WEAR THE RIGHT GARMENT
In the last of 3 parables where Jesus rebukes the challenge of the Pharisees and scribes as to the source of His authority, there is the story of a king who has invited people to a great wedding feast for his son. When he sent the messengers out to the invited guest to let them know that everything was ready and that they should come, the invitees either ignored them, or spitefully mistreated and even killed them. The king sent his armies to destroy those whom he invited and burn their city as well. Seeing there was a great feast, he sent out other servants to go to the highways and find as many people as they could to come to the wedding feast. They did and filled the banquet hall with both good and bad people. All who wanted to come to this great feast were allowed to do so.
This is a prophetic word from Jesus Christ. For as the Jews rejected the Gospel, God the Father did inflict wrath upon them. Some 40 years after these words were spoken, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and killed the majority of the priest and scribes. In the mean time, the Apostles spread the Gospel to Gentiles throughout the world. And until this day, many people have accepted Jesus Christ as the Savior and Son of God. Some believers have always been good-natured and kind-hearted people. Others have been the most vile of sinners that have done things we wouldn’t dream of. Most, like us, fall somewhere in between the two extremes. But, no matter who we are, or what we have done, we serve a God who reaches out to all mankind and gives us an invitation to His kingdom where there is no more crying, dying, sickness nor sorrow. His kingdom is a place of everlasting peace and eternal joy. His kingdom is not of one year nor a thousand years. It is the kingdom that has always been and will always be. Being in a nation that was founded on the contradiction of freedom and slavery. Being in a nation is under God with laws such as abortion and gay marriage that are against His will. Being in a nation where it seems the only time we set aside our social, economic, political, and racial differences is when a disaster happens in a community; I think it is safe to assume that we all want to go to God’s Kingdom. A kingdom that is not made by man’s fickle will. But, built on His eternal and everlasting word of truth and love. Yes, we all want to go to that kingdom.
But, to enter into that kingdom and partake of the great feast of the Bridegroom, we have to wear the right garment. In ancient cultures, a king gave the order that certain clothes had to be worn to show that one is among the approved guest. If a guest could not afford the proper attire, the king would provide a cloth to be worn on the head and shoulders so the invited guest could be counted among the approved. I was watching a documentary about Ethiopia and a reporter and his crew were given long white cloths to wear to a wedding because without it, they wouldn’t be able to attend the feast and make the film. There was a time in our churches that people had to wear their Sunday Best every Sunday and that if someone couldn’t afford a suit or dress, the deacons, deaconesses, and missionaries would buy skirts for the ladies and dress shirts and ties for the men. For it was important to come to God in His house with the right garments.
But, more importantly if one expects to come to God and partake of the heavenly feast, one must wear the right garment of the heart. This is not something that can be found at Macy’s or Men’s Wearhouse. This is a unisex piece of clothing that fits all of us and is woven in the scriptures. The stitching is repentance, the fabric is righteous living, and the seams are held tight by belief in the Gospel.
In the first of these parables, Matthew 21:28-32, a father tells his first son to go out into the vineyard and work. The son replied he will not do it. But afterward, he repented and did his father’s will. The second son said he would do his father’s will, yet he didn’t. The point of repentance is not so much the wrong that we said or did at first. Repentance is about realizing what we did wrong and changing our ways so that we can do right. One of the ancient fathers taught that on the day of judgement, God will not ask us why we sinned. He will ask us why we didn’t repent.
The second son may have said the right thing, giving the father the answer he wanted to hear. And that is a problem we have in the church today. We all want to tell God everything he wants to hear. We want to clap and wave our hands in praise and shout about our thanksgivings and testimonies in church and around people so that they can think that we are living right. But, too many of us have not gone into the vineyard of our hearts and done the work in our souls to get rid of our sinful habits and change from that wickedness we think no one knows about, yet God knows. Too often, we are like the Pharisees and scribes who know how to say the right things. But, our words are not backed up by our lifestyles. The first son, the tax collectors, prostitutes, and other sinners, heard the teachings of John the Baptist, decided to change from their wicked ways, were cleansed in the Jordan River, and lived as holy and righteous men and women. They wore the right garment.
The Pharisees and scribes saw John the Baptist living and teaching in the way of righteousness and did not believe him. These were men of religious and some political power. They had influence over the Jewish society and could pull some legal levers as well, as would be proven by their taking Jesus to Pontus Pilate to be crucified. John did not live for the sake of honor and prestige. His concern was to live to his calling from God and to reach the souls of sin sick people. While the Jewish leaders must have seen that this prophet John was right, they held their positions of earthly honor more important than being a part of eternal salvation. They were very comfortable with their broad prayer cloths and long tassels of their offices. But they were wearing the garments that were unfit for the great wedding feast.
We must be aware not to wear the robes of power and popular opinion at the expense of the camel’s-hair suits of obedience to God. When we care more about looking righteous on the outside than we do being righteous on the inside, we make ourselves no better than the Pharisees and Scribes. Too often, some Christians know they have issues with sexual immorality, substance abuse, and other sins. Too often, some Christians know they are called to step out of their safety zones and take a risk of financial hardship or losing circles of friend and influence. They need help and to go out and do as God called them. But, they are too worried about what people will say about them if they admit to the problem and seek help. They would rather keep the little bit of something they have rather than step out on faith for God’s greater glory. That is not righteous living. That is not genuine leather or silk. That is plether and polyester; false garments. But, the tax collectors and prostitutes who weren’t trained religious leaders had sense enough to see their clothing or their lives were stained by their sinfulness. They may not have learned all of the law and the prophets. But, they believed the prophet John the Baptist and dipped by him in the Jordan Stream and changed into garments fit for the wedding feast.
To belive in Jesus without repentance and righteous living is to be like the man who came to the wedding feast wearing whatever he wanted to wear. And maybe he had on a Steve Harvey suit with a pair of Gators. Maybe he got the special at GQ Men’s Wear complete with the shirt, socks, tie, and a hat for half off. But, heaven is not about our exterior clothing. It is about how we are dressed in our souls. There is nothing wrong with looking good. But, our goal is to be like God; to be Holy. Christianity today has a lot of fancy clothing. We have fantastic singers whose voices match anything in the secular world. We have preachers with a speaking ability to motivate people as well if not better than the highly paid motivational speakers in the corporate world. When Christian TV broadcasting started back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s it was only on Sundays and on one of those old UHF channels where you had that loop antenna to get the station. Now we have Daystar, The Gospel Network, and TBN 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and several broadcast on local TV on Sundays and some week days. Our Christian world has every stitch of clothes that everyone else has. And compared to the wickedly hedonistic world we live in, sometimes the false prophets among us are better for us than the foolishness on secular media.
But, belief in the Gospel does not rely on what Gospel artist we listen to, who’s ministry we follow, or what station we keep our TV sets on. True belief in the Gospel is founded on repentance and living in righteousness. This is the garment that John the Baptist wore, the tax collectors and prostitutes put on through baptism and that Jesus, though the Son of God without sin, accepted. As we prepare for Thanksgiving and Christmas, let us take the time and effort to dress appropriately. Who knows when the Bridegroom will come.