BIBLE WARDROBES and THE CHRISTIAN WOMAN’S SPIRITUAL CLOTHING – Lesson 8 – THE SACKCLOTH WARDROBE

Lesson 8 THE SACKCLOTH WARDROBE

But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom (Psa. 35:13).

Often in scripture we read of those who were clothed in sackcloth, humbling themselves before God so that their prayers would be heard.  The city of Nineveh not only clothed the people in sackcloth, but also the animals to show their contrite hearts (Jonah 3:8).

If David’s prayer in Psalm 35:1-28 were for Absalom and the traitors that conspired with him to remove David from the throne, then it has heavy implications.  If it were for King Saul or some other enemy, we can only imagine its depth of meaning.

David contrasts the enemy’s conduct with his own. He talks of his past life, and about the acts of kindness which he had shown in times of trouble, as more deeply marking the evils of their own conduct now.  David begs the Lord to plead his cause and to fight against them that fight him.  He says, “Stand for me! Confuse the enemy! Blow them away like chaff!”  He even begs the Lord to make their way dark and slippery and to dig a pit for their feet.  David has given up on saving their souls though he apparently has tried many times in the past.  These are men (or women) who are bound to David by the bands and ties of physical life—people he knows well.

David is brought low because of the false witnesses who have laid things to his charge that he never dreamed of.  Yet those same people had been the object of his fasting and prayers in other days.  When they had been in distress, he had put on sackcloth and afflicted his soul for their sakes.  He had humbled himself before God to beg for their health or their position before the Almighty.  Surely in times past he had prayed for Absalom as he watched the turn of his character or as he had witnessed his misconduct.  More than anything, he would have wanted his own son to be righteous before God, but now with the insurrection, he sees there is no hope for his soul or the ones with him.  David knows that Absalom and his companions hate him without a cause.

David’s final thoughts regarding the actions of his enemies as they compare to his own are that he wishes the Lord would clothe them with shame and dishonor because they have returned evil for his good.  Our own hearts need to be humble to the point we would be willing to clothe ourselves in sackcloth to pray for our enemies even if they do not respond well.  They will be clothed in shame if they spurn our efforts at peace.

Will our clothing be sackcloth or shame (Job 8:22Psa. 109:29Psa. 132:18)?  Will we humble ourselves before the Almighty or will we proudly go our thankless way and return evil for the good others do for us?

QUESTIONS:

  1. Using the Bible Encyclopedia found here: (http://www.christiananswers.net/dictionary/home.html), give a definition of sackcloth and tell why was it worn?
  2. Sackcloth has always carried with it the idea one of the Christian virtues. With what virtue should we be clothed (1 Pet. 5:5)?
  3. How serious is the sin of ingratitude ( 1:21,241 Tim. 3:2-5)?
  4. Under the Law of Moses, men were commanded to give an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Is it right today to take vengeance or to pray for the destruction of our enemies ( 5:38-42Rom 12:19)?
  5. How many good deeds had David done for King Saul?
  6. How did Saul react?
  7. What good had David done for his son Absalom?
  8. How did Absalom respond?
  9. What is the higher law for Christians today (Luke 6:35)?
  10. King Ahab was one of the worst kings in the history of Israel. Why did God postpone His judgment against Ahab and give him another chance to live after he had determined to destroy him and his descendants (1 Kings 21:21-29)?

-Beth Johnson

ARE YOU A DISCIPLE OF JESUS?

“Go therefore and teach (make disciples of) all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).

The above statement was made by Jesus to His apostles shortly before He ascended to heaven. Commonly called “The Great Commission,” notice the main thought of Jesus’ command: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” To “make disciples,” therefore, is the GOAL of evangelizing the world for Christ.

Are you a disciple of Jesus? More than likely you believe in Jesus. You might even be one to attend church services regularly. But is that what it means to be His disciple?

The purpose in this study is to make clear what is involved in being a true disciple of Jesus Christ. To begin, let’s define the word “disciple.”  The word “disciple” literally means A LEARNER, according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. It denotes “one who follows another’s teaching.” But a disciple was not only a learner, he was also AN ADHERENT. For this reason disciples were spoken of as IMITATORS of their teachers.

So what is the goal in being a disciple?  As stated by Jesus himself: discipleship is to be like the teacher (Luke 6:40). “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.”  To be Christ’s disciple, then, is to strive to be like Him!

According to the apostle Paul, this coincides with God’s goal in the redemption of mankind, that they be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

Do you have a strong desire to follow Jesus and become like Him? Unless you have that goal, it cannot be said that you are truly His disciple! There are also some “identifying marks” of discipleship given by Jesus which can help us to further identify a true disciple of Jesus.

What are the marks of a disciple? A disciple is “one who abides in Jesus’ words” (John 8:31).  This would imply being a diligent student of the teachings of Christ. It also requires one to be a “doer” of the Word (Matt. 7:21-27; James 1:21-25). In view of this, a true disciple would not fail to study the Bible diligently or willingly refrain from opportunities to study with others (e.g. Bible classes, church services, gospel meetings).

A disciple is also “one who loves the brethren” (John 13:34-35) with a love patterned after the love of Jesus (“as I have loved you”). A disciple would love the brethren with a love that is visible to the world (“by this all will know”). Therefore, a true disciple would make every effort to get to know his brethren, take advantage of occasions to encourage and grow closer to them (e.g., attending services on Sunday and Wednesday nights). Remember, a disciple is one who wants to become like his teacher. Was Jesus willing to sacrifice time and effort for His brethren? Of course, and so will we… IF we are truly HIS disciples!

A true disciple is also “one who bears much fruit” (John 15:8). Notice the word “much” (also found in verse 5). Jesus is not talking about an occasional good deed, but a lifestyle which prompts people to glorify God! (Matt. 5:16). This is so important, that failure to bear much fruit will result in being severed from Christ (John 15:1-2). How can one be a disciple if he or she is cut off from Christ? The point should be clear: to be a disciple of Jesus Christ means more than just a casual church member. It requires COMMITMENT, especially in regards to: the teachings of Christ, the love of brethren and bearing fruit to the glory of God.

The kind of commitment involved is seen further when we consider the “high cost” of discipleship demanded by Jesus in (Luke 14:25-33). Jesus must come first (Luke 14:26). Jesus must come before anyone or anything else, including members of our own family (Matt. 10:34-37). Jesus must come first—before one’s own self. (Luke 9:23-25).

We must be willing to suffer for Christ. (Luke 14:27). Trying to live godly lives in an ungodly world, we may find that following Christ sometimes involves enduring ridicule and persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). Even if we are blessed to escape such things, we must still be willing to expend time and effort in promoting the cause of Christ in positive ways.  Putting it simply, we must forsake all to follow Christ. (Luke 14:33). In other words, Jesus must be KING and LORD of our lives. Nothing can take precedent over Christ and His Will for us. This kind of “high cost” of discipleship demanded by Jesus caused many people to turn away from following Him. But Jesus wasn’t trying to attract large crowds, He wanted disciples!

Is the COST worth it? I believe so, for consider some of the REWARDS of discipleship. There is the promise of “future blessings.” We shall be saved from the wrath of God which is yet to come upon the world for its sins (Rom. 5:9). We can look forward with joyful anticipation of eternity with God, free from sorrow, pain and death (Rev. 21:1-8).

Not only do we have these to look forward to, but there are also “present blessings.” Jesus offers a PEACE the world cannot give to calm the troubled heart (John 14:27). His words inspire JOY to lift our spirits out of any depression (John 15:11). He also offers to those who follow Him the ABIDING LOVE OF GOD, which can cast out fear (John 15:9; 1 John 4:18). And he makes it possible for us to be members of the family of God, which is able, if need be, to replace our physical family (Mark 10:28-30). There are many other blessings we could mention that are enjoyed by disciples of Jesus; but these suffice to demonstrate that though discipleship is costly, the rewards far exceed the cost!

Now that we understand the nature of discipleship, its cost and rewards, I hope that we want to be true disciples of Jesus Christ. But how does one begin? For the answer we return to our beginning text—Matthew 28:19-20. According to Jesus, the beginning of a disciple involves baptism (Matt. 28:19).

Why baptism? Remember the goal of discipleship: to be like Jesus. He was holy and sinless, yet we are to be like Him. Fortunately, baptism is described as an act of faith which puts us in contact with the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ so we can be forgiven (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4). It is also the means by which one “puts on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). So baptism is the logical starting place for true discipleship!

But what is baptism? It is an act of submission which must be preceded by faith in Jesus and repentance for our sins (Acts 2:36-38; 8:36-37). This precludes infant baptism, for infants are incapable of believing and repenting. It is also an act of submission which involves a burial in water, in which one then rises to walk in newness of life through the power of God (Acts 8:38; Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12). This precludes sprinkling or pouring as a mode of baptism, because neither of these involves a “burial” nor an immersion (which is the meaning of the Greek word “baptidzo”). When done according to the Word of God, baptism then becomes an act of faith on our part which results in a wonderful working of God in our lives! Our sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus (Acts 22:16; Eph. 5:25-27). We are “regenerated” and “renewed” by the Spirit of God so we can now live for God! (Tit.3:5-6). It is truly a “rebirth” involving both water and the Spirit (John 3:5).

Baptism is only the beginning. Teaching and obedience must follow (Matt. 28:20). This brings us back to the very definition of discipleship, for Jesus clearly states that we are to be TAUGHT (that is, to be LEARNERS), and we are to OBSERVE (that is, to be ADHERENTS or DOERS). In this way we embark on a life devoted to learning and doing all that Jesus has commanded us to do.

In conclusion, we note that only those scripturally baptized and demonstrating the “marks” of discipleship, despite the “costs,” can truly be called disciples of Jesus! Only they can realistically look forward to the “rewards” of discipleship, and take consolation in the promise of Jesus: “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, then the prospects of “A Closer Walk With God” and more fruitful service as a disciple should be of great interest to you. My prayer is that this lesson will help spark that desire in you.

RECEIVING CHIRST AS SAVIOR, REDEEMER OR CREATOR

For the Christian, “Receiving Christ” is not the same as the denominational doctrine of “Receiving Christ as one’s personal savior.”  “Receiving him” in this context, does not refer to Christ as savior.  The context of “receiving Christ” goes at least back to John 1:10: “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not” (John 1:10). Jesus made the world and therefore is Creator.  The Jews did not receive him as Creator (John 1:11).  The Jews did receive him as an ordinary Jew until he was 30 years old and began to preach publicly.  Even then, as he went from village to village, they only received his healing and gifts.  However, the Jews did not receive Christ as being their Creator.

What does it mean to receive Christ as Creator?  To receive Christ as one’s “Personal Savior” requires a deep gratitude.  When Paul saved the jailer’s life in that prison in Philippi, the jailer owed Paul his life.  However, the jailer did not live only for Paul from that day forward.  In that sense Paul was his savior but not his Creator.  A savior has done a good work which requires a great depth of gratitude, but a Creator owns what he creates. “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Psa. 24:1).  “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine” (Eze. 18:4).  What belongs to the Creator should be reserved only for the Creator; however, man has ignored the Creator and the Creator’s purpose.  Some are willing to give God a token from their abundance, but that is not all that belongs to God.  He owns the world and everything in it.  He expects man to live only for him and his purposes.  “And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15).  Thus receiving Christ is to receive the purpose for which he died, that we would no longer live for ourselves, but for him. In fact, he gives us a specific warning that states that exact principle.  “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:35). Receiving Christ as ‘personal savior’ is to be thankful for what has been done in the past, and then to turn “every one to his own way” (Isa. 53:6). To receive Christ as Creator (John 1:10-12) is to turn from living for ourselves, lose all that we have, and live only for him and the gospel (Mark 8:35).  Those who receive Christ as Creator are given power to become the sons of God, for they believe on his name (authority) (John 1:12).  His authority is not for a part of our lives but it is all power (authority) in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18).

Not only is Christ our Creator, but he is also our Redeemer.  What does it mean to be a Redeemer or to be redeemed?  The significance of being redeemed by the blood of Christ is often only partially understood. To most, a Redeemer is someone who paid the price for our sins.  Forgiveness of sins is surely an integral part of our redemption, but only a part.  When we sin, we are taken captive by Satan.  When we are saved, God has “. . . translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13). Thus we are redeemed from Satan.  This is the blessing that we get, but it says nothing about what Christ gets.  The word ‘redeem’ is to ‘buy up.’   Christ is our redeemer because he has redeemed “. . .the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).  When Jesus redeems us, he purchases us.  We know now what it means to be redeemed.  He tells us plainly that “…ye are not your own.  For ye are bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Based on that purchase he says, “Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men” (1 Cor. 7:23). This is the reason for his declaration that: “…he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15). If we are purchased we do not belong to ourselves.  We belong to the one of who bought us.  If we belong to Christ, then we have no right to live our lives to suit ourselves.  This is why Jesus said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:35).  When we receive Christ as Creator and Redeemer we belong solely to him in two ways—he owns his creation and he owns what he has purchased.  We are truly and only his.

Children of God During the Old Testament Era

During Old Testament times, only a few were God’s spiritual children in His world (Psa. 14:3). In Jesus’ time, a few were spiritual children of Abraham (John 8:23), and we see that the apostles were walking in the steps of Abraham under the Old Law (John 8:39).  God’s spiritual children were scattered abroad during the Old Testament era (John 11:51-52).

There was a spiritual birth and death in Old Testament times.  All men were born alive to God during the Old Testament and New Testament periods (Rom. 7:7-9).  Adam and Eve were the first ones to die spiritually after they sinned (Gen 2:17).  In the Old Testament period all men died the same spiritual death we see in Rom. 5:12-14.  He gives the reason why all have died and simply testifies that all have sinned (Rom. 5:12).  All have sinned and thus have died spiritually (Rom. 3:23).  Men could be born again in the Old Testament period (Psa. 14:3).  Notice that Daniel came alive to God one day when, for the first time, God began to listen to his prayers (Dan. 12:10).  During that time God did not accept those who had turned away from His law (Pro. 28:9).  Even those once alive were rejected when they turned to sin (Isa. 59:1-2).  In Old Testament times the sinners were dead to God but the righteous were alive to God (Eze. 18:5-9).  It was during the Old Testament era that Paul died spiritually (Rom. 7:7-9).  There are two births in New Testament times (John 1:10-13).  The Old Testament birth is still a real birth (Dan. 10:12).  Daniel and many others came alive to God after they sinned and died spiritually.  The apostles were alive to God before the cross (Matt. 13:16).

The Lord gives many examples of those who were alive to Him before they came into the kingdom.  Cornelius was alive to God and his prayers and alms were accepted before he was in the kingdom (Acts 10:1-3).  He could not enter heaven without being in Christ, in the kingdom (Eph. 2:11-13).  Paul saw Christ and talked to Christ before he was converted (Acts 9:3-6), and he saw a vision before he was in the kingdom (Acts 9:12).  The Ethiopian Eunuch was chosen before he heard the gospel (Acts 8:26-29).  God opened Lydia’s heart before she was in the kingdom (Acts 16:14).  God knew many of the Corinthians before they heard His word (Acts 18:9-10).  God continues to seek those who understand and are seeking Him (Psa. 53:2).  God is the one who decides who will be become his children, and they are “. . . born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12, 13).  This is not to say that man has no part.  God responds to “. . . as many as received him. . .” and gives them “. . . power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12-13).

Great Commission: First Command Reviewed

The first step in the great commission is to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19) – disciples who are determined to grow to become like their master (Luke 6:40) in mind (Phil. 2:5) and heart (Matt. 11:28-30).  Our Father is satisfied if we become like Christ in mind and heart (Matt. 10:24,25), because having the mind and heart of Christ is to have the complete love with all of its parts (1 Cor. 13:4-8), which surely will cause the mouth (Matt. 12:34) and the body (James 3:2-5) to speak and do all of the will of God (Acts 13:22).  The first step in the great commission will turn us toward the purpose of God.  After we are turned to do the purpose of God we must have help and direction to fulfill that purpose. This is the reason for the second command of the Great Commission.