Saturday, February 24, 2018

Four Dresses

In this dream I need new clothes, and I have an appointment at an exclusive house of couture. The designer himself, a distinguished, kindly gentleman with impeccable manners and wearing a finely tailored white suit, greets me at the door.

He escorts me into the showroom, where the vaulted glass ceiling offers a clear view of blue skies and snowy clouds. But my eyes are immediately drawn to the four dresses. Each is on a dress form in its own mirrored alcove.

The first gown is of slinky red chiffon, its many pieces practically dripping off the form to be revealing and seductive.  What would people think of me if I wore it? Despite its obvious appeal, it is garish and even shameful, and would call too much attention to my shortcomings.

The second gown appears to hail from the Civil War era and could have stepped from the pages of Godey’s Ladies’ Book. The green-and-white pin-striped crinoline is beautifully fashioned into a fitted bodice with puffy sleeves, and a full hoop skirt with just a hint of starched petticoat modestly peeking from the hem. Like a refreshing spring breeze, the lilting skirt and joyful colors lift my spirits. Yet I wonder if the corset under that fitted bodice would be too confining for comfort.

Evoking a completely different mood, the third dress hangs stiffly like a mourning garment. It covers the whole body in black crepe, from its high neck to its long skirt hiding even the shoes. The jacket has long fitted sleeves and an endless row of tiny buttons down the front, and there is a black bonnet and veil shrouding the face. Although I appreciate the painstaking workmanship underlying this garment, I shy away from its stern, somber look.

But the fourth dress immediately restores my spirits, giving me a sense of hope and peace.  Fit for a Grecian goddess, the flowing white silk charmeuse drapes gracefully over the body, allowing freedom and movement while preserving modesty and nobility.

“Have you reached a decision?” the designer asks.

“They’re all beautiful in their own way, and exquisitely made,” I reply. “I especially like the second gown, and the fourth gown is clearly my favorite. But I’m afraid I won’t be able to afford any of them.”

He shook his head sadly. “Oh, no, my dear, you don’t understand. The collection is not for sale and cannot be broken. It is a gift, but if you accept it, you must wear all four dresses, in order.”

I awoke with a sense of regret at a missed opportunity and began to ponder the symbolism of the dream. The Designer’s last words to me seemed to refer to the freely given gift of salvation, which we cannot buy with money or with good works (Romans 11:6; 2 Timothy 1:9). Only through faith in God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8), in His gift of His only begotten Son (John 3:16);Who paid the price in full through His shed blood, can we receive forgiveness of our sins and eternal life with Him (Romans 3:25; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Revelation 1:5) .

But sometimes we forget the process of our Christian walk during our earthly life. It begins at the moment we repent of our sins and place our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the only Way to Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 14:6), and it ends when we see Him in glory, either at our physical death or at theRapture (1 Corinthians 15 51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-17).

The first gown, suitable for a high-class working girl, represents the need to realize and renounce our own sinfulness. Until we admit that we are sinners, we cannot be saved, because Jesus did not come to save the self-righteous (Luke 5:32; 19:10; Matthew 9:13; Mark 2:17). If we place our faith in our worldly appeal and trappings of success, we may get recognition from the world, although it will be of the wrong kind and will never satisfy us. Only when we confess our sins (1 John 1:9) can He wash us clean in His shed blood (1 John 1:7), symbolized in the dream by the dripping red cloth.

The second gown represents the joyful, uplifting experience of being born again (John 3:3-8). Green is the color of new life, and white of His righteousness, both imparted to us as we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit (Romans 4:22-25; 2 Corinthians 1:22). But with this joy comes a “civil war” in our soul, as the old sin nature battles the new creation (Romans 7:14-25; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). The tightly fitted bodice is like the breastplate of faith, love and righteousness (Ephesians 6:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:8) with which we must guard our heart against the desires of the flesh.

As Paul writes, we must “die daily” to our sin nature if we are to live in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:31; Romans 7:1-13). The mourning attire represents our daily death to our own desires, our separation from the world (1 Peter 1:15-16; 1 John 2:15-16), and our willingness to take up the cross of Christ and follow Him alone (Mark 8:34;10:21; Luke 9:23).

Finally, when He takes us home, we will wear the robe of His righteousness (Job 29:14; Isaiah 61:10), as pristine and beautiful as a wedding garment, symbolized by the fourth gown. One day the church, or the bride of Christ (Revelation 21:9), will forever be united with Him and in His presence eternally. Until then, we must repent of our sins and be washed in His blood; rejoice in our salvation; and die to all that would keep us from the fullness of life as His betrothed. May we put on Christ and be adorned with His meek and quiet Spirit!  (Romans 13:14; Galatians 3:27; 1 Peter 3:4)

© 2013 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives


Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Highest Authority

Photo by Scgibler 2017

As we celebrate President’s Day, it is fitting for Christians to consider what the Bible says about those in authority over us. No matter how our personal feelings or our political leanings affect our thoughts about those in office, Scripture tells us to pray for those who rule over us (1 Timothy 2:2).

This is appropriate, for there is no power that be whom God has not appointed to accomplish His specific purposes (Romans 13:1). We may not understand His choices, for His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and His ways higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Yet we are not to resist the powers over us, for they are of God, and rebellion would be against God Himself, leading to not only earthly consequences but to His judgment on us (Romans 13:2).

When David fled for his life from King Saul, who in a jealous rage wanted him dead for being more popular with the people as a warrior leader than Saul was, David finally had the opportunity to take the life of Saul as he slept. But he could not even lay a hand on him, for he realized that Saul at that time was the Lord’s anointed, and that his own hour to rule awaited God’s perfect timing (1 Samuel 24:4-13).

The apostle Paul established an authority structure revealed to him by Christ Himself. All of us, whether male or female, Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free men, are equal in God’s sight and one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). God extends to whosoever shall call upon the Name of Jesus Christ the freely given gift of salvation (Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13).

Regardless of our past, social status, nationality, or family history, all can be saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). Yet we are all subject to the curse of sin (Romans 3:23), so God has ordained a power structure on earth to prevent chaos in our society and relationships. If we are to love others as God loves us (John 13:34-35), we must put their needs above our own, even if we are in a position of relative authority (Mark 9:35).

In marriage, wives are to submit to their husbands, and yet husbands are to love their wives self-sacrificingly, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:21-33). Children are to submit to their parents, and yet parents should not provoke them to anger (Ephesians 6:1-4) and should give them good gifts (Matthew 7:11).

Employees are to submit to their employers, working as if working for God directly and not for an imperfect human, who like all humans can make mistakes. Yet the employer is to consider the needs of those under his authority, for God has placed him in a position of responsibility to be a good steward (Ephesians 6:5-9).

Even within the church there is an authority structure. Christ Himself is the Head of the church (Colossians 1:18), or the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-4), and under Him is the pastor or bishop (Titus 1:7-9), who is the undershepherd. The elders or deacons report to the pastor, as do the teachers, worship and music directors, and other church leaders, and the congregation submits to all of their leadership. Yet the pastor, elders and leaders must also consider the needs of the flock over their own preferences (1 Timothy 3:1-13).

To whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48), particularly in government where those elected or appointed to power should serve the good of their people ahead of their own ambition. The kings of Israel are an excellent example of how good rulers do this, whereas bad rulers fail to do so. The greatest rulers do not lord their power over their subjects, but serve and minister to them, following Christ’s example (Matthew 20:25-28). As He walked the earth, Jesus Himself submitted to the authority of God the Father (Matthew 21:23-27).

Sometimes God may allow bad rulers into power as a form of judgment, allowing nations to get the tyrants they deserve. When the righteous rule, their subjects rejoice, but when the wicked rule, their subjects mourn (Proverbs 29:2).

Yet regardless of the relative attributes or shortcomings of their earthly rulers, Christians should follow the law of the land, including paying taxes (Romans 13:7). Jesus Christ Himself instructed Peter to pay taxes on behalf of Himself and the apostles (Matthew 17:24-27; 22:17-22). He Himself said that He did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17).

Thankfully, the laws of the United States, and those of many other nations, are based on Biblical law, or the Ten Commandments and other laws given by God to Moses to govern God’s people (Exodus 20:1-17). Christians should therefore submit to their earthly rulers and the laws they establish, while realizing that we ultimately serve the highest authority, and it is to Him that we pledge our highest allegiance (Matthew 6:33; Colossians 1:18).

For the most part, if we do good as God defines it, we will be keeping the law of the land, which is established to prevent and punish evil (Romans 13:3-5).  If and when we cannot keep the laws of the land and of God at the same time, God’s law must be our guiding principle (Acts 5:29).

To avoid this conflict, Christians should be diligent not only to pray for salvation, wisdom and guidance for those in authority, but also to humble ourselves and pray for our nation. If we who are God’s people humble ourselves and confess our sins, individually and as a nation, He will hear us and heal our land (2 Chronicles 7:14).

As we celebrate President’s Day, may we remember to pray for those in authority over us, for healing and forgiveness in our land, and for Holy Spirit guidance to first honor and obey our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! 

© 2018 Laurie Collett