Wednesday, May 23, 2007

THE KEY'S TO SPIRITUAL VICTORY




The ancient Canaanite city of Jericho, a short distance North of the Dead Sea, was the first formidable obstacle in the Israelites’ path of conquest in the land that God promised them. A walled city, it was well fortified: “Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in” (Joshua 6:1). In the military language of today, it was a “high value” target because of its strategic location as the gateway to the central highlands and its abundant water supply, furnished by the Jordan River to the East and by tributaries from the Central Mountains. The key to an Israelite victory at Jericho was rather simple. It takes no in-depth analysis to figure it out. It consisted of two elements: Faith and obedience. Under Joshua’s command, the people were to follow the marching orders the Lord gave them (Joshua 6:1-5) and trust that He would, in turn, give them the city (verse 16). This is exactly what happened, as we read in Joshua 6:20, “So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.” Hebrews 11:30 confirms that what happened at Jericho was the reward of faith: “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.”

The great truth we learn from the battle of Jericho is surely applicable to our Christian life today. Though far removed in time from Joshua’s day, we nevertheless face equally formidable powers that stand as obstacles to our spiritual progress in our journey to inherit the promises that God has given us. These adversaries are described in the sixth chapter of Ephesians: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (v.12). At my church we haven’t abandoned the great hymns sung by Christians for generations. One that we often sing is called, “Faith Is the Victory”. We sing it confidently because we know it to be true. God honors those who put their faith in Him, especially in the darkest hour, when all hope seems gone. Faith is a key to victory in such times, but faith must be accompanied by obedience. The Israelites were led by Joshua, to whom God said: “Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:7). The material and spiritual prosperity of the nation of Israel was dependent upon their covenant loyalty. Although believers are no longer under the law of Moses, our faith in Christ should be an obedient faith. We see this kind of faith in our spiritual forefather Abraham, who, “when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went” (Hebrews 11:8). Charles Spurgeon used to say that the kind of faith, which produces obedience, is truly a royal faith. In Galatians 6:2, the Scripture speaks of the fulfillment of “the law of Christ,” manifested by bearing one another’s burdens.

I believe it can be adequately demonstrated from Scripture that obedience is the work and fruit of faith. “Trust and Obey” should not be just a song we sing in church; it should be the desire of our heart reflected in every part of our life. To obey God in a world set against Him demands courage and integrity. It takes a radical commitment. However, the benefit is well worth the commitment. This is the key to spiritual victory as we face the walled cities of Jericho in our lives. Biblical archaeologist Bryant Wood, who did field work at the site of ancient Jericho comes to the same conclusion. He writes: “There are times when we find ourselves facing enormous ‘walls’ that are impossible to break down by human strength. If we put our faith in God and follow His commandments, He will perform ‘great and mighty things’ (Jeremiah 33:3) and give us the victory.”[1]

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.


May God’s grace ever be your sufficiency,

Pastor Tom


[1] Found in an article on the walls of Jericho in the Creation Archive at Answers in Genesis.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

BURDENS ARE LIFTED AT CALVARY




I was reading an excerpt from a Puritan writer in The Valley of the Vision. His name presently remains a mystery to me. He was writing about the experience of Jesus on the cross of Calvary. When I think of Calvary I often recall the words of Isaiah 53. How could any Christian begin to fully comprehend the depth of our Lord’s sufferings portrayed there, as the only begotten Son experienced the wrath of the Father? Today, I decided to commit this hallowed ground in the Old Testament to memory. While I know a good portion of it from repeated readings, I can’t say that I know every verse word perfect. I should, and so should every one who names the name of Jesus as Savior. Now, back to the thoughts expressed by the anonymous Puritan. He certainly knew something about the sufferings of Christ. I will share his insight followed by the Scriptures that came to my mind when I meditated on what he wrote:

There (at Calvary) grace removes my burdens and heaps them on thy Son, made a transgressor, a curse, and sin for me.
“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” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
There the sword of justice smote the man, thy fellow,

“And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:41-42).


There thy infinite attributes were magnified and infinite atonement was made.

“For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (Romans 5:10-11).


“When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19:30).
There infinite punishment was due and infinite punishment was endured.

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy, cast off that I might be brought in,

“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:” (1 Peter 3:18).
trodden down as an enemy that I might be welcomed as a friend,

“And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled” (Colossians 1:20-21).

surrendered to hell’s worst that I might attain heaven’s best,
“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
stripped that I might be clothed

“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-10).


wounded that I might be healed
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
athirst that I might drink
“After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst” (John 19:38).
“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).

tormented that I might be comforted


“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
made a shame that I might inherit glory

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
entered darkness that I might have eternal light

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).
My Saviour wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes,
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
groaned that I might have endless song,

“and he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD (Psalm 40:3).

Amen! Amen! What can I say to all these things but, Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Let me close by telling a short story. In Pilgrim’s Progress there is the unforgettable scene when poor Pilgrim makes his way to the place called Salvation. He runs toward it with great difficulty because of the burden (sin) on his back. Are you familiar with it? I trust you are. Bunyan wrote:

“He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending; and upon that place stood a Cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulcher. So I saw in my dream, that just as CHRISTIAN came up to the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble; and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulcher, where it fell in, and I saw it no more”.

Christian went from that place leaping with joy and singing – "Thus far did I come laden with my sin, Nor could aught ease the grief that I was in, Till I came hither. What a place is this! Must here be the beginning of my bliss !Must here the burden fall from off my back!Must here the strings that bound it to me crack! Blest cross! blest sepulcher! blest rather be The Man that there was put to shame for me!"
Brethren, do you remember the day when you saw it (your sin) no more? What a joy it is to know the blessedness of sins forgiven. But our gracious God keeps on blessing. The beginning of our bliss came at Calvary, but the best is yet to come. Don’t let anyone or anything keep you from rejoicing and singing that new song God hath put in your heart.

Cast your care on Jesus today,
Leave your worry and fear;
Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Jesus is very near.



Almighty God will uphold you by His omnipotent hand,

Pastor Tom