He Clothes You With Garments of Grace

“Loose him and let him go.” (John 11:44).

Recently I spoke on John chapter eleven where we see Christ as the Resurrection and the Life, I felt like a tremedous vault of wealth was opened up to me. There were so many discoveries I had made about dealing with trial and it was a refresher course on Christ’s Mastery over death.  Well, I have heard preachers talk about getting rid of the grave-clothes all through the years. I will not claim to have greater insight than them but I think some may have overlooked that  not only was Lazarus wearing grave-clothes, but so was everyone else.  His sisters were wearing them, grief stricken with the loss of their brother. The disciples wearing burial clothes because they were worried Christ was going to be bludgeoned to death in a religious “rock concert” (11:8) and then they hear Jesus announced that Lazarus is dead (11:14). We admire their willingness to die with Christ (11:16)  but they have designer grave-clothes as well. In addition to all this where would we be if the professional mourners and comforters were not crying in their funeral wear (11:31)?

Some readers today have become used to wearing the old grave-clothes like their favorite pair of jeans, dress  or something that you keep in your closet that Stacey and Clinton from What Not To Wear would throw out!  Imagine if we could watch you on a video for a few days wallowing in depression or struggling with fear and guilt or  drooling with self-pity.  This is more than being “frump” man or “frump” woman. You get angry and upset because people criticize those death britches to which you are accustomed but for you, believer in Jesus, these clothes do not fit, they are ugly and they are out of date.  You are wearing clothes that have nothing to do with the life that God has tailor made for you.

When Christ saved you, he washed you with his own blood and it is his will for you to be rid of the filthy garments of the old life and behavior. Could you imagine working outside all day and then come inside take a shower and instead of putting on clean clothes you put on those same clothes that were dirty and sweaty? Yet you and I are so used to the clothes of the grave, the old ways of living; we wear them to church, work, home and bed. Is that not a picture of putting on the clothes of the old life after you have been saved?  The Bible says  to “put off” the old man (Eph 4:22; Col. 3:8-9), just like the grave clothes of Lazarus. Take off the old clothes, they represent a life you no longer live and put on the garments of grace! 

The Bible teaches that all feelings of fear, loneliness, anxiety and guilt all stem from the looming threat of death. We see these traits like fig leaves that covered the bodies of Adam and Eve  (Gen. 3: 7-10). The first fruits of sin were guilty feelings, isolation, fear  and throughout the years the effects of sin have made these filthy garments stained with the sins of old life  even more sophisticated and fashionable. We automatically reach into our closet for the old wardrobe when we believe our life, purpose and well-being is threatened. The deadly fashion designs are spun on the cursed looms of  trauma, exploitation and abuse and always seem to break out in trial. We revert so easily to the old ways!  We should not believe the lies of the old stinking, dirty old grave-clothes.

It does not take long to see that Christ continually confronts these burial clothes in his teachings. He shows faith in God as the antidote for these diseased garments. Only Christ can set people free who have, “lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” (Heb. 2:15). He calls you to start wearing some grace clothes: the clothing of forgiveness, acceptance and love.

Now Jesus may provide the clothes of life but the church must first help you to be stripped from the old bandages and  dress in the New Man Designer line. Notice that Christ did not take the garments off of Lazarus, his family and friends did. They unwound the bandages and set him free. Christ does not release you from these garments, your brethren in Christ do. They do so so because  are not only concerned about your look but your life. It does not seem approriate to be a living person dressed as a dead body.

I love Spurgeon’s comments from his message on the Unbinding of Lazarus. He says,  “A notable miracle was unquestionably worked, but it required a finishing touch. The man was wholly raised, but not wholly freed! Look, here is a living man in the garments of death! That napkin and other grave-clothes were altogether congruous with death, but they were much out-of-place when Lazarus began to live again! It is a wretched sight to see a living man wearing his shroud. Yet we have seen…hundreds of times, people quickened by Divine Grace with their grave-clothes still on them! Such was their condition that unless you observed carefully, you would think them still dead. And yet within them the lamp of heavenly Life was burning. Some said, “He is dead, look at his garments.” But the more spiritual cried, “He is not dead, but these bands must be loosed.” It is a singular spectacle—a living man hampered with the garments of death!”

You are not dead but you look drained, dying and dead when you allow fear, loneliness, anxiety and guilt to rule your life.  Ah, don’t you think that it is about time you let the pastor and the brethren help you with a new wardrobe? The church has some wonderful tailors who know about throwing out shrouds and new life clothing design.  Do you know someone whose spiritual quality of life  is being affected?  They are wound up too tightly you say? Brethren, loose them and let him go! Dear brethren are ready to peel that cheap death suit of you like an onion. Christ has made garments that belong to you. You are children of the king of kings. You are allowed to wear the garments of praise instead of the death clothes of heaviness. Lay aside the deeds of darkness, put on the armor of light. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:12-14).

One thing I noticed is that they did not strip Lazarus naked for all to see!  A bandaged dead man already put them on tilt, I think seeing Lazarus out there in his birthday suit…well you get my meaning. This would not be appropriate for a living man (Isa. 58:7). Like with old Mordecai you are the one the King of heaven delights to honor with his garments of saving grace! He says, “Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head.” (see Esther 6:8-9). These are God’s garments  which he has worn and never grow old. They all have the divine scent  of salvation of produced out of the ivory palaces for Christ and his own people (Ps. 45:8). One day mortality will be swallowed by immortality and you will be clothed in heavens garments (2 Cor. 5:4).  He now promises to clothes us who have such little faith (Mt. 6:30) with the best robe, shoes and rings (Luke 15: 22). He will clothe your disgrace with a more abundant heavenly honor so that the shame of your nakedness does not appear (1 Cor. 12:23; Rev. 3:18).

Once you take off those filthy clothes… hear the God of the scriptures say, “See, I have taken away your sins, and now I am giving you these fine new clothes.” (Zech. 3:7NLT).

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THE REAL MESSAGE OF THE BIBLE

Dean Inge said once, “If you marry the spirit of your generation you may be a widow in the next.”

I fear that this may be a clear and present danger into which certain denominations are falling headlong if they do not deal with the lust that preachers and churches have in coddling the culture and spirit of the age instead of exposing it’s evil and offering Christ as the remedy for sin. 

Why are some ministries and churches working so hard to be like Jezebel who painted her face to impress the world that does not know or love Christ (2 Kings 9:30)? If Jesus Christ is not relevant in and of himself, dear friends, you can be sure that is not a gospel message you are hearing. Christ is alive now! He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13: 8) . That is genuine relevancy and a no frills, plain vanilla gospel.

During the 1960 Olympics (held strangely enough in Rome, Italy) the Saturday Evening Post featured a cartoon showing a runner carrying a message of victory. He came stumbling and gasping into the palace and fell prostrate before the King. He had a puzzled look on his face and he mumbled, “I’ve forgotten the message!”   All that effort and he forgot the message!

We are making much effort but it is becoming evident that we have forgotten the message. The reformation reminded Rome many years before the forgotten message of justification by grace alone through faith alone through Christ alone. God forbid that the church with all its resources and opportunities forget the message of the gospel! What is that message?

Jesus Christ is the real message of the Bible.

He is the Word of God speaking to man (John 1:1). Not just an idea, a concept, a philosophy, a way of living or a religion. He is God’s Word personified. God in these last days has spoken to us in final and full revelation in his Son (Heb. 1:1-2). Patriarchs and prophets spoke for God in the Old Testament piecing together symbols and types but God has spoken clearly for himself in his only beloved and begotten Son Jesus Christ.

Paul says that “the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things…” (Heb. 10:1). Christ was hidden in the Old Testament’s pages and was revealed in the New Testament.  As I first learned it,

“The New in the Old concealed, the Old in the New revealed.”

Jesus insisted that he was the true message of scripture with those that seemed to revere scripture but he knew did not love him (John 5:42)! “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.“ (John 5:39-40).  Imagine possessing such a reverence for scripture as they examined, studied and memorized it with admirable enthusiasm! They should be commended and imitated as far as that goes. Yet somehow the Word was not in them and the result was that they marginalized the message of the Bible by their traditions (Mk. 7:13) and they had no love for the Author in their hearts. That terrifies me! It causes me to examine my heart and pray with Augustine, “Grant what thou commandest and then command what thou wilt!”

We should also realize that Christ is the subject of his own teaching. He says, “learn of me.” (Mt 11:29). The apostle referred to this when he talked about how they learned Christ (Eph. 4:20). He says, “Let me teach you about me.”  How does Christ teach us about himself today?   He does it by those things, “written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.” (Luke 24:44-45). The whole purpose of the Bible is to lead people to Christ!

“Christ is the end of the law.” (Rom 10:4) meaning Christ is the goal and fulfillment of the scriptures. God had him in view when he gave his law. The law was put in charge of us to bring us to Christ. “The law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good.” (Rom. 7:12) and it tutored us about the nature and attributes of God and his perfect law which we see in his Son Jesus (Gal. 3:24).  We have a dire need to know all the doctrines of the Bible and a working knowledge of scripture, but has it lead us to Jesus? Is what we are learning leading us to praying? Does our theology birth and nurture affection and desire for communion with Christ?  Is the knowledge we have producing a growing love for Christ? Or is it all and end in itself?  Ah, it is Christ that fulfills the righteousness of the law in us (Rom 8:3) by his saving grace and pours the love of God in our hearts (Rom 5:5).  Obedience for us is not forced or coerced but willing. That desire to commune and obey is refreshed and cultivated by the scriptures true message, its wonderful theme, Jesus.

There are so many that take the truths of scripture and teach it like a science class. Then you have others who make micro-wave meals and junk food. This is not serving manna from heaven.  When scripture is read, studied and preached with understanding the Holy Spirit lights up the scripture with Christ.  This is not about commercialized religion where they try to sell you what you already own. It is not about a sterile religion clinically tested by egg heads in religious laboratories. It is about God speaking to men and women by the Lord Jesus Christ! You do not need man’s keys, principles, steps formulas or methods. The way has been made open into the holiest place, where Christ stands in the presence of God for us, speaking to us through the both the Older and Newer Covenants. When we read and ponder the truth of scripture, God’s voice speaks to us through those writings and they all cry out, “This is my beloved son, hear him!” (Luke 9:35).