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The Breastplate of Righteousness

September 6, 2006

A breastplate guards the heart. So the true believer pursues true righteousness because he is guarding his heart for God. True righteousness must be heart righteousness. The heart of a true Christian is full of true longings to know God, to glorify God, to walk in the presence of God, and so he guards this experience by pursuing righteousness.

As further evidence that true righteousness is a heart issue, consider 1 Thessalonians 5:8 where Paul tells the Thessalonians to put on faith and love as a breastplate. Now if Paul says the breastplate is righteousness, and that the breastplate is faith and love, this tells me that righteousness is inseparable from faith and love. If our hearts are not resting in the finished work of Jesus Christ, full of love for God, then any righteousness we have is counterfeit.

Beware of the heartless holiness, which is so tragically common. There are many for whom righteousness is defined by what they don’t do. They don’t drink, they don’t smoke, they don’t dance, they don’t play cards. That might make you a really great Muslim, but it has nothing to do with Christianity. True Christian righteousness is an active pursuit of love for God and love for neighbor. It can be defined positively, not just negatively.

The Puritans are insistent about this in their writings on the breastplate of righteousness. John Downame defines it this way “the breastplate of righteousness, that is, a holy endeavor and desire of serving God.” and William Gurnall’s position is summarized by Bryan Zacharias in this way “Superstitious holiness, superficial, external holiness does not bother the devil at all; in fact, it is his work.” If you want to keep fundamentalist holiness codes, Satan’s not going to stop you, he helped write them. That’s the doctrine said to be taught by demons in 1 Timothy 4. But if you really start letting your life be governed by a Spirit-wrought-in-the-heart passion to know God, then Satan will screech, he can’t stand it, and he will do all he can to put out your fire. And that’s why we need to guard our hearts with the breastplate of righteousness.

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 7, 2006 10:32 pm

    I was thinking about what you said regarding ‘heartless holiness’ while listening to Derek Webb’s “A New Law”… you might enjoy his music, and apparently, he’s giving it away for free :)

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