“Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” Proverbs 4:23
Wow- is that powerful? Our hearts keep us alive. Without our heart, we wouldn’t be able to pump blood throughout our bodies to keep all of the other bodily functions working properly. We all know how important our hearts are to living a long life, yet we do things everyday to jeopardize the health of our hearts. Some of us smoke (not me, YUCK!), or eat foods that are high in fat, cholesterol, salt; let our high blood pressure get out of control; fail to keep our diabetes in check; and lead stressful lives.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men AND women. Certain types of heart disease- such as defect, can’t be prevented. BUT many other forms of heart disease can be prevented with simple healthy lifestyle changes. Yet, we continue on about our lives, eating all the fried and high unhealthy fat foods we can get our hands on, we keep adding additional stress in our lives and make excuses for why we can’t take care of ourselves.
But what about our spiritual hearts? We listen to the lies of the enemy; we put things in our minds that affect how we view others, ourselves, the world; we let outside forces (like the world) control us; we lack a moral compass. We fail to protect our spiritual hearts.
Just like we can eat healthier, cleaner foods, get in some heart pumping exercise, work our muscles to become stronger- all of which strengthen, stabilize and protect our hearts, there are things we can do to protect our spiritual hearts.
In Core of Support, I talked about how in Ephesians, Paul compares our spiritual armor to the armor of the Roman Legionary’s.
I have been continuing my study on Priscilla Shirer’s “Armor of God.”
Now its time to look at the breastplate or body armor that the soldiers used to protect their most vital organ, the heart.
“The breastplate was a metal shield (usually bronze), worn over the midsection from the neck to the thighs…And if he was wealthy enough to afford it, he would also don a coat of mail over his breastplate for extra fortification. The purpose of all these layers was to guard the vital organs, particularly the heart.” (“Armor of God,” Priscilla Shirer)
” Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your guard, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.” Ephesians 6: 13-14.
The first thing we need to understand to make sense of this passage is what righteousness means. Righteousness is defined as morally right or justifiable. But as believers in Christ, it goes a step further, “Righteousness, then, is upright living that aligns with God’s expectations.” (Priscilla Shirer, “Armor of God”) Our core of support is God’s truth. Righteousness is living that truth.
In this section of Ephesians, often referred to as “The Whole Armor of God,” Paul lists out the 6 specific spiritual armors that we have to protect us in God’s mighty power. This is just a summary of things he has already discussed in much more detail earlier in his book. Looking back at the prior verses gives us a better understanding of what Paul is referencing when referring to righteousness.
You can check out the entire section of Ephesians 4:17-5:9, here. To summarize some of the instructions given, Paul tells us that we can live as children of the light by: throwing off our old sinful nature, letting the Spirit renew our thoughts and attitudes, putting on our new nature created to be like God, stop telling lies, not letting anger control us, quit stealing, using our hands for good work, letting everything we say be good, helpful and an encouragement, getting rid of bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, imitate God in everything we do, getting rid of sexual immorality, impurity and greet, not listening to obscene stories and foolish talk, not being be fooled by people who try to excuse these sins, but instead living as people of light.
Priscilla summarizes this even further to explain that when the Bible refers to our heart, it means our body, spirit, and soul. And our soul includes our mind (thoughts), will (ambition), emotion (feelings), conscience (moral compass). These areas are the perfect and exact target the enemy tries to wiggle his slimy self into to penetrate our heart. When we put on the breastplate of righteousness, we will protect our heart from the attacks of the devil.
We are all sinners and can NEVER expect to live righteously on our own and avoid all those things Paul mentioned above. Only God is perfect (perfect righteousness). We can compare ourselves to others and feel like we are doing the right things because we are “better” than them (comparative righteousness). But that isn’t the right measuring stick, because even if what we do is better (in our minds) than other people, we still aren’t meeting God’s standards.
But when we accept Jesus Christ into our lives, that is where Imputed Righteousness comes in to protect us!! Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we are made righteous by faith in Him.
“He sees you through the bloodstained filter of His own son, the perfect Lamb of God. You no longer need to exhaust yourself striving for perfection. You are already completely, wholly, and perfectly righteous because of Christ’s gift to you.” (“Armor of God,” Priscilla Shirer)
The question now becomes, how to we actually implement this in our lives. Priscilla points to Ephesians 4:22-24 for the answer:
“Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
We need to practice Practical Righteousness by making a concerted and consistent decision to cast off darkness and put on the armor of light. It involves a choice AND an action. “Righteousness is in you. Now it needs to be on you.” We can rely on the perfectness of Christ’s Holy Spirit in us to help us make those choices every single day.
Making a decision to try your absolute best to live righteously everyday and guarding your choices is not as easy as it sounds. We have to understand what God’s perfect righteousness is and be transformed little by little to be more like him. When we focus on our spiritual health, we will be transformed from the inside-out.
“Meditating on the Word, internalizing its principles, and then implementing them in your actions is what supports the work of God’s Spirit in renewing your soul.” (“Armor of God,” Priscilla Shirer)
So how will you practice righteousness today, tonight, tomorrow, everyday? How will I? I will try my best to first understand and know the truth and when a decision arises or a choice needs to be made, to consult that truth before taking any action. I want to protect my spiritual heart from the advances of the enemy will put on my breastplate of righteousness by casting off darkness and walking in the light! (Or at least, I will try my hardest!).
And then I will do a workout, take a hike, go for a walk, or a run, or play with my son to get my physical heart pumping to keep me healthy!