Impossible?

His answer to their question [“Then who can be saved?”] is one of the great theological affirmations of the Bible: “With men it is impossible, but not with God, because all things are possible with God.” Salvation is something man cannot accomplish. Left to himself, he will never make it into God’s kingdom and inherit eternal life. Salvation is, has always been, and will always be a divine accomplishment through the perfect atonement and sacrificial death of God’s Son. Done, not do!

— Danny Akin, Exalting Jesus in Mark, 224.

Gospel Conversations

Continuing our class on big- and small-picture things in the life of faith, this past Sunday we began a discussion about having gospel conversations. Everyone who has been born again had someone(s) sometime(s) talk about Jesus with them, but each conversation is as unique as the individuals and situations they find themselves in.

Our conversation looked at how those conversations are begun and the difficulties and fears involved.

Audio of the discussion can be found here on our Sunday School page.

UPDATE: see Part Two, which continues the conversation.

What Are You Wearing?

Zechariah 3 records a vision given to the prophet, and it is one of the most poignant, hopeful images of grace in the Scriptures. Zechariah sees Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of Yahweh (likely Jesus Himself here) and Satan is standing at Joshua’s right side.

Satan is in the position of accuser here, and he has plenty of material to work with. Instead of the robes designed “for beauty and for glory,” Joshua’s robes are filthy–the word signifies that they are soiled with excrement. Yahweh’s commands for purity, cleanliness, and holiness, particularly for the man serving as high priest, are clear and unequivocal. Joshua has no place standing before God like this. It is his shame, and he deserves to be consumed in wrath for it. No doubt, this is the substance of Satan’s accusations against him.

And yet, Jesus does something amazing: He orders Joshua’s filthy clothes to be removed from him and replaced with “splendid robes.” To drive the point home, He says to Joshua, “See, I have removed your guilt from you.” Satan the Accuser has lost all his ammunition; what more can he say when the trial is over? The verdict has been given, and there is no double jeopardy in the courts of Yahweh. This point is also seen in that Satan is neither seen nor heard from for the rest of the vision. Silence is golden–the marvelous silence of no condemnation.

With that context, then, reading Psalm 109 is horrifying. It is the stuff of nightmares–it is hell itself.

Set a wicked person over him;
let an accuser stand at his right hand.
When he is judged, let him be found guilty,
and let his prayer be counted as sin.
Let his days be few;
let another take over his position.
Let his children be fatherless
and his wife a widow.
Let his children wander as beggars;
searching for food far from their demolished homes.
Let a creditor seize all he has;
let strangers plunder what he has worked for.
Let no one show him kindness,
and let no one be gracious to his fatherless children.
Let the line of his descendants be cut off;
let their name be blotted out in the next generation.
Let his forefathers’ guilt be remembered before the LORD,
and do not let his mother’s sin be blotted out.
Let their sins always remain before the LORD,
and let Him cut off all memory of them from the earth (Psalm 109:6-16 HCSB).

The parallels with Zechariah 2-3 are striking.

Psalm 109 Zechariah 2-3
“let an accuser stand at his right hand” (109:6) “with Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him” (3:1)
“let no one show him kindness” (109:12) “The LORD replied with kind and comforting words” (2:13)
“let no one be gracious
to his fatherless children” (109:12)
“I have graciously returned to Jerusalem” (2:16)
“Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls because of the number of people and livestock in it” (2:4)
“let his forefathers’ guilt be remembered before the LORD” (109:14) “‘See, I have removed your guilt from you'” (3:4)
“let their sins always remain before the LORD” (109:15) “See,…I will clothe you with splendid robes” (3:4)
“I will grant you access among these who are standing here” (3:7)
 “Let a creditor seize all he has;
let strangers plunder what he has worked for” (109:11)
 “On that day, each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree” (3:10)

We also can’t ignore that Psalm 109:8 was the justification for replacing Judas as apostle. Thus, we are presented with two possible outcomes for our lives: Judas or Joshua.

Being born again means that Jesus has declared us to be unworthy of our filthy robes and worthy of His splendid robes. He has declared this to be true, and then He and the Father give the Holy Spirit to dwell within us to actually make us unworthy and worthy. Jesus does this because even though He was only worthy of splendid robes of holiness and righteousness, He takes our hateful, filthy robes of sin off of us and puts them on Himself. He wraps us in the splendid robes we had no business looking at, much less wearing.

“See, I have removed your guilt from you, and I will clothe you with splendid robes.”

“Then I heard something like the voice of a vast multitude, like the sound of cascading waters, and like the rumbling of loud thunder, saying:

Hallelujah–because our Lord God, the Almighty has begun to reign!
Let us be glad, rejoice, and give Him glory,
because the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and His wife has prepared herself.
She was permitted to wear fine linen, bright and pure.

For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints. … The armies that were in heaven followed Him on white horses, wearing pure white linen” (Revelation 19:6-8, 14 HCSB)

So, what are you wearing?

Prayer

Holy and holy-making Father,

You have made all things,
and You made them all very good.
In all the vast universe and everything in it that You made,
what is man, that You remember us?
Who are we, that You care for us?

You honored Adam so highly when You made him,
making him just lower than the angels for a short time.
You loved him beyond any other creature,
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You even gave him dominion and rule over all You had made,
subjecting everything under his feet.

Adam sinned against You, and we all suffer the reign of sin.
We know what we should see, but we do not yet see everything subjected to man.
But You did not abandon us to the curse of sin and the fury of judgment,
because we do see Your Son Jesus.

Jesus too was made lower than the angels for a short time,
but instead of sinning He tasted death for everyone;
dying for sinners to be forgiven,
He received a crown of glory and honor
because of the reward of His suffering of death.

It was perfectly fitting in Your plan to bring many sons to glory,
that the One who saves us would be made perfect for us through suffering for us.
You are His Father, and You have adopted us to become our Father;
Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers.

In fact, Jesus gladly leads us to worship You, Father.
He proclaims Your name to us brothers,
and leads us in singing hymns to You when we gather.
He shows us by His perfect life what it is to say,
“I will trust in You, Father.”
He is even proud of us, gladly associating with us:
“Look, Abba! Look at all the children You gave Me!”

Look at how great a love the Father has given us,
that we should be called God’s children.

And we are!

Hallelujah! Oh, hallelujah!

‘What is man, that You remember him,
or the son of man, that You care for him?
You made him lower than the angels for a short time;
You crowned him with glory and honor
and subjected everything under his feet.’

For in subjecting everything to him, He left nothing not subject to him. As it is, we do not yet see everything subjected to him. But we do see Jesus–made lower than the angels for a short time so that by God’s grace He might taste death for everyone–crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death.

For it was fitting, in bringing many sons to glory, that He, for whom and through whom all things exist, should make the source of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the One who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. That is why He is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying:

‘I will proclaim Your name to my brothers;
I will sing hymns to You in the congregation.’

Again, ‘I will trust in Him.’ And again, ‘Here I am with the children God gave Me.’

Hebrews 2:b-13 HCSB

 

Look at how great a love the Father has given us, that we should be called God’s children. And we are! 1 John 3:1 HCSB