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May 22, 2011

Putting On Truth and Righteousness

Passage: Ephesians 6:10-14

Preacher: Eric Stapleton

Series: Dressed to Conquer

Category: Law and Gospel, Ephesians, Christian Walk

Keywords: truth, righteousness, works, jesus, salvation, gospel, justification

Summary:

In Ephesians 6, Paul asks us to put on truth and righteousness. What does that mean? Which truth? Whose righteousness? How does truth and righteousness protect me in spiritual warfare? Why is there spiritual warfare?

Detail:

Ephesians 6:10–14 (NASB95)

The Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.

11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

What do you think of when you hear the term warfare? What movies come to mind?

What do you think of when you hear the word armor?

Sometimes we have positive images, sometimes we have negative images…It’s suffocating, clumsy, there is a lack of freedom, it’s not natural.  Even King David, when he started out didn’t prefer using armor

1 Samuel 17:39 (NASB95)

39 David girded his sword over his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. So David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” And David took them off.

And you know the story, David trades in the king’s sword and armor for what he knows, a sling and stones. But later on, when David becomes a soldier and eventually a general in King Saul’s army, do you think that he kept using the sling and stones? No, because those weapons are not normally suitable for the type of warfare people of that time engaged in. There were spears, swords, bows and arrows, weapons that had greater strength, range, power, protecting ability. David had God on his side and God was proving a point through David. And, to finish the job of killing Goliath, David did use a sword.

I think this is also a useful analogy for us spiritually. When we first get saved, Jesus really does meet us where we are at. He does not require us to change in order to receive His love. But as time goes on, Christ does require us to grow, mature and bear fruit. OK, he’s talking about fruit now. I thought he was talking about armor. I’m so confused. I’ll get back to the armor. First fruits. Offering is later. Shoot, confusing myself.

Fruit, just as trees bear fruit that are delightful to look at, hold and taste, we Christians are expected to bear or put forth behaviors, speech and actions that are delightful to look at and pleasant for others to experience. Why? So that others will be drawn to know Jesus Christ’s love.

What is that fruit?

Galatians 5:22–23 (NASB95)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

This is the kind of fruit God wants us bearing. To draw attention to ourselves? No, to draw attention to Jesus who is the source of that fruit. See, this list of fruit, attributes of character that are good, it’s not a to do list. This is not even a to be list. The reason why I say that is because when it becomes that type of list, it becomes another law, rule to follow to achieve righteousness. This list is more of diagnostic to test whether you are in touch with God’s Holy Spirit that lives within you or not. Every Christian has God’s Holy Spirit living within them. That is to say, if you believe and can declare that Jesus Christ died on the cross as a payment to God for your sins and rose from the dead—winning your salvation to eternal life with God—then you have God’s Holy Spirit living within you.

So, someone might ask what’s the big diff between seeing that as a to-do list or a litmus test to whether I’m in touch with God’s Holy Spirit? Well, if you see it as a to do list or a to be list and you fall short of one or more of those items, the solution becomes simple looking. You just adjust, put in more effort to be these things and then you are right with God again, right? Wrong. What makes me right with God? Jesus. Only Jesus. What can save me from my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. So, if you see this as a checklist to be right with God and by some stretch of the imagination you delude yourself into thinking you achieve it, you could then turn around and use it as a diagnostic sword to slice other people to ribbons. A volunteer fruit inspector as it were. “That person isn’t godly, look at him eat, gorging himself on that food. Where’s the self-control there? Look at him, he calls himself a pastor, he never smiles, where’s the joy?” I use that last one as a personal example. Somebody actually pointed out to me that I wear my anxiety and stress on my sleeve. This can actually be very true of me. It’s ironic that individual who was very good at putting on a game face, is now facing criminal charges of theft and selling of stolen goods.

I say all this to point out that if you hold on to this belief that measuring up to this checklist will make you right with God, not only do you now fall into the category of being a casualty of spiritual warfare but you have been blinded by the enemy and run the risk of being turned in the wrong direction swinging that big old sword of truth (the word of God) at others, creating more casualties of spiritual warfare. In essence you believe that your works can make you right with God. Works can you make right with God, but not our works. Only Christ’s work, his work on the Cross can make us or anybody we see right with God. You know what our works are to God our efforts of righteousness? used tampons gift wrapped. Or, not to be sexist, a steaming pile of dung. Here God! Made it myself!

You thank the prophet Isaiah for the imagery.

Now granted, that scripture in Galatians is a litmus test (for you) and Jesus, himself, does say “ye shall know them by their fruits.” But when you use it as a sword to judge people you end up missing the first item on the list—love. So, how do I use this verse then, Eric? I’m glad you asked. Analogy If you have a cancerous lesion on your skin, will covering it up make up or long sleeve shirt make it go away? No, you have to not only get rid of the lesion but make sure that there isn’t cancer throughout your body, other lesions, etc. And then if there is, aggressive therapy may be needed for the wages of cancer is also death. And you can’t do that yourself, can you? You need to go to another person, not just any person, a qualified doctor who can you start you on the path to healing.

My point is, if you’re not producing that fruit, you need to go to the qualified healer and find out why. Who is that? Jesus. What lie are you believing that’s taking away your joy? What sin is unconfessed that needs to be healed? What do you need to hear from God so that it makes it more natural to produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control? Because friends, as you mature in the faith, it does become more natural to produce this fruit. You need to find out the truth. You need to gird yourself with the belt of truth. Ahh, now he gets back to the passage and armor and all that.

See, that is the enemy’s purpose for making war against us. He can’t have us. Our salvation is a done deal, but he can hinder our ability to produce fruit-- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. He can make us less attractive to those who would also come to saving faith in Jesus Christ, because those individuals, people who don’t know Christ are his, for the time being, and he won’t give them up without a fight. In fact, he will try to take away our ability to wage war against him because that is what we are called to do.

See, part of the problem is that we very often think of this war as a defensive war when it really is both. This last series was named Invading Enemy Territory for a reason. We are all soldiers in Christ’s army, like it or don’t and we are here to occupy until our captain, Jesus Christ returns.

In verse eleven, he says put on, in verse thirteen, take up. The idea here is that the author is implying that the reader (you) take something that isn’t naturally a part of you and to use its attributes to protect you. In the case of armor, it’s metal, wood, cloth, etc and wearing it. Paul uses this analogy of armor to emphasize that the things that will protect you are one, something, you intentionally take pains to do and two, these are things of a spiritual nature. He’s already defined that we’re not dealing with flesh and blood but with spiritual entities. To do battle with spiritual entities, you need spiritual armor and weaponry. That’s what these verses are referring to.

Paul is actually borrowing imagery that has already been used in scripture.

Isaiah 11:5 (NASB95)

5 Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins,

 And faithfulness the belt about His waist.

 

Isaiah 59:17 (NASB95)

17 He put on righteousness like a breastplate,

 And a helmet of salvation on His head;

 And He put on garments of vengeance for clothing

 And wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle.

 

 

Now, you may have noticed that the symbols are changed up a bit from Ephesians. Now I don’t you to get hung up on attributes of the armor and it’s correlation to the spiritual counterpart…Isaiah describes righteousness as at one time a breastplate and at another, a belt…That’s not important, what’s important is that it is a shift in posture, focus, intention and a deliberate change in mindset. In the Isaiah verses it’s God who is taking up the breastplate of righteousness, etc. In God’s case it isn’t something unnatural he’s taking up but rather a change in his focus or method in the way he is dealing with Hi people. Look up these scriptures and You will see how that plays out.

That is what Paul is asking, he’s asking you to, like God in Isaiah, take a warrior posture with deliberateness. It’s not, “Oh, I just got shot but luckily, I just happened to have my Kevlar vest on so the bullet didn’t penetrate.” No, the Kevlar vest needs to intentionally be put on, it’s not automatic or accidental. Not normally anyway…I’ll talk about that later.

Revelation 19:11 (NASB95)

The Coming of Christ

11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.

Exodus 15:3 (NASB95)

3 “The Lord is a warrior;

The Lord is His name.

Romans 8:29 (NASB95)

29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;

Romans 8:37 (NASB95)

37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

So, we are to become like Christ. In addition to being  lovers of people, peacemakers, prophets, there is the warrior aspect, we are also called to. Again, it’s not a physical battle we’re called to here, but a spiritual one. We’re not called on to slay the infidel. Where real people are concerned, it’s helpful to think of this battle as a rescue operation.

And Paul, in Ephesians 6:11-14 calls us to put on the full armor of God. In the following verses, he points out a few different aspects of spiritual weaponry. Today, we are talking about defensive components of this warfare though. Defensive, not because we have so much to lose, but to stay in the fight and make a difference in this spiritual war. The enemy, Satan, is the one who has something of value to lose. Eternity cannot be taken away from us.

Verse 14, the Belt of Truth and the Breastplate of Righteousness. Paul assumes that you’ve already girded yourself with truth and righteousness. That gives us a clue to the truth and righteousness he’s talking about. The questions are of course Which truth? And Whose righteousness?

Which truth? Is it 1+1=2 truth? Not useful. We’re in the Bible, so let’s go religious, maybe it’s “the soul that sinneth shall surely die” truth. Well, that’s not very helpful for us because the enemy uses that one against us constantly. Knowing that I don’t measure up and I’m gonna die in my sins is not helpful. So that, specifically, is probably not what Paul is talking about.

John 1:14 (NASB95)

The Word Made Flesh

14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Basically, Jesus is the truth. You’ve girded yourself with Jesus. What does that mean? Maybe too intimate imagery there. That means you’ve accepted God’s judgment of your sin through Jesus Christ. “God has judged my sin through Jesus Christ” Let’s do a little belt buckling here. Say it with me, “God has judged my sin through Jesus Christ.” We’re not going to talk about all of the effects of that today, salvation, the gospel of peace, salvation, faith, etc. That’s coming. We will talk about one of them though and that is the next piece of armor, the breastplate of righteousness. What is righteousness?

righ•teous ˈrī-chəs adjective

[alteration of earlier rightuous, alteration of Middle English rightwise, rightwos, from Old English rihtwīs, from riht, noun, right + wīs wise] 1530

1  : acting in accord with divine or moral law : free from guilt or sin

2  a : morally right or justifiable 〈a righteous decision〉[1]

 

If your sin is taken away, dealt with through Jesus, what’s left is a person without sin. What is a person who is without sin? Righteous. This is hard one. Let’s put on that breastplate of righteousness. It’s heavy. Together, “I am righteous.” Not self-righteousness. Who bought this righteousness for us? It’s all paid up! Not like the car you’re still paying five grand on, or the house you might be paying a hundred grand on, it’s paid up and it’s yours, it’s a gift that was very, very expensive.

I wonder how many of you had trouble not adding some qualifying statement to “I am righteous.” It’s very tempting and it seems like a very humble thing to do, to say, “in Christ I am righteous, or I am declared righteous, or by God’s grace I’m righteous”. Seems like it’s humble. You can easily say something like, “I alive” or “I own a Subaru”…I guess you don’t convicted to say, “by God’s grace I have a Subaru.” Would you, without God’s leave or permission, have your own life or the Subaru? No, you wouldn’t. It’s not about how lofty righteousness compared to a Subaru. The real issue is that you know you have the Subaru, the back pack, the cell phone, the house, your very own life. You know you own  or have those things, but, if you have trouble saying “I am righteous” it’s because you don’t know that you own it. That’s why. Not humility. Fear and you don’t believe what God says about you. When I was preparing this message, I had trouble saying it and when I did, I started bawling not because I didn’t believe it but because I finally did.

Christ bought it, you own it. So, own it.

As hard as saying those things is, I think I need to make sure and back those statements with scripture:

Romans 5:6 (NASB95)

6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Romans 5:8–19 (NASB95)

8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.

16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.

17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.

19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

Now, I could go off on a tangent about the difference between imputed righteousness and actual righteous but puts us back in the land of the theoretical. That doesn’t do us much good really. You need to feel the weight of God calling you righteous, morally perfect in his sight.

So, having girded our loins with the belt of truth and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.

These are vital. These are the core of your new identity in Christ—Truth and Righteousness. They protect your vital organs and just underneath your belly. Bits of armor hung from the belt to protect the groin area there. In fact is interest that this piece of equipment, the belt or cingulum as it was called in Latin, that’s Roman for plain English, this cingulum was worn at all times even when the rest of the armor wasn’t present. I think that’s useful, let’s go with it. The truth is always with you.

Using the analogy of armor and all its attributes and correlations with spiritual ideas is not vital, but it can be very useful. And so I will dive into that and see what this means.

What does a belt do? When talking about Roman armor though, this item not only held armor plates that protected the soldiers groin area but also held the soldiers weapons in place, a dagger and a sword which are offensive weapon. So if you’re belt of truth is not in place, you have to basis for storing the sword of the spirit which is the word God, an offensive weapon in spiritual warfare.

 

Like I said earlier, the enemy’s prime objective isn’t to destroy us but to take away our ability to wage war against him. I may have mentioned that my girls and I take karate classes and we learn about some weapons and self defense techniques and such. You watch a Bruce Lee movie and you’re dazzled by his athleticism and his high kicks to an opponent’s head. Well, in a self-defensive situation, if we’re going to kick anything, we’re actually taught to take out our opponent’s front leg because if we can do that we take away power from anything he tries to throw at us or his ability to chase us. We are taught primarily to take out our opponents ability to attack us.

If we don’t have our belt of truth on, we don’t have power and become ineffective in the battle.

Now, when we talk about girding our loins with the belt of truth and breastplate of righteousness, it really can be as simple as looking in the mirror and saying aloud those two statements: “God judged my sin through Jesus Christ” and “I am righteous” Really. Some might say, “I read the Bible and pray every day for two hours.” Yeah, well, if you aren’t so sure about those two statements that are true about yourself “truth and righteousness” reading the Bible may not do you the good that you think it. Because your reading the Bible through skewed lens.

If you don’t believe that you have a righteousness based on faith in Christ but is based on how your behavior was in a given week or time period, reading the Bible can leave you kind of dry if not outright despairing.

If we don’t have an accurate basis of truth to start with, it affects our whole outlook.

Psalm 66:16–20 (NIV84)

16 Come and listen, all you who fear God;

let me tell you what he has done for me.

17 I cried out to him with my mouth;

his praise was on my tongue.

18 If I had cherished sin in my heart,

the Lord would not have listened;

19 but God has surely listened

and heard my voice in prayer.

20 Praise be to God,

who has not rejected my prayer

or withheld his love from me!

I’ve read this passage for years and I’ve always understood it that the author didn’t cherish sin in his heart. Because he didn’t cherish sin in his heart, God heard his prayer. That made sense to my mind. I’ve good, God gives me the time of day, if I’m not, he doesn’t. Well, with the belt of truth buckled around my waste I can see that the God described here isn’t all that amazing if that’s the way I’m reading it. I would expect that Holy God wouldn’t give a sinner the time of day. I expect God to act that way and take that posture. Yet, the author is saying that God is amazing, but really, he’s implying that he is amazing because he didn’t cherish sin in his heart. Wearing the belt of truth, I see that there is something amiss in the way I’ve been reading this verse all these years.

Now look at it in the NASB

Psalm 66:16–20 (NASB95)

16 Come and hear, all who fear God,

And I will tell of what He has done for my soul.

17 I cried to Him with my mouth,

And He was extolled with my tongue.

18 If I regard wickedness in my heart,

The Lord will not hear;

19 But certainly God has heard;

He has given heed to the voice of my prayer.

20 Blessed be God,

Who has not turned away my prayer

Nor His lovingkindness from me.

In this translation, verse 18 is put in a present, continuous tense. The verb is in a tense that suggests that if the author regards sin in his heart presently, God doesn’t hear his prayer; if the author regards sin in his heart in the future, God will not hear his prayer. In short, he’s establishing a general rule that when he has sin in his heart, God doesn’t hear his prayer. ‘But’ implies a contrast, God has heard and given heed to the voice of this man who must have regarded sin in his heart. The author is painting a contrast. God is holy, doesn’t have room for sin but still listened to the prayers of this man, this sinful man. That God is amazing, loving and worthy of our praise. That’s the gospel.

Do you get it, why would God turn away from a man who wasn’t sinful? That’s it, that’s the point. Who in here doesn’t cherish sin in their heart? Really? I do, not all the time, but there are times when I do. I cry out to God, can you save me even when I really don’t want you to? Yes. If  you still don’t get that, read Roman’s 7 again, repeat if necessary until you do.

Ever wondered how people like Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Baker, etc., got away with it for so long. These were evangelical pastors who had huge followings and powerful ministries. These men though fell into sinful behaviors that eventually became public and they were disgraced. Something to note is that these men didn’t get exposed after the ‘first time’ but had ample time to sin over and over again. Meanwhile, how do you think they carried on their ministries without God answering their prayers? They obviously regarded wickedness in their hearts. He didn’t stop hearing their prayers, instead he gave them so much time to repent because he is an amazing, loving God who never stopped hoping for them, rooting for them and he still doesn’t stop loving them. They’re in recovery now. God does discipline those whom he loves and whose righteousness he paid for. He is invested in you with the death of His son.

Now, having said that, I do believe that sometimes our sin and refusal to repent of can and will hinder our prayers, but God never turns his back on us or his love away from us.

As you read scripture, you need to be doing so knowing that God judged your sin through Christ and that you wear the righteousness bought for you.

Here’s some more examples of why that is necessary:

Philippians 4:13 (NASB95)

13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

If we aren’t reading this through the eyes of truth…even though we see those words on the page, it can translate to our brains to something like this:

I can some things through Him who holds a whip to my sorry butt.

Or this.

Romans 8:37 (NIV84)

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Becomes

No, when all kinds of bad stuff happens, we’re almost conquerors through him who must be really disappointed in us for being the epic failures that we are.

Is that what think or expect? Are we worried that he’s not going to say well done good and faithful servant, but yeah, get in here, but hurry up before I change my mind? Which is it?

That’s more or less how the belt of truth works though. Truth isn’t just something you seek but it is a basis by which you discern truth. This core protective truth—that God judged your sin already—protects you against non-truth.

Righteousness, let me tell you how that is protective. It’s all fine an good that we’re declared righteousness in God’s sight but how does that play out in day to day life. I mean, does that mean that I never sin again because a righteous person would never sin. Right, a righteous person, in theory should never sin. But if a righteous person does sin, what would that righteous person do about it? Oh, I know! “that was not sin, that was but an error, because I am righteous.” Just kidding. No, as person who is righteous, you are expected to acknowledge the sin, confess it to God, whomever else you wronged and turn from that sin. The Holy Spirit that lives within you will nudge you and strengthens you to do these things. There might be consequences for you sin—divorce, jail time, loss of job, etc.  God will walk his righteous child through all those because he loves you. Because all things work together for the good of those called according to his purpose. That’s faith, we’ll talk about that in a few weeks. But you move on from that sin without the guilt or feeling of condemnation as one who is just destined to commit that sin again, you are realigned with your righteous identity—once again bearing the fruit of the spirit.

A beautiful picture of this in the gospel is when Jesus washes the disciple’s feet.

John 13:6–17 (NASB95)

6 So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?”

7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.”

8 Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.”

10 Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.

11 For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?

13 “You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.

14 “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

15 “For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.

16 “Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.

17 “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

God doesn’t really care about your toe jam, OK, just saying. This was a symbolic act. He makes them clean and declares them as such. That doesn’t mean that Jesus bathed them, no it means that he made them clean from their sins. But occasionally they are going to “get their feet dirty” again and they will need to clean each other’s feet. Folks, this is talking about confessing your sins to another and reminding each other of the forgiveness that Christ paid for.

 

An unrighteous person doesn’t have that protection of righteousness, they might have denial, but the guilt of their past, unforgiven, un-dealt with sin, continually plagues them and eats away at them inside. You are protected from that because you are justified.

Romans 8:1–2 (NIV84)

Life Through the Spirit

8 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

But what if you are here today and you are struggling with regret over your past sins, even your recently past sins? Why? See, this is why it’s important to deliberately put on this breastplate of righteousness. You need to appropriate and recognize that your sin is dealt with and that you are righteous on what a daily basis if necessary. Anytime the voice of the enemy whispers in your ear, “remember you did that icky thing? You’re not righteous, you’re an imposter, a pretender, you have more work to do before you can be righteous.”

Let me give you an example of how this has played out in my life.

When I was a new Christian at the age of 24, I was an actor living in New York City. And just recently before that, about 8 months previously I had broken up with a girlfriend from before I was a Christian. And when I had been in that relationship we had been living as many young adults in the ways of the world, enjoying some of the benefits of marriage without the commitment or obligation and ultimately blessings of marriage. Now, although I was a Christian, I still longed for this woman and I developed an idea in my mind that I could win her to faith in Jesus Christ so that I could get back together with her. That’s the long and short of it. So, to that end when the theatrical tour she was on came back to town to take on replacement actors for the remainder of that tour, I auditioned and got a part touring with her. Basically, I committed to living with this woman on the road, not sharing the same bed, travelling, eating and working alongside this woman who I was broken up with and didn’t want to get back together with me. This was a bad move on part. Fellow Christians around me told me as much. As righteous child of God, I made a bad decision. And it was bad. We fought like an ex-married couple throughout the tour. One of my darkest moments early on was a night in New Orlean’s. I had given myself over to the idea that I wanted to get back together with her and I wouldn’t let it go. We were up arguing half the night outside the hotel rooms, me pleading to be back together with her and with the implications of whatever compromises might come with that. People were yelling at us from inside their hotel rooms, “forgive him already and go to bed.” And she didn’t. She didn’t want to be with some guy who was into the Bible. Not that I was acting like it. I really wanted to kill myself that night. I felt awful.

And I realized that something was wrong with me. I hadn’t been going to church while on the road. We were in Texas and I found a church to go to on a Sunday. I took Communion and realigned. I thought it prudent to apologize to Cyndi. I wrote her letter and took responsibility for my actions for my harassment and claimed it would stop. She asked me, “did someone tell you to do this?” No. She actually was about to file sexual harassment charges against me, but God intervened. All this as a righteous child of God. Not that I really believed that at the time. This is pre-Bible college, not having a very good foundation of truth, etc.

How I dealt with my regret and remorse at the time would be to take really long walks, like 10 or 20 mile walks. But while I was walking I would listen to music. I had this tape, Petra’s greatest hits. Petra is a Christian rock band whose music I had listened to growing up. I’d listen to this tape over and over again. The lyrics to one of the songs,

‘Cuz I’m clean, clean, clean before my lord,

Like a spotless lamb, I’m blameless in his sight,

With no sense of wrong left to right,

‘cuz I’m clean, clean, clean

 

Then later

Where are my accusers?

Nowhere to be found

They all simply fled

When the master came around?

 

I missed the mark I don’t deny it

I don’t condone or justify it

I wasn’t intentionally trying to reprogram my brain or deliberately do anything. What I didn’t know was that I was actually, by listening to this music over and over again, I was girding myself with the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness or something very similar because like I said, it wasn’t deliberate.

It gets better. A few weeks of this and she comes up to me and tells that she is mad at me. She wanted to kick me. She couldn’t believe that was not still walking around with my tail between my legs. She didn’t see how I was so easily not feeling condemned and yet not harassing her anymore. She asked me how that was so. I didn’t know. I just told her that I took long walks by myself. That’s all knew. And it’s good that I didn’t because otherwise I would have been an actor trying to sell a product. And I have faith that eventually it will bear the fruit in her life that it needs to.

Obviously, I didn’t get back together with Cyndi. I did not harass her anymore but we fought often and I did leave that tour early feeling very defeated, but I also left that tour wiser and much closer to God. I was righteous but didn’t feel it because I wasn’t deliberately doing anything.

And to a world that can’t comprehend the reality of God’s grace or even the need for it, this story would seem horrid. How you can say that you are righteous?

This is what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 1:16

Romans 1:16–17 (NIV84)

16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Hebrews 11:1 (NASB95)

The Triumphs of Faith

1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

You can’t earn righteousness through your work and that’s disappointing because work, we can see that, we can check off a box and or compare ourselves to a list of standards and say, “hey, I’m almost righteous, I almost measure up…getting there…just got to try a little harder…”

No, the righteous shall live by faith. Faith in Christ’s completed work on the Cross.

And so friends, I’m telling you, don’t live in defeat. Live victoriously. Proclaim that victory out loud. Gird yourself with the belt of truth and put on the breastplate of righteousness daily as you read the word, as you go about your day, know this as your core identity.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. He has made me righteous and favors me. This is not good self-esteem, this is God esteem. How can I not feel good about how good God feels about me?

“God loves you” it’s a phrase you’ve heard ad infinitum. It almost hasn’t any meaning anymore. How do I relay God’s personal love specifically for you or help you see it? I could give you hug. Imagine this. Imagine finding out that some famous person that you really admire, respect, a famous person that you don’t have access to but see on TV…Mel Gibson, Brad Pitt, President Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa, William and or Kate…a celebrity that you think highly of…comes in that door and says. There you are, I’ve heard so much about you ______. And they seem to hang on your every word, they cancel their plans to spend time with you. That’s how God loves you.

That means, you have his favor, he’s rooting for you and is on your side. If you’re identified with Christ, His son, that is the extent to which God is on your side. We are called sons of God. That doesn’t mean that every little thing we do pleases God, just like everything my daughters does doesn’t please me. Unlike Christ, we have the proclivity to sin, disobey God. But just like I want my daughters to do well, he wants us to do well and unlike us imperfect parents, he’s not up there all like, “Yeah, I knew you’d mess up, idiot.”

God has a plan and good destiny for you. I think I’ve done this before but take a look at this:

 

Jeremiah 29:11 (REVISED GOOFY VERSION)

11 ‘For I’m pretty sure about some plans that I have for you, they’re here somewhere’ stammers t the Lord, ‘OK, they’re not right here but I think I’m pretty sure that they are plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and more than a snowball’s chance in hell.

No, that’s not what it says:

Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB95)

11 ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

BTW, I don’t do those things with scripture to disrespect God’s Word. I do it to poke a little fun at us because like I said earlier, we might say we believe the scriptures as written but when we look closer to the way we live our lives, defeated, its more like we believe the RGV, the Revised Goofy Version.

God wants good things for you.

Granted, there will be adversity. Jesus also promises us that “in this world you will have trouble.” But that doesn’t mean that He doesn’t want us to have victory in our lives, and personal struggles, and success for the kingdom.

Oh, BTW, by the way, you’re identity also implies that your goals, your strivings, your ambitions and you’re longings will change as you grow more and more to be like Christ. In other words, if your ambition is to be a CEO of Fortune 500 company, God might tweak that bit to wanting to be the head of a missionary agency sends missionaries to Timbukthree. Inflation. Instead, making 20 gazillion dollars as a comedian and entertainer for TV audiences or stadium crowds, that ambition might get tweaked to telling a jokes at gay bar in order to win some to Christ. Or maybe you have aspirations you be on the Broadway stage, God could tweak that to preaching a sermon about truth and righteousness in downtown Spokane. It could happen. I’m just saying. Or maybe you get to be the CEO right but maybe God’s purposes for that are not for your personal benefit but to fund afore mentioned missionary agency.

God does promise victory and success for us, but there is a context for that victory. I need to say that because I don’t want to come off as a prosperity preacher, name and claim it, blab it and grab it. There is a context for victory and success in God’s word.

And sure that doesn’t have to mean full time ministry. It can be successfully raising a Godly family and being a light in whatever industry or arena God has you in now. But don’t be mistaken God has called you and prepared you to do good works.

Ephesians 2:8–10 (NIV84)

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 

You are God’s workmanship….God doesn’t make crap…you might not feel righteous or like a piece of God’s good workmanship…you need to by pass those feelings and focus on God’s truth.

Gird yourself with it and put it on, but before you do that, looking at yourself in the mirror as you do, before you do that I have one more challenge for you…ask God how he feels about you, personally. But Eric, I already know that, he died for bla bla bla. Fine, then you must also know that he won’t mind telling you how he feels about you…again. Do it, because I don’t think you will bear fruit or experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit until you. Ask Him. Ask Him until He gives you an answer. Maybe just maybe he answered you in this last hour. Then praise God as we take communion.



[1] Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary., Eleventh ed. (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).