Summary: God wants both men and women to wear holiness and peace to church.
Norma Lauby, of La Mesa, California, was browsing in the ladies’ department one day with her son who was just learning to read. Trying to read all the signs he could, he came upon one in the maternity department. “Look, Mom!” he said excitedly as he pointed at the sign. “They’re even making clothes for eternity now!” (Norma Lauby, La Mesa, CA, “Heart to Heart,” Today’s Christian Woman)
Well, I doubt that the department store chains are making clothes for eternity, but God is. Through faith in Jesus Christ, God has provided just the right clothes for eternity, and He wants us to start wearing them today.
I’m sure as you got ready this morning, most of you asked the question: What do I wear to church today? It’s a very appropriate question, and somewhat controversial, because some say, “I want to wear my best for the Lord.” They’re the ones who dress up every Sunday in the best clothes they have out of respect for the Lord. They have a genuine desire to honor the Lord.
Others say, “God accepts me just as I am, so I don’t need to put on a show.” They’re the ones who go to church in their everyday clothes, also out of respect for the Lord who looks on the heart, not the outward appearance. These people have a genuine desire to be authentic before the Lord.
I suppose there is a third group who really don’t care how they look before the Lord, so there is no telling what they might wear to church (if and when they go).
There are various opinions about the appropriate dress for church, but there is only one opinion that counts, and that’s God’s opinion. Does God have an opinion about what we wear to church? Does God care how we dress before Him? Well, you might be surprised to learn that He does.
If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to 1 Timothy 2, 1 Timothy 2, where the Bible talks about the public worship services of the church and tells us what God wants us to wear to those services. First, he addresses the men.
1 Timothy 2:8 I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. (NIV)
Men, God wants us to WEAR HOLINESS AND PEACE TO CHURCH.
God wants us guys to come to the place of worship wholly devoted to Him and without strife and dissension. God desires that we come to church with a holy love for Him and for one another.
In the 3rd and 4th Centuries, and even to some extent today, the popular image of holiness was solitude, silence and severity. The really (quote) “holy people” back then were those who lived like hermits, wandering in the desert alone – fasting, praying and having visions. Some of them went to extremes: eating nothing but grass, living in trees, or refusing to wash.
Then Pachomius, an Egyptian soldier, came to faith in Christ through the witness of some Christians in Thebes. After his release from the military, around A.D. 315, he was baptized. Now, Pachomius was serious about his new faith and determined to grow, so he attached himself as a disciple of Palamon, an ascetic who taught him the self-denial and solitary life of a religious hermit.
But Pachomius began to question the methods and lifestyle of his mentors. How can you learn to love if no one else is around? How can you learn humility living alone? How can you learn kindness or gentleness or goodness in isolation? How can you learn patience unless someone puts yours to the test? In short, he concluded, developing spiritual fruit requires being around people – ordinary, ornery people. “To save souls,” he said, “you must bring them together.”
So Pachomius began to gather people together in communities where holiness was developed not in isolation, but in rubbing shoulders with flawed, demanding, and sometimes disagreeable people. As a result, followers of Pachomius learned to take hurt rather than give it. They discovered that disagreements and opposition provide the opportunity to redeem life situations and experience God’s grace. Thus began the monastic movement in the 4th Century. (Marshall Shelley, “Developing spiritual fruit requires being around ordinary, ornery people,” Leadership journal, Spring 1993; www.PreachingToday.com)
You see, holiness is not being pure and pious all by yourself. It is learning to live with and serve disagreeable people, even in the church. It is growing in love for the Lord and for others as we come together “without anger or disputing,” and that’s what God wants us men to wear to church.
God is not concerned so much about what we wear on the outside. His concern is the character we display, which comes from inside the heart. Specifically, God wants us to wear garments of holiness and peace in the place of prayer.