Putting on the Robe

manna“He wakens me morning by morning.” Isa. 50:4.

Have you ever noticed that the Bible is written in spiritual code language? We can be reading along, enjoying the poetic style of the writer, or delve into the historic value of a story, without realizing that there are deeper levels of understanding that we are not even beginning to touch.

God has created the Bible for all ages and cultures and levels of intellect. There is something in the Bible for the smallest child or the wisest scholar. And yet, there is an infinity beyond, because the author is God, and no one can plumb the depths of His knowledge or wisdom.

But He invites us to set out on the journey of discovering who He is, what He is like, and how He thinks about everything that touches our lives. He promises to help us along at every step of the journey by the presence of His Holy Spirit. And He gives us joy and peace, and the satisfaction of finding new vistas of understanding to encourage us not grow weary and turn away from deeper levels of study.

So this morning I would like to share with you some thoughts about a familiar subject to Christians, in the hope that you may find some new insights which will add to your store of information on this topic. I’m sure you could do the same for me, for that is one of the joys of being in communication with other Christians. It reminds me of the description of heavenly beings that Ezekiel saw in vision.

The appearance of these living creatures were “like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth among the creatures; it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it. The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning.” “Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the Spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went.” Eze. 1:13, 14, and 12.

So it should be with Christians. Wherever the Spirit goes, there is light; and as we share our thoughts and insights with each other, light from God’s word flashes back and forth between us, and we are all blessed and enlightened by the dynamic interchange.

robeBut back to the topic I have been meditating on today: How can I put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness? To begin our little study, let’s look up some definitions for the word, “righteousness.” My dictionary says: “Conforming to or in conformity with the moral law.” Strong’s Concordance puts it this way: Heb. - To be (or make) right:–cleanse, clear self, justify. Gr. - An equitable deed; equitable in character or act; innocent, holy, just, righteous.

Righteousness, then, is something that can be observed, or seen in the life. I’m sure we would all agree that this is the purpose of a robe. It is there to cover the major visible part of the body; to protect, beautify, and make acceptable the appearance of the wearer to others who are observers.

So our first conclusion could be that the robe of Christ’s righteousness should be able to be seen in the lives of the wearers, and that it would bring us into conformity with the moral law. But this leaves us with a mystery of monumental proportions:

How does the right-doing, the holy living, the deeds and character of Jesus become a visible part of our lives? We may admire it, we may wish for it, we may try to emulate it. But it remains a product that He alone can generate, and even if it appears in our characters, it is still His and His alone.

branchJesus knew that His followers would be faced with this dilemma, and so He addressed it head-on in John 15:1-8, in His homily to His disciples concerning the vine and the branches. He said: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine…. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing…. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Ah, the secret, then is in our constant connection with Jesus. The more consistent the connection, the more consistent the life of the Christian. And if we remain connected to Him, we can ask for whatever character change we need, and He will gladly give it to us, for this brings glory to Him and to His Father! The goal - and joy - of the Christian is centered in learning how to stay connected with Him.

But, we ask, what if I fall? What if I can’t seem to learn to stay as connected and faithful as I would like? Fortunately, Jesus’ commitment to us is not on-again, off-again. He is here for the long haul, as the saying goes. He says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Heb. 13:5.

“I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt. 28:20.

That is what faith is all about. Unless we permanently disown Him, He is there for us always. And even if our faith in Him might falter, His faith is firm and constant. “If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.” 2 Tim. 2:13.

The greatest joy and peace in a walk with Jesus comes from learning that nothing separates me from His love, His care and His faithfulness to His promises. I can look to Him, trust in Him for all my needs, rest in Him, rejoice in Him. In fact, as Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:13.

That is righteousness - right doing through a connection with the only source of it. As a result of this experience, my life will more and more become a reflection of His, for it is He who lives within me.

kingPerhaps you’ve heard of the fabled king who was duped into believing that his royal tailors were fashioning a robe of great beauty for him to wear when parading before his subjects. Although he could not see it, he accepted their description of the gorgeous robe, and went through the motions of putting it on - only to discover too late that he was uncovered as he rode down the street before the astonished people who had come to see their king.

So it will be with many who have accepted the lie of the great deceiver who has fashioned a popular belief that the robe of Jesus’ righteousness covers unconfessed, unforsaken sin. And so they go through the motions of playing church, playing Christian, while clinging to the world and its principles and pleasures.

The Bible clearly teaches that to know Jesus personally, we must be prepared to give up our own carnal ideas and desires and accept the gracious gift of His way of life - both inwardly in our thoughts and attitudes (Phil. 2:5), and in our visible lifestyle. For Paul, it is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Col. 1:27.

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Col. 3:3, 4.

This does not just mean that Christ will be seen in us at the time of His second coming. If we are to ready to meet Him then, we must have His life in us now!

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature…. You used to walk in these ways,… but now you must rid yourselves of all such things…. since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator….

“Therefore,.. clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity….

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thinks to God the Father through Him.” Col. 3:5-17.

No, I cannot produce righteousness in my life by trying harder. I have nothing in me that is not defiled and sinful. But through a living, moment by moment, day by day connection with Jesus, I can “download” (in today’s computer vernacular), His life into the “hard drive” of my brain through prayer, study and meditation on His word, and the power of His Holy Spirit.

Thus I can access the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:9-16), and have a change of heart and life which will be observable by others. Won’t it be wonderful when our homes and our churches are filled with such people? It can happen, and before Jesus comes, it must happen. I, for one, want to be a part of a changed people like that, don’t you?

And now, “To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy — to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord…. Amen.” Jude 24, 25.