AN “I” EXAM: Restoring Our Vision for Christ’s Mission – Choose Who You Follow Carefully
Exodus 15:22-27 (p. 49) May 15, 2016
[I remember hearing about a woman who got off work and started home, but it was extremely foggy that evening so as she got on the interstate she followed the taillights of the car in front of her…she continued to do this for quite a while even as they exited the interstate together…through curves and streets as she made her way home…until the car in front of her stopped abruptly…and just sat there…she honked her horn and a large man got out of the car and started back to hers…she reached for the mace she had in her purse as he tapped on her window…she rolled it down a crack and angrily said “What are you doing stopping in the middle of the street?” and he said “Ma’am, this isn’t a street…it’s my driveway.”]
Folks, it’s extremely important to choose who we follow because if we choose wrong it might lead us to a place we never wanted to go.
Jesus’ mission for the Church is “Go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matt. 28:19)
In the original Greek it was an aorist participle…”Poreuthentes”…What that really means is it’s an imperative command…It assumes that you will be going…you will be leaving the Church assembly…you will be leaving your house for work…you will be leaving to go out with friends or be engaged in your children’s school activities or events…and what it means…is “when this happens…make disciples…look for the opportunity to share your faith in Christ.
One writer put it this way…“A ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships were built for.”
Christians are safe when we assemble together…Christians are safe when we are in our homes, and when we are with other believers…but that is not what Christians are built for…Christians are built to “Go” and as we “go,” make disciples.
Jesus led the 12 apostles and others to do just this…the 12 apostles and Paul the Apostle led others to do this…and those followers then led others to do this.
It’s extremely important that present day teachers and leaders in the Church hear the same passion to go…or will get lost in the fog following the wrong tail lights and stuck in the driveway.
In our study this morning you know the story…God has called Moses to rescue the Israelites from slavery in Egypt…with his brother Aaron at his side, Moses proclaims “Let my people go” to Pharaoh…But its only after 10 plagues…including the death of the first born of every house that is not covered in the blood of the passover lamb that Pharaoh relents…and even then he changes his mind, chases the Israelites to the Red Sea…where God provides an escape for His children by dividing the waters…and sends it crashing down on the Egyptians…the Israelites even sing God’s praises for this miraculous rescue.
“Sing to the Lord, for He is highly
exalted. Both horse and driver,
he has hurled into the Sea.” (Ex. 15:21)
I’m sure they loved following Moses as these words sprang from their lips in song…but 3 days later that song turned to grumbling…as:
I. THEY TRAVELLED ON A NEW WAY
Remember these folks had been in slavery for 400 years…This is all these folks had ever known, as well as their children and families. And they had also just experienced the 10 plagues and God’s protection from the Passover Lamb, as well as his delivering at the Red Sea. But slavery breeds fear…and 3 days later they questioned their decision…and grumbled against their leader…3 days in the desert without water made them uncomfortable, and when they came to water it was “bitter,” undrinkable…so they grumbled against Moses.
I believe it’s important we stop right here and remember whose idea this is!
And whose people these are! God’s covenant had been established with the Israelites through Abraham many years before…when God called him in Genesis 12 He said,
“Go from your country, your people, your household, to a land I will show you.
I will make you into a great nation
and I will bless you.
I will make your name great
and you will be a blessing
I will bless those who bless you
and whoever curses you I will curse
And all the peoples on earth will be
blessed through you.” And then it says:
“So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.” (Genesis 12:1-4)
It was a blood covenant…it was God’s plan…His promise…which He always kept…which He never broke…His people did…over and over…that’s the primary reason they were in slavery in the first place.
And now after 400 years they h ave another chance…a chance once again to be a people of covenant faith…and get to the place God has always wanted to get them.
This is true for the Church as well…even more powerfully than the Israelites. Sin, and its enslavement is a worse captivity than Egypt’s taskmasters. The Passover Lamb for us was the perfect “Lamb of God” applied to our lives so the death angel passes over because of His resurrection. Heaven is the Promised Land…but this world and this life can sure seem like a desert! (Baptism is our Red Sea)
I believe with all my heart that the New Testament is written to us so we can survive the new way as God leads us through the desert…so we can know Him…follow trusted leaders…and make it home.
Moses was just an archetype of Jesus the supreme rescuer…and our mission is to “go” and rescue a world caught in spiritual slavery…it’s important we understand
1. There will be times we get thirsty on the desert road.
3 days is a long time without water in the desert. It’s at the limit physically…and it’s gonna get uncomfortable…why would God allow this to happen to His covenant people?
Because He’s more interested in growing our faith and trust in Him than giving immediate gratification. It’s in this place where you discover “grumblers.” But it’s also where you discover “trusters.”
[In ministry I’ve had many times of 3 days without water…but 2007 was my most thirsty time…a son at war…a son going through a divorce…severe physical pain every day in my back, neck and hips…my dad was gone…I’d had a heart attack just 10 years before and I had 3 stints put in later that year…the Church was good but we’d reached a time of stagnancy in our new facilities…I was beaten, hurting, weary and very very thirsty…and there were “grumblers” too.]
But I trusted…I trusted the God who had miraculously saved me through His Son…I trusted the One who had begun this good work in me and I trusted He would bring it to completion…in my dry weariness I kept walking after Him to the Promised Land…and He brought sweetness where there was bitterness…He brought living water where there seemed to be a stagnant pond…And if you asked me if I would trade where I’m at with Him in my faith because of that desert, so I didn’t have to go through it…I’d tell you NO WAY!
Without the bitterness of Marah…God’s people would never have seen how He provides or how sweet the 12 springs and 70 palms of Elim were.
It’s easy to forget our way because:
2. Grumblers always breed more grumblers.
The people grumbled against Moses, saying “what are we to drink” You and I both know it started with a few…it became a private supper like in Corinth… “what’s the deal with Moses…he doesn’t know what he’s doing!” It was better in the good old days in Egypt…at least we had food and water.” Grumblers always breed more grumblers…Encouragers and trusters always breed more encouragers and trusters…Man we’d better choose carefully who we follow! Following those who would walk through the well known roads of Egypt…or Following those who would take the new way home…Following one keeps you in slavery…Following the others lets you experience God’s promise.
You see our spiritual health depends on whether we pass God’s test…that test is:
II. LISTENING TO GOD AND DOING WHAT IS RIGHT
EXODUS 15:25b-26 (p. 49)
The two keys for the Israelites and for us “listening” and understanding what God wants us to do…and then…“doing it.”
Every church, and I mean “EVERY CHURCH” will decide whether they are guided in their journey by the “grumblers” or by the Almighty God…and there’s always going to be the temptation to take the easy way out…pleasing people instead of pleasing God…But if you do, welcome to the place Corinth reached where many were “weak, sick and had fallen asleep in their faith.” (1 Cor. 11:30) Welcome to a place where the same diseases that plague unbelievers will place you…discontent, discouragement, selfishness, dissatisfaction and “every form of malice”…a place where grumbling and gossips hold your hand as you walk back into slavery.
Knowing God’s Word…even teaching God’s Word doesn’t make someone a leader worth following. In fact if you follow a teacher that only knows and understands God’s Word but doesn’t do it…you’ve done more harm to your faith than good…choose who you follow carefully…and make it your goal to become a leader whose worth following
I think you can tell when a person is listening carefully and doing what is right by the fruit they produce…and by fruit i mean “disciples.”
Jesus said “A good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit” (Matt. 7:18). He follows that with a similar but true statement: “A bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” Pretty simple, but an effective way to test who is worth following.
A good leader shares God’s truth passionately with joy…it’s who they are. They fan a flame into a desire to follow Jesus and His mission…you leave their presence challenged, but better…Disciples are created that carry the torch and set the world ablaze…Church exists for that purpose…but often it can become a place we just sit by the fire and get warm. I remember this story from when I was a child:
“When frost was on the pumpkin, and the wind was rising higher,
He spent his time just this way, sitting by the fire.
While others worked to win the lost, he never seems to tire,
For he spend his time just this way, sitting by the fire.
And when he died by slow degrees, some said he’d gone up higher,
Bt if he’s doing what he used to do, he’s siting by the fire!”