Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Thoughts on holiness and socks

So the other day I had to buy some new socks. And I really don't like buying new socks-not that I'm opposed to wearing new socks or anything, it's just that when I think about buying something new, I want it to be something cool, something that I really, really want. And when I think of things that are cool, socks rarely come to mind. But I needed socks, so socks it was. And as I was putting my socks away the other night, I noticed something remarkable. My old socks were incredibly dingy. Now I knew already that they weren't as bright as they were when I bought them; but compared to the new socks, they looked pretty bad. So bad, in fact, that I'm considering buying more new socks-and as you might have heard, I don't like buying new socks.

But that's not the point. The point is, new socks can teach us something about holiness. I know, you don't expect to learn anything about holiness by looking at new socks. But I did. My old socks looked OK to me-until I compared them to a different standard, a higher standard than my own opinion. And compared to that different standard, compared to that higher standard, my old socks didn't measure up. I saw things wrong with them, things that I hadn't noticed before. Compared to new socks, my old socks didn't look very nice anymore.

And in the very same way, you and I can look at our lives and think that we're pretty good. When our only standard is our own opinion, we can come out looking pretty well. But the standard by which we must be judged isn't our own standard, isn't our own opinion or anything like that. The standard is God. And His standard is remarkably higher than our own. I Peter 1:15-16 says, "...but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

My life is like my old socks. When looked at based on my own opinions and my own judgments I can come out looking pretty good. I go to church regularly, I try to serve the Lord; or, as I've heard it said before, "I don't smoke, I don't chew, and I don't go with girls who do." I'm a pretty good person. But God's standard isn't goodness; it isn't morality or any of that. God's standard is holiness, absolute perfection. He says, "Be holy because I am holy." Holiness is what God demands because holiness is Who He is. And there is no debate, no wavering on this point. Spurgeon said, "As the God who must do right, the Lord cannot shut his eyes to the iniquities of man; he must visit transgression with its punishment." God demands holiness-and the standard by which we are judged is Himself. And when I judge myself against the glorious holiness of God, I know begin to see things that I didn't see before. When judged against the perfect holiness of the LORD, all my church attendance doesn't seem as impressive as it did before; my feeble, inconsistent attempts at obedience begin to look less like garments of righteousness and more like the tattered rags of a spiritual beggar. I am lost and undone compared to the holiness and righteousness of a great and holy Judge.

Sounds pretty hopeless, doesn't it? Here's the good news-God wants to give you new socks. Isaiah 61:10, "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." See that? God wants to clothe us the righteousness of Jesus Christ. When we see our own goodness as insufficient, when we see that we are unable to be holy we cry out for mercy. And that mercy comes in the form of righteousness-not our own righteousness, but the righteousness of Jesus Christ. God grants to us the righteousness of Jesus. And so even though we couldn't live a holy life on our own, we are treated as though we lived the perfect life that Jesus lived. All this happens when we come to God in faith and repentance-we trade our old, dirty socks for the perfect righteousness of King Jesus. All in all, not a bad deal is it? So rejoice in the righteousness that is yours through Jesus Christ. Exult in your good standing with God; and worship the One who made that standing possible-Jesus Christ. And check your sock drawer for dingy socks.

Father, thank You for mercy and grace. Thank You for being such a gloriously holy God. Thank You for revealing Yourself to us-though we were dead in trespasses and sins, You have called us to Yourself and have clothed us in the perfect righteousness of Jesus. And now we are a part of Your family-not because of any good works we have done, but because of the good works that Jesus did. Thank You for the gospel, and for appropriating it in our lives. Amen.

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