July 31, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“And what does the Lord require of you? He requires you to act justly. He requires you to love mercy. He requires you to walk humbly with Him. [These are not mere suggestions!].” (Micah 6.8)
“Finally, be strong in the Lord; His mighty power is with us. Put on the full armor of God. In doing so you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood. Rather, it is against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God. When the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground; and after you have done everything, you will be able to stand.” (Ephesians 6.10-13)
In Paul’s letter to the Church in Ephesus, he encouraged them to “put on the full armor of God.” While the images are of externals, as I have mentioned- that of a Roman soldier and a Jewish priest, there is little else to understand this “clothing in righteousness” to be other than internal protections. They are also the spiritual tools of our discipleship in fulfilling the Great Commission. Temptation is generally presented with the external like food, property, power or intimacy. But, the goal is to get the heart, mind and soul to surrender to the temptation with the belief that one has no influence over the other. When Paul declared “In whatever condition, situation, circumstance or state I find myself in, I will be content,” he is speaking of the power of inward control. When he spoke to the Church in Rome saying “…nothing can separate us from the love of God,” he is speaking of the power of inward control manifested in the abiding presence of God in our heart, mind, body and soul with His Spirit. This is how we can live in the world but not be of it as we are clothed in righteousness. The external represents what has been transformed inwardly. Nowhere does this message impact me more, and thus was the impetus for this series of reflections, than the image of Jesus of Nazareth, the only begotten Son of God, on the cross and in the tomb. The earthly representations of Jesus in those situations in life (on the cross) and in death (in the tomb) have no control over what was happening internally as it is being transformed into glory. All that He went through for our salvation and for our resurrection pivots on the Spirit of God at work “in us.”
See Jesus on the cross. Nothing is hidden, especially not His spirit and His faith. But, it is obvious only to those who wish to see the forgiveness and salvation of their own lives. I take this cue from those who were crucified with Him. They were true criminals. The Roman Empire had determined in their court in Jerusalem that their crime deserved the penalty of death. On their day of execution, they had the involuntary opportunity to be crucified on either side of the man from Nazareth. We know, from the gospel rendering of Luke, of the conversation between the three victims of sin. One criminal railed against Jesus joining his words with those of Jesus’ detractors who paraded by with insults and conjurings of disbelief. The other criminal, the one nearer to Jesus’ “heart,” hurled pleadings to those to his right. First, to his fellow inmate to be silent because he could see the innocence in the man who had come between them. He was “undeserving” of such punishment. He spoke of “fearing God.” With his next labored breath, it was hard to breathe due to the force of the process of hanging on a cross on the lungs, he cried out to Jesus “Remember me when you come into Your Kingdom.” I doubt seriously that he had heard the conversation between Jesus and Pilate when Jesus professed “My Kingdom is not of this world.” Perhaps, in the words of His accusers who taunted Him from the ground, some mention of “Your Kingdom” was heard. Can you imagine Jesus uttering again the “Lord’s Prayer” in the midst of His enemies in that moment? What power and impact those words have for me now as I imagine it myself with the words falling down from the cross while He struggled to hold His head up to “see” God. Before this conversation, Jesus had uttered a plea to God “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” His next words, interrupted by the barrage of words all around Him, were to the penitent thief “This day, you will be with Me in paradise.” Forgiveness sought and forgiveness given by Jesus the Christ. Both were reflections of His heart and spirit. Stripped of His earthly “trappings” of clothes and flesh, there was only His spirit left. It was now steeled to the pursuit of the cause for which He came. How now does the look of “clothed in righteousness” appear to be in our mind’s eye? Is it not the spilled blood of the Lamb of God who has come to take away the sting, pain and consequence of sin which is eternal death- dying forever apart from the very presence of God either forsaken or denied. And in the tomb, when first the Marys and then Peter and John entered in believing they would find the body of Jesus, there were only the swaddling cloths used to hold together the body of Jesus to be carried to its “final” resting place. And they were not haphazardly laying there as if suddenly left behind. Everything was in place folded and left in waiting not only to be found but to be secured. Yes, they were to be secured just as Jesus was secure in His faith in His Father’s will and promise. Now, He was clothed in the righteousness of the Kingdom of God with Kingdom flesh and Kingdom power. What remained the same was the internal manifestation of the glory of God. The internal transformed the external. What was spilled blood was an anointing for forgiveness. What was folded cloths became priestly robes for the believers to carry out the good news as already citizens of paradise where the wiles of this world have no power to change.
Mighty ones of God and followers of the way of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, God’s only begotten Son and our Savior, this is who we are becoming because of our faith in Him, our faith in His securing our forgiveness upon our confession and profession as well as our commitment to fulfill the work given to us empowered by the His promised blessing of the Holy Spirit. We are becoming those who are “clothed in righteousness” for the glory of God on earth as it will be in Heaven. We are to a) stand our ground being firmly convinced we stand on the “rock of our salvation;” b) be girded with the truth that Jesus is the Christ and by Him alone do we gain entrance into Heaven and receive the full measure of blessing stored up for us; c) guard our hearts with righteousness adorned with the emblems of our true position of service; d) be ready to step out into the world to declare the gospel of redemption, reconciliation and repurposing; e) bear the shielding protection which faith affords to deflect the assault which sin brings against us and one another; f) put on the thinking cap of salvation and allow it to be the filter of all our thoughts and decision-making; g) carry with us the knowledge of the Word of God to counteract and contradict the attacks of the enemy; and, h) pray at all times for all activities as in worship with praise, intervention, supplication, protection and validation of that which we know is non-negotiable. And that non-negotiable is that Yahweh Elohim is the One True God of Heaven and earth. He loves His creation so much that He has given us hope for our salvation as we believe in Jesus as the Christ, take up our cross to follow Him and pursue Him all the days of our lives as they will be transformed from giving glory to receiving glory. This is being clothed in righteousness! Nothing else will do!
OUR CALL TO PRAYER:
For this wardrobe of spiritual success, we give you thanks. It may appear as nothing to the world that refuses to believe in You but for those who seek forgiveness and desire the hope of life to be fulfilled it is wonderful, indispensable, undeniable and most welcome. We put our lives in order in order that our lives may be put into Your Hands. As our will becomes Your will, Your will be done in Jesus’ name. AMEN.