"When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory." Ephesians 3:4-13 (ESV)
9 The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
Psalm 9.9-10 ESV
“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” 1 Peter 2.1
9 The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you. Psalms 9:9-10 ESV
1 A Psalm of David. A song at the dedication of the temple.
I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
3 O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.”
7 By your favor, O LORD, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed.
8 To you, O LORD, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
9 “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!”
11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
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!
All truth is God's truth. We are protected when we live in acknowledgement of the truth surrounding us, and make decisions in light of truth. We must educate ourselves about anything that bears upon who we are and what we are called to do in this life. That would include spiritual truth, as well as any other truth. For example, if we are going outside on a cold and snowy day, the truth is that it could be slippery, and if we don't take precautions with where we step, or how we drive, we could end up falling and hurting ourselves or sliding off the road in our car. This is why it is important that we surround ourselves with the truth of God, the truth of scripture, as well as the truth of physical realities in the world where we live.
Remember: "Having the belt of truth buckled around your waist." Ephesians 6.14
Whether we like it or not, and whether we know it or not, we are all in the midst of a serious and dangerous war. It is a war for our souls. If we do not realize that there are strong spiritual beings, intelligent forces at work to destroy us, to damage us, to undermine our lives, our minds, our hearts, our relationships, and our eternal destiny, then we will be casual or completely unaware and complacent about these active threats to our well being.
So how are we to respond to this? Are we to live in constant fear? No, we are commanded by Jesus to not be afraid. Fear is a destabilizing force, and we do not operate effectively if we allow fear to have a place in our lives. Jesus said “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me." (John 14.1)
But we should respond in vigilance, working hard to put on the whole armor of God, so that we are prepared for the opposition of evil spiritual forces that will seek to destroy us through lies and threats. We must choose to trust God and be equipped with the full armor of God.
Remember: "Put on the whole armor of God." Ephesians 6.11
"Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having the utility belt of truth buckled around your waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having fitted your feet with the preparation of the Good News of peace; 16 above all, taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 with all prayer and requests, praying at all times in the Spirit, and being watchful to this end in all perseverance and requests for all the saints." Ephesians 6.10-18
When I woke up this morning, I felt the Lord was telling me it was time to get up and seek Him. It was still dark and everyone else was still asleep. Just a few seconds later, walking on the wooden floor, I got a splinter in my foot. Ouch! I was hobbled, and couldn't walk very well. It was amazing to me how such a small piece of wood could prevent me from walking very well, and I knew my top priority needed to be getting that splinter out of my foot. I also knew I was going to need a bright light and some very precise tweezers to get this debilitating piece of wood out of my foot. So I got my phone with it's bright LED light, and I got my good tweezers, and went to another room where I could operate on my foot and restore my ability to walk normally.
As soon as this happened, it seemed the Lord was telling me how critical it is that we have fitted our feet with the preparation of the good news (the gospel) of peace, as it says in Ephesians 6.15, as a critical part of the whole armor of God. As ministers of the good news of peace, we need to be well prepared to proclaim the same. If we are not prepared to teach, to speak, to proclaim the good news of peace with God through the work of Christ on the cross, which gives us access to God, then we will not be able to accomplish all that God wants us to accomplish for his Kingdom. We will not be able to go the places God wants us to go. Can you imagine an member of the infantry, a soldier, wearing no shoes? It is likely that a soldier wearing no shoes would be in great danger of being eliminated by the enemy. He would not be able to make much progress as his feet would be vulnerable to even the smallest irregularities on the terrain. He could be quickly hobbled by his own weight as his feet stepped on a sharp stone, a stick, or some other object on the ground. A soldier that had the most sophisticated weapons in the world, if barefoot, would quickly become immobilized and in danger of elimination or severe injury. At best, he would probably have to hide somewhere, outside of the active battle zone, so as not to be killed or severely injured. He would likely be ineffective at completing his mission, and his very life could be in danger.
Think of it: If we want to be serious about taking the Good News of peace to those who do not know the love of Christ, we must have our feet well fitted with the preparation of the Good News. We need to have the equipment on our feet, infantry boots, that are strong and resistant to unexpected irregularities and foreign objects on the ground, things that could damage the feet and make forward movement difficult if not impossible. We need to be able to explain the good news of how Christ makes us righteous as we put our faith in his perfect sacrifice on our behalf and his resurrection from the dead. We need to be prepared to answer people's questions. We need to find out what it is that we fear about speaking and proclaiming the Gospel, so that we can be prepared to face those fears and overcome them. We need to get a bright light, letting the Spirit of God search our hearts, to show us what are the ways that we are ill-prepared to speak and share and the Good News? Then we need to remove any source of pain in our feet, anything that is hindering us and our ability to keep moving out with the Good News of the peace of God that is available to all through Christ.
There is a command to obey here: "Have your feet fitted with the preparation of the good news of peace." Ephesians 6.15