Among my many shirts are two very nice polos I received from a friend a few years ago. One is red and the other is orange. They each bear the logo of the Knoxville Open golf tournament, a relatively prestigious annual stop on the PGA Tour. An avid golfer, he had attended the event and was thoughtful enough to give the two shirts to me, his pastor, as a gift.
In any event, I wore the red one of these shirts this week. And as always seems to be the case when I do, it sparked a number of conversations throughout the day. I have noticed that each of these conversations tends to follow a similar pattern. Invariably, they unfold something like this:
“Oh, wow, the Knoxville Open?” “Yes.” “Did you play in that?!” “No.” “Did you attend it?” “No.” “Then how did you get that shirt?” “Well, the truth is… it was given to me. You see, when it comes to golf, I would not even qualify as a caddy for such a significant golf match. I only have this shirt due to the generosity of a friend. Were it not for his generosity, I would not be wearing it right now.”
I share this because, to me, it is a beautiful illustration of what Jesus Christ has done for us. The Bible says that we have been clothed in His righteousness. The Prophet Isaiah (chapter 64, verse 6) declares that our own righteousness is as filthy rags before almighty God. As such, we stand condemned in in His presence.
But God, in His grace, has chosen to clothe us in His righteousness. For this reason, Isaiah declares (chapter 61, verse 10): “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness.”
The Divine cleansing Isaiah here celebrates is earlier described by him (in chapter 6, verses 1-8):
1In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.
2Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
5“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
6Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
8Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” 9He said, “Go and tell…”
I trust you get the point. For my part, I have little or no golf skills. And thus, I have no real hope of ever participating in a prestigious PGS Tour event. In fact, I do not even have much hope for ever attending one. Let’s face it, on my own, I simply cannot make this happen. It is only by the generosity of another that I might ever have any such opportunity.
Similarly, like Isaiah, I have no standing before God. But, having been clothed in the righteousness of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, I no longer have to worry about my standing. Being wrapped in His righteousness is what allows me to enter into the holy presence of an Almighty God! For it is the righteousness of God’s One and Only Son, and by that righteousness alone, that my filthy rags have been replaced with a spotless garment of salvation!
The Apostle Paul (in his Second New Testament Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 5, verses 16-21) puts it this way:
16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:a The old has gone, the new is here!
18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21God made him who had no sin to be sinb for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Wow! Amen and amen!
I leave you with these powerful lyrics to Edward Motes’ famed 1834 hymn. Pay particular attention to the final verse.
My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand,
all other ground is sinking sand.
When darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace;
in every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil. [Refrain]
His oath, his covenant, his blood
support me in the whelming flood;
when all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay. [Refrain]
When he shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in him be found,
dressed in his righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne. [Refrain]
SCRIPTURES from http://biblehub.com/.
LYRICS from http://www.hymnary.org/text/my_hope_is_built_on_nothing_less.