Thursday, December 22, 2005

Another Stone in the River

Joshua 4:9 “And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day.”

First of all, thanks to Pastor Neil for getting me focused on this particular topic. Neil mentioned in his blog the need to get rid of stuff that hinders us. Well, that reminded me of a message I preached a few years back, but it’s pertinent to the discussion we’ve been having over on his blog site. I thought I'd bring it up here. Now, let’s get into the Word!

I want to give a little background information on this passage. God had now begun leading His people into the land of Canaan, the land He had promised Abraham that his descendants would live in. They were actually situated east of Canaan, modern day Israel and Palestine. Right off the bat, these folks are faced with problem number one: the Jordan River. Now, any other time of year, this would be a cakewalk. But this was harvest time, and at harvest, the river overflowed its banks (see Josh. 3:15). I suppose the word “overflow” is something of an understatement. You see, history tells us that at this time, it was over a mile wide. Normally, it was a small river, easy to cross. God miraculously caused the river to part, kind of like the Red Sea, so they could cross over on dry ground by foot. Joshua had one man from each of the twelve tribes get one stone out of the riverbed, and set it up on the other side where they were camping, as a memorial to what God has done. That’s another message for another day, and I’ll wait till then to talk about those stones. But then, while the water was still held back by God, Joshua took twelve more stones himself, and piled them up in the middle of the riverbed. Now, I understand why God had them pile the stones up on the other side, but why in the riverbed, since the water would begin to flow soon at flood stage, and the stones Joshua set up would be covered? I believe the reason he set up those stones in the riverbed was he was making a declaration that the people those Israelites used to be were gone now. You see, these people grew up in the desert hearing nothing but grumbling and complaining. They heard their parents voice their unbelief. That had to rub off on them, at least in part. I believe the attitudes and unbelief had to die. That’s what those stones in the Jordan represented.

So, what does that mean for us who belong to Christ? It means that we also must get rid of the stuff that holds us back in our walk with Christ. We have stones that most be piled up in the riverbed, too. Just listen to what Hebrews 12:1 has to say.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”

What hinders you today, friends? What is it that is holding you back from all that Christ has for you? Yes, it could be some besetting sin. It could just be “stuff”, things that aren’t really sinful, but aren’t helping you either. That word, “encumbrance” in the Greek literally means “bulk” or “mass”. It’s the stuff that weighs us down, and keeps us from effectively running this race. Here’s an example from my life. I grew up in the eighties, and I am a child of the video game. I had the Atari 2600. I had the Nintendo Entertainment System. I had computers with great video games. Now, I have my brother’s Xbox game system, because he isn’t using now. If I’m not careful, I will let myself do nothing but play games. I love it! I will stay up until very late at times with that thing and I have to be up before first light. Now, the games I play aren’t bad or evil. I don’t have Grand Theft Auto or anything like that. Is there something inherently evil about video games? That depends on the game, but with the games I have, no. The problem comes when the games start taking from my time with God, from prayer and times of Bible study and worship. The Xbox becomes a weight that is holding me back.

I like what the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3: 13-14:

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

We have a mark we are pressing on to, and stuff is going to have to be dumped and forgotten. In Paul’s case, it was his religious upbringing, his pride as a Pharisee, the pride associated with his national identity, and his vile hatred of Christ and His Church prior to his own salvation. He said of it all, “it’s all just dung”.

So be encouraged today, friend. The Lord is on your side, and He is doing a work in you that you can’t possibly do in your own strength. And be encouraged as He asks you to lay aside stuff, He will also give you the grace to do so. I leave you with one of the great promises of God in Philippians 2:12-13:

“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure

God bless, my friends!


King Of Hearts said...

Greetings for X'Mas & New Year.

Neil said...

Great Post! I love the analogy about the video games. Once I was preaching a revival and the pastors 13 year old had space invadors, we played so much that I could see them in my sleep, when I closed my eyes to pray in consumed me. Isn't it amazing that we criticize religions that worship idols, which is wrong, but fail to see how easily we can allow something that in itself isn't evil...just distracting to get into our lives?

We've all been somewhere, are somewhere, and are going somewhere, I think the question is what are we taking with us? Those stones should remind us where we've been, but also like you said, to leave somethings behind so we can get where we're going!

michigan preacher said...

Space Invaders?! I had that game when I was 6 or 7! Yea, we must leave thing behind. Great thoughts, Neil.

Darrell said...

Really good post Jeff.
Just wanted to wish you and your family and wonderful Christmas.

Blessings upon you and your family in the Name of Jesus!


michigan preacher said...

Back at ya, Darrell. Merry Christmas to you and your's too.