Summary: Our modern culture is desperate to feel good about itself. But God has provided a true way to feel good about ourselves, to feel good because we are doing good, and to find God's forgiveness when our own efforts fall short.
We are continuing to look at what the Apostle Paul called the whole armor of God. In his letter to the Ephesian Church, chapter 6, he talked about our world as a battle field. And he wasn't picturing the kind of battle like that occurred when we began our attack on Iraq, where our forces could sit safely on a ship a hundred miles from the action and safely lob missiles at people they couldn’t even see, or stealth bombers drop bombs from above the clouds. This battle is more like the mess in Baghdad today, where you often don’t know if that person walking down the street is going to try to sell you some trinket or blow you up with bombs strapped under their clothing. The devil attacks close and dirty. He’s even sneakier than the lowest suicide bomber because he has often infiltrated our very thoughts without us even knowing it. The battleground is your very heart. Sometimes it has been going on for so long that we can't even imagine a life without it.
But Paul assures us that God provides the weapons we need, not just to survive, but to stand firm, to hold our ground, to stay at our assigned post, to stand close to God, no matter what this world throws our way.
Our text for this morning is, again, Ephesians 6:10-17.
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be 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. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
Today we look at the second piece of armor, the breastplate of righteousness. Last week we looked at the belt of truth, which represents how we think and feel towards God. The breastplate of righteousness symbolizes something of how we think and feel about ourselves.
And we live in an age that is very sensitive to how we feel about ourselves. Issues of self esteem are everything for us. Most advertisers have given up on telling us the actual merits of a product. Instead they project a feeling about ourselves that they want us to connect with their product. Maybe you’ve seen the commercial where kids are climbing the slide in a playground. One little girl pushes in ahead of her turn. When the other mother protests, the pushy little girl’s mother refuses to correct the situation. So the mother whose child got bullied feels insecure and vulnerable for a moment. But what does she do to fix it? She goes out and buys a Hummer. And what feeling is she supposed to get from driving a Hummer? Power and control. Who knows if she can afford to buy it, let alone feed it? But by driving a monster car she can feel big and strong. But is her life really any different? Only that she is out about $50,000, and she will be spending an awful lot of time and money at the gas station. Are there better ways to feel good about ourselves?
The Bible tells us that we feel good about ourselves as we do right and as we are in right relationship with God.
Righteousness is like a piece of armor that protects our very heart. God offers us the privilege of wearing the breastplate of righteousness. It’s not a sham effort to pretend we are good when we aren't. The breastplate of righteousness is transparent. It won't cover up anything. It only fits over a clean heart.
I don’t think the Bible ever gives us a really clear portrait of the devil. But one of the names it gives for the devil is ‘the accuser’. We see the devil as the accuser right at the beginning of the Bible, when he works through the snake to suggest that God is holding out on Adam and Eve, keeping important knowledge from them. And then, when Eve says that God told them they would die if they eat the forbidden fruit, Satan as much as calls God a liar by saying it isn’t true.