Breastplate of Righteousness

Tears streamed down my face as my husband stared helplessly. What he had intended to be a tender encouragement had broken my heart. A few minutes earlier, I had informed him that I felt I should lead a Bible study. As gently as he could, he asked, “That sounds like a great fit for you, but… what are you going to stop doing to make time for that?” 

Because at the time, {{first_name}}, I was leading a moms’ group, teaching Sunday school, hosting play dates, participating in a supper-swap group, writing on my blog, and contributing regularly to a mom blog—not to mention being a wife and a mom to 3 kids under 6, and still reeling from my baby’s Down syndrome diagnosis. I was, as you might imagine, stretched a little too thin. 

But my husband’s question, meant to help free me from overburdening myself, had the opposite effect. “I know it seems like I’m doing a lot,” I choked out through my tears, “but honestly it just doesn’t feel like enough. I need to do more.” 

My husband could see in that moment what I could not: it would never be enough. I wasn’t just trying to do something good. I was trying to be good enough. My worth and my righteousness were tied up in my list of accomplishments. 

I wanted to do enough to be significant. I wanted to be good enough to measure up. And it just wasn’t possible, no matter how hard I tried. 

Maybe that’s why I struggled with the armor of God when I first came to it. I read it and felt insecure rather than encouraged. Am I truthful enough? Am I righteous enough? Do I have enough peace in my life? I’m not sure I’m equipped for this battle.

But remember what we said when we first started this series. Two of the most important words in this entire passage appear in verse 13: “of God.” God is giving us His armor to stand against the enemy. So when we are instructed to “put on the breastplate of righteousness,” it’s not something we have to build out of our own righteous acts—which is really good news for us. Over and over the Bible reminds us that righteousness is not something we can attain on our own. Isaiah laments Israel’s pattern of falling into sin, and declares, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Paul gives a long list of his qualifications to the church at Philippi before tossing them aside: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ… I count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:7, 8B-9). 

When we stand before the enemy, it’s not our own filthy rags we want to don, but the righteousness of God. 

His righteousness is our breastplate, the strong, secure armor that protects our vital organs—that protects our hearts from the enemy. 

But what does it mean to wear God’s righteousness? Does that mean we can just do whatever we want and it doesn’t matter? Um, no. As Paul says, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2). So when I say that we wear God’s righteousness and not our own, it doesn’t mean that we just sit back and relax, living however we want and following whatever desires that come our way. 

Because this is, as you will likely hear me say a lot in life, a both-and situation. 

We wear God’s righteousness because our own is filthy rags, and he calls us to become more like him. 

Our salvation is through grace alone, and he calls us to a life of good works in Christ Jesus. 

We will never attain perfection in our earthly lives, and we are called to “be holy, because [God is] holy” (1 Peter 1:16). 

How on earth is that even possible? The Holy Spirit. 

When we choose to follow Christ, when we are cleansed from our sin and adopted into the family of God, the Holy Spirit dwells in us. The Holy Spirit, who is fully God. Which means the righteousness of God indwells us

Sit with that for a minute. 

So we have the power of the Holy Spirit inside us, enabling us to become more like him. And yes, we are still human, with all of the shortcomings that go along with that. Again, both-and. Now-and-not-yet. This is the tension that we live in. 

Because of Christ, we have already been declared righteous, and now we are called to go out and live in that righteousness, even though God knows we won’t do it perfectly. Because God is righteous and merciful. 

We don’t have to earn the title of righteous. We don’t have to Big Important Things in order to gain a badge. AND God tells us to live a life worthy of the calling we have received (Ephesians 4:1). 

This week, I hope you both rest and wrestle. Rest in Christ and the knowledge that he has already accomplished your salvation, your righteousness. Rest in knowing that your breastplate is strong and secure, because it is God’s armor that you wear. 

And wrestle with the tension of this reality that we live in, this now-and-not-yet. We are righteous, and we are being made righteous. We are declared worthy, and we are called to walk worthy. 

And as you seek to walk worthy, remember that it doesn’t mean creating a list of accomplishments. It doesn’t mean overloading your schedule in order to be significant enough. Instead, “here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering” (Romans 12:1, The Message). 

{{first_name}}, as I’ve said before, we are soldiers together in God’s army. I’d love to hear how you are placing your everyday, ordinary life before God as an offering. How are you resting in your identity in Christ? How are you wrestling well in the now-and-not-yet reality of our righteousness? Hit reply and tell me what God is laying on your heart this week!

Battle Prep

With each piece of armor we cover, I’ll include some extra Bible passages for you to study and thoughts for you to think through, journal about, and/or discuss with others. 

Scriptures abound talking about God’s righteousness! If you want to know more about what your breastplate is made of, I’d love for you to spend some time soaking in these passages this week. I also encourage you to head to Blue Letter Bible, type “righteousness” in the search bar at the top (You can also change the Bible translation if you wish—I usually use ESV or NIV.), and look through all the Bible has to say about it. 

And here are a few Scriptures that stood out to me as I studied… 

  •  Philippians 3:3-11 

o   Paul starts by calling attention to what the Jews thought made them righteous: circumcision. This outward symbol had become a source of pride for many of the Jewish Christians, who thought they had earned God’s favor. Paul goes on to give a resume of sorts—his list of accomplishments, his own handcrafted “breastplate of righteousness” as it were. Then he takes all of his Big Important Things and declares, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (vs. 7). 

o   How have you tried to do or be good enough in your own life? Have you gotten caught up in trying to earn your righteousness instead of resting in Christ’s righteousness that depends on faith? 

o   What does Paul say he aspires to do now, rather than rack up accomplishments? What does it mean to “become like him in his death”? 

  •  Philippians 3:12-16 

o   In the previous passage, we see Paul resting in Christ’s righteousness. In these verses, we see the wrestling. What does it look like to do this well? How do we “press on toward the goal” without wrapping up our own worth and significance in our accomplishments? 

  •  2 Corinthians 5:20 – 6:1 

o   What does it mean to be an ambassador of God? 

o   Why does Paul say that we “become” the righteousness of God? How is this different than having the righteousness of God? 

If you want some tips for how to better study God’s Word, you can find them in the previous email in this series. I also wrote about Bible study for my friends at The Sublime Soiree, and you can find that post here.

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Battle Prep 

Throughout Scripture, we see lines drawn connecting light and truth. Let’s spend a few days looking at some of these passages and deepening our understanding of God’s Word.


Before we get started, let me give you a few of my favorite Bible study tips:

  1. Pray. This is always a great place to start in any undertaking, but especially when studying Scripture. Ask the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of your heart, to teach you something new about Himself.
  2. Read the passage a few times. Maybe read it in multiple translations. (The YouVersion app is great for this!)
  3. Summarize the key point(s) of the passage in your own words. Jot down a few observations. Do you see repeated words/ideas? (This happens less when we’re studying a few verses at a time, but it’s still a helpful concept to keep in mind.) Does it teach about any attributes of God? Note any key transition words (therefore, because, if/then, etc.). Write down any questions the text brings up for you or things you don’t understand.
  4. Seek to understand & apply the passage. Look up any cross-references that appear in your Bible. Consult a commentary. Ask yourself, “What does this passage teach me about God? How does it shape my understanding of him or my view of self? How should this change me?”
  5. Pray some more. 😉


So let’s take those tips and use them to help us study these passages:

  • Psalm 43:3, 119:105
  • John 1:1-9
  • 2 Corinthians 4:1-6
  • 1 John 1:5-7
  • Ephesians 5:6-14

Each of these passages talks about the idea of light. As you read, think about how light is being used to represent truth, God, the gospel, etc. Why did God use light and darkness as metaphors in this way? How does this help us to better understand Him? How does it help us to better understand the belt of truth as our identifier?

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