Rotten at the Core

Exodus 28, 29 is a tedious read There are some passages in the Old Testament which many of us avoid simply because they seem totally foreign and totally irrelevant.

You might be able to make an argument for that except for one “small” detail—God made sure that the information was recorded for us as part of His infallible Word, as part of the “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17, emphasis mine).

Exodus 28, 29 (in case you really don’t feel you can manage the perseverance to read it yourself) is all about the special clothing the high priest and the other priests were to wear in the performance of their duties, and the ritual surrounding their consecration as priests in the service of the Lord. “Special” hardly seems to sufficiently describe these garments. Exodus 29:29 says: “Aaron’s sacred garments…” or as the ESV puts it: “The holy garments of Aaron….

Everything about the clothing, the men who used it, and ceremony around it, was to be consecrated, holy, as a reflection of the One to Whom the clothing, the men, and the ceremony were dedicated.

As I read these chapters this morning, I was reminded of two things. One was an email “conversation” I had yesterday with a friend. The second was a verse from one of Peter’s epistles. My friend has been challenged recently about the state of the church. I don’t mean the state of the organization or the state of its facilities, but the spiritual state of those who call themselves believers and consider themselves part of the church; those who may even look good and sound good, but who will present themselves before the Lord someday with their list of credentials in hand and be met with the words: “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers” (Matthew 7:23).

The verses in Peter tells us that those who truly belong to Christ are: “…you also, like living stones, are being built up into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:5, 9). Notice the "holy."

Notice too that the passage from Timothy that tells us, “all” Scripture is inspired by God, also reminds us that its purpose is to make us righteous, holy.  We may not wear the trappings of holiness that were assigned to the priests of the Old Testament, but we, now as priests of the new covenant put in place by Christ, are to “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). We are to become those priests that Christ has named us to be.

My friend’s concern (and mine as well) is that we see within the context of the church people who show no change, no movement toward that righteousness that God has declared them to have based on their profession of faith. There is also the concern that there may be wolves in sheep’s clothing (as Matthew describes them) who do  all kinds of wonderful things in the name of the Lord but who are like apples, looking shiny on the outside but full of worms on the inside. We might not be able to discern who they are but one day the Lord will send them away from His presence because they never belonged to Him in the first place.

Some of Aaron’s sons, clothed and consecrated to the service of God, turned out to be “rotten apples.” As it true today, we can’t always tell those who are true believers from those who are simply “faking it.” Unhappily, those who profess Christ but never show any evidence of putting on that “new self” of righteousness, are more easily identified. Those of us who are believers need to gently and humbly help those people.

None of us is perfect. Every believer, no matter how long he or she has been a Christian, is on a journey going toward that “true righteousness and holiness.” But the point of a journey is that it involves forward motion toward a destination. No forward motion = no journey. All of us stall occasionally during the trip, but to stop entirely or go back is an indication that the journey may never have begun at all.

As we look at the church today, we need to prayfully consider the “holiness” factor—not the busy-ness factor—but the  changed lives that bit by bit, step by step, are beginning to look more like Jesus. Encourage it and reinforce it where we see it. Rebuke it and pray for it where it can’t be seen.

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