“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:31-32
What is the essence of Christianity? Some people view Christianity as primarily a moral position. These would say that the Christian life is the best life to live even if it isn’t based on true events because a clean conscience contributes to a better life. Others contend that positive thinking is the key to success. God wants us all healthy and wealthy. Begin the path through positive thoughts and the end result will be material blessing coupled with a healthier body, soul, and mind. These positions are supported by human thought and experience. Yet the Bible promotes a different view altogether.
Paul wrote, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (I Corinthians 15:19). Given the life change thrust upon the Apostle as a result of God’s call on his life, it is easy to understand why he would take that position. Before he was converted to Christianity, his life was one of preferential treatment and respect. He had climbed the works-driven ladder of the Pharisees and the societal order of the Jews. Yet when he began preaching salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, that all changed. He left a world of prominence in exchange for a world where he would be hunted, tortured, and murdered. His hope was not in this life, but in the next.
In Ephesians 6:14 he wrote, “and having put on the breastplate of righteousness”. He was referencing the spiritual war that every Christian should recognize and prepare for. He did not say to be morally pure to guard against the attacks of Satan. He also did not encourage positive thinking as a successful method in extinguishing all the flaming darts of the evil one. He said to put on the breastplate of righteousness.
Some would argue that he was encouraging a life of righteousness. Acts of righteousness are definitely crucial to the Christian claim of adoption by the Father. These works are the logical result of becoming partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). Earlier in the Epistle to the Ephesians he stated that we have been “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10). But can these righteous acts actually extinguish all the flaming darts of Satan? Maybe some, but all? No way! The spiritual warrior needs a breastplate of righteousness that is perfectly impenetrable. Only the righteousness of Christ can accomplish that.
Similarly, positive thinking should be found in every believer. The Church has been given empowerment and complete security in her calling to continue the reconciling ministry of Jesus Christ. The gospel is the greatest message to ever invade humanity. Yet the power of positive thinking falls short in the spiritual battle because it is not continual in the life of the believer. Only the righteousness of Christ is perfectly constant.
When Satan’s arrow is a reminder of past failure, Jesus steps in and proclaims that sin is under His blood, therefore rendering the accusation powerless. When the arrow is an indictment of a current sin, the blood of Jesus remains equally effective. When the lies of Satan that create doubt and fear are unleashed in the life of God’s child, the sweet voice of Jesus overshadows the great Liar and peace is the result. In trusting the perfect righteousness of Christ to be the sure protector of our lives, the children of God are free to pursue the grand design imprinted on each one of us. Then righteousness is a part of each life. Positive thinking takes it’s rightful place.
Morality cannot be perfectly sustained. Positive thinking is no match for the ferocity of Satan’s attacks. The only hope for success in the spiritual war is complete trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ. This work of complete grace is seen most clearly at the cross of Calvary where Jesus selflessly submitted himself to the will of the Father. He surrendered to the brutal mob who arrested and tortured him. He carried his own cross along the Via Dolorosa. He lay still while they nailed him to the cross, all the while never speaking retribution to those carrying out his murder (I Peter 2:23). Then darkness covered the land as the transaction was sealed. Jesus took sin upon himself and placed his righteousness upon each believer. The greatest of all exchanges was accomplished.
The power of God was revealed at the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He did not remain in the grave. Many people have died as martyrs, yet Jesus died and then rose again. His resurrection clearly demonstrates that God does love the world and is able to determine the plan of salvation while carrying it out to perfection. The power of God that raised Jesus from the grave is the same power that is given to his children as the means to walk in an entirely new way (Romans 8:11).
The conclusion of the matter is simple. Only Jesus Christ can provide the breastplate of righteousness that shields his children from attack. To place the responsibility upon the believer is to not only invite disaster, but to assure it. Complete trust in Christ and Christ alone for victory over sin and death is the only way to guard against all weapons of the enemy. It is only because of Jesus Christ that the church shall prevail.
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” II Corinthians 5:21