If the ‘helmet of Salvation and the sword of the Spirit, (God’s Word), help to guard my mind from the lies and insinuations of the enemy, the ‘breastplate of righteousness’ surely guards my heart. We are, of course, whole people and perhaps the distinction between heart and mind is not always very clear, but I think that using the metaphor of the armour can help us to recognise the different vulnerabilities that we have when it comes to protecting ourselves from the enemy who, ‘prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.’ 1 Peter 5:8. His aim is to stop us from living our lives more fully from the new life within. So while my mind may need guarding from thinking thoughts that may lead on to sin, to doubt, or to negativity towards those around me, I am feeling that my heart, perhaps the more tender part of me, needs guarding from accusation, condemnation, guilt and shame.
The devil’s main weapon is of course lies, and half truths, and so making us feel condemned or ashamed is not too difficult. As John points out, ‘If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him (God) a liar and the truth is not in us.’ 1 John 1:10 NASB. So even though God has given us a ‘new life in Christ’, we still sin (albeit hopefully less and less as we mature in our faith). It is therefore so very easy for our enemy to prowl around us and point to something that we have done, said, or thought that is not what Jesus would have done, said, or thought.
That is when we need; not to argue with him, not to try and justify ourselves, but to put on our breastplate of righteousness, the righteousness that we have before God through Christ. Then we can speak to the enemy of a higher stronger truth. He (the devil) may be right in pointing out that I have failed in some way, but I can point him to the finished work of Jesus on the cross, and protect my heart from his accusations. ‘God has made Him, who had no sin, to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.’ 2 Corinthians 5:21
My breastplate of righteousness protects me in the same way that asbestos can protect me from naked flames. If I use a fire proof blanket, I’m not saying there is no fire, but I have the means to stop it from harming me. In the same way, my breastplate of righteousness doesn’t mean I have to deny my sin, but on the contrary own up to it and be immediately released from the burden of paying the price for that sin by penance or any other self inflicted mortification. [Yes bible believing Christians do that stuff too!]. Jesus has done it all, and ‘if we confess our sin He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ 1 John 1:9. This means that I don’t have to feel bad for at least a week before I am restored again ‘to the joy of my salvation’ Psalm 51:12.
Thanking God for this very important piece of armour, is like getting it out of the box, polishing it up and putting it on. It is part of standing up to the devil and following the advice James gives as he quotes the proverb, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”. He then says ‘Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.’ James 4:6,7. He is saying in effect, be humble enough to know that you have no righteousness of your own, so receive that which Christ gives you of His own righteousness with thanksgiving. You will then be able to resist the enemy, and prevent him from putting on you any heaviness of heart that comes from his accusations, guilt, shame, and condemnation.