Mark Twain once said, "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." Now, give this one a little thought! I grew up in the "era" where "streakers" made their debut at special events like graduation, football games, and the like. There naked darting across the field was usually in tandem with a herd of security folks chasing quickly behind them and a flurry of cheers, guffaws, and the like from the stands. I guess Mark Twain did not stop to consider what would come almost a century later! Yet, he made a very pointed observation which has remained a frequently repeated mantra throughout the generations - "Clothes make the man".
I will sing for joy in God, explode in praise from deep in my soul! He dressed me up in a suit of salvation, he outfitted me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom who puts on a tuxedo and a bride a jeweled tiara. For as the earth bursts with spring wildflowers, and as a garden cascades with blossoms, so the Master, God, brings righteousness into full bloom and puts praise on display before the nations. (Isaiah 61:10-11 The Message)
Our passage today speaks of a very special type of clothing. The clothes of righteousness! Back in the day, we spoke of being "righteous" as being "made right". In other words, the actions of another (Christ) overrode the actions of our sinfulness - we were "made right" by the actions of his birth, death, burial and resurrection. In turn, we "exchanged" our "filthy rags" of sin for the beautiful clothing of "righteousness". We don't hear a whole lot about this "exchange" of "clothing" today, but if we did, I think we might just find out how wonderfully we are "attired" by the robes of righteousness!
I want us to consider these "robes" for a moment. Instead of getting all hung up over the word "righteousness", could we use the word "grace" instead? I don't think I am changing the meaning of the passage when I do. Think about it for a moment. Aren't the actions of being "made righteous" really based on the "donning" of grace in our lives? Yep! They are! The moment of salvation is the beginning of the actions of grace in our lives.
Grace is unmerited favor. It is the kind and loving action of another on our behalf when we don't even deserve it. We are clothed with grace. This weekend, our pastor spoke about grace (one of my favorite topics to discuss). As already stated, in receiving unmerited favor, we are being given a "gift" we neither deserve or can earn. This is not the "clothing" we can go out to buy at some local retailer. It is not the kind we can make ourselves with a simple pattern and a little effort. It is pure and simple - a gift like none other.
Yet, we have the hardest time understanding grace because it is so foreign to our minds. In fact, we live with the idea of "earning" what we get - so we have a hard time with God "giving" us anything we don't deserve. When I was in the military, they "gave" me several sets of fatigues, socks to match, and shiny black combat boots. For those "special occasions", they provided me with two dress uniforms. To cover me in the cold, I had a field jacket and an overcoat. The "provision" of these items was "free". The upkeep of them, on the other hand, cost me something in the way of time, energy, and determination.
How so? I had to wash them, iron them to a sharp crease, and shine those boots until I could see my reflection. There was some "investment" on my part, but it was NOT in the provision - it was in the upkeep. Grace is similar. The provision is God's part - what we do with it is up to us. We can choose to ignore it - like the long forgotten clothes in the back of our closets. We can choose to wear it on "special occasions" - like when we go to church or attend a Bible study group. Or...we can choose to allow it to clothe us on a continual basis.
You may be trying to figure out how grace requires "upkeep" in our lives. In the most literal sense, we are constantly going to God with our "unrighteous" deeds and thoughts - asking him to exchange them for his grace. In turn, we are putting on grace. We are being adorned in the radiance of his grace. In enough time, grace becomes the garment we choose instead of the unrighteous activity or thought. In turn, his grace is made "full" in our lives. If you did not catch it - even the upkeep of grace is still not totally ours! It is only the yielding of our hearts and minds to him which is our part - the grace garments are all his part!
Just some thoughts on becoming "grace-filled" today. Maybe it is time for a little wardrobe make-over for all of us! Just sayin...