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Archive for the tag “Breastplate of Righteousness”

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

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The Mathematical Equation

My pastor started a new sermon series a couple of weeks ago. This past Sunday, he asked a question that has been marinating in my mind ever since. What happens when Jesus is taken out of church? He pointed to Revelation 3:20. Jesus told John to write a letter to the church at Laodicea. The church at Laodicea was considered “lukewarm” – neither hot nor cold toward Jesus. They considered themselves to be “rich; acquired wealth and didn’t need a thing” (Revelation 3:17). However, Jesus said they didn’t realize their true nature – they were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. He asked the church at Laodicea to be earnest and repent! In verse 20, Jesus said He was standing at the door knocking, waiting on them to respond. Consider this: Jesus was outside the church – He was knocking on the church’s door. I find this very disconcerting.

My pastor gave us this mathematical equation: Christianity-Christ=Religion. Religious people are good people. However, Jesus has more in mind for us than being good. When you consider the Pharisees of ancient Judaism, you get a picture of a religious person. They were sincere in their belief system. They were zealous. They gave sacrificially – doing more than the required tithe (tenth of their income). They were scholars of Moses’ Law – they knew it by heart since they had memorized it. They believed in miracles. They kept the traditions alive from generation to generation. They prayed all the time. And they even expected to see their Messiah come at any time. You would think these were the ones Jesus would be hanging out with and teaching. Yet, these are the ones who ultimately killed Him.

Jesus saved the harshest criticisms for the religious ones and turned to uneducated men to spread His Good News. Jesus flipped religion upside down. The Pharisees were upset with Jesus’ teaching. They believed they were right with God. But they didn’t understand the spiritual application of what they were learning. It was all head knowledge. They had no heart change. Revelation 3:20 is the passage many point toward when telling sinners about Jesus waiting for them to open their hearts to Him. But if Jesus is at the church doors waiting to be let in, what does that truly mean?

Over and over, Scripture tells of repentance and forgiveness. True heart change comes through repentance – agreeing with God of our unrighteousness; we don’t measure up to God’s standards. It’s impossible to live a sinless life. But with Jesus all things are possible. We are given His righteousness when we repent of our sins. It’s His clothes we put on every day. Priscilla Shirer says we have to intentionally put on the breastplate of righteousness. It’s His righteousness because there is no one righteous. We don’t have it in us unless Jesus lives in us.

I have the picture in my head of Peter asleep in his jail cell. He was sleeping so soundly, an angel had to strike him to wake him up. The angel escorted him to freedom. I see this image as the church body fast asleep. I believe we are being poked and prodded into wakefulness. The angel told Peter to put on his clothes and sandals. I believe we too need to be clothed in righteousness. We need to be set free from all the chains that are keeping bound to the darkness in this world. Yes, the church body is bound up – we are neither hot nor cold. We hear the word yet it doesn’t change us. We comment that is was a good sermon, but is it applied to our lives? Do we do drive by readings or memorize Scripture for anything other than checking a box?

When people truly encountered Jesus, they were changed. My pastor’s sermon series is Re Jesus. He is going to teach us about the radical Jesus who changed the religiousity of His day. Maybe it will change ours too. If you are interested in learning more, check out the sermons at takeajourney.org. They will be life-changing! The antidote to religion is Jesus. Jesus is knocking. Will the Church open the doors to real change?

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:19-22

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