Armor Series, Part Two: The Breastplate of Righteousness
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6: 10-17, NIV)
How awesome is it that the Lord sends us into spiritual battles with exactly the equipment we need to kick demon butts and take devil names?
Let’s face it, guys: There is no possible way to live in this universe and be exempt from spiritual warfare happening all around us. Whether or not you are aware of it, whether or not you accept it, and whether or not you buy into the Christian faith at all, you are locked in the middle of a battle between Heaven and Hell. The war for the souls of this world is constantly raging and there is only going to be one winner. Every day, you head out to the battlefield where you have to decide which side you’re fighting for, and not choosing puts you on the wrong side. Here is the good news and the bad news.
The good news: If you stand under the name of Jesus and in the salvation he died to give us, then you
have access to an armor that will both protect and defend you against the powers of darkness.
The bad news: If you don’t know the pieces of that armor– or underestimate their power– you leave yourself open to attack and not have the ability to take down Satan the way you are intended to.
Last week, we talked about the helmet of salvation, which protects the mind of the believer. This week, I want to talk about the breastplate of righteousness, which guards the heart of the believer.
No lie, the breastplate stumped me for a second. I knew it’s purpose: to protect the vital organs of a soldier. What I struggled with was why God would choose for us to don righteousness– specifically– as a breastplate.
Then I remembered a very Christianese phrase. We hear it all the time, especially young, single Christians that are looking for their spouse (such as myself). You know it, you love it… the classic “guard your heart” warning. I know, I’m trying not to roll my eyes from the cliche as well. The thing is: as overused as the phrase is, it holds true.
Our hearts need to be guarded because if they are not, they are left open to any and every oncoming attack. One hit to the heart, in the physical sense, and it’s game over for you, my friend. The breastplate is one of the most important pieces of armor because it is the centerpiece that the rest of your armor ties into. Without a breastplate, the soldier is not only fatally vulnerable, but he is also unable to link together the other parts of his armor.
“Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:34a, NKJV)
To be righteous is to be right in God’s eyes. Righteousness is the state of being morally upright and Bible-minded, despite our sinful nature. How do we remain justifiable to God, free of sin? We live life by the parameters set in place for us by God to keep us out of sin. Lucky for us, those parameters are all given to us in His Word. The long and short of it is: the easiest way to be righteous is to know what the Bible says regarding a Godly life lived in His law.
Many times, we see the Bible as a set of rules meant to limit us or restrain us. In reality, it’s quite the opposite. The Bible is a set of rules told through a series of accounts meant to keep us from hurting ourselves in senseless pursuits of the flesh. It’s not meant to rob us of fun or excitement, but it is meant to allow us joy that will last and edify us, not destroy us in the long run.
Think of it this way: I can tell my godson not to jump on the bed. He may think it’s because I don’t want him to have fun. It’s like having an indoor trampoline… what could be so bad about that? And that may be true until he falls off and breaks his arm. Now my rule makes sense, right? And if it had been heeded, he wouldn’t have had to go through the pain of a broken arm.
How many times do we want something so badly, but God tells us to wait or stay away? We think, ‘God, how could that relationship, promotion, night out with my friends, vacation, class, etc. be so bad? Everyone else is doing this or being that, so why can’t I?’ And most of the time, it’s because we only see the highlights of those choices, when in fact, there are heartbreaking flipsides to those decisions that we make in our own wisdom. That couple may look stellar on Instagram, but behind closed doors, no amount of likes can fulfill their God-less, love-barren relationship. So-and-so’s career pulls in six figures and she just bought a new car, but in reality, she never gets to enjoy that money in the company of friends and family because she’s always on business trips. You might be the only friend in your group that couldn’t make it down to the Caribbean on spring break, but unbeknownst to you, God was actually trying to protect you from a situation that would have added to your emotional return-flight baggage count.
Our heart will always desire; that is its nature, which is why we need righteousness– God’s sovereign law– to act as the parameter to those desires. It’s not to hold us back, but it does give us definite boundaries to operate in. They may be more strict than the world’s fluid parameters, but they aren’t constricting. In fact, they allow us a lot of room for personal and spiritual growth, teaching us important traits such as patience, self-control, faithfulness, and kindness.
“Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.” (Proverbs 11:4, NASB)
Righteousness is our firm foundation that provides the blueprint for the rest of our Christian walk. It not only protects our vital parts but also allows us to come in close combat with dark spiritual powers and come out unscathed. While we need salvation to protect the knowledge we gain from studying God’s word, we also need the breastplate of righteousness to guard our hearts and keep them in line with the salvation we know.
Today, I want to challenge you to build off of last week’s devotion. Now that you’ve taken stock of the strength and prominence of your salvation, I want you to also think about where you are on the righteousness scale. Do you make decisions based on what you know pleases God? Do you allow your salvation to be the firm base from which you make choices? Do you see righteousness as a conduit through which you can operate and flourish in, or as a restrictive set of rules meant to isolate and count you out?
As corny as it sounds, remember to guard your heart in all things because sometimes the enemy packages his attacks in the seemingly harmless. Your righteousness is that all-important piece of the armor that all the other pieces depend on. Make sure yours is strong.
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