The Armor of God, Part Two

Posted on 11/17/2013 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

AUDIO: dialup - broadband - podcast

TRANSCRIPT: (does not contain everything found in the audio above)

*** listen to the audio for introduction and prayer ***


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THERE IS A RIVER

There is a river whose streams
make glad the city of our God
There is a river whose streams
make glad the city of our God

I will rejoice, I will rejoice
and be glad
I will rejoice, I will rejoice
and be glad

There is a fountain full of grace
and if flows from Emmanuel's veins
It came and it healed me, it came and refreshed me,
It came and it washed my sins away!


HOW GREAT THOU ART

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: "My God, how great Thou art!"

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!


NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES

Jesus, name above all names
Beautiful Savior, glorious Lord.
Emmanuel, God is with us.
Blessed Redeemer, Living word.


I EXALT THEE

For thou O Lord art high
above all the earth
Thou are exalted
far above all gods

And I exalt thee
I exalt thee
I exalt thee O Lord


*** listen to the audio for the message introduction ***


Last week we talked about the first piece of the armor of God, Truth.

We saw that we must put on the whole armor of God, because every single piece of it is vital if we want to stand against the deceitful trickery of the devil.

Let's re-read our passage from last week, from Ephesians 6:10-13:

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11 Put on the whole armor of God, so you may be able to stand against the deceitful trickery of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 For this reason, put on the whole armor of God, so you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
(KMV)

Last week we talked about our first line of defense, which is the belt of Truth. We talked about how important it is that we don't let our fear that we'll offend someone cause us to reject having a doctrinal statement; that we don't redefine truth as something that changes with the person, the circumstances, or the times; and that we keep our belt firmly fastened in a never-ending circle, knowing that we are always learning and we're probably wrong about some things, as we daily study, meditate upon, and memorize the Holy Scriptures so our firm roots in the Word of God continue to grow deeper and stronger.

This week, let's continue talking about the armor of God, moving on to the second piece. And the second piece of the Armor of God is Righteousness.

13 For this reason, put on the whole armor of God, so you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

In a battle, the breastplate is a very important part of the armor. It protects your heart and your lungs, two organs which I'm sure you'd agree are both pretty important; if just one of them is damaged, you could very well be permanently out of the race.

The Bible says this about the heart in Proverbs chapter 4 and verse 23:

"Keep watch over your heart with all diligence, for out of it flow the springs of life." (KMV)

The physical heart is vital because "out of it flow the springs of life," or the blood; as the Bible tells us, "the life is in the blood." And the spiritual heart is also vital, for "out of it flow the springs of life," the SPIRITUAL blood, that which circulates through your whole being and ultimately determines your actions, your interactions, and your choices.


Not only does your life flow from your heart, but the heart, the spiritual heart, it is the one and only thing by which God judges you.

1 Samuel 16:7 says this:

7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as man sees, for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
(KMV)

Now this was referring to King Saul, who was a tall, regal, impressive figure of a man. But God wasn't interested in all that. God wasn't insterested in what he had accomplished; God wasn't impressed by all of the good things he had done. Instead, God was interested in Saul's heart. And because Saul had not kept watch over his heart with all diligence, it had become corrupt and full of darkness; and because of the condition of Saul's heart, God rejected him.

Of course despite this fact, it still was not acceptable to show disrespect to or gossip about the king. And the prophet of God was doing neither of these things; instead, the prophet spoke the words of the Lord to Saul, telling him of the fate that awaited him because he turned against the commandments of the Lord.

Today, we still look on the outward appearance, and upon the "height of a person's stature." Take, for example, our U.S. president. He can talk. He can persuade. He can make people feel confident that no matter how backwards his choices may seem, he will take care of everything and will make it turn out right. Regardless of all the messes he's made so far.

Some voted for him because of the color of his skin. Some voted for him because of the feeling they got when he talked about hope and change. Some voted for him because they were dead, and their brains had long ago decomposed. But regardless of how we perceive him as we judge him by his "outward appearance," God looks upon his heart. And I would like to encourage all my brothers and sisters in the Lord to pray every day for our president, and for our country, or whatever country you call home, and for all those who are in authority; for just as King Saul disobeyed the Word of the Lord and did not rule according to God's precepts and was therefore destroyed, so it is today.

Godlessness is increasing, while the call to seek God has been silence from those who are kings over our lands. And we can see the effects -- from the continually increasing rates of crime, mental illness, divorce, and fatherless homes, to the steady decline of the quality of our education and the ability of the average product of that education to fully comprehend some of even the most basic moral issues, such as abortion, premarital sex, or whether Adam and Steve should be husband and... husband.

But this is what happens when we do not dilligently keep watch over our hearts. For out of our heart flows the springs of life. And our heart affects everyone around us, including those under our authority as well as those who have authority over us.

This is one reason the Breastplate of Righteousness is so vitally important. Our nation has compromised it, weakened it, and just plain taken it off. And we have elected people based upon their appearance and the hight of their stature. And we have already fallen, as a nation, to the deceitful trickery of the devil, because we are not wearing the whole armor of God.


So, if righteousness is so important, wouldn't you agree it's important for us to know what it is? Well, let's search the Scriptures and find out.

In Galatians chapter 3, verses 5 and 6, we read this:

5 Therefore, he who ministers the Spirit to you, and works miracles among you, does he do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
6 Even so, Abraham believed God, and it was counted for him as righteousness.
(KMV)

So Abraham's believing God was considered righteousness by God. Now, we realize that Jesus is our righteousness, and we are made righteous, as John 3:16 says, by believing upon Him.

But let's take another look at this idea of belief that is counted as righteousness. What specific instance of belief is mentioned in Galatians chapter 3? Hebrews 11:19 says that Abraham believed God could raise his son Isaac from the dead, for he believed the promises of God that a great nation would come through Isaac.

You're probably already familiar with this bit of Biblical history. God, testing Abraham, told him to sacrifice his son Isaac. And Abraham obeyed. Right before plunging the dagger into his son's heart, the Lord stopped him, and provided a substitutionary sacrifice, a profound picture of things to come in the person and calling of Jesus Christ.

And THIS belief, the belief that would cause Abraham to give up his son, his only son, after being childless for over 90 years; THIS belief, that God's promises are all true and that only good will come from obeying the Lord in all things; THIS belief, that would sacrifice even that which was most treasured and dear to him -- closest to his heart; it was THIS belief that was counted for him as righteousness.

We, on the other hand, think that we can say, "Yes, I believe," and we're somehow considered righteous, even if we refuse to give up anything we hold dear in obedience to obey God.

But just as abiding in the Vine Christ Jesus is required for wearing the Belt of Truth, so it is required for wearing the Breastplate of Righteousness.

We must live inside the belt, the Word of God, Jesus the Messiah, walking in His ways and staying yoked with Him, coming back any time we stumble or stray.

Even when it hurts. Even when it costs us something. Even when it requires we crucify our flesh and go through withdraws from a sin from which we have turned.

And it's important to note here that our observances and good deeds are not considered righteousness, for as Isaiah 64 and verse 6 says this:

6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteous works are as filthy rags; and we all wither and fall as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have carried us away.
(KMV)

You see, we cannot be rooted and grounded in religion, or in having said a sinner's prayer, or in doing good things and being good people. If our heart is not humble and pure before God, then we will wither and fall like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, will carry us away.

Abraham's action of obeying God in the sacrifice of his son was not credited as righteousness in itself; rather, it was the underlying condition of his heart, that condition which RESULTED in his obedience.

You see, if you really believe, you will obey. Obedience is the result of belief, and disobedience is the result of unbelief. Do you want to get a glimpse into the true condition of your heart? Do you want to really know your true level of belief? Then take a look at how obedient you are to the word and the voice of God.

You are not made righteous by your righteous works; but if you are righteous, the works will follow.

James chapter two says that faith without works is dead. It states that Abraham was considered righteous because he believed God, and that this tells us that it is not faith alone, but also works that justify us.

And when we read that faith without works is dead, we can reason that if we don't have works, we don't really have faith. And if we DO have faith, the works will automatically follow.

You see, righteous works are the fruit of faith. Just as obedience is the fruit of belief. Let me say that again: righteous works are the fruit of faith, just as obedience is the fruit of belief. If you have faith, you will perform good works; and if you truly believe, you will obey. And THAT is the kind of belief that God considers righteousness.


The word "righteous" is rooted in the word "right." It can be thought of as doing the right thing; but going a bit deeper than that, it can be thought of as being right with God. And to be right with God, we must believe Him. And if we believe Him, we will obey Him.

Righteousness is right standing, or standing upright, walking in integrity, demonstrating a depth of character that has been fashioned within us by God, displaying both love and justice that comes from loving the character of God, and radiating a strong and true love that comes from embracing the nature and the person of God.

Righteousness does not and can not be produced by us; it is something that comes from God; it is His perception, His proclamation.

You see, righteousness is being right in the eyes of God. And we are righteous in his eyes when we abide in the vine -- when we believe His Word, and when we both demonstrate and strengthen that belief by obeying it.

And this goes back to what we talked about last week -- Truth; that a fastened belt is not a line, but an unending circle. God's righteousness strengthens our belief; our belief results in obedience; obedience strengthens our belief; and belief is counted for us as righteousness.

We tend to want to know which thing or things make us righteous. But it is not a series of actions or deeds that can make us righteous; instead, it is that unending circle, an unending lifestyle of depending upon God and believing his Word, of spending time in his presence so he can strengthen our belief, of studying his Word so we can apply it to our lives, and of applying it to our lives by obeying it, which is the end result of our belief; THIS is counted for us as righteousness.

The Bible says that the righteous shall live by faith. A week or two from now, we're going to talk about the shield of faith; but just as last week's armor piece of the Belt of Truth is related to the last piece of the armor which is the Sword of the Spirit, so the Breastplate of Righteousness is related to the Shield of Faith.

In fact, as we'll talk about in more depth in the weeks to come, there is an interesting pattern in the Ephesians passage concerning the whole armor of God.

First and last is Truth, the Word of God, Jesus Christ, the beginning and the end.

Second and fourth are Righteousness and Faith, working together as we'll see in the weeks to come.

And third and fifth are The Gospel and Salvation.

The Belt and the Sword; the Breastplate and the Shield; the Helmet and the Shoes. These are all counterparts, and they work together in intricate ways. One without the other is incomplete and ineffective, and any of them without all of the rest is inadequate.

And we'll go into this in more detail in the weeks to come.

But let's finish examining today's piece of armor, the Breastplate of Righteousness.


In the Church today, many of us have replaced righteousness with faith. Some teachers and preachers imply that you are automatically righteous if you just have faith in Jesus. And while this ultimately is true, faith and righteousness work together; true faith produces belief, and true belief is counted for us as righteousness.

If you are not obeying the Word of God, you are lacking in belief, and therefore you are lacking in righteousness. If you are not obeying God, then that is a spotlight into your heart, revealing the fact that you have unbelief, and you are not completely righteous in the eyes of God. It's not the disobedience itself that causes us to be unrighteous, but the lack of belief in Jesus, which results in that disobedience.

This goes back to the condition of your heart, and before we close this morning, I'd like for us to consider the passage we read earlier in Proverbs 4:23:

23 Keep watch over your heart with all diligence, for out of it flow the springs of life.
(KMV)

If you want to strengthen your belief, if you want obedience to flow from your heart, and if you want to be truly righteous, you must develop a lifestyle of keeping diligent watch over your heart.

Jesus rebuked the religious leaders because they were concerned with outer cleanliness, but were unclean and defiled on the inside. He told them to first clean the inside, and then the outside would be clean as well.

And in Matthew chapter 5, verses 20 through 22, Jesus says this:

20 For I say to you, unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will certainly not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

What does this mean? How can our righteousness exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees? Well, remember what Jesus said about cleaning the inside of the cup as we read the next two verses, verses 21 and 22:

21 You have heard that it was said of them in times of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.'
22 But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother without a cause will be in danger of the judgment; and whoever says to his brother, 'Raca,' will be in danger of the council; but whoever will say, 'You fool,' will be in danger of the fire of hell.
(KMV)

You see, Jesus was getting to the heart of the matter of true righteousness. Righteousness is not found in refraining from committing murder; rather, true righteousness is found in the attitude of your heart toward your brother.

You may not have much of a problem not killing someone, but to not hold resentment in your heart against him might be quite another matter.

Jesus goes on to mention calling him "raca," which was a term of reproach in those days, meaning empty headed or senseless, similar to our term "idiot" today, or calling him "fool." But these insults don't begin on our lips; instead, they come from our hearts. Just as murder does not begin in an outward action that takes a life, but in a state of the heart, which takes our own life and renders us unclean in the eyes of God.


So, righteousness is a matter of the heart. The Pharisees thought they could earn righteousness with outer works, but Jesus declared that righteousness begins in the heart.

And it's important for us to remember the unending circle of the Belt of Truth, for all the pieces of the armor depend upon all the others, and the Breastplate of Righteousness depends upon Truth.

You see, when we say that righteousness is a matter of the heart, some would take that to mean that it doesn't matter if we stay away from sin and live a holy life, for it's "only the heart that matters." But let's not forget that, no matter how close we feel to God, if we are not obeying him and his Word, then we have unbelief in our heart, and we are lacking in righteousness.

In 1st Corinthians chapter 6, verses 9 through 10, we read this about unrighteousness:

9 Don't you know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,
10 Nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
(KMV)

So, outward acts are called "unrighteousness" by the Word of God. But this isn't a list of things we have to avoid in order to be righteous, for if it were, we could simply commit only the sins not listed here and think we're righteous, because we think our heart is good and we're not committing any of those acts specifically mentioned as being unrighteous.

But unrighteousness is not defined by the acts; rather, these acts are simply some of the fruits of unrighteousness. And the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

So while refraining from these these things does not make you righteous, doing these things is evidence that you are definitely not righteous, and that you are far from being in right standing with God.

Do you see the connection? Can you see the unending circle of truth? We are called to be holy, set apart, for God is holy. And we are called to walk humbly before our God, loving mercy and doing what's right.

In 1st Peter chapter 1, verses 13 through 16, we read this:

13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance;
15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,
16 because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."
(NKJV)

"Gird up the loins of your mind" sounds a bit like "Gird your loins with the belt of truth," doesn't it? And verse 15 tells us to be "holy in all our conduct."

And then we read in Micah 6:8,

8 He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

You see, righteousness is not found only in faith, or only in salvation, or only in belief without fruit; instead, righteousness is all-encompassing.

This part of the armor is made up of doing what's right; loving mercy; walking humbly with God; living holy lives; believing God, with the evidenced of obeying him.

As we read his Word daily and diligently, learning about the nature of God and embracing that nature by emulating it, our hearts will begin to change, and our belief and its righteousness will grow.

You see, righteousness is a lifestyle. And the more of our life is consumed by righteousness, meaning the more of our life is considered righteous in the eyes of God, the more fully we are covered by the Breastplate of Righteousness.


Are your loins girded with the Belt of Truth?
And are you wearing the Breastplate of Righteousness?


Let's close today's service with a time of prayer and ministry.


All God wants is deep, unbroken fellowship with us. And He hates anything that comes in between us and Him. That's why He calls us to purify our hearts, and to keep diligent watch over them.

What happens when you keep diligent watch over your heart? You carefully guard what goes into it. How do things enter your heart? Through the eyes. Through the ears. Through the senses.

The messages and world views behind the music we listen to goes into our hearts. The same is true for what we watch, and what we read. On what do you feed? What do you allow into your heart?

Fill yourself with the Word of God. Listen to music that glorifies God and speaks the truth of His Word. Watch things that are consistent with the nature of Christ. Read things that glorify Him and that don't feed or glorify the flesh.

"Isn't that going to bit of an extreme?" Well, you could look at it that way. Or you might look at it as diligence. You're not just supposed to watch over your heart. You're supposed to watch over it diligently; or as another version says, "with all diligence."

Jesus said that "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." And in Matthew 12:35 he says, "A good man, out of the good treasure of the heart, brings forth good things; and an evil man, out of the evil treasure, brings forth evil things. (KMV)"

So keep watch over your heart with all diligence, for out of it flow the springs of life.


You're invited to get out of your seat right now and make your way to the front. And let's take a little time to examine ourselves. Let's be still in the presence of the Lord, and invite Him to shine the bright light of His Spirit and His Word into our hearts.

Lord God, we thank you for speaking to us today. We thank you for giving us the training we need to learn and grow in You, and to become strong enough to stand against the deceitful trickery of the enemy.

I ask that we wouldn't forget what your Spirit is speaking to our hearts today, but that we would grab hold of it, write it down, meditate on it, and put it into action in our lives.


If you'd like someone to talk or pray with you, you can instant message one of us. If you're listening outside of Second Life or to the recording later this week, you can go to almcyberchurch.org, click the prayer room or pastors' offices link, and contact us there.

Whenever you need to leave, you're dismissed, and if you can stay until after this time at the altar, you're invited to hang out with us in the Fellowship Room up the stairs to your left.

Come, and let's hunger and thirst after God's righteousness, and we will be filled.