Saturday, August 12, 2017

Joshua 14:6-15 Caleb, a lesson in faithfulness

Joshua 14:6-15
Caleb, a lesson in faithfulness
Then the people of Judah came to Joshua at Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-barnea concerning you and me.  

I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought him word again as it was in my heart.  But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the Lord my God.  And Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.’  
And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness.
And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming.
So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.”

Then Joshua blessed him, and he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance. Therefore Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the Lord, the God of Israel.  Now the name of Hebron formerly was Kiriath-arba. (Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim.)

And the land had rest from war.

One of the most tragic events of the Reagan presidency was the Sunday morning terrorist bombing of our Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.
241 Marines died in their sleep… and many more were critically wounded.  

Burned into the nation’s psyche were those terrible images of dazed survivors working frantically to dig their trapped comrades from the rubble.
A few days AFTER the attack, Marine Corps Commandant, Paul Kelly, visited some of the wounded survivors in the hospital.  Among those survivors was a young Corporal named Jeffrey Nashton.  Severely wounded, Nashton had so many tubes running in and out of his body that he looked more like a machine than a man.  

Unable to talk for the tubes down his throat, he motioned to his nurse to bring him a piece of paper and a pen so he could communicate with his commander.  He wrote a brief messagetwo words that spoke volumes of his commitment and valor as a Marine.

“Semper Fi.”  

The marine motto – meaning “Always Faithful.”

How refreshing.  

In a time when the hearts of men fail… when fear turns trained soldiers into hapless cowards… there are STILL men of courage, men willing to pay the ULTIMATE price for God and country.
Oh how we need men like that today.  Men of faithfulness … a rare commodity in this era of complacency and compromise.  Too many are unconcerned… apathetic… not asking questions and CERTAINLY NOT making the necessary commitments.  People today have become arm-chair quarterbacks – authorities on all that NEEDS to be done… but unwilling to leave their easy chair long enough to do it.  Sipping their beer while the world burns… the only time you time they are moved to action is when the cable goes out.
Even in church-life, too many have become professional spectators.  We want too much to be entertained.  Words like ‘sacrifice’ and ‘commitment’ chafe the modern Christian.
The church needs men of conviction and courage who are willing to sacrifice personal comfort for the cause of Christ.
We need men like the one in our text - men like Caleb.
Caleb was a foreigner by birth

– his father Jephunneh was a Kenizzite – from a race of heathens – outside the circle of God’s chosen.  

And yet, this outsider became one of the greatest heroes Israel has ever known.  A valiant man – a loyal man.  One who possessed “a different Spirit” according to Numbers 14.  And because of that “different spirit,” he would become one of God’s mighty men… a hero.
We need a modern-day Caleb.  Would you be that crisis man or woman?

Maybe there was a time when YOU were an outsider.  YOU had little interest in spiritual things.  But once the Spirit of God got ahold of you, you offered your heart to Jesus Christ.  THAT DAY you were adopted into the family of God and became a member of His Church – THAT DAY you changed…  a new desire to serve the Lord and be faithful… a longing to make a contribution to the work of God - came over you.
IF THAT'S YOU, you will be impressed by four distinct qualities we see in the life of Caleb that made him a mighty man of God.  If you would do something for God, you must live......
1.  A Surrendered Life.  Notice his own testimony about himself:  “I wholly followed the Lord my God.
Caleb despised half-heartedness.  He REFUSED to be one of those who would only go PART WAY for the Lord.  In HIS mind, it was ALL OR NOTHING.  Flip-floppers and luke-warm fence-straddlers have no place in God’s army.  

He lived a Surrendered Life.
Interestingly, the name “Caleb” literally means “all heart,” in Hebrew.  A name often given to dogs that were particularly faithful, alert, and obedient to their master’s call.  That’s how Caleb followed the Lord.  

We see his surrendered life in three ways:

First, we see his Confession when he says “I wholly followed the LORD my God.”  He is not boasting.  He is merely testifying of a commitment he made long ago – he would not hold back ANYTHING from his God –  TOTAL surrender.  Caleb understood - God is never satisfied with half-heartedness – He demands our all.
People today want a god of convenience… a god who makes no demands… who winks at their wrongs and showers them with blessings without accountability.  A magic-good-luck-charm they can put on the shelf until their next self-made crisis.

Churches offering an easy Christianity are flourishing too – and why not – who wouldn’t want a god who gives us everything we want while refusing to INTRUDE on our lives??  

But the God of salvation, the God of the Bible and the creator of heaven and earth is worthy of our obedience and service.  Which is why Caleb pledged to “wholly follow the LORD.

Secondly, we know he lived a surrendered life by his Commendation.  If you look at verse 9 of chapter 14, Moses, the leader of God’s people, said “You HAVE wholly followed the Lord.”  Moses recognized Caleb’s faithfulness.  He commended him for it.

And while I realize that we are to serve to please the Lord, it’s good to be recognized for what you do.  Moses commended Caleb for his faithfulness.
But after his Confession and Commendation, we see his Confirmation in Numbers 14:24, where GOD says, “Caleb has followed me fully.”  

  • It’s one thing for a person to say of himself that he follows the Lord completely.  
  • It’s ANOTHER thing when OTHERS - YOUR PEERS recognize it.  
  • But the greatest honor that could ever be conferred on man is when the LORD recognizes your faithfulness.  

God knows if you are truly committed.  When God looked at Caleb, He saw a man who totally surrendered to the Lord.
What about you??  Can you honestly confess that you are surrendered to the Lord??  Would your friends agree… and would God confirm it??  If you would be a hero for God, you MUST live a Surrendered Life.
2.  Secondly, Caleb knew a Spared Life.  In verse 10 he explains, “the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years.”  Caleb was no spring chicken… he was 85 years old!  And the older he got, the more he recognized the grace of God in his life.  All that he had, all he had achieved in life, he owed to the Lord.  If it hadn’t been for God, he would never have accomplished a thing.  By his own testimony, the Lord had spared him from…
Discouragement, according to verse 8.  While the hearts of others melted in fear, while his peers were overcome by discouragement, Caleb stood firm.  He stood on principle even when it wasn’t popular.

It is HERE that God weeds out the Cowards from the Champions.  Are we willing to go forward for God EVEN IF it means going alone??  Caleb was preserved from discouragement because he stood for something greater than man’s approval… he longed for God’s approval.
Serving the Lord isn’t easy.  Discouragement abounds.  One reason people get discouraged is because they have made service about the wrong thing.  Some serve for results.  But when those anticipated results don’t come… they get discouraged.
Others serve for the praise of men.  And when that praise subsides, they get discouraged.
But the key to joyful service is realizing that God doesn’t call us to be successful, but faithful.
Not only had God spared him from discouragement, he was also spared from Death.  Caleb was one of only two men alive of an entire generation of people who died in the wilderness.  God preserved Caleb because he was a man of faith.  He had proven faithful in the small things, therefore God would bless him with greater things.
And certainly that ought to remind us how much we have to be thankful for.  God has been so good to us.  We owe all that we are and all that we have to Him.  

3.  But not only did Caleb know a Surrendered and a Spared Life, he also knew a Strong Life.  Verse 11 says, “I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming.
I don’t believe this was merely machismo speaking.  Though 85 years old he was still ‘ready’ for battle.  When most of us are well into retirement and looking for excuses to pass on our work to others, Caleb asked Joshua for the most difficult land in Canaan for an inheritance.  The land of the Anakim – the land of giants.  

Remember how the 12 spies who went into Canaan came back and said that the people of Canaan were so big they made the Israelites look like grasshoppers?  They were HUGE men - the forefathers of Goliath - the Anakim.  And THAT’S the land Caleb wanted.  Not the easy land.  Not the most scenic place for a retirement villa – no.  He wanted MORE than that.
The work of the Lord is not for the fainthearted.  I find it troubling that 9 out of 10 times, whenever the people of God are led to a critical juncture that demands faith, they are indecisive… paralyzed by fear… wanting to tuck-tail like cowards.
For us today, it doesn’t even have to be something REAL to intimidate us – just something we’ve never done before is enough to lose heart.  If we can’t rely upon ourselves to handle it, then in our minds, it can’t be done.
But not Caleb.  He told Israel, “Let’s go up at once, for we are well able to overcome it!”  And because his confidence was in God, the Lord gave him the strength he would need to be victorious.
That’s the thing about God - He will give you the strength you need REGARDLESS the mountain you are facing - IF - YOU - WILL - TRUST - HIM!

There is an old saying that dates back to the 1700’s.  “He who hesitates is lost.”  Indecision has ruined many a good men and many good churches.  My prayer is – as I reach the twilight of MY life, that I would be just as strong in faith as ever – that I dare to believe God when others falter.
Is that YOUR prayer?  Is that YOUR desire?  Or do you find yourself hesitating, afraid… too practical??
4.  But NOT ONLY did Caleb know a Surrendered, Spared, and a Strong life – he also knew a Satisfied Life.

In verses 13 and 15, Joshua blessed Caleb, and gave him Hebron… and the land had ‘REST from war.’
The Bible teaches that it is God’s desire to bless His children with fulfillment.  He is not glorified when we are discontented, discouraged, and defeated.  God is a God of reward.  He blesses those who follow Him and honor Him with Satisfaction.
As you read the text, Caleb was rewarded in three ways:

First, he was given Prominence.  He was given honor because of the work he had done.

He was given Possessions.  He inherited the land of his choosing, though NOT an Israelite by birth.
And he was given Peace – verse 15 says, “the land had rest from war.”  God had made this battle-weary old man victorious, because, from beginning to end, Caleb was faithful.
How about you, friend?  Are you faithful?  God is still looking for men and women, boys and girls who are surrendered to Him fully.  2 Chronicles 16:9 reminds us, For the eyes of the Lord range to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are fully committed to him.
Don’t let apathy overtake you.  Don’t be hard and unmoved.  Caleb could have let circumstances turn him sour.  After all, it wasn’t HIS fault that Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years.  

And YES, when other people are rebellious and faithless - it affects all of us just the same.

But Caleb’s desire to serve the Lord never waned.  He took every opportunity given him to stand for the Lord, even when a man well past his prime… even when others were afraid, even when there were giants in the land.
Some Christians will never do anything great because they are too busy making excuses or finding other things to do.
What about YOU?  Will YOU be the kind of person God can use to do great things?  Will you be a modern-day Caleb?

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Romans 5:6-11 – The Answer for Guilt

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

A little boy was visiting his grandparents and they gave him his very first slingshot.

He was THRILLED. He ran off to practice in the woods, but no matter how often he shot, he could never hit his target.

Discouraged, he moped back to Grandma's yard, when suddenly he saw her pet duck.

Oh yeah...

On an impulse he took aim and let fly. The stone hit its mark, and the duck fell dead.

The boy panicked. Desperately he hid the dead duck in the wood pile, only to look up and see ---- his sister watching.

Sally had seen it all, but said nothing… at least not right away.

After lunch that day, Grandma said, "Sally, let's do the dishes." But Sally said, "Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today. Didn't you, Johnny?" She whispered to him, "Remember the duck!" … Johnny did the dishes.

Later Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing. But Grandma said, "I'm sorry, I need Sally to stay and help me with supper." Sally smiled and said, "Oh, that's all taken care of. Johnny wants to do it, don’t you Johnny?" She whispered, "Remember the duck." Johnny stayed in while Sally went fishing.

After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally's, finally he couldn't stand it any longer. He confessed to Grandma that he'd killed her duck.

"I know, Johnny," she said, giving him a hug. "I was standing at the window and saw the whole thing. Because I love you, I forgave you. I WAS just waiting to see how long you were going to let Sally make a slave of you."

Guilt… it really WILL make a slave of YOU.

  • SOME try to assuage their consciences by doing good works… thinking they can make themselves RIGHT through personal sacrifice. “I’m going to do THIS and give THAT, and it will be better.”
  • OTHERS try to drown their guilt with sin - looking for comfort through escape - but no matter how many pills they take or drinks they down - their guilt always returns.
  • They may try to comfort themselves by pointing out others who are just as guilty, if not MORE so.
But no matter WHAT we do, just underneath the surface is a nagging conscience that will not be satisfied no matter our best attempts to justify our actions or dress up our failures.

Only Christ can free you from the bondage of guilt.

Paul took this subject very seriously… for he too knew what it was to be flat on his face in the dirt before the Lord.  He knew what it was to feel the awful weight of guilt.  AND he knew that this would be something that a great many of US would struggle with.

Throughout his letter to the Romans, he reminds his readers how all men are guilty before God… what Jesus did to remove that guilt… and how there is NO OTHER remedy for the nagging conscience outside the cross of Christ.

Maybe YOU have been battling guilt – the shame of your past confronts you in the quiet moments of your life.  The devil often reminds you of poor choices in an attempt to convince you that God “couldn’t POSSIBLY love you.”  Romans 5 is your roadmap to freedom.  I want you to notice,

1.  First, the PROOF of God’s Love for us in vv. 6-8, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
When my kids were small, one of the first songs they learned was “Jesus loves me.”  Every night, the last thing they would hear was their mom or that dad rocking them to sleep, singing that song.  

One of the first verses we ever taught them was, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten, Son.”  Why??  It is important they never forget the love of God.

~     When the world challenges their faith and says, “IF there IS a God, then how could he allow THIS crime or THAT tragedy,” I want them to remember the love of God.

~     In the lonely times, when personal failure or poor decisions lead them to feel shame and despair, I want them to remember the love of God.

~     When death invades their lives and they have to say ‘Goodbye’ to someone they love, I want them to remember the love of God.

What is so unique about God’s love??  For one, God’s love is UNCONDITIONAL. Paul said, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”

He died for the ungodly:
~     those who beat Him,
~     mocked Him,
~     rejected and crucified Him.
He died for the worst among us AND for the best; for the oldest, AND the youngest; the richest AND the poorest.  He died for the ungodly…  When we couldn’t help ourselves, He helped us.  You can’t ask for greater PROOF of His love than that!

God’s love is also INCOMPARABLE.  Vv. 7 and 8 remind us that while there might be a rare occasion when someone would die for a GOOD person, it is entirely UNHEARD of for a person to die in the place of a heinous criminal - but that’s what the Lord did for us.

Paul reminds us in 1 Timothy 1:15, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners!”  We didn’t deserve God’s help and salvation.  We deserve nothing but the wrath of God for our sin.  We have ruined His world with our rebellion …what was once perfect is now defiled by demons, disease, and death… what was good and holy we’ve turned into a barren landscape dotted with gravestones.

But God had an answer for sin when He sent us His Son.

And WHAT did MAN DO?? We spit in His face, tore out His beard, spiked His hands to a cross, and mocked Him while He died.  Yet through it all, God “made peace through the blood of his cross.”

We can’t understand such love.  We can’t understand such sacrifice.  Nonetheless, the cross stands as PROOF of God’s love for us.

2.  But THEN we see the Provision of His love for us in vv. 9 and 10, which read, “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, NOW that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

God’s love provided our salvation.  His HOLINESS had been offended… His JUSTICE demanded punishment.  But His LOVE provided a way for His holiness and justice to be satisfied, that the sinner might go free.  Jesus IS that ‘way.’  Let the words of verse 9 sink in… “much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

I remember getting into trouble as a child.  My mom would say, “I’m going to tell your dad when he gets home.”  

All day, the dread of that confrontation hung over my head.  I would rather have been spanked right THEN, but to have that penalty hanging over you sorta takes the wind out of your sails, doesn’t it?

Imagine, if you can, what it feels like to be lost.  I think that is part of our problem… We've forgotten what it felt like to be lost.  Try to remember the turmoil… the shame… how you had no peace or purpose.
Do you remember how it felt when you gave your heart to the Lord???  How the love of God flooded your soul and for the first time you knew you were FORGIVEN!  The peace of God washed over you and you felt as though a ton of bricks had been lifted! ⇒  We are saved from wrath through Him!

But friends, we are not only saved from the Penalty of Sin, we are also saved from the Power of sin.  Paul says in verse 10, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, NOW that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”  

There is a powerful lesson here that is often misunderstood…

Not only is the sacrifice of Christ sufficient to save me from my past, it is EFFICIENT for every sin I commit in the present AND future!  My good works cannot save me and they cannot keep me saved. In Christ, my sins are covered.  

And the reason that is so important is – even though a Christian is saved, he IS NOT, nor ever will be, PERFECT in this life.  We will continue to struggle with sin and sometimes we will fail.  But the solution for our violation of the holiness of God REMAINS Jesus Christ!

The provision of His love.

3.  And then finally, after seeing the Proof and the Provision of His love for us, third we see the Products of God’s Love for us in v. 11, “More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
Sin, by its very nature, causes separation from God.  When we read the story of the fall of man in Genesis chapter 3, we see that one of the first things Adam and Eve did after they sinned was hide themselves from God.  

Sin, you see, separates us from Him.  It is a barrier to fellowship with Him.  John tells us so in 1 John chapter 1, when he says, If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

BUT, through Jesus Christ we have “reconciliation.”   In sin I am separated from God, but because of what Jesus has done, I am reconciled… brought back together… at-one… at peace with God.  

Are YOU at peace with God??

Sarah was rich. She had inherited twenty million dollars. Plus she had an additional income of one thousand dollars a day. That’s a lot of money by any standard, but it was an incomprehensible amount in the late 1800s.

Sarah was popular… the belle of New Haven, Connecticut. No one hosted a party without inviting her.

She was powerful. Her name and money would open almost any door in America.

Though rich, popular, powerful, she was miserable.

Her only daughter died at five weeks of age. Soon after, her husband also passed away. She was left alone with her name, her money, AND her guilt.  It was her guilt that caused her to move west.

She bought an eight-room farmhouse with 160 acres. She hired 16 FULL TIME carpenters and put them to work. For the next 38 years, craftsmen labored every day, building her mansion.

Observers were intrigued by the project. Sarah’s instructions were more than eccentric … they were eerie.  Each window was to have thirteen panes, each wall thirteen panels, each closet thirteen hooks, and each chandelier thirteen globes.

The floor plan was ghoulish. Corridors snaked randomly, some leading nowhere. One door opened to a brick wall, another to a fifty-foot drop. One set of stairs led to a ceiling that had no door. Trap doors. Secret passageways. Tunnels.  It was a spooky, spooky place.

This was not a retirement home for her future; it was a prison for her past.

The making of this mysterious mansion only ended when Sarah died. The completed estate sprawled over six acres and had six kitchens, 13 bathrooms, 40 staircases, 47 fireplaces, 52 skylights, 467 doors, 10,000 windows, 160 rooms, and …………….a bell tower.

What did Sarah want with such a castle? Didn’t she live alone? “Well, sort of,” those acquainted with her story would say. “There were ‘the visitors’…” that came each night.

Word has it that every evening at midnight, a servant would pass through the secret labyrinth that led to the bell tower. He would ring the bell to summon the spirits. Sarah would then enter the “blue room,” a room reserved for her and her nocturnal guests. Together they would linger until 2:00 a.m., when the bell would be rung again. Sarah would return to her bedroom; the ghosts would return to their graves.

Who comprised this legion of phantoms??? Indians and soldiers killed on the U.S. frontier. They had all been killed by bullets from the most popular rifle in America — the Winchester. What had brought millions of dollars to Sarah Winchester had brought death to them. So she spent her remaining years in a castle of regret, providing a home for the dead.

You can still see this poltergeist palace in San Jose, if you wish. You can tour its halls and see its remains.

But to see what unresolved guilt can do to a human being, you don’t have to all the way to California. There are lives imprisoned by yesterday’s bad choices right here in Troy. Hearts haunted by failure, right here in this church.

Maybe Sarah’s story is your story.  Understand, it doesn’t have to be.  “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  That includes you.

Maybe today you long for the forgiveness of God.  Maybe you need His mercy and grace.  We all do.  You are no worse than anyone here.  The only difference is, some of us have put our faith in Christ to save us, and others have not.  

You’ve been thinking about it for some time.

Today is your chance… today you can be free.  Will you come to Him?  He loves you.  Will you come to Him?

We are going to give you that opportunity right now…