Imagine a man wearing white clothing. He gets the clothing filthy, covering them with oil, grease, tar, soot, paint, and anything else you can imagine that will forever stain them. What are the chances of getting them entirely white again? Most of us would throw them away and get a new pair. But, what if you could not afford to buy or make a new pair of clothing? This is our case; we have lives stained with sin. Nothing we do can make us clean again, and there is nothing we can do to change our filthy garments. However, there is one who can help us. One who has promised an entirely new spotless robe. Free to all who will accept it.
In the bible, a robe or garment can represent righteousness. Our righteousness is the filthy clothing stained with sin. The spotless robe is the perfect righteousness of Christ.
To receive this new robe, we must first realize our need for it. Jesus told a parable that shows us the importance of seeing ourselves as we indeed are. He said, “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14).
Where did the Pharisee’s problem lie? The verse preceding this parable tells us, “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (Luke 18:9). Their problem was that they trusted in their strength and righteousness. They felt that their deeds made them acceptable in the sight of God, while at the same time, in their hearts, they despised others.
What they did not understand is what leads a man to break the law of God. Jesus said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” (Mark 7:20-23). God wants not only our actions to be pure but also our hearts. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day did not see their need for any change or help from God. In their heart, they harboured hate against the Son of God, and eventually, this led them to commit murder.
Now, what about the publican? What did he do, right? He saw his sins and cast himself at the feet of a merciful God. He realized that he needed a new heart; that he needed to be purified and cleansed.
Here is the condition of all of humanity. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:6). The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). And Paul, in his letter to the church in Rome, said, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” (Romans 8:7). Man in the garden of Eden decided to join Satan’s rebellion against God. Because of this, we are in a degraded position. If we read Isaiah 14:12-14, we will see how sin initially began. Lucifer attempted to exalt himself above the throne of God. He wanted to be God. In doing this, he fell far below his position as covering cherub and became Satan.
We see the same thing happen in Genesis 3:4-6. Satan tempted Eve with the idea that she could rise above her position and be as God. She yielded to that temptation, and in turn, tempted her husband. Oh, how far we fell as a result.
God, in his great mercy, made a way that we can escape this degraded position. Genesis 1:26,27 reveals that God created both man and woman in His image. The whole plan of salvation is a process of restoration, a process where the image of God is to be restored in man.
We have looked at two classes of people. Some do not see the need for a greater righteousness than their own, while others see the utter worthlessness of their righteousness. So what made the difference between these two classes? What makes some blind to their real condition, while the other becomes aware of it?
Speaking about the Holy Spirit, the apostle John said, “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” John 16:8. It is the Holy Spirit that brings conviction home to the heart. God works to soften the hearts of men through the Holy Spirit, and when we reject the pleadings of God, there is no other method God can use to reach us. God never forces; it is the kingdom of Satan that uses force. Thankfully we serve a long-suffering and merciful God that doesn’t give up on us right away. He doesn’t leave or forsake us the first time we resist Him, but persists in His pleadings and does all He can to soften our hearts. It is by the continual rejection of light that we eventually harden our hearts and fully grieve the Holy Spirit.
So this is where the Pharisees made their mistake. They continually stifled conviction. Heavenly light was pouring out upon them, and they had every evidence they needed to realize their need for something more than they had. Just like Pharaoh reigning in the day of Moses had every evidence before him, so did the leaders of the Jewish nation at the first advent of Christ. Just like Pharaoh repeatedly rejected the evidence and light God presented before him, so also the Jewish leaders rejected the evidence that Jesus was the Son of God.
God does not harden the heart. He only seeks to soften it, but when we reject the attempts He makes to soften our hearts, they become harder and harder. Eventually, they become hard as granite, and we become blinded to our condition.
The publican received the pleadings of the Holy Spirit. His heart was softened, and his eyes opened to his condition. Now he was in a place where he could throw himself at the feet of a merciful God and receive salvation.
Brothers and sisters, let’s allow God to soften our hearts and open our eyes. We must realize our need for a new, spotless robe and our need for Jesus Christ as our Saviour.
In part two of this series, we will touch on how to receive the spotless robe of Christ, and how that brings about a complete change. We will see how it brings wonderful peace, hope, and joy into our life. May the Lord bless each of us today.
Written By Cory Lamming