by Julia M. Bruce, MSPC, Mental Health Coach,
Keynote Speaker, CEO, Wellspring Christian Ministries
Our adversary proclaims our guilt before God
Satan is our adversary and he prowls the earth like a lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). He uses lies to attack our mind and tries to make us ignorant of God’s will. As a Christian, he cannot defeat you because Jesus has already defeated him. But that does not mean that he will not try to deceive your mind or destroy your body. If we do not stand in our victorious position in Christ and refuse to utilize our spiritual armor God has given us, we will fall into sin. While Satan snickers in the background at his success and our defeat, he does not just leave us to suffer the consequences of our sin. He has one more trick up his sleeve to make the Christian doubly defeated.
Zechariah 3:1-7: A Scene from Heaven
In Zechariah 3:1-7, we are given a glimpse into heaven with a vision about Joshua the High Priest. These verses say:
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, with Satan
standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan: “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! May the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Isn’t this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”
Now Joshua was dressed with filthy clothes as he stood before the Angel. So the Angel of the Lord spoke to those standing before Him, “Take off his filthy clothes!” Then He said to him, “See, I have removed your guilt from you, and I will clothe you with splendid robes.”
Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head”. So a clean turban was placed on his head, and they clothed him in garments while the Angel of the Lord was standing nearby.
Then the Angel of the Lord charged Joshua: “This is what the Lord of Hosts says: If you walk in My ways and keep My instructions, you will both rule My house and take care of My courts; I will also grant you access among these who are standing here.Holman Christian Standard Bible
The Bible Warns us to be aware of our adversary
Ephesians 6:11-12 says, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” Paul wants us to know that we are in a spiritual battle. Our adversary is not flesh and blood, but rather rulers, authorities, and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm. Our adversary is Satan and his demons.
1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.” We have to take our adversary seriously – because he takes our destruction and downfall seriously. We must constantly be on the alert for his wiles and schemes. So we must put on the full armor of God and stand in His strength if we are to be aware of Satan’s attacks against us and defeat him.
Our adversary has a target
Satan does not just randomly attacks us. He is purposeful. He studies us and knows our weaknesses. In fact, he has been studying the human population since the Garden of Eden and he targets our heart and conscience. He’s not going to attack you in areas where you are not tempted or can easily say “no.” His attacks will come at your most weakest and vulnerable areas. He knows the doubts you have, the fears, the things that tempt you, what gives you stress and anxiety. He knows what is most important to you – your children, your possessions, your career. And he knows your addictions – food, hobbies, caffeine, alcohol, drugs. These are your weak spots and they are his target.
In God’s courtroom
In these verses in Zechariah 3, the setting is like a courtroom and God is the judge. The defendant is Joshua, the high priest and one of the leaders of the returned exiles (Haggai 1:1) and Satan is the prosecutor. Joshua appears in the courtroom wearing filthy garments soiled with excrement, which defiles him. This poses a serious problem for the people, since it was through Joshua the high priest that their own impurity was to be removed on the Day of Atonement (see Lev. 16:1-34). So, it appears that Satan has a very strong case against Joshua.
Zachariah had this vision at a time with the nation of Israel had sinned against God. They had returned to Israel after their captivity. After the Assyrians and Babylonian invasions and 70 years in exile, one would hope they would now follow God, but they did not. This explains why Joshua’s garments were filthy. Rather than following God, the Jewish men were divorcing their wives. Merchants were charging high interest rates and the priests were stealing from God.
Joshua accused by the adversary
Satan knew every single sin of the nation. Can you imagine his arguments before God as he presented all his evidence? “Your honor, have you considered your children in Israel? They are sinful and disobedient people. You chastened them in Babylon, hoping they would learn to obey you and walk in your ways. Then our of your goodness, you brought them back to this land and look! Here they are disobeying you again. You are a holy God and Israel is supposed to be a holy people. If you a re as holy as you claim you must judge them. If you do not, you are not who you claim. They are guilty!”
Satan’s pattern is always the same and James tells us how he works. James 1:14-15 says, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” Temptation begins in the mind when Satan drops the bait. He lures and entices us by using our own desires against us. Then we sniff out the bait of our desires and are instantly attracted to it. We nurture the desire, think about it, dwell on it. And when we yield to the temptation and act on the desire as we fall into sin. Sin brings the consequences of our choices: spiritual death and separation from God.
How do you think Joshua felt? He represented the people before God. Was he broken hearted or hard hearted? Repentant or prideful? What was his defense? Whenever we disobey God, Satan moves in for the kill. He attacks our heart and conscience. He says, “You are supposed to be a Christian, but you are not a very good one. How could God loved you after you did that?”
Our Adversary’s weapon is accusation before God
In the book of Job, we find a similar scene where Satan stands before God accusing Job. But Satan is a liar. Jesus says of him in John 8:44, “He was a murderer from the beginning and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of liars.” Revelations 12:9 calls him a deceiver: “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”
So, there are some truths you can know about Satan: 1) When he talks to you about God, he lies. 2) When he talks about you to God, he sometimes tells the truth. 3) Satan is God’s great enemy, and therefore the enemy of Christians as well. Among several other names, Satan is known as the accuser. The book of Revelation tells us a bit more about Satan’s role as accuser: “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down’” (Revelation 12:10).
Our adversary is relentless in his accusations
Satan accuses God’s children continually. He hates God and all that God is, which means he also hates God’s mercy and forgiveness extended to sinful humanity. Satan the accuser stands before God in an attempt to somehow lessen God’s love or diminish God’s mercy. Fortunately, his accusations against us fall on deaf ears: “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies” (Romans 8:33). Salvation belongs to the Lord, and His justification cannot be reversed. God is greater than our accuser.
For the time being, God has allowed Satan the accuser limited access to heaven, the very throne of God. There he reminds God of the condition of his saints – pointing out every flaw and sin. He stands before God saying “Do you see your servant [insert your name]. They have failed you again God. He/She has sinned again and you need to judge them.”
We must learn the different between the accusations of our adversary and God’s conviction
When we sin, the Holy Spirit’s job is to convict us through the word of God and He does in love with the intention of restoring your relationship and fellowship with the father. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin (John 16:8). Yet many people read the Bible and are fully aware that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). They may know that “no immoral, impure or greedy person . . . has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:5). They may even agree that “the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17). But, for all their knowledge, they continue to live in sin. They understand the consequences, but they’re far from being convicted of their sins.
The truth is, if we experience nothing more than a pang of conscience, anxiety at the thought of judgment, or an academic awareness of hell, then we have never truly known the conviction of sin. The word convict is a translation of the Greek word elencho, which means “to convince someone of the truth; to reprove; to accuse, refute, or cross-examine a witness”. The Holy Spirit acts as a prosecuting attorney who exposes evil, reproves evildoers, and convinces people that they need a Savior. To be convicted is to feel the sheer loathsomeness of sin. To be convicted is to experience an utter dreadfulness of sin. We are convicted when we become mindful of how much our sin dishonors God.
Holy Spirit or our adversary?
The Holy Spirit puts his finger on a specific sin I have committed, something concrete I can own and confess, but the accusations of Satan are vague and simply demoralizing.
The Holy Spirit shows me Christ, the mighty Friend of sinners, but the adversary wants me spiraling down into negative self-focus and results in negative self-talk.
God’s Holy Spirit leads me to a threshold of new life, but the Satan wants to paralyze me where I am.
The Holy Spirit brings peace of heart along with a new hatred of sin, so that I bow before Jesus in repentance and confession, but the devil offers peace of mind with smug relief, so that I fold my arms and say, “There, that’s over with.”
The Holy Spirit helps me to be so open to God that I allow him to control the conversation, but the devil tempts me to take off the table certain questions I just don’t want God to talk to me about.
We must learn between Satan’s accusations and God’s conviction. We may experience guilt and shame from our adversary or from the conviction of the Holy Spirit. But when it comes from the Holy Spirit, it will lead us to repentance. If it keeps us in a place of guilt and shame, making us feel defeated and unloved, it is from the adversary. When Satan accuses you, he uses your own sin in a hateful way and seeks to make you feel helpless and hopeless. Despair and spiritual paralysis result from listening to Satan’s accusation.
The purpose of the adversary is to bring an indictment before God
Satan’s purpose is to bring an indictment for your sin before God. He wants you to feel guilty and experience regret and remorse. But he does not want you to repent of sin. He will keep on accusing you so that you focus your attention on yourself and your sins rather than focusing on God’s grace and forgiveness. He knows that when you look to Jesus, you will repent and confess your sins and find cleansing and restoration. But as long as you are feeling guilty, you are under indictment and you are moving farther and father away from God. Excessive guilt and sorrow can only lead to depression, despair and defeat. Do not fall into Satan’s trap and believe in his lies. Turn to Jesus for cleansing and restoration.
Thankfully, when Satan stands before God throwing out his accusations, we have a defender that speaks up for us: the interceding Son of God. In Zechariah’s vision, The Lord commands his servants to remove Joshua’s filthy garments. This removes Joshua’s sin. God also orders that Joshua be clothed in pure vestments, garments suitable to wear in the presence of the King of kings. These garments represent a new righteousness given to Joshua.
Then in verse 5, Zechariah also requests a clean turban for Joshua’s head, which symbolizes glory and royalty. Joshua’s re-clothing in the presence of the angel of the Lord shows God’s gracious acceptance of him and the people he represents. Can you imagine how Joshua feels now? Relief? Grateful? Thankful? At peace with God? Forgiven? Humble?
Whenever we experience God’s great forgiveness, there is joy in our hearts and the natural expression of gratitude should be a desire to live for him and obey him. In verse 7, God commands Joshua to walk in His ways and keep His charge. If he does so, he will also rule God’s house and have charge of God’s courts. As a result temple worship will not be corrupted by idolatry and God will not be silent or distant from his people any longer.
The King of kings stands at the right hand of God ready to defend you today. If you are carrying around the weight of unconfessed sin and living under the weight of the adversary’s accusations, loo to Jesus now and find cleansing and restoration. Do not live under the lies of Satan any longer!
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God, Love and Marshmallow Wars by Julia M. Bruce
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