Most of the television interviews I do for cable news are taped in the late afternoon or are live in the evening. That means I must concentrate on keeping my clothes clean throughout the day. I tuck a napkin into my shirt collar at lunch to prevent stains on my tie. I immediately use a wet towel to wipe off any dirt on my suit jacket.
And right before the camera rolls, someone runs a lint remover over my garment. All of this attention is necessary because the bright lights and high-definition television equipment are unforgiving and will reveal to millions of people any imperfections in my attire.
Similarly, there’s a day coming when every Christian’s “clothing” or actions will be placed under the glare of God’s judgment and will reveal any imperfections. That “day” is the day of Christ’s return in which “each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it” (1 Cor. 3:13). The purpose of this judgment is to determine not the believer’s eternal destiny but his or her eternal rewards.
The Bible often uses clothing as a metaphor for our spiritual lives. It’s helpful to understand that in biblical times people often wore two different types of tunics: an inner tunic (comparable to today’s undergarments) that no one saw and an outer tunic that was visible to everyone.
Every Christian also wears two kinds of spiritual garments. Our “inner tunic” is our judicial righteousness—meaning our “right standing” with God—that God places on us when we trust in Christ as our Savior. Paul referred to our judicial righteousness when he prayed that on the day he finally met God he might “be found in Him, not having a righteousness of [his] own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ” (Phil. 3:9). Our “inner garment” of God’s forgiveness is something we receive from Him. There is nothing we can do to improve it, soil it, or remove it.
But no one wants to walk around wearing only undergarments! That’s why, to be properly dressed, we must put on our “outer tunic.” This “outer tunic” represents a Christian’s ethical righteousness, which is how we live after we become a Christian. While judicial righteousness refers to our “right standing” before God, ethical righteousness represents our “right acting” before God after we are saved.
The Bible compares a Christian’s behavior after he or she is saved to these outer garments. Unlike the “one-size-fits-all” inner garment, there are a variety of outer garments we can put on, ranging from stylish to hideous and clean to filthy. The apostle John encourages believers to be dressed in our best “clothes” when Christ returns. “It was given to [the church],” John wrote, “to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev. 19:8).
You would never think of attending an elaborate, formal wedding in Bermuda shorts or a halter top. You would put on your finest tuxedo or dress for such a special occasion. However, even if you were wearing expensive clothes, no one would notice your finery if your garment had a humongous chocolate syrup stain on the front!
As Christians we should adorn our lives with the finest “garments” or good works we can—not to earn Christ’s forgiveness but to receive His rewards when He returns and consummates the “marriage” between Himself and His church. We should be careful to keep our lives “clean” and not stain those righteous acts with sin.
One of the best detergents for keeping our lives spotless is keeping our eyes focused on the promise of heaven. The writer to the Hebrews said that Moses, the son of royal privilege who was surrounded by the luxuries of Egypt, willingly endured “ill-treatment with the people of God” rather than enjoying “the passing pleasures of sin,” because “he was looking to the reward” he would receive in heaven (Heb. 11:25–27).
Dr. Robert Jeffress is the best-selling author of 24 books, a nationally and internationally syndicated TV and radio host and the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, one of the largest and most influential churches in America Pathway to Victory, Dr. Jeffress’ broadcast ministry, airs daily nationwide on more than 900 radio stations and is broadcast live to 195 countries. His latest book, A Place Called Heaven: 10 Surprising Truths About Your Eternal Home, will release September 2017. He is an evangelical advisor to the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.