Have you ever received hand-me-downs from an older sister or cousin? I have for as long as I can remember. When I was a little girl, hand-me-downs were dropped off in garbage bags and the shirts wore barbeque residue on the front or yellow stains under the sleeves.
But a few years ago my stylish friend from New York started sharing her hand-me-downs with me. They were dropped off in Ralph Lauren bags and displayed tags like DKNY. Turns out “hand-me-downs” aren’t necessarily synonymous with junk!
Did you know God gives us His better-than-DKNY hand-me-downs? The different pieces of armor we’re told to put on in Ephesians 6 actually belong to . . . God!
Put on the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:11).
Today we’re going to look at one piece of His armor, the breastplate of righteousness:
Stand therefore . . . having put on the breastplate of righteousness (Eph. 6:14).
First, let’s check out God modeling the breastplate. Flip all the way back to Isaiah for a look:
The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. . . . He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, so will he repay, wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies (59:15, 17–18, emphasis added).
The Lord putting on righteousness is colorful language to describe that He is righteous to His core. He always does what is right and just.
Now, I should probably interrupt myself here and mention that when Paul wrote this letter to the believers in Ephesus, they were used to seeing Roman soldiers walking around wearing breastplates. Not exactly something we see everyday in 2014! Today’s breastplate would look more like . . . a bulletproof vest.
So what do we need to do to get this breastplate/bulletproof vest of righteousness from God?
Believe God. It’s always been that way since the beginning of time:
And he [Abram] believed the LORD, and he [the LORD] counted it to him [Abram] as righteousness (Gen. 15:6).
Once a crowd asked Jesus, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” In other words, “What must we do to be righteous”?
Jesus replied, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29). Who did God send? Jesus!
So I have to ask . . . have you repented of your sin and trusted in His Son, Jesus, to save you from God’s just wrath against your sin?
If so, you have been given Christ’s righteousness. Another word for that is you have been justified. God looks at you just as if you’ve never sinned and just as if you’ve always obeyed—because that’s what Jesus did for you!
But you are also being sanctified. You’re already righteous in God’s eyes, but now you’re being made more like Him in everyday life, with the help of God’s Spirit in you.
So what does putting on the breastplate of righteousness look like?
- It looks like believing in Christ’s righteousness even when Satan tempts you to despair (check out the song below). When that voice in your head tells you you’re not good enough, how do you respond? Do you think, Yes, but I read my Bible regularly or Yes, but I’m the nicest girl in school or . . . Yes, but Christ is my righteousness.
- It looks like acting righteously (rightly) before God and to other people. Like the guy who returned my wallet to me rather than keeping it for himself (another story for another day). Putting on the breastplate of righteousness is both about what we believe and how we live, because what we believe always impacts what we do.
I haven’t received any hand-me-downs from my stylish friend in a couple years, but I have been given God’s hand-me-downs. You have, too, if you’re in Christ. The question is . . . are the pieces stuffed in the back of the bottom drawer of your dresser, or are you putting them on every morning?