Wednesday, May 25, 2011

“A Brand Plucked From the Fire”

Second Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“A Brand Plucked From the Fire”
For the week of May 22-28, 2011

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

What gives God the right and authority to forgive and cleanse His people of sin?  Is it their confession? Is it His faith and justice?  Or is it both? This week’s lesson answers these questions in the story of Joshua and the  Angel. Joshua represents all of humanity, rescued by God in Christ from certain destruction.

“Christ has taken the guilt of their sins upon His own soul.  He has snatched the race as a brand from the fire. By His human nature He is linked with man, while through His divine nature He is one with the infinite God.  Help is brought within the reach of perishing souls.  The adversary is rebuked” (Ellen White, Christ’s Object Lessons, page 169).

In His glorified humanity Christ provided everything needed to actually remove sin from the experience of those who will allow Him to do His work. Love of truth, and personal separation from sin is what God has in mind for all of humanity as they allow Him to put Christ’s righteousness on and in them.

It is vitally important to make the right choice about who puts the righteousness on.  If we attempt to put it on ourselves, then we really get on nothing but a filthy garment, no matter how good it may look to us. “But when Christ clothes us with His righteousness, it is not to be despised nor rejected....the taking away of the filthy garments is the same as causing the iniquity to pass from the person.  And so we find that when Christ covers us with the robe of His own righteousness, He does not furnish a cloak for sin but takes the sin away.  And this shows that the forgiveness of sins is something more than a mere form, something more than a mere entry in the books of record in heaven, to the effect that the sin has been canceled.  The forgiveness of sins is a reality; it is something tangible, something that vitally affects the individual . It actually clears him from guilt, and if he is cleared from guilt, is justified, made righteous, he has certainly undergone a radical change.  He is, indeed, another person, for he obtained this righteousness for the remission of sins, in Christ” (E. J. Waggoner, 1890 EJW, Christ and His Righteousness, pages 64-65).

Great comfort and assurance comes to God’s people through the authority that God has given to us in Christ.  By taking fallen, sinful humanity and conquering sin in that flesh, Jesus was “earning the right to become the advocate of men in the Father's presence” (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 744).  We now have the assurance that as soon as we see any impurity in our hearts, and confess it, God will immediately exercise His faithfulness and justice in our behalf. He will complete forgiveness experientially in us:

 Joshua represents the people of God.  Satan tries to bring reproach against those who are trying to serve and honor God.  He presents them in a questionable light, as those who are clothed with filthy garments.  God says, "Take away the filthy garments.  You have no right to put them upon them.  Take them away.  My people may have imperfections of character. They may fail in their endeavors, but if they repent, I will forgive them."  (Ellen White, General Conference Daily Bulletin, April 23, 1901).

This work is carried out by the Holy Spirit. “It is the Holy Spirit that reproves and convicts of sin; but He is at the same time the Comforter, and He convicts but to comfort.  Instead of sinking down in discouragement when we are reproved for our faults (and how quietly and tactfully the Lord reproves), we should take courage from the reproof, knowing that it is the way God takes to reveal to us the Christ who saves from sin.  In the conviction we find healing.  ‘For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life’ (Proverbs 7:23)” (E. J. Waggoner, August 2, Present Truth, Vol. 16, page 496).

The glorious news is that this work will come to completion in you and me, and all the people of God, to the extent we stop resisting the new garment. We must also stop trying to bring our own garment. “Says the Lord of hosts, ‘And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day’” (Zechariah 3:9).

This work of cleansing the sanctuary, is what heaven has been longing for ever since 1844. “As the people of God afflict their souls before Him, pleading for purity of heart, the command is given, ‘Take away the filthy garments,’ and the encouraging words are spoken, ‘Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment’ (Zechariah 3:4).  The spotless robe of Christ's righteousness is placed upon the tried, tempted, faithful children of God.  The despised remnant are clothed in glorious apparel, nevermore to be defiled by the corruptions of the world.  Their names are retained in the Lamb's book of life, enrolled among the faithful of all ages.  They have resisted the wiles of the deceiver; they have not been turned from their loyalty by the dragon's roar.  Now they are eternally secure from the tempter's devices.  Their sins are transferred to the originator of sin.  A "fair miter" is set upon their heads” (Ellen White, Prophets and Kings, page 591).

I don’t know about you, but I long for that eternal security inherent in the final application of Zechariah 3.  Shall we confess and pray for it together?
--Todd Guthrie