Filthy in God’s Sight

by Mike Ratliff

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” (Zechariah 3:1-4 ESV)

The neo-evangelists in our day push their evangelical emphasis to the forefront where it has become the golden calf in their churches. Instead of obeying our Lord to make disciples they seek to multiply their numbers through easy believism. They use shame tactics to get their flocks to bring their friends and relatives to church so they can hear that Jesus wants to come into their lives so they can live abundantly here and now.

It is a golden calf because it is the primary focus at the cost of discipleship. Being an idol, it cannot deliver on its promises though. Whereas, we learn in the Bible that those who abide in Christ and His word and obey Him in all things will have an abundant life. This abundant life is spiritual not material. It is the byproduct of becoming more and more Christlike as God molds and shapes His people as they surrender to the Lordship of Christ more and more in every part of their lives. On the other hand, the golden calf’s version of the Gospel is incomplete and skewed towards “decisions for Christ” instead of giving people the good news that even though they are filthy in God’s sight because of their sin, there is peace available between God and men through the Son who paid the price for their sin.

It is as the genuine Gospel is preached that the Holy Spirit moves and works in people’s hearts to convict and open to know the truth. However, the golden calf gospel is one whose foundation is marketing. Yes, the priests of this idol use the same marketing techniques that Madison Avenue uses to sell the goods of this world. Each church in this cult of the golden calf makes sure that their high priest is a great salesman. God calls pastors of genuine churches to the ministry. They are gifted spiritually to minister to the flock God gives them. Their task is to speak the truth from the Bible to edify their flocks, convict the lost and teach the sheep to be good disciples. They know that it is God who saves people and their job is to simply preach the genuine Gospel and leave the results the Holy Spirit.

God’s men must be humble if they are to be effective leaders here in this age. However, all of us are tied to our flesh and our pride is still in place seeking to create circumstances and situations that it can use to bring self-glory. Those who know God also know that it is this pride that separates us from His grace. It is as we humble ourselves before Him that He does His wonderful work in our hearts to sanctify us. Look at the following passage, which is also at the top of this post.

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” (Zechariah 3:1-4 ESV)

Martin Luther had this to say about it:

Joshua, the chief priest at this time, was selected by God to lead the people. In these verses and ones that follow, God linked his promises to Joshua’s obedience. By doing this, God guarded against Joshua becoming too proud as a result of his receiving visions, comfort, and promises earlier. Rather than assuming that God was bound by his promises and had to fulfill them, Joshua needed to remain humble and continue to live in the fear of God.

We who live on this earth are such poor people. We become easily discouraged and fainthearted when God punishes us and sends us problems. Then God has plenty of work to do to comfort and lift us up again. After he comforts us and allows us to experience good times, we become proud and overconfident. Then he has to threaten and frighten us. So we are too weak and fragile to endure what God allows to happen to us—whether good or bad. No matter what he does for us, he ends up having more work to do. We can’t hold up under the bad times, and we can’t hold on during the good times.

After giving Joshua great promises, God needed to humble him. God couldn’t allow Joshua to become arrogant in the light of such wonderful promises. Similarly, Saul and many other kings of Israel were blinded by God’s promises. They became too proud and were destroyed as a result. Though their ancestors were completely dependent on God and his promises, they didn’t want to obey him. Oh, if only we could recognize how poor and filthy we are in God’s sight! – Martin Luther

When I watch the videos and read the sermons or comments or interviews with the neo-evangelicals, I do not sense any humility there. Instead, I see arrogance and driven, highly motivated individuals who love their golden calves. These people do not know or understand how poor and filthy they are in God’s sight. Who does God use in His Kingdom? He uses the humble and obedient servants who understand that only God can take a clay pot and transform it into a chosen and useful vessel.

Soli Deo Gloria!

16 thoughts on “Filthy in God’s Sight

  1. After He comforts us and allows us to experiance good times, we become proud and overconfident. If that doesn’t sound like me I’ll quit!! We get so excited we get puffy don’t we? I know I am guilty of it. I have noticed something though……when I get to see a manifestation of His, right before my eyes…….no one is around usually!! And I bet I know why :) Good good article Mike.

  2. For all their talk about evangelism – it’s not evangelism. All they are doing is getting people to come to their “gathering” and feel good about themselves even though they are still in their sins, have no idea who Jesus really is and WHY he died and rose again. Saying a prayer isn’t going to make it – a changed repentant life, a humble spirit before God will. Everytime I read articles about the new “evangelism” and the circus atmosphere to attract “unchurched” I thank God for my pastor who is so excited about the Word of God he doesn’t need gimmics but employs old fashioned preaching, discipleship and Biblical evangelism to encourage us to get out on the streets to take the Gospel to the lost.

  3. I praise God for you stewardship of His truth, Mike. Pride poisons truth, while humility not only renders our vessels useable, by definition it gives God all the glory which mirrors the Son of God’s own words “I do only what I see the Father do”. If God the Son exhibits humility, an incredible mystery, how much more we who are creations of the Most High and only exist under the will of His grace.

    The more I seek humility the more I uncover my own pride. But with that journey, I believe I please my Master in whom alone I live.

  4. Martin Luther sure made a good assessment of that passage!Especially the part about being unable to hold up during the bad times and not holding on during the good times.Whenever I hear of a pastor boasting about the numbers of salvations it reminds me of the Israelites casting their gold to Aaron to fashion the calf with.Aaron having seen their approval of his idea to fashion the calf went and did so thinking he had God’s approval.Numbers are deceiveing and these pastors feel approved of God as they see the numbers coming to Christ.Then they boast as if to tell the world to look to them for God is blessing them.I also see that these pastors are wanting to have glory that only belongs to God,no matter how much they say it is all God.They seem to get an addiction to bringing in the numbers and next thing that happens they forget about discipling and desire for the numbers takes over.And how many times I have thought God is obligated to me because of what I have done for Him!That’s what happens in the Word of Faith camp!If WOF is so true,then why are we not all prosperous materially and in perfect health?Silly me for having fallen for it!Praise God that He chastised me out of it!

  5. Sherry C.,

    My brother is a follower of the word faith charismatic movement. He hasn’t spoken to me in almost a year now because I asked him if any of those televangalists he watched were worth watching. He loves all of them Creflo Dollar, TJ Jakes, and Kenneth Copeland just to name a few. Also Jesus went to hell for our sins and he accused me of not reading the Bible when I said that wasn’t true. His pastor actually told him that he had a vision that he (my brother) would be rich someday. I do pray for him but we don’t really communicate anymore. We didn’t that much anyway. I do consider that my brother could actually find out if he really cared. I pointed him to many good resources. I think apathy seems to be what most people have. If you really want to know the truth He will show you won’t he.

  6. I’m sorry if I seem a little harsh but I don’t know anyone who really gets excited about Jesus. Except my boss. :) I live alone and I have no one to share with but you guys, which is really a blessing to me. I love you my brothers and sisters :)

  7. See, Mike, every once in a while God gives us a “love tap” that lets us know our ministries are a blessing. I really believe that your blog gives more Biblical teaching combined with Scripture and also heartfelt commentary than any other one I’ve come across.

    My blog is primarily devotional but your writings serve as much meat that you can find anywhere on the internet. Your labor of love reveals your studious love for the Word and you are a blessing to many!

  8. “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”

    Why does this bring tears every time I read it? It’s too wonderful to fully comprehend!

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