Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Breastplate of Righteousness

In my last blog we began looking at the armor of God we are commanded to take up and put on. We looked at the most important piece, called the loin belt of truth, the word of God, that is to be central in our lives. Let’s continue from there

We do not often think of the breastplate as a weapon or even as a defense. But here it is pictured as righteousness. Jesus was seen as righteous because He came and lived in all truth, and so righteousness follows truth here in our armor.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:7 7 in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left.
Here Paul talks of righteousness as a weapon.

This is not a new concept only in the Church age. Isaiah spoke of this hundreds of years before 17 He put on righteousness like a breastplate, And a helmet of salvation on His head; Isaiah 59:17 (NASB)

In order to understand why Paul called righteousness the breastplate in our armor, we must understand what Paul thought of this Roman soldier’s breastplate.

The breastplate was the shiniest, most beautiful and most glamorous piece of armor the Roman soldier possessed.
When someone walked up to a Roman soldier, he could not help but notice the breastplate, especially on a bright sunny day. It went from the soldiers neck all the way down to his thighs.

It was made up of two different pieces of metal. One went down and covered the front and the other covered his back. The two pieces were held together by two solid brass rings on top of the shoulders. Sometimes the breastplate was one solid piece of metal and at other times comprised of many smaller pieces that resembled fish scales. And this was attached all around to the loin belt.

This was by far the heaviest piece of armor that the Roman soldier wore. At times it weighed in excess of 40 pounds. If you remember Goliath’s breastplate, it weighed about 125 pounds. The boy David could not even wear King Saul’s breastplate. It was just too big and too heavy for him.
One of the amazing things about this breastplate is that as the two pieces rubbed up against the outer clothing, while shinny at first, they now take on an even brighter appearance. This is our righteousness. The longer we wear it the brighter it becomes.

So what we see, is that the breastplate becomes even more beautiful the more we use it. Had it been stored in a dark room for safety, it would have tarnished and lost all its shine.

Have you ever been driving in your car and the sun hits the rear window of the car in front of you, or some other reflective object? The result is blinding. The glare is so bright that you have to turn your head or close your eyes. This is the same for our righteousness to the world.
Imagine a whole army of soldiers wearing these breastplates. The entire mountainside or valley would begin to shine and everything would be magnificently illuminated. Jesus said we are the light of this world and we are to shine in it.

If we were not engaged in battle there would be no need for this armor piece. But we are in battle, and someone out there really wants to hurt us.

Paul tells us that by putting on the whole armor of God we will be able to stand against the wiles or schemes of the devil. The devil wants to hurt us, assault us. He wants us to think we are not righteous and that we are of no value to God.

The word devil, can mean he who attacks, but the Greek tense means he attacks again, and again, and again, until he breaks through.
He desires to penetrate and immobilize a person’s mind and emotions. He especially delights in finding believers who do not know that they are righteous. They are easy prey.

He sneers as he whispers, “you are the worst Christian who has ever lived. Do you think God is going to do anything with you? God can’t use a believer like you”.
If you do not have on your breastplate of righteousness firmly fixed in place by the loin belt of truth, which are the scriptures, you may begin to believe those slanderous accusations.

Those believers, who do not know that they have been made righteous in Christ, tend to habitually walk in condemnation. Why? Because the devil never misses an opportunity to insert a condemning thought in their minds.
Sadly, too many believers walk around with their shoulders slumped and their heads hanging low. The devil has made such inroads that even their prayers lack confidence. He has convinced them that they will never be good enough.

God’s word, on the other hand, tells us to stand firm, stand upright, head high and shoulders back and walk confidently and victoriously in the righteousness of the Lord.

Satan’s favorite place of battle is in man’s mind. He can make all sorts of accusations that the weak believer begins to believe because he has forgotten what God’s word says or has never read it. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:13 “therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober and hope to the end…”

The picture is of a Greek runner in the games. In order to run faster and better, he takes hold of his tunic and tucks it into his belt (the loin belt). By doing this he has girded up his tunic and ridding himself of anything that would trip him up.
In the same way Peter tells us to wrap up any loose ends in our thinking, to pull them up and tuck them into Gods word, the loin belt. If we are to successfully run our Christian race and fight this fight of faith, we must prepare our minds against the devils attacks.

In order to establish the fact of your God given righteousness, let’s quickly look at several verses on the subject
21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor 5:21 (NASB)

You are righteous in Christ. Once you become convinced of this and dwell on this, it really begins to penetrate your thinking and behavior.
21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; Romans 3:21-22 (NASB)

According to Paul, this God given righteousness fully belongs to all who believe in Jesus Christ and continue in His ways. Even more amazing is that we are told there is no distinction or difference between the righteousness of Christ and our righteousness. They are now one and the same in God’s eyes.

17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:17 (NASB)

Once we finally grab hold of the truth that God has graciously imparted righteousness to us, that knowledge changes us. We no longer view ourselves as little, unimportant, defeated believers. We begin to move with assurance from a life of chronic defeat to a life of reigning with the king.
There is no doubt, that when this knowledge gets planted deep in your heart, it changes you, and the breastplate then protects you from ever doubting it again.

Talk about a new source of confidence.

In 1 John 5:13-14 the apostle tells us 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.14 This is the confidence which we have before Him
This word confidence is from a Greek word that means great boldness or assurance.
It is a picture of a person who enters a room and approaches the host as if he belongs there himself.

John continues that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.

An attitude of righteousness will greatly affect your prayer life. If you are not convinced you are right with God, how can you ever approach Him? On the other hand when you are convinced that in Christ you are right before God, you begin to pray with power and authority just as Jesus did.
Let me close with the difference between powerless faith and powerful faith.

In Acts 3 Peter and John were going to the temple at the hour of prayer, when suddenly they saw a man who had been crippled for many years.
1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer.2 And a man who had been lame from his mother's womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. Acts 3:1-2 (NASB)

Notice he was laid at the gate called beautiful. Now there was never a gate officially called beautiful. It was called this by the common people because of its ornate columns and other architectural details. Yet as beautiful as this gate was, as sacred as the temple itself was, this man never found healing there. All he could do was lie there and beg.
So when this man sees Peter and John he does what beggars do, he begged. But this was the entrance most people used to enter the temple area for the hour of prayer. It was supposed to be a quiet time. A time of reflection. Still this man begged.
.3 When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms.4 But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, "Look at us Acts 3:2-4 (NASB)

At first glance this seems a rude encounter. The man was asking for some pennies so he could eat and Peter and John just stare at him. But there was a reason. For as soon as they had this man’s attention, Peter says, look at us!

Why did Peter say this?

Because he knew he had something life changing to offer this man. The next verse explains
5 And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.6 But Peter said, "I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: Acts 3:5-6 (NASB)

Peter and John had no money. Nothing of any worth as the world counts worth. But they did have something

That word “what” in the last part of verse 5, “what” I do have I give to you, is a terrible translation. The Greek word there is “hos” and it is a proper pronoun. And so literally, I have no silver or God but “WHO” I have I give to you, Jesus Christ.

Immediately the power of the Holy Spirit poured into this man and he was completely healed.
Peter and John could move with such confidence because they knew, they were assured, of their righteousness in Christ. They were wearing their breastplate of righteousness.

How many people passed by this man every day? These were God’s people Israel, but they had long ago lost their breastplate. It was either covered, or so tarnished, it no longer gleamed in the sun, but sat there like a rusted out car in a junk yard.

Powerful faith or powerless faith. Which category do you fall into?
How many believers try to face the enemy with less than the whole armor of God? Please, remember that this enemy will try to slander you, accuse you. He will try to tell you that you are good for nothing. He will try to convince you that God won’t or can’t use you and that no one will ever listen to you or take you seriously.

As a result they fall on the battle field. Discouraged and down trodden. Having not an ounce of confidence or assurance as to who they really are and what they can really accomplish in Christ.
This is why it is so vital for you to know that God has already given you a breastplate of righteousness. And when you put it on and walk through life wearing that breastplate, everything changes for the better.

Righteousness is a defensive weapon. It is one of those pieces of armor that help us deflect the fiery darts of the devil. Listen to Isaiah:
10 I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10 (NASB)

This robe of Isaiah was meant to cover a man from head to toe for adornment. It makes us beautiful in the sight of those who see us displaying this righteousness. But Isaiah had something else to say earlier
7 "Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, A people in whose heart is My law; Do not fear the reproach of man, Nor be dismayed at their revilings.8 "For the moth will eat them like a garment, And the grub will eat them like wool. But My righteousness will be forever, And My salvation to all generations." Isaiah 51:7-8 (NASB)

When you wear Gods righteousness you do not have to fear either man or the devil. Your righteousness will protect you and sustain you, while your enemies are eaten as a moth eats cloth or a worm eats wool.

But righteousness is also an offensive weapon.

Yes the breastplate of the Roman soldier was beautiful to look at and effectively protected him during an attack, but the breastplate did something else that was very important.
Remember that this breastplate was made of especially bright and shining golden brass. When that soldier threw back his shoulders and the afternoon sunshine hit that metal, it cast a blinding glare into the eyes of all who were approaching.

This glare was so bright, that the enemy could not see his opponent in order to fight. In this way it was offensive as well as defensive.

In the same way, when you begin to walk in righteousness, all you have to do is walk into dark circumstances and that darkness will flee from you. That is what darkness does when exposed to light. It flees.
Every Roman soldier was equipped with a beautiful breastplate. However, if that breastplate was going to be beneficial to the soldier, he had to take it up and put it on and maintain it.

Remember the more he wore it, the more he walked in it, the shinier the breastplate got.

This is exactly what happens when you begin to walk in Righteousness. You will find, as the Roman soldier did, that the more you walk in it, the more beautiful it gets.
So throw back your shoulders, and stand firm with your head raised high. You are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus!
You are not a beggar at the gate but a son of the King!
You have the breastplate already, all you need to do is put it on and begin to walk in it.

Keep walking, keep marching, keep moving forward – and don’t let the enemy talk you out of your joy and the benefits of your right standing with God.
And with every step you take in righteousness, you will become more beautiful in the eyes of God and His people and more and more blinding in the eyes of the enemy.

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