Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Hem of His Garment

Matthew 9:20 - And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment.

We all have times of need. We can name our need(s). Think about something right now that you need. it really something you need? Or is it something that you only desire? Can you live without it or do you think you'll just die if you don't have or get it? We know we won't die from being without an unnecessary need. But there is a need from which we will die.

A guest pastor preached at our Wednesday night Bible study last night. He was asked to come back to finish what he'd started the week before while our pastor is on vacation. His message has been on The Right to BE Right.

As children of God, those who have received Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives, who understand the reality of what Christ did for us, who long to hear the Word of God preached in truth from the pulpits, who are not hung up in the need for churchly activities, but only the pure, unadulterated Word of God in all it's truthfulness and conviction of sin, we DO have the right to be right.

We have the right because God gave us the right. He has given us His righteousness at the moment we knew that we knew we had met Jesus in a time of our need and "asked Him into our heart," "accepted Christ," "came to Christ/Jesus/the Lord" "gave our lives to Christ," "became right with God," "were saved," or whatever other phrase you want to use to describe the experience.

But Pastor Dave Liebherr of The Church of Acts (his church) said one thing that absolutely drew a word picture in my mind of which I could not let go. It may have been one of his rabbit trail, but it was powerful to me. He said, in my own words here, when we came to Christ we touched the hem of His garment…but now we are clothed in His righteousness. What an amazing picture?

In the Gospels there is a story about a woman with an issue of blood. It's one of my favorite stories. For twelve years she'd been hemorrhaging. Because of this she had to separate herself from society because, by Jewish law, she was considered unclean…and there was no way with this issue she could become clean. She could not mingle with others; she could not go out on the streets for fear of possibly causing others to become unclean because they bumped into her or merely were next to her. Even the medical community, such as it was then, could not heal her. She had exhausted all avenues of healing…except one.

This unnamed woman had heard of Jesus and His ability to heal and when He was to be in her town, she knew she had to take the chance to meet Him. Because she felt this was her last hope, she was determined, no matter what, to try. So while the crowd was preoccupied with His presence, she crawled unnoticed on her hands and knees just to touch the hem of His garment. When she did she was healed instantaneously. Our God is never too early or too late to heal. Imagine the testimony she had to share. Imagine the others she might have led to Christ subsequently. 

What do we do when we have exhausted everything and it seems as though hope is lost? While some go to drugs or alcohol or other become a workaholic, finding hobbies to consume time and thoughts, some go to God. This is the best of all options. The others will drag us deeper into our trouble. Seeking the Lord can produce tremendous results. And what would those results be?

We come to Christ as she did, hemorrhaging from something and some, when they are at their lowest point, will figuratively crawl to Christ just to touch the hem of His garment for a healing. We might even feel separated from others because of what we are going through. Perhaps we've gone to doctors for help. Seeking the Lord instead can produce tremendous results. And what would those results be?

Pastor Dave told us we have the right to be right. We have the right to freely confess our sins…and He is faithful and just to forgive us. There is freedom in open confession. Freeing ourselves of the sins we carry is healing. How many of us, including myself, still cling to old sins because we cannot believe that we have been healed? We still work at being better when the work was already done on the cross. Will we never learn? It's so simple…it really is. And we make such difficulty out of it. So freedom is one result of seeking God.

The story of the cross is simple, although the act was grievous. The reason for Christ's death was simple: He died for our sins. Period. I wouldn't say that what Jesus did was simple, but He made it simple for us. "Receive Me, receive eternal life." That was what Jesus was all about. He didn't change His story.

So, when we do this, when we receive Christ, receive His forgiveness for all our sins, and it's a heartfelt thing on our part, His righteousness is imputed to us. The right to be right with God. We have the right to call ourselves righteous, to the dismay of those who think without Christ they can be because who says you are so special as to receive God's righteousness? I'm a good person, doing good wherever I go but I don't need God for me to do that.

But here's the end of the story: we receive Christ and He then clothes us in His righteousness. This is not Pastor Dave telling us this, although he spoke the words. This is God telling us this. I know not everyone believes the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and that's their problem (sorry!). I happen to believe it is and if the Word of God which is truth tells us we are clothed in His righteousness when we are in Christ, when we have given ourselves and our sins to the Lord, then I'd better believe it. There's another result of seeking God...righteousness unlike any the world could offer.

But there's one more thing we receive as a result of seeking God...eternal life. Our lives on earth will end some day. But being in relationship with Christ secures our eternal reward. No other religious way can do this. That is why scripture was written describing Jesus as the Way, Truth and Life...and only through Him may we get to the Father in heaven.

Oh, I needed to hear this last night. I needed a boost of self esteem. That was my need!! I needed to be reminded that once I confessed my sins God no longer saw my ugliness but only saw a righteous person. This is what God does. He will, however, show us more ugliness as we walk with Him. He wants to remove all that we harbor within that we no longer carry it, that our burden be lighter than it is. It's the pruning process, the sanctification that all believers go through. And I've had two bouts of pruning in the past two weeks. Praise Him!

Pastor Dave told us these three things should be the lifelong basis of our lives in Christ: Joyfulness, thankfulness and prayer. Every day, in all circumstances. God has every right to do as He wishes with each of us…and like the woman with the issue of blood He chose to heal her. We may not be healed of disease, but we can still go through life with joy, thankfulness and prayer because of what we know our future will be like. We can still be good witnesses of God's goodness in our lives...and that gives Him the glory, as it should be. 

When we realize a need for Christ in our lives because we've run out of worldly "needs" and nothing more satisfies, we crawl humbly on our hands and knees and touch the hem of His garment that we might stand to our feet, heads held high wearing the clothes of righteousness.

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2Corinthians 5:21,Galatians 3:26-27) 

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