Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: To gain victory over the enemy you need to put on the breastplate of righteousness that is to say you need to live in daily, moment-by-moment obedience to our heavenly Father.

Gary Richmond, a zookeeper at the Los Angeles Zoo, was given master keys to every animal’s cage. He was cautioned sternly to guard them with his life and to pay close attention to which doors he opened and closed.

“Richmond”, the supervisor said, “these keys will let you in to care for millions of dollars worth of animals. Some of them could never be replaced, but you could be, if you catch my drift. Some of the animals would hurt themselves if they gout out, and more significantly, they might hurt and even kill somebody. You wouldn’t want that on your conscience.”

I took him seriously, and performed flawlessly for four months. Then, something happened with the most dangerous animals in the zoo. Ivan was a polar bear who weighed well over nine hundred pounds and had killed two perspective mates. He hated people and never missed an opportunity to attempt to grab anyone passing by his cage.

I let him our of his night quarters into the sparkling morning sunshine by pulling a lever to his guillotine door. No sooner had he passed under it than I realized that, that at the other end of the hall, I had left another door opened. It was the door I would use to go outside if Ivan was locked up inside. Now Ivan could walk to the other end of the outdoor exhibit and come in that door I had left open, and, if he so chose, eat me.

In terror, I looked out the guillotine door. Ivan was still in sight. He was a creature of routine, and he always spent the first hour of his morning pacing. His pattern was L-shaped. He would walk from the door five steps straight out, and then turn right for three steps. He would then rock back and forth and come back to the guillotine door again, which he would bump with his head. He would repeat that cycle for one hour and then rest.

I timed his cycle and determined that I had seventeen seconds to run down the hallway and shut the open door. I staked my life on the fact that he would not vary his routine. He didn’t seem to notice the wide open door, which is unusual. Animals tend to notice the slightest changes in their environment.

I decided that when he made his next turn, I would run down the hallway, hoping upon hope that I would not meet Ivan at the other end. He turned and I ran. With every step my knees weakened. My heart pounded so hard I felt sure it would burst from fear. I made the corner and faced the critical moment. Ivan was still out of sight; I reached for the door handle. As I reached out for the handle, I looked to the right. There was the bear, eight feet away. Our eyes made contact. His eyes were cold and unfeeling and I’m sure I expressed all the terror that filled the moment. I pulled the huge steel door with all my strength. My knees buckled and I fell to the floor racked with the effects of too much adrenaline. I looked up and Ivan was staring at me through the window in the door.

It is this story that Max Anders tells in his book, “What you need to know about spiritual warfare” as he begins to discuss the “breastplate of righteousness”. It is in this story that we see a standard being set for Gary Richmond, “take of these keys and pay close attention to the doors you open and close or else”, Richmond’s boss said to him or else. Did the boss set a standard because he (the boss) was trying to be a jerk? No! He held up a standard for Gary to protect Gary, the animals, and all the visitors in the zoo.

So it is with God. He sets standards for us and exhorts us to adhere to them, not because He is a cosmic kill-joy or a celestial jerk or a heavenly worrywart. He sets these standards because He sees reality clearly. He knows about consequences and cause and effect relationships. He as built into His created order the necessary restrictions to keep us from harming ourselves and others.

See, Satan attacks us by leading us into a life of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is being more concerned about outward appearance and reputation rather than our inner spirituality. Too many of us try to dress up sin every week (and I use week intentionally).

• We wake up on Sunday morning and put on our best dress or suit.

• We spend countless minutes in front of the mirror making sure that our make-up and hair is together.

• We make sure our kids are on their best behavior when we come to church because it won’t look good if they are running up and down the isles of the church.

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