...with the breastplate of righteousness in place...Ephesians 6:14b
Christ is the ground of your righteous standing before God, your acceptance before Him. If you are wearing that
breastplate, you can rest secure that your heart, your emotions, are securely guarded and adequately protected against attack. This is perhaps the most frequent ground of attack against Christian faith. Christians often feel they lack assurance. They feel unworthy of God. They feel they are a failure in the Christian life and that God is certain to reject them, that He is no longer interested in them. They are so aware of their failures and shortcomings. Growth has been so slow. The first joy of faith has faded, and they feel God is angry with them or that He is far off somewhere. There is a constant sense of guilt. Their conscience is always stabbing them, making them unhappy. They feel God blames them. This is simply a satanic attack.
How do you answer an attack like this? You are to remember that you have put on the breastplate of righteousness. In other words, you do not stand on your own merits. You never did. You never had anything worthwhile in yourself to offer to God. You gave all that up when you came to Christ. You quit trying to be good enough to please God. You came on His merits. You came on the ground of His imputed righteousness—that which He gives to you. You began your Christian life like that, and there is no change now. You are still standing before God on that basis.
Paul himself used this breastplate of righteousness when he was under pressure to be discouraged and defeated. Here was a man who was small of stature and unimpressive in his personal appearance. His background was anti-Christian, and he could never get away from that completely. He had been the most hostile, brutal persecutor of the church that it had known. He must constantly have run across families with loved ones whom he had put to death. He was often reminded by many people that he was not one of the original twelve apostles, that his calling was suspect, that perhaps he really was not an apostle at all.
What a ground for discouragement! How easy it would have been for him to say to himself,
What's the use? Here I am working my fingers to the bone, making tents and trying to preach the gospel to these people, and look at the blessing God has brought them, but they don't care. They hurl recriminations back into my face. Why try anymore? But that is not what he does. Instead, he says,
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not without effect (1 Corinthians 15: l0a). There he is using the breastplate of righteousness.
I don't care, he says,
what I have been; I don't defend what I am. I simply say to you, by the grace of God, I am what I am. What I am is what Christ has made me. I'm not standing on my righteousness; I'm standing on His. I am accepted by grace, and my personal situation does not make any difference at all. So his heart was kept from discouragement.
Father may these words meet me right where I am and help me right in the conflict in which I am engaged. Lift up my heart by the consciousness that Christ is my righteousness.
Are we still trying to be good in order to please God? Have we been met by our short- comings and resulting guilt? How can we constantly preclude this from happening?