A Robe of Righteousness
By Paul Miller
July 1, 2017
Jesus told this parable:
When thou art bidden [invited] of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; and he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. (Luke 14:8-10)
We love these stories. We love to hear about good and humble people being rewarded. We love to hear about the proud and arrogant being humbled. We love stories like those from the book of Esther about wicked Haman getting what he deserved and Mordecai being raised up to take his place. We love stories like those of David, the young shepherd, being disregarded by his family as someone too insignificant to even be considered as being a possible candidate for king, while God looked at his heart and had other plans, and God chose young David to rule all of Israel.
We love to read these kind of stories, like another parable Jesus told:
Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:10-14)
It is easy for us to think of ourselves as the humble ones deserving God’s reward. Most people do not think of themselves as proud, self-righteous people who deserve God’s punishment. Consider the apostle Paul. We like stories of God’s grace and how God took the Christian-persecutor Pharisee Saul and transformed him into the apostle Paul, one of the most Christlike followers of all time. We like to hear about the down-and-out drug-and-alcohol-addicted person who meets Jesus and is rescued from sin and shame and begins a new life in Jesus Christ. We feel good when we think of the undeserving being helped or the poor and afflicted finding comfort and joy.
We all like to think that we deserve God’s blessing and help. There are not many people who think that they are not pleasing God and will not be accepted by Him. The Pharisees were dedicated religious people who thought that if anyone deserved God’s blessing and reward, it was certainly them. Yet Jesus told them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God (Luke 16:15).
We need to meet God’s standards. We do not always see ourselves as God sees us. Whether a drug-addicted alcoholic wife-abusing adulterous lying thief or a nice religious person, we are all on the same level in God’s sight. We are sinners with deceitful hearts who need a Savior. If we do not realize that we are lost, we will not realize that we need to be rescued. If we do not realize that we have corrupt and desperately wicked hearts, we will not realize that we need new hearts. Peter cried out, “Lord, save me,” because he realized that he was in trouble. Have you ever cried out to the Lord to save you?
How is it with you? Are you walking around thinking that you are good and right in God’s eyes, never having realized that your heart is sinful and that you need new life? We like to think that God raises others up to our level, but rarely do we think that until we are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus, we are actually on the same level as the worst of the worst. We expect other people to cry out, “God be merciful to me, a sinner,” but as for ourselves, we note how much religion we have and how good we are and how much we do for others.
Which are you? Are you a sinner in need of a Savior, or are you a good religious person who has never seen his sinfulness in the light of God’s holiness? Do you cry out for God’s mercy because you are a condemned sinner, or do you hope that you will make it to heaven because you think of yourself as a good person? There are two categories in God’s sight. There are the lost and the saved, the holy and the unclean, those who trust in Jesus and His righteousness and those who trust in themselves and their own righteousness. Are you justifying yourselves before men, or are you justified in God’s sight? Do you see yourself as too good to be condemned or do you see yourself as too wicked to be accepted as you are?
Adam and Eve sinned and made their own covering, thinking that was good enough; but they did not understand that their own covering was no good without the shedding of blood. Are you trying to cover your sinfulness in your own goodness and religion, or do you realize that no matter how much you do and no matter how hard you try, unless you are trusting in the shed blood of Jesus, your hope is futile? We either wear the righteousness of Christ or we wear our own filthy garments. We cannot combine the two types of garments. We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).
Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment (Zechariah 3:3-4).
Has God taken away your filthy garments of sin and self? You cannot clean up your old garment. It is stained with sin. You must be given a new garment – a new heart – by God’s Spirit through the blood of Jesus.
Do not be deceived. Do not be content in your sin-stained garments of the flesh. Seek God. Turn to Him with all your heart. Do not hope in religion or self, but turn to Jesus Christ and trust in Him alone. Only then can you say:
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels (Isaiah 61:10).
— Paul Miller
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