Out of the Darkness

The only thing worse than having a terminal disease for which there is no cure is having a terminal disease for which there is a cure, but refusing to acknowledge you’re sick and therefore won’t go to the doctor to be healed.

While Jesus walked this earth He frequently healed people of a variety of physical illnesses and handicaps. Among those illnesses and handicaps was blindness. There are two stories in the Bible about Jesus healing two different men from their blindness. He heals both of these men, but there was a group of blind men He didn’t heal, not because He couldn’t, but because they didn’t know they needed healing; they didn’t know they were blind, so they wouldn’t seek healing from Jesus. Seems ridiculous doesn’t it? How can someone not know He’s blind? Actually, it happens all the time. In fact, it’s pandemic in our world today.

To explain this I’m going to go into depth about these two stories and what I believe the Lord wants to teach us today to lead us out of darkness into His light.

The first story is told in John chapter 9. The second story is told in Mark 10 which we will discuss later.

The first story begins when Jesus notices a blind man as He passes by Him and His disciples ask Him an interesting question.

“As he (Jesus) passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing” (John 9:1-7 ESV).

He who was born blind was now able to see. That’s wonderful. But that’s not the end of the story. Though this man who was once blind, who once lived in a world of personal darkness, could now see and experience life not only in the light of the sun, but experience Life in the Light of the Son, soon came face to face with a blindness that was willfully embraced by others, a blindness that was far darker than the darkness he had lived in since birth; for this blindness that he now became aware of after having been healed by Jesus, was a blindness of the soul and spirit. The man born physically blind came face to with the spiritually blind, those who experience life only in the light of sun, but will not allowed themselves to be healed to experience Life in the Light of Son. They are comfortable in their darkness to the point of being oblivious to their blindness and resenting anyone telling them they are in need of healing. Such were those this man who now walked in the Light came face to face with.

The Pharisees and the Sadducees – the pastors, preachers, teachers, priests, bishops, and so forth of our day – hated Jesus. They refused to acknowledge that He was the Messiah, the Son of God. They were jealous of Him because so many people began to follow Him and believe He was the Messiah, coming into the Light of Truth. That meant, among other things, that they began to lose their positions of power and influence with the people. So, they did whatever they could to discredit Jesus so people would quit following Him and follow them again.

But they had a problem; a big problem. Jesus healed the blind, the deaf, and the lame. He controlled the weather and cast out demons with just a word. They couldn’t. So, when He performed a miracle they tried to convince the people that He was demon possessed and performed the miracle by the power of Satan, the Prince of Darkness.

And some people believed that because many of His miracles occurred on the Sabbath, which was the case with this particular man born blind, He couldn’t be the Messiah. So, the Pharisees said,

“This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath” (John 9:16 NASU).

And they tried to get this man born blind, who was now completely healed to believe that the One who healed him (he didn’t know it was Jesus at that point) was a sinner. He refused to believe that and told them so. He said,

“If this man were not from God, He could do nothing” (John 9:21 NASU).

That took an incredible amount of courage because the Pharisees and Sadducees had the power to excommunicate anyone from the Temple that displeased them. That may not sound like a major threat, but to be excommunicated from the Temple in that culture during Jesus’ time was much more serious than being excommunicated from a church or denomination today. Your life would be completely changed and even your family was likely to disown you. You would be ostracized from society, an outcast.

And that’s exactly what this man found out. His parents began to distance themselves from him when the Pharisees began to question them about their son’s healing. Instead of rejoicing with their son, they basically made it clear he was on his own. They were afraid they would be excommunicated along with their son if he were excommunicated. And because this man, who had come out of the darkness, had the courage to confront these blind religious leaders he was excommunicated.

Jesus heard about this and went to find the man again to introduce Himself. The man had lost the privilege of worshipping in the Temple and being a part of the community, but he had won the right to be called a son of God and entering into the Kingdom of God where he would worship in Light and Truth.

There was still a crowd around the man when Jesus found him, including some of the Pharisees, and as the man worshipped Jesus (noticed Jesus didn’t stop him from worshipping Him which implies Jesus was God in the flesh and no mere man) He said,

“‘For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.’ Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, ‘We are not blind too, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, “We see,” your sin remains’” (John 9:39-41 NASU).

The Pharisees and Sadducees were blind to the truth, but refused to acknowledge that fact and because they refused to acknowledge their blindness they refused to seek out the One who could and would heal them. They had a terminal spiritual disease – sin – but their pride wouldn’t allow them to admit that. Instead they told themselves and others they clearly saw the truth. But it was a lie, a lie Satan used to keep them from being healed. They refused to come out of the darkness and tried to frighten him into denouncing the One who had healing his blindness so that even if he could see with his physical eyes, the eyes of his spirit would remain blind. But the man born physically blind now walked, not only in physical light, but in the spiritual Light of the Son. The cost to him personally was great, the loss of friends and family and fellowship on this earth; a temporal loss. But his gain was immeasurably greater, the family of God and fellowship with the Lord God for all eternity.

Let’s now look at the story of another blind man. Our first story was about a man born blind and Jesus took the initiative to heal him. The second story is about a man who likely could see at one time, but through unknown causes became blind. Having once experienced living in the Light, but now living in darkness, he was desperate to regain the Light and boldly took advantage of the opportunity given to him to do so. His name is Bartimaeus. His encounter with Jesus is described in Mark chapter 10 as follows…

“And they (Jesus and His disciples) came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.’ And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ And the blind man said to him, ‘Rabbi, let me recover my sight.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your faith has made you well.’ And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way” (Mark 10:46-52 ESV).

As much as the story we just heard about the Pharisees being blind and unwilling to admit that and seek help was a story of despair, the story of Bartimaeus is a story of hope. And it’s a story of hope because Bartimaeus recognized he was blind, took advantage of the opportunity presented to him as Jesus came near by crying out to Him, refused to let those around him, including those who followed Jesus, silence him, and believed that Jesus was the One who could heal him.

It seems like a simple, straightforward story, and in one way it is. But I want to dig a little deeper into it so we can see how Bartimaeus is representative of backsliders, of those who once saw the truth and walked in the Light, but for whatever reason turned away from the Truth, accepted the lies of Satan and found themselves unable to see the Truth and sitting in the darkness.

You may wonder why I think that Bartimaeus represents backsliders or those who have turned away from following Jesus. So, let me try and explain.

Names have meaning and in the Bible the names of the persons involved can often convey a deeper sense to what’s being told. And this story bears that out.

Bartimaeus is a Hebrew name that’s made up of two parts: “ben tame”. “Ben” means “a son as builder of the family name”. That’s important considering what “Tamaeus” (“tame”) means. It means “foul in a religious sense, defiled, polluted; to be foul ceremonially and morally”. Therefore, Timaeus, Bartimaeus’ father, by definition of his name, was religious, but defiled and polluted. That means his worship of God was foul and morally corrupt. And spiritually speaking that’s what he passed along to his son when he named him Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus built up the family name. Timaeus was defiled, Bartimaeus would be more so; Timaeus was polluted, Bartimaeus would be more so; Timaeus’ worship was unacceptable to God and morally corrupt, Bartimaeus would be more so.

You see, Bartimaeus was religious and at one time walked in the light he had been given, but eventually that light was snuffed out because he began to believe lies, just like us when we refuse to walk in the light given to us. He now sat in darkness, but there was still a flicker of light within his spirit. We know that because of his response when Jesus walked by and because of where he was sitting.

We are told Bartimaeus…

“…was sitting by the roadside” (Mark 10:46).

Why is that important?

Remember the parable about the Sower? In Matthew 13 Jesus tells of a sower who went out to sow seed. What I want to key in on right now is the seed that fell beside the road because that’s exactly where Bartimaeus was sitting – beside the road.

Jesus began the parable by saying…

“Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up” (Matthew 13:3-4 NASU).

After Jesus told the parable His disciples asked Him to explain it. Concerning the seed that fell beside the road – remember that’s where Bartimaeus was sitting – He said…

“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road” (Matthew 13:19 NASU).

This describes Bartimaeus exactly. Here was a man who once could see, who was religious, who had the seed of Truth spread upon his heart, but as his worship became corrupt because the truth that was given to him never found a place to take root; thus, giving Satan the opportunity to rob him of it. The result was spiritual blindness which was reflected in his physical blindness.

But Bartimaeus was about to get a second chance. In God’s mercy and sovereign grace Jesus just “happened” to be walking along the road Bartimaeus was sitting alongside of.

Hearing a commotion Bartimaeus asked what was going on. He was told the crowd was following Jesus of Nazareth. When he heard that he cried out with a loud voice…

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Mark 10:47 ESV)!

The crowd following Jesus responded to this by trying to shut Bartimaeus up. I wish I had time to go into their reaction more fully, but I don’t. So, I will just say their actions were despicable. Here was a man who was crying out to Jesus for mercy and these followers of Jesus tried to shut him up. May we, as followers of Jesus Christ, never be guilty of such evil.

What I what you to notice next is what Bartimaeus did when Jesus called him.

“And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus” (Mark 10:50 ESV).

He took off his cloak. Now, that may not seem like a big deal, but I believe it is for two reasons. First, it’s likely this cloak was ragged and worn and probably had very little value. But for Bartimaeus it was all he had to wrap around himself and keep him warm. Chances are if someone had tried to take this cloak from him he would have fought with everything he had to keep it. But now he willingly gives up his cloak.

The second reason I believe this is significant is because I believe Bartimaeus laying aside his cloak and leaving it symbolizes us laying aside the old man – that old fallen nature that we have wrapped around ourselves to keep us as safe and warm as possible living outside of Christ. The cloak represents safety and security.

Does that make sense? Paul tells us in Romans 13:12-14…

“Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:12-14 NASU).

And this is exactly what Bartimaeus was symbolically doing when he threw off his cloak, jumped up, and ran to Jesus. He was ready to leave his sins behind so he could be healed, so he could be brought out of the darkness into the Light of the Son.

What we are to learn from this is that we must repent of our sins and lay them aside when we approach Jesus to be saved or to establish a broken relationship with Him.

Unfortunately, too many people want to be saved in their sins rather than from their sins. Too many people come to Jesus asking Him into their hearts – in essence being clothed with Him, but want to keep their “old cloak”, their old way of life. And that’s one of the reasons many don’t experience deliverance over the sins in their lives or the power that is available to them through the Holy Spirit.

But Bartimaeus was ready to leave his old life behind. Because of this when Jesus asked him what he wanted Him to do for him; Bartimaeus revealed he knew what his need was – to see again.

Listen carefully to what Bartimaeus said to Jesus…

“Rabbi, let me recover my sight” (Mark 10:51 ESV).

This response implies, as we have suggested, that there was a time when Bartimaeus could see, when he wasn’t blind because you can’t recover your sight if you never had your sight. In other words there was a time when Bartimaeus wasn’t blind.

I believe this is also symbolic of one who had once had an encounter with Jesus and had his eyes opened to the truth, but eventually rejected it and became blind. If we don’t live in the truth God has already revealed to us we are in danger of not only not receiving deeper truth, but forfeiting the truth we do have.

Bartimaeus’ response also reveals that he knew what his need was. Jesus didn’t ask Bartimaeus what he needed from Him so He would know what to do for him; Jesus knew. He wanted to know if Bartimaeus knew what his need was. Remember, the Pharisees and Sadducees in the first story we discussed didn’t know what their need was. That is the crucial difference it takes between coming out of the darkness to walk in the Light: knowing you are blind and knowing Who can and will heal you.

That may sound trivial, but it isn’t. In fact it’s one of the most important lessons we can learn from this story.

Do you know what your most important need is? If you haven’t repented of your sins, renounced your old way of life, and asked Jesus to be Lord and Savior of your life your greatest need is salvation. And if you have done that, but fallen away from following him, in essence becoming spiritually blind, your greatest need is to repent of your sins and ask Jesus to rule and reign once again in your life.

The rent may be due next week, the kids may need shoes, the car may need fixing, there may be no groceries in the fridge – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking God to provide for those needs – but are they your greatest need?

If you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior or if you have fallen away from following Him, and He physically appeared before you and asked you what He could do for you, what would you say? Think about that.

Notice how the story ends…

“And immediately he (Bartimaeus) recovered his sight and followed him on the way” (Mark 10:52 ESV).

He began to follow Jesus “on the way”. He was no longer sitting alongside the way. He began to follow the One who once said…

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6 NASU).

Today, you have a choice as to whether you will continue to sit alongside the way, spiritually blind, wrapped in your sins, or throw them off, run to Jesus, and receive a new life and spiritual eyes. You have the choice to come out of the darkness and follow the One Who is the Light of the World.

#manbornblind #bartimaeus #outofthedarkness

Dressed for Heaven

Most businesses and schools have a dress code. Some schools even require students to wear uniforms. Even gangs have a dress code of sorts. So would it surprise you to learn God has a dress code for His children, both on earth and in Heaven? He does and it’s important to know what it is.

Jesus tells a parable in Matthew 22 that emphasizes just how important proper clothing is.

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”‘ But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.

“But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:2-14 NASU).

Simply reading this parable from a secular, unbiblical point of view the king appears to be ruthless, uncaring, self-centered, and intolerant of those who did not meet his fashion standards.

He sent his army to destroy those who slighted him and burn their city. That seems a little severe for what may be perceived as vengeance for having one’s feelings hurt. Just as perplexing is the punishment of the man who was improperly clothed. Perhaps it’s understandable for the king to destroy murderers, but to tie a wedding guest up for wearing the wrong clothes and throw him outside in the cold and dark where he may be in mortal danger, unable to defend himself, seems the actions of a madman.

But was the king mad; was he insane? Was the punishment he meted out to the improperly attired guest disproportionate to his “crime”? Yes, and I am going to tell you why.

According to some scholars when a person, such as a king, gave a wedding feast he supplied the necessary robes for the occasion. That would make sense in this story because the guests had been invited at a moment’s notice. It would have been very unlikely they would have had time to go home and dress even if they had the proper clothing. If this is true and the host, the king, did offer these hastily invited guests the proper clothing, the king’s displeasure becomes more understandable, and so does the guest being speechless when confronted by the king. He was without excuse for his unacceptable condition. The king had a right to be angry. He had a right to punish this ungrateful guest.

This guest depended upon the clothes he had on to be acceptable to the king. They may have been very fine clothes, custom tailored for him and worth a great deal of money. But as far as the king was concerned he may as well have been wearing filthy rags, because they weren’t the clothes provided by the king.

So, was Jesus’ point in telling this parable to warn those who have been invited to a wedding feast to make sure they accepted the clothing offered by the host? No. His message was deeper than that. It was a message that began in the Garden of Eden and ends at the Resurrection. Therefore, to more fully understand what Jesus is teaching us in this parable let’s begin at the beginning.

When God created Adam and Eve they were naked, but unashamed. However, after they had disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit they became very much aware of their nakedness. Sin had stripped them of their innocence. Therefore, they felt shame and the need to cover their bodies. So…

“They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (Genesis 3:7 ESV).

The fig leaves obviously served the purpose of alleviating their shame since the Bible does not mention Adam and Eve trying on other types of “clothing”. We are not told if they were unhappy about the color or shape of their “clothes”. They were probably just grateful they had not chosen poison ivy.

They had successfully overcome their shame by clothing themselves by their own ingenuity and handiwork. This likely caused at least a little bit of pride to swell up within them. They had disobeyed God and were still alive even though God had told them they would die in the day they ate of the forbidden fruit. The only consequence they were immediately aware of for their disobedience to God was an uneasy awareness of their naked bodies. And they quieted that with relative ease.

But a problem with the fig leaves soon became apparent. When God entered the Garden looking for them they discovered fig leaves did not meet His dress code. The Bible tells us that…

“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. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself’” (Genesis 3:8-11 NASU).

When God confronted Adam and Eve after they had sinned they hid from Him as if they were still naked. But were they naked? No. They were wearing the fig leaves they had made for themselves. So, why would Adam tell God he was naked? Because the fig leaves represent man’s attempt to save himself from the consequences of sin; the fig leaves represent man’s pride. As long as God is distant from him, “fig leaves” – man’s ingenuity, intellect, handiwork, technology, and natural abilities – hide his sinful nature from his follow man and he senses no shame within his conscience. But when God draws near man must hide because his spiritual nakedness is revealed and his shame torments his conscience.

Anytime man attempts to save himself rather than relying on God, pride is the source. But pride is exposed for what it is in the presence of God. Man may wish to justify himself, but outside of God’s provision for his salvation, Christ crucified, no justification is possible.

Adam and Eve became entangled with sin and instead of calling out to God they made matters worse by covering themselves with what their own ingenuity created. They dressed themselves in pride. Their intent was possibly good, but good works created as a consequence of rebellion may make us look good to others, but they leave us naked before God.

The presence of God in the Garden made Adam and Eve conscious of the fact they needed new clothes. Their fig leaves enabled them to be comfortable in each other’s presence, but not in the presence of the King. So, they had a dilemma. They had done the best they could to overcome the consequence of their sin, their shame at being naked, but they had failed which become obvious when God came near in the Garden. All they could do was attempt to hide from God.

Lest we judge Adam and Eve too quickly for acting from pride to save themselves rather than turning to God in humility and seeking forgiveness the Bible reveals man doing the same thing at the end of the age. With the breaking of the 6th Seal in the book of Revelation we are told…

“The kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand’” (Revelation 6:15-17 NASU)?

Indeed, who can stand in the presence of God? Adam and Eve were about to discover the answer to that question.

When God confronted Adam and Eve He passed sentence upon them and all of creation. Adam’s role of provider would now be done with drudgery. Eve’s role as child bearer would be accompanied by intense pain. Physical death was inevitable now that spiritual death had entered creation by their rebellion against God.

All seemed lost with no redemption possible. And from a human point of view redemption was not possible. They had done their best – fig leaves – to save themselves, and failed. They quickly discovered they could not stand in the presence of a holy God.

But God was merciful. Before He sentenced Adam and Eve He cursed the Serpent and while doing so He revealed all was not lost. God was going to provide clothing for Adam and Eve that would allow them to come near enough to Him to worship Him now on earth and promised to provide clothing to them and them children in the future that would allow them to stand in His very presence in Heaven. He was going to see to it that man was given to the opportunity to dress for Heaven.

How do I know that? With the curse God placed upon Man and Creation came the promise of salvation – “clothes” that would allow them to be in God’s presence unashamed. Listen to what God told the Serpent…

“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 ESV).

These words speak of Jesus Christ, the seed of the woman, triumphing over sin by the shedding of His blood on the cross and His resurrection three days later. This promise revealed that the way to stand in the presence of God was to be accomplished by the shedding of blood, not by man’s pride.

To emphasize this truth about the need for the shedding of blood, the Bible tells us that God (not man!) made garments of skin to cover their nakedness. The fig leaves, man’s pride, were replaced with clothes that required the shedding of blood. But what’s important to notice is that even with these God-provided clothes, Adam and Eve were still banished from the Garden. And the way to the Tree of Life was blocked. The garments of skin did not meet God’s dress code for Heaven, only the dress code for earth. Why? Because the promise of redemption comes through the shedding of the Messiah’s blood not the shedding of an animal’s blood. The writer to the Hebrews tells us:

“For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4 NASU).

I believe the garments of skin symbolize the Law. The garments of skin symbolize the sacrificial system God gave to the Israelites that required an animal’s blood to be shed for the forgiveness of their sins until the Messiah would come and shed His blood upon the cross. Israel was to clothe herself with animal blood, so to speak, but this was temporary. Listen to Galatians 3:23-24:

“Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:23-24 ESV).

The garments of skin, like the Law, were given to point to something greater. The Law was…

“only a shadow of the good things to come” (Hebrew 10:1 NASU).

But man corrupted this God-given covering by trying to make it a permanent solution to sin – something God never intended. The garments of skin became religious pride; they became filthy rags. Though given by God they became tainted and stained with man’s pride. Man now clothed himself, not just with good works, but good works done in the name of God. I saw a bumper sticker once that said: “Jesus Is Coming – Look Busy”. That is a classic example of filthy garments of skin.

Garments of skin were the clothing of choice by the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They wrapped themselves in the Law, smug in their self-righteousness. But Jesus exposed their spiritual nakedness and said to the people:

“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20 ESV).

Why? Because their righteousness was on the outside of them. It made them appear righteous to those around them, much like the fig leaves did for Adam and Eve. But just as they could not abide God’s presence because their souls and spirits were still naked, the religious leaders could not abide Jesus’ presence because the temporary clothing God had provided (the Law) had become corrupted and filthy. The garments of skin that were meant to allow man to approach God on earth were never meant to be worn in Heaven. Garments of skin allowed man to have a long distance relationship with God, but as the religious leaders found out an intimate relationship with God required a new type of clothing. They needed to be dressed for Heaven.

But what is this heavenly clothing; what is Heaven’s dress code? It’s not fig leaves – man’s attempt to save himself. And it’s not garments of skin. Their purpose was to allow man to enjoy a long distance relationship with God – man being on earth and God in Heaven.

Jesus once warned His followers that at the end of the age they needed to be properly dressed for Heaven. Listen to His words…

“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed” (Revelation 16:15 ESV)!

What garments? What garments can clothe us that we may not appear naked before the Father? Paul gives us the answer.

“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27 NASU).

It is Christ that replaces the fig leaves; it is Christ that replaces the garments of skin; it is Christ that meets God’s required dress code for Heaven. Christ is the only clothing that allows us to enter into the throne room of God without shame and guilt. Clothed with Christ we can enter the throne room of God with boldness. We no longer need hide when the Father comes near us; we no longer need to rely upon the Law to cover our transgressions and sins. Those who have clothed themselves with Christ are said to have been…

“circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:11-14 NASU).

There’s no room for pride here. We either freely accept Christ as our covering or, like the man at the wedding feast who refused the clothes offered to him, we are expelled from God’s presence.

Therefore, to be dressed for Heaven one must remove the fig leaves or garments of skin and put on Jesus Christ.

That’s why Paul tells us…

“But clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), and make no provision for [indulging] the flesh [put a stop to thinking about the evil cravings of your physical nature] to [gratify its] desires (lusts)” (Romans 13:14 AMP).

Only by recognizing that we are sinners without excuse for our sins, speechless as it were (as the man at the wedding feast was speechless before the king), naked before the Lord and ashamed of our spiritual nakedness, will we humble ourselves and except the only clothing that will allow us into Heaven. A humble and contrite heart opens our eyes to see that Jesus is our wedding garment; Jesus is our hope; Jesus is our righteousness; Jesus is our salvation.

When we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we can say with Isaiah:

“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 ESV).

So, are you dressed for Heaven?

You Shall Be Holy

Are you holy? What does it mean to be holy? How does one become holy?

The Apostle Peter, speaking to Christians, commands…

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:13-16 ESV).

Holiness isn’t just to be the possession of pastors or preachers or seminary professors. Everyone who names the name of the Lord Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior is to be holy. If you are a Christian you are commanded to be holy. But, again what does that mean? And how does one become holy?

Well, there’s a story in the Old Testament that I want focus on that teaches us what holiness is and in stark terms how seriously God takes holiness and the consequences of being unholy.

The story takes place in the book of Joshua, specifically in chapters 3 through 7. It tells the story of Joshua leading the Israelites into Canaan to take possession of it in fulfillment of God’s promise to them to have it as their home.

Their first combat mission was to take the city of Jericho. And they overwhelmingly succeeded in doing so having followed God’s unorthodox battle plan with apparently no loss of Israelite life.

Things were looking good for the Israelites. So, they engaged the enemy again, going up against the little town of Ai. After Jericho, Ai should have been easily taken. But they didn’t consult God first. And the results of the battle were a disaster. The Israelites fled from before the men of Ai and ended up killing some of the Israelite solders.

Joshua couldn’t understand why they had been defeated, badly. He fell on his face before God (something he should have done before going to battle against Ai). Eventually God told him…

“Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you” (Joshua 7:11-12 ESV).

Having entered the land of Canaan the Israelites consecrated themselves unto the Lord. They were committing themselves to be holy as He is holy. But the foundation of holiness is obedience and someone in the camp of Israel had disobeyed God’s commandments. Israel was no longer holy. As a consequence she could no longer stand before her enemies.

The situation Joshua found himself in was precarious and very dangerous. They were in enemy territory. And those enemies would soon learn of Israelite’s defeat at Ai. That would embolden them to consolidate their forces and wipe out the Israelites. Therefore, it was imperative that the holiness that Israel had been clothed with when they consecrated themselves upon entering Canaan be regained.

They did and went on to take Ai.

What’s this got to do with us as Christians? We are at war with the powers of darkness, Satan and his demonic warriors. It is only when we are clothed with holiness that we are able to defeat these powers. The story in Joshua teaches us what it means to be holy, what happens when that holiness is compromised, and how to regain that holiness. Though this story happened thousands of years ago by reading and studying it we as Christians can gain insight into how to fulfill the command…

“You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16 ESV).

Now, if you have ever tried to be holy by gritting your teeth, having believed your willpower is sufficient to enable you to become holy you have undoubtedly been frustrated and thrown up your hands in despair. Well, let me try to encourage you. I’ll throw a teaser out there for you to ponder (the answer to which is revealed when you listen to the sermon) revealing how you can be holy.

God isn’t just giving us a command to be holy; He’s giving us something else too. What? Listen to the sermon and find out.

“Remember, God isn’t asking you if you’re able to be holy; He’s asking you if you’re willing to be made holy.”

Idol Talk

In Luke 18:18-23 a rich ruler asks Jesus a very good question, but he doesn’t like the answer Jesus gives him. Read this exchange below.

“And a ruler asked him (Jesus), ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: “Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said, ‘All these I have kept from my youth.’ When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich” (Luke 18:18-23 ESV).

There is much for us to learn from these five verses.  So, let’s begin Idol Talk.