Dressing in the Finery of our Lord
Easter - the exquisitely romantic message of love from the heart of God. It is the culmination of God’s plan of redemption, brought to us by his Son, and made possible because of merciful forgiveness, Agape love, and obedience. Today, I am still pondering the depth of such love after a weekend of sweet celebrations. Forever released from the bonds of sin through Christ, we are once again brought into the presence of God. How He longed for the intimacy with His children once again! Within the depth of the message of the cross and our Risen Lord is a multitude of invitations.
Today, I am thinking about the invitation to grow in the character of Christ. In Him is freedom and a love that cannot be known outside of Jesus. We cannot speak of this freedom without speaking of the love that took captivity captive. Perhaps the right place to start is to ask not ‘what’ defines beauty, but ‘whom’?
The world defines beauty in a myriad of ways. Ads of all kinds proclaim beauty is within reach if we will purchase their products. Furniture, creams, cars, brands of clothing - all seem to corner the market with such pledges. The promise of beauty is a multi-million dollar industry, yet for all the millions spent, this beauty is temporary. But there is a beauty that stands the test of time and breath. It is created and displayed through our willingness to choose what brings life.
We wouldn’t have Easter or the cross or many things had it not been for God’s mercy and extension of forgiveness, at great cost. Some say it is too costly a choice - forgiveness. But how may we say this as we gaze upon our innocent Savior, who submitted himself on our behalf? In the case of injustice, some believe this act tells the accuser or perpetrator that their wrongdoing was permissible. Forgiveness is an invitation that invites the opportunity of life into an otherwise lifeless circumstance. Through this act, the one who forgives is released from the tether of unforgiveness; a band upon our necks that binds our hearts to the injustice, anger, heartache, and disappointment of a thing.
Isaiah 52 comes to mind as it speaks of captivity, of beauty, of freedom. The first few verses capture my heart. Speak your own name as you read this, insert your name into the blanks below:
Awake, awake, put on your strength _____ (O Zion), put on your beautiful garments ______ (O Jerusalem), you are a holy city; for there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake yourself from the dust and arise; be seated _____ (O Jerusalem), loose the bonds from your neck _____ , O captive daughter of Zion, for thus says the Lord, “You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.”
Each year at Easter, we put on our finest threads for the occasion as we look forward to the most hallowed of services, recognizing our Savior, Jesus Christ. But the verses above aren’t speaking of physical clothing, and neither is Isaiah 61:10:
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom dresses himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Do we put on beautiful garments daily? Do we shake ourselves from the dust, arise, sit at God’s request, and loose the bonds from our necks at every opportunity? We have been redeemed by our Risen Christ. Ephesians 4:38 proclaims, “….when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” Jesus led captivity captive. We should in every way possible see that we do not allow ourselves to be sold for nothing because we are unwilling to forgive or because we refuse to align ourselves in some way with the will of God.
Unforgiveness is a powerful entity that isn’t satisfied with the space it consumes within us and we pay a huge price when our ‘final answer’ is to choose bondage. The decision to forgive makes way for an exchange within the heart - freedom in place of captivity. This also includes the places in our own lives where we have control of our choices, causing us to lean towards life or death, freedom or captivity - even within those decisions that seem inconsequential.
Good news! We may choose to put on beautiful garments and to loose the bonds from our necks. What we must grasp is that this beauty and freedom is worth attaining, in spite of circumstances. First there is the choice, followed by the process of letting go. Within this exchange between our right to recognize our wounds, with the releasing of the perpetrator or circumstances, we are faced with a bold sense of angst encouraging us to say, ‘No!’ The letting go may exact what seems to be a costly, costly fee. But pressing through, there awaits a weighty abundance.
One thing is true. Forgiveness is a significant part of the nucleus of the gospel. Within this mystery there are many promises, and it is through these promises that the one who forgives becomes the victor over dark circumstances. Always. While the world is seemingly balanced by spreadsheets and financial savvy, the heart of man was created to abide by different rules. The gains realized through forgiveness are forever protected, unlike the frailties of world systems. Such treasures reside within the vault of the heart, where fortunes are made or lost. This is good to know in the time in which we live!
And what about love? We cannot step into who we were created to be without recognizing the beauty of Agape love. As those in Christ, this is now part of our identity and we are called to walk in this kind of love. This kind of love is now, our beauty as well. Can love love without the threat of offense? No. But again, the same promises hold true. It is human nature to protect that place within us where misfortune struck its initial blow, but the balm of forgiveness can bring healing and new life. Can we love in the face of misfortune? I look at the cross of Calvary and know there is only one true answer: ‘Yes.’ This is a different kind of love - selfless, humble, seeking always to redeem.
This kind of love stands the test of time. After many years, it stands in plain sight for all who wish to see, to see. It is a love that stays. It goes on and on, though circumstances and injustices attempt to threaten its devotion, but still it remains. Should one day we find ourselves in a fragile dilemma, we have a choice to persevere through the particulars of wrongdoing. It may take a while for us to catch our breath, but freedom beckons each wounded heart to discern the promises of God. Forgiveness and love heal the pain of dashed hope, and so much more. Good things await those who are willing to go beyond loss and offense, where one day they realize, “I am healed and whole again.” Such a decision doesn’t require bravery, just willingness. Life is full of uninvited opportunities to forgive and this kind of love is sought after by people everywhere.
So, what takes us to the heights of freedom where the view reveals the trappings of clinging to the wounds of life? What stirs within us a love so unbound by the things of earth, that we become the peculiar people that show forth the praises of him who has called us? Perhaps it is our passion and hope to become more and more the image of our Lord. As II Corinthians 3:18 describes, ‘…..we are changed into the same image from glory to glory.’ In all of our opportunities to forgive and to ‘choose life’ within our choices, could it be that each of these are actually invitations to glory?
Even though we currently do not fully see the glory of the Lord, for those that turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. The Lord is that Spirit that removes this veil, and liberty ensues. As we behold our Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord. (II Corinthians 3:14-18).
The Spirit of the Lord changes us, but we routinely have the option to align ourselves with Christ. In choosing this alignment, we are released internally from the effects of heartache, injustices, and trials. We have known them as uninvited visitors, but they are not here to stay. We may be assured that as we follow Christ’s lead, we will find ourselves standing in the abundance of grace and the promises of God.
There is something powerful in choosing to forgive and love as patterned by Jesus. Perhaps because one prophetic day, the Son of God was given such a choice. Within the garden of Gethsemane, the fate of mankind and the decision of Jesus converged. All of history had awaited this day. Jesus was given the opportunity, once again, to align himself with the will of His Father. Recorded in the gospels is the account of this painful reconciliation between Jesus’ will and His Father’s plan of redemption - to render the law perfect. Throughout the wee hours of morning, prophecy unfolded, commencing with Jesus’ words of alignment, ‘Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.’ (Luke 22:42) May we too make this our prayer.
Following, upon what was known as a symbol of death, the cross was redefined as a symbol of eternal life as it received the precious sacrifice of God. The love of Yahweh! The humility, obedience, and love of Christ! This is truly the greatest story ever told! It speaks of freedom, love, forgiveness, redemption. It speaks of an invitation to live life and to live it more abundantly. It speaks of life eternal in the presence of God. It is the story of the greatest plan ever devised to rescue those in captivity. Our freedom is priceless and the benefit of this is to live in the presence of God. It is unfathomably, outrageously, spectacular and yet so intimate.
This Easter, we have celebrated, knowing full well He has Risen! For those who have accepted Christ as Savior, we stand in awesome wonder as recipients of, ‘……the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, your hope of glory.’ (Colossians 1:27) And as we celebrated Jesus, singing, ‘He Has Risen,’ we looked with wonder at His choice to choose life for us. What a treasured choice - life. Isaiah 52:14 records, “Jesus’ visage was so marred, more than any man.” In this exchange, he gave us eternal beauty; pure, white as snow, spotless.
Beautiful garments await us daily; the garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness, prepared and handed to us by our Savior. We are the bride! May our hearts long to daily put on the character of Christ, in whom love, mercy, and forgiveness abound. Help us O Lord, to hold fast to this kind of love; the kind of love that stands, chooses life, and invites. The kind of love that humbles itself and makes a way for the will of our Father on earth. This is the love that claimed us, and this is the love that seeks to go into all the world.