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May 29, 2007

Getting Ready for the Feast: A Primer on Works (8 of 8)

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory; for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted to her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure -- for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. Revelation 19:7, 8

The image of clothing appears frequently in Scripture to indicate the believer's responsibility for taking up the good works appropriate to salvation. The psalmist pleads with God to clothe His "priests" with righteousness (Ps. 132:9), and God happily agrees to do so (v. 16). Jesus used the story of a man improperly dressed for a wedding to warn His hearers about how they must appear before the Lord (Mt. 22:1-14). Paul employed the image of changing our wardrobe to urge his readers to put off the old clothes of the unbelieving way of life and to be clothed on with the "new man" of the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:17-24). John indicates that the saints of God will not be ready for the eternal banquet of glory until they have been properly clothed for the occasion (Rev. 19:7, 8).

The wording of this text echoes the image of Psalm 132. The saints are "granted" to be clothed, as if it were something eagerly sought by them. Evidently, those saints who have been paying attention understand that, when it comes time to meet the Lord, they need to be properly attired. They cannot expect to stand before Him in the old garments of their unbelieving lifestyles. They need "new clothes" -- fine, white linen -- so that they will honor Him at the banquet He is preparing for them. So they seek the Lord for the wardrobe He alone can provide, for unless God is at work within us, making us willing and able to do good works, we shall have no hope of being properly attired for the marriage feast that is even now being prepared (Phil. 2:12, 13). 

Every day is shopping day for the followers of Jesus Christ, as they seek the Lord for the clothing He insists they appear in at His coming. It's not a matter of what we like or may prefer; it's a question of what the Lord will welcome when He returns in glory. Seek the works of righteousness -- outlined in the holy, righteous, and good Law of God (Rom. 7:12) -- that Christ Himself performed, and when the King returns in His glory, to feast with His Bride, then we will be ready for the eternal festivities that are even now being prepared.

This old world itself will put off its worn-out clothing and be made anew. The remnants of sin will be dissolved, and the new heavens and new earth will host the Lord and His Bride in eternal joy. "Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God..." (2 Pet. 3:11, 12).

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I have been reading all of your postings and while I agree that true Christians will produce more and more good works throughout their lives, I think you are focusing to much on our work. Jesus tells a group of people in John that they are to work for "Food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you." Paul also says that like Abraham, believers will be "credited with righteousness" for their faith. When those same people asked Jesus what they can do "to do the works God requires," Jesus merely responded "The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent." Since every part of the Bible means just as much as every other we cannot forget that while a good deal of our righteousness does come from our works, Christ has also bought and paid for a FREE gift of righteousness. I think if we are truly Christians it will be almost impossible NOT to have good works because the Holy Spirit will automatically start working in us...this does not mean we should not continually be aware as Christ tells us to be, but we have to remember that Jesus Himself said "my yoke is easy and my burden is light," and that John says that God's commands "are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world...who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who BELIEVES that Jesus is the Son of God."
(1 John 5)
So in a nutshell our works, as James explains, are there to prove that we are not hypocrites as Jesus calls them, or "mere professors" as we call them now. If we "claim to walk in light" yet live in darkness, as John says, we are liars. Those works are not there to save us but to PROVE WE ARE SAVED. We cannot forsake one teaching for the other!

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