the military’s official policy was readiness. Of course, nobody wanted nuclear war to happen. The potential for destruction was unimaginable. But the key was for everyone to be ready in case it did. Drills in school were designed to make the children ready for an attack. Bomb shelters in public buildings and even homes were designed to make the public ready for an attack. Constant drills and exercises were designed to make the military ready for an attack. The key to America being able to stand against an enemy as evil and powerful as the Soviet Union was our readiness. Readiness for their attack. As Christians we have an enemy that is far more powerful than the Soviet Union ever was. He is far more powerful than any weapon man can build. As Christians, he can’t have our soul, but he can destroy us. He can devour us. He can destroy our testimony. He can destroy our purpose. He can destroy our effectiveness for the kingdom. He can even destroy our physical lives. His mission is to turn people away from God. And you, Christian, are what God has chosen to stand in his way. When you have true spiritual wisdom by being filled with the Holy Spirit. When you walk worthy of your calling and show evidence by your praise, your thankfulness and your humble submission. When you are that kind of Christian, you are Satan’s biggest enemy. And he comes against his enemies. As Christians, we are to be continually ready for battle with our enemy. After giving the command to take up the whole armor of God, Paul begins to list and describe each piece. He did that so the Ephesian Christians would be able to stand ready for anything the devil would throw at them. That’s what I want for us this morning. I want each of us to stand ready before our enemy. In order to do that we’re going to look at the first three pieces of armor Paul describes. The pieces permanently worn as a matter of preparation and readiness. Those pieces will show us three keys to standing ready before our enemy. The first key to readiness is standing resolute before the enemy. Look with me in the first part of verse 14:
Stand resolute before the enemy. Stand with a spirit of resolved determination. Unyielding, never giving an inch. To illustrate his points, Paul uses the very familiar picture of a Roman soldier’s battle dress. When we think of armor, a lot of times we think of the armor of medieval knights. We think of Camelot and the knights of the round table. But that wasn’t the kind of armor that Roman soldiers wore. They didn’t have chain-mail and suits of full-body armor like the knights of 1000 years later. The Roman soldier’s armor contained some metal, but was mostly thick leather. But the foundation to all of his armor was one simple leather item. It was his belt. His belt was the key foundation, because the breastplate and the rest of the body armor tied into it. It was even used to hold the sword and helmet when not in use. But its most important functions was to tie up the loose ends of the soldier’s tunic. In those days, the basic article of Roman clothing was a tunic. The typical tunic was made from two rectangular pieces of cloth. They were sewn together with a hole for the neck and holes for the arms. If you think about it, it was like a sleeveless t-shirt. But instead of being tight-fitting like a sleeveless t-shirt, it fit so loosely that the shoulder corners went to their elbows. And the bottom of it hung down to their knees. So, imagine yourself wearing an XXXXX-large sleeveless t-shirt. One that was so baggy, it hung to your knees and the shoulders hung to your elbows. Now imagine trying to do some type of physical activity in it. It wouldn’t work. Every time you moved, you’d get tangled up. That’s why they had to wear a belt. Average Romans wore some type of a cord or rope for a belt. That way they could move around without getting tied up in knots. But even with the rope belts, the tunic was still very loose and flowing. Now, I want you to think about a Roman soldier. What do soldiers do? They fight. And back then, the fighting was all very close-up. Most of it was hand-to-hand. What do you think happens to loose, baggy clothing in a hand-to-hand fight? It does two things. It gets in the way—you can get tangled in it. And it gives the enemy something to grab hold of. That takes us back to the most important function of the Roman soldier’s belt. Yes, the belt was a place to attach the breastplate. Yes, it was a place to hang the sword and helmet when they weren’t being used. But it’s most important function was to tuck in and secure all the loose ends of the tunic. It was to tie back and secure all the things that could get in the way. All the things that could tangle up and hinder the soldier. And all the things that could be easily grabbed by the enemy. When Paul talks about girding your loins with truth, this belt is the picture that he’s using. He’s telling us the first thing we need to do to be ready for the coming attack. We need to tie all the loose things in our lives down with God’s truth. If we are to stand resolute before the enemy, we cannot give him an inch in the area of absolute truth. A survey conducted shortly after the September 11th attacks, showed that only 22% of Americans believe that truth is absolute. The amazing thing is that the number had actually dropped from 38% the year before the attacks. Only one in five Americans believe in absolute truth, yet 80% claim to be Christians. Something doesn’t jibe. In John 18, Jesus told Pilate, “To this end I was born and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice.” Pilate would have fit right in with our culture today. That’s why he asked Jesus, “What is truth.” Notice that he didn’t ask the question looking for an answer. He’d already made up his mind. Just like most of the world has. But as Christians, we can’t fall for the enemy’s lies. The absolute truth of the Word—the absolute truth of right and wrong—truth that is embodied in the person of Jesus Christ Himself—truth is the only thing that will keep us from getting tangled up in our own doubts. Truth is the only thing that will keep us from getting tangled up in our own insecurities. Truth is the only thing that will keep us from getting tangled up in our own weaknesses. All we have to do is tuck those doubts, insecurities and weaknesses down into God’s belt of truth. When we tuck them in and cinch up that belt, two things happen. We don’t get tangled up in them. And the enemy can’t grab onto them. As a Christian, you will always be tempted by doubts. You will always be tempted by fears. You will always be tempted by insecurities. If you let them hang loose, you will get tangled up. Satan will grab hold of them and drag you down. But if you tuck them in and secure them behind the truth of God’s Word, you will be ready to stand. You will be ready to stand resolute before the enemy and never give an inch to his lies. The first key to readiness is standing resolute before the enemy. The second key is standing righteous before the enemy. Look at the second part of verse 14: