Growing up, I remember being so confused by this piece of armor — I always thought, “but I’m saved and I already have Jesus’ righteousness covering me, so why do I have to put this on each day?” It didn’t make sense…maybe you can relate. What I didn’t fully grasp at the time was that there are two different types of righteousness.

First, “positional” or “imputed” righteousness, which is what you receive the moment you place your faith in Jesus as your Savior. You immediately receive His righteousness in exchange for your sin that He bore on your behalf at the cross. This is also called justification, and it’s described in 2 Corinthians 5:21 which says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Dr. Mark Hitchcock said it this way: “Christ is our righteousness. We rest in His merits—in His righteousness alone. Standing before God accepted and not condemned gives us great strength and should result in a life of practical righteousness. When Satan accuses you before the Lord and points out all your faults and failures, God the Father says, ‘I see him clothed in the righteousness of My Son, Jesus Christ.’ This is our strong defense against demonic accusations. Christ’s righteousness is our impenetrable breastplate.”

The other type of righteousness is called sanctification. Unlike the first one which is immediate upon belief, sanctification is the gradual process of looking more like Jesus each day. Over time, you become more holy like Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit inside you, guiding you and refining you.

The process of sanctification requires regular time spent in God’s Word — as we talked about previously, you can only know the truth when you dive into Scripture and search for it. Sanctification also includes meditating on God’s truths, communing with Him through prayer, praising Him, releasing your will and embracing His, making choices that are pleasing to Him, and growing in faith through trials, tests, and suffering.

Sanctification results in seeking the Lord whole-heartedly; being humble, gentle, patient, and loving; seeking peace and desiring unity within the body of Christ; living lives that are morally above reproach and pure; and demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit in thought, word, and action. You can see now why we need to put on the breastplate of righteousness each and every day, can’t you! These changes definitely don’t come naturally!

Both types of righteousness play a key role in our spiritual journey. The first one provides salvation through faith and secures our eternity…it is God’s gift to man. The second one is our gift back to God, lifted with a heart of gratitude for saving us and forgiving us. It’s the second righteousness that we need to frequently “put on” through our choices.

When you think about the purpose of the breastplate for a soldier, one of the immediate thoughts is that it protects critical life-giving organs, including the heart, which is the center of our emotions. Our heart affects every area of our life — that means our thoughts, actions, decisions, motives, and words.

And as we are told in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Putting on the breastplate of righteousness helps protect our hearts from the enemy’s attacks. In a sense, you could say it’s the last line of defense.

As the father of lies and the great deceiver, Satan likes to attack our hearts by planting seeds of doubt about our righteousness. When we are overwhelmed by shame, we are less likely to be effective for the Kingdom of God.

Dr. David Jeremiah describes it perfectly with these words, “When we find little ways of lying, cheating, and shading the truth, we give Satan a foothold. Nothing so demoralizes and discourages a warrior as being involved in a spiritual battle, knowing there is a problem of character and integrity in his own life. The little sins we tolerate represent dangerous ‘holes’ in our bulletproof vests. You can be sure that sooner or later, Satan will aim right at that spot.”

So what “holes” exist in your breastplate of righteousness? What areas of your life are not up to the standard of living expected by a holy God? To be “holy” means to be set apart…to be devoted to the things of God…to be consecrated unto Him. Here are a few thoughts to prayerfully consider:

What areas of your life look just like the world?
Are you driven by pride, greed, and lust?
Are you jealous of your friend’s lifestyle — a nicer home, a newer vehicle, a grander vacation?
What are you doing with your time and money?
Are you chasing after the things of this world or the things of eternity?
Where are you vulnerable to being exploited by Satan?

Not one of us is perfect. Even after we have been justified through faith in Jesus, the process of becoming holy like the Lord takes time. It is a journey filled with victories and failures because as you are likely already aware, even when you became saved, you still retained your sin nature. As Paul said, we do what we don’t want to do and we don’t do what we do want to do.

But with God’s Holy Spirit within us, we’ve already been given everything we need to live lives that are pleasing to God. We just have to learn to release that warrior within by allowing the Spirit free rein. He will refine us and strengthen us to live the victorious life.

Revelation 12:10 describes Satan as the accuser of the brothers and sisters before God, day and night. When we are living righteous lives before the Lord — lives that are pleasing to Him — we reduce Satan’s ammunition against us. We stand humble before the Lord but confident in how God sees us through His Son, bearing HIS righteousness, even while we remain “works in progress.”

Putting on the breastplate of righteousness means choosing to align yourself with the truth of God’s Word — which is why Paul instructed us to gird ourselves with the belt of truth first and then put the breastplate of righteousness in place — it’s the choices we make to walk in that truth. You cannot be living in disobedience to God’s Word and simultaneously expect to be protected by His armor in the battle against evil. It simply doesn’t work that way.

As you pray on the armor of God today, consider joining me in this petition:

Lord God, You know me intimately and You know my heart completely. Only You can reveal the sin in my heart so that I may follow You more fully. I ask You to bring any sinful issue to the surface so that I may be cleansed — a beautiful reflection of You. Create in me a pure heart, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. May the meditations of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, oh Lord, so that the words that overflow from my heart bring You great joy. Help me to seek Your holiness above all else so that I may become in practice what You have already made me in position — righteous. I take on Your breastplate of righteousness to protect my heart from the enemy’s attacks, and I ask for Your strength today as I face whatever battles emerge. In the name of your risen Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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