Oh, if only we could recognize how poor and filthy we are in God’s sight!

by Mike Ratliff

1 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. 2 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?” 3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 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.

1 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. 2 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?” 3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 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!

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