September 24, 2015

Helpless without Jesus

Zechariah 3:1–5:11, Acts 21:27–22:21, Job 29:1–12, Jude 22–23

Jesus told His followers, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” In a broad sense, it is God in whom we live and move and have our being. By grace I wake each morning, my heart beats, and my lungs draw in air. In a more narrow sense, apart from Christ I cannot be righteous, do good, serve God, or even understand Him or His Word. Simply put: I need Jesus Christ.

The saving power of Christ is God’s message in both Old and New Testaments.

For example, God showed the prophet Zechariah a vision of 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?” (Zechariah 3:1–2, NLT)  
This image is repeated in the NT, also in the context of salvation: “And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” (Jude 22–23) In defending my faith, I can tell how Jesus pulled me from judgment’s fire!

Another image of salvation is being clothed with robes of righteousness. “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.’ And I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by.” (Zechariah 3:3–5, NLT)

The NT connection is Revelation 7:14: “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14)

Job also understood what it meant to be clothed in righteousness. He responded to the accusations of being a wicked person by saying, “Oh, that I were as in the months of old, as in the days when God watched over me, when his lamp shone upon my head, and by his light I walked through darkness, as I was in my prime, when the friendship of God was upon my tent, when the Almighty was yet with me . . . When I went out to the gate of the city, when I prepared my seat in the square, the young men saw me and withdrew, and the aged rose and stood; the princes refrained from talking and laid their hand on their mouth; the voice of the nobles was hushed, and their tongue stuck to the roof of their mouth. When the ear heard, it called me blessed, and when the eye saw, it approved, because I delivered the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to help him.” (Job 29:2–12)

In defending my faith, I can also point to the changes in my life as Job did. This is not boasting, but giving testimony to the fact that I do things in Christ that I would not and could not do without Him.

The Apostle Paul also compared his old life with the new. He was in Jerusalem preaching the Gospel. The whole city was stirred up. The people seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple. They wanted to kill him. A military leader heard about the melee and took soldiers and centurions to the scene. The mob stopped beating Paul and the officials allowed him to speak in his own defense. He began with his identity and the story of his former life, then detailed how God encountered and changed him. (Acts 22:3-12)

Then he shared what the Lord told him to do through Ananias, a devout and respected Jew: “The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” (Acts 22:14–16)

He also told the crowd God had predicted their angry response: “Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me . . . . Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.” (Acts 22:17–21)

Both testaments agree that a large segment of the population rejects the good news of salvation by faith. People do not want to admit sin and that we are sinners. People do not want to trust God to change their lives. They are not interested in humility and obedience. One person heard what God has done in my life and said, “Oh, you just did that yourself.”

Jesus says no. I must agree. Without Him, I am helpless.

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