I like to fix myself up a bit when I go to town, but while Christmas shopping this week I discovered, to my horror, that my pants were inside out! No fooling. And, I had my slippers on! Clearly I stopped short of my "fix-up" standards.
This morning, as I enjoyed a hot cup of coffee, I opened my Bible to Psalm 29. I intended to read the entire psalm, but I didn't get very far when the Lord illuminated verse 2.
"Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name;
Worship the Lord in the beauty of His holiness."
Melody instantly sprung from my heart and I sang it out loud. That drives my dog Oden crazy. He tries to join in with agonizing howls. It kind of killed the moment. After I put him outside, I went back to the Psalm. The last line really grabbed me: "Worship the Lord in the beauty of His holiness." Holiness-something so pure that it burns with blinding light.
HOW is it possible that He would ask us to do this? I know too well who I am: my sins, my lack of faith, how I fail Him everyday. How can I dare approach a holy God without the fear of dying? A light so bright, a fire so consuming, that flesh cannot stand in His presence.
David Edwards taught a class on Hebrews at Elim Bible Institute that I attended. He said if we had a piece of the sun the size of the head of a pin, it would fry a man at 100 yards. "Yet," he said reverently. "He allows us to come into His presence and not be consumed." Wow, it was nearly impossible to digest that thought.
Today, I looked up the Hebrew meaning of the word holiness in this context. It's behadrath kodesh and it means beautiful garments of holiness--making reference to the garments worn by the priests and Levites. I couldn't help it, my mind raced to my unworthiness.
HOW can we come close enough to such holiness and live? How can we possibly think that our goodness, and good deeds are enough? That being a "good person", or confessing our sins until we're blue in the face, would ever prepare us for HIs holiness? Can I beat myself into holiness? What arrogance to think that we could ever be good enough to warrant an audience with God?
God knew the state of humankind, and His desire to have His children close was so strong, so central to His heart, that He made a way.
God gave us new clothes to wear. The disciple Paul said: "... put off your former way of life (your old clothes) your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires (and our attempts at righteousness) ... and put on the new self (new garments) created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness ..." (Ephesians 4:23, emphasis mine)
The Lord often gives me cartoons to help me understand - He knows it's how I learn. So, today I saw an image, in my imagination, of Jesus standing nearby dressed in the robes of a shepherd. He looked at me and smiled. Then, He reached around to his side and opened what looked like a large pocket. "Here," He said. "Step in here." It was startling, but as soon as I stepped in I realized no one could see me anymore-that all they could see was Jesus.
The only way to come close to God, in all His holiness, is to be "in Christ", to wear the garments of the new man. This was the way God planned it from the beginning of creation. A plan so perfect it would solve the problem of the flesh and make it possible to draw close to Him and not be consumed. He sent His only Son to pay the price, to purchase us from the grip of separation. He purchased new clothes, the garments of Salvation, the garments of righteousness, so we can approach Him ... and run into His arms.
This is the gift of Christmas. Our Heavenly Father sent His only Son to shed His blood and purchase the garments of the new man.
"... clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh" (Romans 13:14)
Don't dare try to approach the presence of a Holy God wearing your idea of 'good enough' clothing - they will never come close to His standards. Instead, stop struggling. Step into Christ. Put on by faith the beautiful garments of His holiness, and RUN straight into your Father's arms.