Sunday, September 30, 2007

Coming Boldly Before His Throne

"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." --Hebrews 4:12-16

There’s no telling how much the world has changed as the result of the silent prayers of Christians throughout history. Prayer is powerful! John Wesley recognized that power when He said:

"Give me 100 preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergy or laymen, such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven on earth. God does nothing but in answer to prayer."

Bob Bedford wrote:

"Praying isn’t designed to change the heart of God to bring us what we want as it is to discern the heart of God and change our hearts to what God wants."

I have seen the world has changed greatly in my life time. The high-tech world that we live in today was only seen in science fiction movies, if at all, when I was a child. Things are happening so fast today that its hard to find time to keep up.

This high-tech madness has gotten into the spiritual world also. We want to text-message God or just send Him an e-mail. One of the fads for young people today is using abbreviations to talk to each other. God isn’t interested in your text-messaging or your e-mail or your abbreviated talking but He wants you to come become Him humbly.

Jesus gives us a pattern of prayer in Matthew 6:9-13:

"After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen."

Eugene H. Peterson says in well in the Message Bible, Matthew 6:5-8:

"Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God , and you will begin to sense his grace.

"The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant . They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you , you can pray very simple."

Jesus, in teaching His disciples to pray, said for us to begin with praise: "Hallowed be thy Name." Just in the book of Psalms the word "praise" (or "praised" or "praises") is used more than 150 times. There are many ways to praise the Lord. Let me share one with you:

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. --Psalm 100
The Hebrew word for "praise" here is "hymn." It is very interesting to me that the words for "thanksgiving" and "praise" in this chapter in the Hebrew are very much alike.

Praise - a hymn.

Thanksgiving - adoration; or a choir of worshipers.

I have found that a good way to get into the spirit of prayer is to began with good music. Sometimes I even try singing if I don’t have access to music. Sometimes I just make up songs of praise. (No, I have not lost my mind!)

I could not help but take notice of the fact that the last verse of this great chapter the Psalmist caught a vision of God’s greatness.

For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

While I am giving Him adoration He is giving me revelation!

In Psalm 66 we can see this again:

Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands:
Sing forth the honour of his name:
make his praise glorious.
Say unto God, How terrible art thou in thy works!
through the greatness of thy power
shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee.
All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee;
they shall sing to thy name.

Come and see the works of God:
he is terrible in his doing toward the children of men.
He turned the sea into dry land:
they went through the flood on foot:
there did we rejoice in him.
He ruleth by his power for ever;
his eyes behold the nations:
let not the rebellious exalt themselves.

O bless our God, ye people,
and make the voice of his praise to be heard:
Which holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our feet to be moved.
For thou, O God, hast proved us:
thou hast tried us, as silver is tried.
Thou broughtest us into the net;
thou laidst affliction upon our loins.
Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water:
but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.
I will go into thy house with burnt offerings:
I will pay thee my vows,
Which my lips have uttered,
and my mouth hath spoken, when I was in trouble.
I will offer unto thee burnt sacrifices of fatlings,
with the incense of rams;
I will offer bullocks with goats.

Come and hear, all ye that fear God,
and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.
I cried unto him with my mouth,
and he was extolled with my tongue.
If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:
But verily God hath heard me;
he hath attended to the voice of my prayer.
Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer,
nor his mercy from me.

In this psalm you can find both praise and revelation.

When we share with Him our petitions, He shares with us His promises.

We must never put petitions before praise!

And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. --I John 5:11-15

I have chosen this passage because there are some false ideas about prayer that I think need our attention.

I want to share a list of things that I read about prayer that I think will be very helpful. (This list is from the Beacon Bible Expositions .)

  1. Fellowship with God and His people includes the confidence that prayer accomplishes things.
  2. Prayer is sharing with God the desires of one’s heart.
  3. The confidence the believer has is that if he asks anything according to God’s will, he is heard.
  4. Not everything the Christian prays for does he get.
  5. Prayer must be within the will of God.
  6. It is unreasonable to suppose that God will do something He does not want to do just because the Christian prays.
  7. What is heard is what was asked for in His will.
  8. If one asks in His will, He hears in His will.
  9. The Christian with his limited knowledge often projects a solution in prayer that is not God’s way.
  10. God does not and will not change His mind because the Christian thinks he has a better idea.

Dr. U.E. Harding said: "God can see better than He can hear." What He meant was that God heard what the Christian asked and also saw His heart and what it really wanted and answered more in response to the heart than the mouth. We have a right as a child of God to come boldly before His throne in prayer but we must be willing to let God answer the way that He sees best.

St. Augustine’s mother prayed all night that God would keep her son from going to Italy. In the morning he went. But, later, after his conversion she concluded that God had answered her prayer far better with a "no" than with a "yes."

God has given us the promise that the Holy Spirit will help us to know how to pray.

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. --Romans 8:26

While I give Him my petitions He gives me a promise of help with my praying. The Lord knows I need all the help I can get.

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

The word "grace" is found twice here. Grace - the divine influence upon the heart.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. --Hebrews 11:1

From the Message Bible:

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.

Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends.

While I am exercising my Faith He is exercising His faithfulness.

To exercise faith is to take our hands off and watch God work. He doesn’t need our help He just needs us to obey Him.

"Faith has to do with reality that is not accessible to our senses and which lies beyond the grasp of reason!" ( Beacon Bible Exposititions)
We can put our faith in a God who is omnipresent. We must understand that God is always present at every point with His entire being.

For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." --Isaiah 57:15

God is omnipotent. He can do all that He pleases to do. He has unlimited power!

Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee: --Jeremiah 32:17
But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased. --Psalm 115:3

God is omniscient. He has perfect knowledge of all things.

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his chancellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. --Romans 11:33-36

Why can’t we trust a God who is always present with us and who has unlimited power over us and who has perfect knowledge of us?

The arm of flesh will fail us.

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. "

"Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." --Matthew 6:19-21, 27-34

Beacon Bible Expositions closes this text like this.: "Because of our High Priest’s sympathy, we can come with confidence to His throne. It is a throne of grace. There we obtain mercy- a reference to forgiveness for the past- and grace to help in time of need- a reference to the future."

I say to you today, come before His throne empty handed and with a heart that is willing to obey. God loves you and He cares!

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord:" --Jeremiah 29:11-14

Let me close with this thought from Vance Havner:

"We carry checks on the bank of heaven and never cash them at the window of prayer. We lie to God in prayer if we do not rely on God after prayer."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Family Day

To me the family is of utmost importance in our day, but we, as a Christian nation, are losing our families. Satan is doing a good job wrecking the family. Building strong families gets tougher every day. We need to pray every day for our families.

In doing research this morning I ran across this and I thought I would share it with all of you:

  • Children spend less than 30 minutes per week in meaningful conversation with their mothers and less than 15 minutes per week with their fathers.
  • Households headed by unmarried people living together have quadrupled since 1970.
  • According to a recent Gallup poll, 73% of Americans, under age 45, believe that life spent with the same partner is both unusual and unnecessary.
  • Six out of ten children live in a single parent household.
  • The cost of the average divorce is $19,365.00.
  • In the average divorce, women and children suffer a 73% decline in their standard of living.
  • The death rate for divorced men 35-60 years of age is 130% higher than their happily married counterparts.
  • In a Gallup poll, 89% of people, currently going through a divorce, cited a family history of divorce as being a contributing factor to the ending of their marriage.

In America every 24 hours:
  • 3,000 children see their parents divorced.
  • 1,629 children are put in adult jail.
  • 3,228 children run away from home.
  • 1,512 children drop out of school.
  • 7,742 teens become sexually active.

From a national survey of strong families conducted by the Human Development and Family Department at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln, a profile of a strong family:

  • Appreciation. Family members gave one another compliments and sincere demonstrations of approval. They tried to make the others feel appreciated and good about themselves.
  • Ability to Deal with Crises in a Positive Manner. They were willing to take a bad situation, see something positive in it and focus on that.
  • Time Together. In all areas of their lives--meals, work, recreation--they structured their schedules to spend time together.
  • High Degree of Commitment. Families promoted each person’s happiness and welfare, invested time and energy in each other and made family their number one priority.
  • Good Communication Patterns. These families spent time talking with each other. They also listened well, which shows respect.
  • High Degree of Religious Orientation. Not all belonged to an organized church, but they considered themselves highly religious. (1983)
Building strong families gets tougher every day. Chuck Swindoll said of the family, "Whatever else may be said about the home, it is the bottom line of life, the anvil upon which attitudes and convictions are hammered out. It is the place where life’s bills come due, the single most influential force in our earthly existence."

Sunday, September 16, 2007

New posts

No message today due to illness in the family this week. Also, next week is "Singing" at Ozark View Chapel, so the next Sunday message will be posted on September 30.

However, we have posted several previous messages today. Check the archives for:

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Choosing the Right Gate

"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." Matthew 7:13-14.
We have a choice to make about where we will spend eternity!

In our lesson today Jesus is preaching that great Sermon on the Mount. He begins this message in Chapter 5 with a powerful statement:
"Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Then in chapter 5, verse 20 says:
"For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."
Chapter 6:1:
"Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven."
In each of these passages Jesus is talking about heaven and how to get there. We each will make a choice. We each have to choose. There is no other way.

In today's lesson there are:
  • Two gates
  • Two houses
  • Two destinations
1. Let's look first at the two gates.

A. The narrow gate.

This is the gate that will lead to life. This gate is a difficult way. Few find it. In verse 21 the Bible tells us how to find the narrow gate:
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."
Salvation is not for those who only profess to obey Jesus, calling Him Lord. Rather it is for those who actually do God’s will!

The way is difficult and hard to find because of "self." We don’t want to let anyone tell us what to do with our lives and that includes God. We may say we are Christian but are we living a life, doing all the will of God in our lives?
And a certain ruler asked him, saying, "Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said unto him, "Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.
"Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." And they that heard it said, "Who then can be saved?" And he said, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." Luke 18:18-27.
I could quote many rules and regulations of different churches this morning but when it comes down to the matter, it’s all about one thing and one thing only: that is the will of God for my life! This kind of life will lead to a having a solid foundation for life and will get us to heaven.
"Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock." Matthew 7: 24-25.
"Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." Matthew 7:14.
This kind of life will lead to heaven!

Matthew 5:11-16 shows the kind of life we should be living:
"Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
"...for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:" Matthew 7:14.
In my study of this chapter the thing that kept jumping out at me is that Jesus made statements about the broad way, towards religious people. There is a differences between religious people and spiritual people. In verse 15 He talked about false prophets. In verse 21 He talked about people who said, "Lord, Lord!" Salvation is not for those who only profess to obey Jesus, calling Him Lord. But rather it is for those who actually do the will of God!
"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." 2 Timothy 3:1-7.
In first reading these verses one would think that it is picture of the world, but then we get to verse 5 and we see who the scripture is talking about. It’s talking about professors of religion.
"Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."
This scripture talks about Saul and His religious duty:
And Samuel said, "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king." I Samuel 15:22-23.
One group of Jewish religious leaders appear in connection with the ministry of Jesus and the early church. The Pharisees were members of a Jewish religious sect, the most prominent group among the religious leaders. They held that it was important to keep all the laws of God. These included not only the laws written in the Old Testament but also oral traditions. Jesus condemned the Pharisees because of not doing what they preached as the foundation for their religion.
Matthew 23:1-14.
Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,
Saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat:
"All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
"For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
"But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
"And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
"And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, 'Rabbi, Rabbi.'
"But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
"And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
"Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.
"But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
"And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
"But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation."

People today go through their religious ceremonies without having a real relationship with Christ... joining the church, being baptized, taking communion, giving to the poor... are only a few of the things people do to be religious. Now these things are good in their place but without knowing Christ they are only religion!

Look at Matthew 7:22-23.
"Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
This leads us to the next question. Where do these two gates lead to?

2. The two houses.

A. The narrow gate leads to a spiritual house that stands the test.
"Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock." Matthew 7:24-25.
Two words stand out in this passage: heareth and doeth.
"Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
"For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward;
"How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;" Hebrews 2:1-3.
"Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.
"For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.
And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after;
"But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:" Hebrews 3:1-8
Entering God’s kingdom is not so much a matter of being religious as it is a personal decision and a continuing commitment to follow Him. This kind of house will stand the test of time... because it is founded on Jesus Christ!

B. The wide gate and the broad way.
"...for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:" Matthew 7:13.
Then said one unto him, "Lord, are there few that be saved?" And he said unto them,
"Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
"When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open unto us;' and he shall answer and say unto you, 'I know you not whence ye are:'
"Then shall ye begin to say, 'We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.'
"But he shall say, 'I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.'
"There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Luke 13: 23-28.
"And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it." Matthew 7:26-27.
Have you ever been to a beach and built a sand house and watched the tide wash it away? That’s how a religious house built on the sand will end up.

Let's read Psalm 1:
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
We have a choice to make! What gate we enter will determine where we build our house. Where we build our house will determine our destiny!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Five Principles for Spiritual Victory

Many of the present generation may not remember that Sergeant Alvin York was the most famous soldier of World War I. Neither do they realize that Alvin C. York was a most unlikely man to become a legendary hero. York felt that his Christian faith barred him from killing anyone, even in war. After being drafted, York went home on a ten-day leave and considered the scriptures a Christian captain had shared with him. Finally in a crisis of faith, God showed York that he could obey God and defend the helpless in Europe at the same time. He wrote, "As I prayed there alone… I knew that He was there. He understood I didn’t want to be a fighter or a killing man… He took pity on me and gave me the assurance I needed… It was His will and that was enough for me." Sgt. York had to win the war in his mind before he could win the battles that lay ahead of him in the trenches of France and so it was with Joshua.

1. The battle is won by remembering who is in charge.
After receiving the report of the two spies, readying the troops, and crossing the Jordan, Joshua sought to ready himself. He evidently went out to survey the landscape around Jericho, perhaps to devise a battle plan. It was there that he encountered a man with a sword in his hand.

“And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand…” ~ Joshua 5:13a

The phrase “looked up” conveys an element of surprise. Wisely Joshua did not draw his sword, supposing, I assume, that if this individual were looking for a fight he would have already attacked. Instead, he asked the man if he were a friend or a foe.

“And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, "Are You for us or for our adversaries?” ~ Joshua 5:13b.

Now I don’t want you to miss his response:

So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” ~ Joshua 5:14.

His response was not what Joshua expected. He said, “Neither.”

When God walks onto the scene he does not come to take sides….He comes to take over. We are not to ask if God is on our side, but determine that whether we are on God’s side. The more appropriate question is: are we on the Lord’s side or against Him?

Today it is important as we face many battles – physically, emotionally and spiritually that we make sure that we are on the Lord’s side in all our confrontations.

We need to remember that Israel once tried to take Canaan in their own power. Forty years earlier Moses had told the Israelites that the consequence of their unbelief in receiving the reports of the spies was that they would have to wander in the wilderness for forty years. The very next morning the Israelite got up and decided to take Canaan without God.

According to Numbers 14:40-45:

And they rose early in the morning and went up to the top of the mountain, saying, "Here we are, and we will go up to the place which the Lord has promised, for we have sinned!" And Moses said, "Now why do you transgress the command of the Lord? For this will not succeed. Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies, for the Lord is not among you. Or the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and you shall fall by the sword; because you have turned away from the Lord, the Lord will not be with you." But they presumed to go up to the mountaintop. Nevertheless, neither the ark of the covenant of the Lord nor Moses departed from the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who dwelt in that mountain came down and attacked them, and drove them back as far as Hormah."
When the messenger identified himself, "…Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, 'What does my Lord say to His servant?" Verse fifteen continues the story:

Then the Commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, "Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy." And Joshua did so.

This is Christ appearing as a man 1,400 years before he appears in Bethlehem as a baby. In shock and amazement and awe, Joshua flung himself face down before the Lord. Joshua, assuming that the messenger has a message from God, asks that he deliver it.

We can understand that this is Jesus because:

First, this messenger allows himself to be worshiped, angels never do, and

Secondly, Joshua was instructed to remove his sandals because he was on holy ground just as Moses had at the burning bush (Ex. 3:5). We are not told what the message is but we can deduce that was details of how the war of conquest was to be waged.

But the greatest significance of this meeting with the Commander in Chief of the Lord’s Army is that Israel will not be fighting alone.

Now in Chapter six and verse one we are introduced to the scene in Jericho:

Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in.

God begins by giving Joshua a promise in verse two:

And the LORD said to Joshua: "See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor."

Notice with me that the Lord proclaims Israel’s victory over the city of Jericho was made in the past prefect tense, as if it had already occurred (v.2).

God says, "I have given Jericho into your hands." It is just a sure as if it had already happened.

It bothers me to realize that we as Christians are losing some of the battles along the way, until I remember, I have read the final chapter and we win. We may lose a few battles along the way, but the Lord has already won the war, and as long as we are on the Lord’s side, we are winners.
Not only is the battle won, but remember Who is in command.

2. God's methods are not man's methods but God's methods are always right.
The instructions that Joshua received from the Lord concerning how Jericho was to be defeated in verses 3-5 must have seemed rather strange:

"You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him."
Marching around the city once each day for seven days, making a lot of noise and waiting for the walls to collapse certainly were not in any of the military manuals of the day.
The prominent place given to the "ark of the covenant" in the march of the Israelites around the city of Jericho clearly indicated that this is not the Israelites battle but the Lord’s. It stresses how central the presence of God is and how passive God’s people are. The Israelites, as the people of God here, contribute nothing to the overthrow of Jericho except their obedience.

What do your think that the people of Israel were thinking as they marched around the city? I suspect that they were becoming more and more convinced that they could not conquer Jericho unless God gave it to them. Jericho’s walls were high, in fact it had a series of two other walls. The gates were massive and they were securely shut. Each circling of the wall must have advanced the realization that without God there would be no victory.

The old Negro spiritual says, "Joshua fit the battle of Jericho… and the walls came tumbling down," but that is not correct, God fought the battle of Jericho.

Since Israel only marches and shouts there is not doubt who knocked down the walls of Jericho. God sometimes sets our contributions on the sidelines in order that others can see that as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:7:

...that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.

Beginning in verse six Joshua conveys the instructions to the people:

Then Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, "Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD."
And he said to the people, "Proceed, and march around the city, and let him who is armed advance before the ark of the LORD."
So it was, when Joshua had spoken to the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the LORD advanced and blew the trumpets, and the ark of the covenant of the LORD followed them. The armed men went before the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard came after the ark, while the priests continued blowing the trumpets.

3. The best way to hear from God is to be quiet.

"Now Joshua had commanded the people, saying, "You shall not shout or make any noise with your voice, nor shall a word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I say to you, ‘Shout!’ Then you shall shout."
The people are instructed that they are to remain silent until they hear a long blast on the trumpet and then they are to shout. The trumpets used in this battle were ram’s horns..
God’s word reveals that we hear God’s voice best when we remain silent.

Moses said in Exodus 14:14:

"The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace."

The Psalmist says this way:

"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge." ~Psalm 46:10-11.

When Joshua passed on the instructions of the Lord he did not mention that the walls are going to collapse. After six days, of the same single march around the city (vv. 12-14), the final seventh day finally came. On each of the previous days, they had tramped once around the city and returned to camp. On the seventh day, however the Israelites did not return to camp after a single trip around the city. Verse fifteen:

"But it came to pass on the seventh day that they rose early, about the dawning of the day, and marched around the city seven times in the same manner. On that day only they marched around the city seven times."

They continued around the city a second time, then a third time and so on. In fact I envision at that some point that the front line began to overlap. Now there is not one line of people, there are two, then three until the city was surrounded on every side by Israelites many hundreds deep. (Remember that we are talking about two million plus people.)

4. Victory is ours if we do not quit.

"And the seventh time it happened, when the priests blew the trumpets, that Joshua said to the people: "Shout, for the LORD has given you the city!. "So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city."

Hebrews 11:30 recounts that:

"By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people marched around them for seven days."
What is it that honors God and please God the most? The thing that honors God and God delights to honor is obedience. The prophet Samuel declares:

"Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams." ~ 1 Samuel 15:22.

If you look back you will discover that Joshua did not tell the people how many times they were going to be required to circle the city or what the result of their marching would be.
Dr. Alan Redpath, in his commentary on Joshua, suggest that many people don’t see the answers to their prayers simply because they have stopped one round short in their conquest of their personal Jericho. We may have been doing the right things, but we simply stop doing them.

5. Don't be fooled. A day of judgement is coming.

"Now the city shall be doomed by the LORD to destruction, it and all who are in it… And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city… with the edge of the sword."

The command given in verse seventeen and carried out in verse twenty one that everyone must die is troublesome until we remember that Jericho had been given adequate time to repent and turn from their evil life styles. The worship of the Canaanites included the sacrifice of children to the god Molech, the sexual perversion of prostitutes in the worship of Ashthoreth, and the use of magic and sorcery. The people of Jericho have been given the same opportunities as Rahab and her family and they have refused. You may not have stopped to think about it but they have had four generations just as God had promised

Abraham had not been allowed to immediately enter into the promised land:

"But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete." ~ Genesis 15:16

The inhabitants of Canaan had been given exactly four generations as the Israelites wander in the wilderness to accept the one true God. Now after years of increasing wickedness, the time of judgment has come. So, too, will judgment come for the unbelievers of this present age.

The Apostle Peter warns:

"...knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, …. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come …" ~2 Peter 3:3,8-10