Fig leavesToday is the first cold day of fall. After a long summer of a meteorological pas de deux of heat waves and rainstorms, we’ve hit the first cold snap of autumn. The garden gnomes and plastic flamingoes seek shelter in the shed, the closets trade short-sleeve cotton for long-sleeve wool, and the sweaters rise from their cedar-and-mothball tombs. The change of wardrobes is a seasonal ritual for man and foliage alike. For humans, clothing is a matter of style — what we wear makes a statement. You can tell a lot about a person and their clothing by the label. Labels tell where the outfit was made, of what it was made, and who designed it. Labels are reflections of quality and prestige.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve created the first line of apparel out of fig leaves to cover the shame of their nakedness (Genesis 3:7). However, the materials were cheap and unsuitable, so God made more costly replacements out of animal skins (3:21).

We are born both physically and spiritually naked. Covering the body is not enough to hide the shame of our sinful spirits. Like the Pharisees, we can seem respectable on the outside but be corrupt on the inside (Matthew 23:27). God sees the inner person — the thoughts and motives inside the skin (Hebrews 4:12). We need new garments to cover the inner person. In Zechariah Chapter 3, Joshua the high priest is in the heavenly dressing room, trading his filthy garments for new raiment created in heaven out of the finest materials. This is a symbol of the salvation tailored by God to replace the shameful garments of our sinful birth.

The Bible speaks a lot about taking off the old civvies and putting on the new. In a culture where dress codes are changing, we might wonder why what we wear is a big deal. In Matthew Chapter 22, Jesus tells the parable of the wedding feast, a story about those who are accepted into the kingdom of God. The party is going well, “‘But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (vv. 11–13).

Did Jesus mean the intruder wasn’t sporting haute couture? Of course not; the meaning was deeper. It had to do with the expression of the inner man; it represents an entire transformation. The apostle Paul reminded the Christians in Colossae, “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:9, 10). The chapter exhorts the believers to live the new life in Christ, which means putting away sin and living righteously — wearing an outfit that makes a statement about their relationship with God. In fact, Paul sums it up this way: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14). You have probably recently seen children roaming the streets dressed in imitation of their favorite characters. In similar fashion, we are to “ . . . be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1).

On a final note, when we sing our final note, believers will inherit a final ensemble designed and made in heaven out of living material that will never wear out. “For in this tent [i.e., body] we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened — not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:2–3). Top that, Calvin Klein!

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