And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. How was the cross able to disarm Satan? It's simple. Satan's primary weapon is condemnation--to condemn us for the sin he tempts us to do. Little did he know that God's plan was to take away our sins, depriving Satan of his primary weapon. ''None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if the had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory'' 1 Cor 2:8.
Jesus had foretold Satan's predicament: ''21 When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.
In order to rob the devil of his possessions, Jesus first took away the armor in which he put his trust, then divided the spoils. In order for us to partake in the spoils-health, victory, and prosperity--Jesus had to remove sin from our lives, which kept us from righteousness and its rewards. The cross, therefore, dismisses Satan's legal indictment against us and brings us acquittal from our sins. Once acquitted, we then have legal rights to the plunder. In the Old Testament, Satan made a very rare appearance, showing up at one point because Joshua, the high priest, had committed a gross sin. While it is true that Joshua was a symbol of the nation of Israel, there is nothing in the story to indicate that Joshua himself had not sinned. It is likely the writer used Joshua's personal-and very public--failure to illustrate Israel's own corporate failure, and ultimately God's great mercy for both. Of course, the incident also can be extended to apply to us and illustrate how Jesus took away our sin.
The story begins with the prophet Zechariah having a vision. In it, he saw Joshua standing next to the archangel, his head bowed in humiliation. He looked like a criminal awaiting sentencing before a judge. In the place of a bright orange prison jumpsuit, Joshua wore the filthiest of garments and was not prepared to defend himself. Opposing him was Satan himself, a smirk across his face and a finger pointed toward the condemned Joshua. As he opened his mouth to begin the prosecution's case, however, the entire courtroom shook. Everyone was amazed as God's voice thundered and an angel interpreted, 2 And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? ZEC 3:2.
What's happening? Satan must have wondered. Wait a minute, God! It is Joshua who has disgraced his office. Let me tell you what he did! As God ignored him, the angel spoke to the rest of the assembly, And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. Joshua was forgiven! The angels rejoiced! Israel was glad! Zechariah turned to the other priest and instructed them to place a clean turban on Joshua's head--he was restored to leadership. An even closer look at the story reveals what an important role community played in the restoration and forgiveness of Joshua. It was not enough that God forgave the sinner; the people of God also had to show forgiveness to him. A similar situation took place in the church at Corinth. One of the leaders had committed a horrible act. 1Cor 5:1''It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. The apostle Paul could not understand how this congregation could have ignored such an act. He commanded them to remove the man from the fellowship and hand him over to Satan. 1Cor 5:5''To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. In the next letter, Paul addressed the issue again; by this time, however, the offender felt great sorrow over what he had done and had repented. This sorrow worked repentance in his soul, yet the congregation felt that Paul would desire the man to remain excommunicated. Paul had to explain the need to forgive and restore the man,Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. 7 So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.
2Cor 2:6-7 Sorrow is good, but ''excessive sorrow'' can become a tool of the enemy. ''To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; 11 Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. It is clear that Satan's scheme was to overwhelm the repentant man in Corinth with excessive sorrow. According to Paul, beyond the man's own repentance, the only way for him to experience healing and restoration was for the community to restore him. If they did not, Satan would have won the victory. Far too often, the church is unwilling to offer forgiveness and restoration to those who have fallen--even after they have repented. They are quick to uphold God's standards of holiness but slow to uphold God's standards of love and mercy. We cannot continue to shun Christians who have stumbled and disappointed us. Whether it is a pastor, deacon, musician, Sunday school teacher, or any volunteer in the church, when someone makes a terrible blunder we cannot continue to deny him fellowship after he has truly repented. He must be restored. This is why Joshua had to be restored as high priest. It was not enough for him to be placed as a lower priest. We are giving Satan the lead when we allow vengeance or anger to overrule restoration. These two examples from Scripture are great pictures of the need for the religious community to forgive and restore--as well as examples of Satan's defeat.
In the Old Testament, God commanded Moses to establish a sacrificial system whereby innocent animals-lambs, bulls, goats, and the like--would die as an atonement for Israel's sins. A major feast called the Day of Atonement was established at the coming of the New Year. On this day, the high priest slaughtered two animals. One was killed for it's blood; the other was sacrificed in the fire. A third animal, a goat, was not killed but was instead taken outside their city, where the priest laid his hands on it, confessing ''onto it'' all the sins of the Israelites. The goat--the scapegoat-- was then released into the wilderness, never to be seen again. Lev 16:5-10'' And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.
6 And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house. 7 And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 8 And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat. 9 And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord's lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. 10 But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness. What a great picture of sin being removed!
Satan watched this ceremony each and every year, but it must have never registered in his mind what it would eventually mean. Satan inspired the religious leaders to have Jesus crucified, not realizing that by doing so, Jesus would become the scapegoat--a supreme sacrifice that would remove sin from all humanity. In the garden of Eden, God foreshadowed how the seed of the woman would one day administer Satan's defeat. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Gen 3:15
Both parties would be wounded. The heel of the Messiah--from the woman's seed --would be bruised, but Satan's head would be crushed. Head injuries are usually much more fatal than foot injuries. God was warning cration that there were a price to be paid for administering Satan a fatal blow. That price would include death, ''23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Rom 6:23. Jesus paid the price that was due on account. With the atonement completed, the only thing left was for the sinners to accept pardon. While the price of your sin has been paid, it was a public act of grace before the world that was intended to bring private blessings. You must legally accept God's pardon, offered through the atonement, in order for it to be effective. The atonement is God's action; acceptance is your action. Beaware, however, because Satan will do everything he can to keep you from accepting forgiveness.
Rev 12:10-11''10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
The Devil does not quit simply because we have received salvation. Notice in the passage in REV 12, Whom the devil is accusing--not the sinner, but ''other brothers.'' The saint's greater fight is to maintain a clear and good conscience. Forgiveness is granted to us by God; He cannot, however, grant us clear consciences. Many people are forgiven by God but continue to struggle to maintain clear consciences. The devil does not help. He continuously tries to shame us with our pasts. He stands before God night and day, accusing us and hoping that God will somehow change His mind about us. Satan hopes that through his accusations he might cause to hold on to feelings of guilt and shame over our past--and forgiven--sins. The only way to remove these feelings of guilt, according to Scripture, is overcome the devil's accusations through the ''blood of the Lamb'' and by the ''word of our testimony'' Rev 12:11.
There are two aspects brought out in this passage. One is the atonement of Christ. The other is our present testimony of the blood. The first is God's work; the second is our work. We had nothing to do with providing the atonement. That was God's doing. We do, however, have control over our testimony. We can choose to affirm our belief in what Jesus' blood accomplished, or we can deny the power of the blood to work in our lives. Many unknowingly deny the power and work of the blood by choosing to instead remain guilt-stricken over sin. Whether it is a divorce, a crime, or a moral failure, these saints choose to believe their guilt-laden feelings rather than the cross. In short, they can't get over the past. The devil loves it when you act according to your feelings. Many have shared with me, that they don't feel forgiven. Who cares how you feel? God says you are forgiven; therefore you must act against your feelings. Instead of accepting forgiveness, some drop out of ministry or simply quit the church itself because they no longer feel worthy to serve. They are led by their feelings of shame and embarrassment. A testimony is given according to what is seen, heard, or experienced. The saints in Revelation overcame the devil by including the blood in their testimony. You may have heard of the blood of Christ, but in your mind's eye, you should picture His blood cleansing you of your sins. You must testify to this if you wish to be set free from the shame and guilt of your past. Quit confessing that you are ''too rotten'' to serve the Lord. You need to stop declaring and reliving your sins over and over again. Declare the blood of Jesus, for it has washed you clean! And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. 20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. 1 john 3:19-20 One of the greatest mistakes you can make is to put more stock in the feelings of your heart than in God. God is greater than our hearts. If He says that your sin is taken away, who are you to say it is not?
''But I feel so bad about what I did. I don't feel right serving the church because of what I did.''
If this is how you feel, do you see what you are doing? You are taking the condemnation of your heart and putting it above the Word of God. God knows everything, including the fact that you sin, yet He still loves you and wants to restore you to the position of your calling. But He cannot do this if you allow the enemy to keep beating you up for your past. You must realize that the condemnation of your heart is coming directly from the accusations of the devil. Mental health facilities often house Christians who cannot let go of their past. I've met many in this ministry. They are always talking about some past failure. They have bought the lies of the enemy. They honestly think that God is the one who is angry with them. Little do they know it is the devil, not God, who has been hurling accusations against them.
You see, you have a choice. Who do you believe? Do you believe the feelings of your heart or the word of God? You must decide who is telling the truth. Is it God, about whom John wrote, ''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...Or is it your heart, which says, ''I have confessed my sin, But I do not feel any different''?
The trouble I see with many Christians is that they have initially accepted the cleansing of their sins, but they refuse to put on the clean garments of righteousness. It was not enough for God to remove Joshua's filthy clothes; He also told the angel to put ''rich garments'' on him..Zech 3:4. Many christians see their sins as being forgiven but then walk around naked because they have not put on the robes of righteousness. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, 2Cor 5:21. Most confess that they are unworthy sinners saved by God's grace, but this testimony falls short of the actual work of the cross. The cross made you totally alive; you became a ''new creation''..verse 17. God does not see the same old you. He does not see an old sinner saved by grace; instead, He sees you as a new creation, living by grace.
You must put on the robe of righteousness and confess who God has remade you to be. ''I am the righteousness of God.'' Go ahead, say it. I know it is hard to say it at first, but you must say it in order to build a realization of the righteousness inside of you. The realization will affect your faith and increase your boldness. The touching story of the prodigal son reveals the truth. After squandering his father's money on wine, women, and wild living, he returned home, hoping that hos father would take him back as a mere servant. The father did more than that. Not only did the father forgive him, but he also took off his son's filthy clothes and replaced them with festive robes. He put a ring on his son's finger and sandals on his feet. The father not only forgave his son but restored him as a son. He wanted him to ''act'' like a son--no more begging, no more shame, no more disgrace. It was time to rejoin the family and share in love and wealth of his father. The moment you were born again, you became the righteousness of God. Righteousness gave you certain ''rights''. With righteousness, you can claim your privileges as a son of God. With boldness, you can tell the devil to take his hands off your property. You can take back his spoils. He has been keeping you bound, sick,and poor. Now that you know who you are in Christ, you can command the devil to get his paws off your goods. Jesus said that you are family again, and with His name on your lips, ''If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. John 14:14.