Tam - posted on 10/08/2009 ( 15 moms have responded )
You feel it come on you as you look over your shoulder. The fear comes over you and you try to shove it down and ignore it, but soon your own body betrays you. Your heart begins to race, your blood pressure rises and you feel ill to your stomach and the harder you try not to think about it, the more your body reacts.
You've been disobedient to God...and the enemy knows how to use that to attack the very core of you!
As discussed in the previous lesson, the spiritual things often will manifest in physical form. And when we sin all of those very real, very physical reactions indicate not only the fact that we ignored the Truth, we've left our Breastplate of Righteousness behind as well.
What are you talking about?
Think of it this way, when you've done something wrong and conviction comes over you, where do you first feel it? The pit of your stomach. It could have intentional or not, but disobedience, once recognized will only cause suffering until you make it right with God. And if you don't, what happens? Anxiety moves in to manifest itself in your body with paranoia and increased heart rates, higher blood pressure, sweating, headaches, and a very unhealthy dose after dose of adrenaline that pushes us to the edge of giving up sometimes, if not landing us in the sickbed or hospital.
The spirit of fear will use your self-condemnation to latch onto you if you are not careful and not armored. And sometimes even when we are armored we may feel those things come at us and it might knock us down for a bit, but it is very important to remember who we serve and who provides us with this armor. Those things and/or spirits cannot keep us down if we have our faith firmly rooted in the Lord.
A great analogy I read while studying for this lesson was all the movies you've seen. The warrior is fighting and a spear goes through this leather outer wear and he falls down, assumed dead. Or what about another scenario when the officer or detective gets shot in the heart and falls down, again presumably dead. The miraculously they arise, safe, if somewhat stunned. And all because they had underarmor on, or even a badge or some other protection kept them safe.
Apply that imagery to your spiritual breastplate. It helps keep you spiritually alive, though you might get battered as the enemy tries to make a deathblow to your core, you are still alive in Christ!
But why righteousness?
We all realize that without the wonderful grace of God, we would not be saved. Our own righteousness could not protect us from the attacks of the enemy or the world about us. The Bible tells us that our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah) 64:6. Did you see that? Not even rags, but filthy rags. Rags not fit to be used for anything but to be tossed into the fire and burned away.
So, we know that this righteousness is not our own, but comes from God.
But in order to "put it on" we must be active. How do we go about that? I'm so glad you asked.
Interestingly enough, when I was researching the etymology of the word "righteousness" I came across a link from Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary, and instead of defining, it say to see "Justification". So I looked up justification and here is what it says:
1. a reason, fact, circumstance, or explanation that justifies or defends
2. an act of justifying
3. the act of God whereby humankind is made or accounted just, or free from guilt or penalty of sin.
The first one was interesting to me because it talks about defense. As we talked about, we are called to stand. The war has been won, but we do need to stand and withstand to the end. We are not called to fight, but our battle entails us standing firm in the face of the enemy. Notice how most of the armor given to us is defensive in nature, protective...not weapons, but protection.
But it was the third entry that caught my eye. "act of God whereby...free from guilt" I have to admit, I did not discover this until I was writing this lesson and so had already typed the opening. God gives us the breastplate of righteousness to help us fend off the enemy's attacks of self-condemnation when we know we have failed or even simply stumbled. He knows that we are not perfect and while we do need to turn to Him for everything, He does allow that flesh is weak and gave us the perfect tool to combat the need to sit and rest or even sleep.
Back to righteousness, and the definition. One definition given by dictionary.com was "morally upright; without guilt or sin." Again, we see these two things tied together.
We have all sinned (Romans 3:23) because we were born into the flesh. When God cursed humankind in the Garden of Eden, it fell to all flesh. While we can try to be "good", we cannot be righteous. It is not part of the sinful flesh burden we bear.
But in order to put on the breastplate of righteousness we need to do all we can to live obediently before God and follow Christ's example. Our precious Lord often speaks of the "heart" in the Bible, telling us to guard our hearts and keep them pure. We saw in one of the Proverbs lessons that it was because out of the heart is the wellspring of life.
Essentially, garbage in, garbage out. God in, God out.
When we seek ways to live purely and lovingly with clean hearts in God's eyes, our desire is His desire. We want to do His will.
But it is very important that we know what His will is. We need to get into the Word and learn to listen to the gently loving proddings of the Holy Spirit. We need to know the different between our own wills and God's will.
And we must bend our will to His when we don't always want to. Acts 5:29 tells us, "But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men.""
How many times have you thought you knew the best thing to do only to have that plan essentially blow up in your face and cause you embarrassment or time and energy or money? Why? Because often our prideful flesh thinks we know better than God. We need to learn to slow down and think before we speak and act. More than ever we need to pray and be humble in everything we do and seek God daily.
Because if your heart is prideful or unclean, or even divided, you cannot be the example the world needs. You cannot put on the armor of the breastplate of righteousness. We need His purity to proceed and Jesus even told us that pure hearts are blessed and shall see God (Matthew 5:8).
Even still, no matter how much we do or how much we pray, we cannot obtain the breastplate of righteousness that can protect us by ourselves. Only God can give it to us. Remember, we are only blessed because God loves us--not because of anything we do. It is only God's righteousness that protects us, covers us and allows us to withstand the attacks. The fact of the matter is that His righteousness that motivates us to His desires and will.
We were covered in His righteousness when we gave our hearts and lives to Christ and yet that didn't make us instantly perfect, holy or even righteous. Every day we need to go to the Father and seek His will for our lives and learn to become righteous. Each day He refines us and stretches us and creates even more purity in Him. We are covered in His righteousness and He works daily to create and blossom his righteousness from the inside out.
Jesus Christ, our blessed savior came and died and shed His blood to cleanse us and cover our sins. Because of His sacrifice, we are able to don the breastplate of righteousness and free ourselves (through Him) from our selfish natures.
We also need to be on guard for the world's version of righteousness. To them, righteousness is "moral" and it is the natural goodness or connectedness that is in all life. The world would have us believe that you can be righteous without God. But again, if we follow that logic we are talking about self-righteousness which once more boils down to nothing more than the sin of self. The world would have you believe there is no God and that morality is up to each individual person. Following their logic, if we believe we are good, then we are full of pride in self. But when we believe in our mighty Jehovah and give our all for Him, then we are less likely to follow the world's example.
Some examples you might hear of the world's version of righteousness even take from Biblical ideals yet they strive to remove God from the equation. Take care of your neighbor, take care of the environment, help when you can, give and donate your time and money and talents, serve and live a life of peace.
The problem is that they lack God and without God we cannot have a true heart of love and stewardship and patience and peace. Without Him we have nothing but self and I don't know about you, but my "self" has often gotten me into some hot water, even when trying to good. And that's because it is sinful flesh not Godly spirit.
In Exodus, when we are given the law, we are told that For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the LORD thy God. (Exodus 25:16)
I personally think that when we strive to be "good" and attain that life without God at the head of our lives then we become an abomination to God because we are striving to make ourselves equal to, if not above, the Lord our God.
Psalms 14 tells us about those who try to do "good" without Him. They simply can't.
Psalm 141The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.2The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.3They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.4Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD.5There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous.6Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the LORD is his refuge.7Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.
My favorite part of this chapter is "for God is in the generation of the righteous." I don't know you, but I pray we can go to Him and be refined within His righteous to have Him in our generation.
Lord, we thank You for taking our hearts and our lives and refining them to Your desire and will. We pray for Your peace as we lean upon Your word and trust You to deliver us from the sinful flesh which makes us desire to do our own thing instead of bending to Your will and desire. You have plans and a purpose for us that we might not always be able to see, but You who created us knew us before we were formed in our mothers' wombs and You have still given us Your infinite, unconditional love and mercy. Hosannah in the highest to our Almighty king, Jehovah! Please open our eyes and hearts to the truth about ourselves so that we can confess and lay any sins at the cross and be remade in You. Give us the strength to stand in You daily as we root our faith in You. Show us how to discern the truth of Your righteousness from what we might consider righteous or even what the world considers righteous. Thank You for the reminders to come to you, to not allow the enemy to use our self-condemnation to attack and weaken us. Thank you for the armor to guard our heart and show us daily how to lean not to our own understanding but to come to You with all we do that we may glorify You and shine Your light on those You wish to draw to You. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.