There is something I find very peculiar about certain cultural trends. These days people spend more money on clothes with holes in them than they do on clothes that look brand new. Perhaps it is a reflection of a deeper spiritual bump that we all wrestle with. The idea that we can more readily accept our identity as “sinners” than we can as “saints” shows that we have a tendency to dress ourselves in rags of condemnation rather than the robe of righteousness offered to us through God’s grace.
Righteousness is defined as moral perfection required by God in order to enter heaven. A child of the Word knows that we cannot possibly achieve this by our own efforts; which is where God’s grace enters the picture. When we fall on our faces, dressed in the rags of our sin, our gracious God covers us with a robe of righteousness bought with the blood of His One and Only Son. The garment Jesus offers us cost more than we can imagine and yet it is freely given to those who would like to receive it by believing on His Name. Why keep paying a high personal price in terms of addiction, joylessness, bitterness and un-forgiveness for the ripped jeans of sin when we can have the perfectly fitted jeans of love, hope and faith offered through a loving, abiding relationship with Jesus?
In Psalm 119, the psalmist recognizes the grace of God’s gift of righteousness. While he had yet to see the fulfillment of this righteousness in God’s perfect Son, we can still relate to his praise of God’s grace. You see, his jeans were stitched together by the law while our jeans are stitched in the love and blood of sacrifice. In verses 137 and 138, the psalmist declares: “Righteous are You, O LORD, and right are Your rules. You have appointed Your testimonies in righteousness and in all faithfulness.” As a parent, I know the importance of rules. And yet I also know how much setting rules inspires the rebellious hearts of my children. Especially as kids get older, the idea of following rules becomes burdensome. It seems the more advice I give my kids in order to prevent them pain, the more they do the opposite of what I tell them so that they can “live their own life.” And I am afraid that sometimes I approach God’s rules in exactly the same manner. If only we could adopt the posture of heart that the psalmist has and recognize that even when God asks us to do the harder things, He knows what’s best. When He says to us in His Word, “You shall have no other gods before Me,” (Exodus 20:3) and yet we take that extra drink, that pain killer, that habit that we just need to keep doing to take the edge off; are we not falling into addiction that would bring us more pain and separate us from God?
Furthermore, in verse 139 the psalmist states: “My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget Your words.” If only I could be consumed with not forgetting the Words of God. Instead, I know that I do not spend enough time meditating on God’s Word. Do I indeed follow Exodus 20:8, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” when I have to run that last minute errand to the store after church or finish up the laundry? Is there any day of the week that I set aside and keep holy so that I don’t get run down and exhausted or distracted by the demands of life? I wonder if I embraced a Sabbath rest, would I find more joy in the daily routines of a busy life? Maybe if I just embraced this parental guidance of God I could agree with our psalmist from Psalm 119:40 when he says: “Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it.” After all, Jesus promised in Matthew 11:28 – “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Sadly, like a rebellious child I don’t always heed His advice and instead “live my own life.”
Even when I continue on my own way, letting the echo of God’s truth grow faint in my heart, He always pulls me back. Just like a loving parent, God never gives up on us living the life He came to give us. Circumstances can be overwhelming especially as we relate to other people. Betrayal, hardship, criticism, and personality differences can cause anguish in our souls. What do you do when someone who was supposed to love you doesn’t seem to show affection? Or what do you do when you are hurt by the actions of another person? If we are not careful, if we insist on figuring life out on our own, we run the risk of bitterness growing like a cancer in our souls. Verse 143 of Psalm 119 tells us: “Trouble and anguish have found me out, but Your commandments are my delight.” If we find our delight in God’s Word, instead of looking at them as rules trying to control us but as advice longing to free us, we cut off the root of bitterness and realize the truth that if we “delight [ourselves] in the LORD, … He will give [us] the desires of [our] heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
Where would my children be if I had not set the rules that they shouldn’t play in the street when cars are coming; that they shouldn’t touch the hot stove or take something that doesn’t belong to them? If I, as a parent, did not guide them concerning the choices they should make, they would have defaulted to their fleshly immaturity and had to deal with the consequences of their actions. In a similar way, God gives us such beautiful guidance in His Word not so He can make us feel bad and keep reminding us that we are “sinners.” No, God knew that we would not follow all His rules and His guidelines for maintaining holiness in a sin-stained world. Which is why, in His grace He gave us His Son so that even when our rebellious nature keeps us from perfectly keeping the rules, God still dresses us in a robe of righteousness instead of the rags of sin we deserve. And though my children didn’t always do what I wanted them to do; and though we have suffered as a family from some wrong choices and roads that were not good to go down, I still love them and haven’t given up on them. I want what is best for them and offer them my love and continual guidance. Just as God does with us when He reminds us through our psalmist “Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.” (Psalm 119:144)
Loved child of God, He came to offer us life. He gives us the grace of righteousness instead of the ravages of sin. Stop putting on the ripped jeans and slide into the ones that are a perfect fit for you. Put aside your own ways and follow His so you can join the prophet Isaiah in declaring: “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) Running the race of faith in baggy jeans with too many holes is only going to trip us up. It is time to pay attention to what we are wearing –God’s grace or our own preferences.