God’s Protection Plan
Selected Readings from AMOS Chapter 5
Selected Readings from Ephesians
Selected Readings from Luke Chapter 11
October 25, 2020 – DRESS for SUCCESS SERMON SERIES
“PUT ON THE ARMOR of GOD; be STRENGTHENED by the LORD and HIS POWERFUL STRENGTH! So that you can stand your ground on the evil day. So STAND with JUSTICE as your BREASTPLATE.”
Friends God’s protection plan for people of faith is directly related to whether or not we are willing as individuals to stand with JUSTICE as our breastplates; JUSTICE as our essence; JUSTICE as the every day element of focus in our words and actions when we go out into the world. As we journey through what it takes to ‘Dress for Success in Our Walk with God’ perhaps there is no other consideration of our requirements more important than this one. Over these last few weeks we have looked at ourselves in the mirror of faith. We have tweaked our diets and our usage of time related to the holy. We have chosen to wear love out on our sleeves, and last week we remembered that we have to stand with the belt of God’s truth around our waists but now we need to consider our protection … our protection not just in this life but in our eternal life to come. We again need to be honest as to whether we are willing to do what God requires … to truly put on the armor of God … to live each day as believers in and followers of Jesus Christ or whether we just like saying we are Christians … put it on our resumes but reject what it takes to be one because being one with God and Christ through our actions makes some of us uncomfortable.
God is our protector; perhaps I should say God protects those who walk in the Light of Christ … those who truly believe and worship the Holy. God’s protection does not mean we will not experience and have to endure hardships but God will get us through. God’s protection gives us the awareness through faith that we will be the beneficiaries of Jesus promise that a place has been prepared for us in heaven as faithful believers in the Holy God. Yes friends, God is our protector. We have read: “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Should I fear anyone? The Lord is a fortress protecting my life. Should I be frightened of anything?” and also “The Lord is faithful and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” And “Do not fear for I am with you, do not be dismayed for I am your God and I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” And finally, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid nor terrified because of THEM, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” So, as Isaiah asserts, is the God who created the universe … the God who gave humanity Jesus … is God your true God whose directives for living you strive to follow each day or is your true worship and devotion elsewhere? When you looked into that mirror of faith did you see other gods before the true God?
Breastplates are mentioned in the Torah in the book of Exodus where a breastplate of the High Priest was inscribed with the names of each tribe of Israel. In addition to this leather or metal garment serving as protection of one’s heart and vital organs in battle it was also thought that these breastplates helped to discern the will of God for those who wore one. And, that brings us to our consideration of the breastplate for the 21st century human and also Paul’s use of it because he knew what was traditionally believed … he knew the practicality of the breastplate in battle … so when the armor of God was being described to the early church in Ephesus, Paul knew what mattered; he knew what Jesus taught; he knew from the prophet Micah what the Lord requires of and from humans who believe; the basic truths that make one person connected with God and another no matter how many times they claim to be with Jesus on the outside looking in … “He has told you human one, what is good and what the Lord REQUIRES from you; TO DO JUSTICE.” Not merely to read books about justice, not to say I believe that justice should be fair and equal for everyone but to engage in and TO DO JUSTICE during our life here on earth. Therefore this morning my friends the question to be considered is whether or not you have been doing justice or even believe in justice for everyone, which is a requirement of the Lord, or whether you reject that word and actions associated with it because of your earthly concerns, earthly rumors you participate in, or recently posted internet memes you eagerly smiled with and then share.
I keep a quote from Kay Warren, wife of Rick Warren from Saddleback Church, on my desk. It is sort of worn down but it carries a reminder to me about justice. Speaking at an HIV/AIDS conference she said, “Jesus never asked anyone how he or she got sick — only the Pharisees did … if your compassion level goes up when you know it wasn’t someone’s fault, then there is something wrong.” Perhaps you, like me, remember all the hate-filled voices in the 1980’s that were raised when HIV/AIDS started causing great harm and death across the world. Voices saying they deserved their fate. The voices of justice were focused on healing nothing more …
If there is any section of Scripture jam packed with lessons on justice it is in the four Gospels, which is where Jesus speaks. Perhaps that makes a lot of sense because the words Jesus spoke came from God, the Creator of the Universe in heaven; remember in JOHN when Jesus is confronted by the religious leaders who didn’t like what Jesus was saying, Jesus said “ My teaching isn’t mine but comes from the One who sent me. Whoever wants to do God’s will can tell whether my teaching is from God or whether I speak on my own.” Jesus adds, “Those who speak on their own … seek glory for themselves; those who seek the glory of Him who sent me are people of truth, these’s no falsehood in them.” THE BELT of TRUTH. Unbelievably, I got into a debate with a pastor who said if Jesus came back today He would have to follow the Scriptures and not try to do things on His own. REALLY? This pastor has a few problems with some of what Jesus has said are God’s expectations in the Gospels so he wants the 21st century Jesus to follow this pastor’s concept of Scriptures.
My plea to all of us is to read just a little bit from Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the first chapter of Acts each day because in doing so we are able hear Jesus. It is an action plan for each of us to start to understand what God expects from us in our lives. So that we can find the truth of God … for the people of God.
In our reading from the prophet Amos today the exhortation to people of faith is that “The Lord proclaims SEEK ME and LIVE!” So Amos continues, “SEEK THE LORD and LIVE … DOOM TO YOU who turn justice into poison and throw righteousness to the ground. Seek good and not evil, that you may live and so the Lord God of heavenly forces will be with you.” GOD’S PROTECTION PLAN requires humans to participate by seeking good … not evil … by doing justice and not discarding righteousness for the sake of convenience or worldly affirmation. SEEK GOOD and reject EVIL so that YOU MAY LIVE … we are talking eternal life as much as daily life friends. We are talking true faith versus an adjective before our names. Are you capable of identifying evil? Of knowing what is good? Do you still choose EVIL because it is so appealing? Sexy? Self affirming? While turning your back on what you know in your heart of hearts is good … even when God tells us to SEEK GOOD and REJECT EVIL do you still line up with evil? That won’t get you the protection plan!
So, this morning church … are you interested in seeking the Lord? Do you want to live a life without fear, a life filled with a hope for your future, a life where you can rejoice constantly in the Lord our God? If you are not seeking the Lord through the reading of Scripture, through regular prayer and in your life’s actions … if you are not seeking good and rejecting evil then how can you expect God to take care of you when you reject God and Christ’s requirements?
I said earlier that choosing to put on the breastplate of justice or choosing to leave it on the floor of your life might be the most important decision you make in establishing whether you have breathed life into a moment of faith that you experienced once upon a time through your actions or whether that moment of faith has died away because you have chosen not to embrace your faith in God; you have actively not made your faith alive and well. James writes, “It is good that you believe that God is one. HA! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble with fear. Are you so slow? Do you need to be shown that faith without actions has NO VALUE AT ALL. As a lifeless body is dead so faith without actions is dead!” And, we know what the Lord expects from humans … it’s Scriptural … in the Bible … it’s clear … it’s evident and cannot be challenged because its not just that the prophets taught it but Jesus put these instructions and expectations into life leaving us to choose … requirements that are good at least according to the Bible but maybe not to your favorite talking head advisor you focus in on each night treasuring their words that you hear on your televisions … God’s requirements: “TO DO JUSTICE; EMBRACE FAITHFUL LOVE of ALL; and walk humbly with YOUR GOD.”
It should come as no surprise that Amos echoes Micah and that both prophets reflect the later teachings of Jesus Christ. Those who wear the breastplate of justice HATE EVIL … LOVE GOOD … and then because of those two factors they … we … I hope it is we … “LET JUSTICE ROLL DOWN LIKE WATERS and RIGHTEOUSNESS like an EVER-FLOWING STREAM!”
Richard Foster writes how service to others is a faith discipline that allows humans to showcase our validation of justice. He quotes Saint Bernard of Clairveaux who said, “Learn the lesson that, if you are to do the work of the prophet, what you need is not a scepter but a hoe.” Foster in emphasizing work over judgment states “in service there is great liberty. Service enables us to say no to the world’s games of promotion and authority. It abolishes our need of a pecking order.” His focus in his book is an affirmation of the Christian choice to either put on the armor of God and to be disciplined in doing so … making living a Christian life of actions a habit and reality versus an occasional self rewarding participatory event.
When you and I consider the breastplate of justice we need to accept and believe that justice is for all even when we don’t understand why some need to experience justice because we don’t feel the need ourselves to experience it. Putting on the breastplate of justice allows us to wear the same blinders that the statue of justice in Washington DC has on her eyes but in our case we make it our life truth because we have all too often seen governmental actions being amongst the most harmful policies of injustice one could ever imagine.
Foster continues, “true service builds community. It quietly and unpretentiously goes about caring for the needs of others. It puts no one under obligation to return the service. It draws, binds, heals, builds.” No quid pro quo … no self enriching through service … just awareness the results in justice for all who need justice. THE BREASTPLATE of JUSTICE … DOING JUSTICE with its partner EMBRACING FAITHFUL LOVE OF ALL!
We heard Jesus say, “GIVE TO THOSE in NEED from the CORE of who you are.” Amos teach, “Hate evil, love good, and establish justice.”
Paul reminds us and as we go forward today to continue to DRESS for SUCCESS in our WALK with GOD hear his words and make them reflective of your life, “IMITATE GOD like dearly loved children! Live your life with LOVE following the example of Christ. Nobody should deceive you with STUPID IDEAS knowing God’s anger comes down on those who are disobedient because of this kind of thing. TEST EVERYTHING to see if it is pleasing to the Lord. Don’t participate in unfruitful actions of darkness instead reveal the truth about them. We are fighting forces of cosmic darkness and spiritual forces of evil.”
THEREFORE my FRIENDS … pick up and put on the full armor of God … STAND with JUSTICE as your breastplates! Be strengthened by the Lord and his powerful strength!