Stand Firm: Protecting Your Heart with Jesus’ Righteousness

If I was to ever be sent into battle and was only allowed one piece of armour (a ridiculous hypothetical situation I know, but bear with me), I think it would be a tough choice between a breastplate to protect my heart and lungs, or a helmet to protect my brain. An injury almost anywhere to the body can be life threatening if you lose enough blood, but ultimately without a functioning heart or lungs (or brain to control them) you have a death sentence. Hence in battle, protecting these vital organs is essential for survival. So today we continue our series on standing firm by looking at the breastplate of righteousness, and how righteousness is a fundamental part of our battle against Satan’s schemes.

” Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness” (Eph 6:14)

As with most of the aspects of the armour of God, we can look at putting on the breastplate of righteousness in two ways. The first is how we wear the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and the second how we commit to living and pursuing a life of righteousness ourselves.

Wearing The Gospel Of Righteousness

I spent quite a lengthy amount of time reading through the book of Romans and studying, meditating and praying to help me better understand it. I am certainly still far from on expert on Romans, but if there was one element that has impacted me most, it was the fact that we are not only forgiven in Christ, but we are made righteous in Christ. That is, our legal status in God’s eyes has changed, to not only having the slate wiped clean, but seen to have lived a holy and blameless life as Jesus did.

In Romans 3 we read, “None is righteous, no, not one” (v10b)

Without Jesus, our legal standing  before God is guilty and condemned. “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the Law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe, for there is no distinction.” (Rom 3:21-22). We are justified by his grace, and our faith in Jesus allows us to receive this incredible gift.

Before Christ, we were all lost- we sinned with our minds, our motives, our wills, our words, our relationships. And there was no ‘degree of lostness;’ it does not matter where we think we might have been on the ‘badness scale’. It is a binary equation; we are either condemned or we are righteous – you can’t sit in between. And all of us were guilty, condemned, and nothing we could do could switch us over to righteousness. This is why this gift of righteousness is incredible- it was given so freely to us, all to demonstrate God’s own righteousness (v25).

So how does this help us in Spiritual battle?

Firstly, to know how it helps us, we need to know what it looks like to wear the breastplate of righteousness in battle. Put simply, it is:

To know that Jesus’ righteousness is what qualifies us for heaven and protects us from Satan and condemnation.

In knowing this, it reminds us of 3 things:
1. Who we are in Jesus Christ
2. Who God is as righteous, good and powerful Father
3. Who God is as righteous, humble, obedient Son

1. Who we are in Jesus Christ

Knowing and remembering who we are is important for understanding the truth and being able to dispel the lies that Satan tries to convince us (as we discussed in our previous posts (here) and (here)). We need not believe lies of our worthlessness, need for ongoing guilt, or condemnation, because we know the truth of our righteous standing before God.

Remembering our new identity as righteous in Christ also helps us maintain an eternal perspective. By knowing the future we have in store, being reunited with out Heavenly Father, we will find it much easier to not get caught up in the things of this world.

2. Who God is as righteous, good and powerful Father

Knowing this truth of Christ’s righteousness in us reminds us that God is not only righteous but  good and loving – He gave us this justification as a gift, for no reason but his own love and glory. He is a Father who gives good gifts to his children, this is demonstrated so clearly to us in this. So why would we ever not trust him with our battles of the spiritual realms as well?

What’s more, in remembering that this righteousness is a gift, we protect ourselves from thinking that our own belief is the cause for our salvation. In doing that, we would look away from Christ and towards our own faith, towards works, giving way to doubt when the path is not as easy (such as times of spiritual warfare). In remembering that it is a gift freely given, we can remain secure in God at all times.

3. Who God is as righteous, humble, obedient Son

Isaiah 59:17, God promises deliverance for his people, and punishment for the nation’s enemies. He says that this will come through  a saviour who would “put on righteousness as a breastplate.”
This Saviour is Jesus, the Jesus who provides us with our righteousness by being righteous himself.  However, this is also a reminder that in putting on this armour, we are wearing God’s own armour. Jesus himself wore a breastplate of righteousness, and he defeated Satan on the cross. We can trust in this armour.

Living and Pursuing a Life of Righteousness

Now I don’t in any way want to undermine what I have said above, but there is another aspect of putting on the breastplate of righteousness that we also need to consider, and it is living a life pursuing righteousness ourselves.

As we have already discussed, we cannot do anything to gain the title of ‘righteous’ for ourselves – it is all by God’s gift of grace to us. However, in response to this grace, we should be looking to live a life that is upright in character. As God’s children, we should be ‘imitators of God’ (Eph. 5:1). We are called to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).

We see how these two factors- God’s gift of righteousness and our response of righteous living- interplay in Romans 8.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:1-4)

The power of the Spirit in Jesus Christ has set us free from the power of sin (v2) and empowers us to obey the law; that is, God’s commands for our lives (v4). Jesus’ life, death and resurrection was so that we could live, not according to our flesh (our sinful desires), but according to the Spirit, so that we could live a life of righteousness as He did.

It is God’s righteousness that allows us to have life and for God’s Spirit to be at work in us (Romans 8:10). And it is God’s Spirit which allows us to live a life walking in step with God’s Word, a life imitating the righteousness of God.

May we each be secure in the incredible expression of grace that is our justification, our new legal status before God, and be committed to a life that pursues reflecting this righteousness we have received.