A primer on fashion etiquette for Easter.
“Ooh! I love your outfit!”
“Where did you get your dress?”
“That color looks great on you!”
“Oh, doesn’t she look precious!”
“Is Seersucker back in style?”
“Seriously, dude! Pink slacks?”
Let’s face it. Easter is huge when it comes to fashion. Easter Sunday is one of the highest attended Sundays of the church year and, for more of us, it’s still in to dress up for Easter. Sure, there are those of us who will wear the same old thing, almost as a silent form of protest. But there will be plenty of people, young and old, male and female, who will be sporting their Easter finest – whether it’s a new shirt, new shoes or a whole new outfit. And regardless of the temperature outside, the colors will be brighter and the fabrics, lighter. There will be plenty of yellow, light blue, green and yes, even pink. And whether or not Seersucker is back in style or not, some brave soul will be sporting a suit or sport coat made of whatever Seersucker is made of.
Like most churches around our city, we’re expecting record crowds this Easter. We’ve even planned for eleven services to help handle the thousands of people who will be showing up Easter Sunday (or Saturday) in their Easter finery. In those crowds will be our regular attenders, friends and visiting family members, and lots of first-time guests. And each and every one of them will be welcome, regardless of what they’re wearing. In fact, there will be a veritable smorgasbord of fashion styles represented – from the GAP to Gucci and L.L. Bean to Louis Feraud. There will be shorts and suits, sandals and high heels, slacks and skirts, and even jeans. Even the occasional, albeit reluctant, male in the pink pants his wife bought him for Easter.
A New Easter Outfit
If I could make one suggestion as to your Easter attire this year, it would be that you consider wearing the one thing that is sure to get you far more than just noticed and something far more lasting than a complement. It isn’t available in any store, can’t be purchased online, only comes in one color and a single size. Its value is priceless, but it can’t be bought. It won’t make you look slimmer, taller, or bring out the color in your eyes. You’ll find very few celebrities wearing or endorsing it. The major department stores don’t stock it. But there are literally millions of people worldwide walking around in it.
I’m talking about the righteousness of Christ. It’s the one thing that I wish every person who walks in the doors of their church of choice this Easter would walk out wearing. It’s what Easter is all about. This holiday or, better yet, holy day, is about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But you probably already knew that. But did you know that this one-of-a-kind event made possible a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you to make a radical change to your spiritual wardrobe that would be of eternal significance? At Easter, we celebrate the death of Jesus. Sounds rather odd and a bit macabre, doesn’t it? Yes, we celebrate His resurrection as well, but had Jesus not died, there would have been no need for a resurrection. Jesus’ death is an essential part of the Easter story. Without it, there really is no story, and no hope. Jesus came to die. It was the primary purpose behind His birth and the ultimate objective for His entire life. But why was His death necessary? Simply put, because of sin. Your sin and mine. You see, sin had entered the world through the rebellion of our common ancestors, Adam and Eve, and has infected every living human being. “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned” (Romans 5:12 NLT). From that point forward, the DNA of sin was passed down from generation to generation. And because God is holy, completely righteous, and can’t tolerate sin, He had to judge all those who commit sin as guilty and worthy of punishment. And the Word of God makes it painfully clear who the guilty are: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NLT). None of us measure up to God’s holy standard. None of us are without sin. “…for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin. As the Scriptures say, ‘No one is righteous – not even one.’” (Romans 3:9-10 NLT). And if you still think sin somehow doesn’t apply to you, think again. “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth” (1 John 1:8 NLT). The sad reality is, every single one of us have sinned and, as a result, we face the justice of God. So what is God supposed to do with our sin? He has to punish it, and the only punishment that will satisfy His justice is death. “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a NLT).
Charles Ryrie gives us a clear picture of the options available to God:
“If God, the Judge, is without injustice and completely righteous in all His decisions, then how can He announce a sinner righteous? And sinners we all are. There are only three options open to God as sinners stand in His courtroom. He must condemn them, compromise His own righteousness to receive them as they are, or He can change them into righteous people. If He can exercise the third option, then He can announce them righteous, which is justification. But any righteousness the sinner has must be actual, not fictitious; real, not imagined; acceptable by God’s standards, and not a whit short. If this can be accomplished, then, and only then, can He justify. Job stated the problem accurately when he asked, ‘how can a man be in the right before God?’” (Charles Ryrie, Systematic Theology).
You see, as God, He can’t ignore our sin or overlook it. To do so would make Him unjust. He would not be doing His job as God. So God, being righteous, must do the right thing and punish sin with death.
Our Sin Substitute
But here’s the good news. God came up with a plan to satisfy His righteous demands that would not require our deaths as payment for our sins. He chose to send His Son into the world in the form of a human being, an ordinary man, and asked Him to live the perfectly righteous life that none of us were capable of living. Jesus, the Son of God, became a man so that He could live sinlessly and completely obedient to the will of God – something none of us could have ever done on our own. Then, He willingly volunteered to die in our place, as our sin substitute, taking on the punishment we deserved. God could accept His life as a sacrifice for our sin because He was unblemished and unmarred by any sins of His own. The apostle Paul tells us,
“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation” (Romans 5:8-9 NLT). Elsewhere Paul tells us, “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18 NLT). That’s the real story of Easter. Jesus Christ willingly gave up His righteous life so that undeserving, unrighteous men and women like you and me could be given a new lease on life.
Clothed In Righteousness
So what happened at the cross? What did Jesus’ death accomplish? With His death on the cross, Jesus undid what Adam and Eve had done. “Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and a new life for everyone. Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:18-19 NLT). Jesus made it possible for men and women to be made right with God, but not based on a righteousness of their own, because that would have been impossible. The apostle Paul knew this all too well. Here was a man who had spent his entire adult life trying to “be righteous.” He was a well-respected religious leader in his day. He was a legalist, doing everything he could to keep God happy by trying to keep God’s law. But listen to what he says. “I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9 NLT). Paul is talking about how to become just in the eyes of God. He is telling us how we can stand before God as righteous when we have no capacity to actually live righteous lives on our own. So God must supply us with His own righteousness. In his book, The Great Exchange, Jerry Bridges puts it this way: “As it applies to man, the expression [the righteousness of God] refers to the righteousness that God requires from man, a righteousness no sinner can provide on his or her own. Thus, the phrase ultimately refers to the righteousness that is transferred from the sinless Christ to sinners as a result of his finished work on the cross.”
When we come to faith in Christ, believing that He is who He says He is, the Son of God; and we accept the gift He offers us, a restored relationship with God the Father based on His death in our place on the cross – we receive His righteousness. Jesus Christ took on all the sins of mankind on the cross, and when we believe that fact, we receive His righteousness, like a new set of clothes. So that now, when God looks at us, He no longer sees our sin, but He sees us clothed in the righteousness of Christ. And the great thing about this outfit is that it never goes out of style. I love the way Tony Evans puts it: “We all get dirty as we live in this world, but because we have peace and access and hope, we can come to God and receive a cleansing and a new set of clothes…all because we have been justified as a gift of God’s grace” (Tony Evans, Theology You Can Count On).
Are you clothed in the righteousness of Christ? If not, I strongly suggest you go straight to the manufacturer – Jesus Christ Himself. There is nothing else worth wearing this Easter or any other time of the year. But I can’t think of any better time of the year than Easter to walk away in a new outfit that will have God Himself looking on in admiration.
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. – Romans 10:8-10 NLT