The preacher can stand at the front of a church and declare things are good, we’re on the cusp of something new, can you feel the buzz, the excitement or even the move of the Spirit.
Of course, the problem with that is who dare say 'no' to such a declaration, who dares stand up and say actually I don’t feel a thing. The peer pressure of the crowd, and desperate desire for everything the preacher just said to be true means we may cry and amen, but don’t actually feel like there is going to be any significance in any days ahead. We don’t feel the buzz of the excitement, and so ask the question what is wrong with me, why do I feel like this when everyone else can really feel like they’re on the cusp. However the problem friends may not be you but with the generalisation in the first place.
Often the church is accused of being a psychological bullying ground, insisting on the Amen, looking for a deep show of emotion, from all assembled. At times that can be true, in our own nature and excitement we can want everyone else to feel exactly the way we do about something. The reason why is because we are all on the same journey so we assume if we are on a shared journey we must be experiencing the same things. Yet that is not born out even in a physical car journey where all passengers have different perspectives and reasons for the journey thus experience it differently. We must not forget that we are all at different points in that Journey with Christ. So we must remember that which Paul taught us
Therefore since we also are surrounded with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right of the throne of God Hebrews 12:1-2
So we agree that we cannot generalise that everyone is in the same place as ourselves and is experiencing the same thing. Yet we also must agree that we are in a race, and in a race you only go forward and progress to the end
Do you not know that those running in a race all run, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain. 1 Corinthians 9:24
That isn’t to say we are in competition with one another, but that we must run ahead to the prize but what is the prize? if salvation is the entrance fee and not the prize, something you had this before you put one foot in front of another in this journey, what could adjure you to possibly exert yourself. Or as Paul goes on to share in the same chapter,
But I buffet my body, and lead it captive, lest proclaiming to others I myself might be rejected. 1 Corinthians 9:27
why would you do more than you had to that you may receive a prize that you already held on to. Well Paul opens up that discussion by talking about being rejected. He is answering the why exert yourself question with the answer that is it is only those who finish the race that walk into their inheritance as Paul said to Timothy.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. Now there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge,
2 Timothy 4:7-8
We can therefore see that It’s often the fear that you won’t get to the end which causes people to simply follow blindly and agree, shouting amen when the preacher says, ‘we are on the cusp of things’. Only Paul didn’t finish the verse there, he went on to say.
Now there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that Day; and not to me only, but also to all those who love His appearing.
2 Timothy 4:8
For the race is not being run to obtain salvation; for we could never earn it in the first place; we certainly can’t sustain it; and we are definitely not going to get anymore than eternity with Christ in Heaven. The Race is being run, you’re in it, whether you like it or not. The Race that comes to mind, is actually the oxymoronic word ‘Fun Run’. Being the Autum and winter months, you go out in your car and see large groups of neon clad adults running up and down cities and towns. What are they running for? Some are training. Some are trying to get healthier. Some are just there for the company. It is clear that for those doing it that it is an enjoyable experience and fun, otherwise they wouldn’t do it because its hard work which is clearly shown on their faces. The Race is on, and you are in it, Run the race as though the experience, the life, struggle, challenge, joy and fellowship were the prize.
Yet run in a way so that you don’t get disqualified.
That’s not if you sin too much. It means do not walk off the track and chose another way, a way that doesn’t lead to the Prize, Eternity with Christ. For that prize isn't earned by winning the race but it is lost when we give up.
So since everyone reading this is in a different place in our races, I cannot declare that we are all on the cusp of something amazing, because only you will know if that is true or not for you. All I can do is encourage you to run, to run alongside you, to encourage and cheer you on, to tell you that you can do it when you say you can’t’ to tell you you are doing it when you think you aren’t, and to watch you go when you’re really motoring. Therefore today I want to do that by talking about a specific part of your race, a part of the race that I believe for me is what I am on the cusp of seeing. Yet rather than that sounding like a very self-indulgent message, that cusp of moving into promises that I believe we are going to see, is going to be seen in each one of you, regardless of where you are in your walk providing that you are running to not be disqualified. How? because like Joseph, to see your dream fulfilled, you need to serve the dreams of others. For in everyone and at all time there has to come a time when that dream or promise goes from a thing hoped for to a thing that is actually realised.
So what might you take from this message?
well I hope what you might do is recognise what in your life, crossing over from the hope of your promise from God into the reality of that promise either becoming or beginning to become a reality. We have an instance of this in the Old Testament where the promise given to Abraham and the hope of Israel in its 40 year wilderness wandering was on the verge of coming true. In Joshua 3 we read of a promised land just on the other side of the river and how to cross into it. Joshua was given the task of taking the Children of Israel into the promised land, and we cannot underestimate the significance of this event. Yet that promise had been a long time in coming. In fact 400 years earlier the Lord having revealed first to Abraham and then affirming to Isaac and then Jacob that one day the children would return to this land. A period of promises and waiting. The promise made to Abram, told of the age of the event
And He said to Abram, You must surely know that your seed shall be a stranger in a land not theirs, and shall serve them. And they shall afflict them four hundred years. And also I will judge that nation whom they shall serve. And afterward they shall come out with great substance. And you shall go to your fathers in peace. You shall be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come here again, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. Genesis 15:13-16
What a long time to wait, think back if the Lord had made a promise 400 years ago, the civil war period. Esau reject His birth right because it meant nothing to him as it was for his future generations and not his direct benefit. Now Joshua would be the one who would fulfil a promise, a promise which the last 40 years had been intense and it nearly didn’t happen. 40 years for Joshua who had already been and seen the promise land and then had seen the people reject it so he had to wait. 40 years in which Moses who had led the people this far, was no longer going to lead them. The brand new shepherd of Israel's first Job was to get them to cross over.
Shittim is where this begins from. Shittim means Acacias, when we look at Acacia wood in the building of the tabernacle it is used as boards to make the walls and much of the furniture of the tabernacle. Deuteronomy 10:3 says It was used to make the inner skin of the Ark of the covenant. Now who is a type of the Ark of the Covenant? Jesus. Acacia trees have the property of growing 2 feet in thickness which makes them ideal trees for making boards out of. But they are also very close grained meaning it is very difficult and almost impossible for worm or moth to corrupt and rot the wood. This use and these features mean that acacia wood is a type of the incorruptibility of Christ. It is a place where treasure could be kept from corruption. So what is wrong with that as a place to live and dwell? why go from that place into the promised land? In fact two and a half of the tribes have no problem with that, it seemed the best place for them to live. To us the reader, the incorruptibility of Christ, in the presence of the Ark of God there could seem no better place would there be for us. Surely if we remained in such a place, such a sanctuary, we would not fall foul of our sins and fleshly nature. Yet the answer why we should not is because that’s not where you are called to go to. You are called to the promises of God, to a life of dedication and service, not a life of sitting around, with the Ark of God for company. You were called to cross over into the promises of God, and I don’t say that as an abstract, but as a calling for the church, Paul outlines it
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of His calling, and what is the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us, the ones believing according to the working of His mighty strength which He worked in Christ in raising Him from the dead, and He seated Him at His right hand in the heavenlies, far above all principality and authority and power and dominion, and every name being named, not only in this world, but also in the coming age. And He has put all things under His feet and gave Him to be Head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:17-23
The promises of God to the church, that He uses the church as His body to fulfil His purpose of bringing this about His purposes. However that is at the Lord’s command as head of this body. Too many preclude themselves with the idea they have not the strength to work, for to leave the safety of this place would be to harmful for them, for they enjoy it, and I'm glad you do. Sunday morning is meant to be a sanctuary, a place to get away to, a refreshing stream, but friends when we are at ease in Zion pride is at the door, for laziness breeds your own destruction. The church building is not the place where you work, it’s the place where you rest and recharge, over there in your work/school/home is where the promises of God to your life are worked on. I our churches is where we can sit in Faith, believing for the things of God. Yet, unless Faith has a step out, something to do, then it is not Faith that is challenged. Many of you have had faith to believe for things, and whilst you sit in that Faith then you can feel strong, Spiritual, Good but when that Faith for something is now time to become reality, well now you have chance to fall flat on your Face.
And Jabez was more honourable than his brothers. And his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bore him with sorrow. And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that You would bless me indeed, and make my border larger, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, so that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he asked. 1 Chronicles 4:9-10
Jabez crossed over with Joshua. He had been given his portion of land by lot. Now He asked for more and was prepared to work to get it. You see the promised land has to be won for it to become a reality. Even the tribes of Rueben, Gad and Manasseh acknowledged that if this was the place they were going to dwell, it was still their duty to help their brothers and sister to cross over and claim the promise.
So my first challenge, are you going to remain with the attitude you have to be perfect and have all your life sorted before you move into your promises or are you prepared to cross over as you are. Friends are you prepared to get off your backside it’s comfortable here in worship and word, where its all spoon fed to us but through the door is the more. Through the door is your calling.
Well if you are the instruction to us all is to not move of ourselves, but to wait for the Ark (Christ to move) for the way between us and the completion of the promises of God, there lies such an obstacle that the will of man could not enter. Now there really was no need for the children of Israel to be entering the Promised Land by the insurmountable obstacle as the fast flowing river of the Jordan. They could have entered by the south. Yet if they had, then a great deal of Human ingenuity would have taken credit for the achievement of the promises. instead the Lord said to Joshua
And Jehovah said to Joshua, Today, I will begin to magnify you in the sight of all Israel so that they may know that I will be with you, as I was with Moses. Joshua 3:7
The people needed to know this because previously the inhabitants of this land had driven their parents from entering into the promise. They needed to cross by a way that was uncross able unless the Lord intervenes so that they knew it was the Lord. Today the way of salvation is not possible in your own strength
buried with Him in baptism, in whom also you were raised through the faith of the working of God, raising Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:12-14
And that way of baptism, which is a public declaration of your own red sea or Jordan crossing, it was this place that John the Baptist would Baptise Jesus, a dove would descend that he might know and be able to proclaim, ‘Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. So the next step is to follow Christ, for the impossible way is only open when He says to move, and when we move in His strength, the Faith for a promise, becomes the reality before our eyes, and we can move on to destroy strongholds like Jericho, and know we only do it by the Lord’s hand. Obedience to it, even if it seems crazy, it is Philip standing in a dessert waiting for the eunuch, it is Moses going against Pharaoh with just a staff and his brother. It’s David fighting Goliath with a sling shot. It’s Jonathon and His armour bearer with just one spear taking on an army, It’s Elijah with just His cloak, It’s Elisha healing a man when he was dead. It’s going against an army of twenty thousand with your ten, and knowing they haven’t got a chance because the Lord is with you, and this will be proved to you when the impossible becomes possible before your very eye. It is then that you will know, as you are serving to help others dreams and promises come true, to fulfil your dreams and promises, that the Lord is with us all, and I'm not a crack pot.
yet there is one last thing to do. Go stand in the water, and take the Lord with you, bravely step into it. Imagine standing there with the ark, this exceptionally heavy Golden box on a river bank, in a fast flowing river, what fool would you be, with all of that, to watch it and the guys carrying it sink into the mud and fail, the box be washed away downstream, and your enemies laugh at you.
No Lord you make the way and I will go in it.
No child, you go the way and I will go with you
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All authority is given to Me in Heaven and in earth. Therefore go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things, whatever I commanded you. And, behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the world. Amen.
are you ready to cross over, This is what it will take, I cannot say that you are ready, that you feel the highs, the genuine belief that this is it, but we must all be going forward, and so I ask you this morning to follow me into the Jordan, And see that all we have talked about, all our vision, all our dreams, they are going from Faith to a physical manifestation.
Is it time for you to cross over? then step into the river