We all have a favorite hoody or outfit that makes us feel great. Fashion can shape how we feel and think about yourself. The sporty, classy or the casual can put us in a good mood. The world places a high value on our appearance and you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Jesus looks on the heart – He sees through all the layers and sees the real you.
In John 11:40-44 when Jesus cries out – “Come Forth” and Lazarus life is restored, then he says, “lose him and let him go”. Lazarus still had on grave clothes and was bound and needed help removing deaths clothes. As believers, we can still have on grave clothes, those things which grip us and bind us holding us back. We need to be released and freed.
The grave clothes could be: self-defeatism, past, sin, guilt, shame, and fear, condemnation and the list could go on. Jesus was present, near the empty tomb but Lazarus needed someone to help “remove” the grave-clothes so that he could move forward in liberty in Galatians 5:1.
How do we help remove the grave clothes for others?
- Listen Closely
- Speak a word of faith
- Handle them not in where they are now but, in their potential,
- Remind them of the promises
- Pray with them believing, even if they don’t.
This reality disarms and removes the authority that the lie has. Jesus wants to bring us into His reality. In John 11:25 Jesus is declaring who HE is to Martha. She was stuck in the reality of her brother’s death. Jesus challenged her not to be narrow in her thinking and not to forget WHO HE IS in the situation. Death seemed so permanent in Martha’s heart and she was frozen in her thinking, she thought this was the end and that Jesus was late on the scene. Jesus is so patient to lead us into his reality. Jesus demonstrates his authority of the Resurrection and he raised Lazarus from the dead.
Often we fall short of this reality. Often people say they forgive but they don’t forget. Their words and expectations can try to wrap us in grave-clothes even after we have been freed! Behavior modifications and legalism can be a suffocating shroud. Often people remember who we were in our sin – that is something Jesus doesn’t even do! It is forgotten in the mind of Jesus and we stand in mercy in Jeremiah 50:20. We are resurrected from the dead and our life is hidden with Christ!
We can all deflect and hide pretty easily. When love comes knocking we can keep it at arm’s length. Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves to cover their nakedness in the garden. This was a false covering in self-consciousness and fear. Excuses were made when Jesus found them and the conclusion was “who told you that?”
What we rest or hide in, directly impacts our thinking. Hiding in a lie will create false burdens. Jesus will never lie to us, HIS truth is an absolute covering – Jesus covers us with nature and we exchange our filthy rags for the robe of righteousness.
Life can bury us with so many things and circumstances can cling to us and we have trouble shaking it off. Do you have trouble forgetting the past? This unwelcome guest can linger, wishing it would leave? Sometimes we wish we had a remote control to “rewind” and “do over” things in our lives. But God has a way to lead us through. When we come to church or fellowship with one another it isn’t about what we are wearing that matters but the content of the heart. People may look fine on the outside, but inside they could be destitute Revelations 3:17.
People intrinsically know when things aren’t right. Often guilt shame and fear cover them. When ministering, our focus shouldn’t be the problem or what is holding the person back. We want to build bridges to life and potential in Jesus. If we are problem-centric then we magnify the wrong things. Often what we think the problem is NOT the real issue!
Josephs coat was coveted and hated by his brothers. It was a sign of favor from his father. We also, as a son of the living God, have a coat of diversity in color. Each color represents the character and nature of the Father. It covers our nakedness and failures and reflects the favor of the king. The prodigal son received his “grace clothes” showing his new standing in the Father. He had come home seeking to be a servant and was declared a son.
How do we help extend this coat of favor? Here are some tools to consider
- Take note at their capacity
- It is not about being “right” but loving the person where they are
- Don’t attack the issues full force – move slowly
- What resonates with them, continue to build there.
- Continue to build lines of communication
- Watch your own heart – showing frustration will unravel the help
Jesus wants to take our rags and give us His robe of righteousness and the armor of light in Romans 13:12. Trade in your grave clothes for the garment of praise and let the spirit of heaviness go. As we focus on the one, we will not have time for the other.
The apostle Paul shows us in 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For our sake he made him be sin who knew no sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus became poor to make us rich, he became the curse so that we could be free. He became nothing so that we could be everything in him! Hosea echoes this is Hosea 13:14 “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction”. Jesus had grave clothes in John 20:27, showing evidence that he was in the tomb, but he left them behind. In his resurrection authority, they no longer bound him in death, He stripped them away in Colossians 2:14-15.
We spend so much time beautifying the external, but Gods focus is our heart. 1 Peter 3:4 shows us that a gentle and quiet spirit is an attractive covering!
The fashions of today are fleeting – we are beautiful to Jesus because we are made in His image. Jesus wants us to “throw off” what the world calls fashion and trade in our designer “fig leaves” for the Robe of Righteousness. The garment of praise and the coat of many colors are NOW covering you. Continue to let Him clothe you with Grace. Let’s his humility, patience, love mercy and wisdom keep you. Believing in what HE has said and walking in it, delivers the great exchange. Death is swapped for life.
What are you holding onto or hiding in today? What is defining you? “Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness and enjoy your new spiritual wardrobe!
Jason is a graduate from Maryland Bible College and Seminary, and presently he leads the Pastoral Care Team of Greater Grace Church in Baltimore. Since age 16, Jason has been involved with mission work among the former Soviet-Bloc countries in Eastern Europe, as well as in Asia, and in the United States. While living in Ukraine, he helped church plant three new churches that continue to thrive today under trained nationals. He has also written five books and has his own podcast (tinyurl.com/IRpodcast)