Tuesday, April 3, 2012

This Means War III - Righteousness

FBCRB 4/1/12

“This Means War III”  Ephesians 6:10-18

I was shocked, confused, bewildered as I entered Heaven’s door, not by the beauty of it all, nor the lights or its decor. "But it was the folks in Heaven who made me sputter and gasp; the thieves, the liars, the sinners, the alcoholics and the trash.  "There stood the kid from seventh grade who swiped my lunch money twice. Next to him was my old neighbor who never said anything nice. Herb, who I always thought was rotting away in hell, was sitting pretty on cloud nine, looking incredibly well. "I nudged Jesus. ’What’s the deal? I would love to hear your take. How’d all these sinners get up here? God must’ve made a mistake. "’And why’s everyone so quiet, so somber -- give me a clue.’ "’Hush, child,’ He said, ’they’re all in shock at the thought of seeing you.’"

This morning we are going to be talking about what the Bible says about righteousness; what it is, what it means, how to get it and the difference in righteousness and self-righteousness as shown in our opening poem but I also want to discover if there is any room for our own righteousness in our lives.

When I say “righteousness” many of you think about the kind of self-righteousness displayed in the poem; the kind of righteousness that Isaiah 64:6 says is like filthy rags and deserves to be thought of poorly.  Why, then, would Paul tell us to put on righteousness in our passage this morning?

Turn to Ephesians 6:10-18 and let’s take a look.

Paul tells us to put on the breastplate of righteousness in verse 14 and that is what I want to concentrate on today.  In the two previous weeks we have identified our enemy in this life and that is Satan and now we are looking at the armor and weapons we have at our disposal.

Last week we saw the importance of putting on the belt of truth and how, without believing and taking hold of absolute truth, we might as well not have any defense against the enemy.  We put on the belt of truth first and everything else hangs on that belt.  This week we will put on the breastplate of righteousness and attach it to the belt just like the Roman soldiers of Paul’s day.

Don’t worry.  I don’t have any type of prop to show you what a breastplate might look like.  After not being able to put on last week’s prop of a simple belt, I felt it was better just to describe to you what a breastplate looked like instead of trying to model one.  A modern day example of this would be the bullet-proof vest that military and law enforcement wear every day but in the days when Paul wrote Ephesians the Roman guard that was probably guarding him as he wrote this was probably wearing something made out of leather and metal. 

It was made up of small metal plates which were tied together in a similar fashion to the way roof tiles are placed on a roof. The armor was then placed over the shoulders to protect both the front and back of the soldier. The bottom of the armor was tied to the belt. On a Roman soldier’s armor, the breastplate was custom made to fit that soldier. It was specifically designed for him to protect him from attacks. This breastplate protected the soldier’s heart and major organs from a potentially devastating wound by protecting their area of weakness. Paul refers to this part of the armor as the breastplate of righteousness.

Some of you may be thinking about now that all of this “putting on the armor” stuff is a whole lot of work.  All you want to do is go to work and come home, minding your own business and here I am telling you that you have to put on belts, breastplates, shoes, helmets, etc.  You’re thinking, “Do I really have to do all of that?”

The answer, actually, is no.  You don’t have to do all of that.  But the Bible says that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion trying to kill you dead.  It says that he is the Accuser and that he stands before God constantly pointing out your every flaw to God.  In Job, Zechariah and Revelation it shows Satan standing before God saying something like, “Have you seen that Pastor Todd?  How can you call him your child?  He never does this and he’s always doing that and just the other day I heard him say such and such.”

And when he is not accusing you before God he is trying to steal your joy, your peace and your witness, not to mention your very life.  24/7, 365 he is constantly trying to do you in, one way or the other.  Do you really want to spend one minute without all of your armor on?  And as we will see, this breastplate of righteousness will protect your very heart.

As we talk about righteousness I want us to see that there is more than one kind of righteousness.  There is self- righteousness, which as we have seen is as good for protecting you against the accusations of Satan as a filthy rag.  But there is also imputed righteousness and imparted righteousness.  Seeing the difference in these is critical but only if you want to stay alive spiritually and even physically.

I’m going to ask you a couple questions but don’t raise your hand.  Just think about it.  Do you know anyone who you would describe as self-righteous?  Probably.  There might even be some in this church.  Now, would you consider yourself to be self-righteous?  Probably not.  It’s a rare person that can consider his own life with such discernment that he can see his own self- righteousness.

It has been said that self-righteousness is the only disease that makes everyone sick except the person who has it.  None of us wants to see our own self-righteousness.  I looked up the word in the dictionary and it basically means to feel that you or your situation is better than the average person.  It was interesting that in the dictionary the word sententiousness is used as a synonym.  I’m thinking if you use the word sententiousness it may put you in the category of self-righteous.  That’s just a freebie.

What makes a person self-righteous?  Is it what he does or how much he does?  It has everything to do with motive.  What is your motive for doing what you do?  Motive is the difference between a filthy rag and a breastplate.  In Acts chapter 5 we see the story of Ananias and Sapphira.  They had seen others bring gifts of money to the church and they wanted that recognition so they sold a piece of property and turned the money over to the apostles but kept some back for themselves which would have been fine but they led the church to think they were giving all the money.

In Acts chapter 5 verse 3 Peter says, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?”  You know what happens after that.  Satan gets his wish as their witness and their very lives are lost immediately thereafter.  Did you catch that part where Peter says that Satan has filled your heart?  Self-righteousness is no breastplate that protects the heart.  It is a bull’s-eye.  Be aware of your motive.  It could make all the difference.

If you remember I said regarding Paul’s illustration of a breastplate, that a breastplate would be usually made of 2 things:  leather and metal.  So too is our breastplate of righteousness made up of 2 things.  I won’t insult you by trying to pronounce the original Greek word used for righteousness but it basically means to be right with God and it includes the imputed righteousness that God gives us through our belief in His Son Jesus and it includes the imparted righteousness that is done through us by Christ living in us.

Let’s look at imputed righteousness first.  When a person puts his faith in Jesus Christ, we are given a status of being righteous. This righteousness is God’s gift to us based on what Christ did for us on the cross.  If you look through a red piece of glass you will see things all red.  If you look through a blue piece of glass everything will be blue.  When God looks at us He sees us, as Christians, through Christ-colored lenses.

So when Satan says to God, “Look at what she has done.  She can’t be your child!”, you know what happens?  I John 2:1 says we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.  So when Satan attacks our character to the Great Judge, Jesus is our Lawyer and He says to the Father, “That debt has been paid in full by Me”.  That is imputed righteousness.  We don’t deserve it.  We didn’t earn it.  All we can do is accept it when we accept Jesus into our lives to save us and forgive us.

I have 3 verses to go along with our imputed righteousness.  " For as by one man’s (Adam) disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one (Jesus) shall many be made righteous." Romans 5:19
"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." 2 Corinth 5:21
"Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:" Romans 3:22

Imputed righteousness is one part of the breastplate of righteousness.  The other part is imparted righteousness.  If we are imputed with righteousness, then as a result Christ’ righteousness should flow out of us in righteous living!  Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

We all have good intentions, right?  We all want good things for ourselves.  We want good things for other people.  We want to do good things.  But you remember what makes something self-righteous?  Motive.  What Matthew 6:33 is saying is that when we go to God and say, “I can’t do this.  I want to do good but I’m afraid I’m going to make it about me.  I want your righteousness.”  When we seek first His righteousness all those good things will be given to you.  Maybe it is because God gives you what you want and maybe it happens when He changes what you want.

Either way, when we allow God to work through us, He does it right and He gets the glory and we get a blessing, maybe now, maybe later.  The temptation one may have is to say that since I have imputed righteousness and no matter what Satan says Jesus has me covered that I will just not do anything and it doesn’t matter if I sin.

It is very similar to when Paul says in Philippians 2:13 that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  We don’t do anything to deserve our salvation but once we are saved we let God work in our lives to prove our salvation.  It’s the same with His righteousness.  We don’t deserve His imputed righteousness but because we are righteous in His eyes we allow Him to prove that through our imparted righteousness.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a powerful Baptist preacher in the late 1800’s.  Blackmailers once sent him a letter saying that if he did not place a certain amount of money at a certain place at a certain time then they would publish some things in the newspaper that would defame and embarrass him, ruining his ministry.  Spurgeon left a note at the certain place that said, “You and your like are requested to publish all you know about me across the heavens.”  He knew his character was blameless before men and so they could not harm him.

Our heart is representative of our character, our drive, all our wants and needs.  When somebody says, “He put his heart into it” or “He has a lot of heart”, “she wanted it with all her heart” it says a lot about that person.  It tells you who they are and what their motives are.  That’s why Paul tells us to put on the breastplate of righteousness because it protects all of that.  Our imputed and imparted righteousness protects who we are and even what we want to be.  Don’t put on just part of the armor.  For your sake and for the sake of furthering the Kingdom, put on all of God’s armor and then…stand.

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