Righteousness, a study

Be prepared.

That theme came to me twice in two days this week.

I led a men’s Bible study on the breastplate of righteousness. Why wear a breastplate? Be prepared for enemy attacks.

The next day, I attended a first aid and CPR recertification class. The purpose of first aid? Be prepared for a potential emergency. Our instructor made sure we knew that before starting the class.

To help us prepare for life’s battles, here’s a summary of my notes from the breastplate discussion.

 

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you maybe able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.

Ephesians 6:13-14

 

The breastplate worn by Roman soldiers was generally made of iron, though some wealthier soldiers may have worn a bronze breastplate (which is lighter than iron). It consisted of overlapping pieces of metal with connecting front and back sections. There were rounded pieces connecting the shoulders and the breastplate usually rested on the soldier’s hips so the entire weight wasn’t carried on the shoulders. The overlapping pieces allowed for more flexibility of movement.

www.gotquestions.org

 

What’s the purpose of the breastplate?

It protects the soldier in battle. The breastplate covers the heart and other vital organs. The shield wards off enemy blows that we see, but the breastplate provides protection from unexpected directions or overwhelming numbers.

If the soldier gets ambushed from behind or attacked from multiple sources, he has protection.

 

What happens when armor is not worn correctly, or not worn at all?

1 Peter 5:8 – the devil looks for someone to devour.

Hebrews 3:12 – unbelief.

Romans 6:1-2 – we abuse grace by making excuses for sin.

Hebrews 4:5-7 – disobedience, hardening your heart.

2 Corinthians 2:10-11 – we do not want Satan to outwit us.

 

Why do we wear God’s armor?

The example of Job. Satan tested him severely, but God gave him parameters. First, don’t touch his body. Then, don’t kill him. Job faced two back-to-back unexpected tragedies, without knowing why or how long they would last.

If Job wasn’t wearing his “armor,” how could he have possibly survived?

Eventually, God restored to him his family and possessions – more than he had to begin with.

 

Satan realizes that if he can get our minds and emotions, that will affect our worship and our obedience to God. That’s why he always works to implant wrong teachings and lies into our minds through books, music, TV and conversation. Our minds affect our walk – how we live. But Satan also wants to get our emotions. Many Christians are emotionally all over the place, and part of that is a result of spiritual warfare. Satan stirs up people to criticize and condemn. He sirs up little romances with the opposite sex to distract us from focusing on God. He works to make believers worry and fret about the future so that they lose their joy. The enemy is cunning and keen. Therefore, we must guard our hearts above all else.

www.bible.org

 

Here’s another Bible verse on the breastplate:

1 Thessalonians 5:8 – put on the breastplate of faith and love.

What’s the connection between faith, love and righteousness?

Abraham provides a great example.

Hebrews 11:8-12 – Abraham’s faith in the impossible – numerous descendants who will live in a promised land. (He and his wife both were too old to have children when God gave him those promises.) Read about the promises in Genesis 15.

Romans 4:18-22 – Abraham’s faith was reckoned to him as righteousness.

Did Abraham see either of those promises come to pass?

No. Yet he never doubted God’s plan. He didn’t let his mind or emotions sway him from God’s promises. Why should he care what happens after he’s gone from this Earth? But he did care. And he believed God. Which was reckoned to him as righteousness.

Becoming righteous

  1. Isaiah 64:6What is our righteousness like? Our human righteousness is like a filthy rag.
  1. Isaiah 59:15-17Who put on righteousness like a breastplate? Why? God Himself put on righteousness like a breastplate. Israel needed rescuing, as do we.
  1. Matthew 6:33 – we seek God’s righteousness first, and “all these things” will be added to us. What things will be given to us as well? This is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Read the rest of the sermon for that answer.
  2. Psalm 119:172 – all God’s commands are right (righteousness). Pretty self-explanatory. However, we need to read the entire Bible to understand ALL of God’s commands.
  3. Proverbs 8:20 – we are to walk in righteousness. Righteousness and justice are choices. They don’t just happen. They take effort.
  4. Proverbs 11:4-6 – great rewards for righteousness: delivered from death, keeps our ways straight, saved.
  5. 2 Corinthians 5:21 – Christ became sin to give us His righteousness.
  6. 2 Corinthians 10:35 – taking every thought captive.
  7. Jeremiah 23:5-6who does this passage refer to? (Jesus) The righteous Branch is coming: The Lord is our righteousness.

 

An in-depth study of all the scriptures concerning righteousness (there are 301 in the New King James Version) reveals that servants of God in the Bible who had righteousness all had it because they followed God’s way. Though it may seem a sweeping statement, it is through a continuing and dedicated adherence to both the letter and spirit of God’s law that we can defend ourselves with His righteousness.

www.freebiblestudy.org

 

Ezekiel 33:12-17 – Righteousness is not a one-time event. We must keep wearing it. Our past righteous deeds aren’t good enough, and our past sins do not prevent us from receiving God’s righteousness.

Job was attacked twice. Paul was attacked repeatedly. If they took off their armor even for a moment, they would have been defeated.

Philippians 4:8-9 – whatever is true, whatever is noble … think about such things. This is a good way to put on the breastplate of righteousness.

Isaiah 32:17 – The results of righteousness: peace, quietness and trust forever. Was this true for Job? Abraham?

Job did not get bent out of shape over his circumstances. Peace, quiet and trust were his hallmarks.

Abraham’s faith also gave him a life of peace, quietness and trust.

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Positive v. negative: Which prevails?

When they had come to the land of Canaan … the LORD appeared to Abram, and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.”

Genesis 12:5, 7

 

“We are not able to go up against this people, for they are stronger than we.” So they brought to the Israelites an unfavorable report of the land that they had spied out …

Numbers 13:31-32

 

How easy we forget a promise. Or, perhaps because we know all about broken promises, we just won’t take God at His word.

In the first book of the Bible, God promised Abram (later renamed Abraham) a land flowing with milk and honey for his descendants. A few books later, God is ready to fulfill His promise by leading Israel into the Promised Land.

Before entering the land, Moses wanted to see what (and who) was there, so he sent 12 leaders, one from each of Israel’s tribes, to spy out the land. They reported that the land indeed was flowing with milk and honey.

They also noted that the inhabitants of Canaan were strong with large fortified cities – which they didn’t think they could conquer.

Two of the 12 spies, Caleb and Joshua, remembered God’s promise to Abram, saying, “If the LORD is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us …” (Numbers 14:8)

The nation’s response? “The whole congregation threatened to stone them.” (v. 10)

The majority opinion

You know the story. God forced Israel to wander in the desert for 40 years until that entire generation (except for Caleb and Joshua) died, and their descendants entered the Promised Land.

As I studied this familiar story recently, one I’ve read many times, a new thought came to me. (God does this all the time, as regular Bible readers know.)

The nation in the wilderness supported the majority opinion. Ten v. two. Ten spies said the inhabitants were too strong to overcome. Two said God was able to keep His promise, and that somehow God would lead Israel into the Promised Land.

It’s easy to judge the 10 in hindsight, because of course God eventually did help Israel conquer Canaan.

At the moment, however, I’m sure the 10 were very persuasive.

The big picture

It’s so easy to focus on our circumstances and lose sight of the big picture, as those 10 spies did. Who cares that God made a promise many generations earlier? These enemies are too strong for us. We can’t do it.

Caleb and Joshua saw the same situation that the other spies did. All of them saw the fruit of the land, how good it was, and the inhabitants, how big and strong they were.

The difference? Their attitudes.

Caleb and Joshua had seen God’s power as Israel escaped Egypt: the plagues, the Passover, the parting of the Red Sea, the giving of the 10 Commandments, manna in the wilderness that just appeared every day – all of it. They saw and experienced God’s power.

When they spied the Promised Land, they did not forget.

The other 10 did.

How easy it is to leave God in the wilderness, to focus on the challenges facing us and not on the God who promises to overcome the challenges.

Perspective

The majority saw the negative. Caleb and Joshua saw the positive.

As a (retired) journalist, I am by nature cynical. It’s so easy for me to see the negative side. I have trouble finding joy in life, even though I know it’s there, because I see all the strife and turmoil around me.

I experience it every day. Road rage. Companies downsizing, including the one I worked for a few years ago. The opioid epidemic, which makes the news nearly every day around here. People on their phones instead of interacting face-to-face. And I haven’t even mentioned politics, which is its own special case.

How do I experience such things? With pessimism or optimism?

It’s the popular thing to complain and criticize. Even, perhaps especially, if we’re the majority.

But does that make it right?

What if the majority is off-track? What if most of us are missing the big picture?

Attitude

I get upset when someone cuts me off at 65 mph because he or she is in a hurry to get somewhere. If I turn that into road rage, a fleeting incident would have lasting consequences, perhaps life-taking consequences.

Let it go and move on. Pick your battles. I’m on the highway because I’m going somewhere, and I want to get there. That’s the big picture. Suck it up and swallow my pride. I just hope that speeder doesn’t cause a crash down the road that takes or ruins an innocent life.

Do I see life in a positive or negative fashion?

Can I find the good in you? It’s there, of course.

Or, do I focus on the bad in you? That’s there too.

As it is in me.

If you want to find fault with me, you certainly can. If you focus on that, you might draw that out of me.

If you focus on the good in me, you might draw that out instead.

Attitude. That’s the difference.

Caleb and Joshua did not see an insurmountable obstacle. They saw a way to conquer the land. They didn’t know the details of how it would happen, but they trusted their God and His promise.

Even when the other 10 leaders and the entire nation of Israel didn’t see it.

Human nature is selfish. It’s so easy to get caught up in our own world and miss what’s really going on around us.

If we seek a positive outcome, we just might find it. This is one reason I believe in God, and try to see life through His lens. I don’t know what tomorrow brings, what Promised Land I will enter.

I need to remind myself of this all the time.

My cynical, self-centered, critical attitude is only part of the picture. When God offers a positive outlook, I need to pursue it.

I saw a John Eldredge movie last night with some friends. The author and adventurer says each of us has a story, and we need to discover it. That story involves not only adventure, but beauty.

If the world is such a bad place, Eldredge, says, where does beauty come from?

Perspective. Attitude. What we’re looking for.

Beauty or evil?

Which do you see?

Don’t trust the majority on this one.