In John’s gospel we see Jesus’ imagery get more vivid and many find it hard to accept and walk away from him. Becoming a disciple of Jesus means first, surrendering our lives to Christ and then secondly as a result, raising the bar, regarding the way we decide to live our lives. Many who had been following him up to this point, decided that they were not prepared for that sacrifice. They wanted to keep the freedom to live their lives as they willed rather than as God wills. The paradox is that this decision, then and now, has completely the opposite effect. Walking away from all that Jesus offers, denies the experience of freedom; freedom from sin, guilt, shame and ultimately, eternal separation from God himself both now and in the future is surrendered. This is a Kingdom truth that Jesus has spent a considerable amount of time teaching to the crowd.
But, truth, is a tricky word these days. President Trump’s personal attorney, former New York City Mayor, Rudy Guliani, stated this week that ‘truth is not always the truth – truth is relative.’ The President himself keeps telling us that we’re surrounded by ‘fake news’ and regularly seems to create his own sense of reality.
Jesus tells us, and Paul reminds us, that there is such a thing as truth and discovering that and knowing that truth is the greatest thing anyone of us can ever do with our lives. The truth remains the truth. There is a God and He loves us, but there is an enemy who will do everything he can to prevent us from discovering this truth and living in our lives in freedom and joy. Paul reminds us that we are engaged in a battle but one that involves the spiritual realm. Earthly weapons are therefore of no use. We need to focus on what God has made available for us and to understand what these are for and how we must use them. Put on the whole armour is the instruction. Do not leave any gaps for gaps leave us vulnerable to attack. The first item Paul identifies is the ‘Belt of Truth.’
To the modern infantry the belt is crucial as wearing the correct belt allows the necessary equipment to be carried. The belt also carries and supports the weight of everything else. The character and quality of the belt then, is essential to the success of the soldier. Paul describes it as the ‘belt of truth’ and states that it must be ‘buckled’ – it’s no good just having it on a shelf nearby or hanging loose. It needs to be securely fastened in place, ready to be used at any moment. Truth is the essential component upon which everything else must be carried.
A very real and significant problem today, is ‘truth decay’; the concept that there is no one truth which underpins life. The disciple of Jesus, however, has already discovered that this is not the case. There is a God, He is not hiding, He is there to be known and He makes a difference. But there is opposition to discovering this amazing, life transforming truth. How? By, pouring out oceans of apathy, keeping us too busy to consider the important things in life or having us believe that we are far too smart to believe in the things that our parents and grandparents lived their lives by. All of this contributes in maintaining astonishing levels of spiritual ignorance which blinds and binds billions to a restricted experience of life, stealing their inheritance and their joy.
How do we grow in truth? Study. Pray. Read. Listen. Spend time with God and with His word.
With the Lord’s blessing
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale