Wednesday, May 24, 2017

“The Full Armor” – Pt 5 – Ephesians 6:10-18

I have some questions for you this morning and I would like for you to answer yes or no, please.

Would you agree that God is all-powerful? All-knowing? All-loving? Would you agree that Jesus is alive? Is He part of the Trinity? And the Trinity is God, 3 in 1, Father, Spirit, Son? Would you agree that the Bible is completely true? It is the Inspired word of God? Its words are powerful and will not come back void?

If all of that is true, then can you prove it scientifically?  Would it be fair to say, then, that you believe all of these things on faith?  Would it be fair to say then that you believe these things because that is what the Bible teaches and you believe the Bible on faith?

When Roman soldiers were training to go into combat (actually, all soldiers do this but our passage refers to Roman soldiers) they would prepare for battle by practicing what might happen if they were attacked.  The leader would line them up and say something like, “If your opponent thrusts his sword at you straight on you should step aside and then counter with your sword.  If he swings his sword over his head at you then bring up your shield to defend yourself.”  And they would practice that in slow motion in a safe place all to prepare themselves for the real thing when the enemy would really be trying to kill them.

That is basically what we are doing this morning.  We are told in the Bible that Satan is prowling around looking to see who he can kill and so all of us are in the faith training course.  Now we just have to be ready for when he attacks for real.   Just like the enemy of the Roman soldier would not go in slow motion, announcing what he is about to do and allowing the other to be ready, so, too, does Satan not attack in slow motion announcing his intentions.

He doesn’t come to you and say, “Um excuse me but I just wanted you to believe that God is not all-powerful.”  What he does do, though, is to place doubts in your mind when things happen in your life.

When you get a bad report from your doctor, Satan is right there to make you question God’s love.  When you check your bank account and everything has hit at once, Satan is there to say, “Well, you obviously aren’t going to be tithing this week.”  When your favorite sin comes tempting, Satan will say, “Go ahead.  It’s not that big of a deal and besides, nobody will know.”

 Turn to our passage this morning in Ephesians 6:10-18 and we will talk more about how to be ready when Satan attacks.  Like all good combat warriors, Satan attacks with speed, surprise and violence of action so we have to be ready for him at all times.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

We will be concentrating on verse 16 this week.  This is our 5th week to be studying the armor of God and we have seen in previous weeks how we are to put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness and the importance of having our feet shod with peace.  This week we will be looking at the shield of faith.

I’m sure Paul is writing this at least with the memory of being chained to a Roman soldier.  He may even be looking at one as he writes it, we don’t know.  But Paul has had enough face to face time with soldiers to know well what they wore and how they dressed.  In this verse he talks about the shield.  The shield to which he alludes here is not the small dress shield used in parades but the big shield used in real battle.  It was almost as big as a door but had a handle on the inside the soldier could grab easily.

It wasn’t enough for the soldier to have on the body armor of the day.  For intense battles he needed the protection of the shield.  So also should the Christian not only be wearing truth and righteousness with peace but for the intense Satanic battles, we need to hold up the shield of faith.  But what does that mean?  What does it look like for us today? 

This is not necessarily the saving faith that is often talked about but the Greek word means the faith that is a deeply held belief or conviction.  Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

I read the story of the little boy who fell over the side of the cliff and was sitting on a small outcrop of rock.  The firemen came to get him and dropped a rope over the edge and told him to grab the loop and they would pull him up.  He refused until finally his father called down to him and told him he would pull him up by the rope.  The little boy immediately grabbed the rope and was pulled to safety.  The little boy couldn’t see his dad but had faith in him and him alone.

So far, as we have looked at this armor, I have tried to positively motivate us into putting on each piece.  Today I want to look at 3 things that happen if we don’t pick up the shield of faith.  There may be more but for today there are 3 things that suffer from Satan’s flaming arrows that could have been extinguished had we picked up the shield of faith.

The first thing Satan’s arrows attack is your peace and joy.  Next, they attack your witness and lastly they attack your relationship.

A few years ago I decided I was going to do a Bible study and figure out the secret to getting and keeping joy and peace.  I dug deep, doing word studies and looking at the original Greek or Hebrew words in a concordance and was surprised by what I found.  I found that peace and joy have nothing to do with circumstances or stuff but are only found through…wait for it…that dreaded “O” word…obedience.

You see it in the Old Testament in the life and writings of David and you see it in the New Testament in the life and writings of Paul as well as others.  Think of Daniel in the lion’s den, Esther before the king, Peter in prison, Jesus Himself as the boat he was in was about to sink.  What do they all have in common?  Peace and joy through obedience.

The next time you see a dog sitting in a front yard with no fence, I want you to think about this.  That is the perfect picture of peace through obedience.  If that dog was to run off he would have to stay in the back fence but because he is obedient to stay in the yard he can go anywhere at any time.  So many think obedience is not getting to do all the fun things we want but with God it is freedom!  It means that God wants what is best and because we are obedient we can have the joy and peace of a dog sitting in the sun even when difficult times come.

And that drives Satan crazy to see you with joy and peace and so he does everything he can to ruin that.  So when difficult times come, Satan draws back his bow and sends the flaming arrow of doubt, fear and worry right into your heart and kills your joy and peace.  And the extra benefit to Satan is that rarely does your joy and peace die without taking out someone else’s.  And Satan giggles his ever-loving head off.

It says right here that our battle is not against flesh and blood but Satan wants you to think it is.  He wants you to worry all night about your kids and grandkids and then be mad because your spouse doesn’t!  He wants you to feel guilty about what you did to that person 20 years ago.  He wants you to doubt that your spouse is faithful. 

Satan may not be able to kill you because God won’t let him but the next best thing to a dead child of God to Satan is a child who is preoccupied and distracted with his own circumstances because Satan knows that child has no witness and that is the next thing Satan’s arrows attack.  They attack your witness.  So, instead of being obedient and picking up our shield of faith that says, “I don’t know why I am having to go through this.  I don’t deserve it.  I don’t want it and it hurts…BUT…I trust God to protect and provide and to not put on me more than He and I can handle.”  Instead of that we suffer with no peace or joy and no witness.

I want you to think now about how Satan’s schemes attack our witness.  Satan would have you to think that because your spouse is not as loving as they used to be that it is ok to have an affair.  He wants you to at least consider the idea that missing church every now and then is not any big deal and that God understands that you have had a long, hard week.  He wants you to think that because everybody else at church is gossiping that it must be ok and besides, who is going to get hurt?

I want you to consider your own little pet sin or sins.  Think for just a second about where you struggle and about what is going to happen when the news gets out that you are a gossip or a liar or a thief or a pervert or whatever it is that you do.  What is going to happen when word gets out that you do those things?  Nobody will ever know, huh?  Do you realize that is exactly what every single person in the news right now was thinking?  Nobody ever thinks they will get caught. 

“Whew, when my wife finds out I’m cheating she’s gonna be mad.”

“I know I’ll get caught robbing this bank but I hope they put me in a nice cell.”

“When my daddy hears me cussing he’s gonna tan my hide!”

I think about those Secret Service agents who were in Colombia a couple of years ago who were busted with prostitutes after a night of partying.  I guarantee you they thought there is no way anybody is ever going to find out.  I’m 2000 miles away from anybody who even cares and so I will do whatever I want.  Can you imagine being that man who comes home and has to face his young daughter who says, “Daddy, I saw you on the news.  What’s a prostitute and why were you with her?”

Here’s a headline from just this past week.  Former U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner wept on Friday as he pleaded guilty in federal court to sending sexually explicit messages to a teenage girl.”  He had even been busted for doing that before but he still did it again, just knowing that he would never get caught.

Now I don’t know the spiritual condition of any of those men but I know that is right where Satan wants all of us.  No peace, no joy, no witness and no relationship with God.

The Bible teaches us that once you ask Jesus into your heart you are always a child of God.  Jesus says in John 10 that nobody can snatch you out of His hand (and that is another thing Satan wants you to worry about) but we can lose our close relationship with Him and we do when we sin.  Sin brings a barrier between us and God.

You see it in the very first sin when Adam and Eve listened to Satan and ate the fruit.  What happened?  Instead of walking in the cool garden with God, they ran and hid and were ultimately banished from the garden.  I have an idea that as they walked out of the garden that day they could hear the echo of laughter coming from that snake Satan.

You also see it the Bible when King Saul makes bad choices, when the Israelites disobey, when David goes through Bathsheeba-gate or when Peter denies Jesus before He is crucified.  What do they have in common?  No joy, no peace, no witness and no relationship with God.

How about in your own life?  When Satan attacks you and says there is no way God is going to do what He said He is going to do and you believe him and then you do whatever it is that you do, then what happens?  Your prayers bounce off the ceiling, your wisdom heads south, your security is threatened and you wind up tied up in knots in the backyard whining like a puppy.

The good news is that when that happens I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  And our relationship is restored.  Our joy and peace ease back in and our witness…well, sometimes it takes a while for our witness to be restored.  With some people it may never come back.  Just a little added bonus for the evil one; the deceiver, the father of lies.

For me, I don’t want to have to explain myself to y’all.  I don’t want to have to look you in the face and tell you my excuse for not picking up my shield of faith.  I don’t want to hear Satan laughing at me.  I want to hear God laughing with me, saying, “Well done my good and faithful servant.  I know it was difficult.  I know Satan was sneaky but you did so well!  Come in here to my rest, my peace, my joy, my relationship.”

Go back to Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  What do we hope for and are certain of even though we can’t see it or prove it?  As Beth Moore said, we have faith that God is who He says He is.  God can do what He says He can do.  I am who God says I am.  I can do all things through Christ and God’s word is alive and active in me!

That’s your shield of faith and it will protect you from all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  But only if you are a true believer.  That’s who Paul was writing to.  This armor will not fit on somebody who doesn’t have a relationship with God through His Son Jesus.  Just coming to church isn’t enough.  Coming from a Christian family isn’t enough.

You have to repent -  turn away from - your sins, ask God to forgive those sins and truly believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that nobody gets to the Father but through Him.  Then when you do that your life will reflect that belief in your changed life, including your ability to pick up and use effectively the shield of faith.  Do that today.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

“The Full Armor” – Eph. 6:10-18 – Part 4

Do you ever have “one of those days”? Everybody has bad things happen to them every now and then, right. And sometimes your bad day turns into a bad week or even a bad month. And for some people, it seems like it is always something. Why is that? Is God displeased with us? Does He hate us and want bad things to happen to us?

I don’t even have to bring up all the things happening in the news. It’s bad enough for some of us here today in our own lives. I look out and see people affected by difficulty all over the room. Job problems, physical problems, money problems, marriage problems (those two words go hand in hand, don’t they?). Problems with the kids, problems with the car, the weather…It’s enough to make you just want to give up sometimes, isn’t it?

Well, it would be if we weren’t being so saturated by the peace of God that passes all understanding. That’s what Philippians 4:7 says; that our hearts and minds are protected by God’s peace through Jesus Christ. It doesn’t say that bad things won’t come our way and I’m not going to stand up here and tell you that being a Christian makes life easy but I will tell you that I don’t understand how people get through this life without the peace that comes from having a relationship with Jesus.

Did you know that having God’s peace is actually part of what we are called to put on when Satan attacks us?  It is part of the armor of God that Paul talks about in Ephesians 6:10-18.  Now, surely nobody here ever gets attacked by Satan, right?  You do?  How?  Is every bad thing that happens in this life an attack from Satan?  No.  Sometimes God allows bad things or even causes bad things to happen so we can’t blame it all on the devil.  Then sometimes bad things happen to us because we do bone-headed stuff that has consequences, right?

But make no mistake, we are in a battle.  We are at war with Satan and all his minions and they want nothing more than to kill you but if God won’t allow them to kill you, they will settle for making your life miserable, either through temptations to sin or by causing bad things to happen to you.  So, we are looking at what our options are when that happens.  What protection do we have?  What armor?  What weapons?  Well, Paul tells us in beautiful detail in the book of Ephesians chapter 6.

Verse 15 is where we will focus but to keep everything in context, let’s read the full passage.

Ephesians 6:10-18 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

You may have heard sermons preached on this beautiful passage before and if so I have to warn you that many times it may be a good and inspiring sermon but many times it gets interpreted incorrectly. To have your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace is not Paul exhorting us to take the gospel out. This is one time where he tells us to put the gospel on and then stand there.

There are many, many other places that tell us as Christians to go out and tell others the good news or the gospel but this is not one of them and it is important to know exactly what Paul was talking about because if we fail to put on one part of the armor, we can be assured that is where Satan will attack us.

On Feb. 28, 1997, 2 men robbed the Bank of America in North Hollywood, Ca. They went in carrying several guns each with over 3000 rounds of ammo and wearing full suits of home-made body armor that covered them from their heads down to their knees. They immediately started shooting with armor-piercing ammo that went right through the police cars when the cops got there.

When the police shot back the body armor repelled every bullet. It is estimated that the police fired almost 700 rounds at the 2 men but it wasn’t until one of the SWAT team members, who had ducked behind a police car shot under the car hitting one of the men in the shins and feet that finally the man was brought down. They had protection everywhere else and may have gotten away with it but they had left one piece of armor off and it proved to be their downfall.

So, it is just as important or more for us to know what armor is available to us and to make sure that we put it on. Paul tells us to be strong in the Lord and stand firm against the schemes of the Devil and to put on the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness as we have talked about in previous weeks. He then says to have our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from having the gospel of peace.

Some of your translations probably say to be shod with the readiness. It means to lace up tightly. As I prepared for this sermon I read several commentaries about what this verse means. Almost every commentary would explain that a Roman soldier’s shoes would be made of leather and metal with spikes on the bottom for traction or sometimes they might imbed rocks in the sole for the same reason.  They would also include brass greaves that would protect from the knees down to the top of the foot. The commentary would then go on to say that we should shod ourselves with the gospel of peace so we don’t slip.

I would read that and think, “Yea, we should do that. But what does that mean?” I read sermons from other preachers and they would talk long and pretty about fitting ourselves with the gospel of peace but few tried to actually explain it. Some would say that our feet should always be ready to take the gospel to all parts of the world and while that is true and good to say, it is not what this passage is talking about.

As we explore what it really means to have our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, I want us to see 3 basic things:

· The Gospel – the good news about Jesus Christ and how He lived, died and was resurrected and lives today so we can have a relationship with Him – that Gospel brings

·         Vertical peace

·         Horizontal peace

·         Internal peace

The Greek word translated “readiness” or “preparation” refers to the basis of something or the foundation, the firm footing of something. We are to be strong in the Lord, standing against Satan’s schemes, on the firm footing of knowing the good news that God is in control and that He loves us. Let me ask you some questions as examples.

How many of you have ever had God tell you to do something or not to do something and you wanted to do the right thing but you just couldn’t. How many of you have ever had somebody do something mean or wrong to you and you harbored a grudge against that person for years? How many of you have ever been scared about what was going to happen to you tomorrow or next week?

We have probably all been in all of those situations and the answer to all three is having our feet shod with the readiness of the gospel of peace. You see, if God has told you not to do something and you keep on doing it then you need the gospel that brings vertical peace, up and down, between you and God. Romans 5:10 says that before we were Christians we were actually enemies with God. He loved you and sent Jesus to die for you but until we accept Jesus into our lives to be Lord and Savior, we are His enemies

But the good news (the gospel) is that once we accept Jesus we are considered friends with God. We are joint heirs with Jesus to all good things including a life of purpose and fulfillment and then eternal life with God in Heaven. It also means that we accept God as our spiritual Father who is sovereign, in control of everything and while we should have a fear of Him and His power it should also bring us great peace because we know God has proven Himself faithful over and over again; and not just faithful but very loving, compassionate and generous.

Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Do you understand that? When God tells us to do something or stop doing something and we refuse it is because somewhere in our minds we are not sure if we can trust Him. We say we believe Him and trust Him but our disobedience is proof otherwise. When difficult times come and we start to worry and we take off those brass greaves that protect our shins and Satan hits us with a baseball bat of doubt and down we go. We slip. We fall. We sin.

Put on the good news, the gospel, that God loves you and wants to make you like Him. It won’t always be easy. He never promises to give us everything we want. But He does promise to work for the good of those who love him and that brings vertical peace or peace between us and God.

Another way it brings peace is horizontally, between us and others. One of the reasons the Roman army was so successful was because they knew how to march and fight in formation, as a whole. The men in the front had their shields to the front. The men in the back had their shields to their backs. That way the whole platoon was protected from the spears and arrows of the enemy.

Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” The good news of Christ should affect how we deal with others. When we know that everything that happens has to cross the desk of the Creator, Sustainer, Deliverer and our Friend, then we should be at peace with other people even when they mistreat us.

There is always going to be the potential for friction anytime two people show up at the same spot for anything even if it is the church. Adrian Rogers was a powerful Baptist preacher from a time not long ago. He was in a meeting one time when a young man stood up and said, “There is only one way to see this problem and that is this way…” When he got through explaining his way was the only way, Adrian Rogers said, “It’s a mighty thin pancake that only has one side!”

There is usually at least 2 ways to see a problem and that is going to lead to friction but it doesn’t have to mean that we slip and fall and bring shame to the Kingdom. It is an opportunity for us to show the peace that we have with God to the other person, knowing, again, that God is in control and is going to work to make all of us more like Him and to our good. That ought to bring such peace that when Brother Thundermuffin stands up in a meeting and he is full of hot air and bad attitude and wrong ideas that instead of arguing over our preference, we let him have his way knowing that God is in control. We don’t compromise on truth but when it comes to preferences we show peace and let Brother Thundermuffin go home thinking, “What’s different about that person?”

I'll end this section by simply saying that every time there is disunity in the church, you can trace it back to sin somewhere.  Remember Colossians 3:15. “As members of one body, we are called to peace.”  And why wouldn't we have peace with others when we have such peace with God? 

The last way the gospel provides peace is internally.  Let me tell you what I did this week.  I loaded up the dogs, my tent, a fishing pole and my Bible and not much else and I went out to Possum Kingdom State park and spent the night and two days with the park almost completely to myself.  PK is such a beautiful place and I found the best campsite right next to the water.  It had a covered picnic table and I built a little fire that evening and I even caught a few fish.  There is nothing better that fresh-caught catfish over an open fire.  The weather was perfect while I was there and I’ll tell you, you would have to try pretty hard to be stressed out right there. 

Do you know what Paul means by “peace” in this passage?  The word means to have rest and contentment.  It is easy to have rest and contentment on the banks of a nice lake with perfect weather, some music playing and a Dr. Pepper in the arm rest of the chair as your bobber dances on the waves.  Anybody and everybody could find rest and contentment there.

But what about when it’s not peaceful?  What about when you have a crisis?  Do you have to lose your rest and contentment when the doctor says you have a physical crisis or the bank says you have a financial crisis or your spouse says you have a marital crisis?  When Satan attacks you with a crisis, did you know that you can still have rest and contentment?  Did you know that if you have the belt of truth buckled up and the breastplate of righteousness pulled over and your feet are planted firmly in the good news of Jesus then you can still stand?

I have two beautiful passages of scripture to illustrate this.  The first one is Psalm 46:1-3 and 10. 

1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging. 10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;

Though my body give way and my job fall into the sea.  Though my spouse roars and foams!  Be still and know that I am God.  That means to quit striving.  Let your hands hang down.  Quit running around trying to fix everything with your own power.  In fact, isn't that what Paul is telling us to do in our main passage?  Be strong in the Lord, and STAND!  Accept God's peace and stand strong when Satan attacks.

The last passage I want to look at is in Habakkuk 3:17-19. 

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior. 19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

For this last passage, I want you to go home and personalize it.  I want you to go home and substitute what sustains you in the place of what sustained Habakkuk.

Though the credit card gets declined and the bank account falls to zero, though the contract gets cancelled and the grocery store runs out of food.  Though there is no car in the garage and no clothes in the closet, yet will I rejoice in the Lord.  I will be joyful in God my Savior.  Can you say that this morning?  If not then your feet are not fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  And that may be because you don't know God well enough; you aren't close enough to Him.  Or it could mean that you don't know Him at all.

In John 14, we see Jesus comforting His friends who are going through a really rough time.  These words are a comfort to us as Christians today but they are also an invitation to those who have never accepted Him into their lives to be Lord and Savior.

John 14:1 says, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me."  Trusting in the Lord is what gets you to Heaven but it is also what you have to do every day as you put on that armor every day.  This life is rarely easy.  Don’t try to go another day on your own.  You sure don’t want to try to fight off Satan’s attacks on your own.  I don’t know how anybody makes it through without a relationship with Jesus.

Repent of your sins.  Ask God for forgiveness of those sins and then trust Him.  When you do that you will have vertical, horizontal and internal peace.  What’s that worth to you?

Monday, May 8, 2017

“The Full Armor” – Ephesians 6:10-18 – Part 3

I was shocked, confused, bewildered as I entered Heaven’s door, not by the beauty of it all, nor the lights or its decor. But it was the folks in Heaven who made me sputter and gasp; the thieves, the liars, the sinners, the alcoholics and the trash.  There stood the kid from seventh grade who swiped my lunch money twice. Next to him was my old neighbor who never said anything nice. Herb, who I always thought was rotting away in hell, was sitting pretty on cloud nine, looking incredibly well.  I nudged Jesus. ’What’s the deal? I would love to hear your take. How’d all these sinners get up here? God must’ve made a mistake. And why’s everyone so quiet, so somber -- give me a clue.’ ’Hush, child,’ He said, ’they’re all in shock at the thought of seeing you.’"

This morning we are going to be talking about what the Bible says about righteousness; what it is, what it means, how to get it and the difference in righteousness and self-righteousness like is being shown in our opening poem but I also want to discover if there is any room for our own righteousness in our lives.

When I say “righteousness” many of you think about the kind of self-righteousness displayed in the poem; the kind of righteousness that Isaiah 64:6 says is like filthy rags and deserves to be thought of poorly.  Why, then, would Paul tell us to put on righteousness in our passage this morning?

Turn to Ephesians 6:10-18 and let’s take a look.

Paul tells us to put on the breastplate of righteousness in verse 14 and that is what I want to concentrate on today.  In the two previous weeks we have identified our enemy in this life and that is Satan and now we are looking at the armor and weapons we have at our disposal.

Last week we saw the importance of putting on the belt of truth and how, without believing and taking hold of absolute truth, we might as well not have any defense against the enemy.  We put on the belt of truth first and everything else hangs on that belt.  This week we will put on the breastplate of righteousness and attach it to the belt just like the Roman soldiers of Paul’s day.

Ephesians 6:10-18 says,10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

I tried to find a good way to illustrate what a Roman breastplate would look like but I couldn’t find a decent prop so I’ll just try to describe it.  It may be a little different than the ones Hollywood would show us in the movies.  Imagine that.  A modern-day example of this would be the bullet-proof vest that military and law enforcement wear every day but in the days when Paul wrote Ephesians the Roman guard that was probably guarding him as he wrote this was probably wearing something made out of leather and metal. 

It was made up of small metal plates which were tied together in a similar fashion to the way roof tiles are placed on a roof. The armor was then placed over the shoulders to protect both the front and back of the soldier. I know you’ve heard that God’s armor doesn’t protect your back so don’t run away but that’s probably not the kind of armor Paul was looking at for inspiration here.

The bottom of the armor was tied to the belt. On a Roman soldier’s armor, the breastplate was custom made to fit that soldier. It was specifically designed for him to protect him from attacks. This breastplate protected the soldier’s heart and major organs from a potentially devastating wound by protecting their area of weakness. Paul refers to this part of the armor as the breastplate of righteousness.

Some of you may be thinking about now that all of this “putting on the armor” stuff is a whole lot of work.  All you want to do is go to work and come home, minding your own business and here I am telling you that you have to put on belts, breastplates, shoes, helmets, etc.  You’re thinking, “Do I really have to do all of that?”

The answer, actually, is no.  You don’t have to do all of that.  But the Bible says that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion trying to kill you dead.  It says that he is the Accuser and that he stands before God constantly pointing out your every flaw to God.  In Job, Zechariah and Revelation it shows Satan standing before God saying something like, “Have you seen that Pastor Todd?  How can you call him your child?  He never does this and he’s always doing that and just the other day I heard him say such and such.”

And when he is not accusing you before God he is trying to steal your joy, your peace and your witness, not to mention your very life.  24/7, 365 he is constantly trying to do you in, one way or the other.  Do you really want to spend one minute without all your armor on?  As we will see, this breastplate of righteousness will protect your very heart.

As we talk about righteousness I want us to see that there is more than one kind of righteousness.  There is self- righteousness, which as we have seen is as good for protecting you against the accusations of Satan as a filthy rag.  But there is also imputed righteousness and imparted righteousness.  Seeing the difference in these is critical but only if you want to stay alive spiritually and even physically.

I’m going to ask you a couple questions but don’t raise your hand.  Just think about it.  Do you know anyone who you would describe as self-righteous?  Probably.  There might even be some in this church.  Now, would you consider yourself to be self-righteous?  Probably not.  It’s a rare person that can consider his own life with such discernment that he can see his own self- righteousness.

It has been said that self-righteousness is the only disease that makes everyone sick except the person who has it.  None of us wants to see our own self-righteousness.  I looked up the word in the dictionary and it basically means to feel that you or your situation is better than the average person.  It was interesting that in the dictionary the word “sententiousness” is used as a synonym.  I’m thinking if you use the word “sententiousness” it may put you in the category of self-righteous.  That’s just a freebie.

What makes a person self-righteous?  Is it what he does or how much he does?  Actually, it has everything to do with motive.  What is your motive for doing what you do?  Motive is the difference between a filthy rag and a breastplate.  In Acts chapter 5 we see the story of Ananias and Sapphira.  They had seen others bring gifts of money to the church and they wanted that recognition so they sold a piece of property and turned the money over to the apostles but kept some back for themselves which would have been fine but they led the church to think they were giving all the money.

In Acts chapter 5 verse 3, Peter says, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?”  You know what happens after that.  Satan gets his wish as their witness and their very lives are lost immediately thereafter.  Did you catch that part where Peter says that Satan has filled your heart?  Self-righteousness is no breastplate that protects the heart.  It is a bull’s-eye.  Be aware of your motive.  It could make all the difference.

If you remember I said regarding Paul’s illustration of a breastplate, that a breastplate would be usually made of 2 things:  leather and metal.  So too is our breastplate of righteousness made up of 2 things.  I won’t insult you by trying to pronounce the original Greek word used for righteousness but it basically means to be right with God and it includes the imputed righteousness that God gives us through our belief in His Son Jesus and it includes the imparted righteousness that is done through us by Christ living in us.

When I start talking about imputed and imparted righteousness, it may sound like I’m trying to be a little self-righteous myself since I don’t normally use those words.  At the very least it sounds sententious, right?  But hear me out because this is actually vital to our understanding of this passage.

Let’s look at imputed righteousness first.  When a person puts his faith in Jesus Christ, we are given a status of being righteous. This righteousness is God’s gift to us based on what Christ did for us on the cross.  If you look through a red piece of glass you will see things all red.  If you look through a blue piece of glass everything will be blue.  When God looks at us He sees us, as Christians, through Christ-colored lenses.

So when Satan says to God, “Look at what she has done.  She can’t be your child!”, you know what happens?  I John 2:1 says we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.  So when Satan attacks our character to the Great Judge, Jesus is our Lawyer and He says to the Father, “That debt has been paid in full by Me”.  That is imputed righteousness.  We don’t deserve it.  We didn’t earn it.  All we can do is accept it when we accept Jesus into our lives to save us and forgive us.

I have 3 verses to go along with our imputed righteousness.  "For as by one man’s (Adam) disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one (Jesus) shall many be made righteous." Romans 5:19  "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." 2 Corinthians 5:21  "Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:" Romans 3:22

Imputed righteousness is one part of the breastplate of righteousness.  The other part is imparted righteousness.  If we are imputed with righteousness, then as a result Christ’ righteousness should flow out of us in righteous living!  Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

We all have good intentions, right?  We all want good things for ourselves.  We want good things for other people.  We want to do good things.  But you remember what makes something self-righteous?  Motive.  What Matthew 6:33 is saying is that when we go to God and say, “I can’t do this.  I want to do good but I’m afraid I’m going to make it about me.  I want your righteousness.”  When we seek first His righteousness all those good things will be given to you.  Maybe it is because God gives you what you want and maybe it happens when He changes what you want.

Either way, when we allow God to work through us, He does it right and He gets the glory and we get a blessing, maybe now, maybe later.  The temptation one may have is to say that since I have imputed righteousness and no matter what Satan says Jesus has me covered that I will just not do anything and it doesn’t matter if I sin.

It is very similar to when Paul says in Philippians 2:13 that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  We don’t do anything to deserve our salvation but once we are saved we let God work in our lives to prove our salvation.  It’s the same with His righteousness.  We don’t deserve His imputed righteousness but because we are righteous in His eyes we allow Him to prove that through our imparted righteousness.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a powerful Baptist preacher in the late 1800’s.  Blackmailers once sent him a letter saying that if he did not place a certain amount of money at a certain place at a certain time then they would publish some things in the newspaper that would defame and embarrass him, ruining his ministry.  Spurgeon left a note at the certain place that said, “You and your like are requested to publish all you know about me across the heavens.”  He knew his character was blameless before men and so they could not harm him.

Our heart is representative of our character, our drive, all our wants and needs.  When somebody says, “He put his heart into it” or “He has a lot of heart”; “she wanted it with all her heart” it says a lot about that person.  It tells you who they are and what their motives are.  That’s why Paul tells us to put on the breastplate of righteousness because it protects all of that. 

Matthew 5:6 says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”  Have you ever been really hungry and thirsty?  Some of you right about now are thinking how good it will be to go to Dos Chiles after church today.  You’re thinking about having fajitas or enchiladas and your mouth is starting to water just thinking about it.

But most of us have never really been hungry or thirsty.  When you hear about stories of people who are really hungry – maybe they are trapped in a small boat at sea or trapped on a mountain with no food – they tell stories about how hungry they were and how all they could think about was food.  They shared recipes and talked about their favorite foods and what their mamas cooked best.  There was rarely any other topic of conversation.

That’s how the Bible says we are to be about righteousness.  We have imputed righteousness that comes as a gift from God and imparted righteousness that flows out of us as a result.  So, everything we do should reflect those.

Is this TV show I’m about to watch going to reflect God’s imputed righteousness in me or reflect the imparted righteousness coming out of me?  Is this relationship I’m in reflecting my righteousness or hindering it?  Does what I’m putting in my mouth or what is coming out of my mouth reflect righteousness…or something much worse?  Everything we do should go through that filter. 

Your favorite website, that joke you are about to tell, what you are wearing and what you are saying should all reflect your hunger and thirst for more and more righteousness, either imputed or imparted.  We should want righteousness with all our heart.  Our imputed and imparted righteousness protects who we are and even what we want to be.  Don’t put on just part of the armor.  For your sake and for the sake of furthering the Kingdom, put on all of God’s armor and then…stand.

There is going to be a time, at the end of your life when it is going to be too late.  The decisions we make in this life are the decisions that we are going to have to live with for eternity and the Bible is clear that there really is a Heaven and there really is a Hell. 

That poem I read to start off is meant to be silly and it’s meant to make a point but I have a feeling it may be truer than some of us want to imagine.  I believe there is going to be a lot of people who are mistaken bout their eternities and about other people’s eternities as well.  Let’s make sure right now that you know where you will go.  We are not guaranteed another breath.

Romans 3:23 says we are all sinners and Romans 6:23 says what we deserve for that sin is eternal death in Hell.  That’s the bad news.  The Good News is that John 3:16 says that God loves you so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross to pay the price that we deserve to pay and all we have to do is believe.  That belief is more than just a head knowledge, though.  It will show up in our lives as change.  Our lives WILL be changed.

When we ask God for forgiveness of our sins, we then repent – turn away from – those sins.  It doesn’t mean that our lives are perfect or that everything is going to be easy from now on.  Not at all.  It just means that we can have peace and even joy through those difficult times because we know that God is in control and that He loves us.  Ask Him to be Lord of your life today.  That way you can be the one surprising everybody in Heaven!