Spiritual Warfare Part 3 - Breastplate of Righteousness, May 5, 2024
Before Sermon:
  • There’s Hope for the Hungry
  • Mother’s Day and Parent/Child Dedication next Sunday
Sermon Intro: 9/11
Ephesians 6:14 (NIV2011)
14  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place…
What is righteousness?
What is righteousness?
The quality of conforming to God’s standard of holiness and to His moral commands.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV2011) 

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Before God, Christians have the righteousness of Christ
Example: Visit to ICU
Satan attacks our righteousness before God by shaming us
Ephesians 5:8 (NIV2011)
8  For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light…
Before others, Christians are called to righteousness in Christ
1 John 2:6 (NIV2011)
6  Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
Ephesians 6:10 (NIV2011) 

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 

Example: Cruise Ship
Satan attacks our righteousness before others by seducing us away from Christ
James 4:7 (NIV2011)
7  Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
THIRD: Why is this important?
Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV2011)
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.
15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Christian righteousness preaches the gospel
Example: Retiring CEO
If you haven't been here the last few weeks, we've been in a series on spiritual warfare. If you have your bibles, go ahead and have those prepared to. Ephesians, chapter six. Ephesians, chapter six. For 60 years, Pearl harbor was the deadliest attack ever on american soil. 60 years later, however, in 2001, as you know, there was an even deadlier attack on american soil. On that day, terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade center and the Pentagon, killing nearly 3000 people. 3000 people. The deadliest attack ever on american soil. One of the stunning things about that attack was that so many died at the hands of so few. 3000 people died. But the attack was carried out by only 19 people. 19 people brought utter devastation and destruction and death to so many. How is it that 19 people could do such a thing in a country with the most powerful military on the globe? How is it that 19 individuals could carry out such a devastating attack? The answer is we never saw it coming. We had no reason to expect that anyone could or would fly airplanes into skyscrapers to kill people. So we never saw that coming. So we never made preparation for such attack. We weren't ready for that attack because we never saw it coming. How many of you remember air traveled before 911? It's a whole, it was a whole lot different than it is now. Before 911, you don't have to put your liquids in a Ziploc. Y'all remember that you could. Before 911, I remember taking my family to the gate. I didn't have a ticket, but I took them all the way to the gate and saw them onto the plane. You can't do that anymore. I remember. Now get this. I remember before 911 how sometimes I would be seated on a plane and I could see into the cockpit because the door was open. Now it's like a vault up there. See, we didn't see that attack coming so we didn't know to make the necessary preparation for such an attack. When we accept Jesus as savior, we gain an enemy that seeks to destroy us. And listen, Christian, if you don't see his attack coming, you won't know how to prepare for it and he will devastate you. Satan is in the destroying business now. I know ultimately we win the war. Ultimately we know that we're victorious. But between now and then, Satan can certainly win some battles in your life and mine that can wreak devastation and destruction in our own lives. So in this war against Satan, the apostle Paul takes time in the 6th chapter of Ephesians to tell us how to dress for success. He tells us how we can anticipate the kinds of attacks Satan's going to throw at us. He does this by using a picture of roman armor, and he talks about how each piece of that roman armor defends against one of the schemes Satan oftentimes uses to bring about our destruction. Last week, the last couple of weeks, we've been in Ephesians chapter six. We're down now to verse 14. So I'm going to read this verse. Here's what Paul says. Ephesians 614, stand firm, then with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place. Last week we talked about what Paul meant by the belt of truth and what it tells us about the way Satan oftentimes attacks us. This week we move to this next piece of equipment that he calls the breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate of righteousness. A roman soldier would wear a breastplate to protect his heart and other vital organs. So what Paul's saying here is that righteousness helps to protect us from some of our enemy's most vicious attacks. Now, last week we defined our terms. I think it's a good idea to do the same thing this week. Last week when we talked about the belt of truth, we answered the question, what is truth? We went through that this week, what is righteousness? When Paul tells us to put on the breastplate of righteousness, what's he referring to here? Righteousness is not a word we often use outside of church. What is righteousness? Here's a definition of righteousness. It's the quality of conforming to God's standard of holiness and to his moral commands. So God is the eternally perfect standard of truth, as we talked about last week. But God is also the eternally perfect standard of what is right. When we conform to that standard, we are righteous. When we do not conform to that standard, we are unrighteous. And Paul's telling us that Satan attacks us in this area. Now to understand how we have to look at righteousness, this notion of righteousness from two different perspectives. Two different perspectives. You and I are righteous in two different ways. Let's take both of them. First, Paul writes about a kind of righteousness that we have as believers in two corinthians, chapter five. And here's what he says. God made him. Speaking of Jesus, God made Jesus, who had no sin, to be sin for us, that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Okay, what Paul's saying here is when we place our faith in Jesus, we literally put on his righteousness, God's view of you, if you've accepted Jesus, is filtered through the righteousness of Jesus. So God doesn't see you as you really are. He sees you as sinless as Jesus is, because you wear the righteousness of Christ. So before God, christians have the right righteousness of Christ. This is the first perspective by which we are righteous. Before God, christians have the righteousness of Christ. The seminary word here is imputed. When you accept Jesus, Jesus righteousness is imputed or ascribed to you. You put it on so that you, as sinless in God's sight, can enter into God's presence. Here's a story I shared with you not long after it happened. Not too long ago, I went to the hospital to visit someone who was very sick. In fact, they were in ICU. And I walked into the ICU unit there, and I was met in the hallway by a nurse. And the nurse stopped me before I entered the room, and she said, this patient is very sick. Their immune system is very, very weak, so we can't allow any germs, any contamination into this room. So you need to do a couple of things if you're going to go in there. First, you need to go to the sink there in the hallway and wash as thoroughly as you can. So I walked over there to the sink, and I washed as thoroughly as I could. Then I went back to the nurse, and she said, now that you've done that, you need to put this gown on. She had this gown that fit over my clothes, and she said, this gown is sterile, and it'll cover up any germs that may remain on your body that you might take into that room. See, I tried to wash myself as thoroughly as I could, but that wasn't good enough. After I had done all that I could, there was still a covering that I needed, a sterile, germ free covering that allowed me access into that room. If you're going to enter into God's presence, you cannot do so in your sin. Not just anybody can bebop into God's presence. No, no, no. In God's presence, there can be no sin. Now, here you can try to wash yourself as thoroughly as you can. What do I mean by that? You can try to be as good as you can be. You can try to avoid doing bad things as much as you can. In fact, religion will tell you to do just that. You know what religion is? It's a list of rules you gotta live by to be good enough to get into God's presence. The message of the Bible is that religion doesn't work because as clean as you might think you can get yourself, you still need a covering. You need a sinless covering. And that covering is Jesus righteousness that he offers to all of those who place their faith in him. When we put on Jesus righteousness, we are sinless in God's sight. Think about that. Now here's the way Satan attacks this. Here's the way Satan will attack you in this area. Satan attacks our righteousness before God by shaming us. Here's what this looks like, christian. When you fail, when you mess up, and you will, because no one's perfect. When you mess up, you'll hear this little voice, Satan's voice, saying, and you thought you were a Christian. God could never love you based on what you've done, what you've said, what you've thought. There is no way you could ever gain access to God. There's no way you could be a Christian. See, here's what Satan does. Satan tries to cause us to measure our righteousness on ourselves instead of measuring it based on what Jesus has offered to us. Now I'm just telling you this will paralyze you. If you start believing Satan's lies here, you'll begin thinking things like this. God can't use me because I've messed up too badly. God could never forgive me for that because I've sinned so terribly. Let me stop here. When you say, as soon as you say, God cannot forgive me for this, what you are literally saying is that the death of God's sinless son, Jesus Christ, is limited in its power and effect. I got news for you, Jesus death, Jesus blood covers all sin. There is no sin too great for Jesus blood to cover. I love the way Corey tin boom. You've heard this. Corey ten boom said this. When we confess our sins, God cast them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. And then she says this, and I believe God then places a sign out there that says, no fishing allowed. Christian. Look, some of us, we need to stop fishing for sin. Someone listening to me this morning? You need to put the past in the past and rest in not your own righteousness, but your righteousness before God. Because you bear the sinless covering of the Lord Jesus. But there's another aspect of righteousness here. One is our righteousness before God. But in the fourth and fifth chapter of the book of Ephesians, Paul speaks a lot to a second kind of righteousness. Let me give you an example. One verse. Paul says things like this, Christians, for you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. And then he says, live as children of light. He says, when you place your faith in Jesus, we are the light of the Lord. And then he says, you are called to live that way. In other words, as Christians, we are to live in the here and now like we are before God, so before others. Christians are called to righteousness in Christ before God, christians have the righteousness of Christ before others. Christians are called to righteousness in Christ. Before God, we have a positional righteousness, but before man, we are called to have a practical righteousness. In fact, John, listen to the way John put this first. John, chapter two. Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. Now, that is a problem. Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. I don't have to tell you this is a real predicament. Obvious question. As human beings who are prone to fail, who are bound to blow it, how on earth can I live righteously before? How can I live before others? As Jesus did? Answer, you can't. Not on your own, you can't. In fact, before Paul starts talking in chapter six about the armor of God, these pieces of equipment, we must where to battle against Satan, he says this finally be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. The way we live as christians in this life is not because of what we can do. We have to rely on his power being fully submitted, fully yielded to him. Let me give you a picture of this. So one of the things Kathryn and I love doing, we love taking cruises. I don't know if anybody here ever taken cruises, ocean cruises, the ones we like. We love that. One of the things I love about being on that big boat out in the middle of the ocean is I love going to the very top deck and looking out over the railing and looking at the vastness of the ocean. I look out there and I think to myself, my goodness, God didn't have to do all of that, but he did. He's just graciously abundant in his creation. Now, let's suppose I'm standing there on this deck overlooking the ocean, and I begin to think this way. I'm not so sure I can trust this thing. I have no idea who's in the engine room down there or what they're doing. I have no idea what's going on on the bridge of this ship. And the more I think about it, the more I realize I don't understand how 150,000 tons floats through the ocean. So standing there in my doubt and in my suspicion. And even in my fear, I might start thinking this way. You know, the water looks nice down there. Looks warm. It's beautiful. It's calm. Maybe I'm better off taking my journey into my own hands. Maybe I'm better off navigating through the ocean on my own power instead of trusting in this cruise ship. Okay. As soon as I make that decision and abandon ship to navigate the ocean on my own, I am doomed to fail. Why? Because the ocean is too big for me to handle on my own. My only hope to successfully navigate the ocean is to abide in something far more powerful than I am. I may not always understand it. I may not even always like it, but my only hope is to trust in that greater power. If you ever begin thinking to yourself, I'm not sure I can trust God with my life, maybe I'm better off taking my journey into my own hands. You're done for. In fact, that's exactly the way Satan attacks in this area. Satan attacks our righteousness before others by seducing us away from Christ to separate you from the source of your power for righteous living. By convincing you to abandon ship, he tempts you to jump into the water and do it all by yourself. Satan whispers, are you sure you can trust God? Are you sure God has your best interest in mind? Don't you think you'd be better off on your own? And doesn't the water look nice? He tempts us to do things our way instead of God's way. And before we know it, we've left the safety of total surrender en route to the peril of self sufficiency. Let me close with the so what? Pastor Jeff? Now this is a good question, Pastor Jeff. Why is it important that I live righteously before others when all that matters is what God thinks? Why am I called to live righteously before others when eternity only depends on my righteousness before God? The answer is found in Matthew, chapter five. Jesus says, you are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house in the same way. Now watch this. Watch this carefully, church. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven. Why is it so important for us to live righteously before others? Because christian righteousness preaches the gospel. St. Francis of Assisi said it this way. Preach the gospel. And if necessary. Use words today. Listen, listen. Church today, christian righteousness is such an incredibly powerful apologetic in our culture because especially today, so many people are angry and hostile and perverted and twisted and confused and disillusioned. So that a Christian who abides in Christ fully, totally surrendered to Jesus, that Christian shines brightly in a culture like ours. I sometimes hear people say this. It's something like this, man, it's a bad time to be a Christian. I mean, they're after us. They're after our christian freedoms. They're after everything we stand for as good. This is a terrible time to be a Christian. I see it exactly in the opposite way. There has never been a better time to be a Christian. Why sure. This is. Never forget, light shines brightest in the darkest places. First redeemer church. You and I have an opportunity to live righteously before others, unlike many before us have ever had. Because the world has never been as dark as it is right now. Our lights pierce the darkness. If ever there was a time for christians to let their light shine by living in total surrender to Christ, abiding in him, it's now. Now, let me close with a story. True story. I read this not long ago. It was a story of a gentleman who had been for 25 years, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. And after 25 years, he decided to retire. So just before lunch one day, his office sent out the announcement to all 11,000 employees sharing his plans for retirement. After 25 years, I'm hanging it up. I want to thank you for all your support. It's been a wonderful experience. And then he said this in his announcement, in my retirement, I want to be more involved in my church and I want to go on some mission trips in my retirement. He sent the email to the company. He went to lunch. After lunch, he comes back to his office and obviously hundreds of emails had poured in, congratulating him on his retirement, emails telling him how much he was going to be missed and all the rest. But a majority of the emails that came back to him said something like this. You go to a church. We didn't know you were a believer, Christian. Let me ask you a question. How bright is your light? How bright is your light? When people look at your life, do they see a life so yielded to Jesus that righteousness just oozes out of you as a bright light in a dark culture? How bright is your light? Let's live brightly for Jesus. Let me close with this invitation. It's a question. How does God see you right now? God looks at your life, how does he see you? Does he see you in your sin? Or does he see you through the sinless covering that we can have in Christ? Because here's the truth. One day, one day we're all going to stand before him. And in that moment, someone is going to pay for your sin and mine. It's either going to be you and me, or it's going to be Jesus who offers to pay our sin debt for us. Pastor Jeff, how can I be clothed with the righteousness of God so that I can be sinless before God, my judge? By placing your faith in what Jesus did for you when he hung on that cross and died laying down his life, and then when he rose victorious out of that tomb, when you place your faith in that being sufficient to cover your sin and to wash you as white as snow, that's when you become sinless in God's sight. Heads are bowed, eyes are closed. If you've never trusted Jesus like that, my prayer is that this morning could be your moment. In these moments of silence, let me ask you to have just a heartfelt conversation with your creator. From your heart, you might cry out something like this. God, I recognize my sin has separated me from you. But I believe Jesus, your son, died and rose again so that my sins could be washed away. So in this moment, my confession before you is that I'm placing all of my trust in what Jesus has done for me, to rescue me from my own sin, and to make everything right between you and me. In Jesus name, amen. Everyone looking back up here? Okay. If this morning was your moment, if this morning you placed your faith in Jesus for the first time, I'd love for you to receive some literature from our church that better explains what it means to place your faith in Jesus. And it also outlines some next steps for you as you begin your journey with him. That free literature is available for you back at guest services over on the left hand side of the grand foyer. As you leave this morning, stop by and pick up a copy. Now, if you're watching online and you prayed along with me just now from your heart, I'd love to be able to provide to you that same helpful resource. We've set up a website called I made a decision.com I made a decision.com dot. If you go there, you'll find many helpful resources that better explain what it means to place faith in Jesus. We also have on that website a place where you can provide your mailing address to us. If you do that, we won't share that with anyone. But we will send this same literature directly to your home, wherever in the world you might live this coming weekend.

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