Tuesday, October 16, 2018

On a Journey Home Together: The Israelites in the Wilderness

Audio Message: 

You’re in the woods, in the depths of night. You’re searching for something. Your life has been an aimless journey of twists and turns that seemed to be leading nowhere. You’ve done evil, you’ve struggled... You’ve never known what you’re supposed to do with your life.

The stars are shining down… and darkness surrounds, and as you turn in the cold night, you hear coyotes howling. Something within leads you up along an ancient path up a steep slope, and around the corner you see something burning. A fire is roaring, and it doesn’t go out, it seems to beckon you forward. You feel something present in this place: It’s God. And you fall to your knees in revelation of His glory.

Just like God called Moses to the burning bush, and toward his great calling for his life, each of us have been called out of the dead end ways of the world. God has given our lives purpose, when we used to be aimless wanderers.

God said to Moses from the consuming fire, “The cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” Moses’ response is probably similar to ours: “Who am I to go?”

That is a question we often ask ourselves. I’m nobody special, how can I go? But God is calling us. There are people out there counting on you to fulfill your calling. We must go! Or someone else may steal our blessing. This calling is ours. As William Booth said:

“Who is to go? You! You who read this; who else is there to go?... You are saved. You say your sins are forgiven, and that you belong to the family of God. You say the promises apply to you; why not the commands? Have one and shirk the other? Never, never, never! They are united. Do not say you are a child and not a servant. You must go yourself. This is a personal call which comes down through the centuries to you! You cannot evade it and remain true to yourself and your God.”

So we must go, no matter how high the cost. I’m not speaking this to scare you, but it’s true that many people leave the work in the Salvation Army. Difficulties will come in officership. Hold fast to your mission. And what is our mission? We do many things in the Salvation Army, but there is one primary mission.

Your primary mission is not giving out food. Your primary mission is not social services. Your primary mission is not budgets and finances. Your primary mission is not political social justice action. Your mission is to make the winning of souls the first purpose of your life. It’s easy to get caught up, in good things, that we ought to do, but lose touch with the most important thing: The gospel of Jesus Christ.

Hold fast to your calling. Don’t ever give up. Even when you’ve worked to exhaustion. Even when you’re sick, bed ridden, burnt out and overwhelmed. Even when your DHQ treats you poorly. Even if your wife or husband leaves you. Even when no one seems to care.

Hold on, for the good times… When someone new joins the church and gets saved. When a baby is born and you get to do the dedication. When you lead an elderly woman from this life and into the next. When you stop what you’re doing for a moment, at the corps, and you smile to yourself and realize, I absolutely love what I do here.

God will deliver people through your ministry, from bondage in Egypt, to freedom in the promised land. God brings people out of bondage to sin, entirely of Himself, just as the Israelites crossed over dry ground. God himself parts the waters, through Moses’ lifting his staff. And when you lift up your voice, and speak the gospel, souls will be saved by Christ.

But the journey doesn’t end there. After the Israelites crossed over the dry land, they began their journey to the promised land. In the same way, as we lead corps in the future, we will be like Moses, journeying with the Israelites in the wilderness.

We don’t believe in “once saved always saved” in the Salvation Army. We don’t just cross on dry ground and then stand there at the other side. This Christian life, is a lifelong journey of obedient faith in Christ. As the 9th doctrine says “We believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.”

So we will walk with our people, our corps families as we journey together through the wilderness, and toward the promised land. We’ll be there to help our people overcome sorrows, challenge them to defeat sin in their lives in the Spirit, we’ll be there to guide our people toward acts of service, and missional lifestyle. We’ll be there, to face the strongholds of Jericho, the dry deserts of affliction, the idolatry of golden calves, and the bitter waters of dark nights of the soul, alongside our people.

So I hope your excited for this journey. Right now we’re all being prepared for this bright future. And I want to tell you something: You will do great things in Christ. God did not make a mistake when he chose you. You may feel weak, you may feel empty, you may feel overwhelmed, but let me tell you a secret: So did Moses. So did Gideon. So did Peter. So did Paul. And so did Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. But if we cling to Christ, we have nothing to fear.

As Jesus said to his disciples on that fateful night: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” –John 15:5-6

Jesus Christ loves you. So remain in his love. If we depart the faith and walk off into sin, we will inherit an eternity of darkness. So be diligent in this faith walk, and you will persevere. Jesus doesn’t just call us servants; he calls us friends. He helps us to obey his commands and remain in his love.

In conclusion, two applications from the scriptures of Exodus 3 and John 15. First of all, while you’re here on campus: Build your prayer and personal study life. Everyday. Not just a quick prayer, or 10 minutes a day. But spend real time with God. Moses spent real time with God. He climbed mount Sinai, searching tirelessly for the Creator.

Full disclosure: If we neglect the life of prayer, we’ll be useless as officers. There will be no power in us.

Secondly, get real about sin in your life. Fight those battles now, today. Once you’re in the field, it will be harder. While you’re here, put to death the sins that are in your flesh. And come to love the doctrine of Wesleyan holiness. Dare to believe that Christ will fully deliver you from every sin you struggle with.

Jesus says, “You did not choose me, I chose you.” Jesus called us into the Salvation Army. And he has appointed us to go, and bear good fruit, by saving souls and making disciples. So seek God in the dry mountains of pain and darkness, and the consuming fire of God’s presence will find you. Remain in the love of Christ on this journey, through unconditional obedience, as we lead our people home to paradise. If you do these things, you will be a truly great officer of the Salvation Army.