Welcome to December! It’s the time of year for an increase in parties, fun, gift giving, family togetherness, and of course, spiritual warfare.
What!!?? You’ve never thought about the increase in spiritual warfare that accompanies the holiday season?
Well, you’re not alone, because most people don’t think about it. Most of us like to think that the forces of good and evil take a vacation starting the night before Thanksgiving and stay away until the day after the New Year. Unfortunately, this isn’t reality.
Instead, the increased activities, stress, opportunities for compromising with sin, and interaction with relatives who have not overcome their generational iniquities increases the spiritual activity Christians face during the holiday season. That’s why it’s important that we pay attention to more than what festive attire we’re going to wear to our holiday events. As we’re getting dressed we need to remember to “put on” the full armor of God. After all, even during the holiday season we need to “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
Even though this may not be a “holly and jolly” thought, the Christmas season is not the time to abandon our spiritual armor and venture out into the world naked and unarmed. Instead, we need to be aware of the spiritual bombs that are waiting to be detonated all around us, and be prepared to detonate them using our spiritual weapons before they cause a big explosion.
Not sure what I’m talking about? Here’s a few examples:
Let’s say you’re at a holiday function surrounded by your entire family. Everyone is there with the intentions of having a good, memorable time, but there’s no getting away from the fact that there are little landmines of generational iniquities, unaddressed emotional wounds from the past, and personality conflicts just waiting to go off. Like little pieces of dynamite, any one of these explosives could create enormous chaos if they came in contact with a spark. If we look at this situation through spiritual eyes, we can see that the entire environment is ripe for a spiritual attack. But what can you do about it?
Well, you can arrive dressed in your spiritual armor of Truth, Righteousness, and Peace. By choosing to put on these behaviors you can deflect any attacks that might come against you. Perhaps your actions could even detonate a few bombs before they go off and cause an explosion.
On the other hand, if you’re not wearing your spiritual armor, you’ll have nothing to protect you from the wrong word, action or innuendo. Instead of deflecting off of you, this weapon of destruction could pierce right into your heart or mind, setting off the same destructive patterns that have continued in your family for years. By the time the evening is over, you or your family could have been devoured by the enemy because you weren’t sober and vigilante, and didn’t choose to “Put On” the right attitudes and actions.
Let’s look at another scenario:
Let’s say you’re at the office Christmas party. You didn’t spiritually prepare yourself by deciding ahead of time that you would “Put On” Truth, Righteousness, Peace, and the Other Spiritual Weapons. Instead, you’ve decided to just “go with the flow”.
Well, the “flow” of the party is definitely headed in some ungodly directions. Before long, you’ve done some things that have tarnished your reputation as a Christian and a professional. As you look back afterwards you think, “How did that happen? How did I end up devouring the witness I’ve tried to uphold all year long?”
The only answer you’ll be able to come up with is that you weren’t sober and vigilant. You didn’t look for the enemy to attack you with temptation, and you weren’t prepared to defend yourself or fight. Ultimately, you lost the battle because you walked naked into a warzone rather than dressed for victory.
Okay, I get it---this isn’t the way most of us like to think about the holidays---but it is reality. Spiritual warfare doesn’t take a break, and we need to be prepared and dressed for victory at all times---in season and out.
This brings us to one of the most vital weapons in our spiritual armor. It’s the piece of spiritual armor that you never want to leave home without---the breastplate of righteousness. Paul introduces it to us in Ephesians 6:10-14:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…
…with the breastplate of righteousness in place,”
What is a breastplate?
“It is the armor that covered the body from the neck to the thighs, and consisted of two parts, one covering the front and the other the back. It was made of rings, or in the form of scales, or of plates, so fastened together that they would be flexible, and yet guard the body from a sword, spear, or arrow.” (Barnes Notes on the New Testament, www.e-sword.com)
The breastplate is a key component in any soldier’s armor. If you look at this picture you can see that it covered the torso and protected vital organs like the heart, lungs, and kidneys. If a soldier was shot with either a gun or an arrow and he wasn’t wearing his breastplate, the attack would most likely be fatal. However, if he was wearing his breastplate, the very same attack would be deflected, saving his life. Obviously, this was an essential piece of equipment!
It’s interesting that Paul, knowing the important role that the breastplate played in the life of a soldier, taught that a Christian’s breastplate is “righteousness”. This brings us to the question of “What is righteousness?”
Righteousness simply means being or doing what is right.
Integrity. Holiness. Purity of life. Sincerity of piety.
We all pretty much get the idea. But what does it mean to “put on righteousness?”
This is where confusion sets in for many Christians because there are two types of righteousness: The type we get from Jesus when we are saved, and the righteousness that we put on as we are daily moving forward in the process of sanctification. Many Christians read this verse and believe that they are fully protected by Christ’s righteousness; therefore, they don’t have to worry about “putting on” their own. They think that this piece of armor is a no-brainer---once you’re saved, you’ve got the breastplate of righteousness---now let’s move on.
Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly how it works. In his book, “Victory in Spiritual Warfare”, Dr. Tony Evans explains the difference between the two types of righteousness and clarifies the Christian’s responsibility. He says:
“There are two sides to righteousness---the being side and the doing side. Righteousness has been imputed to everyone who has trusted in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins….Imputing righteousness can be compared to God crediting your account, or putting money in your bank. The money now belongs to you. No one can take that money away from you….Once you are saved, Satan can do nothing to change your righteous standing---your justification---before God.
However, because Satan cannot take away your imputed righteousness, what he tries to do is restrict your personal practice of righteousness. He knows he can’t take away your standing before God, so he looks for a way to break your fellowship with God by causing a breach between your position of righteousness and your practice of righteousness.” (pg. 68)
It’s essential that we understand the difference between imputed righteousness and our personal practice of righteousness before we can put on the “breastplate of righteousness so that we can understand that the “righteousness” that Paul tells us to “put on” each day is not the “imputed righteousness” that comes from Jesus. The imputed righteousness of Jesus is like our skin---it’s a part of us---there’s no putting it on and taking it off. Quite honestly, the imputed righteousness of Jesus will do very little to help us fight or win any spiritual battles that might come our way.
On the other hand, whether or not we choose to “put on” the practice of right living each day will play an enormous role in whether we walk away from a spiritual battle victorious or devoured. Why?
Simply put: the #1 way a Christian invites demonic activity into their lives is by tolerating sin in their lives. It’s like an invitation to the enemy saying, “Come and devour me.”
Dr. Tony Evans says, “Two things happen in spiritual warfare when the breastplate of righteousness is not worn. First, an invitation is sent out to allow demons to hang out in your life. Second, the movement of God is hindered within and through you because there is a break in your fellowship with God. God does not abide in darkness.” (72)
This is why it is so important that a Christian makes a conscience decision each and every day that they will choose to abandon sin in their lives and live a righteous life. In fact, many times, it is our choice to do the right thing---the righteous thing---that will protect us from the enemy’s plans to destroy and devour us.
Again for an example, let’s look at our two prior examples and see how choosing to put on righteousness could protect us from the potential attacks of the enemy. Let’s start with the family holiday gathering.
When we last left the scene, we were talking about the potential for hidden explosives all around the gathering: sibling rivalry, unresolved issues, and generational iniquities everywhere. But what would happen if you wore your “breastplate of righteousness” to the party?
What potential explosives could be detonated if you chose to respond in love and forgiveness rather than hate and anger? What if you decided to turn the other cheek when provoked or return a kind word for a “loaded” sentence? What if you chose to humbly let your “sibling rival” go ahead of you without expecting any thanks in return? What if you handled yourself in a righteous manner during the entire party?
Could you imagine the response you’d get? Can you imagine what it would feel like to walk away from the gathering knowing that you’d handled yourself like a victorious Christian rather than falling into the same old traps of the enemy and allowing him to devour you and your holidays? Are you starting to see the correlation between winning the battle spiritually and your decision to “put on” the practice of righteousness in all situations?
What about the holiday office party?
What if you decided before you ever stepped foot on the property in the morning that you were going to conduct yourself in a righteous manner no matter what anyone else did or what peer pressure came your way?
What if you attended, but politely said, “No thank you” when the drinks were passed around or excused yourself when the jokes became inappropriate?
Even as I’m typing this, I can hear some people arguing, “But I don’t want to come off as a self-righteous hypocrite. I want to be relevant so that I can win the lost.”
Let me give it to you straight: There’s nothing relevant about choosing to sin and act inappropriately around non-Christians. In fact, it’s when you compromise and abandon your principles that they think, “What a hypocrite!”
The truth is that non-Christians expect Christians to act differently. They expect us to be real people who choose to do what is right. If you call yourself a Christian, then you’d better back it up with your behavior. Otherwise, you’re not only allowing the enemy to wreck spiritual havoc in your life, but you’re giving the enemy a prime opportunity to come in and steal any seeds of the truth of salvation that have been planted in their lives when they look at you and say, “Christianity doesn’t seem to have changed them at all…What’s the point?”
You see, this isn’t a game that we’re playing. Spiritual warfare is real. There’s a very real enemy that’s greatest desire is to destroy you, your family, your relatives, your friends, your co-workers, and anyone else who is influenced by your life. It’s your responsibility as a child of God to choose to put on your spiritual armor everyday and fight. Fight for your spiritual victory and for the spiritual victory of everyone around you.
It’s your responsibility to take it seriously and realize that whether or not you choose to put on righteousness will have a powerful effect not only on your soul, but on the souls of other people. Life and death, Heaven and Hell, and spiritual warfare don’t take a holiday. As an agent of life and Heaven, you can’t take a holiday from wearing your spiritual armor and fighting your spiritual battles either. It’s something you must choose to do each and every day---even during the holiday season. That’s why this Christmas, before you leave the house or even before you get out of bed in the morning, you need to decide what you are going to wear. Each day choose to dress for victory and put on the full armor of God so that you can withstand the enemy’s traps. Then go out into the world completely dressed and fully prepared to enjoy your holiday season. Merry Christmas!