Climate Change 3
Here is the message “Skies of Promise” given by Jake Sloan on Sunday, May 26, 2013.
I’ll give you a little disclaimer here. If you are happy with your Iife as it is and you want to remain as you are over the next few years, feel free to check out, to fall asleep, or to get up and leave.
But if you are like me and want to grow this year and in the years to come… If you want to actually move past the place you are right now spiritually, financially, in your relationships, in your ability to lead and influence others, then this sermon is for you.
There’s a principle that goes like this “What got you here won’t get you there.” We all go through different stages of development even in the natural realm and the spiritual realm. With each stage of development is a crisis to be solved, a battle of the mind to be fought and won.
You know when people first get saved, they come to God through different means. Some have a radical experience and a radical life change. Other people come to God very simply, even gradually. As they learn about God and who he is, they begin to make small changes in their lives. Whatever way you came to God, he brings us all through some common spiritual stages of development.
We can see so many parallels of our lives in Jesus that we can learn from the Israelites of the Old Testament, the way they experienced God so obviously and physically can mirror some of the ways we experience him spiritually today. None of us are going around parting seas, but in some ways we can relate to the nature of those people of old.
Here is the first stage I find God bringing the Israelites through as he leads them into the wilderness:
1. Freedom vs. Slavery
These Israelites of Exodus had experienced a radical “salvation” from their current circumstances. They experienced God in amazing ways. First, they were slaves being treated like savages. Then God raises up a leader, Moses, a guy who grew up in the palace, runs away, a fugitive for murder. Then he comes back to be their hero, their deliverer. He and God perform a bunch of unbelievable signs and wonders culminating with the famous parting of the Red Sea. I know it’s hard to believe. But there is actually archeological evidence to support what happened there.
So basically these people were stunted in their spiritual growth. They had lived so many years in slavery, that they forgot who they were.
They forgot that they were a privileged people, holy and set apart by God himself. After years of living in slavery, they got hung up on some spiritual stages of development and they had unresolved issues. We see evidence of this throughout the book of Exodus where they keep complaining that God wasn’t treating them like they were used to being treated.
See, they were used to being treated like animals, and therefore behaving like animals. When God brought them to the land that he promised them, their fears caused them to shrink back. Slavery felt far safer to them than conquering and living in the land that was rightfully theirs.
They were used to being abused and for their rulers to appeal to their baser instincts, like their appetite for food. God led them into the desert to strip all that away. Rather than give them the food they were used to in exchange for a full day of back breaking labor, he gave them manna each day, free of charge.
Rather than giving them jobs of baking bricks in the hot sun, he gave them a pillar of fire to lead them by night and a cloud to lead them by day. Supernatural experiences became an everyday part of their lives. They would yawn and roll over and grab some food off the ground and greet the God-cloud as though it was the way everyone lived.
Most of us come to God only knowing slavery to sin. We only know what it is like to act like animals, to run after the baser instincts of our flesh. The gods of materialism or addiction will whip our backs and make us their slaves. So, then God has to slowly teach us dependence on him. Instead of relying on ourselves for our paycheck, he teaches us to give our money away (or give ten percent to the church) and to rely on him for what we need. He teaches us to be led by his word rather than what the world dictates to us how we should live. He might even remove things that are not benefiting us, like relationships that are sucking the life out of us. But he removes these things only to make us better, to help us grow up in him. Just like he removed the leeks, garlic, and onions from the diets of the Israelites, he can remove our oppressors.
Most of us have not been raised in abject slavery, but all of us were born into a sin-filled world. We have inadvertently learned the behaviors of slaves, and not sons and daughters. Our minds have to be renewed constantly in order to really grab hold of the reality of our new identity.
Well, God decided that this generation would never be able to inherit the land he had promised them. God knew that with their fearful thinking, they would never be able sustain what he was giving them.A smart millionaire would never give his full inheritance to a son or a daughter who was not wise or proven as a trustworthy person who would handle the fortune well. God is the same way with us. He knows that power and authority in the wrong hands can actually cause more destruction than benefit.
The next step that God led them into was this:
2. Dependence vs. Self-Reliance
So, the Israelite nation had to learn dependence on God through the manna that was provided, through the ways he directed them with the fire by day and the cloud at night. Exodus even says that their clothing never even wore out in all those years. They went around and around in that wilderness until almost all of those old people died off.
Only two guys from that generation actually believed the promise of God. And those guys were Joshua and Caleb. Those two guys became the new leaders of the next generation. The generation that would actually take the land and live in it. God does a miracle similar to the parting of the Red Sea. He parts the Jordan River so they can walk over on dry land. Some of this generation may have never experienced the parting of the Red Sea, and others of them might have been too young to remember.
But Joshua and Caleb remembered, and no doubt they rejoiced in the faithfulness of God. So that brings us to our text for today Joshua chapter 5:1-12.
Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until they had crossed over, their hearts melted in fear and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites. At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.” So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath Haaraloth. Now this is why he did so: All those who came out of Egypt—all the men of military age—died in the wilderness on the way after leaving Egypt. All the people that came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the wilderness during the journey from Egypt had not. The Israelites had moved about in the wilderness forty years until all the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died, since they had not obeyed the Lord. For the Lord had sworn to them that they would not see the land he had solemnly promised their ancestors to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. So he raised up their sons in their place, and these were the ones Joshua circumcised. They were still uncircumcised because they had not been circumcised on the way. And after the whole nation had been circumcised, they remained where they were in camp until they were healed.
Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” So the place has been called Gilgal to this day. On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan.
So, these guys are getting all excited about entering their promised land, the land that their parents were too immature to take. They are thinking, “Yes, we get to be the generation who gets the prize! We get to be the generation that makes an impact! Our children and our children’s children will be talking about this day for years to come.”
And the next thing you know, Joshua has a little meeting with them. He goes, “Here’s the deal guys. We kinda forgot to do something back there in the wilderness.” Our parents screwed up again. So, I hate to tell you this, but all you guys have got to be circumcised. I can just imagine as a man how that would have taken some of the steam out of their manly enthusiasm. It turned their war cries into whimpers. But here’s what God was showing me through the process of circumcision in those days.
Do you realize that when God gets ready to promote you, he almost always chooses to promote you through brokenness and humility? You will either choose to be broken before him or you may miss the fullness of what he has for you.
The next thing God requires of us when we get a spiritual upgrade or permission to enter into a new season, a new stage of development in our lives is this:
3. Brokenness vs. Pride
You think God caused brokenness to fall on the Israelite men when they were each circumcised? Absolutely.
In fact, circumcision forever marked them as God’s chosen people. Once you are circumcised, there is no going back.
Before Leigh and I were married, she received a word from a trusted friend. He felt that the Lord was saying to Leigh, “I am preparing your husband for you, but I am going to build you up. While I am building you up, I am going to tear him down.” At the time, Leigh had no clue that she was going to marry me, but God was about to tear me down to the lowest point ever. About 6 months later, I was walking across the street and was hit by a ford explorer going about 40 mph. I truly believe that I was dead upon impact. But there was a missionary friend who happened to be in the line of cars and was able to pray for me as I lay there twitching on the street. Miraculously, I had no broken bones. But my process of recovery was a long and painful one. I was definitely a broken man.
The value of brokenness is that it creates a perfect climate for blessing to follow. If you want blessing in your life, if you want to be thrust more quickly into the destiny God has for you, put yourself in a position of brokenness. Create a posture of humility in your life before God. God sometimes brings a season of rain in our lives for cleansing, for refreshing, for growth to happen. Other times he causes a season of drought in your life to cause your roots go deeper.
The last crisis we need to solve when we enter into a new season is this:
4. Initiative vs. Fear
The Israelites were about to enter into an entirely new season. They had been taught to depend on God with the manna and the cloud and the fire.When we are new believers, we can live off manna for a while. God can provide miraculous clarity to the direction of our livesBut then when he determines that we are ready, he says essentially, “No more sippy cups, no more diapers.” It’s time to enter into a new season. It’s time to begin possessing your land. It’s time to stop picking your food up off the ground. Now you are going to have the responsibility to search it out, kill something, pick something off a tree, create something. The plus is that you’ll get the variety you’ve been craving, but you’ll have to put your energy into it. No more of mama’s milk.
You have to learn how to cultivate disciplines into your life. You’re going to have to learn to dig for the really good stuff of life. You may have heard this term in business and it is true in life. “What got you here, won’t necessarily get you there.” We can’t rely on the same old habits to get us to our next season.
For example, let’s say you went to business school. Well, there were skills you learned that made you a good student. However, being a good student didn’t necessarily make you good at your job. Let’s say you worked your way up being a manager, then to supervisor, then to Vice President, and then President. Some of the habits you may have picked up that made you a great manager made you a good president, but other habits you learned had to be unlearned. You know what I mean? A manager needs to maintain, while a president needs to take risks. A manager needs to directives from the top. A president needs to create directives. They are very different skills and not everyone is able to make those kinds of transitions.
A whole generation of Israelites passed away, only knowing one level of God, only reaching the first stage of development. A whole generation passed not having learned how to dwell in the promised land. God never changed, but he is infinite and there is always more to understand about him. And the ways he teaches us also change depending on our readiness, depending the season God is leading us into.
What causes you to have the willingness to walk into the next season? It is dependence, brokenness, and also courage to take initiative.
Do you have the courage to walk out and fight an unknown enemy for an unknown reward? Do you have the courage to leave the safety of what you’ve known about God to explore what you don’t yet know? You don’t need to forget all you’ve learned, but you can’t live on the same manna forever.
The cool thing about the new land is that there are now more options available to these new Israelite kids. There are new options from everything from food, to places to set up their tents and occupy. These slaves are have now become entrepreneurs, so to speak.
They have been brought into a season of permission. God no longer led them in an obvious way. God’s kids had grown up and he now saw them as partners in his venture of cultivating a new land, a new way of life, a new culture.
We often have to fight for the promise God has given us. It is ours, but we have to have the courage to fight to sustain it in our lives. It’s one thing to learn something new about God with your brain, but it is an entirely different thing to let the knowledge of God penetrate your being, to believe God even when you are facing powerful distractions or enemies to your faith.
There is a truth that I had always said that I believed. It was this I always thought God would protect me and that I was willing to pay any price, but the reality was I hadn’t yet walked through it till I was hit by that car. I had to wrestle with God through the nights for the next few months. I read in the bible that God protects and takes care of those He loves but I had never experienced it like this. I had to wrestle with the question of, “Why?” Why did this happen and why didn’t I just die? With the pain I was going through I wished I had. All this time God was silent to me. I only felt His presence there in the room with me surrounding me. After wrestling with Him asking questions even getting angry at God for what I was going through He spoke to me. First He reminded me what He had asked me weeks before the car accident.
For three weeks in a row before the accident each week on Saturdays I was praying as I drove to work and I heard God ask me the question. “Do you think I would let you die before its your time?” and I would answer a little scared “No, I don’t think so.” Three times He asked me this and I would respond the same. The fourth Saturday is when I had the car accident.
Then He asked me the question: “What are you willing to give me? You’ve have said you would give it all but will you give it all if it is like this? Are you willing to suffer through pain to bring others freedom and peace?” I lay in my bed dumbfounded. I couldn’t yet honestly say, “Yeah, sure. If this is what it takes no problem. I’ll go through it.” So night after night I would hear God asking me those same questions again and again and again. Until finally one night I was able to say sincerely yes. That finally cemented in my heart the Truth about who God is and who I am.
Are you stuck in your stage of spiritual development? Are you going around and around the same issues in your life, or are you moving forward in God? Not all of us have to walk through things like car wrecks to make a change but whatever new season stands before you now you will have to posses it. What got you to this place won’t get you into the next place. God wants to take you to a new level but are you willing to go and get it. No matter which stage of development are you facing right now.
1. Freedom vs. Slavery
2. Dependence vs. Self-Reliance
3. Brokenness vs. Pride
4. Initiative vs. Fear
There is a next step for you to walk into. These are the questions that remain:
Are you looking into the skies of promise that God has a good plan for you, a plan to prosper you and not to harm you, a plan to give you a hope and a future? Or are you willing to stay stuck in slavery or just go around and around the edge of what God has promised you?