Clothes That Make the Person: John the Baptist
Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. Mark 1:6
In the Old Testament, a Nazirite (from the Hebrew “to vow”) was a person who took a vow of separation unto the Lord—temporarily or permanently. Of the latter category, there were only three named: Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist (Luke 1:15). It meant being different in many ways—a life wholly dedicated to God.
When John the Baptist’s parents were told by the angel Gabriel that their son would be the forerunner of the Messiah, they knew it meant releasing their son unto God’s calling. When John appeared on the scene as an adult, announcing the coming of Jesus, he was indeed different: dressed in garments made of camel hair and a leather belt, eating locusts and wild honey. By his appearance first, then his words, John stood out in Judea as he proclaimed Jesus.
We are not called to put on camel’s hair garments, but we are called to put on Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14; Galatians 3:27). It is Christ in us that will cause us to be different in this world.
Never is a man . . . rightly clothed till he has put on the Lord Jesus Christ. J. C. Ryle
Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ issued a bold statement when He said, “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14). Since it is against the nature of our triune God to break a promise (Titus 1:2), we know that the Lord will fulfill that pledge.
So when we make a big request and nothing happens, the problem isn’t with God. It could be that the timing is wrong or the answer comes in a different form than we expected. But it could also be that our heart isn’t in the right place. When it comes to our petitions, the Lord wants us to …
Approach him in complete dependence on Christ’s merits. The Savior’s blood paid for our right to enter the Father’s holy presence. Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary took away our sins and clothed us in righteousness, which allows us to stand unashamed before the throne. We don’t earn favor through works or get prayers answered because we are super spiritual. God responds because His Son sits at His right hand, interceding for us.
Approach him in holiness—that is, separated from all known sin. We cannot expect the Lord to hear us if we “regard wickedness” in our heart (Psalm 66:18). Think about it this way: If God were to answer prayer when we are willfully living in sin, then He would be sanctioning our transgression. Therefore, believers must turn away from their wrongdoing before making big requests.
God is always faithful. He wants to provide you with what you need and then bless you beyond that. But first, He wants His followers’ hearts to be in line with His so that the bold requests have pure motives. Those who live according to God’s will can trust Him for anything they ask in His Son’s name.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)
God, Himself, is both author and finisher of everything we have that is good. This, of course, is the testimony concerning His creation in the beginning, which was both “very good” and “finished” (Genesis 1:31; 2:1). The unique name “Father of lights” seems to suggest a remarkable scientific insight. Since light is the most basic form of energy, and yet is equivalent also to all other forms, and since literally everything in the physical universe is energy in some form, it is singularly appropriate to speak of the totality of all God’s good and perfect gifts in creation as “lights.” And, since all these energies are not now being created (only “conserved”), their original source can only be from the Father of lights!
There even seems to be a hint of both of the great laws of science, energy conservation as well as energy deterioration. The term “variableness,” used only here, means literally “transmutation.” Just as God is immutable, the total amount of His created “lights” is conserved—neither created nor destroyed. The Second Law states that, in all energy conversions (that is, in everything that happens), the entropy of the universe increases. “Entropy” means “in-turning,” coming from two Greek words, en and trope—the second of which is used in this verse. Entropy is a measure of disorganization, and its inexorable increase is a result of God’s curse on the creation following man’s rebellion. Thus, although the total energy of the universe is conserved (by the First Law), the available energy is decreasing (by the Second Law). Nevertheless, God Himself is not bound by this law that He has imposed, for a time, on His creation. With Him is not even a “shadow” of any “turning” (trope). God never changes, and His purposes can never be defeated! HMM
In our last reading we commenced Paul’s summary of his early Christian life, we now continue the narrative.
Galatians 2:1, 2
He went up to Jerusalem lest he might be misrepresented and thought to be a teacher of some novel doctrine, and not one at heart with the rest of the brotherhood. We must be careful not to create misunderstandings by holding too much aloof from other believers.
There were many who wished to make Paul exchange the liberty of the gospel for the yoke of the Jewish law, but he would not for a moment submit to them. We need to be equally staunch against Romanism in these days.
Good men are sometimes afraid of a straight course of action because it may cause trouble, or appear to be too bold. In such a case we must not be silent out of respect for them, but openly oppose them. Dear is Peter, but dearer still the truth.
Galatians 1:15, 16
How boldly is this stated! Faith alone and not works justify the soul before God. He who does not believe this rejects the gospel.
Justification by faith does not make us think lightly of sin; on the contrary, it creates in us such love to God that we loathe the very idea of offending him.
We cannot be saved by our own merits, for if so, the atonement was unnecessary,—a blasphemous idea not to be tolerated for a moment. Are we all believers in Jesus?
In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee. (Isaiah 49:8)
I always get an uneasy feeling when I find myself with people who have nothing to discuss but the glories of the days that are past!
Why are we not willing to believe what the Bible tells us? The Christian’s great future is before him. Therefore, the whole direction of the Christian’s look should be forward.
It is a fact that we should ponder soberly that so many Christians seem to have their future already behind them! Their glory is behind them. The only future they have is their past. They are always bringing around the cold ashes of yesterday’s burned-out campfire!
Even their testimony, if they give it, reveals their backward look. Their downcast look betrays that they are facing in the wrong direction.
We should take Paul for an example here. I think he occasionally took a quick, happy backward look just to remind himself of the grace and goodness of God enjoyed by the maturing believers in their Savior, Jesus Christ!
“He shall save his people from their sins.” Matt. 1:21
Lord, save me from my sins. By thy name of Jesus I am encouraged thus to pray. Save me from my past sins, that the habit of them may not hold me captive. Save me from my constitutional sins, that I may not be the slave of my own weaknesses. Save me from the sins which are continually under my eye that I may not lose my horror of them. Save me from secret sins; sins unperceived by me from my want of light. Save me from sudden and surprising sins: let me not be carried off my feet by a rush of temptation. Save me, Lord, from every sin. Let not any iniquity have dominion over me.
Thou alone canst do this. I cannot snap my own chains or slay my own enemies. Thou knowest temptation, for thou wast tempted. Thou knowest sin, for thou didst bear the weight of it. Thou knowest how to succor me in my hour of conflict; thou canst save me from sinning, and save me when I have sinned. It is promised in thy very name that thou wilt do this, and I pray thee let me this day verify the prophecy. Let me not give way to temper, or pride, or despondency, or any form of evil; but do thou save me unto holiness of life, that thy name of Jesus may be glorified in me abundantly.