A Different Standard
Growing up, I lived in the shadow of two older sisters. I lived more in the shadow of my middle sister since I had some of the same teachers she had in school. My parents didn’t do the comparison game with me and my sisters, but sometimes I wondered if my teachers did. My oldest sister and I call my middle sister the “perfect” child. To my knowledge, she never got in trouble; she had perfect grades in school; and she was always happy (except when I didn’t clean my side of the room). My sisters call me the “spoiled” child. I tend to disagree with their assessment of my finger-wrapping ability, just as my “perfect” sister would disagree with her angelic status. We always have a good laugh when we debate the evidence.
Over the last week in the Armor of God study, Priscilla Shirer instructed us on wearing the breastplate of righteousness. I must say, I am not righteous. And my sisters would agree with that! This is not a natural tendency for any of us. We have a fallen nature, and no one lives up to the standard God set by His own holiness and righteousness. Priscilla wrote this is perfect righteousness (pg 73). “Even the most good-natured among us, on our very best day, fall woefully shy of God’s expectations.”
However, we are indeed righteous. Our righteousness comes from Jesus Christ. It’s an imputed righteousness that comes with the salvation through Jesus Christ. This is Christ’s gift to us by way of the cross. Christ paid our sin debt by the cross, but He also added righteousness to our account (pg 77). Righteousness is credited to our account; it’s an asset we didn’t earn. Nice! A clean slate and righteousness. Neither one based upon our own acts, but all based on the love of Jesus.
We normally don’t think of righteousness in God’s viewpoint. We usually compare ourselves to someone else. I could compare myself to my “perfect” sister. I would have fallen short. But if I applied myself, I could have measured up to her standards. I could have gotten better grades. I could have been more obedient to my parents and followed the rules more closely. When we compare ourselves to others, Priscilla called this comparative righteousness. It is a deceptive practice and can also be disheartening when we fall short of their standards (pg 76). Other people will always give us the wrong standard.
When we put on the breastplate of righteousness, we are putting on Jesus’ righteousness. Righteousness is already in us through Jesus, but we actually have to do something with it. It is part of the fruit we are given to develop. It’s practical righteousness (pg 83). “When you choose practical righteousness, you place a blockade between the enemy and the area of your life he most commonly targets – your heart.” Practical righteousness is an intentional act. It is not just behavior modification but also an internal purification. “You must make a conscious choice to act in a way that is consistent with your new life in Christ (pg 85).”
The breastplate was designed to protect the heart in battles. The soldier had this piece of armor to fight in hand to hand combat. It guarded the vital organs. Wearing the armor gave the soldier a fighting chance against the enemy. It provided to be a life or death choice he made as to whether he wore it or not. We too have a choice to make. The enemy is gunning for us. He has many tools in his arsenal. But thanks to Christ, we too have many tools in our arsenal. We just have to learn to dress properly for the battle.
When we learn to put on the armor of God, we are covered in protection for the day ahead. It’s a matter of reading and applying the truth. It’s our first line of defense against a crafty enemy. We have a measuring stick that’s different than the world’s standards. We cannot compare ourselves to others; the enemy will use that weak thinking every time. But the righteousness we have will attain for us a new life of freedom. No more battles where we are defenseless. We can grow into the full measure of a spiritual warrior that battles the enemy with stronger tools. We have it all available but we have to use it effectively. It’s time to suit up and battle on, warriors!
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24