Monday, April 20, 2009

God’s Dress Code


…everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted
(Luke 18:14 – ESV)

Humility is God’s dress code standard for the church. Those that come before God clothed with humility can wear the robe of Christ’s righteousness (cf. Jeremiah 23:6), and leave justified in God’s sight. As an illustration, Luke 18:9-14 is the quintessential summary of the difference between those whom God will justify and those that seek to justify themselves.

I am often asked what the dress code of our church is. “Can we wear jeans, can ladies wear pants, do we have to wear a tie, and will we feel out of place if we don’t dress up?” I am thankful for this because it gives me an opportunity to address the real issue. I say, “The only thing we ask is that you come clothed with humility.”

Pride was the first sin, the sin of Satan. It was the “genesis” of sin if you will (cf. Isaiah 14:12-14 / Ezekiel 28:11-19). This mother of all sins has filtered down to our age and remains as the great wall between man and God (1 John 2:16), between a righteousness that saves and one that doesn’t. It is a lack of humility that keeps the great mass of people from faith and salvation.

The Scriptures are replete with the notion that God hates pride and loves humility. Pride is an abomination to God (Proverbs 6:17), and humility is absolutely necessary for salvation. Many teachings touch on this theme in varying ways (cf. Luke 10:25-37 / Psalm 34:2 / Isaiah 57:15, 66:2). Certainly this is true of the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

Self-righteous sin takes the form of a two-pronged pride. Firstly, like the people who are using the standards of others to determine what to wear to church, the self righteous use a comparison with others as the standard of their own righteousness. The Pharisee looked at other people and determined he was doing the Lord’s will.

Many in the church today, as well as those who don’t think they need God, think that because they are “ahead of the pack”, that this makes them righteous. But the standard for righteousness to which the Bible directs us is not that of other people but that of God. The focus is wrong.

Secondly, while comparing ourselves with others is not right, neither is comparing one’s self with his own self. Even if we have made great strides in our walk with God, and lived a more holy life, it is not that life that will justify us before God. Again, the focus is wrong.

The world follows suit. Self-help, self-improvement, self-empowerment, self-esteem, self-awareness, self-actualization, “self” magazines, it goes on and on, the great focus of humanity is on self. Even in the church we often see teaching geared toward becoming a better or more successful person rather than on the person of Jesus Christ.

It seems to be about what God has done in us, rather than on what God has done for us. We feel as if we “do our best” that this sincere effort is what justifies us. This is precisely what the Pharisee thought. The world would applaud this man today, probably calling him a “true saint” or “one of God’s choice servants”.

No matter how good we are, however, it can never be good enough. What the Pharisee said about himself was true, but the Bible says that all our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). The standard is the perfect righteousness of Jesus, who said, “Be ye perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).”

Paul spoke to both sides of self-righteousness when he said, “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise (2 Corinthians 10:12).”

Often overlooked is the fact that when the Pharisee prayed he was thanking God. He was not saying how great he was by himself. He had a sense of humility, but not true humility. He knew he was not able to do good works on his own, but felt that these justified him. God does indeed develop righteousness in everyone to whom he imputes righteousness (Romans 8:1-4 / Philippians 1:6), but we never achieve perfection in this life. Works are the fruit, not the root of justification (Ephesians 2:10).

This is the great danger, the teaching that the imparted righteousness whereby we can indeed do good works is the grounds of our justification, instead of the imputed righteousness of Christ to our account. Our good works give evidence to our faith (Matthew 7:20 / James 2:18) but they do not save us (Romans 3:20). This is subtle but is explained by saying that for some to justify is to make righteous rather than to declare righteous. The difference is the difference between a saving faith that relies on an external atonement for sin and a misplaced faith that relies in an internal abatement of sin.

The snare of self-righteousness makes many feel or claim to be sanctified when they are only sanctimonious. The truth is we must continue to walk in repentance and faith even after we have been justified. Martin Luther, in writing the first of his ninety-five theses said that the whole life of a believer should be repentance.

We should be thankful that we have been given a measure of freedom from the power of sin in this life, but we must be careful to never equate this with our righteous standing before God. You are not to thank God for your righteousness compared to others, but thank Him for His righteousness accredited to you because of the Atonement.

In Christ we are righteous, yes, but being “in Christ” is the key. Considering our spiritual state, it has been said that the more light we have, the more dust we see. It isn’t about self-loathing. The Church’s dress code deals with whether we see with our true condition before God or does the lens we view ourselves from have a “wrong focus”.

The question is, simply, “Are you wearing the right glasses?”

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©


Even So... said...

Time for some new threads...

Craver Vii said...

I'm so glad that when I visited, none of your people showed up dressed only in humility. ;-)

Even So... said...

Me too...


MrsEvenSo... said...

I really like the pictures!

This is a great series.