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Faith Bible Church, NY
March 16, 1997
Spiritual Warfare, Part 8
The Breastplate of Righteousness
Turn with me once again to Ephesians 6:10 as we continue in our study of the subject of spiritual warfare. Paul writes here, 10 “Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual [forces] of wickedness in the heavenly [places.] 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness…”.
Spiritual warfare is real and we must be prepared for it or we will be casualties in the battle. The Spiritual forces against us are not flesh and blood, though they may be used people for their purposes. They are strong and organized. We cannot fight this war in your own strength. We must fight it in the Lord’s strength and then stand firm.
Are you prepared? The Lord has not left us to defend for ourselves as best we can. He is with us and He has provided for us all the equipment we need to resist Satan’s schemes against us, but have you taken advantage of His provisions?
For the past five weeks we have talked about the first piece of armor provided for us – the belt of truth. Have you girded your loins with the truth that you may resist the devils lies? We must be continually be putting on the truth because we too often relax thinking we are safe and it slips off. Are you a truth seeker? Is it the priority of your life? Do you long for it even if it makes you uncomfortable? Are you controlled by it even if it is difficult?
Truth is foundational – without it we are subject to all the lies and deceptions the devil can put before us. We will not only be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, our ship will flounder and sink. Jesus Christ and His word are the truth. We are to gird ourselves with Him and the Scriptures. We then must carefully listen for the “ring of truth” in everything we hear. Do the things people say, the claims they make, match the Bible? Are they in harmony with the truth of God?
We come now to the second piece of armor God has given to us, the breastplate of righteousness. The Roman soldier might have worn one of several types of breastplates. Depending on the particular design the breastplate would extend from just below the neck to either the thighs or just below the stomach in both front and to the top of the buttock in back. It was usually made out of some material to which had been sewn strips of leather and/or bits of tough material – bones, hooves, metal, etc. Those in high rank might have a breastplate made completely out of metal, usually copper or bronze, that was hammered into shape to fit the individual. The function of the breastplate was the same regardless of the particular type to protect the thorax , the portion of your body between your neck and legs.
Why was this so important? It protected all of the vital organs except the brain – The heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and stomach. Damage to any of these organs would generally prove fatal, so it was vital to provide protection for them from swords, spears and arrows.
It is important to note at this point that Jew culture of that time would describe their emotions and feelings in terms of their vital organs. I alluded to this last week when I mentioned that one of the words we translate as “tender mercies” is literally, “bowels of mercy.” The heart was used to symbolize the seat of volition – the ability to understand and make choices. The Hebrew word for “kidneys” is translated in the KJV as “reins” and in the NASB as “mind” or “inner man”, since that is what is being referred to. Prov. 23:16 literally reads, “My son, if your heart is wise, My own heart also will be glad; and my ‘kidneys’ will rejoice, When your lips speak what is right.”
Why is this important? Because what Paul is talking about being protected in this passage by the breastplate of righteousness are your emotions and will. Too often we fall into the devil’s traps because we make our decisions based on how we feel rather than on what is actually true and right. Women are often kidded about making their decisions based on their feelings, and while there is some general validity to the stereotype, men are often just as guilty.
Sales people use this to get you to buy almost any product. They play upon your feeling to motivate you for the desire to have for yourself whatever it is they are selling. Buy this cosmetic because it will make you feel pretty. Buy this jeep and you can feel macho. By this lotto ticket and you will feel hopeful. Politicians sell to us too, and we vote for or against them because of how we feel. It is irrelevant whether they speak the truth or lies, advocate right or wrong or can do what they claim as long as we are moved to feel good about them. Satan is the expert on exploiting the feelings of people to keep them from either coming to Christ for salvation or living for Christ if they are believers. The breastplate of righteousness can protect from His schemes.
What then is this righteousness and how does it protect us? Notice that this is something that you are to put on. In fact, as verse 14 states it, the implication is that you cannot stand firm against the devil unless you have put it on. Yet at the same time, righteousness, like truth, is not something we humans manufacture and establish. We can only recognize the truth after it has been given to us. We can then live in harmony with truth by letting it control us. Righteousness is also something that must be given to us after which we can then live in harmony with it.
That Paul is not talking about man’s own efforts to be righteous is simply demonstrated by the fact that man has no righteousness of his own. Isaiah 64:6 tells us that all our righteous deeds are as filthy rags before God. Regardless of whatever efforts a man might make to be righteous before God he will always fail. All mankind is guilty before God for their sins and no one can achieve righteousness on his own. This is why Titus 3:5 tells us that “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy…”. True righteousness can only come from the source of righteousness – God Himself.
This is what happens in salvation. In repentance a person turns from himself and his sin to Jesus Christ. In believing in Christ and His work of atonement alone for the forgiveness of sin they are changed becoming new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17) with a new nature (Eph. 4:24). The righteousness of Jesus Christ is then imputed to them. Paul puts it this way in 2 Cor. 5:21 – “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” We have been clothed with His robe of righteousness, as Isa. 61:10 describes it. We cannot take that robe for ourselves, it is God that puts righteousness upon us. 1 Cor 1:30 “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption…”.
This is imputed righteousness, the righteousness of Jesus Christ that is given to us so that we may stand in God’s presence. It is a great defense against the attacks of the devil in several important areas.
First, in the matter of coming to Christ for salvation. Satan usually downplays sin and tries to get people to think that they are good enough in themselves and by their own works to make it to heaven. That lie has sent and continues to send countless millions to hell. But there are those who recognize their guilty conscience and will not believe that lie. In those cases Satan can use another one and try to convince the person that they are so bad that God could never save them. This loss of hope can keep a person from Christ. Some of you may be feeling that way even now.
The truth of the imputed righteousness of Christ counteracts that lie because salvation is not offered on the basis of how good you are being. There is no weighing of scales to see if your good is more than your evil because it only takes one sin, any sin, to justly condemn you to hell forever. Salvation is based on the mercy and grace of God which imputes to you the righteousness of Christ. As I explained last week, no human is so evil, no sin is so great that Jesus’ death on the cross cannot pay its penalty and which He will not forgive. Some have worried that they have committed the “unforgivable sin” mentioned in Matthew 12. The very fact that they are concerned about proves they have not committed it. There is hope. Forgiveness can be granted if they will but come to Jesus Christ.
Second, in the matter of prayer. Satan can accuse us that the sin in our lives leaves us in no condition to pray. We feel guilty and ashamed resulting in a hesitation to approach the God who is our judge in addition to being our Savior. Satan will remind us that God is a holy God and too pure to look upon evil (Habak. 1:13), nor will he pay attention to the prayers of those who have iniquity in their hearts (Ps 66:18). The resulting despondency keeps us away from God.
The truth of the imputed righteousness of Christ will bring us back to where we belong in the daily, movement by moment blessing of fellowship with our creator. We have never come to God based on our own righteousness but upon the righteousness of Christ. Heb. 10:19 tells us that it is through the blood of Jesus that we can enter into the Holy Place. It is because He is our high priest that we can “therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15).
Third, and related to our prayer life is the matter of dealing with the sins we commit after we are saved.
Psalm 66:18 states “If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear.” When a Christian sins his fellowship with God is broken, but he is not kicked out of the family. At salvation when we who were dead in our trespasses and sin were made alive in Christ we were also made His children (1 John 3:1). Jesus will never disown those who belong to Him. He stated it Himself in John 6:37 “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” What is lost when a Christian sins is the intimacy of communion with God because there is now a strain in the relationship. This should not be a strange thought.
When my children disobey me I cannot disown them and declare that they can no longer be called a Harris. Regardless of whether they bring honor or dishonor to it, they will always bear my name just as I and my ancestors have born it. What does happen when my children disobey is that they put a blockage in the relationship, and until the offense is taken care of there will be a strain in the relationship. Until reconciliation is accomplished we cannot walk in intimacy of relationship with each other. I must offer forgiveness and they must do whatever is needed to receive that forgiveness – depending on the offense it may be a simple apology – “I am sorry, please forgive me”, or they may also need to do some deed of restitution in an effort to repair the damage they may have done. Restitution is the fruit of true repentance. The same is true of God.
When I sin against Him, my fellowship with Him is broken, and until I come and confess my sin and receive forgiveness, the relationship will be strained. He is willing to forgive, but I need to confess and maybe make restitution too as the fruit of my repentance. Until reconciliation takes place He will not pay attention to my prayers. Remember Jesus said it was to those who would abide in Himself that they could ask whatever they wished and it would be granted to them (John 15:7).
That we as Christians will sin and need to seek His forgiveness in daily life is brought out in 1 John 1:7-9. “if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” As a Christian I will sin, but because my righteousness is based in Christ, when that happens I can confess those sins and be restored into fellowship with Him.
The devil may accuse me of sin, and even be correct about it, but the breastplate of righteousness will protect me from letting that destroy both my prayer life and the daily fellowship with Him for which He created and saved me.
The imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ is critical to both our salvation and in daily living for Him. It is part of the righteousness and make up the Breastplate of righteousness, but there is also what Martyn Lloyd-Jones called “imparted” righteousness. This is the practical righteousness which is expressed in daily living as we strive to be obedient to God in all things. Note again in the text that we are to have “put on the breastplate of righteousness.” Although we cannot be righteous on our own and need the imputed righteousness of Christ, we need to live in accordance with that and live in practical righteousness. The imputed righteousness of Christ makes practical righteousness possible, but practical righteousness will only be a reality when we daily live in obedience to the Lord. This is in keeping with our new nature anyway, so it is not the impossible task it would otherwise be.
Hebrews 10 explains how what God has done for us in Christ is to flow into our daily lives. In the first part of the chapter he explains the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice of Himself to cleanse us from all sin and bring forgiveness. Then, starting in vs 18, he goes on to say, 18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer [any] offering for sin. 19 Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since [we have] a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled [clean] from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging [one another]; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.
Our changed standing before God is to result in a changed manner of living too. Imputed righteousness must result in imparted righteousness. Verse 26 goes on to warn, 26 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. To claim to belong to Christ and then willfully go against His commandments is to, as vs. 29 states it, “to trample underfoot the Son of God” and “regard as unclean the blood” He shed to save you. This is defiant sin, and defiant sin does is not the mark of a true Christian.
The practical righteousness of living in obedience to Christ is a wonderful defense against many areas of the devil’s attacks. Let me mention a few briefly.
First, in the matter of temptations. Satan’s temptations are presented to us in three major areas – the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and boastful pride of life (1 John 2:15). Some temptations are so flagrant they are easily recognized and dismissed. Others are very subtle or will work on our emotions and make us feel like we have no choice but to commit the sin.
The truth is stated clearly in 1 Cor. 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it. Yet at times we do not feel like that verse is true. The breastplate of righteousness protects us as we develop a stronger desire to do right more than anything else.
Flagrant, open sins start with hidden, modest sins. How is that men commit adultery? It starts with a wandering eye. Job was a righteous man and defended himself against the accusations made against him saying “I have made a covenant with my eyes, how then could I gaze at a virgin” (Job 31:31). This may not be easy in a society where pornography is easily obtained and immodesty is used to sell nearly everything, But that only stresses the importance, Men, that this same covenant with your eyes is one of the links of armor in your breastplate of righteousness.
You pick whatever sin most plagues you and see if the pursuit of holiness, the practical life of righteousness will not keep you from that sin. Is a sharp and angry tongue your problem? “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). Do you lie and manipulate others to get your way? Jesus said we are to seek the will of the Father, and not our own (Mt. 6:11). Are you proud or boastful? God says He resists the proud but gives grace to the humble, humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God (1 Peter 5). Are you lazy and slothful? Eph. 4:16 tells we are to make the most of our time for the days are evil. Are you lacking in self-control? Gal. 5 lists self-control as one of the fruit of the Spirit. 1 Cor. 9:25 speaks of exercising self-control that we might win an imperishable wreath from God.
Put on the breastplate of righteousness. Pursue holiness above all else and the temptations that once plagued you will be easily resisted. Why? Who could care much about the things of this world when we have heaven in view?
Second, in the matter of persecutions, the breastplate of righteousness keeps us from becoming despondent. Let’s be honest, it can be hard to be different. Life is a lot easier if we just blend in with everyone else and do what they do – right or wrong. Being made the butt of jokes, being over looked for promotions because of our ethical stands, being slandered by those who hate righteousness is no picnic. If we are not careful to be living in and pursuing righteous living we could easily give up. In addition, we would lose the only source of joy in such circumstances – that God is pleased with us. Jesus said that we could rejoice and be glad when we are persecuted for the sake of righteousness because our reward in heaven would be great and it was the same with the prophets that went before us (Mt. 5:11,12). If we are living in righteousness and are reviled, insulted, falsely accused and persecuted we can still be joyful. Paul said that he was content and even joyful in suffering for Christ’s sake.
Third, in the matter of contentment and joy in the Christian life, practical righteousness makes all the difference. The Christian who pursues personal holiness can have joy in any circumstance. The Christian who does not is one of the most miserable people that exists.
There are consequences to not living in practical righteousness. Not only are you more open to Satan’s attacks against you, you will also find yourself fruitless, lose your rewards, bring reproach on God’s glory and find yourself a miserable person.
The purpose of your life is unfulfilled leaving you with a shallow existence. Rather than storing up treasures in heaven, you will end up with the wood, hay and stubble of this earth that will be destroyed (1 Cor. 3:12-15). Rather than bringing praise to the Father by your good works (Mt. 5:16) and adorning the doctrine of god our Savior in every respect (Tit. 2:10), you bring shame and reproach. leading eventually to depression. Instead of having the fruit of the Spirit you end up with the opposite. Instead of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control you get hatred, sorrow, turmoil, anxiety, malice, depravity, disloyalty, harshness and unrestrained.
David describes what is was like during the time he refused to deal with his sin with Bathsheba. Psalm 32 he says, “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and might Thy hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.” In short, the Christian who is in sin is miserable. God is a loving father and He will chasten us as need to bring us back to where we need to be (Heb. 12), yet praise Him for it! We should be miserable if we are in sin, as if we are not, the news is not good, Heb. 12:8 says: “if you are without discipline… then you are illegitimate children and not sons.”
The breastplate of righteousness is our protection against Satan’s devices to deceive us through our emotions. Deception that would lead to wrong decisions and choices and a miserable life. The hymn writer summed up living with the breastplate of righteousness on.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
When we walk with the Lord, In the light of His word, What a glory He sheds on our way! While we do His good will He abides with us still, And with all who will trust and obey.
Not a shadow can rise, Not a cloud in the skies, But His smile quickly drives it away; Not a doubt nor a fear, Not a sigh nor a tear, Can abide while we trust and obey.
Not a burden we bear, Not a sorrow we share, But our toil He does richly repay; Not a grief nor a loss, Not a frown nor a cross, But is blest if we trust and obey.
But we never can prove, The delights of His love, Until all on the altar we lay, For the favor He shows And the joy He bestows Are for them who will trust and obey.
Then in fellowship sweet We will sit as His feet, Or we’ll walk by His side in the way; What he says we will do, Where He sends we will go – Never fear, only trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
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