Robert Jeffress - Putting Out The Not Welcome Mat
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". As a pastor, I'm constantly surprised at how many Christians allow themselves to dabble in temptation rather than run from any semblance of evil, many Christians are willing to try out or accommodate dangerous activities. But defending ourselves against Satan's attacks requires that we leave absolutely no room for him in our lives and no uncertain terms. He is not welcome on our turf. Well, today, I want to show you how to prepare for temptation and ultimately stop Satan in his tracks. My message is titled: "Putting Out The Not Welcome Mat" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Jordan Rubin, the author of the bestselling Christian diet book called "The Maker's Diet" some of you may remember that New York times bestseller. We were in Atlanta to appear together on the same television program. And so we were sharing a cab to the television studio, and as we whizzed along the freeway there in Atlanta, I thought I might be able to get some free medical advice from Jordan. So I explained to him a dilemma that I had every winter and wanted to see if he had any advice. It seems every winter, some well-meaning, but disease infected church member wants to communicate their warm feelings through a handshake. I mean, what else do you do with an outstretched hand?
So I shake the hand and then I run and try to wash it as quickly as I can and so forth. And I said, invariably, I would catch a cold. The cold would turn into a bronchial infection and I would lose my voice for a week, happened every year. And so I asked Jordan if he had any suggestions for me. And he thought about it and he said, "Well, Robert, the truth is you'll never be able to prevent yourself from being attacked by germs, unless you want to isolate yourself from everyone and everything". But what you can do is create an environment in your body that is inhospitable to germs. Through certain hygiene habits, diet, exercise, you can make germs feel unwelcome in your body when they try to gain entrance and they realized they're not welcome, they'll flee and set up residence in a more friendly environment.
As I listened to him, explained that I thought, you know there's a spiritual analogy there for all of us. The fact is we cannot prevent temptations from coming into our life. I mean, the fact is we have a powerful adversary Satan and his demons who are doing everything they can to attack us from without. And if that were not enough, we have a fallen nature inside of us that even though its power has been destroyed, its residue is still there and it stirs up temptation from within. We can not prevent temptations from coming into our life. But what we can do is create an atmosphere in our spiritual life that is inhospitable to sin. That is by certain spiritual practices.
We can make sure that when Satan and his demons try to tempt us, that they realized they were unwelcome and they move on to someplace else. I like to call it, putting out of the not welcome mat at the entrance to your heart. Paul calls it, putting on the breastplate of righteousness. And that's what we're going to talk about today as we continue our series on spiritual warfare.
If you have your Bibles turn to Ephesians 6, Ephesians 6. Remember when Paul wrote these words, he was under arrest in Rome, chained to a different Roman guard, every six hours. And the past the time as Paul sat there with that Roman guard, he noticed the armor that the guard was wearing, and he thought, you know the same pieces of armor that the soldier utilizes to give him victory and his battles against his adversaries, the same pieces of equipment are available in a spiritual sense to Christians to win their battles against their adversary. And so in this passage, Ephesians 6, he describes the six pieces of armor. The six strategies if you will, that can defeat Satan's plan to destroy your life.
Now we come to the second strategy, the second piece of armor he says, "And having put on the breastplate of righteousness". Now, what is the breastplate of righteousness? For the Roman soldier, a breastplate was essential in battle. It was a large piece of molded metal that was put over the torso to protect the soldiers vital organs, the lungs, the heart, the bowels, and in the same way, Paul says, "We need to make sure before we go into battle with the enemy that we have that protection for the essential parts of our life, our mind, our hearts, our will, we need to put on the breastplate of righteousness".
Now, next week, we're going to talk about exactly how we do that, how we put on that breastplate of righteousness. But first we need to understand what Paul means when he talks about the breastplate of righteousness. What kind of righteousness is Paul talking about? Now, folks, this is key to understand, not only for this passage, but to succeed in your Christian life. There is so much confusion, even among Christians about this term righteousness, that it causes some people to think that we're saved by good works, other people to think we're saved by good works and faith in Christ. It causes a great deal of confusion because people don't understand that this term righteousness is used in three different ways in the Bible. And you have to understand what the writer has in mind when he talks about righteousness.
Let me explain what I mean, notice on your notes there. I have the three uses of righteousness in the Bible. The first way that the Bible sometimes uses righteousness is to describe self-righteousness. Sometimes when the Bible talks about righteousness, it's talking about self-righteousness. Self-righteousness is what a non-Christian engages in to try to earn God's approval. Self-righteousness is man's attempt to earn God's favor through good works. Now, what does God think of the good works of a non-Christian? How does he view the non-Christians efforts to feed the poor and to clothe the naked and to be kind and loving to other people? How does God view those kinds of works? Let's let God speak for himself.
Look at Isaiah 64:6, we have it on the screen here. God says, "For all of us have become like one who is unclean. And all of our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment and all of us weather like a leaf and our iniquities, like the wind take us away". Now I want to explain to you what this phrase filthy rags means. And I don't want to offend anyone unnecessarily, but if you want to know what God is really saying here, you've got to understand what it's saying in the Hebrew text. The term filthy rags refers to the rags associated with a woman's menstrual cycle, got the picture? God says the best you can do as a non-Christian before him is like a filthy rag in God's sight.
"Well, pastor, what about this, man? He may be a non-Christian, but he gave a billion dollars to build a new hospital". God says it is a filthy rag in his sight. "Oh, but pastor, what about this man? Who gives of his time and his wealth to feed the hungry and to clothe the naked and to house the homeless. What about him"? "Filthy rag," God says "In my sight". "But pastor, what about this man? He's not a Christian, but he loves his wife. He's faithful to her. He rears wonderful children, what about him"? God says, "A filthy menstrual rag in my sight". That's how God views self-righteousness. It's obvious then when Paul talks about putting on the breastplate of righteousness to protect ourselves against Satan's attacks, he's not talking about self righteousness, is he?
And that leads to the second way. The word righteousness is used in the Bible. Sometimes it refers to imputed righteousness, imputed righteousness. But the word impute is a financial term. That simply means to put into someone's account. And that's what imputed righteousness is. It means the righteousness that God puts into your account on the basis of your faith in Christ. You see when you trust in Christ as your Savior, there are two amazing financial, or if you will, spiritual transactions that occur, not just one but two. You see when you trust in Christ as your Savior, the first transaction that takes place is God takes your sin. And he credits it to Jesus account. Jesus gets blamed for your sin. That's what happened when he died on the cross 2000 years ago, your sin was placed on his account, but that's just the first transaction.
The second thing that happens is God takes all of the righteousness that belongs to Jesus and he deposits it in your account. And that's what 2 Corinthians 5:21 is all about. Jot it down, Paul says, "He, God who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him".
A few months ago, we went to the bank and I opened up a checking account for my youngest daughter. The first time she's ever had a checking account. However, I knew because it was her first time to have a checking account. She just might make a mistake and overdraw her account. So I linked her checking account to my checking account. So if by chance she was overdrawn in her account was in a deficit position. My money could be used to make up her deficit. Well, lo and behold, you'll never guess what happened. I started getting these little notices in the mail, these little white cards that informed me that I had just purchased a pizza at Papa John's Pizza. Said that her account was overdrawn and in order to make up that overdraft, my account was charged for her mistake.
Now I never got to eat the pizza at Papa John's, she did. And more importantly, I'm not the one who made the mistake. I'm not the one who was overdrawn. She was, but I voluntarily made up her financial deficit. Now this is what 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "Jesus, who knew no sin became sin for us". You see the Bible says, all of us were sinners. And every time we sin, it's like a deduction from our spiritual righteousness account in God's eyes. Every simple thought, every sinful action. There's a subtraction from our account.
The Bible says the wages of sin is death. Guess what? You and I, all of us are in an overdrafted, overdrawn state. We're all in a deficit position before God. And in God's economy, you can't remain overdrawn in your spiritual bank account, but that's not the only transaction that occurs. The Bible also says, "And that we might become the righteousness of God in him". With my daughter's account that is linked to my account. Not only do I get to pay for her deficit, but something else happens, every Monday morning, I called the 800 number of a bank of that bank and I make a transaction I transfer money from my account to her account. And the most amazing miraculous thing happens. She is at zero almost all the time in her account but suddenly this computer takes money from my account. And instantly hurricane turns from zero to $50.
Now she didn't earn that $50. Trust me, she has no chance of repaying that $50, but the reason I do that, the reason I put money that belonged to me and I transfer her it to her account is because I love her, I care about her. And that's exactly what happens when you become a Christian. Not only does Jesus get debited for your sins, but you and I receive credit for his righteousness. God transfers all of the righteousness from Jesus's bank account, into your spiritual bank account and my spiritual bank account. So not only are we just at a zero position, the deficits have been made up, but when God looks at you, when you're a Christian, he sees your spirituality as full and running over with all of the righteousness that belongs to Jesus. And that's what Paul means. He made him, Jesus who knew no sin to become sin for you. That you might become the righteousness of God in him.
Now this is a key point. God doesn't automatically pay for everyone's sins. God doesn't automatically give everybody his righteousness. You have to agree to his terms. You have to say, "God, yes, I want to be a part of this. I want to link my spiritual account to the account of Jesus Christ. I realize I'm in a deficit position before God. I want him to pay for my sins and I want to receive his righteousness into my life". That's what it means when we talk about trusting in Jesus to be your Savior.
Now that's imputed righteousness, that's a pretty good deal wouldn't you say. Pretty great transaction, but as important as spirit or imputed righteousness is, I don't think that's what Paul was talking about either, when he talks about, put on the breastplate of righteousness. After all, if he's talking about imputed righteousness, that means all you need to do is trust in Jesus as your Savior, the moment you become a Christian automatically that shield is put on you and you never have to experience Satan's attacks again. Has that happened to anybody in this room? Is there anybody here who's a Christian who has gone through his Christian life without any attacks from the evil one? Anyone who's gone through his Christian life without ever sinning after he became a Christian. He's not talking here about imputed righteousness. There's a third kind of righteousness.
The Bible talks about, and that is practiced righteousness, practiced righteousness, practiced righteousness is a synonym for goodness or obedience. Practiced righteousness is our obedience to God once we become a Christian, it's the good works we perform after we're saved. Many times, the Bible refers to it as fruit, spiritual fruit practiced righteousness is our obedience to God that is the result of God's imputed righteousness. And what happens in our life after we're saved. I want you to hold your place here and turn over to Matthew 7:17-19, where Jesus talks about how practiced righteousness, obedience, Godliness should be the result of our spiritual life. Jesus said, so every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and is thrown into the fire. Simply put Jesus is saying, if a tree is alive, it's going to produce fruit. If it's not producing fruit, it's dead and needs to be cut down.
Let's imagine you go to a friend's house and your friend says on one bright spring day, "Hey, let me take you to the backyard. I want to show you my brand new apple tree". And so you go to the backyard, you look at that tree and all you can see is a tree with dead limbs and branches on it that have no apple in sight anywhere. It's just a shrivel up tree, no fruit anywhere. And you say to your friend, "I'm sorry to tell you, your apple tree is dead". And you're friends offended, he said, "What do you mean it's dead"? "Well, look, there's, there's no fruit on it, it's dead". Your friend says, "Wait, just a moment".
Friend runs into the house, opens the refrigerator, gets a bunch of apples, runs out, ties the apples to the dead branches of the apple tree and says, "Look, it's alive now, it's alive". It would be pretty silly, wouldn't it? Tying fruit to a dead tree, doesn't suddenly make the tree alive. The only thing more ridiculous than that is to try to tie good works under the life of somebody who is spiritually dead and saying, "Look, they're spiritually alive. They're a Christian". I don't care how much a non-Christian loves other people and gives to the poor. And does all of these charitable things, tying good works onto a life that is spiritually dead does not make somebody spiritually alive.
You see good works are important, but they're important, not as a requirement for salvation, but as the result of our salvation. If you see on the other hand, somebody who claims to be a Christian, James 2 says, "But there are no good works in his life". "If you see a Christian who has no interest in doing good works in obedience, then that person no matter what he claims is spiritually dead," Jesus says. The point is, good works are the result, not the requirement for being a Christian. And that's what Paul is talking about when he talks about practice righteousness, it's the obedience that flows out of our relationship with God.
Now my apple tree analogy is pretty good, except it breaks down in one important point, okay? Apple trees don't have to work at producing apples. An apple tree doesn't have to wake up in the morning and saying, "Boy, I'm feeling sluggish. I need three cups of coffee just to get the sap flowing today, you know". Apple trees don't have to do that. Apple trees naturally produce apples, but you and i, even as born again Christians filled with the Holy Spirit of God, we still have to work at practicing obedience to God. It still requires effort. And the reason that takes effort is, we face the stiff headwinds of an adversary, who's out to destroy a Satan and his demons. We still had the residue of that old nature within us.
And so the Bible says we have to exert effort. We have to practice righteousness. And to think about this birds don't have to practice flying, fish don't have to practice swimming, babies don't have to practice crying, those things come naturally. But producing good works, obedience on our part requires effort. And that's why over and over again, the Bible encourages us to practice righteousness. Listen to 1 John 3:10, "By this, the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God nor the one who does not love his brother". Or listen to revelation 22:11, who will occupy the new Jerusalem, the heavenly city.
Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong. Let the one who is filthy, still be filthy. And let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness and let the one who is holy still keep himself holy. Simply stated when Paul talks about putting on the breastplate of righteousness, he's talking about exerting all the effort necessary to obey God in every part of your life. He's talking about obedience, the breastplate of righteousness. Why is this important in spiritual warfare? Because Paul says, putting that practiced righteousness in your life, obeying God in every part of your life protects you against the attack of Satan. It makes your spiritual life inhospitable to temptation that wants to set up residence in your heart. Next time we're going to look at four practical ways. Obedience to God protects us against the enemy's attack.