Monday, November 30, 2020

What do your clothes say about you?

All pictures courtesy of Unsplash

I am sure that many have had their favourite clothes. Whether it is because they are fashionable, comfortable or have been gifted to us, one problem with such items is their tendency to be outdated, outgrown, damaged or eventually worn out. A shirt I had some years ago ticked nearly all the boxes: it was stylish, comfortable and I bought it for my wedding day.  Regrettably, I had only worn it a few times when it caught on a door handle and it was left with a large tear. More recently, a favourite jacket suffered the same ‘door handle’ treatment, but thankfully, a few stitches was enough to put it right. Sadly, the shirt was beyond repair.

Jesus once used the picture of an old worn out piece of clothing to teach a lesson. He pointed out that there was no use trying to put a new patch over a hole in a worn out garment because it would only pull on the frayed edges, rip away and make the tear worse than it was before.

Actually, He was referring to a group of very religious people and the way that they behaved. They wanted everyone to think that they could keep  God’s law and commandments. The problem was (and we would have the same difficulty), they found the standard impossible to reach. Still, these religious men wanted everyone to think that they could keep the law, so they tried to cover up their faults with a big show. For example: on the way into the temple they made sure that everyone saw the handfuls of money they put into the collection. The truth was, as Jesus pointed out to His disciples, they gave just a tiny fraction of the plenty they had — and some of their wealth had been obtained at the expense of the poor and the widows. They also liked to fast twice a week. Whereas this should have been a personal matter with a view to giving more time to prayer, these religious men made much ado of the fact that they went without food by wearing long faces. Like the worn out clothing, their hypocritical behaviour was an effort to cover up the holes in their life with patches — that actually had the effect of highlighting their faults!

Isaiah, God’s messenger had this message: ‘We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags’. God’s design has been spoiled by sin and it is not just a case of minor damage. The ‘hole’ left by sin can not be fixed. The good news is that God does have an answer to our problem, but it’s not a ‘patch-up’ job. My ripped shirt had to be thrown away and replaced, and as to our problem, God says, ‘if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new’.

So clothing, which is worn on the outside illustrates the side of life that is seen by others. And God can make a complete change that will show in our behaviour.

Together with this illustration, Jesus gave another and it has to do with something that happens inside. In Bible times, they kept wine in bottles made from skins. Jesus said that nobody would put new wine into an old wineskin. The new wine was the freshly squeezed grape juice, the sort that would be served first at a wedding and it was considered the best. Today’s glass bottles might be relatively easy to clean, but a used wineskin would have been contaminated by the previous contents. To put new, good wine into an old wineskin would cause it to corrupt and ferment, spoiling the contents. The fermentation would also cause the bottle to swell and split open. So, new wine was always put into new wineskins.

When someone believes that the Lord Jesus died for them and asks God to forgive their sin, a transformation takes place outwardly — a change in behaviour,  but the reason for that is that a change has taken place inside. There is a new and lasting joy which can not be compared with anything else.

To try and have that sense of joy without the Lord Jesus would be like putting new wine into an old skin. It will not last, it will soon sour. The only way to find real joy and happiness is God’s way. No patch-up jobs, no half-measures, ‘old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.’

Used by permission of Your542Day. Written for Messages with Meaning (30/11/20) by Tom Merriman

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