The breastplate of righteousness
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place
The breastplate covers your heart. It shields you from enemy attack, especially in the realm of emotions. The book of Revelation says, ‘Satan, the accuser (one of his names) accuses us day and night.’ I don’t know that he does anything else so consistently, so I assume that it’s one of his greatest weapons. He accuses you. He says, ‘You’re useless. You’ll never be a good Christian, a proper husband, a loving mother. Look at you! You’re rubbish!’ He constantly drip feeds you with how awful you and how far you fall short.
Righteous or religious?
Sadly many churches endorse this perspective by consistently teaching how bad we are instead of declaring God’s wonderful grace and the free gift of righteousness. The breastplate of righteousness protects us from these attacks. Grace is nothing to do with your performance, how well you’re doing. You need to grasp this once and for all.
Paul knew where he stood. He gives us a superb list of his religious accomplishments and qualifications. He was a Hebrew of Hebrews, circumcised on the eighth day, educated under Gamaliel, and so on. Then he declares, ‘I count it all rubbish.’ That’s his attitude. Actually the word is ‘excrement’. Sometimes when I’m walking with Wendy I’ll say, ‘Watch out, dear there is a bit of religion down there. Don’t tread on it!’ That’s the word Paul uses.
The Bible doesn’t say ‘All your sin is as filthy rags’. It says, ‘All your righteousness is as filthy rags’. Your righteousness won’t stand the test. It won’t cover you. It won’t protect you. It won’t keep you safe when the enemy tells you, ‘You’re hopeless,’ but the Bible says that ‘All my guilt was imputed to Jesus and all his righteousness was imputed to me’. We aren’t talking about some philosophical concept but about a life that was lived on this earth by Jesus Christ. He was totally innocent and pure, and he delighted to please the Father. And now, all the goodness that he demonstrated over thirty three years on this planet has been given to me. It’s as though I did it! It’s not a breastplate of performance, but of righteousness. We’re righteous by a gift.
The righteousness of Jesus will never change.
It must be exhilarating to live through a revival. You read accounts of people being magnetically drawn to meetings, screaming out in agony of conviction and falling on the ground. Hundreds get saved and healed and then strangely it all stops. The preaching doesn’t have the same effect any more and the healing miracles fizzle out. Then Satan is quick to suggest that ‘God isn’t with you’. The breastplate of performance or spiritual experiences’ will never work for you. There’s only one breastplate – the righteousness of Jesus. That’s the armour that God has provided for you. It’s spotless, never changes and never wears out.
The Bible tells us that the priests never sat down because their work was never finished. Jesus, however, ‘having offered one sacrifice for sin for all time sat down at the right hand of God, for by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.’ He’s done it for us. It’s finished! Jesus is your righteousness – when you wake up tomorrow morning, the next day and the next. And when you go to be with him he will be your unchanging righteousness throughout eternity.
So don’t trust in yourself, or listen to the Evil One. Put on the breastplate. Trust only in what God has provided.
This post was adapted from the 2nd of three sermons on the Armour of God preached at Together on a Mission 2010