In our text from Matthew, Chapter 5, the LORD Yeshua causes us to dwell on perfection. In verse 20, He also says something else worth dwelling on for a moment:
'For I say to you that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.'
I used to think that what He meant was that we should be more righteous than the pharisees and scribes, and I translated that as meaning we should do more righteous deeds than they. But that's not what He means. He says the pharisees and scribes have worked up a righteousness of their own. They have seen the standards of the Law, the spiritual standards of the Law, that aim at the heart and at the motive, and they have found that they cannot measure up to that standard. So what they have done is to bring down the Law to their level, and to restrict the demands of the Law to the outward action only.
And in the sermon on the Mount, the LORD says,
'You have heard that it has been said by them of old time, 'You shall not kill;' but I say unto you whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause is guilty of murder;'and the same with other commands. They restricted it to the outward command only. And the LORD says that is the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees, so that they can say, 'I am a righteous man.' That's why Saul says, 'I want to be found in Messiah not having my own righteousness derived from the Law.' He's referring to this artificial righteousness that men have cooked up because they realize that they couldn't match up to the true one, to the true standard. The LORD says, 'You'll never get to heaven that way. The only way you can get to heaven is to match up, or to aim at that perfect righteousness which the LORD demands. And seeing you cannot provide it, I will give it to you. I will fulfill the righteousness of the Law; I'll meet all It's demands on your behalf! And then, I will bestow it on you. But I will not only bestow it upon you so that the Law looks at you and declares you righteous,but I'm going to work It in you!'
There's a sentimental story told about a man who fell in love with a beautiful young actress, but he looked like the back of a bus. She would have nothing to do with him. So he went to the maker of masks, and he asked him, 'Please will you make me a mask of a terribly handsome young man?' So he did. When he put this mask on it was skin tight, and when she saw him, she fell in love with him. They got married; they spent many blissful years together. But one day, some jealous rival found his secret and tore the mask off. To her astonishment, the face behind the mask was the same as the face of the mask. Over the years this man had been living in love, and he had become like the mask.
The Bible says as we look at YESHUA; as we look steadfastly at Him, we are being changed into the same likeness by the Holy Spirit. You are meant to be like Him. You are not meant to be postage stamps. You are not meant to be exactly identical to each other. You will still retain your individuality; but your character will bear the likeness of the Messiah! That's how you know. You may not be able to see it yourself, but others will see it in you. You are not the best judge of yourself. Others will say, 'I can see that you are a Believer; I can see you're a child [of GOD].' 'How do you know?' you'll ask. 'I can see it; it's obvious; the mark is there, the mark of ownership.'
So we are to have
'the breastplate of righteousness'and that means, the righteousness; the perfect righteousness of GOD. That's astounding, isn't it? But that's exactly what we read in Philippians, Chapter 3. Here it is; Philippians, Chapter 3, verses 8 and 9:
'But indeed, I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Messiah YESHUA, my LORD, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Messiah and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness which is from the Law, but that which is through faith in Messiah; the righteousness which is from GOD by faith.' That is the righteousness, and when YESHUA said you cannot enter heaven unless you have that righteousness, he is saying, 'I have come to give that to you which you can, by no means, obtain any other way.'
'The breastplate of righteousness.'
Then we come to verse 15:
'And having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.' Soldiers in those days had strong robust sandals, and they had studs on the underside; metal studs, so that they were able to walk over rough ground, and they were able, also, with these sandals to walk over the spikes that the enemies put in. They didn't have anti-personnel mines in those days. But what the enemies used to do was to bury spikes into the ground with just the tip pointing through. And if anybody walked with bare feet on them, or with poorly made sandals, the spike went through the leather of the sandal, and into their foot. You know what happens when you step on a nail, don't you? Or you step on a sharp stone, how it hurts, and your whole progress is impeded, if not totally arrested. So you have to have your feet shod; you have to have good strong, sturdy shoes. Shoes are the mark of a free man.
When GOD told the children of Israel, 'You're leaving Egypt tonight,' He said, 'You are to eat the Passover lamb before you leave and this is how you are to eat it: your lamps lit; your loins girded; your staff in your hand, and shoes on your feet, because you are going through the desert. You're going on a long journey. You need shoes.' But it was also the mark of a free man.