Long ago and what seems like far away now, I remember getting ready for church and wearing our finest clothing. We wore hats, gloves and nice dresses. As a little girl, I asked my mother why we had to dress up when we went to church and her reply was that we wanted to look our best to honor God. I am certain some people dressed to impress others but that was not the motive my mother had in getting us ready to meet with the Lord. Times have changed and so have dress codes. People now come to church in shorts, cut-offs and some with bare midriffs. While clothing does not add or subtract from salvation, I often wonder if this change has to do with our lack of understanding about the holiness of God. Have we lost our fear and awe of God? If we knew we had an appointment with the Lord face to face, how would we dress, how would we conduct ourselves, what would our speech be like?
In his classic book (which I highly recommend to all my readers) "The Holiness of God", Dr. R.C. Sproul opens our eyes to the majesty of God. He quotes John Calvin in one chapter: "Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God." Somehow, I think we have lost an understanding of God's holiness and our sinfulness. It is reflected in our culture and even among Christians. No longer is it thought scandalous when a young woman becomes pregnant outside of marriage. Living together
without benefit of marriage is common place and divorce is rampant even among believers. We have become desensitized by our culture to such a degree that few people flinch when someone utters profane language.
Dr. Sproul relates an article he read in "Time" magazine some years ago about a truck driver who was arrested for being drunk and disorderly. He barraged the officers with every foul word he could utter and when he appeared in court, he did the same to the judge. His sentence for the drunk and disorderly charge was a fine of $100 and 30 days in jail, but the judge found an old Maryland law that made the use of foul language and taking the name of the Lord in vain an offense punishable by $100 fine and 30 days in jail. As a result, the judge sentenced this truck driver to 60 days in jail and a $200 fine for both offenses. The magazine called it a miscarriage of justice. The reporter was outraged that a man could spend 30 days in jail for blaspheming the name of the Lord. Dr. Sproul wrote: "What is worse, creating a public disturbance by getting drunk, or publicly insulting the dignity of a holy God? The news editor gave his answer. God gave a different one" (pg. 113). This book was originally published in 1985 so imagine the politically correct stance of media today as opposed to the outrage over use of profane language in that time period of the 80's.
What we fail to understand is that God is not obliged to save us. Dr. Sproul writes: "In creation, God is not obliged to give us the gift of life. The gift of life comes by his grace and stands under his divine authority. The task that is given to mankind in creation is to bear witness to the holiness of God, to be His image bearer. We are made to mirror and reflect the holiness of God. We are made to be His ambassadors" (pg. 114, Sproul). So what happens when we forget that sin is really "cosmic treason" and we neglect to show forth God's holiness in living? Dr. Sproul states: "When we sin as the image bearers of God, we are saying to the whole creation, to all of nature under our dominion, to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field: 'This is how God is. This is how your Creator behaves. Look in the mirror; look at us, and you will see the character of the Almighty.' We say to the world, 'God is covetous; God is ruthless; God is bitter; God is a murderer, a thief, a slanderer, an adulterer. God is all of these things that we are doing'" (pg. 116 Sproul). When I read these words, I felt convicted. My sin blemishes the name and reputation of the God I claim to serve. As His ambassadors, we are all called to reflect His holiness.
Scripture calls us to a different way of living and looking at life. We are no longer our own for we were bought by the price of Christ's blood upon the cross for our sins. If we are to reflect God's holiness, we must think about what we are saying, doing and how we are dressing in our culture. We must ask ourselves if we are living a life of obedience to God and showing a respect for Him in every area whether at work, home or at play. Unfortunately today, there are many churches that look and act just like the world. There is no reverence for God or understanding of His holiness. It is more of a social gathering than a place of worship. In such places, people will not find the answers to life's questions. However, there are wonderful places of worship where God's Word is preached, the sacraments are exercised and the worship of God is sweet. To these fellowships, we must be faithful in attendance, witness and growth.
Today, we do not wear hats or gloves to church any longer and as I said, this does not add or subtract from salvation. However, the question for us to consider is are we giving our best to God each time we gather to worship? Are we striving to be different from our present day culture so that people have a true picture of the Lord who is righteous and holy? With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can and must reflect the holiness of God in every area of our life. This not only brings glory to God but will cause others to want to know more about our Lord and Savior as well. Selah!