Levi Lusko - How Godly Thinking Can Transform Your Life
Things how they're going does not determine how I'm doing. So how are things going? Very bad. How am I doing? Never better. Anybody with me on that? We can say the outward man might be perishing, but the inward man is being renewed every single day, not through a denial of hard circumstances, but through a belief in someone who entered into the difficulty of our circumstances for us, thus leading us in triumph. What am I talking about? I'm not talking about a what. I'm talking about a who. I'm talking about the Lord Jesus Christ. If you have ever felt insecure, if you've ever felt unqualified, if you've ever felt discouraged, if you've ever felt like you are in over your head doing what God has called you to do, this message is for you. We're going to talk about how to transform your life through godly thinking, and it really is impossible to live right if you're thinking wrong. And so we're going to let God's word set the pace for our lives. Amen?
This is week one of Firebrand Series. Welcome to Firebrand. That's what we're talking about in this series. Some of you are like not clapping because you're like, I don't even know what to do with that information. A firebrand is really three things. Number one, it's any piece of burning wood. Number two, it's a passionate person. Or number three, it's a mark given to show ownership, specifically of livestock, where it's been used, we can prove, for the last almost 5,000 years. In fact, the earliest evidence of a firebrand, of a brand put on something by fire to show ownership, is the ancient Egyptians. We know what the ancient Egyptians did because they drew pictures of everything they did. If only life was always so easy.
Someone told me, your book, I love it. It's just too long. I need more pictures. And thank you for that. But the ancient Egyptians drew pictures of everything they did. And so because of these hieroglyphics, we know that as early as 2,700 BC, the Egyptians would take their cows, they would take their animals, and they would take an iron, a branding iron, and they would get it super heated. You got to heat it all the way till it's glowing red. That's actually the livestock laws. It has to be glowing red before you can place it upon the animal to mark your ownership of that animal. And of course, throughout history, we know it may have even been practiced earlier than the Egyptians. They were just the first to make a picture of it so we have the proof.
But in the Bible, there's examples of the ownership, of herds being sorted out. And really, the practice of branding the animal is an act of clarifying the confusion that inevitably follows. If an animal gets out of your pen, out of the fenced in area and someone else finds it, and you're like, that's my animal. And they're like, who said? It's mine. I have it. Possession is 9/10 of the law. But if you're able to say, well, I got LoJack. I got LoJack on this animal. I got Find My Friends. I got an AirTag I hid in the animal's hoof. Basically, that's what the branding did. It was able to be used to sort out ownership. And then, of course, throughout history, many different outfits have chosen to rent pastures that are common. Or you work together with a number of other ranches and all of your animals are grazing in the shared area.
That's OK because we can sort it out later, because after they all come in, we can say, well, this is mine, not mine, mine, not mine, because of what brand was put on it, which is registered with the state. We did feel, by the way, that this would be a good time to announce we finally have a Fresh Life Church brand. And I'll tell you, we went through hundreds of them. And we did register this with, we had a lot of fun with the state of Montana, the Livestock Department. And so it's legit, baby. And we're going to make our entire staff get branded this week, on Tuesday, everybody. I'm joking. I'm joking. I'm joking. I'm joking. I'm joking. But this is, of course, something that's going to help sort out the confusion, when a brand is put onto an animal.
And it was introduced, we know pretty well, into the new world by the Spanish vaqueros, who came via Mexico into America. Knocking stuff down. That'll be all right over there. And vaquero is a fun word. Everyone say, vaquero. Vaquero. Because the mispronunciation of that word has become a new word in our vernacular. The word buckaroo is how Black and Anglo cowpunchers who were meeting these vaqueros and learning from their traditions, but could not pronounce the Spanish word "vaquero". They started saying "buckaroo". That's vaquero botched, is what that is. But the buckaroos in particular are known, especially, I'm told, in the state of Nevada, for being such hardcore cowboys that they will literally ride for the brand by taking it upon themselves not just on a shirt, but on their own flesh, like you've seen in the not to be mentioned television show starring Kevin Costner.
So some of that is truth that's stranger than fiction. But we're using this as an analogy because you cannot apply a brand without fire. And fire is something that from the very beginning to the very end of the Bible is featured prominently. And I made a little list of some of the things that fire can represent. Symbolically, fire can represent judgment. Fire can represent holiness. Both of those are mixed together. When Adam and Eve are driven out of Eden and there is a flaming sword barring the entrance to the Holy place, symbolically saying, because of the sin, you can't have that right standing and thus no access to God's presence. You have fire representing persecution, where we talk about the fires of trial that have come to try God's people. You have the fire of purification.
John the Baptist said, I might baptize you with water, but there is one coming who's going to baptize, thus cleanse you, but not with baptism of water, but the baptism of fire. Jesus, of course, is in mind there. We know, of course, fire does cleanse. Fire does cauterize. There is a way in which fire can take away impurification. And then you have, of course, my favorite analogy for fire in scripture, and that is the fire of power. Jesus said, you shall receive dunamis. You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And when the Holy Spirit did come upon that early church, what happened? There were flames of? Fire. That were marking those who were His. You knew who they were. You could see there was fire upon them.
So fire features prominently. And we will use both that analogy and the idea of passionate people burning wood in a mark of ownership in scripture in the seven weeks of this series, as we move towards the end of the year. Why will we do so? Because, hey, we want to be on fire for God. Amen, somebody? We want to have that passion, that fire upon us. That's our heartbeat. Lord, give us your fire from heaven. Now, when we talk about the clarification of ownership, we also know that it can deter people from stealing. I was shocked to find out this week that there are millions of dollars lost every year, and growing actually, as drug addicts sadly have discovered that you can make a quick buck by stealing an animal.
There was a couple recently actually arrested in the state of Oklahoma because they had stolen 17 head of cattle from Kansas, from an outfit there, and they have had crossed state lines thinking, because the brands are registered by state, that no one would know as they tried to pawn these off as their animals and sell them. And fortunately for them, the man at the stockyards who they had been emailing with and negotiating with on the price for all of this, which was worked out to something like $11,000, had recognized the brand as being a part of an outfit in Kansas. And so he let the livestock agents know.
And so, true story, they wore the clothes of the employees of the stockyards. And the moment they brought the cows and took the check, they were like, gotcha, busted. It was just an amazing moment. Turns out they confessed after the fact that they had stolen well over 100 head of cattle and had been doing this over and over again. And their favorite to do, though these were marked, was to steal slick cows. Slick cow is an unmarked cow. A slick cow is a cow that has not been marked, and so of course, anybody can say it's theirs. Well, guess what. When it comes to human beings, there's no such thing as a slick human being. There's no human that's not marked. We are all marked to some degree.
Now, I brought some of the marks that we wear. We literally walk around wearing all these different marks. All these marks are on us. Yelp when you get convicted. Democrat, Coca-Cola, Salomon, KUIU, Republican, Gucci, Nike, Carhartt, Anthropologie, Stetson. Here's how dumb we are. We pay to get marked. We hand over good money. At least NASCAR drivers have the good sense to get paid for wearing the brand. We just, we're handing over money because we think some of these things say something about us, the brands that we wear. And of course, not all the time, but sometimes we're hoping to be enough by the brands that we're hoping people will notice us, hoping we can fit in with the right group.
But it goes much deeper than a brand on a shoe or a purse or a t-shirt or pickup truck because the Bible talks about a coming day when we're going to stand before God, who self discloses, reveals himself to us as a consuming fire. I am the Lord, a consuming fire. And we're going to stand before him to be judged. In fact, Jesus said it's like livestock coming before a shepherd to be sorted out, whether sheep or goat. But the grazing is allowed to be intermixed throughout this life. It will be when we stand before God that some who in name profess to be a Christian are going to be found out they did not have the brand. They did not have the name above all names upon them. And the Bible talks about this moment happening when we stand before God.
So what brand do we wear? It means everything, living in a world that is constantly trying to put its brands upon us. But our brand should not come from what we do, what we wear, what we spend, where we work, what school we went to, who we date, what dress size we fit into. Our brand should not come from social media. Friends, our brand should not be anything to do with what we have done, but from whose we are, from whose we are. Come on, it's a mark of ownership to receive a brand. I brand this cow. And I love this. I asked my friend Dave if I could use this brand today because his ranch is called the Standing Heart Ranch, and he picked that name because his family, they want to build their lives on the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And he said, I picked that name because I really believed that if I'm standing on the gospel, no matter what comes against our family, our hearts will still be standing. Amen, somebody. And when that is put upon an animal, and here's a photo of one of his cattle bearing the brand, and it's a standing heart. And that's actually, by the way, a Wagyu cow. It's some delicious, Japanese cow. It's amazing. Some of you have eaten that cow. You didn't even know about it, if you've eaten Wagyu in the Flathead Valley. But this brand is me saying, I own this. Now, we have a hard time with this language. We have a hard time with the idea of ownership. Like, I can be a Christian. I can maybe go to church. But ownership, Levi, it's 2023. We don't talk like that anymore. Right?
The city I live in, I don't know when it happened. I didn't even notice it taking place. But you know those signs around town that basically tell you the penal code if your dog defecates and you don't pick it up? It's funny that those need to be there at all, that we don't have the sense to do that. But I guess they do. Here's an easy way around. Here's a hack. The way I figure it, when I walk my dog if he's going to defecate, he's going to carry it. So I put the bags on his collar. They have little things you can put on the collar that have bags in. And I pull them out and then I put it in the bag, and then I tie it to his collar. He doesn't like it. He doesn't like the way it throws his walk off. And I'm like, well, then you shouldn't have pooped on a run. You should have thought of that before we left the house. I did. You should have.
And so anyhow, there's these signs that tell you, basically, it's against the law to let your animal use the restroom on a common trail and not pick it up. And there's even trash cans and extra bags for those who did not plan ahead. And at some point, they changed the language on the signs. They used to say, dog owners, please, blank, blank, blank. Now they say, dog guardians. Dog guardians. Will all guardians of dogs please, and the first time I noticed it, I was like, what in the dog guardians? What in, no, I actually own that dog. I paid for the dog. I own the dog. The dog is my dog. I am not guarding the dog. I'm not sugar daddy to the dog. I own the dog. I bought the dog. If you steal the dog, you will go to stand before a judge for theft of my property.
The dog's my, But here's the thing. It's at least honest. It's at least honest: in a secular world that is telling us that we are simply animals, then, sure, it could and would be wrong for us to own another animal because that would be slavery. But if what's true in scripture is true, then we human beings, as the crown jewel of creation, were made in the image of God and have been given something that animals do not have, likeness to him. Thus it's not slavery for me to own an animal because, listen, I am not an animal and neither are you. You have value and distinct privilege and power over animals. And that does not mean that we should treat animals cruelly and bad and mean.
And the Proverbs talks about if you're unkind to an animal, that reveals something about the inside of you. But animals were given for us to rule over and for us to eat and for us to enjoy their company as well. But you see how this kind of can creep in. And so now, well, we don't want to be owned. We don't want to be owners. So we sort of treat our relationship with God like he's just our guardian, like he's just this nice ATM machine we can come to every once in a while. And if we hit the buttons just right, John 3:16 is the code, and then some blessing's going to pop out. Honey, God has no interest in being your guardian. But he's willing to be your owner and that's why he paid for you on the cross. And the Bible says, we are not our own.
If you're in Christ, here's what that means. Psst. Good. That's great. Great. I didn't think I was going to get a big clap about that. But here's the actual truth. God will not just guard you, but He's willing to own you. And if you want to be owned, then you're recognizing He did make you. Yeah. And then when you were lost and headed to hell, He did spend the blood of His son Jesus to purchase you. So if you want, He'll be doubly yours, yours by creation and yours by redemption. Come on, shout on that if you want to be owned by God. Scripture says, what right do we have to say what we get to do or where we get to go? We are not our own. We were bought with a price, the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
And so we're going to talk full well about what a privilege it is to bear the brand of the name above every name because Stetson might make great cowboy hats, but they can do nothing for your soul. But the name above every name can save your life, save your soul, change your future, change your life. Having Louis Vuitton's initials on your purse, that might, ooh, look at that. Yeah, guess what it can't do. Forgive your sins, give you peace, give you comfort, give you a family, give you mercy. Give, you see what I'm saying? This series is about us asking the question, where does our identity come from? Because Ephesians chapter 1 verse 13 says, and you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth.
The gospel of your salvation, having believed you were, say it out loud with me, marked, marked, sealed, branded by the promised Holy Spirit. The worst thing that could happen to you is you die and you stand before God to be judged, and you do not bear the brand because you wanted God to just be your guardian. You want a God who's a sugar daddy. You wanted a God who you could pray to so you would have rain-free golf games get into school, but not a God you kneel before and say, you are my Savior and my Lord. The Lord Jesus Christ, He wants to be the Lord of your life and put His brand on you to seal you with the Holy Spirit. And all you have to do is watch the movie Toy Story to know everything changes depending on what name you got written on you. It is so much better to have Andy than Sid written on the bottom of your shoe. Amen, somebody.
We want to have the right name on us. And we're going to talk in this series about how much life changes, the perks that come from having the right name written on your life. Can you tell I'm overprepared and highly caffeinated today? Title of my message is, let me get this straight. Let me get this straight. This is what you say when something just doesn't quite add up, like when I find drywall flakes all over the ground, holes in the wall at the height of my six-year-old son. But I come to him and say, hey Lennox, what have you been doing? I didn't do nothing do you see that pulled out of the wall there? It's just a big mess. I don't know. Mom probably did it. You think your mother got down on her knees and poked a bunch of holes in the drywall in my house? Sounds right to me.
You see, let me get, something's not adding up. Right? You find chocolate wrappers in the kitchen. Your spouse has chocolate all around their mouth. The kids are not at home, but they didn't eat the Halloween candy. Let me get this straight. Something's not quite adding up. I got this information, this information, and this is the conclusion that you want me to believe. That's exactly what we find, believe it or not, in Zechariah 3. Zechariah 3, Zechariah is one of the three post-exilic prophets that is not going to be on the test, but that's just a little Bible flex for you. Who is Zechariah? I don't know, one of the three post-exilic prophets. It's like, wow, you must work out your mind. Here's what it says. It says, and if you are still looking for Zechariah, find Matthew and take two steps to your left.
That's how you get to Zechariah. He's the second to the last book of the Old Testament. Here's what we read. Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. And the Lord said to Satan, the Lord rebuke you Satan. The Lord who hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke you. Is this, I love this, not a brand plucked from the fire? Now, Joshua was clothed with filthy clothes, filthy garments, and was standing before the, all caps, see it? Capitalized Angel, who just a moment ago was called the Lord. So trying to figure out who this guy is, I'm giving you all the tips. Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him. Take away the filthy garments from him and to him, he said, see?
I have removed your iniquity from you and I will clothe you with rich robes. And I said, let them put a clean turban on his head. So they put a clean turban on his head and they put the clothes on him and the angel of the Lord stood by. Then the Angel of the Lord admonished Joshua saying, thus says the Lord of hosts. If you will walk in my ways and if you will keep my command, then you shall also judge my house and likewise have charge of my courts, authority, dominion, opportunity. I will give you places to walk among those who stand here. Here, oh Joshua the high priest, you and your companions who sit before you, for they are a wondrous sign, for behold I am bringing forth my servant, the branch. The branch. Thank you, Lord, for your word. 16 years. 16 long years.
Some of you, that's your whole life. 16 years, from 536 BC to 520 BC is how long Zerubbabel and the 50,000 Jews who came back from exile in Babylon returning to Jerusalem with the expressed, explicit goal of rebuilding the glorious temple to God that Solomon had erected, that the children of Israel had been driven away from by disobedience, not by God not caring, but God who called them to live righteously so they might stand in opportunity and dominion, had promised and warned them, you're always going to be my people. But if you don't walk with me in humility and sincerity, you're going to lose access to what is eternally yours because of my promise. And so that's exactly what happened. You guys know the story. They get driven to Babylon they get scattered to Assyria, and they're there for 70 years. But God said, after you've been trained by the discipline.
God never punishes his children. He disciplines them to train them because he loves them. A father is not loving if he doesn't discipline and do so lovingly. So having warned them, warned them, warned them, he did give the discipline. They went to Babylon. But then he said, I will call you back. I will call you to be returned. I will call you to be restored. And so the first 50,000 come with a man named Zerubbabel and their goal is to get the temple rebuilt. First things first, right? First things first. And then eventually, Nehemiah would come and a whole bunch of others would come. And they would build the walls and it would all happen as God said it would so that there would be a city called Jerusalem for Jesus to come to, called here the branch, also referred to as the Angel of the Lord.
But though they've been there for 16 years, from 536 to 520 BC, nothing had happened yet. And that's a long time. I've seen some churches who got some land and bought it and put future home of Third Baptist Church or whatever, because the first two, they kept splitting and so now there's the third one. And they're going to build some land. And you see that, and you're like, a decade has gone by and it just still says, future home of. That would be very discouraging. That's why I told our team, I said, we will never put a sign up until we are ready to break ground. I mean, it's just not going to happen. We're not going to make a promise we can't keep. And so basically, you have the children of Israel here trying to rebuild the temple, and 16 years has come and they haven't gotten anything done.
That's time to reassess your plan or fire your GC. Anybody with me on that? Like, let's get this together. Let's crack some eggs here. And it's just not happening. And everyone started to get discouraged. And God, to encourage the effort and to get them rallied and motivated, spoke to them through three people, three post-exilic prophets. We know of them as Haggai, Malachi, and Zechariah. These are the three final books of the Old Testament, three of what are known and referred to as the minor prophets, so named only because they only had a little to say, and Isaiah and Ezekiel were so darn long-winded.
So they're not unimportant. They just had a smaller role that God called them to play and they were maybe better with words, so they didn't have to blather on so long. And these three men, Malachi, Haggai, and Zechariah, their job was to get the people motivated to finish the work of rebuilding the temple and to continue building the walls and get everything ready for the Messiah to come to Jerusalem, so God's people, as God said they would, would come back into the land. But that was not their primary focus. Their first and most urgent task was to get the people's hearts ready, you see, because just merely external renovation without inner transformation will be short lived.
And so God's first goal and priority isn't to come into your life and to get you to quit cussing and get you to quit vaping and get you to quit being such a negative, critical person. God wants to touch your heart. If He touches you on the inside, it will lead to life change on the outside. God, He doesn't clean His fish until He catches them. So God catches, you touches your heart, and then here's what it's going to look like in your marriage. Here's what it's going to look like at work. There's a lot of work to do. That process is called sanctification. But the first goal is to come to Jesus, and so that's literally what they're trying to do. They're trying to get their hearts ready. They're trying to encourage the work.
And then Zechariah uniquely, but all three of them generally had a lot to say about the coming of Jesus Christ, the coming of the Messiah, who would come to this city once it was built and the people were back inside of it. And they do so speaking to both the first, Christmas, and the second coming of this King. The first, Christmas, was 500 years from when Zechariah wrote. The second, the return of Jesus Christ to this world in power, in body, and glory, is an event that 2,000 years after the first coming of Christ we are still waiting for the promise of. We are still living in the midst of. And that, by the way, is what can make reading the books in the Bible designated as prophets both major and minor so confusing, because of something called, if you want to take notes, the fancy word is prophetic foreshortening.
Prophetic foreshortening is where you're looking at something off in the distance and there's something further off in the distance and then something even further off in the distance, but the way you look at it, it almost seems like they're right there on the same plane. So if you looked at mountains and you painted it, it's just mountains. But in truth, you might be looking at one mountain range. It's only a couple miles away from you and then one that's 30 miles and one that's even further on a clear day all the way to another country in our where we're at. And so it looks like they're all on the same plane, but in truth they're further away.
So when Zechariah in the same breath will talk about something applying to the initial rebuilding of the temple, something referring to the coming of Jesus, which, by the way, he's referred to 71 times in the New Testament. Second only to Isaiah is his book quoted, in some pretty important places. Jesus coming to the city on Palm Sunday, riding on a, we know of that as a fulfillment of prophecy because of Zechariah. Jesus being betrayed by someone who kissed him, who sold him out for 30 pieces of, Silver. That's a Zechariah quote. Even the fact that when Jesus died, his hands and feet would be, Pierced. Pierced. That's a quote to the book of Zechariah. So he's writing about an initial building of a temple and eventual coming of a King. But then he looks further 2,500 years from his vantage point and he talks about the new heavens and the new earth.
Some say that basically Zechariah is one of the closest equivalents we have in our Bible to the New Testament book of Revelation because he talks about so many events that are still future to us. And while we're on the subject, maranatha. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. We are still waiting for you to come. We still want you to come. And every ache we have in our lives and every thing we see in the news about the injustices in the world, the actual only true, long-term cure is the coming of Jesus Christ to this world in power and glory to rule and to reign with a rod of iron, the strength of His reign, the power of His reign, and those who have been branded or marked by Him, seal with His spirit, who will rule and reign with Him forever.
This is the promise of scripture and what Isaiah and Zechariah, both quoted the most in the New Testament as prophetic books. The actual most commonly quoted book in the entire New Testament is the Book of Psalms, interestingly enough. But then you have Isaiah and then you have right after him Zechariah. So it turns out a minor prophet can have major importance. Keep that in mind as we continue on because both what God gives through our church and what God gives through the world is not measured by the size of it, but the faith that it takes to put it into God's hands. Amen? So let me ask you this question then. How is this supposed to encourage anybody? Because, remember, he wanted this to encourage them. This is basically a pep talk. This is a pep talk.
Someone say, bad pep talk. 16 years, can't get the framing done, can't get the slab on grade on the ground. Can't get anything accomplished. And you open your mouth, you're like, hey, so the devil is trying to oppose you. He's talking crap about you. That's what he said. And that's the first takeaway truth down. This text tells us, Satan is opposing us. He was opposing them. That's one of the reasons it was so hard for them to get traction in their project, because he did not want it done. It explains a lot in this church. Oh, well, that makes sense. That actually adds up. And in your life, he wants you dating the wrong people, he wants you doing the wrong things. He is opposing you.
Oh, and there's a third ingredient. Our own hearts are condemning us. Jot it down, our own hearts are condemning us. It's not just the enemy without. It's also sometimes the enemy within. The voice of accusation in your own heart, you don't deserve love. You're messed up. You're flawed. You're going to fail again. You don't deserve good things. God would never use you. Our own hearts condemn us. They were dealing with that. And then, at the end of this all, we're supposed to feel like, yay, let's go take the hill because nothing can stop us. Right? Now, normally that would be like, you'd be like, yay, but none of you feel like that's the right sequence. That's candy wrappers, chocolate mouth, but you didn't eat the candy?
Let me get this straight. I got the devil jacking me. I got my own heart condemning me. I have the odds stacked against me. And you feel like that with some of the things God called you to do. If you don't feel like that, you're probably not doing something God called you to do, because God almost always calls us to do what we can't do in our own power. If there's not some element of there's no way this can work, then you need to let God give you a new dream because the dreams He gives you, He wants you to not be able to take credit for. And so He will always call us to do things that make us feel in over our head. David should not be able to take down Goliath. Nothing good does come from Nazareth. How can this be, Mary said, when God called her to bring the Messiah of the world in her own womb? It can't be, and I can tell you why. I've never known a man.
You see, we think the objections disqualify us. They actually qualify us. Turns out God was looking for a virgin, and that was one of the prophecies He gave about how Christmas was going to work. So whatever objection you feel like there is that makes you feel like the odds are stacked against me, I'm telling you, it feels like a leap to get to that bottom line, that fourth point, which is that nothing can stop us. That's exactly how God wants it to be. But you'll never feel that if you don't take our fifth point, which is this. God is for us. How can these first three things be true, but me say, well, then nothing can stop us? It's because God is for us, and that's the ultimate anchoring strength and stability of this passage. But the good news is only good because of the bad news that comes first.
It's the same logic in 2 Corinthians 4. Some of you have read that before, where Paul lists all the aches and pains of ministry. We're distressed, we've been struck down, we're perplexed, we're getting older, there's opposition. And then he goes, therefore do not lose heart. And you're like bro, go watch Rudy. Worst pep talk of my life, right? This is not encouraging anybody. Therefore we do not lose heart? It's the perfect time to lose heart. But he lists, but God is for. Us and if God is for us, who can be against us? It's the same logic in Romans 8. Some of you have read this list in Romans 8. He's like, I know life's hard. I know we got distress. We got persecution, we got famine, we got nakedness and peril. Oh, who can forget about the sword? Yeah, Jesus's own brother killed with a sword, James.
And then he goes, yeah, here we go. Yet in all these things, Romans 8:35, we are more than conquerors. And we're like, that doesn't sound very conquering. We're dealing with peril and sword and difficulty. But all these things, we're more than conquerors? How do we get there? Well, he finishes the thought in verse 37, because of Him who loved us, Him who loved us. So I can look at all the hard things I'm facing, and my answer is not stoicism. There's been a huge resurgence of secular thought leaders, like Marcus Aurelius and stoicism. It's kind of like Joe Rogan why he's getting so popular, because he's a pastor for people who don't want pastors.
That's what's happening. And what we're getting pointed to is stoicism, which is a denial of all difficulty, a denial of all weaknesses. And there's lots of good things and redeeming things for that, but it's so popular because people are clamoring for something, something to give them truth, something to give them meaning. And in stoicism, there's a denial of all weakness. There's a denial of even the body. I'm not going to feel weakness and feel pain and admit any of those things. I'm just going to follow these ideals and these truths. And in the case of so many of those that you'll hear on Joe Rogan's podcast, it ends up getting pointed to transcendental drugs because there's some need for illumination. They're still going to be some need.
You can deny Jesus all you want, but inside your heart you're still going to crave transcendence. You're going to crave higher truth. If it's aliens, if it's drugs, if it's a dead Roman emperor from a couple thousand years, I'm going to still be craving something to tell me. Why? Because you are not an animal. You have a soul. You were made to live forever. And you can deny all those things all you want, but deep down inside of you, there's going to be something clamoring for what you know to be true on the inside. And that truth is not going to come through the denial of hard things. Paul doesn't do all that. You go, I don't feel it. He's like, dude, I feel them deeply. I got beat up last week following Jesus. It's hard. There's demons. There's distresses. There's hunger.
All of those things are true. But there's a bigger truth. God is for us. And if God be for us, who can be against us? So I don't deny the pain. I don't deny the weakness. I embrace it because in my weakness, I become strong. Why? Because I am persuaded, Romans 8 says, that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth nor any other created thing, so not anything I face or anything I can face shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is what gives us power when Satan opposes us, when our own flesh condemns us, and when the odds are stacked against us. It's how we can say nothing can stop us, because God is for us. Amen.
So I don't deny the hard things. I embrace them. I say, bring them on. I say, do your worst. It's an honest way to grieve. It allows us to admit, this is more than I can handle. Fortunately, I don't have to. I got someone to handle it for me, and His name is Jesus, and He's the King of kings and Lord of Lords and He can do all things that He sets His mind to do. And that is what this text is trying to say, if you will allow it. So allow me to explain it to you. In fact, this vision, which is one of 10 or eight visions Zechariah has all in one night. You think you've had a bad night after pizza too late. 10 visions. You go eight or 10, which is it? Well, it kind of depends because you know how there's a parable of a coin, a sheep, and a son? Is that three parables or one?
So theologians debate about whether there's eight or 10. But regardless of that, this one of all of Zechariah's visions, which do what? They help them build the temple then, point us to Jesus's first coming, and point us to his second coming. Henry Ironside, or Harry Ironside said, no more beautiful gospel picture is found in the Bible covers than this one. So there's a lot to teach us. To understand it, like buckaroo, which we got from vaquero, we need to have our ears and our antenna perked up because of one unique name that's given, and the name is Joshua. You go, Joshua, Joshua, why do I know of that name? Oh, that's right. He was Moses's Dwight Schrute. He got to be the assistant to the regional manager. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. When you see Joshua, you shouldn't just think of that Joshua. You should think of Jesus. We got buckaroo because of vaquero mispronounced. The anglicized Joshua or Yeshua is what we say Jesus.
So when the angel Gabriel came to Mary and Joseph and said, you shall name him Jesus, Yeshua, because he will save his people from their, Sins. That's literally what Jesus means, or Yeshua means. God is salvation. God saves. God is salvation is the name of Jesus, and every instance of it points us forward to it until Jesus came. So in the story, there's a true person and the person was someone Zechariah would have known. He was the high priest at that time. That was a role or a position.
Now, once again, the moment we hear the word "high priest," we're like, oh, so he's a stand-in. He's a body double. They tell me that Kootenai Falls, people go on tours to see the room the stunt double of Leonardo DiCaprio stayed at who was never physically there during the filming of The Revenant. But people want a tour of the room the body double stayed in. That's amazing. It's just people are ridiculous. So you have the body double of all of God's people then and today represented by a high priest. Because any time you saw a high priest, you couldn't just be like, oh, there's high priest named Joshua. No, no, no, no, he represented people. That's why he had 12 stones in the thing he wore on his chest, the ephod representing the people.
So if he stepped into a room in his royal apparel, he was representing the whole nation, every single one of the 12 tribes, Reuben, Issachar, Naphtali, Gad, Simeon, Benjamin, Asher, Levi, Dan, Joseph, Judah, Zebulun, Joseph, Ephraim, Asher. Depends on how you represent the 12, but he was representing the people, just like Hebrew says, Jesus, the greater high priest, stands before God in his throne room representing every single person who has their name written on him. Wait, I thought Jesus marks us. He first allowed us to mark Him. And when he was pierced, thank you, Zechariah, He did so for you and for me. He bears your name before the father's presence. So in this vision, to encourage them in all they're doing and us as well, they're there to see a man standing before God, representing, doing the job of the high priest. But it's not just for himself, it's for both the Israelites and us who have been grafted in as the church. Got it?
So I want you to read this vision seeing yourself standing there. Here you are, standing before your creator. And then he says, and to his right was Satan. Standing next to him with Satan opposing him. The Bible says that the devil is a thief who has come to steal and to kill and to destroy. That's John 10 verse 10. If you see the devil, what's he there for? He's not just going to give you a good time and mess with you. I want you to write it down. The devil has come in the room to steal and to kill and to destroy. That's what he does. And how does he do it? He does so by accusing Joshua, opposing Joshua by accusing Joshua. So that's what he's there to do.
Someone said, the primary problem the devil presents to the Christian isn't temptation, but accusation. What's the difference? Temptation, he tells lies. Accusation, he tells the truth. That's why Joshua's clothes are filthy and that's why Joshua's condemning himself. To see a high priest, who is supposed to go through ceremonial cleansing to even get dressed, there was a whole thing he had to go through to get prepared for work, wearing filthy clothes, which you're probably wondering, what does the word "filthy" mean, because his clothes were filthy. He looked down in his own heart started to go, oh my gosh, he's right. What the devil is saying isn't a lie, it's true. It's because his clothes were filthy.
And the word "filthy" in the Hebrew is so gnarly. It would be to go into a public bathroom in the women's side, and open up the box attached to the wall inside the stall and to smear yourself with his contents, and then to have a sewer line break and to get everything coming out of that sewer receptacle and to smear yourself head to toe with it. And you're like, that's so graphic. That's the word. And the high priest, who couldn't even mix wool with other synthetics or any other cloth because of just how intense it was for him to stand before God holy, representing the people, if he had any unconfessed sin in his life, he would fall over dead.
So if you were the high priest, you would have a rope tied around your ankle and bells put on your outfit to walk into, once a year, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, representing the people before a Holy God, because of the flaming swords barring Eden, this is the only way they could have one more year of not dying. And if he had any unconfessed sin in his heart, he would drop over dead. They would hear the bells stopped ringing and they would yank out Barry and the job would go to Larry. And Larry, oh, he's dressed, he's like, Lord, I confess. I had impure thoughts towards my cousin. I know it's wrong on two accounts. I mean, he is running roughshod through his life. If I have anything I've ever done, I'm saying I'm sorry for it. I'm confessing things I didn't even do, but I was thinking about doing. You see what I'm saying?
So to think of a high priest, who the devil is saying to God, this guy can't represent you. And he looks down and sees his clothes, which clothes, clothes, clothes, what did clothes mean? Always righteousness. Isaiah 64:6, all of our righteous deeds we've done, honey, they're filthy rags. Translation, you would have an easier time emptying the Pacific Ocean with a child's beach bucket than you would earning your way to God with good works. So if your plan is to do more good things than bad to get to heaven, you need a new plan because the devil is saying everything he had ever, detailing the list of transgressions. And Joshua says not a word because they're true things that are being said about him.
You see, if the devil can't get you to live for the wrong brand, he'll try to make you think you need to earn the right one. So he uses the second tool I brought with me today, what's known as a running iron. This at one point, believe it or not, in the history of the state of Montana would have been a crime for me to even own. If you were found with a running iron on your possession, if there was no law around, you're getting hung from a tree. If there was a law around, you're getting penalized for it. Today, it's only illegal if I use it because a running iron is there to change a brand. You see, I could turn an F into an E. I could turn a C into an O. I could turn an N into an M because it's just a flat line.
So you get this hot and you get to change what's on it or make the cow look like you own it, even though you actually don't. I think that's what the devil does when he accuses us. He makes us think that we need to earn the brand that we have. We need to earn God's love. And so he neutralizes us from doing great things for God because he reminds us of all the sins that we've committed. So God said, you're loved. And he says, you're unlovable. God said, you're forgiven. Yeah, but do you remember what you did? How could you think you're a good Christian with what you've done? You go, but, but, but, and so he neutralizes us in our marriage. He neutralizes us in our callings. And he is there to put the brand on us that says we, he tries to steal from us God's love by making us think that we need to earn it.
And what is Joshua's response? He can't say anything because Satan didn't even lie. And everyone in the circle knows it's true. And notice who stands up and speaks, the Angel of the Lord. Every time that phrase is used in the Old Testament, it's code for the one who is the captain of the angelic hosts, the one who what he says goes among the angels. Friends, it's Jesus. And Jesus says, Father, rebuke him. Father, rebuke him. The Lord rebuke you. Joshua doesn't need to say a word. Jesus points to his father and says, would you rebuke him? And the word "rebuke," that's not strong enough of a word. It's in the Hebrew, and it means to render a verdict. It means to settle a dispute. Two farmers arguing over a cow, the brand settles it. Conversation over, gavel pounding down, ownership is settled. You see? What was happening here?
Jesus says, is this not a brand plucked from a fire? Did I not do what was necessary to get them out of the judgment that their sins put them into? Did I not take them as the brand plucked from the fire? You see, a brand in the Hebrew is a stick that's meant to stir the pot, stir the fire, get embers out. Every one of you knows when you make a fire, you have that one special stick. It's not meant to be fuel it's what you grab when you need to agitate the logs a little bit, get it going a little bit. I have a special log that I use when I'm splitting kindling to hit the top of the hatchet, and so Lennox knows that's my hammer. So that doesn't go into the fire because it's the perfect size and I don't want to get another one. It sits there, waiting. It's not meant to be in the fire. It's meant to go into the fire for a moment perhaps to agitate things, but then to come back out.
That's what God is saying. God as Jesus is saying to His father, did I not do what was necessary to get them out of the fire? They're not meant for judgment. God didn't create anybody for hell. Hell was created for the devil and his demons. God gives not want you to go to hell. And that's why Jesus says, did I not go into the fire to get them out of it? What is He saying? He's saying, I died for him on the cross. Jesus doesn't deny what Joshua did. He knows what Joshua did last summer, just like Joshua knew. And that's why Joshua had his head hung down with his filthy garments. But He said, did I not get him out of the fire? So Father, rebuke the devil and tell him it's true what you said. But my son already paid for it on the cross, so it is finished, paid in full. Then Jesus claps his hands and says, get him new robes. And angels fly in from every direction and dress Joshua head to toe in righteous clothes. And then he says, get him a turban, too. And they bring in the turban.
This is the idea of taking off ashes and bringing a crown of beauty, like Isaiah 61 says. This is taking the desert sorrow and causing it to bloom forth like a rose. And He says, put the crown on his head. And everybody knows the high priest wore a crown that said, holiness to the Lord. Jesus was saying, Father, everything that's said is true. You know it. Yes, the immorality, the adultery, all of the things, the crime, the hatred, every transgression, every sinful moment, it's true. You and I both know it's true, but you and I also know I paid for those things on the cross when I died. I bought him by the blood that I shed, so he is mine. Do you see the brand?
So the dirty clothes are not true. He is wrapped up in the holiness to God and the father has no choice but to say, it's true. It would be double jeopardy for both Joshua now to pay this and for Jesus to have to pay for it. He would cease to be just. The commandment was, someone's got to die. And guess what, someone did. And friends, this is what happens every time the devil tries to accuse you and to say untruth about you. Your Messiah, Jesus Christ, stands before God's presence saying, that's all true. But we both know it's been paid for. We both know that can't be brought up again. Rebuke you, Satan. And he has no choice but to shut his mouth right where he is. Come on. Is there anybody thankful that God's solution for your dirty clothes isn't a Tide pen. Can you imagine?
Oh, shoot. Oh, oh, I got to get the filth. I got to get the blood. I got to get the putrification off of me. By what? Drinking less? Community service? What can wash away our sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Come on, somebody, he snatched us from the fire. He set a seal of love upon us. So really our strategy changes because our old strategy is like to kind of aw shucks our sin. Our old strategy is kind of be like, well, you don't know what I've been through or it could have been worse. Or I know people who are more dirty than I am. The new strategy is, Satan, you don't know the half of it. It's worse than you're saying. Fortunately for me, it was paid for at the cross. This is the firebrand heartbeat that we're offering to the world, not do better, try harder.
We're offering to the world, trust Jesus and be wrapped head to toe in perfect cloths of righteousness that the devil will never be able to take away from us. And at that last moment of our life, when we stand before God, who is a consuming fire, we will fall on our face before him and He will say, well done. Enter into the joy of your Lord, not because you did good things, but because Jesus did at the cross. And that's all the Father can see when He looks at you. Not through anything that we've done but for his own purposes in grace. My little children, John wrote, 1 John 2:1, these things I write to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous.
Advocate is in the Greek a defense attorney. You don't have to say a word in court. You have a lawyer to stand in your place. That's the cross. That's the branch. He got you out of the fire by being a branch and doing what branches do, getting thrown into the fire. It's a substitution. He was stripped of His royal robes. He allowed Himself to be humbled. And on the cross, He was covered in the filth of every wrong thing I've done. And when God looked at Jesus in the cross, He looked at Levi and He saw every sin. He saw all that you've done and everything you ever will do that's sinful. And so now the great exchange is when God looks at you, He sees the purity and the holiness of Jesus.
And I close with this, John chapter 10. Jesus said, My sheep, they hear my voice and I know them. I know them because I've got a brand on them. Hello, somebody, I got LoJack on them. I got the AirTag on them. I put it on. I know them. The spirit seals them, and they follow me and they do so imperfectly. And we're going to continue to do so imperfectly. But by the Spirit's power, we're going to grow and we're going to get better. We're going to get better at following Him as we continue to run this race. That's the good news. And then here's the really good part. And I give them eternal life and they shall never perish. Neither shall anyone snatch them.
Did you notice, is this not a brand snatched from the fire, plucked from the fire? He says, guess what. The devil's never going to be able to snatch them from my hand because I pulled them out. And what I do is finished. It is finished. And then He says something kind of confusing. He says, because my father, who has given them to me, is greater than all and no one is able to snatch them out of my father's hand, to which you go, hold on a second, I don't really understand. If I'm in Jesus's hand because He reached into the fire to get me, the fire that was for me, not for Him, Jesus didn't deserve the cross, but He satisfied the righteous requirement by putting His hand in to get me out. And I'm in Jesus's hand and we kind of think, well, I just got to stay in His hand. I got to do good enough things to stay. That's the devil trying to use the running iron to change the brand to be like, you got to earn that every day. You got to earn your keep.
What have you done for me lately, God's saying surely, right? No, He says, you're in my hand. No one's getting you out of mine. And then He says, but you're also not going to be able to pull from my father's hand. Here's the point. Which hand are we in, Jesus or the Father's? Yes. You're in Jesus's hand. Jesus is in the Father's hand. So the only way the devil can get you out of Jesus's hand is if he can get God the Father to change His mind about Jesus Christ His son. So the day that Jesus sins and ceases to be holy, yeah, then God the Father, let's go with Jesus. But until then, you got to get through Jesus and the Father's love for the Son for the devil to get you out of God's hand. Case in point, it ain't ever going to happen. You are secure in Jesus's hand.
And so, Father, we thank you for what wonders are opened up to us by bearing your mark, the mark of your love. We thank you for what you're going to do in the weeks of this series, as we learn, as we understand. Lord, help us to be more on fire for you. But we start here. And we ask the question, how has ungodly thinking marked us? And for some of us, there's just the reality. We've tried to think every day, we've got to keep earning God's love, earning God's love, earning God's love because the devil's made us think it's based on us. But it's not based on us. It's based on you.
If you needed to hear that today, to be reminded of the finished work of the cross, I just ask that you would raise your hand up all across the church, just honesty, saying, "I've made it about me when the gospel is about Jesus".
Father, I pray you bless these. Help them not to try harder, but to trust more and for your power in them to strengthen them. Thank you, Lord, that if you're for us, nothing can be against us.
Can I ask to add to this invitation, if you're saying, "I'm trying to do something God called me to do, but I'm trying to do to my own strength", can I ask you to raise up a hand, saying "I just need God's power to do that, loving my husband, serving my city, serving in my church and my job"?
Thank you, Lord. Bless these. May the oil of your Holy Spirit run down their lives. Pray for your power in them so they can run, not grow weary, walk not faint, mount up with wings like an eagle. Thank you, Lord.
You can put your hands down. I want to now invite those who have not made the decision to follow Christ as Savior to do so, to make that all important choice, to open up your life to Christ, to let His mark be the mark on you. You're saying, "I just got so many questions. I need to figure this out". Look, there's a million things to figure out. We're all works in progress. But it begins by trusting Jesus. The Bible talks about believing in Him, confessing with your mouth, trusting in Him as Lord and Savior as he knocks on the door of your heart. And that's what's happening.
Some of you sense and you feel like, "people tell me all the time, I felt like you were just speaking straight to me". That's the Holy Spirit talking to you, knocking on the door of your heart, trying to win you over to the Father, to receive the gift of the Son. So if you would like to say, "Jesus, come into my life, make me new, give me your life, your righteousness, write your name on me", I'm going to invite you into that decision.
I'm going to say a prayer. I want you to pray it out loud after me, meaning in your heart. And yes, thousands and thousands of people in our church alone over the course of the years have made this decision, but this is your moment, your soul, your life. And the church family is going to pray it out loud after you, embracing you into our family. So if that's you I'm describing, say this. Mean it. God will hear you:
Dear Lord. I know I'm a sinner. I can't fix myself. But I believe you can. Thank you for sending your Son to die for me. To forgive me. I pray that you would put your life inside of me. I pray for the Resurrection power to reside in my heart. Thank you for new life. I give you mine. In Jesus' name.