August 4, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“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)
I would love to believe that we, as mighty ones of God, are convinced that our purpose on earth in these days is to help people do more than imagine living with God forever. In Jesus of Nazareth, God made His presence known in spirit and in truth. The truth is we were created in our essential nature and being in the image of Him who loves us enough to conceive of us becoming living beings. Sin, on the other hand, desires for us to conceive of ourselves becoming as dying creatures. Philippians 1.21 declares “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” The meaning of “die” in that passage is “to die to self and to live in Christ.” What would sin prefer? “To live in Christ is to die again and again uselessly and purposelessly.” Have we ever experienced the presumed disappointment of “faith failing to meet our expectation” or “God doesn’t answer our prayers” or “why bad things happen to good people”? Of course, we have. But notice I said “presumed disappointment.” When we put ourselves first before understanding God’s will in any and all situations, we would tend to label the experience as “another death” or “another nail in the coffin” of faith and reason. But, by faith we can see the reason and know more and more that dying to “putting ourselves first” allows us to put on Christ who is life for us, with us and in us. In Jesus Christ, we can see ourselves as we are meant to be from the first and in the end. The journey between the two is made possible because of “the way, truth and life” which is Jesus Christ. Our opportunity in this world is to project what the end looks like that His means directs us to follow and live. We can gain beneficial knowledge of knowing what “being clothed in righteousness” looks like in this world as those who act justly, love mercy, walk humbly and put on the full armor of God. But, do we know what the end result looks like?
Oh sure, we all have conjured up images of angels. The theophany found in Ezekiel’s writing concerning his encounter with God while in Babylonian captivity is filled with winged creatures moving all around the throne of God. Artists’ renderings of cherubim and seraphim, Gabriel and Michael and even Lucifer, help to shape our concept of “life after death” or “life in Heaven” or life separated from the protecting and loving presence of the One True God. Strange, isn’t it, that when Jesus is “clothed with righteousness” as is His resurrection body, there is no mention of wings and harps. How many of us have images of those two defining presentations when we think of angels. Even in the story “It’s A Good Life” talks about Clarence getting his wings and every time a bell rings another angel “earns” their wings. It’s like we become a captain in the Heavenly Air Corps. But, what of Hebrews 13.2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Do we think these “strangers” are like the character portrayed by John Travolta in the movie “MIchael” who wore a large black duster to cover his wings? Now, I will not debate “angel wings” as the evidence of being “clothed with righteousness” any more than I care to debate the requirement of “speaking in tongues” as evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit. My point is simply that as mighty ones of God on earth, we are called to mimic and live out, what shall be and is in Heaven. Why in the world would Jesus teach us to pray about the interconnectedness of heaven and earth if we are not to put our imagination into reality? God’s will for our lives is to be “done on earth as it is in Heaven.” God’s will shall be done. God’s will for us shall be done. And what we are doing should be God’s will. How will anyone know this if there are “no wings” present? I say, because we are “clothed in righteousness.” We act like angels and with or without wings, we are clothed with a robe and a crown. We are no longer covered with animal skins as Adam and Eve to hide their anxious shame. Nor are we clothed with flowing robes and phylacteries as the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin. We are clothed in garments once stained with the blood of our sin now washed to be whiter than snow and purer than silk through the believer’s baptism by water and born again by the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
I would ask you to read Revelation 3, verses 1 through 6, which is the word of the Lord declared to the faith community in Sardis. There the issue of “dress” is apparent. There are those who have lived soiled lives and live in soiled clothes. These are not sinners that Jesus is speaking about but “saints” who continue to live in their former state but calling themselves followers of Christ. They stand opposite those who have put on the “clothing of righteousness” and maintained the “clean robe” effect in spite of the bidding by others to the contrary. Think of the woman the Sanhedrin and Pharisees caught in adultery that early morning when Jesus had entered the Temple to pray, praise and teach. Her clothing was soiled and worn thin barely covering the shame others wished to expose of her along with “Jesus’s.” But, He had no shame because He was clothed with righteousness. He would not allow hatred, bitterness, game-playing and judgment to soil heaven’s finery. Instead, clothed with the word of God, He knelt and scribed the truth of the matter in the dust of the temple floor. Suddenly, it was the accusers who were exposed as naked spiritually to the world as were Adam and Eve who attempted to hide themselves in a thicket of fig trees.
I would ask us to remember how Jesus went from Pilate’s court to Golgatha clothed in “our robe and a crown,” that which represented life in this world. It was a bloodied garb stained with the hatred of man for God. It was a crown of thorns pricking the brain with reminders of our sins. But, when He was crucified, all that was stripped away. He was left with nothing but His dignity of obedience and His faithfulness to God’s love for all of us. And what did He receive but a robe of glory and a crown of love. He surrendered His Spirit to God and asked that it be given to all who would believe. Or maybe He gave it to all regardless of their beliefs with the hope and prayer that believers would see the blessing which had become theirs to dwell on earth as they would in Heaven. What sadness then for those who never recognize the blessing and life blasphemously against the Holy Spirit of God. They defame the image in which they were created and despise the breath which gives them life. Woe to them. Woe to us, too, if we do not commit ourselves to declaring the truth of their true selves made possible to regain by having faith in Jesus Christ. That is why I said, “I would love to believe that we, as mighty ones of God, are convinced that our purpose on earth in these days is to help people do more than imagine living with God forever.” I hope we do not help them to imagine living with God forever but to embrace and put ownership in living with God forever starting today. Let us clothe His children with the promise of His righteousness…IT ENDURES FOREVER!
OUR CALL TO PRAYER:
You are the truth and the way and the life. You have made it all known to us so that we might see for ourselves who and whose we are. We take up the charge now to address the world with the image of who we are meant to be and who we shall become. We know the choice is for everyone but we pray it will be a truly informed choice so they may honor and glorify You in the name of Jesus. AMEN.