Removing the Graveclothes
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing…. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15: 5, 12
What if Jesus, after raising Lazarus from the dead, had commanded each strip of grave cloth to become a butterfly? If, on His command, they flew away -- freeing Lazarus? Compared to His resurrection miracle, it would seem to be child’s play. People would have remembered it. More glory for Him.
Instead, He gives His followers a simple task. “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” He is always giving us kingdom tasks where we can serve Him and one another. He invites us to remain in Him. He doesn’t say “apart from me you will be less effective in your work”. No, “apart from me you can do….” !
As we strive obey His command to love each other as He loved us, to help others remove their grave clothes, we must not think for a minute that all we need is “just a little help” from the Master. He is inviting you to remain in Him as He draws all people to Himself. We get to receive His Love and to share it with others in simple, tangible ways. Remain in Jesus, the true vine, and you will bear much fruit. The grave clothes will be taken away.
“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you…” Romans 15:7
As I consider my own strip of Grave Cloth, I want to roll it up and stick it where no one can see. Anonymity feels safe, but it leads nowhere. When I’m confident enough to disclose to someone I trust, I’m on a path that is defined by God’s grace and leads to new life. Here’s the catch, I need that someone to accept my stinky bit, accept me, while still holding out hope for the change that Christ is doing in me.
As I see someone approach me, reeking in grave clothes, I hear God’s call to accept one another… as Christ has accepted me. Yes, that stink smells slightly familiar. The free love of Christ frees me to love another. He invites me to be a partner for others taking their first stumbling steps out of the tomb. He invites me to be His partner in God’s glorious change.
Who in your network is in grave need of acceptance right now. If you can’t come up with that name, ask the Holy Spirit to fill the blank for you and listen expectantly. Consider carefully God’s acceptance of you as you reflect on how you can take an accepting step toward this person. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you.
I grew up camping and one of the best parts about camping is the campfire. It is fascinating to watch the pieces of wood feed off each other. Wood piled together burns hot. Occasionally, one piece will topple and get separated from the rest. This solitary piece will quickly burn out. Unfortunately, this can happen with Christians.
We have been celebrating the Easter promise. Through the redeeming love of Christ, our sins are forgiven, we have been made new! Now we need help removing our grave clothes. That’s why Jesus has given us a community; a faith family that can help us with our grave clothes. Jesus knew that alone, like that solitary piece of wood, we could lose our burn.
In community, we can lift each other up, love one another Romans 13:8, carry each other’s burdens Galatians 6:2, pray for one James 5:16, celebrate together and cry together 1 Thessalonians 5:11, we can help each other strip away the grave clothes and put on the righteousness of Christ alone.
Consider these grave clothes stripping tools and notice which one raises a name for you. Pray that God would use you today to help someone to strip away their grave clothes.
Strength in Numbers
Teamwork makes the dream work…
John C. Maxwell
It takes a village to raise a child, to carry out some of our responsibilities. It takes a village to shed our grave clothes and live this Christian life. Life is about connections, relationships, lightening each other's loads, holding each other up when you don't believe you can endure the race any longer. Society talks about developing independence. While that’s necessary to live in this world, a crucial part of that identity development comes in developing interdependence. God created us to be in fellowship with others not to live separate from each other.
When you hear that others are walking the same hard path a sense of connection blooms and loneliness begins to fade away. When we “Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way, obey the law of Christ” Galatians 6:2 (NLT), we are fulfilling the “Royal law found in Scripture. Love your neighbor as yourself’, you are doing right” James 2:8 (NIV). Sometimes all it takes is a smile, a kind word, a nod of understanding, or bringing a moment of laughter and lightness to change the trajectory of the day and give that person hope. When we connect with others, the feelings of isolation, rejection, or abandonment are uprooted and feelings of kinship and attachment are replaced in their heart.
Invite Jesus into your relationship, that’s when God’s dream of having all His children united, begins to work. Though one may be over powered, two can defend themselves, a cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12(NIV)
“Serve one another in love.” Galatians 5:13
Before you go one step further in seeking an opportunity, we have to stop and do a heart check. Approaching someone with even a hint of superiority can be disastrous. Jesus described it as an attempt to remove something from someone’s eye while being blinded yourself. Matthew 7:4&5.
Peeling off graveclothes has to rank right up there with washing dirty feet. The smelly task the disciples had avoided, Jesus willingly takes up (John 13) and then tells them to do the same. Jesus’ servant heart is what ultimately binds us to Him. It’s His servant heart beating in us that makes removing someone’s grave clothes possible… approachable.
If you’re feeling hesitation about the people God has brought to your mind this week, remember the love Jesus has for you. Remember how well he has served you to offer you a new life. Meditate (give time to focus and think) on “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son” John 3:16. Ask God to fill you to overflowing with His love.
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