The breastplate of righteousness

(The following is an excerpt from the message that was preached on October 18, 2020.)

Ephesians 6:14

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place

So, now we come to the second piece of armour listed here: The breastplate of righteousness.

Now, you might remember that last time, when we talked about the belt of truth, I made the comment that the belt was perhaps the most important piece of equipment. The reason is that the belt holds together all the other pieces of armour.

Now, you may disagree with me there. And that’s OK, of course. If you do disagree with me about that, perhaps you might argue that the breastplate is the most important piece. And you can certainly put forward a very strong case for that. As you can see here, the breastplate protects all the vital organs: the heart, the bowels, the stomach. And this is quite a big target. One major attack with a sword or a spear in this general area, and that would be the end of you.

So, undeniably, this is a very important piece of armour. This will protect your heart and your bowels. Now, let’s think a little about the heart and the bowels. For ancient Greeks, the heart and the bowels had special significance. The heart was where you did your thinking. (That’s different to what we think of the heart now. We think of our hearts as being where our emotions and feelings are.)

But for ancient Greeks, your heart was, in effect, your mind. You have ideas and you make plans in your heart.

A man’s heart plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

Proverbs 16:9.

So, you can see that your heart was the place where your thinking happens.

Now, if your heart was where you did your thinking, where were your feelings? That place is your bowels. This was the place where your emotions were located. And we can understand that. When you feel nervous, it feels like you’ve got these butterflies in your stomach. But also, when you’re really happy or excited, or even when you’re angry and upset, you can feel it in this area.

Behold, O LORD; for I am in distress: my bowels are troubled; mine heart is turned within me; for I have grievously rebelled

Lamentations 1:20.

Here we can see both those things. “I am in distress, my bowels are troubled”, so his feelings and his emotions are really churned up inside him. And also, “Mine heart is turned within me,” so his thinking and his mind are upset, too.

Here are two places that the enemy is going to try and attack you. He’s going to attack your thinking and he’s going to attack your feeling. Your mental state and your emotional state.

How’s he going to do that?

Well, he’ll attack your mind by throwing all these ideas at you. Ideas that are complete lies and totally opposed to what is true and good. Ideas about God, ideas about marriage and family, ideas about politics and education.

And then the enemy will attack your emotions by stealing that joy and peace that we’ve all been given in Christ. Look at what Jesus said to his followers:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.

John 14:27.

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

John 15:11.

Do you have a deep and wonderful peace and joy in your life right now? I guess this is not really a “yes/no” question, but it’s more like a continuum. At one end these is complete peace and joy, and at the other there is nothing. And we’re all somewhere along this continuum. The devil is going to try and take from you and steal from you as much of that peace and joy as he can.

So, we’re all in this spiritual battle. And the enemy is constantly attacking you right here: in your mind and in your emotions.

You need a breastplate. And that’s why we’re told here to put on the breastplate of righteousness.

How does the Lord’s breastplate protect you? We get an idea from 2 Corinthians.

God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21.

What does that mean? Well, think of it like this. Here is you, at the end of your life. Covered in sin. Covered in sinful, dirty rags.

And then, here is Christ. Conquering hero. Never put a foot wrong. He was completely good and beautiful and perfect. He has these beautiful robes, and a great breastplate of righteousness.

And then do you know what God does? He strips Jesus. God takes off his beautiful robes, takes off his breastplate and armour, and God puts it on you. He covers you with robes of a king. And God takes your dirty sinful rags, and he puts them on Christ. And God’s full anger is poured out on his only son, as he hangs on a cross and dies.

And what did you have to do, so that God put Christ’s robes on you? Absolutely nothing. Nothing, except believe that it’s true.

And when you believe this … wow. Everything changes. All that joy and peace that Jesus said he gives to us, all that will flood your soul.

Theologians have a word for that. It’s called Assurance of Salvation. Basically, that’s a conviction, deep down inside your soul, that you are saved and that you have eternal life. And you become 100% certain, there is no doubt at all, that you will be in heaven for all eternity.

It’s not about me at all. It’s not about what I do, or what I don’t do. It is all about Christ. It’s his breastplate. He’s done it all.