CLOTHED IN … WHAT?

Several years ago, the women of my church got together to sew dresses for children in  Southeast Asia and Africa who are cared for in a ministry called Homes of Love.  The children who were orphaned or abandoned are brought into a home where they are loved and cared for by their house mother.   [For more information about Homes of Love and the wonderful work that they are doing, see their website at homesoflove.org/]  The homes undertake a marvelous work, all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, the Homes of Love motto is “Creating Families for Life”. The ladies in our church wanted to help by creating and sending some much-needed clothing.  Look at the impact that having new clothes can make in a child’s life.

At the time this project was undertaken, I was still employed full time, so I was not able to join in this effort.   Now, however, retirement has given me some time during the day that I could do something like this,, on a smaller scale of course, but I didn’t even think about it until Christmas when my husband surprised me with a new sewing machine.

1st Homes of Love dress - picture 2
First dress with cute buttons

 

I have now completed three dresses for the precious little girls. 

2nd Homes of Love Dress - Copy
Second dress, now with a pocket.

They are not professionally done, that’s for sure, and I know where the mistakes were made and remedies attempted; but, they were made because of love for our Lord and for His children.

3rd Homes of Love dress
Third dress with decorated pocket.

3rd Homes of Love dress - decorated pocket

This project has prompted me to consider the relationship between clothing and our spiritual well-being.

Dr. R. C. Sproul, in the Renewing Your Mind broadcast entitled “Clothed in Righteousness,” comments on the first covering mankind had.  [You can access this broadcast by going to renewingyourmind.org and then accessing the archive listing for January 16, 2018.] 

Immediately after Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, scripture says:

“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”

Genesis 3:7-8

Prior to their sin, the first couple did not know embarrassment; they did not have feelings of shame because they were naked.  They were in perfect union with each other and with God. Their bodies certainly were not shameful; they were made specifically by God for each other.   In fact, each evening the Lord would come and walk with them through the garden.  No clothing, no shame, nothing to interfere with their enjoyment of their God.

But all that changed in an instant, when they ate the fruit from the forbidden tree; their eyes were opened, and Adam and Eve now felt embarrassment, shame, guilt.  They sewed fig leaves to make themselves a covering, to help them hide and when they heard the Lord, they ran for the trees to hide themselves from their God.  Note that their fig leaves were not clothes – they were coverings.  The intent was not to exchange nakedness with fig leaves; the exchange was between innocence and obedience in sharp contrast with sin, shame and guilt.

We are like that too, are we not?  When we have disobeyed God, or even merely our parents or employers, we are shameful, and we hide ourselves.  Guilt and shame are powerful agents for hiding, trying to disappear so that our actions will not be found out or, if they become known, at least we will not be around to see the consequences. 

God, of course, knew where they were and what they had done.  He didn’t need them to provide information to Him – He needed them to understand the full ramifications of their actions.  So, after they admitted what they had done, God punished them, issuing curses on the serpent, the woman and the man.  Then God said something miraculous, and indicative of His love for His creation.  In speaking to the serpent, God said:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

This is known as the “protoevangelium”, a fancy word meaning that it is the first gospel, the first good news found in Scripture, and it comes in the third chapter of the first book in the Bible.  It pronounces the curse on mankind because of Adam’s sin but God does not stop there … He goes on to tell of His provision for a Savior who would take the curse upon Himself, thus relieving His people from their sin.   Think of it — even though God cursed Adam and Eve because of their disobedience, their actions did not take God by surprise!  Genesis 3:15 tells us that God had already a plan in mind for a Savior who could restore the relationship between mankind and God, the Savior known as the Lord Jesus Christ. 

This is good news indeed, but for Adam and Eve, they were still in the trees with their fig leaves.  God could have told them to get out of the garden, to leave everything that He had given them, and get out!  Go roam wherever you want but you are not welcome here, under my shelter, under my protective hand. You disobeyed, and you brought this on yourself.

But instead, the Lord provided tangible evidence of His love and care, despite their disobedience.

“And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”

Genesis 3:21

Before He cast them out of the garden, God himself made garments of skins for clothing of the man and his wife.  Dr. Sproul calls this “God’s first act of redemption,” and the first act that required the spilling of blood.  God did not cover Adam and Eve to hide them, He clothed them with skins.  Just as blood was shed when God clothed our first parents after they sinned, He offers to clothe us with the righteousness of Jesus Christ because of the shed blood of our Lord and Savior.

Scripture says that our best works, our best clothes, our best words and actions are as filthy rags before the Holy God.  So, we, like Adam and Eve, need clothes from God so that we can stand before Him.

The prophet Isaiah said it this way:

“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

Isaiah 61:10

Beloved, Jesus Christ, our Lord has clothed us in His righteousness.  Praise His Holy Name!

Hear now the song “Clothed in Righteousness” as presented on the album entitled Glory to the Holy One.  The lyrics are presented below so you can follow the words as they sung.

 

Clothed in Righteousness, Lyrics

Fallen race in Eden fair
Exposed and full of shame
Fled we naked from Thy sight
Far from Thy Holy Name

Refrain

Clothe us in Your righteousness
Hide filthy rags of sin
Dress us in Your perfect garb
Both outside and within

 

Sent from the garden in the east
Outside of Eden’s gate
Banished there from Thy pure light
Were Adam and his mate

Scarlet souls are now like snow
By Thy atoning grace
Crimson hearts become like wool
For Adam’s fallen race

Refrain

 

No work of ours is good enough
For evil to atone
Your merit, Lord, is all we have
It saves, and it alone

Refrain

 

Father, I pray that the words of this post and the music presented here would be used by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who read the message and hear the music.  Thank You, Father, for Your Spirit and for Your love as You clothe us in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

HOW CAN I BE HOLY?

We often watch DVD classes from The Great Courses to learn and experience lands and peoples that we would likely not see in person.  In the class “Great Tours: Greece and Turkey, from Athens to Istanbul”, Professor John R. Hale talked about, and had pictures of, Byzantine architecture found at Meteroa.  (By the way, I would highly recommend these courses for anyone who wants an armchair education.  They are excellent and well researched and presented and the topics are myriad.   thegreatcourses.com.  But I digress!) 

Meteora was a cluster of monasteries built in Greece in the 14th century.  The name “Meteroa” means “suspended in the air” or “in the heavens above”.  One look and you realize that these were aptly named.   

meteora-monastery-15
Monastery in Meteora, Greece

Originally there were 24 monasteries in this group, but now there are only four that house religious communities and they are important sites for the Eastern Orthodox church.  The monasteries were built on natural sandstone rock pillars that were virtually inaccessible so that they functioned as a place of sanctuary from the violent controversies on the land below. 

The pinnacles rise over 400 meters above the Peneas valley.   They are incredible examples of architecture that transformed rugged rock spires into places of calm serenity and retreat.  Access was deliberately difficult, requiring either long ladders lashed together or large nets on ropes that would be used to haul up both goods and people. This required quite a leap of faith, both in the people doing the hauling and in the ropes transporting visitors and goods up the sides of these pinnacles. 

[Some of the information and the picture above was obtained from  http://www.amusingplanet.com/2012/09/5-most-inaccessible-monasteries-in-world.html a website that includes more information than that which is presented here.]

Do you have to be ensconced in a monastery on top of a pinnacle in order to be holy?   And, what is holiness anyway?

According to Strong’s Thesaurus/Lexicon, the Hebrew word translated as “holy” or “holiness” means “apartness, holiness, sacredness, separateness … set-apartness.” 

We are told that we are to be holy.   He wants us to be set apart for Him, rather than being one with the world and its culture.

For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”

Leviticus 11:45

Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

Exodus 3:5.  Moses had stepped aside to see the burning bush and God instructed him to take off his sandals because God’s presence rendered the very ground “holy”. 

God is not our “Buddy in the Sky”.   Notice that even though God and Moses had a very close relationship, there was a great difference between them.  He is holy and this holiness is one of the attributes of God, it is intrinsic in His being and it cannot be violated.  Because He is holy, we cannot come before Him — our sin has dirtied us up from the inside out and God cannot countenance any disobedience to His law, i.e., sin. 

The difference between us and God is monumental.  God omniscient and omnipotent.  In contrast, we are temporal and totally dependent on God for life itself.  God is holy, and we are not.

Isaiah’s vision of God is descriptive of this difference:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

Up to this point, the vision of Isaiah is very similar to the vision that the Apostle John had as recounted in Revelation 4:2-8.  Isaiah, however, gives us his response to what he saw:

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.  And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”  Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.   And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

Isaiah 6:1-7.

Isaiah’s response to seeing God on His throne in heaven was an immediate recognition that he was lost, sinful, and unworthy to stand before the King, the LORD of Hosts.  In fact, God did not speak to him or acknowledge his presence until after the angel had touched his lips with the coal from the altar saying that he had received atonement for his sin.  After this, God spoke.

He is a holy God and we must not forget that fact.  We have absolutely no standing before God in and of ourselves because of our sinful disobedience to His commands.

The struggle we have with a holy God is rooted in the conflict between God’s righteousness and our unrighteousness.  He is just and we are unjust.  This tension creates fear, hostility, and anger within us toward God.  The unjust person does not desire the company of a just judge.  We become fugitives, fleeing from the presence of One whose glory can blind us and whose justice can condemn us.  We are at war with Him unless and until we are justified.  Only the justified person can be comfortable in the presence of a holy God.

R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, © 1998, p. 147

Becoming holy has nothing to do with your physical location.  Rather, it has everything to do with your relationship with Jesus Christ, the One who died so that you could be justified, and then be “comfortable in the presence of a holy God”.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9 

The faith that saves is faith in Jesus Christ, the One who died as an atoning sacrifice, taking your sin on Himself, so that if you believe in Him, you will be clothed in His righteousness.  In that way, God sees Christ in you and adopts us as His children. 

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6.

The answer to “How can I be holy?” is “You can’t!”, at least not on your own.  None of us has anything that we can give to the holy God … we are sinful creatures with no redeeming merit no matter how good we seem to other people.  Yet we are called to be holy, and we can be so in and through Jesus Christ.

“Be holy as I am holy.”   We don’t need to be on top of a pillar to be holy.  Our holiness is not dependent on anything that we can do or anywhere that we must go.   Praise be to God the Father and to His Son for giving us a way to stand before God and call Him Father.  We can be holy – if we are washed in the blood of the Lamb, Jesus. 

Listen to the choir sing “Clothed in Righteousness” from the album Glory to the Holy One, lyrics written by R. C. Sproul:

Here are the lyrics for your review while you listen:

Fallen race in Eden fair Exposed and full of shame Fled we naked from Thy sight Far from Thy holy Name

Refrain

Clothe us in Your righteousness Hide filthy rags of sin Dress us in Your perfect garb Both outside and within

Sent from the garden in the east Outside of Eden’s gate Banished there from Thy pure light Were Adam and his mate

Scarlet souls are now like snow By Thy atoning grace Crimson hearts become like wool For Adam’s fallen race

Refrain

No work of ours is good enough For evil to atone Your merit, Lord, is all we have It saves, and it alone

Refrain

Father, I pray that these words would be encouragement to believers and that they would be used by the Holy Spirit to convict the nonbeliever of the need for repentance and faith in the Savior.  Thank you Father for making a way for us to come before you in faith.