Saturday, 24 August 2013

Going to Church in My Nightgown

As a nurse, I work with people all week long. At the end of the day and definitely at the end of a week, I often feel "all peopled out," as I like to put it. I'm just content to sit at home alone and not be among people for awhile. That, combined with the fact that my church home is an hour's drive away, contributes to my decision to occasionally stay home for church. I then usually find a Sabbath School and church service online at one of my favourite ministries' websites and still get my "spiritual food." I will admit that I don't always shower and dress before these services, so, yes, I sometimes "go to church" in my nightgown. When I was a child, the "rules" of dress for church attendance were pretty strict: men wore suits and women wore dresses/skirts and blouses. Things have changed a lot since then, but even with today's relaxed standards, I still don't believe it would ever be acceptable to attend church in my nightgown.
That reminds me of a story Jesus told. It's found in Matthew chapter 22, verses 1-13 (all Bible texts are from the New King James Version): 
And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said:  “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son,  and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come... Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.  Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’  So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.  So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.  Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away.’  (for brevity's sake, I only included the pertinent verses).
So someone was not allowed to attend the wedding feast (go to heaven) because of what he was wearing. Well, much of what Jesus says in His parables is highly symbolic, and I believe that God is far more interested in what we are 'wearing' on the inside than what we are wearing on the outside. Job 29:14 says,
 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me;
My justice was like a robe and a turban. 

So we can conclude that what this man at the wedding feast was missing was righteousness. Some might say "doing right" or "goodness."
I meet people who say that they believe they are going to heaven because they are "good people" or "do good things." But is that "good enough"?
The Bible says,
 But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags. Isaiah 64:6
 And Jesus Himself said,
 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 7:21-23
Ouch! According to the Bible, not only are we not good, but even the pseudo-religious people who do lots of good things are not guaranteed a place in heaven. With all our being good and doing good, we still end up wearing filthy rags. But there is hope. One of my favourite Bible stories is found in the book of Zechariah:
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”
Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel.
Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.”
And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.”
So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the Lord stood by. Zechariah 3:1-5
 Satan knows every bad thing we ever did since he's the one who tempted us to do them. And he's prepared to testify against us to try to prevent us from getting to heaven. According to Satan, we don't deserve to go there. And he's really right. We don't, because we are clothed in the filthy rags of all the bad things we have ever done. And none of the so-called "good" things we do could ever earn our right to heaven. Only Jesus can take away our filthy rags and clothe us with His goodness, His righteousness. 
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness. Isaiah 61:10
And that's our ticket to heaven.
Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12
Jesus, I must have Jesus, living in my heart, Lord of my life. 
 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. Romans 13:14
As the hymn says, "Live out Thy life within me, oh Jesus, King of Kings."
I could actually attend church in my nightgown, and someone may or may not call the police or the ambulance or ask me to leave. But I cannot go to heaven without Jesus living in my heart.

(Yes, today I did "attend" church in my nightgown. I went to Sabbath School here: Amazing Facts and church service here: Amazing Discoveries).