"9 This I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and without offense to the day of Christ; 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." Philippians 1.9-11
"Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." Hebrews 13.20-21 ESV
John 2.23 "Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in his name, observing his signs which he did. 24 But Jesus didn’t trust himself to them, because he knew everyone, 25 and because he didn’t need for anyone to testify concerning man; for he himself knew what was in man."
This is a very interesting passage. Here people are putting their faith in Jesus, because they are seeing the authority with which he speaks, the authority with which he rebukes people (he had just thrown the money changers out of the temple), and the other signs of his authority through healing and preaching the Gospel.
"But Jesus didn’t trust himself to them, because he knew everyone, 25 and because he didn’t need for anyone to testify concerning man; for he himself knew what was in man."
This is a powerful testimony of how we should think of and relate to those around us, and perhaps one key to why Jesus could be both so loving and kind and gentle and forgiving, and at the same time so forceful and powerful in his words and actions and choices.
Jesus loved people, but he didn't trust them. He knew how weak and fickle and even sinful people are. Even people who loved him and believed in him would abandon him in his time of greatest need. The disciples in Gethsemane, when Jesus was facing the unjust arrest by the Pharisees and the Roman soldiers, fled from him. One of his closest associates, a friend and ministry partner, Peter, not only fled but later denied that he even knew Jesus.
Jesus knew how fragile and weak and self-centered people are. He was not going to trust himself to people, because he knew what was in people.
This is probably why Jesus was so gracious and magnanimous following his resurrection, when he greeted the disciples kindly and warmly and lovingly, and even prepared breakfast for them and invited them to join him. He did not say to them, "I can't believe you abandoned me at my greatest point of need." He didn't resent their fear and self-preservation instincts that caused them to flee and even deny him.
No, he was compassionate and loving. He even helped to restore Peter by getting Peter to acknowledge willfully that he loved Jesus, three times! So he gently led Peter to a place of healing, by getting Peter to affirm his love to Jesus three times following his denying of him three times, and even gave Peter important work to do, saying after each, "Feed my lambs." Then, "Feed my sheep." And finally, "Take care of my sheep."
Jesus was demonstrating the truth about what is in man as revealed in the book of Jeremiah 17.5-10 (NIV 1984):
"5This is what the Lord says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord .
6He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.
7"But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord , whose confidence is in him.
8He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It
has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."
9The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
10"I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve."
If we put our trust in man, we put ourselves under a curse; but if we trust in God, he will be a source of continual strength and life. This is a key to vital and effective and consistent long-term ministry and bearing fruit.
We read in Provervbs 4.23 "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it flows the wellspring of life." This is true in both the spiritual and physical sense. A direct wound to the heart on the battlefield could be fatal. That is why even modern warriors wear body armor that protects the area around the heart, a bullet-proof vest, and in ancient days a breastplate. As we wage spiritual war, and as we live in light of the real spiritual war going on around us, we must be sure that our heart, our lungs and other vitals here are protected.
But how do we protect our heart? In Ephesians 6.14 we read that we protect our heart with the breastplate of righteousness. And how do we put on the breastplate of righteousness? Through our faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross, his death that paid the punishment that we deserved, so that we could become the righteousness of God through faith in him.
In Romans 4.3ff we read "“Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the reward is not counted as grace, but as something owed. 5 But to him who doesn’t work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness."
Later in the same chapter we read of Abraham: "22 Therefore it also was “credited to him for righteousness.” 23 Now it was not written that it was accounted to him for his sake alone, 24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be accounted, who believe in him who raised Jesus, our Lord, from the dead, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification.
5.1 Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; 2 through whom we also have our access by faith into this grace in which we stand."
So we guard our heart, by holding on to this marvelous truth that we have been made righteous not because of our own ability to always do the right thing, or always choose the way of love, but because we believe in him who died for our sins and was raised for our justification. Our focus for our righteousness is not our on ability and track record to be perfectly righteous, our focus is the work of Christ on our behalf.
This is our breastplate of righteousness. Amen. Praise the Lord!