The Breastplate of Righteousness (Pt. 2)
Now, I want to revisit our definition of “righteousness” from last week. • Right standing with God • Right living before God
So…I’ve got to admit…this is only a partial definition - gives us an “incomplete picture.”
What do I mean? Let me explain like this. I’d be willing to say it’s a safe bet to assume that every one of us - at some point in our lives has done something wrong, said something hurtful, etc., and you’ve said, “Hey. Nobody’s perfect.” Have you ever said that?
Here’s what you’re saying, “Somewhere, outside of myself, there is a PERFECT. There is a standard/a meaning of PERFECT and I’m not it. Again, it’s outside of me…higher than me.
Understand? Even atheists would agree. There is a perfect - I’m not it - so it’s obviously something outside and higher than me.
Now, this is where our culture deviates in belief. Some will say, “Yes, there is a standard of what right is…what defines morality…right and wrong. Maybe it’s God, maybe it’s society, maybe it’s ME…I determine what’s right and wrong and you have no right to infringe on my right to determine my morality.
Here’s the problem with that - how do you define injustice?
Think about something a bit controversial with me. **DISCLAIMER** I’m not arguing for one side or the other of this debate. But, think about the issue that’s been hotly debated this week about children of illegal immigrants being separated from their parents. Everyone is arguing over whether this is right or wrong…whether it is ethically right or an immoral decision. Now, think about all that you’ve heard on both sides of the argument. Those who are OK with this happening are saying, “It’s the law! They’re coming in illegally and they know what’s going to happen to their children when they do! The LAW says there’s a way to come into this country and by not abiding by this LAW, you are subject to the penalty!”
What about people on the other side of the argument? They are arguing that it is ethically wrong and you hear people appealing to the Bible, to psychology, sociology, a “higher ethic” of what it means to be American, etc.
Do you see what’s happening? BOTH SIDES OF THE ARGUMENT ARE APPEALING TO AN AUTHORITY HIGHER THAN THEMSELVES…OUTSIDE OF THEMSELVES…THE LAW OF THE LAND AND THE BIBLE!
Do you see the point? Everyone has a measuring rod // a standard for what is “right.” Now, for our sake this morning, I’m going to work from the argument that I believe there is a moral law and, therefore, there is a MORAL LAW GIVER.
Which leads us back, then, to our definition…right standing/right living.
As I said earlier, this gives us an incomplete picture. Why? It focuses primarily on what it means for US to be righteous but we aren’t the standard.
Romans 3:23 ESV
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, The bible declares that God is HOLY. That means he is “completely other.” He is set apart from//distinct from that which is common. God is separate from all that is not God and is in a class absolutely by himself. He is unique. He is excellent. He is above all things. He is of infinite and absolute worth and beauty. He is pure. He is light and in him there is no darkness. God’s holiness means he is set apart in all of His nature and character and all of these characteristics are tied up into one word - his glory. So, everything God does is holy. Everything he does is in perfect accordance with his character. If God did something outside of his character then he would cease to be God. He would cease to be holy. God does everything according to the standard of His glory - again, his infinite and absolute worth, beauty, purity....Everything God does meets His standard which means that everything God does is righteous…In other words... God’s righteousness is His living in accordance with His character - His own holiness. God does not contradict himself - will never act outside his character. Being righteous means that we have been clothed in Jesus’s righteousness and are being transformed into His image.
Living righteously means that we live in accordance to God’s standard - His glory and holiness.
Paul fleshes this out:
Ephesians 6:14 ESV
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
So, what does this have to do with us? What does it have to do with Satan’s attack and Paul’s command to “stand firm”? What does it have to do with protecting our “heart” with righteousness?
Let’s go back a couple of chapters...
Ephesians 4:17–20 ESV
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!
Ephesians 4:21–23 ESV
assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
Ephesians 4:24–27 ESV
and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
Ephesians 4:28–30 ESV
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Ephesians 4:31–32 ESV
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Let me repeat a couple of things I said a few minutes ago: God’s righteousness is His living in accordance with His character - His own holiness. Living righteously means that we live in accordance to God’s standard - His glory and holiness. 1 Peter 1:16 ESV
since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Ephesians 6:14 ESV
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, Outward Righteousness flows from Inward Righteousness
Righteousness FLOWS FROM righteousness — vs. 21-24 — created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
God has declared you and made you to be righteous! Now, we are to live in that reality. WE ARE CLOTHED IN JESUS’S RIGHTEOUSNESS & DECLARED TO BE RIGHTEOUS BEFORE GOD.
Satan wants you to take your eyes off of who you are in Christ - your positional righteousness. He is looking for the “open opportunity.” He’s looking for the chink in your armor. He wants you to give up. He wants you to throw in the towel of living to the glory of God. Satan will attack you at the point of living out the righteousness of God.
When we live out righteousness we are bearing witness to: God’s glory.
If we claim to be followers of Christ, if we have been redeemed, if we have been bought with the precious blood of God’s Son, if we have been brought from death to life and been declared righteous by the Holy King, then we must understand something: What we do/how we live is saying something about the infinite beauty, worth, holiness, and glory of our God.
And what does Satan attack? The glory of God. Listen, he’s not primarily concerned with you. He’s not wanting to necessarily make you a bad person. Satan couldn’t really care less about you or me. Satan is BENT on mocking and blaspheming and attacking the glory, the beauty, the majesty, and the holiness of God. And, if he can use US to do that, he will.
Don’t give Satan an opportunity. God’s authority.
We are conforming to God’s glory/his rule/his reign over our lives. We are submitting our will to His will…we are surrendering the rights to our life to His power and righteousness. Our new birth in Christ.
Back to Ephesians 4 - put off/put on - remember outward flows from inward. Evidence of new birth - NEW CREATION // RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD
Satan wants to rear the ugly head of your old self. He wants you to fall back into living as the old self. He doesn’t want you bearing fruits of righteousness. Go back through Ephesians 4 - he doesn’t want you bearing this fruit.
Why? Not because he wants you to be a “bad” or badly behaving person…He doesn’t want God to be glorified and people to be attracted to HIM! The world is watching... What would it look like if every one of us in here lived out righteousness this week?
What would this city look like? If every member of our church – every follower of Christ – lived out righteousness in every way, our baptistery would get worn out! Our marriages would be healthier – modeling Jesus’s relationship with his people – our relationships with others would be healthier and less self-centered.
Why? Because we are living our lives conformed to God’s will and God’s righteousness and God’s holiness…when the world looks at us, they should see God’s righteousness on display!
But…we can’t do it in our own strength! This is why Paul says to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.
Ephesians 3:16 ESV
that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,