A Roman soldier’s breastplate wrapped all the way around the body, so that his most vulnerable parts were protected. A stab in the arm or leg might be survivable – but a wound to chest or back would be deadly!
Without righteousness to protect us, we're not safe!
Proverbs 11:4 says that “righteousness delivers from death” but I’m not righteous, and neither are you.
The righteous standard that God requires is perfect (without fault), perpetual (forever) and personal obedience, but even my best efforts are as useless in a battle as filthy rags [Isaiah 64:6]. Even the apostle Paul who’d lived a ‘faultless’ religious life found it was worthless in God’s sight [Philippians 3:4-6], and the same is true for all of us. “There is no-one righteous – not even one.” [Romans 3:9,10]. No...
...if we are to be safe before a Holy God, we know our
righteousness must come from someone else – Jesus Christ.
We need Christ’s righteousness to cover and protect us – He can make us righteous before God. The Bible teaches that when we become a Christian we are given Christ’s righteousness as our own [Romans 3:21-24]
His righteousness is imputed to us – that means it permanently becomes ours. His perfect record of obedience becomes mine, for all eternity - it's as if I had never sinned, but instead had lived Jesus' perfect life of obedience to God. Amazing!
The trouble is, we don’t often feel very righteous. While our status before God is certain and sure, our enemy - the accuser - whispers in our ear in three key ways*
Satan makes us question whether we are really ok before God or not.
"How can God have accepted me, if I did [that]?
Some things are too big to be forgiven, aren’t they?
A Christian shouldn't think/feel/say/do [this]!"
We start to do whatever we can to try and feel better by looking at our track record...
..."Am I good enough? Do I measure up as a Christian?
Am I doing enough? How’s my prayer life?"
But if we think that doing any of these things will make us feel better, we will only ever be disappointed. We're losing to the enemy because we're putting on our own righteousness again - it's the wrong armour!
We need to put on our breastplate and remember that our standing before God is secure because of Christ’s righteousness and not our own - we are declared not guilty, even if we feel it! But...
Isn’t it right to feel guilty about sin?
Yes, in a way, but there is a world of difference between what God does in convicting us of our sin, and the accusations that come from the enemy. Conviction of sin is a good thing – it drives us back to God in repentance and restores our relationship with him when we have wandered away. We need to be conscious of our sin and know the joy of forgiveness every day, but that’s not what we experience when we are weighed down with guilt by the accuser.
“God convicts us in love; Satan accuses us in hatred.
The Holy Spirit uses the Word to convict us;
Satan uses feelings and memories to accuse us.
When God convicts us, it draws us closer to Him;
when Satan accuses us it pulls us away from the Lord”
Warren Wiersbe, Stand*
When we put on our breastplate we reaffirm that our faith is in Christ and His righteousness alone. Although I desire to be righteous, I will always be prone to wander into sin – but I need not be in any doubt that my status before God is always secure.
1 John 3:21 says that when our conscience is clear “we can have confidence before God” we need not run from Him and we stand strong against our enemy's accusation.
But Satan’s darts fly at us from other directions too
- when we are falsely accused by others.
Our sinful gut reaction is to get defensive, feel angry and want vindication – but that’s not a righteous response. When we are declared righteous through Jesus, His Spirit also imparts a desire for righteousness in us, the desire and ability to respond as Jesus would.
In Psalm 109:1-4 we read of David’s response to false accusation - the pain he feels is palpable but, instead of seeking vindication, he prays [v24-26]. David knows that he does not stand condemned by those who accuse him and can entrust the injustice he feels to the judge of all things. When Jesus stood falsely accused he did not respond in his defence but stood silent before his accusers. Though others may try to condemn us, the only judgement that ultimately matters is God’s.
'Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.'
Romans 8:31-34 (New International Version (c)2011)
Thirdly, Satan’s attacks come in the form of hard circumstances.
Job's comforters were quick to jump to the conclusion that his hard situation was because of his unrighteousness, and we can do the same. We can quickly jump to the wrong conclusion that because our situation is hard, we must have done something wrong – but that just isn’t how God operates!
Times can be hard for many reasons – sometimes God gives us trials to test us, or teach us to trust him, and sometimes we sit in a mess as a consequence of our sin. But we can be confident that whatever the struggle we are in, God doesn’t hold our record against us any more. He knows we are sinful, and yet gave his own Son to make us righteous!
God doesn’t hold anything back from us that would be for our good – in love, he desires and pursues our good all of the time - even if that makes us uncomfortable.
When the accuser makes us doubt that God loves us we want to stop pursuing a righteous life and give up – just as Adam and Eve did – but our kind and generous Father only gives us good gifts. If our situation is hard it is because he loves us, not because we are condemned.
God wants us to come to him in confidence knowing that he accepts us through the righteousness of Jesus Christ, so we do not give up, but battle on to pursue a life of obedience, free from guilt and accusation.
*Ref. Warren Wiersbe, Stand: putting on the full armour of God ISBN: 978-1-911272-20-5