The Breastplate of Righteousness
Four-year-old Amanda goes to the doctor's office with a fever. The doctor looks in her ears and says, "Who's in there? Donald Duck?" Amanda smiles, shakes her head "No." He looks in her nose and says, "Who's in there? Mickey Mouse?" Again she says, "No." He puts his stethoscope on her chest and says, "Who's in there? Barney?" Amanda replies, "No, Jesus is in my heart. Barney is on my underwear."
That’s what we teach them, isn’t it? We teach kids to ask Jesus to come into their heart, to believe that He lives there. As they grow older, they learn we’re not talking about the heart a stethoscope can hear, but the heart of who we are, our central self who thinks, feels, and chooses. When you say Jesus lives in your heart, you’re claiming His promise in
John 14:23 …If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
When you get saved, God takes up residence in your heart, in your life.
This explains why your heart is the target of Satan’s attack. He assaults our hearts with condemnation, temptations, doubt. Your heart is of strategic importance, because if the devil can defeat you there, he can keep you down, and even take you out.
Which is why you and I need to always wear the breastplate of righteousness. Tonight we’re going to talk about how to protect your heart with this essential piece of armor in Eph. 6:14.
On the first day of school everybody’s told to put their right hand over their hearts & repeat the Pledge of Allegiance. The teacher notices Johnny’s right hand on the left side of his rear. "Johnny, I will not continue until you put your hand over your heart." Johnny replies, "It is over my heart." "Why in the world do you think that’s your heart?" "Because when my Granny visits she picks me up, pats me there, & says, ’Bless your little heart!"
The ancient Roman soldier didn’t know a lot about human anatomy, but he does have a pretty good idea where his heart is, and why it’s important to protect it. If the enemy gets to his heart, or any other vital organ in his upper body, he’ll be crippled or killed.
This is why the breastplate is so important. It’s made of metal plates attached to a sturdy leather vest and tied in the front. In some ways it resembled the layered armor of an armadillo. No soldier ever goes into battle without his breastplate. This piece of armor often means the difference between life and death.
Wearing the breastplate of righteousness is just as important as we fight the war we cannot see. To protect your heart, there are several things we need to know.
1. Realize the importance of protecting your heart. (Prov. 4:23)
There are a lot of things you and I say are important, but we don’t act like they are.
Most of us know it’s important to fasten your seatbelt, but a lot of us don’t do it. We’ve all heard about having smoke detectors in our homes, and some of us have them, but the batteries haven’t been changed since we moved into the house. They tell us eating fried chicken and French fries isn’t good for your heart, but…well, you get the idea.
Once in a while something happens---a bad wreck, a house burning down, or one of our friends has a heart attack, and we do what we should, at least for a little while.
All of us could probably say we know the importance of protecting our heart in spiritual battle, but I wonder if we really believe that’s true? The Bible says in
Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.
Keeping your heart= protecting your heart, with all diligence= taking great care, doing all you can do because your heart is like a fountain that needs protection from anything and everything that would poison it. Your life is lived from your heart. If your heart is pure and clean, your life is pure and clean. If your heart is corrupted or polluted, your life is corrupt and polluted. Jesus says what’s in your hearts determines how you live your life.
Luke 6:45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil…
What’s in the well comes up in the bucket. Your heart is who you are, it controls everything you do, all you think and how you feel, what you do or don’t do. If your heart is good and pure, it will bring forth good things= good thoughts, good feelings, good actions. If your heart is corrupt, it will bring forth evil= evil thoughts, evil feelings, evil actions.
You live your life from your heart. And yet so many do not keep their hearts with all diligence. We let our hearts run wild, chasing any bait the devil dangles in front of us. We feed our hearts and minds on spiritual junk-food pumped in by the media. We indulge our lust for money, for pleasure, for whatever we think will make us happy, and all the time Satan laughs as our hearts grow cold, as they grow hard and diseased, and instead of standing against the devil we become slaves of the devil and even tools of the devil. This is why we must keep our hearts with all diligence, why we must protect our hearts with the breastplate of righteousness.
Los Angeles cop Bob Vernon saw a red pickup truck speed through a stop sign. He turns on his lights and radios he was in pursuit. The pickup pulls over, Vernon walks up and smiles and says 'Good morning, sir, may I see your--' He never finishes the sentence. The driver shoves his gun toward the policeman's chest and fires from just inches away. The cop is knocked flat seven feet away. Just as the driver is about to make his getaway, he looks up and sees the impossible.
The officer stands back up, pulls his service revolver, and fires twice. The first bullet smashes the windshield. The second tears through the door and ripped into the driver's left leg.
That’s enough for the would-be murderer. "'Don't shoot!' the thief screams, throwing the gun and a sack of money out the pickup window. What the bank robber doesn’t know is Officer Vernon is wearing layers of Kevlar, the super strong fabric used for bulletproof vests.
I wonder how uncomfortable that vest was to wear. It was probably hot in the California sun, maybe a little heavy and cumbersome. I wonder if Bob Vernon ever thought you know, I’ll be all right without this thing on. I think I’ll take it off. If those thoughts ever crossed his mind before, I’m sure they didn’t after this incident. Whatever discomforts or doubts he has before disappear because he realizes this breastplate saved his life. This is just how important it is to wear the breastplate of righteousness: in the heat of spiritual battle, it can save your life.
When you and I realize the importance of protecting our hearts, the next question is: how do I put on and keep on this breastplate? Basically it involves doing 2 simple things:
2. Receive the righteousness of Christ. Romans 3:21–26
The name Satan= the accuser. One of his favorite strategies is condemnation.
For unsaved people, he condemns them by telling them God cannot forgive what they’ve done. You’ve gone too far, done too much, for God to ever save you. Sometimes the devil points to certain sins in the past to make his case. One man told me he thought he could never be saved because 20 years ago he was trying to finish a roofing job when rain clouds started to roll in. He prayed for God to stop the rain, but it rained anyway. He told me he cursed God for not hearing his prayer, and in all those years, he always believed he could not be saved. That may seem small to you, but it was not small to him. For 20 years the devil kept this poor man a slave to his guilt before he finally realized God would forgive him.
For saved people, the devil works in a similar way. When you try to pray, the devil brings back up all of your failures and sins, making you think prayer is a waste of time. Why would God listen to anything you say after the angry words you said to your wife? Satan accuses us in our own hearts, not with conviction, but with condemnation. Why even try anymore? It’s useless. You’ve tried and failed. You have deeply disappointed God. You might as well give up! I’ve known good Christians who have almost no assurance of salvation because all they see is their weakness, their faults, or their sins. They’re so often discouraged and defeated they not only can’t be at peace with the Lord, they can’t do anything for the Lord.
The answer for these attacks is to put on the breastplate of righteousness by receiving the righteousness of Christ. This is the righteousness Paul describes in Romans 3:21–26.
Paul says our righteousness is not based on keeping the law, but the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe (v. 22). This righteousness is not something you earn; it’s a gift given by God’s grace in response to our faith. …23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith… (v. 23–25). This is what’s known as the doctrine of justification by faith. It means that by God’s grace and through our faith, we stand righteous before God, forgiven and accepted.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
I stand righteous before God not because I’m sinless, but because of my faith in Jesus Christ. I’m forgiven, not because I have earned it or can earn it, but because of my faith in Jesus Christ. I am certain God accepts me because His Word says
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
So when the devil comes accusing me, condemning me, I don’t point to all the good things I’ve done; I point to my faith in Christ, Who died for my sins on the Cross. When I kneel in prayer and Satan brings up all the reasons why God will never hear a sinner like me, I can pray because I stand righteous before God in Christ. When the devil reminds me of my past, I send him to the Cross, where Jesus took away all my guilt and shame. I stand clean and forgiven by God’s grace and my faith in Jesus. This righteousness I have in Christ guards my heart from the attacks of the accuser, Satan.
It is said during a serious illness Martin Luther saw Satan coming to him with a great scroll on which was written all the sins and errors of his life. With a triumphant smile, the devil unrolls it and says: "These are your sins. There is no hope of your going to heaven." Luther reads the long list and then says, "One thing you have forgotten. The rest is all true, but one thing you have forgotten: The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sins."
When the devil attacks you with condemnation, you have two choices: you can try to stand on your own righteousness, try to defend yourself with your own goodness. Or you can stand in the righteousness of Christ, based not on what you have done, but on what Jesus has done for you. The devil really doesn’t care what you’ve done, but he cannot stand against what Christ has done on the Cross. Protect your heart by receiving and standing in the righteousness of Christ. This standing gives you the power to stand against the devil by
3. Practice righteousness. (1 John 3:7)
The devil is very sneaky. If he cannot defeat you with condemnation, he’ll tempt you to compromise. He’ll try to make you believe that because you are righteous in Christ, it doesn’t matter how you live. I’ve had some tell me once you get saved, it doesn’t really matter what you do, because you’re forgiven and on your way to heaven anyway. You ought to do what’s right, but you don’t have to do what’s right.
So you end up with Christians who lose the spiritual battle because of their deliberate disobedience. The devil tells them Don’t let anybody tell you what you do—you’re free in Christ, you’re not bound by rules! You can always ask forgiveness later! God understands how weak you are—go ahead and indulge yourself!
The Bible answers these lies with 1 John 3:7.
At first glance, this verse might seem to contradict what Paul writes about our righteousness in Christ. In reality, it reinforces what Paul says. John tells us if your faith is in Christ you not only stand righteous before God, but you practice righteousness before God.
The key word here is practice. Practice is something you do to get better. I practice a song on the piano so I can get better at playing it. I make lots of mistakes in practice, but the more I practice the fewer the mistakes, and the better I become.
The same thing is true about practicing righteousness. None of us do it perfectly, but we keep on practicing, keep on getting better and better. We don’t practice righteousness to earn God’s forgiveness, but we practice righteousness because we’ve been forgiven.
This is why it’s essential that we distinguish Satan’s condemnation from the Holy Spirit’s conviction. The devil condemns us to make us quit trying, to give up on serving God. The Holy Spirit convicts us to repent, be forgiven, and to turn back to the Lord. The devil saps us dry with condemnation, but the Spirit empowers us to get back up and practice righteousness.
If you do not practice righteousness, you will be defeated. The more you practice righteousness, the more your heart will be protected from the guilt and consequences of sin.
God never alters the robe of righteousness to fit man; He changes the man to fit the robe.
Some of you are very concerned about protecting your heart. It shows up in what you eat, in how you exercise, in the medicines you take. And with any luck, you’ll keep your heart beating until you get 70-100. But what about the heart that will last forever? Do you realize how important it is to protect your heart? If the answer is no then it’s time for you to suit up.
You’ve been bullied long enough by the devil’s condemnation. It’s time for you to stand in the righteousness of Christ through faith.
You’ve given in to the devil’s temptations long enough. It’s time to welcome the conviction of the Holy Spirit and refuse to let sin dominate your life. When Satan dangles his bait in front of you, depend on God for the power to resist, and then just say no!
You don’t have to live a defeated life. You can win this battle, if you will wear the breastplate of righteousness.