Thursday, November 28, 2013

Snatched from the Fire

Today is the fourth day of our 47th week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures today are:  Zech 2-5; 1 John 3; Psalm 93.

Today is Thanksgiving Day in America--and today I'm thankful that our OT and NT scriptures go together, the one to shed light on the other.  Generally, it's the NT passage that illuminates the OT scripture.  This time, it's the other way around.

A quick reading of 1 John 3 can be very depressing, because it can leave you feeling like if you ever sin, you're probably not saved.  In verses 4-10 (HCSB), John writes:

Everyone who commits sin also breaks the law; sin is the breaking of law.  You know that He was revealed so that He might take away sins, and there is no sin in Him. Everyone who remains in Him does not sin; everyone who sins has not seen Him or known Him.
 Little children, let no one deceive you! The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous.  The one who commits sin is of the Devil, for the Devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the Devil’s works. Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because His seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God.  This is how God’s children—and the Devil’s children—are made evident.

John seems to set a standard to which no one can attain.  First, it's important to point out that John is talking about willful, repetitive, habitual, lifestyle sin--not the falling into momentary temptation that every Christian experiences.  Second, John gives a method of ensuring that the believer doesn't find himself descending into habitual wickedness.  That method is the word that we studied yesterday, and it's found in verse 6.  Remain  in Christ, and you won't fall into the kind of sin that proves you haven't truly been transformed.  

Still, this passage in 1 John can be a very frightening thing, causing even true believers to question their standing in Christ.  Our consciences convict us when Satan reminds us of all the things that we've done.  1 John 3:18-20 (HCSB) says:

Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action.  This is how we will know we belong to the truth and will convince our conscience in His presence, even if our conscience condemns us, that God is greater than our conscience, and He knows all things.

To shed light on all of this, we turn to Zechariah 3:1-9.  Here, the high priest Joshua represents all of God's people.  Satan accuses him of sin--and the accuser is correct.  "All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)."  But see the solution to the problem:

 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, with Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.  The Lord said to Satan: “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! May the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Isn’t this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”
 Now Joshua was dressed with filthy clothes as he stood before the Angel.  So the Angel of the Lord spoke to those standing before Him, “Take off his filthy clothes!” Then He said to him, “See, I have removed your guilt from you, and I will clothe you with splendid robes.”
 Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So a clean turban was placed on his head, and they clothed him in garments while the Angel of the Lord was standing nearby.
 Then the Angel of the Lord charged Joshua:  “This is what the Lord of Hosts says: If you walk in My ways and keep My instructions, you will both rule My house and take care of My courts; I will also grant you access among these who are standing here.
 “Listen, Joshua the high priest, you and your colleagues sitting before you; indeed, these men are a sign that I am about to bring My servant, the Branch.  Notice the stone I have set before Joshua; on that one stone are seven eyes. I will engrave an inscription on it”—this is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts—“and I will take away the guilt of this land in a single day."

Here, the OT passage sheds light on the NT scripture.  Anytime Satan accuses you of "not being good enough," because of what you've done, remind him that you've been purified by Jesus, that righteous Branch.  1 John 2:1-2 says:

My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the Righteous One.  He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.

Jesus has removed your guilt and atoned for your sins.  He has cleansed you and given you clean garments once again.  When you were in your sin, you were a burning stick, but you have been snatched from the fire, if you've given your life to Him.

Notice that this gift of purification is free, but once Joshua is purified, God has certain expectations of him.  Verse 6 says, "If you walk in My ways and keep My instructions, you will both rule My house and take care of My courts; I will also grant you access among these who are standing here (the court of Heaven)."  While salvation is free, the blessings and benefits of that salvation are contingent on obedience.  He expects us to live His commands.  1 John 3:23-24 (HCSB) says:

Now this is His command: that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another as He commanded us.  The one who keeps His commands remains in Him, and He in him. And the way we know that He remains in us is from the Spirit He has given us.

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