AGCC Sun. a.m. 6/27/99
"BUCKLE UP FOR SAFETY"
TEXT: Eph. 6:14a Psalm 51:6 Dan. 6:1-28
Every morning while being a prisoner the apostle Paul watched his Roman guard as a soldier dress himself. Then this soldier would chain the apostle to himself to insure his captivity. As Paul watched the Roman soldier dress he was inspired by the pieces of equipment worn, so he assigned spiritual meaning to each piece. Interestingly enough, the order of these pieces listed here is the exact order in which a soldier put them on.
One of the oddest pieces of the soldier's dress however was not really armor at all, it was an undergarment called a "belt" or "girdle" - Paul calls it spiritually the "belt of truth." It was actually an undergarment that was mostly hidden from view because it went underneath the armor and connected all the pieces together so the soldier had both flexibility and a way of keeping everything tied together. Without this belt or girdle the armor would have simply fallen off!
Paul likens this belt in the Christian life as "truth" - but not truth as in God's word, for that image is found in the "sword of the Spirit" later, this is rather "truth" that reflects a truthful life or INTEGRITY.
Real integrity is like this belt or girdle, it is hidden deep within us, but its effects can be seen in how well we are able to wear the rest of the armor and hold it together! Our lives should reflect the highest level of integrity or the rest of God's armor will not stay on!
A New Hampshire farmer took his horse to see the veterinarian. He complained about the horse: "One day he limps, the next day he doesn't. What should I do?" The vet advised him, "On the day he doesn't limp, sell him!" -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 288.
There can be no success in spiritual warfare for us to not be people of integrity, there will be nothing to hold the rest of the armor of God to our bodies without this hidden "belt of truth!"
PROP. SENT: The bible teaches us that without godly integrity there can be no ability for us to wear the armor of God and fight successfully spiritual battles, yet with integrity we have the necessary means in which to go into battle and succeed.
I. ONE GOOD BELT! 6:14a; Psalm 51:6
A. Function 6:14a
1. The belt or girdle was the connector piece of the soldier's dress.
a. It was suppose to tie together all the other pieces.
b. It was suppose to also protect the "loins" - NIV uses the phrase "buckled around your waist" but the KJV uses "having your loins girt about with truth".
2. Interestingly enough, the "loins" or "waist" area was the area of the body that the reproductive organs were found, and in antiquity it was also the area that was considered the seat of emotions. (note: The Greek word nefros (nephros) often translated in the New Testament as "heart" is literally the word our medical profession uses for terms like nephritis -an inflammation of the kidney - in antiquity the "Bowels" were considered the seat of emotions, not the heart, hence terms in the KJV Bible like "bowels of mercy".
a. Real integrity protects our ability to reproduce a Gospel witness in others through our own example.
b. Integrity will provide the framework for the healthiest emotions and their expression.
3. Integrity will protect our ability to witness in this world for Christ, and without it our witness will be destroyed, and hence our ability to present the Gospel!
ILLUS:Coming home from work, a woman stopped at the corner deli to buy a chicken for supper. The butcher reached into a barrel, grabbed the last chicken he had, flung it on the scales behind the counter, and told the woman its weight. She thought for a moment. "I really need a bit more chicken than that," she said. "Do you have any larger ones?" Without a word, the butcher put the chicken back into the barrel, groped around as though finding another, pulled the same chicken out, and placed it on the scales. "This chicken weighs one pound more," he announced. The woman pondered her options and then said, "Okay. I'll take them both." Honesty is still the best policy. -- Clark Cothern, Tecumseh, Michigan. Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 4.
4. None of the other armor of God will be able to hold its place on our body if this important belt is missing!
a. A Roman soldier would have been a fool to go into battle without this piece even though it wasn't really seen outwardly.
b. An important function of this belt besides holding all the pieces together with fasteners was its ability to allow flexibility of movement with all the armor on.
c. Integrity gives us flexibility on the spiritual battlefield too, for our armor stays together but we are able to move about easily so we can defend ourselves against Satan's constant attacks.
B. Foundational Psalm 51:6
1. David describes in this verse the foundational nature of integrity or "truth in the inner parts".
a. David is referring to integrity here, spiritual integrity.
b. David says God desires this in us.
2. This integrity is foundational to the very kind of person we are, no matter how our outward actions may appear, even when they appear godly to others, there must still be a REAL integrity deep within us.
a. It can be easy to appear spiritual on the outside without having a real integrity in our lives.
b. Too often the appearance of integrity and the reality of integrity are two different things!
ILLUS:Charles Swindoll, in Growing Deep in the Christian Life, tells about a man who bought fried chicken dinners for himself and his date late one afternoon. The attendant at the fast food outlet, however, inadvertently gave him the proceeds from the day's business--a bucket of money (much of it cash) instead of fried chicken. Swindoll writes: "After driving to their picnic site, the two of them sat down to enjoy some chicken. They discovered a whole lot more than chicken--over $800! But he was unusual. He quickly put the money back in the bag. They got back into the car and drove all the way back. By then, the manager was frantic. "Mr. Clean got out, walked in, and became an instant hero. 'I want you to know I came by to get a couple of chicken dinners and wound up with all this money here.' "Well, the manager was thrilled to death. He said, 'Let me call the newspaper. I'm gonna have your picture put in the local paper. You're one of the most honest men I've ever heard of.' "To which the man quickly responded, 'Oh, no. No, no, don't do that!' Then he leaned closer and whispered, 'You see, the woman I'm with--she's, uh, somebody else's wife.'" One can be honest and still not have integrity. -- Phillip Gunter in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.
3. The world will never hear the gospel from us if our lives lack true integrity, "truth in the inner parts".
II. OBVIOUS GREAT BENEFITS Dan. 6:1-28
A. Faith 6:1-10
1. Spiritual integrity begins with faith in God and His word.
a. Daniel was such a man.
b. His faith in God prevented him from compromising the truth of God's word for personal gain or benefit, or even protecting his own life!
c. Daniel's integrity was legendary, everyone who knew him knew of his integrity, even if they didn't believe in his God they respected him for his integrity.
d. This set the stage for others to believe in God later.
2. Integrity has never come easy, it is a tough battle and it is contrary to the world which we live in, a world that demands compromises all the time.
a. Too often the pressure exists to compromise what we believe.
b. Our faith in God to have power must be an uncompromising faith!
3. Daniel understood well what integrity could mean, it could mean the loss of his life - but this would not change his commitment to being a man of integrity before God and man.
a. Real integrity can be a threat to the world!
ILLUS: Plato, three hundred years before Christ, predicted that if ever the truly good man were to appear, the man who would tell the truth, he would have his eyes gouged out and in the end be crucified. That risk was once taken, in its fullest measure. The Man appeared. He told the world the truth-about itself-and even made the preposterous claim: "I am the Truth." As Plato foresaw, the Man was crucified. -- Elizabeth Elliot - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entries 11524-11526.
b. It was a true integrity that Daniel had, it was based firmly in what he knew God wanted and not what man wanted.
4. Daniel's integrity came from his absolute faith in God's Word - where does your integrity come from?
B. Faithful 6:11-22
1. Real faith and integrity produce real faithfulness!
a. Daniel faced a new law that forbid him to do what he knew he should do everyday, pray!
b. Rather than compromise his integrity he instead affirms it by praying anyway!
c. He might have used the excuse, "well, we are only forbidden to pray for 30 days, so what is 30 days, I'll start praying again after 1 month when the law is void again." (see 6:7) [too many Christians today would never have been convicted of praying during those 30 days!] - but this was not what integrity is all about, integrity doesn't look for a way out, but a way through the problem, the way of being faithful to God no matter what the cost.
2. Daniel would discover how a sinful world responds to godly integrity!
ILLUS:C. S. Lewis fell into grace. But instead of simply entering a monastery, he did worse. He ended up publicly explaining and openly defending his personal God to millions of listeners and readers. Such undignified behavior embarrassed the hierarchy at his college at Oxford and cost Lewis his chance of ever advancing to a higher position on the faculty there. Lewis learned that if you speak about beauty, truth or goodness, and about God as a great spiritual force of some kind, people will remain friendly. But he found that the temperature drops when you discuss a God who gives definite commands, who does definite acts, who has definite ideas and character. - Kathryn Lindskoog --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 490.
3. Daniel's enemies COUNTED ON HIS INTEGRITY to get him arrested!
a. They all knew he had such integrity that they would be able to make their plan work!
b. Sure enough, Daniel was faithful to God - and thus arrested and thrown to the lions - but of course that wasn't the end of the story!
4. God rescues the faithful - and He rescued Daniel from the lions.
a. Instead, the men without integrity got thrown to the lions!
b. God could rescue Daniel from a spiritual battle because he had on his "belt of truth"!
5. God loves faithful men and women - and He promises His own faithfulness to those who trust Him and walk in integrity.
a. Daniel had a greater power on his side than Babylon - and when the time came to fight he had his"belt of truth buckled around his waist"
b. Everything the enemy could throw at him had no effect, he was protected!
c. Godly integrity in our lives will do the same for us.
C. Freedom 6:23-28
1. Daniel gained far more than just personal freedom, he gained the freedom to proclaim the true God to a pagan society!
a. His ability to witness to the truth of God was directly connected to his ability to have "truth in the inner parts" of his own life.
b. Those enemies that had come against Daniel by using a lack of integrity lost their own lives.
2. Real freedom comes from integrity in life:
a. there is a freedom from guilt
b. a freedom from constructing lies
c. and a freedom from not being believed by others.
3. A life of integrity frees us to be strong in Christ.
4. The world is hungry for examples of integrity!
ILLUS:My husband Gene and I volunteered to help out on the early shift at a charity golf tournament. It was 6 a.m. when we left the house and the streets were deserted. At one intersection, the traffic light was turning yellow. Instead of slowing down, Gene gunned it. The light changed red just as we went through it. Instantly we heard a siren and saw blue lights flashing. Gene hadn't noticed the policeman following him. As we pulled over, the officer approached us shaking his head. "You had plenty of time to stop for that light," he growled. Without hesitating, Gene answered, "You're absolutely right, Officer." After a fleeting look of surprise, the policeman folded his ticket book, put it in his back pocket and said, "Your honesty just saved you a ticket. Nine people out of ten would have said the light was still yellow when they went through." Shaking Gene's hand, the policeman smiled and waved us on our way with a parting word of advice: "Go on. But be careful--especially of who's behind you." -- Monica R. Miller, Christian Reader, Vol. 34.
5. We cannot experience the freedom to fight in spiritual warfare successfully without the "belt of truth" being put on first.
a. If you examine your life would you find a "belt of truth" being worn?
b. If you are awkward in spiritual warfare it may be that the armor is not being held in place by real integrity, put on your "belt of truth" so that you may finish dressing for real warfare!
CONCLUSION: Though the belt or girdle was hidden beneath the armor it was the one piece that held all the other parts together. Without the belt the armor fell off! Paul's point here is inner truth or integrity, this is the "belt of truth". Nothing in our lives hold together without integrity. God's armor must be fastened to our integrity before we can "stand firm" against the enemy. Do you have your belt on?