Favor, Strength and Shoes

Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV) 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

After a few weeks of guest speakers at our church and travel on my part, I want to get back to our study of the full armor of God. I believe understanding this armor is a key to walking in the favor God wants to release for his people in 2013. To review a bit, favor is a force that comes from God, which causes God’s people to receive preferential treatment for no natural reason. As I began the year, the Lord led me to Exodus 3:21-22.

Exodus 3:21-22 (NKJV) 21 And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed. 22 But every woman shall ask of her neighbor, namely, of her who dwells near her house, articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing; and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”

This is an example of the kind of favor God wants to bring to his people. The Hebrew women were slaves. The Egyptians were their masters. The bible tells us God gave the Hebrew women favor with the Egyptians and caused them to give their treasure to the Hebrews. There was no reason for them to do that. God moved on them and they did. I believe that is what God wants to do for you. I cannot explain how and cannot tell with whom God will give you favor, but I believe that as you and I obey the Lord, he will give us favor with key people.

Favor comes because God brings it. The Hebrew women did not threaten the Egyptians. The fact that it was the women who asked points to the fact that this favor did not come because of any personal ability to intimidate the Egyptians. They were slaves and they were women. The Egyptians did what they did because of the favor of God.

On the other hand, at the time they made this request, the Hebrew God was judging the Egyptians. It was evident to all that their God was very powerful. This gave the Hebrew women the courage to ask what the Lord said to ask. I believe favor will flow to those who know they are in a position of strength. Though they did nothing to intimidate the Egyptian women, the Hebrews did not come as beggars or slaves. They came as those who knew their God was mighty.

We need to understand that the church is in a position of strength. Today’s scripture is one we have quoted before, but I believe it is good to remind ourselves of what the Lord is saying. After Jesus had risen from the dead, he made this proclamation to the disciples. All power or authority was now in his hands and we were to go in that power. The world may not recognize his authority, but we must.

The spirit world is more real than the natural world. The spirit created the natural. If we do not believe that, we do not believe the bible. In the spirit, Jesus is the dominant force. Therefore, in the earth the church, his body, is the dominant force. It may not look like it in the short term, but it is true. In the end, everyone will know this is the reality.

Ephesians 1:10 (NKJV) 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth–in Him.

There is a day coming when all things will be brought together under Jesus Christ. That is the future, but what about the present. Look at Ephesians 1:22-23 in the Amplified Bible.

Ephesians 1:22-23 (AMP) 22  And He has put all things under His feet and has appointed Him the universal and supreme Head of the church [a headship exercised throughout the church], 23  Which is His body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all [for in that body lives the full measure of Him Who makes everything complete, and Who fills everything everywhere with Himself].

The Father has placed everything, natural and spiritual, under the feet of Jesus and Jesus is the head of the church. The church is to exercise this dominion in the earth. We are the dominant spiritual force in the earth. We just do not know it. The devil through the world is trying to get us to believe just the opposite, but we need to understand that the bible tells the real story. We are in a position of strength and we can believe that favor will flow to that strength as it is needed.

This brings us to what we have been studying. Ephesians 6:10 tells us to be strong in the Lord and the power of his might. How are we to walk in the strength that we have in Jesus? One way we do that is to cloth ourselves in the full armor of God described in the next few verses.

Up to this point, we have looked at the belt of truth. This simple piece of clothing is vital to the armor. It holds everything together. It is made up of honesty, integrity, character and faithfulness. Then there is the breastplate of righteousness. Our breastplate is made out of the righteousness of God purchased by the sacrifice of Jesus. When we confront the devil, the first thing he sees is that righteousness. What is under the breastplate is none of the devil’s business. This righteousness protects the vital spiritual organs of faith, love and holiness.

The next piece of armor is listed in Ephesians 6:15.

Ephesians 6:15 (NKJV) 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

It is hard to believe that one of the most important parts of the Roman armor were their shoes. However, their shoes were a major factor that contributed to the power of their army. In the same way, our spiritual shoes are vital to our victory over the forces of darkness. This week we will learn about them.

Advertisements

What About the Curse/Giving and Receiving

(I was traveling again this week and the messages I preached over the weekend were  things I have posted recently.  I am going to put up 8 posts that deal with the tithe.  I have received more comments and questions about this topic than any other.)

What About the Curse?

Malachi 3:9(NKJV) 9 You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.

In our study of divine prosperity, we have spent this week discussing the tithe. We have discovered that the tithe is the first fruits of our income. Since the word “tithe” means a tenth, we can say it is the first ten percent of our income. Although the tithe was included in the Law of Moses, we have learned from Genesis 14 that the practice of honoring God with the tithe predates the law. It is a part of our covenant relationship with the Lord. Abram paid tithes to the priest Melchizedek long before Moses or even the nation of Israel existed.

We have also discussed the fact that, in the New Testament we are not under any kind of Law. Therefore, we do not tithe as a matter of law. We do tithe as a matter of practice. A practice is something we do consistently. I believe the practice of tithing should be part of our discipleship. A disciple is a disciplined believer. The Bible does not give us a law of the tithe. However, the practice, or discipline, of paying tithes helps keep our heart where it needs to be when it comes to finances.

The tithe is not really giving at all. The tithe belongs to God. Leviticus 27 tells us the tithe is holy to the Lord. That means it is vitally connected to him. The tithe is, in one sense, voluntary. No one is authorized to present you with a tithe bill. However, grace does not mean we no longer have to keep the commandments of the Lord. It means we should keep them naturally as a part of our lifestyle. The tithe is still holy. We should bring it to the Lord because it is the right thing to do, not because there is a law that says we must.

Today I want to look specifically at verse 9. This verse can leave us with a disturbing conclusion if we do not correctly understand it. On the surface, we could assume that God is doing bad things to us because we did not pay him his money. This is not the picture of a loving heavenly Father. It is the picture of a tyrant who wants his own way and will punish anyone who does not give it to him. That is not our God.

What is this curse? Is God actively cursing the one who does not tithe? I do not believe so. Let us look closely at the wording. Verse 9 begins with the phrase, “You are cursed with a curse.” It does not say, “I am cursing you with a curse.” It does not say, “I will curse you with a curse.” The implication is that the nation is already curse.

God is not who curses a person who does not tithe. The person curses himself. When we do not give God what belongs to him, in effect, we are stealing what belongs to God. I did not say that, God did in the rest of this verse. A thief cannot be blessed. The wages of sin is always death. Death is the curse that came with the fall of man. Therefore, if we do not give God what belongs to him we are cursed.

What does “cursed” mean? In literature, a curse is a pronouncement of doom upon someone for something a person has done. Legend said those who opened the tombs of the Pharaohs in Egypt were cursed. When some died mysteriously, many believed it was the pronouncement of evil against them that killed them. God is not speaking of this kind of curse in Malachi 3.

In this context as well as in the context of the fall of man, a curse means to be under the authority of the devil. The devil hates God and he hates man because man is God’s highest creation. Man is God’s family. When we are under the curse, we are within the sphere of Satan’s control. In other words, he can get to us.

When that is the case, many bad things will happen. When the curse is over our finances, we will find that we cannot have divine prosperity. I believe this curse extends to all areas of life. That is why the tithe is so important. However, it begins in the area of finances.

This curse does not necessarily mean we will be poor. I could mean that, but it could also mean that we will have more than enough but with strings attached. As we have already pointed out, prosperity that does not come from God can often have more negative effects on a believer than not having prosperity at all.

Let me take a moment and turn this around. If one who does not paid tithe is cursed, than one who pays tithes must be protected from the curse. At some point, we will look at the specific benefits promised to the tither. However, for today I want to concentrate on the idea that the tithe protects us from the curse.

If the biblical thought behind the word curse is that we are under the authority of the devil, than if we are protected from the curse, we are protected from the authority of the devil. The curse makes my finances and, by extension, my life vulnerable to the devil. Paying tithes protects my life from the influence of the devil.

This means that my productivity is protected from the devil. In Deuteronomy, we read about the blessings associated with the covenant between God and Abraham. If I am under the curse, these blessings are not mine. If I am a tither, the devil cannot take these blessings from me.

If I am a tither, I am also protected from the negative spiritual influence of the god of mammon. My attitudes toward money will be correct. This will free me to have wealth and still serve God with my whole heart.

God is not a curser. God is one who blesses and does not curse. God does not require that we pay tithes because he will curse us if we do not, but because it is his will to bless us in every area of life. This includes in the area of finance. Tithe protects me from the devil. Tithe opens the door of God’s blessing. That is the point. That is why you and I should give God what is his.

Giving and Receiving

Philippians 4:15(NKJV) 15Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.

This week we have been looking at the practice of tithing. We have discovered a number of things. The tithe, although incorporated into the Law of Moses, predated that law by many generations. The tithe is part of our covenant relationship. The tithe helps to keep our hearts in the proper place concerning wealth and money. The tithe belongs to God. He gives us all we need and then asks us to give back 10%. This is a very reasonable request.

We have learned that the tithe by definition is ten percent of our increase or income. I believe it is important to understand that God does not require more than that. There are many other types of giving God expects us to participate in, but the tithe is the only required giving. I know some who, in good faith, have tried to make a practice of giving fifteen percent or even fifty percent. This is noble, but when we go beyond what God requires it often opens a door of attack to the enemy. I have seen this lead to disillusionment and in some cases disaster.

We have learned that it is to be the first fruits of our income. For the tithe to do what God designed it to do, we must make sure it is the first ten percent of our income. In that way, it will help keep our heart where it belongs. If it is the second or third fruits, we are giving God the second or third place in our finances.

Finally we have discovered that the tithe protects our finances and by extension our lives from the influence of the devil. Those who do not tithe are cursed. God does not curse them; they open a door that allows the curse of the fall to affect them. They put themselves under the influence of the devil. If that is true so is the converse. If I am a tither, my finances are protected from the curse. My finances are blessed and by extension, my whole life is blessed. Do not underestimate the importance of the tithe.

Next week we will look at more concerning the tithe, but I want to stress another aspect of divine prosperity today. Philippians 4:19 is one of the most commonly used “prosperity” scriptures in the Bible.

Philippians 4:19(NKJV) 19And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Before Paul makes this statement, we read what he wrote in today’s scripture. The Philippian church was particularly beloved of the apostle Paul. He commends them on the fact that they were one of the few that communicated with him concerning “giving and receiving.” I believe that with these words Paul has revealed an important principle of the Kingdom of God.

We often think of many things related to how God works as beyond our understanding. We know the saying, “God words in strange and mysterious ways, his wonders to perform.” To some degree, this is true. They are often strange and mysterious to us. God often does things in my life and I wonder how he pulled them off. However, they are not really so strange at all. God operates according to principle.

A principle is something that is always true. Principles work together to produce predictable results in given situations. In the natural economy, there are such principles. There are college degrees in economics that teach these principles in detail. One example is the principle of supply and demand. When the supply is low and demand is high, what a person can charge for goods or services goes up. When supply is high and demand is low, the price will go down. That is a principle. You can predict markets because it is true.

When we think of the financial blessings of God, we tend to think that they do not operate by principle but by some strange whim of God that we cannot fully understand. This is not true. The economy of the Kingdom of God is just as much driven by principle as the natural economy is. They are just different principles based on different truths.

What we see in the world today that natural economic principles have been abused, ignored and distorted to the point where they are no longer working properly. Scenarios that used to be predictable are not playing out the way they used to. The end result is an economy that is in disarray all over the world.

One natural philosophy says government must step in to modify or control economic principles. The government must insure that there is a “level playing field” for all citizens. This has never worked. Whether called communism, socialism, or just a “left leaning” approach, it always fails. Government is not qualified to control economic forces. They function outside of government’s ability to influence them properly.

Where does all this leave the believer? One of my favorite statements is this. Our finances are not based on an economy but on a covenant. That covenant does govern a financial system. God is qualified to maintain economic principles in their right order. His economy operates above the natural economy, but it can affect the natural economy. God’s economy can use the natural economy. If God’s people will be faithful, God’s economy can fix the natural economy.

There is one basic principle that governs God’s economic system. Paul told us what it is in Philippians 4:15. It is the principle of giving and receiving. This is the heart of God’s system. If you give, you will receive. If you receive, you must be ready and willing to give. A person who applies this law by faith can never stay poor for very long. Divine prosperity is not random.

Just as things in the natural economy take time to develop, this is also the case in God’s economy. When necessary he will take care of you just as he gave manna to the children of Israel in the wilderness. Nevertheless, his will for Israel was that they come to Canaan where the land itself took care of their needs. His will for us is that we learn to flow in his economic system and that system will become the vehicle that provides for our needs.

In the fourth chapter of Philippians, Paul points this out to this beloved church. He tells them, “God will supply all your needs because you have been applying the economic principles of the kingdom of God. You communicated with me concerning both giving and receiving. This put the principle in motion in your life and the predictable result is that my God will supply all your need.” Philippians 4 is not just written to that church. It is in the Bible because God wanted it to be a message to you as well.

Take the time today to examine your economic life. Do you have enough insurance? What will you do about retirement? Have you made provision for your children’s education? These are all valid considerations. However, if you really want to secure your financial future you need to ask one more question. Am I applying the principles of God’s economy by making sure that I am giving, receiving and giving again? If these principles are firmly in place you can trust God that he will “supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

 

What does the New Testament Say/The Blessing of the Tithe

What does the New Testament Say?

1 Corinthians 9:11-14(NKJV) 11If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? 12If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. 13Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? 14Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.

In our study of divine prosperity, we have come to the practice of paying tithes. I am convinced that this practice is both relevant to the church today and beneficial. I do not teach this as a law. We do not make tithing a qualification for church membership. I teach this practice as a way to keep our hearts right before God where finances are concerned and as a practice, that opens the door to God’s economic system. This system is based on giving. The tithe is a part of that system.

Yesterday we looked at the purpose God assigned to the tithe in the Old Testament and how it relates to church life in the New Testament. I shared what God instructed me to do in our church. This is not doctrine. It is revelation to me and has produced great blessing in my life and the life of our church.

In the period of Israel’s history governed by the Mosaic Law, God told his people that the tithe was to be used to provide an inheritance to the tribe of Levi. This tribe was given the responsibility to labor in all things related to the house of God and the worship of Israel. They were not to work in the secular world. In the church today, we have a group of people who serve a similar function. They are those called to fulltime ministry as well as some called to do jobs that support the house of God and the ministries that function within it.

When we were starting our church, God showed us the pattern used in the Old Testament. He instructed me set up this system in our church. The system was simply this. We would not receive all tithes and offerings together and put everything into one big pot. We would separate tithes and offerings. The tithe was designated for the ministry while offerings would be used for the operation of the buildings and grounds.

The tithe goes first to pay the salaries of the people on staff. Second, it pays for equipment and supplies that are necessary for the function of various ministries. It is also used for travel to various mission fields. Heat, lights and supplies for the buildings are paid for out of free will offerings. For over 24 years this system has produced great blessing to our church and its people.

The question we must ask is whether there is any New Testament authority for this. Does the New Testament teach that the tithe belongs to the full time ministry of our day? The answer to that is no. What does the New Testament say about the support of ministry? Let us find out.

In today’s verse, we read the words of the apostle Paul to the church at Corinth. This was one of the greatest and yet most problematic of the churches Paul dealt with. Paul states that he did not take any money from the Corinthian believers. In other places, he says he worked to supply his needs and those of his companions. One might say that all preachers should follow Paul’s example, but let us look closer.

Paul says a number of other things in these verses. He says that those who minister to spiritual needs have a right to compensation from the natural resources of those to whom they ministry. The word, right, is very strong. This is not charity. Paul tells the Corinthians he has this right but has chosen not to use it.

Paul also cites the same Old Testament pattern that we have been studying. Although the tithe is not specifically mentioned, what God designated it for is mentioned. “Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar?” The tithe is what they lived on.

Paul then draws a parallel with those who preach the Gospel in the New Testament era. “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” Paul says the Lord commanded this. That is a strong statement. Why, then did Paul not partake of this “command of the Lord?”

There are two reasons. First, it would have hindered the preaching of the Gospel to the Corinthians. I go to many places where I do not receive any offerings. It would hinder the Gospel to ask for money and often the people have nothing to give. Money is never a factor for me in considering where I will preach or teach the Word of God. It should never be a factor for any true minster of the Gospel of Jesus.

The second factor is something in Paul’s own makeup. I will let you decide if it is a strength or weakness.

1 Corinthians 9:15(NKJV) 15But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void.

Paul says that he has chosen not to partake of what he is teaching them as principle because he does not want anyone to make his “boasting void.” Again, I will leave it to you to decide whether that is a good thing or not. Either way, Paul taught the Corinthians that they should support those who minister them spiritually and he has cited the Old Testament pattern as proof.

Many other New Testament verses teach us to take care of those who minister the Gospel. I will quote only one more due to space limitations.

1 Timothy 5:17-18(NKJV) 17Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. 18For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

The Amplified Bible expands the term “double honor” to include, “adequate financial support.” Paul again uses the Old Testament as his authority for encouraging Timothy to teach the church to support those minister the things of God to them.

Does the New Testament teach the system I use in my church? Is a church out of the will of God if they do not use this system? Of course not. I do believe that God revealed a pattern in the Old Testament that can be applied in New Testament times. Since this pattern was God’s idea to begin with, I just believe it is the best way.

Because we have used this pattern, our local church of 125 to 150 has been able to impact our area and over 20 other nations with the Gospel. Our people do not feel used or bound. They feel that we are all working together as a team to fulfill the great commission. No one, not the ministry or the people, is asked to carry a financial load greater than they can bear. This is not a law for us. However, it has been a blessed practice in my life and my ministry.

The Blessing of the Tithe

Malachi 3:10-12(KJV) 10Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. 11And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. 12And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.

This week we have been studying the tithe. I believe this practice predates the law and is part of covenant relationship. God is the source of all we have. I believe it is a reasonable thing for us to give back to him the first ten percent of what he provides for us. Although this is certainly not the only thing we need to do to keep our heart right toward God where finances are concerned, I find it to be something that helps me.

This week we have focused on the way the tithe was used under the Mosaic Law. God instructed Israel to bring the tithe into the storehouse. For me, this is the local church. It was to be the inheritance of the tribe of Levi, those called to fulltime service in the house of God, so they would not have to work in the secular world. This was not some form of charity. This was God’s method of paying those whom he employed.

In the New Testament, I believe this system is the best way to care for those who meet our spiritual needs. This is not a matter of law or doctrine, but I believe it is the wisdom of God. We have used the tithe in this way for 24 years and it has produced great blessing in our church.

To finish our look at the practice of tithing, I want to point out the blessing that God ties to it in Malachi 3. The first thing he says in verse ten is that we can prove him in this. What does that mean? It means that God is challenging us to see if he will keep his Word. This is very interesting.

I do not know of another area where God makes this kind of statement. God is a faith God. Faith is not something you just “give a try.” You either believe God or not. The very nature implies that God is true to his Word and we can stand on the promises contained within it. The idea of proving God to see if he will do what he says he will do almost seems the opposite of faith to me. What is the significance of this?

I do not believe this means we can tithe for a week and see if it works. I believe the only way to receive the benefits we are going to talk about is to tithe because we believe God will do what he says. We must be willing to be faithful in this even if we see no results at first. If we are not faithful, we will never see the blessings. Most of the time, when people step out into something like tithing, things will get worse before they get better. The Devil does not want us to get established in truth so he tries to pluck it up before it really gets rooted in us.

Yet God does tell us to prove him in the tithe. I believe this is to emphasize to us how important these things are to God. We must still stand on the promise by faith, but God wants us to know that in this area we will see results. He will move on our behalf. If we tithe, certain things will happen. They may not happen in a week or a month, but they will happen. This is God’s covenant to us.

What will happen? God will open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing we cannot contain. Wow. That is almost too big for us to handle. What could the open windows of heaven mean to us today? I do not really know. I know it sounds like there is no need in my life that will go unmet if the windows of heaven were open over it. It sounds to me like God is saying that there are no limits to the blessing available to the tither.

Specifically this can mean different things to different people, but I think it is bigger than most of us are able to accept at face value. We recently went through a devastating flood in our area. It rained heavily for almost two days. When it rains that way, we sometimes say the heavens opened. This is the idea behind this statement concerning the tithe. God is willing to pour out a torrential rain of blessing on the tither. He will meet every need in abundance. We need to grasp this truth with our faith.

The reason this must be so is the covenant. God established the blood covenant with Abraham. The church lives in the age of the New Covenant, but the basis is still the idea of blood covenant. When two parties come into covenant together, what belongs to one belongs to the other. If I give the first fruits of my increase to my covenant partner, he will give to me the same and more. It is not that God needs to obligate himself to bless us. It is that this covenant relationship means the devil has no right to stop God from blessing me. I am in covenant with God. I am exercising that covenant by paying my tithe. The devil has no legal right to keep me from receiving the blessing of God.

God uses this extreme term so we will understand that it is his will to bless us abundantly. It is his will that our needs should be me. It is his will that we have the desires of our heart. The most important aspect of this blessing, however, is that we become the same kind of channel of blessing as our covenant partner. Note the next part of this blessing. “And pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”

In this study, I have tried to emphasis the balance in what God wants to do for us. He loves us. He wants to meet our needs. Nevertheless, there is a more important purpose in God’s heart. He wants to use us to bless others. If we are blessed so much that we cannot contain it, God’s intention is that we give it to others. Jesus taught that the man who simply built bigger barns to contain more was not rich toward God. That has not changed.

God wants to do something very big in the life of his covenant partners. When they bring him their tithe, he promises a huge blessing. He does not intend for us to squander this blessing on the lusts of the flesh. He expects us to become a channel of that blessing to the world around us. As we do, we are also able to share with people an even greater blessing. That is the blessing of knowing Jesus as savior and lord. That is the real point of all that God gives to us.

Release your faith in this blessing today. If you have never tithed, prove God in this and see if he will not do what he said. If you have been a tither for years but have not seen the blessing God says you should have, start to stir up your faith in this promise. If you are experiencing the blessing of the tithe, make sure that you are the channel God wants you to be. That is the best way to ensure that the channel of blessing continues in your life.

Risk Takers

(This is another thought from Sister Sharon Cranford’s time with us. Thanks Sharon.)

Hebrews 11:8 (NKJV) 8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.

Some people are risk takers. Most of us are not comfortable with risk. The stories we read in the bible are full of risk taking. There is a reason for this. Faith always involves risk. In today’s verse, we read about Abraham. Hebrews 11 is the “hall of fame” of faith. It lists name after name of people who did things that were notable because they were done by faith. A common element is that every one of them involved risk.

The first verse of this chapter lets us know the nature of faith and makes it clear that risk will be involved.

Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV) 1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Faith is the evidence that what you cannot see is real. When you trust in or act upon something you cannot see, that is taking a risk. Abraham obeyed God and went to a place that he knew nothing about. He went there because a God that he could not see somehow told him to go there. He did not know what he would find in this new land. He did not know how he would make a living. He did not know if the people would be hostile or friendly. All he knew was that the Lord told him this new land would be his inheritance.

When we read these bible stories, we must remember that they did not live in the world we do. Abraham could not “Google” this new land and find out what it was like. He had not seen pictures of it. It is doubtful that he had ever met anyone from this land. I wonder if many of us would have been willing to obey God when such risk is involved. Yet that is what faith demanded.

Faith is not foolishness. Abraham was not being foolish by leaving his home and going to this new land. Foolishness would be going just for the sake of going. Today we know of people who are “risk takers” that simply do things for the thrill of it. Bungee jumping comes to mind. What possible reason could anyone have for trusting their life to a springy rubber cord? I just do not understand. To me that is simply foolishness. It is risk for the sake of risk. (If you want to do such a thing that is fine. Just do not ask me to join you!)

Any risk taken simply for a thrill is foolish. Sometimes the risk is minimal like roller coasters and sometimes it is not. Mountain climbing comes to mind. I know that there are people who love those kinds of things and I do not mean to be critical. However, it is still foolish. Abraham was not taking a foolish risk.

God told Abraham to go. If Abraham actually heard from God then there is no real risk at all. To the outward eye there looks like risk is involved. However, faith knows that God is real and that if God is involved there is no place more safe than in the will of God. Nevertheless, hearing from God is not an exact science. When faith is your only evidence that what you have heard is true, there is a natural risk. Faith, to be faith, will always require such natural risk.

Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV) 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Without faith, it is impossible to please God. This verse does not say it is hard to please God without faith. This verse says it is impossible to please God without faith. It also makes a statement that I have been stuck on for some time. Those who come to God must believe that God is. What does that really mean?

If we are Christians, we must believe in the existence of God. This verse implies that fact, of course. However, it implies much more. Not only must we believe that God exists but also that he will reward those who seek him.

We read this verse and say, “Yes, Amen. Of course we believe God is.” If we truly believe this statement, everything changes. If we believe this statement when we have no money, having no money is not that big a problem. If we believe this statement when we face sickness, we know that we have a healing God who can help us. If we really believe this statement, there will be no impossibility in life that can defeat us because we know that God is. He will reward us when we seek him. There is no such thing as a question without an answer or a problem without a solution if we believe that God is.

Abraham believed that God was in his circumstance. He believed that God was involved in his life and able to work on his behalf. When the God in whom he believed told him to go to a land he had never seen and that he would receive it as his eventual inheritance that made perfect sense to Abraham. He believed that “God is.”

To those looking on, Abraham was taking a risk. He was leaving the security of what he could see for something he could not see. He was leaving his inheritance in his father’s home for an inheritance he had no evidence even existed except for his faith in the word of an invisible God.

Faith is not really a risk at all if we believe that God is. The problem is coming to the place where we believe that as reality and not theology. We can believe in the principle of God’s existence without believing in the reality of God’s existence for our personal circumstance. Kenneth Hagin called the former “mental assent.” We may mentally assent to the reality of God’s existence, but when “the rubber meets the road”, we do not believe in his existence enough to act on what he says.

Therein lies the problem for those of us who would act in faith. We must believe in the invisible. We must act without natural evidence because we believe that God is. Romans 10:17 says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. If we do not have God’s word on a thing, we cannot have faith. To try to act in faith without the Word of God to stand upon is like bungee jumping. It is foolishness. How can I be sure I have the word when I am taking the faith “risk?”

We must understand that God will never ask us to do something that contradicts his written Word. We know that not all circumstances we face are specifically covered in the bible. I believe everything we may face in life is covered in the bible in principle. We must know the bible well enough to know that principles by which God operates. If we do, we will be less likely to be deceived into thinking something is God when it is not.

We must follow God’s voice to be in faith and not foolishness. The written Word of God is important here as well. How can I know God’s voice? I know my wife’s voice because I have been hearing it for 46 years. I am familiar with the sound of her voice. I am also familiar with how she speaks. I know how she puts words together. If someone tells me she spoke to them with a string of curse words, I know they are not telling the truth. She would not speak that way. The more familiar we are with God’s written voice the more readily we will recognize his spoken voice.

We also need to be accountable to someone who knows the voice of God better than we do. I have people that I will ask for advice when I am going to do something by faith that requires some natural risk. The bible tells us there is wisdom in a multitude of counsel. We are not in this alone. We are a body. When the time comes to step out in faith we need to have people we can trust who have stepped out themselves.

When we have done all that is necessary, we will still come to that place in any faith operation that will require we step out into unknown territory just like Abraham did. We will have no evidence that what we believe is real except our faith. I cannot think of a more exciting or safer place to be.

Rescue Teams

Jeremiah 38:7 (NKJV) 7 Now Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs, who was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon. When the king was sitting at the Gate of Benjamin,

When God called the prophet Jeremiah, he was a young man. I am sure that he did not have any idea what the call of God would mean in his life. For most of us, we tend to assume that call of God will mean the ability to help people, to preach or teach and maybe even a form of recognition and fulfillment. In the case of Jeremiah, it leads to imprisonment. His crime was faithfulness to say what God was speaking to the people even though the King of the land did not want to hear the message.

I believe today just as in Jeremiah’s day we must commit to faithfully speak the Word of the Lord in the face of ridicule or threat. It is good to know that God has a rescue team to help us. For Jeremiah that team consisted of a man from Ethiopia called Ebed-Malech. He was not an Israelite. However, God used him to rescue the prophet from the hands of the King of Israel.

Jeremiah was in a dungeon. He had no ability to help himself. He was there under malicious accusation but God knew where he was. Ebed-Malech saw Jeremiah’s plight and took the initiative to go to the King on his behalf. The King was moved and gave Ebed-Malech 30 people to help get Jeremiah out of the dungeon. God used Ebed-Malech to gather a rescue team with the King’s approval.

You may feel that you are in a dungeon. It might be a dungeon of depression, debt or worry. You may be there through no fault of your own or you may have made some bad choices that got you there. Either way God can and will come to your rescue.

In Jeremiah’s day, the rescue team was made up of people he probably would have never thought to ask for help. Ebed-Malech was a foreigner. He may have been a proselyte, but he was not a native of Israel. The rest of the team consisted of a group drawn from the people who threw him in the dungeon in the first place. Yet God used them to rescue Jeremiah so he could continue his prophetic ministry. God has a rescue team prepared for you.

The team that comes to your rescue may be people in the world that God moves upon to give you favor in your situation. The rescue team could be a bank, a doctor or a government official. The rescue team for you might be a friend or neighbor. The rescue team God has prepared to deliver you from your dungeon might be people you do not even know exists. However, God knows where your dungeon is and he will find someone to get you out of it. Just trust him.

God already has a rescue team in place. In your city or town, you may have a fire department or a rescue squad. They may be professionals or volunteers, but they are there to provide rescue in emergencies. God’s rescue team is the local church. Your local assembly is not there to give you and your family a place to be whatever denomination or flavor of Christian you may be. It is there to provide rescue to you and your community.

First, it is there to provide rescue for those who do not know Jesus. They are headed to an eternity separated from God. Hell is a real place, but it was created for the devil and his angels not for man. We need to realize that if we are Christians, God intends us to rescue those who are not saved from this awful eternity.

It is hard sometimes for us to understand the emergency nature of the situation. If our neighbor was trapped in a wrecked car of his home was on fire, most of us would do whatever we could to help. We would certainly call the police or fire department for our neighbor. Their eternal well-being is far more important and you may be the only one able to rescue them. It is our duty and privilege to act to bring them rescue. That is how Paul felt.

2 Corinthians 5:13-16 (NKJV) 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. 16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.

Paul was so overwhelmed by his understanding of the eternal peril he saw his fellow man in that people thought he was crazy. He could not help himself when it came to rescuing the lost. Everyone he saw was a potential victim of the devil and he was compelled to do whatever he could to warn them and rescue them if possible. I believe that is our role as Christians and the first responsibility of the local church.

The church is also a rescue team for those in need. I believe God has given us the responsibility to help the poor and needy as much as we can. The church is to be a beacon of the love of God to the community.

James 1:26-27 (NKJV) 26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

The church is also a rescue team to other members of the body of Christ. Jesus said the world would know we were his disciples by our love one to another. We sometimes leave this to the “professional” ministry. We say, “It is the pastor’s job to help those people.” I believe the ministry exists to train and help the whole body become a rescue team. Do you know someone who is struggling? You can be the instrumental in bringing them rescue from the Lord.

If a brother or sister is in need financially, share what you have with them. If they are sick, pray for them. If they are facing trying times, cry with them and pray with them. If they are discouraged, speak encouraging words to them. You are the one God has placed to be their “Ebed-Malech.” Do not look to someone else, God has chosen you!

If you are in need of rescue today, I want you to know that God is a rescuing God. He has a way to help you out of or through whatever you are facing. Trust in him and see what he will do. You may not get the rescue you want, but I assure you that you will get the rescue you need. God will not fail you.

If you see someone who needs rescue do not say, “I wish I could help but what can I do?” Say instead, “Lord, help me to be their rescue team.” God will anoint you to do something for them. He may tell you how to gather a team to help. Either way, if you do your part you can be sure God will do his part.

Most likely, you are both. You have something from which you need rescue but you see someone else who also needs rescue. One of the most powerful things you can do to help yourself is help someone else. You may feel powerless in your situation but if you reach out, you will find that God has a way of rescuing you as you rescue others.

Isaiah 58:6-8 (NKJV) 6 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

A Rescuing God

2 Peter 2:7-9 (NLT) 7 But God also rescued Lot out of Sodom because he was a righteous man who was sick of the shameful immorality of the wicked people around him. 8 Yes, Lot was a righteous man who was tormented in his soul by the wickedness he saw and heard day after day. 9 So you see, the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their trials, even while keeping the wicked under punishment until the day of final judgment.

(We were blessed to have Sister Sharon Cranford with us this week at Living Word. She has been the director of Harvest Fields Bible Schools in Kenya and Tanzania for the past 25 years and is currently working at Inland Christian Center in Southern California. Here are some thoughts from her Sunday message.)

God knows how to rescue his people. That is a powerful thought. In today’s scripture, we read about a righteous man in a very unrighteous and unholy situation. Although I do not believe that our society has fallen to the level of Sodom, I fear we are headed in the wrong direction. It is increasingly difficult to stand for righteousness in an unrighteous world.

If you read Lot’s story in Genesis 19, we find that God has gone to his covenant partner Abraham and discussed the situation in Sodom with him. Abraham knows that Lot is in the city and asks God to spare the city for as few as 10 righteous men. When the angels come to the city, there are not 10 men left who could be considered righteous. There is only one, Lot. God could not preserve the city, but he did rescue Lot.

I believe God has shown me that he wants to pour out favor on his people in 2013. I do not believe the world is getting better. I see more and more problems arising and I often wonder just how bad things will get before we begin to cry out to God. That does not change the fact that God wants to rescue the righteous.

The word rescue has some interesting meanings. First, it means to remove someone from danger. God desires to remove his people from danger. There are many kinds of danger that we face today. We face financial danger. We may face the danger of losing our job or our home. We face danger for our children. There are corrupting influences operating today that make growing up in the 1960’s seem tame. We face danger from the political realm. There is unrest in many parts of the world and the possibility of wide spread war is very real.

You may be facing other kinds of danger in your personal situation. God can and will remove you from the danger if you trust him. Sodom was about to be destroyed by supernatural fire. God was the author of that destruction. It is impossible to be in more danger than that! However, God was well able to rescue Lot and still deal with the wicked.

Another definition of rescue is to save something. Although this is very similar to what we have already said, I think there is also a subtle difference. We may be saved from danger, but save can also mean to preserve. In the midst of all the trouble and evil in the world, God is able to preserve us. In John 17 Jesus prays this for his disciples.

John 17:15 (NKJV) 15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.

The word “keep” in this verse carries the same meaning as rescue in the sense of saving or protecting. Jesus reminds the Father that while he was in the world he “kept” his disciples from the devil. He prays that God, by the Holy Spirit, will do the same for them after he leaves.

They were faced with a world that was set against them. The powerful of the day were determined to destroy them. In the midst of this opposition, God “saved” them and gave them such favor that within 300 years they had conquered the Roman Empire becoming its official religion. If God can save, or preserve them, he can preserve us in the midst of our “crooked and perverse generation.” (Phil. 2:15 NKJV)

Finally, rescue means to take forcible possession of something. God is more than willing to use force to rescue you from whatever situation you face. By force, I am talking about the power of God. God will rescue you from what you face by his power.

The word rescue implies something you cannot do yourself. If you could get out of the situation you face, you would not need rescue. When we face things that are beyond our ability to overcome, God is there with his power to rescue us.

What do we need to do to access this rescue? We need to pray. We need to ask God for the help we need. We need to admit to ourselves and to God that we cannot handle the situation on our own. We need to trust him and stand on his Word. God has given “exceedingly great and precious promises.” He tells us in the first chapter of 2 Peter that by these promises we can partake of the divine nature and escape, or be rescued from the corruption that is in the world.

We have been studying the full armor of God in this space. Sometimes we have to put on the armor, resist the devil and stand in the middle of the battle. When we do, we must remember that there are reinforcements on the way. God will not leave us alone in the battle. He can and he will rescue us. He will not rescue us some of the time. He will not rescue us part of the time. If we trust in him, in his Word and in his name he will rescue us all the time.

Of course, we must also recognize that if God is the rescuer, he has the right to determine how he will rescue us. Abraham expected God to preserve the whole city as the means to bring rescue to Lot. God could not do that, but he could remove Lot from the city. Lot lost all he had and eventually his wife because of her disobedience, but Lot was rescued.

Sometimes the rescue God provides does not look the way we would like it to. Sometimes things that we may consider important but God does not must be left behind. Sometimes God rescues us by chastening and discipline. This may not seem like a rescue to us, but if we trust the love of our Father, we will find that, in the end, it is the best way. He desires to preserve us for the Kingdom of God. He desires the absolute best for us and sometimes the rescue we have in mind is not the best from his perspective.

Trust in the Lord. He is there to rescue you. Whatever you are facing today is not too big for almighty God. When the rescue comes, continue to trust him. Even if you do not fully understand, keep trusting God and listening for his directing voice. The Lord will not fail you.

1 Corinthians 10:13 AMP 13For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently.

Righteousness: Old Covenant vs. New Covenant

Galatians 3:21-22 (NKJV) 21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. 22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

In our study of the breastplate of righteousness, we have determined that righteousness from a biblical perspective is based on covenant. God is a covenant God and everything he does relates back to covenant on some level. If a person is right with the covenant between God and man, he is right with God. Behavior is a factor in maintaining this relationship, but it is the covenant that is foremost in determining right standing with God and behavior is secondary.

We understand this if we look at family relationships. My children’s standing with me is primarily determined by the fact that they are my children. I will correct behavior and bad behavior displeases me. It can cause a break in the flow of our relationship if the behavior is bad enough, but they are still my children and their

Since righteousness is based on covenant relationship, the way to establish right standing with God after the fall of man in the Garden of Eden was for God to make a covenant with man. This happened in Genesis 17.

Genesis 17:1-2 (NKJV)1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. 2 And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.”

This covenant between God and Abraham’s descendents was one of the monumental events in human history. It opened the door for man to enter a relationship with God and once again obtain a type of righteousness. The Israelites were God’s chosen people. How were they chosen? They were chosen by covenant. What were they chosen for? They were chosen to be the channel through which God could provide a way for all people to come into right standing with Himself.

In Galatians, we find that God added the Law to the covenant because of sin. Man could not live according to the standards of God. He constantly broke the covenant that was the source of his right standing. There had to be a way to cover sin so man could maintain his covenant relationship and therefore his righteousness. The answer was the Law.

The Law and the sacrifices that went with it could not completely cleanse man from the effects of sin. However, God declared that the “blood of bulls and lambs” could cover, or atone for, the sins the Israelites committed. In this way they could maintain a limited relationship with God via their standing in the covenant of Abraham. This was never meant to be a permanent solution.

Galatians 3:19 (NKJV) 19 What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.

Right standing with God in the Old Covenant was a matter of relationship with God through the Abrahamic covenant. When a sin was committed, it caused a break in that relationship, so a sacrifice had to be made to cover that break. This system pushed the judgment for the sins committed by Israel ahead one year at a time. The judgment had to come eventually and until the judgment came, the righteousness provided for man would not be complete. This whole system and the righteousness it provided were waiting for something else. That something was the death, burial and resurrection of the “Seed” spoken of in Galatians 3. That seed was Christ.

The sacrifice of Jesus Christ was the culmination of a process that began in the Garden of Eden, included the covenant with Abraham and the Mosaic Law but was not completed until the resurrection. Jesus became the payment for all sin and his blood became the blood of a New Covenant relationship. This covenant did not require continual sacrifices. Hebrews chapters 8-10 detail how the sacrifice of Jesus fulfilled the sacrifices of the Law.

Hebrews 10:12-14 (NKJV) 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

Jesus never committed a sin. Not only was he pure but he was also God in the flesh. When he died, it was not for the payment of any sin he ever committed. His sacrifice could only have been for someone else’s sin. Since he was man but also God, his sacrifice was deemed worthy to pay for the sin of all humanity. In these two ways the sacrifice of Jesus was able to make all who would believe in that sacrifice perfect in terms of the requirements for right standing with God.

Once I accept this sacrifice as the sacrifice for my sin and submit to the Lordship of Jesus over my life, I have entered into the New Covenant ratified by Jesus’ own blood. From that moment on, I am made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. I am righteous because I am a new creature. Old things have passed away and all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)

Once this relationship is established, my right standing with God is based on that first and behavior second. However, what role does my behavior play in my standing with God? Paul was accused of teaching that man could sin without consequence. His answer to this is found in many places in his letters but it is not stated more forcefully than in Romans 6.

Romans 6:1-2 (NKJV) 1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

In the rest of this chapter, he tells us that we will be either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness. If we yield our members to sin we become its slave. In Romans 4, he tells us that the wages of sin is death. If we open our lives to sin, we open up to death. He is not talking about final physical death but the affect of spiritual death that came upon the world in the fall of man. All that is negative in the human condition is a result of the fall and sin makes us vulnerable to it even if we are in relationship with God.

What happens when a born again Christian commits sin? Does sin cause him to fall out of relationship with God? I believe that sin has the same effect on a Christian as it does on the relationship between a parent and a child. When I “sinned” against my parents, two things occurred. My parents were displeased with me and I caused them pain. When we sin against God, we displease him and cause him pain. I never wanted to do that to my parents. They were good parents and I loved them and knew that they loved me.

Second, I felt that I had somehow compromised my relationship with them and it might never be the same. I remember sitting in my room as a child wondering if my parents would ever see me the same way again. This sense or feeling is unrighteousness. I was not right with my parents. I knew it and I did not know what to do about it.

When I became a parent, I saw “unrighteousness” from the other perspective. I was sometimes angry with my children. I knew that to be a good parent I had to discipline them. I had to make sure they understood that their actions were wrong. Nevertheless, no matter what they did, they did not stop being my children. I still loved them just as much as I ever did. I would still do anything for them.

When I was a child, I did not understand this part of it. I knew that I was wrong and it was hard to believe that my parents could still love me. Eventually I would come to dinner or some other interaction with Mom and Dad and I would find to my great relief that I was still their son, still loved and still accepted as part of the family. I knew I had done something wrong and I learned from the experience. I had lost some approval for a time, but I had not lost acceptance.

1 John 1:8-10 (NKJV) 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

When a born again member of God’s family sins the same two things happen. We displease and hurt our Father and we feel unrighteousness because we know we have done something wrong. This makes it hard for us to come into the presence of God. It makes faith virtually impossible. If we allow sin to go unconfessed and therefore unforgiven, we can find ourselves outside the protection of the Father and vulnerable to the effects of spiritual death. Sin can even lead to physical death.

There is great debate in the body of Christ as to “eternal security” or the possibility of losing salvation. I am not talking about that. I am talking about the ebb and flow of life that every believer goes through. I am talking about the weaknesses of the flesh we allow when we know we should not. I am talking about the disappointments and failures of life. If we say we have none of these things, we deceive ourselves. (1 John 1:8)

When these things happen, we do not become unrighteous in God’s eyes. In the Old Covenant, a sacrifice had to be made to cover the sin. In the New Covenant, a sacrifice has already been made and it did not just cover the sin, it remitted or paid for it. I must confess my sin. If I do not confess it, I cannot be forgiven. If I do confess my sin, with a true heart of repentance, God will forgive me and cleanse me of all unrighteousness.

God can do that because of the sacrifice of Jesus. The verses above say he is both faithful and just in forgiving us and cleansing us from the sense of unrighteousness that we feel because of sin. He is just in doing this because the blood of Jesus has already paid for he sin.

This has been a very long post, but these ideas are vital if we are going to be strong in the Lord and wear the armor of God. We must use our breastplate. We must present the righteousness of God to the enemy. Our sin is none of his business. We must also apply the righteousness of God to the sins that we inevitably allow into our lives.

Be quick to confess sin. As soon as you recognize it, bring it to the Father. It will be difficult sometimes because you feel the division that sin causes in your relationship with God. However, God is still your Father. He still loves you. He may bring discipline into your life because of that love, but you are still in the covenant because of the sacrifice of Jesus. You are still the righteousness of God.

Keep that breastplate in place and shiny. Let the Devil know that you are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus and the breastplate will protect you against the accusations of the enemy.