Facing Any Challenge With Our Christian “Bat Belt”

Since seeing The Batman (2022) for the first time, and enjoying it so much I went back to the theater again, my sister and I’ve been watching a ton of Batman content. We rewatched the Nolan trilogy, laughed through The Lego Batman Movie (2017), and started Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995).

I’ve been a fan of Batman since watching Batman (1966-1968) reruns on TV Land at my grandma’s house as a little girl. One of the things that stays consistent through all these different versions is that Batman wears a utility belt containing everything from batarangs to shark-repellant batspray. He’s ready for anything.

We have a similar belt as Christians. We often speak of the Armor of God that Paul describes in Ephesians 6, and I have a whole series of posts on spiritual warfare that goes into detail about that armor (I’ll link to those posts at the end of this article). One of my favorite Bible translations calls the first piece of this armor a “utility belt.” The comparison between Batman’s belt and the Armor of God might be a bit of a stretch (or even seem way too cheesy for a Bible Study blog post), but it did make me think and I thought some of you might find this interesting as well.

The Utility Belt of Truth

Therefore put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having the utility belt of truth buckled around your waist

Ephesians 6:13-14, WEB

As a Batman fan, this wording made me think more deeply about what the “the belt of truth” is than I ever had before. I noticed this translation choice years ago when I first started using the WEB, and it’s been rolling around in my mind ever since. Watching more Batman content now, I realized just how useful–and how seemingly inexhaustible–his utility belt is. The Batman Wiki page lists nearly 50 tools on this belt including a stungun, rope, gasmask, cryptographic sequencer, and first-aid kit. It’s full of non-lethal offensive weapons, defensive tools to protect himself, and evidence-gathering tools to aid in crime fighting.

I don’t usually think of belts as being so universally applicable–they’re for holding your pants up or accessorizing an outfit. But in Bible times, girdles were a key part of soldier’s clothing (1 Sam. 18:4; 2 Sam. 20:8). They could also be decorative, signaling the respect and power of a prince or priest (Ex. 29:9; Isaiah 22:21; Ezk. 23:15). For Roman soldiers in particular (the most well-known army at the time and location of Paul’s writings), the belt was a status symbol and a practical tool that could be considered “even more important than armour or weapons” (Shawn M. Caza). When Paul says the first piece of God’s armor is “the utility belt of truth,” he means for us to understand how useful and versatile this belt is.

Image of an open Bible overlaid with text from Proverbs 3:3-4, NET version: “Do not let mercy and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will find favor and good understanding, in the sight of God and people.”
Image by Dakota from Lightstock

What is Truth?

Like Batman’s utility belt, the belt that God gives us to put on as the first piece of armor is applicable in every situation. There is no time when we can’t reach into the belt of truth and pull out something that’s helpful and relevant to our situation. But what, exactly, is truth?

Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6, NET

Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth.

John 17:17, NET

God’s word and Jesus Himself are where we find truth. They are truth. So when we read something like Proverbs 3:3, which says, “Don’t let kindness and truth forsake you. Bind them around your neck. Write them on the tablet of your heart” (WEB), we can think of staying close to God, never forsaking His word, and keeping Jesus so near it’s like He’s hanging on our neck and written in our hearts. He has the answers we need and He helps us navigate a complicated world with confidence, and even boldness, knowing that the Creator of the Universe keeps close to us as we keep close to Him.

Truth is a key part of how we worship God (John 4:23-24). It’s part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:9), and rejoicing in truth is part of the definition of love (1 Cor. 13:6). Believing, knowing, and loving Truth are closely connected with salvation (2 Thes. 2:8-14; 2 Tim. 2:24-26). We can even tell whether or not we’re in God’s light–in other words, if we have a relationship with Him–by looking at how well we obey His truth (John 3:20-21; 1 John 1:6-8; 2:4; 3:18-19). We’re actually supposed to become new people because the Father “gave birth to us by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures” (James 1:17-18, WEB; see also 1 Pet. 1:22-23).

… if indeed you heard about him and were taught in him, just as the truth is in Jesus. You were taught with reference to your former way of life to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new man who has been created in God’s image—in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth. Therefore, having laid aside falsehood, each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, because we are members of one another.

Ephesians 4:20-25, NET

Applying Truth In Love

Image of an open Bible with the blog's title text and the words "God’s word applies to every situation, and when we put on His 'belt of truth,' we’re even better equipped for whatever we might face than Batman is with his utility belt."

We can use God’s truth when navigating any challenge that comes our way. By studying God’s word and cultivating our relationship with Jesus and the Father, we deepen our understanding of Truth and arm ourselves with a belt that helps equip us for facing any situation. As our understanding deepens, we gain an anchor that keeps us from being tossed around in the storms and confusions of life. We also learn better how to apply God’s truth in our lives.

So we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes. But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body builds itself up in love.

Ephesians 4:14-16, NET

This verse tells us that “practicing the truth in love” is part of growing up as a member of Jesus’s body. You’ll also find translations that say, “speaking the truth in love” (WEB, for example). The more we grow to be like Jesus, the more we’re able to apply His truth in a loving way through every aspect of our lives, including what we say and what we do.

Truth from God can do amazing things. Knowing truth makes us free (John 8:31). God can send out His truth to rescue us and vanquish enemies (Psalm 43:1-3; 54:4-5). We can tell whether a teacher is aligned with God by how they handle the Word of Truth (2 Cor. 4:1-2; 6:3-7; 13:8; 1 Thes. 2:13; 2 Tim. 2:15; Titus 1:1). And we can go to God’s truth for aid when we’re not sure what to do next or need to counter an attack from the Adversary (as Jesus did when the devil came after Him). God’s word applies to every situation, and when we put on His “belt of truth,” we’re even better equipped for whatever we might face than Batman is with his utility belt. 

Spiritual Warfare Series

Featured image by Abhishek Kashyap from Pixabay

What Is Real?

I’ve been thinking about reality lately, for several reason. I recently started a new job where I’m tutoring younger kids than I’ve worked with before, and one of the things taught alongside reading skills is how to identify clues that let you know whether a story is realistic or fantasy. As a writer and avid reader, though, I know how easy it can be to blur those lines. You might do tons of research to write a very accurate, realistic setting (for example) then throw a dragon or werewolves into the story. Also, people can define “realistic” differently. A flood covering the world or a dead man coming back to life seem like fantasy to many, but for Christians the Bible is realistic and it’s non-fiction.

The question, “What’s really going on here?” is one that the Bible asks and answers, mostly indirectly. Satan started out his attacks on both Eve and Jesus by questioning the nature of reality. To Eve, he said, “Has God really said, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?” ( Gen. 3:1, WEB, emphasis added). To Jesus, he called the reality of who He is into question by saying, “If you are the Son of God…” (Matt. 4:3, 6, WEB, emphasis added). In sharp contrast to the adversary’s scheming and questioning, God is very open with us about the nature of reality. He tells us how things are, what will happen in the future, what the consequences are for different choices, and which things will endure forever so we know where to put our focus and energy. In other words, God shares truth with us about what is real.

The Best Place to Find Real Truth

Truth, and along with it the notion of an objective reality, has largely been rejected by modern society. Faced with the realization that there are an infinite number of perspectives and ideas, the world has made the terrible decision to try and act as if they were all equally valuable no matter how contradictory or crazy they seem. We can’t even agree on a “fact” anymore. There’s no need for such confusion, though. There is such a thing as reality and truth and the Bible, along with the holy spirit, is the key to figuring out what that is.

This notion doesn’t sit well with many people. Even some believers might balk at the idea at times. We all want so badly to be right. We want our take on things to be real. We’ve been told for years to follow our hearts and trust ourselves. And yet, “the human mind is more deceitful than anything else” (Jer. 17:9, NET). The inside of our own heads is a terrible place to look for truth. According to psychological studies, we can’t even trust that our own memories are accurate. Spiritually speaking, we might even be dead, “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked” without realizing it! (Rev. 3:1, 17, NET). If we want to know how things really are and what truth is, we need to look to God.

Focusing on What is Most Important

I feel like I’ve been spending a lot of time in 1 Corinthians 2 over the past few months (both in blog posts and for the double-minded scripture writing theme), and we’re back here again today. In this section of scripture, Paul talks about the difference between worldly wisdom and spiritual wisdom, showing us how God transforms our spirits, minds, and hearts with His Spirit. Much like the spirit (G4151, pneuma, spirit, soul, life, breath) inside us understands us better than we understand other people, the Spirit in God knows “the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:9-11).

But we received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that were freely given to us by God. … Now the natural man doesn’t receive the things of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to him, and he can’t know them, because they are spiritually discerned. … “For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct him?” But we have Christ’s mind.

1 Corinthians 2:14, 16, 18, WEB

We can only understand the Truth behind perceived reality through God’s spirit in us. Specifically, what we see physically only hints at what is the most real. This creation will pass away, replaced by a new, more enduring creation. The battles we fight today are not as they appear; they are really “against spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12, WEB). Even the Law possesses only “a shadow of the good things to come but not the reality itself” (Heb. 10:1, NET)–“The reality is Christ!” (Col. 2:17, NET).

The physical seems very real, and in many ways it is. We’re not living in a fake world, but one that God created and gave to us. And yet, when we start to perceive things with the mind of Christ it changes how we look at reality. We start to understand why it makes sense for Jesus to tell us we shouldn’t worry about things like food and clothing and should instead focus on seeking “God’s kingdom and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:25-34). It’s not the things we can see and touch that are most important, but the spiritual things which God invites us to take part of.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:18, NET

Making Time for Our Real Lives With God

The Bible never tells us that this physical life doesn’t matter or that God doesn’t care about how we choose to live these lives. God’s word does, however, tell us the physical matters less than the spiritual. We must not let temporary things distract us from the true riches that can be found eternally with God.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-21, NET

Investing in the spiritual ensures that our hearts are in the right place (i.e. with God) and that the things we spend our time on are real, true, and lasting. In today’s world, there are many possible distractions. We might be distracted worrying about bad news or the threat of future troubles. We might loose ourselves in entertainment like movies, books, and video games (something I personally find very tempting). Or we could just be so busy with our daily lives that we push spending time on the spiritual off until later. But we need to commit ourselves to prioritizing our relationship with God and investing in what will really, truly last beyond this physical life.

Featured image by Anggie from Lightstock

A Time For Discernment and Standing For What’s Right

We’re going through a pandemic right now, and it has given us the opportunity to ask ourselves some interesting and challenging questions. Take, for example, the issue of closing churches. Here in Ohio, churches are exempt from the order to limit public gatherings to 10 people or less. This is a right and proper application of the separation between church and state. Most churches here moved online, however, following the recommendation of medical and legal counsel. This was also right and proper, for the Bible tells us to respect governing authority (Rom. 13:1-2; Tit. 3:1-2; 1 Pet. 2:13-17) and quarantine the sick (Lev. 13:46; Num. 5:1-3). Just in the last couple weeks, some churches are starting to reopen with social distancing and other precautions in place.

Things didn’t go so well everywhere. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio threatened to permanently close churches and synagogues if they continued to hold any services. In Mississippi, attendees of a drive-in church services were ticketed $500 for sitting in their cars listening to the pastor on the radio (the DOJ has stepped in on behalf of the church). Some consider churches “essential services,” some do not. Some try to use the crisis to discriminate against religious institutes, others work alongside and defend them.

Jesus warned there will be those who persecute His church. There will be people who try to stop us from meeting, preaching and worshiping rightly. It has already happened throughout history in various places around the world. To be clear, I am not saying encouraging churches to temporarily suspend in-person services during a pandemic is persecution. But this does give us a reminder that we need to be watchful and exercise discernment. This is a good time to ask ourselves questions like, How would we respond if churches were asked to close for a different reason? Or ordered to stay closed, as threatened in New York? What if we were told we could no longer own Bibles, as has happened in other countries?

I don’t bring up these sorts of questions to panic us, but to prepare us. We are told to watch and be ready, and it’s hard to do that if you’re not thinking of things that might happen in the future. We are living in the end times (as humanity has been since the first century per 1 John 2:18). This is a time for discernment and preparedness, and the current crisis can serve as a wake-up call for any of us who may have been growing complacent in the safety and freedom we’ve enjoyed for so long. Read more

How Do I Convince People They’re Wrong and God Is Right?

The world seems like it’s going crazy. Looking around at what’s going on brings to mind Bible verses like “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” and “there is no fear of God before his eyes” (Jud. 17:6; Ps. 36:1). Not only do people reject God, but they reject the entire idea of absolute morality as well, opting for a subjective, situational version that can change moment-to-moment and person-to-person.

In the midst of this, many Christians want to fight for and defend the truth of our faith. We want to show the world they’re wrong and prove that God is right. We think that to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered,” we need to offer logical, scientifically supported, convincing arguments to counter the lies running rampant in our culture.

But I don’t think we’re going to convince many people that God’s word is the truth (rather than just one of many truths) by arguing with them. There’s definitely a place for apologetics, and people with the knowledge and expertise to enter debates and stand up for truth are invaluable. In general, though, I question whether telling people how wrong they are and what they need to change is a good first step for introducing them to the faith.

If we start out by lecturing people about how much God hates their sin or how wrong they are about ideas they hold dear, why would they react any way other than defensively? And if they don’t acknowledge God as real yet, why would we expect them to care what we say He wants them to do?

Keeping Your Audience In Mind

God’s truth doesn’t change with the times. But those who are wise keep their audiences in mind when they speak the truth. When Paul spoke to Jews in Antioch, he knew his already religious audience could best be reached by using scriptures to prove Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah (Acts 13:14-41). When he preached to people in Athens without any Biblical background, however, he started by talking about who God is and why we should care. He even quoted one of their own philosophers as part of his argument (Acts 17:18-31). Tailoring the message to fit his audience was a deliberate, conscious choice that Paul made. Read more

Fighting For Truth Within God’s House

Dear friends, although I was making every effort to write to you concerning our common salvation, I considered it a necessity to write to you to encourage you to contend for the faith delivered once and for all to the saints. (Jude 1:3, LEB)

Way back in the first century, Jude had planned to write fellow believers concerning their common salvation. However, he had to change the topic because “certain men have slipped in stealthily” (v. 4) to spread destructive heresies.

When we read an instruction to “contend for the faith,” we typically think of preaching to the world and fighting for God’s truth in an ungodly society. But Jude is talking about the need to do this inside the church. And if they were dealing with problems like this back in the first century, you can be sure we’ll be facing them today as well.

A List of Wickedness

Jude said that we need to fight for the faith even inside the church because of ungodly people who sneaked in. As the letter unfolds, he explains in detail what sort of things these people were doing. It’s a long list, but I think it’s an important one to look at in detail. Read more

Beware Leavened Doctrine

“Every word of God is pure,” but the same can’t be said of all the words human beings say about God’s words (Prov. 30:5, KJV). This is one of the problems Jesus called attention to in His earthly ministry. The religious leaders of His day bound heavy burdens on their followers, got distracted by seeking recognition, shut the kingdom against God’s people, greedily profited off the offerings made to God, misrepresented the truth, and focused on minutia while ignoring weighty matters of the law. In short, they were hypocrites (Matt. 23).

In Matthew 16, Jesus told His disciples, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6, KJV). The disciples were confused at first, but after some discussion they realized He wasn’t telling them to “beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:12, KJV).

How Leavening Works

The New Testament speaks of leavening representing hypocrisy, malice, and wickedness (Luke 12:1; 1 Cor 5:8). And when we consider the physical affect of a leavening agent like yeast, we see leaven as something souring, spreading, fermenting, and puffed-up.

Matthew Henry suggests that the warning “take heed and beware” in Matthew 16 is given because disciples are especially vulnerable to this type of deception. We can easily fall victim to those like the “Pharisees, who are great pretenders to devotion, and Sadducees, who pretend to a free and impartial search after the truth” (MHC on Matt. 16:5-12).

We’re not talking about a corrupting influence from outside the church. These people operate within, corrupting the doctrine that came direct from God. Read more