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Scripture has so many mandates for us to live by. For example, “Be ye holy, for I am holy,” I Peter 1:16; “…overcome evil with good,” Romans 12:21; “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love,” Romans 12:10a. We have MANY more, not the least of which is the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. An example in the Beatitudes is found in Luke 6:27, “…do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Scripture is full of expectations for the Christian life. We are not to touch certain things, look at certain things, or even dwell upon certain things. AAAGH!! Is anyone else feeling overwhelmed? I mean seriously, “do good to those who hate you”?
We also have MANY Scriptures that assure us that the Lord’s yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew11:30). That everything He calls us to do, He is faithful to complete in us (I Thessalonians 5:24). So, what’s the deal? Are we required to fulfill all the regulations and rules that overwhelm us, or is His burden light? The two seem to be polar opposites. After all, being devoted to one another and not our own desires is not easy. Overcoming evil with good is a full time job as well. What is easy and light about those things?
When I was feeling overwhelmed about all the seemingly impossible expectations that God had place on me several years back, God led me to remember some Scripture that I would have rather not remembered. Isaiah 64:6 says that my righteousness is as filthy rags. Romans 7 reminded me that I constantly have this war within me between God’s Spirit and my flesh and must come to the conclusion that, “…nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh;”.
So, if God is faithful to accomplish what He asks, how does all of this rectify? How am I to be holy when nothing good dwells in me? How is He completing His good work in me when I am so full of struggle?
Isaiah 61:10, says, “I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with jewels.”
This verse tells me that God clothes me with His robe of righteousness. Only His righteousness is clean, mine is filthy. Only His righteousness is holy, not mine. My works are nothing, His are pure and perfect.
Think of Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. Yes, Harry Potter. If you have seen any of the movies, you will recall that when Harry placed the cloak around himself, no one could see him. He roamed around the school and no one knew that it was him. They didn’t see Harry as long as he was wearing the cloak. Harry chose to wear the cloak, or robe if you will, and it changed how others viewed him.
So it is with the robe of righteousness that is given to us. It is our choice whether we wear it, or not. Just as the verse in Isaiah describes a bride adorning her own self with jewels, it is the bride’s choice whether she places them around her neck, or hair, or leaves them off entirely. She made the choice to wear the jewels and we make the choice whether to wear the robe of righteousness that is freely given.
Isaiah 45:24 says, “…Only in the LORD are righteousness and strength.” Jeremiah assures us in chapter 33 that the LORD is our righteousness. II Corinthians 5 reminds us that just as Harry disappeared under that cloak of invisibility and he was completely changed, so our old man dies and our new creature in Christ now reigns in us. Verse 18 of this chapter says, “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled Himself to us through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” Even our “new man” and the things that our “new man” accomplishes are given to us by God. Nothing in us is good. It is ALL Him.
Now, when I see a Scripture that seems to have a commandment that is overwhelming, I use it as a checkpoint. I ask myself, “Do I remember that nothing good is in me except the Holy Spirit?”
“Have I been taking credit for anything that only God can do through me?”
“Have I submitted myself and bowed before Him in order that He can place His robe of righteousness over me today?”
“Am I feeling overwhelmed, or do I know that God has got this?”
When I am out from under His robe, I think it is all about me. When I am under His cloak, His influence, I remember that it is all about Him. When I am covered in His righteousness, His burden is light because it is all up to Him. Whatever He wants accomplished through me that day, it happens. Other things being on hold are okay because I am under HIS cloak, HIS righteousness. When I poke my foot out, there are problems, but when I am totally under His robe, I am exactly where He wants me to be.
A beautiful picture of this is found in Revelation 19:7-8, “ ‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.’ And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints (holy ones).”
Here, we see another bride (us) making ready for her (our) wedding day. She chooses to clothe herself in garments that were GIVEN to her. She didn’t have to work for them. She just had to accept them. The garments are fine linen, but the Scripture goes on to tell us that the fine linen is the righteous acts of the holy ones. Yet again, we see that acts that we think we have accomplished on our own were given to us. We see yet again that there is nothing good in us. It is ALL God. If we have ever accomplished the smallest task for His kingdom, He gave us the idea, the strength to do it, the time and desire to accomplish it. Everything good, pure and clean is from our God. He will give us fine linen, bright and clean just as He has given us His robe of righteousness for today.
Let’s allow Him to cover us fully so that others will only see Him. Let’s choose to disappear into His cloak of righteousness. Let’s willingly submit to what He wants to accomplish through us and see the pleasure on His face when he says to us, “Well done. That’s just what I envisioned you wearing today.”
*image by CNN.com