Babylonian Garments or Garments of Humility?
What are we really wearing?
"The Fellowship of the Destitute" From Oswald Chambers "My Utmost For His Highest"
The Royal Road of the Christ is paved with "blessed are the poor." This bending towards God is not in our natures, and is only produced by being crippled. At the close of your encounter with the Eternal One, a name change is due. No longer will you be called Jacob, your limp is evident, your name henceforth is Israel. You have survived the encounter, no longer intact, the source of greatest strength, the thigh, has been maimed. But what a glorious maiming it is...the supplanting process is over, Isaac has been laid on the altar....the process continues in Jacob/Israel with wounding. Yes, the Royal Road to the riches IN Christ Jesus, are found on the other side of angelic beings guarding the Tree of Life. In their hands, swirling in every direction, are flaming swords. You will not survive the encounter, on the other side a name change is due! (Genesis Chapters 32, 33)
The Riches of the Destitute
". . . being justified freely by His grace . . ." (Romans 3:24).
The gospel of the grace of God awakens an intense longing in human souls and an equally intense resentment, because the truth that it reveals is not always palatable or easy to swallow. There is a certain pride in people that causes them to give and give, but to come and accept a gift is another thing. I will give my life to martyrdom; I will dedicate my life to service -- I will do anything. But do not humiliate me to the level of the most hell-deserving sinner and tell me that all I have to do is accept the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
We have to realize that we cannot earn or win anything from God through our own efforts. We must either receive it as a gift or do without it. The greatest spiritual blessing we receive is when we come to the knowledge that we are destitute. Until we get there, our Lord is powerless. He can do nothing for us as long as we think we are sufficient in and of ourselves. We must enter into His kingdom through the door of destitution. As long as we are "rich," particularly in the area of pride or independence, God can do nothing for us. It is only when we get hungry spiritually that we receive the Holy Spirit. The gift of the essential nature of God is placed and made effective in us by the Holy Spirit. He imparts to us the quickening life of Jesus, making us truly alive. He takes that which was "beyond" us and places it "within" us. And immediately, once "the beyond" has come "within," it rises up to "the above," and we are lifted into the kingdom where Jesus lives and reigns (see John 3:5). –endquote
“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. (Luke 9:23, 24)
It is sad, indeed, to see so many Christians misinterpret simple Scriptures like the one above and thus produce a life of dead religious works rather than the “works prepared from the foundation of the world that we should walk in.” (Ephesians 2:10) Just a little leaven leavens the whole lump and a small fox spoils the whole vine.
It is at the place of recognition that we can do NOTHING to aid in our salvation – it is at THAT place that true salvation actually begins. It is at the point of recognizing that our works are worthless that we can begin to enter into the joyous works of the Lord which come from above and not from ourselves. Jacob, the heal-grabber had to come to his complete end before he could experience a name and nature that would turn him into a “prince with God” (which is what Israel means).
The stories of the patriarchs and other characters of the Bible were written for our admonition. They are stories to illustrate how God molds and shapes his people.
So many Christians, for example, escape the fleshpots of Egypt (worldly sin) but never escape the greater sins of Babylon (religious sins like self-righteousness). The gold and beautiful religious Babylonian garments are too beautiful to exchange for the garment of humility that God desires for us. We love the praises and honor of the people more than we love the praises of our God.
Garments in the Bible often speak of works. Fine linen, for example, speaks of righteous works. Linen absorbs sweat. Wool, on the other, causes the body to sweat and therefore represents our own works. The commandment in the Levitical Law not to mix linen and wool in a garment spiritually means, “don’t mix works of the flesh with the righteous works of God.” The Babylonian garments, like the tower of Babel, speak of religious works; works done in the flesh in our own strength, which we think are pleasing to God when in actuality He considers them as “filthy rags.” The literal Hebrew meaning for the “filthy rags” found in our English Bibles is “menstrual cloths.” (Isaiah 64:6) That’s how gross God thinks religious works done in our own strength are. Religious works done in our own strength are like the sacrifices the Baal prophets offered up to their god trying to get him to consume their sacrifices with fire. They went so far as to cut themselves and poured their blood (representing their lives) on the ground thinking that would get their god to move on their behalf. The Egyptian captivity was before God made a covenant with Israel so it speaks of the natural sins of the flesh. The Bible speaks of the “fleshpots of Egypt.”
The Babylonian captivity came after Israel made a covenant with God so it speaks of religious sins as opposed to lusts of the flesh. It seems God, according to His words in Ezekiel Chapter 16, finds his own people’s religious sins twice as offense as sins of the world.
We, Christians, can usually very easily discern those sins of the flesh. The religious sins, the ones that have an appearance of being holy, but are actually filthy rags in God’s eyes…these are the sins which so easily beset Christians and render us defeated.
How easily we can quote and agree with Ephesians 2:8, 9 that we are “saved
by grace through faith, and not of ourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” But how quickly we forget the verse after it: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)
How quickly we accept our salvation by “grace through faith, a gift of God,” and then enter into religious systems. There we often we find ourselves working out OUR salvation through all manner of religious works NOT prepared by God but by some religious organization with which we are affiliated. Many of us create our own religious “stuff” that we think God should be pleased with.
Paul warned a church a long time ago that got caught in this dangerous trap
that causes Christians to spend great energy, time and money doing things that God considers as menstrual cloths. We cut our flesh, spiritually speaking, to get God’s attention even as the Baal prophets did before Elijah thinking that God is pleased with our works only to find that God will not send His fire upon those kind of sacrifices. Oh, we don’t literally cut ourselves spilling our blood all over the place. Blood represents life. We sure pour our lives in the form of time and money into all sorts of religious activity don’t we? And the more you pour into them, the happier is your pastor and his bosses at denominational headquarters.
“Oh, foolish Galatians (and many modern-day Christians)! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? And are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh (that is, by our own works, our own deeds)?” (Galatians 3:1-3)
The destitute have ceased from their striving, they have ceased from their works and their religious organization’s works. They have stopped trying to please God through their self-efforts. They have died. It is impossible for the works of God prepared from the foundation of the world to flow through us when we are quite satisfied with our own works or the stuff we do for the religious organizations with which we are associated which are not initiated by the Holy Spirit.
Want to find out whether you are wearing the garment of humility, the robe of righteousness purchased for you with the blood of Christ or whether you are still wearing a beautiful Babylonian garment? Picture yourself at the judgment seat standing next to Hitler. The Judge says to you: “If I were to only let one of you into my kingdom, why should I prefer you over the person standing next to you?” If your mind begins to even think things like, “How can God even consider comparing me to Hitler. Why, all He has to do is look at what I’ve done in the world and compare it to what Hitler did. It’s obvious who should enter the kingdom and who should be cast out. Look at the terrible things that Hitler did. I would never even dream of doing such evil things.”
If your mind even goes there for a moment, you are wearing the Babylonian garment and not the Robe of Righteousness. If you think that you actually decided to follow Jesus with your own faith, you’ve fallen from grace and entered into the works of the flesh. Salvation is a gift, it is not of works, either good or bad. We are saved by grace through faith and even the faith to say “Jesus is Lord” is a gift from God. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that the author and finisher of OUR faith is Jesus Christ. To think that we of our own volition decided to make the right choice is an act of pride and breeds self-righteousness, not the humility that God is seeking in His people.
The truly Destitute, can’t do anything to get saved, can’t do anything to stay saved…they only yield to the workings of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They don’t boast in what they’ve done for Christ that others haven’t. They are forever thankful for what God has done to them and through them. They die to self and yield to the working of the Holy Spirit who produces through them “works prepared for them to walk it from the foundation of the world.” If we don’t initiate those works, we shouldn’t boast in them should we? Our boasting should be in the Lord and not in ourselves.
Which Pentecost are we observing?
There are a few major Pentecosts mentioned in the Bible. The first one was beneath Mount Sinai at the giving of the Law. God wanted to come into their midst, make a covenant with them and be their God. He came in the form of fire, thunder, smoke and the sound of a trumpet on top of Mount Sinai. And the people STOOD AFAR OFF. As they contemplated this fire and lightning coming into their midst they thought it would be the end of themselves. Therefore they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear, but let not God speak with us, LEST WE DIE.” (Exodus 20:19) You see, under the law, we don’t want to die.
Another major Pentecost occurred about 1500 years later after Christ’s resurrection. While Jesus was on the earth physically, the disciples did mighty works. After the crucifixion, it seemed everything dried up. Peter went back to fishing. Everything seemed like it was going to return back to days prior to Jesus’ ministry on the earth. Jesus told them to “tarry in Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:9) Jesus wanted to drive in the point that He made time and time again to his zealous disciples who wanted to do mighty things IN THEIR OWN FLESH. He had to drive home the point to them that “Apart from Me, you can do NOTHING!” (John 15:5)
They waited for the promise of God in the upper room in the city of Jerusalem. They were powerless. They had nothing to offer. They were “dead,” so to speak. The tongues of fire came upon them and sat on each one (not just the pastor) and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. The Spirit drove them into the street of the city in such a manner that people from all languages could hear in their own language “the wonderful works of God.” (Acts 2:11)
At the first Pentecost, the people told God all the things THEY were going to do for God via the covenant. They broke that covenant on the very first day and continued to break it for hundreds of years. At the Upper Room Pentecost, the disciples came to the realization they could do NOTHING for God. This condition brought an end to themselves -- an end to THEIR works. This brought forth the mighty works of the Holy Spirit THROUGH them. At the first Pentecost, 3,000 people were killed. At the Upper Room Pentecost 3,000 people were saved. Beginning to see the difference between works from self (religious) and the works of God through us which come when we are dead to our own works? There is great power in the short phrase, “Let go and let God,” when those words are in the heart and not just in the head.
But you might object, “If I take away all my self-effort, all my sacrifices, all the time and money I invested in our church, I’ll have nothing to offer. I will be as nothing.” Well, would you rather magnify yourself with the little pittances that you can offer God or would you rather allow God to glorify Himself through you by doing the impossible with absolutely nothing!?
A.J. Gossip phrases it this way:
“There was once a garret up under the roof, a poor, bare place enough. There was a table in it, and there was some benches, and a water-pot; a towel, and a basin in behind the door, but not much else--a bare, unhomelike room. But the Lord Christ entered into it. And, from that moment, it became the holiest of all, where souls innumerable ever since have met the Lord God, in High glory, face to Face. And, if you give Him entrance to that very ordinary heart of yours, it too He will transform and sanctify and touch with a splendour of glory."
But we must first truly recognize our emptiness before He will fill us with Himself. This is, indeed, perhaps the greatest obstacle modern Christians encounter when trying to enter that abundant life Jesus promised. We are often conditioned by hard taskmasters who are really building their own kingdoms and not the kingdoms of God. This work is laborious and quite unfruitful when compared to the works prepared by God from the foundation of the world for us to walk in. Religious works breed self-reliance and self-righteousness. These become our Babylonian garments. Those who wear them honor each other and compliment one another regarding how beautiful they look in them. And God looks at them and says that are as menstrual clothes.
Jesus says, “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44) This produces a condition that is rampant in churches around the world, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” (Matt. 15:8)
If we want the praises of God, we will have to give up our people-pleasing and self-pleasing ways. We will have to get out of the way and let God be God in us. There is no other way.
You may say, “Well I know I am born again and even filled with the Spirit. I KNOW I’m going to heaven.” The question has never been whether you are going to heaven or not, the question is whether you are bearing any fruit or not in this lifetime. Paul speaking to born again Christians in Galatia said to them, “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you.” What? How can Paul say such a thing of born again Christians?
There is a place of fullness of the Spirit which many of our modern doctrines have prevented us from receiving. We must push past them even as a child must pass through the birth channel. There is MUCH more available to us than what we have been taught – much more!
So then, what shall it be? Babylonian garments or the garments of humility? Enter His rest and abundant life or striving in our flesh? Relationship or religion?