Case Dismissed (Zechariah 3:1-10)

“If life had a second edition,” wrote John Clair, “I would correct the proofs.” But as Steve Miller used to sing, “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’, into the future.” No part of our lives can be un-lived or re-lived. That’s why guilt can be such debilitating factor in many people’s lives. Past failures can feel like a ball and chain around the soul. Is there a solution for such a spiritual bondage? There is indeed, and we get a glimpse of it in Zechariah 3.

God gave the prophet Zechariah a message for the Jews who had returned from exile, many of whom were trying to get back on track with the Lord. They, too, had a past that was filled with shame. In picture form, God gives them his promised solution for sin and the guilt that usually comes with it. It’s the picture of Joshua, a high priest, who has dirty clothes and therefore is disqualified from ministering in the temple. God’s solution is to rebuke Joshua’s accuser in court and give the priest a new set of garments: “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you” (Zechariah 3:4). Case dismissed!

But how can God unilaterally dismiss a case without sufficient grounds? Wouldn’t he be violating a sense of due process in his own courtroom? Wouldn’t he be violating the canons of earthly ethics and eternal justice? Wouldn’t he be appealing to a legal fiction to simply declare that Joshua is now both sin-free and guilt-free? No, not in this case, for God speaks of that which is “symbolic of things to come” (Zechariah 3:8)—a “servant,” a “branch,” and a “stone,” all terms that refer to the coming messiah.

God says, “I will remove the sin of this land in a single day” (Zechariah 3:9), and he did—on Good Friday. The case against God’s people is dismissed because God in Christ has paid their debt on the cross. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Apostle John wrote, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1). Indeed, when God is your advocate, all charges against you will be dropped.

No part of our lives can be unlived or re-lived, but we can still have a new life in Christ by faith. It’s a life in which not only are the charges against us dropped, but we are also sentenced to eternal life in the unrelenting love of God. That’s why we call it the “gospel,” the good news of Jesus Christ.

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

From Cackling to Squealing

Last week I wrote about our Cackling Little Bubby and shared a few clips of Samuel putting us in stitches. Here’s a clip of his newfound capacity for squealing. It reminded me of an article in the UK Independent several years ago in which scientists claimed that dolphins and whales squeal with delight “like children” when they are having fun. Samuel, I think, can laugh with the best of them.

And a couple more, just for fun. 🙂

Nine Months In, Nine Months Out

Samuel has now spent the same amount of time ex utero as he has in utero. Happy 9-month-iversary, dear one! But those nine months have just been chronos time. Every moment we’ve spent together with our little Bubby has been kairos time. (Yes, there’s a beautiful difference between those two Greek words for time.)

What a joy and delight SamJam has been to us since we first laid eyes on him and held him in our arms! (And, yes, his list of nicknames just keeps growing, as does he! Right, Boo?) Here are a few snaps from the recent milestone.

Unrelatedly, our Friday movie night venture is about halfway through season 4 of Stranger Things. Drew and I agree that a marvelous storyline is unfolding, and we’re looking forward to seeing how this arc comes to resolution. I suppose, then, that now is as good a time as any to recommend Michael Heiser’s The World Turned Upside Down: Finding the Gospel in Stranger Things.

ISBN-13: ‎978-1683593225

Dr. Heiser is a top-tier Old Testament scholar who’s been cited a few times already in my second dissertation. I have about eight or nine of his books and listen to his two main podcasts regularly. In addition to specializing in ancient Near Eastern cultures, he devotes a lot of his time to all things supernatural. For him, the stranger the better! But do pray for Dr. Heiser, as he is fighting a nasty battle with pancreatic cancer. So far so good, thank the Lord.

Be blessed and have a great holiday weekend!

Our Cackling Little Bubby

Samuel is such a happy little boy (except, of course, when it’s nap time). Lately he’s been hootin’ and hollerin’ and having a grand ol’ time with his newly discovered capacity for cackling. There’s even a brief clip below of daddy helping him learn how to scat. Maybe he’a a jazz singer in the making. It’s hard to believe he’ll be nine months old in two days. He’s an endless source of joy and laughter, and I love him to pieces! Enjoy a few slices of life through a child’s eyes.

Response to mommy coming home from a wedding shower.
Loving life on daddy’s shoulders.
Watch out, Ella Fitzgerald!

And a few pics…

Helping around the house.
First time in a grocery cart.
Just being adorable! 🙂

Salvation Made Visible (Mark 2:1-12 and Selected Verses)

In Mark 2:1-12, Jesus famously healed the paralytic, a man lowered on his mat through someone’s roof because of the crowd. Before Jesus restored his legs, however, he restored his soul, declaring the man’s sins forgiven. Some folks in the crowd fussed at Jesus for saying such a thing because only God himself can forgive a person’s sins. Therefore, Jesus told the man to take up his mat and walk home, in full view of the crowd. To everyone’s amazement, he did. The visible miracle (the healing of his legs) authenticated the invisible miracle (the forgiveness of his sins). In a dramatic display of his own power and authority, then, Jesus made the man’s salvation visible to everyone.

This story teaches us a lot about Jesus, but it also illustrates how God wants a believer’s salvation to be made visible in our day, too. He wants it to be verifiable. He wants it to be evidence by a changed life. The theological word is “sanctification,” which means to be set apart. This message looks at the doctrine of sanctification—the process by which God shapes a believer’s character over time to be more like Christ’s. While justification speaks of the beginning of our salvation, sanctification speaks of the continuing of our salvation. Like the two natures of Christ, they are distinct theological realties, but they cannot be separated.

Justification is about Christ’s work for us on the cross. Sanctification is about Christ’s work in us by the Holy Spirit. Justification is about Christ’s completed work in making us his children forever. Sanctification is about Christ’s continuing work in making us godly in life. Justification is about removing the penalty of sin in our lives. Sanctification is about breaking the power of sin in our lives. Justification is about forgiveness, so that we can come to God. Sanctification is about holiness, so that we can become like God (in character). Justification calls us to believe. Sanctification calls us to behave.

John Calvin explained the relationship between justification and sanctification using the sun as an illustration. He said the sun’s heat and the sun’s light are two distinguishable things. They are not the same, but they are always found together. They both flow from the nature of what the sun is. Moreover, we cannot have the sun’s heat without the suns’ light in the same way that we cannot have justification without sanctification.

Sanctification, then, is progressively growing in the grace we have freely received in Christ. It is the continuing work of God in the life of the believer, making us holy in practice, not merely in position. As Maxie Dunham has said, “We don’t buy a violin today and expect to give a concert in Carnegie Hall tomorrow. Similarly, we may be converted to Christ in a moment, but…walking as a Christian requires discipline and is a lifelong undertaking. As Christians, we do not emerge from our conversion fully grown; we must grow.” The Apostle Peter would agree: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). In short, belief behaves.

When we embrace Jesus as the Savior who justifies us, we are at the same time embracing Jesus as the Lord who sanctifies us. The key to sanctification is living up to what we have already attained in Christ (cf. Philippians 3:16).

Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.