"I want to see God do great things!"
"I want Jesus to be real in my life — to be able to experience, not just someone I think about in my head!"
"I want to be able to feel the Holy Spirit at work in my life, but I'm not sure how to do that!"
"I want to believe, but I need to see God at work to be able to know that God is really there!"
Four great statements. Maybe you've made them. I know I have said something like each one of them in my life at some point. So where can we go to find a clear answer to the question behind each statement?
- How can we see God do great things?
- How can we experience Jesus' presence?
- How can we feel and know the Holy Spirit is at work in us?
- How can we existentially know that God is real?
This is a key issue for Joshua as he begins to lead God's people into the great journey we know as "The Conquest." The problem for Joshua was that there was no reason to expect great victories when God put Joshua in charge of the people. Joshua's only attempt at leading and going against the tide of public opinion had ended in a dismal failure and nearly got him killed (Numbers 13:1-33; Numbers 14:1-12). All he had ever been was a second string player who backed up Moses.
When God puts Joshua in charge in place of Moses, the LORD tells Joshua to "be strong and courageous" (Joshua 1:1-18). So what is the first thing Joshua tells the people to do? He tells them that they are going to cross the Jordan River, at flood stage, led by — no, not the Israelite Army's Corps of Engineers — the priests who carry the Ark of the Covenant (Joshua 3:1-4). To be prepared to do this, he sends them back to their tents and tells them:
"Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you" (Joshua 3:5).
For Joshua, for the people of God, the great new chapter in their history begins with consecration — the powerful, new move of God nearly always begins with his people offering themselves to him in consecration!
Huh? Consecration? Consecrate? What does that mean?
Consecration is the solemn dedication of person, place, or thing, to a special purpose or service, usually for sacred reasons. To put it into cornbread English, they were to go home and offer themselves to God as a living sacrifice to live for his glory (Romans 12:1).
And that's what they do. And that's when God does an amazing thing among them (Joshua 3:13-17).
So when their next challenge came, the taking of the city of Jericho, what do you think God told them to do to prepare for that challenge? God told them, in essence, to consecrate themselves. And he told them more than once.
First, God's people learn that everyone in the land is afraid of them and that their hearts had melted in fear (Joshua 5:1). So they are ready to move out?
The enemy is ready for the taking? Right?
God tells them to consecrate themselves!
Second, God tells the people to do the dumbest thing imaginable from the standpoint of military strategy: circumcise all the men! No kidding! All the Israelite men have to rest up for several days recovering from their "surgical procedure"! God told them to make all the men vulnerable so they could consecrate themselves to God by receiving the sign of their covenant with God in their own body (Joshua 5:2-9). The LORD is basically saying to them again, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you"!
Once again, God tells them to consecrate themselves as his people by reliving their great victory by God's power over Egypt!
Third, they celebrate the Passover — the meal that reminds them of the power of God to free them from Egyptian bondage and go with them. In addition, the LORD stopped providing the manna for their food (Joshua 5:10-12). He was teaching them that they had to rely on their God in a different way: they would eat of the food of the land as God gave them victory over their enemies who held the land.
So they are ready to move out? The enemy is ready for the taking? Right?
God shows them once again that they must consecrate themselves — but this time it is directed at Joshua!
Fourth, God shows Joshua that the victory will not rely on his strength, wisdom, and leadership, but upon his faith in the LORD, whose power commands heaven's armies (Joshua 5:13-15). Just as Moses had done (Exodus 3:1-10), Joshua bows before God's holy presence and takes off his shoes because he is on holy ground. Joshua, the key leader, consecrates himself for God's work.
NOW Joshua and the people of God are READY! Now they will take the first fortified city: not by their power, but by God's power shown through a "marching band" (Joshua 6:1-27)!
So what's the point?
The power to meet our future, to get past our obstacles, to triumph our enemies, our challenges and overcome whatever we will have to face comes down to one very clear truth demonstrated to Joshua and the people of God:
God's power can overcome any obstacle I face if I am willing to consecrate myself — offer myself fully to glorify God no matter the personal cost — and obey God!
God's people today — you and me — can easily get stuck in the past, reliving the same problems, rehearsing the same hurts, remaking the same complaints, and relying on the same old stories of failure. This cripples churches, tears apart families with deep wounds, and paralyzes Jesus' followers with fear, negativity, and faithlessness.
So let me ask you a question — the same question I've been asking myself:
What is holding me back from living for the Lord with passion, courage, and confidence?
- Is it some "secret sin" I struggle with like lust, jealousy, cynicism, greed, bitterness, resentment, arrogance, or shame?
- Is it some socially acceptable church sin like gossip, negativism, sarcasm, hurtful speech, laziness, divisiveness, or an unforgiving spirit?
- Is it loss of hope in the future because of wounds I've suffered, leaders who have failed, or efforts that have gone wasted and unappreciated?
- Is it some fear I won't face?
Let's hear the word of the LORD given for us today:
"Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you"!
It's time to give up our false crutches, our lame excuses, and our wounded whining! God calls us to leave those marks of bondage — our slave mentality, our previous failed and faithless generations — behind. He wants us to consecrate ourselves to his work, his plan, his power, and his glory.
So what do we do?
Here's a little exercise I've done with myself and with others. Write down what it is that holds you back. It may be one word, one sentence, one page, or one ream of paper worth of stuff that you feel holds you back from offering yourself fully to God. Whatever it is, write it down... prayerfully and honestly. Now share that with two other strong believers who will pray with you and walk with you toward God's future (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Then, offer what holds you back to God — burn it, bury it, destroy it — offer it back to God and give it up!
You are going to be tempted to finish reading this and never do the consecration exercise. So...
I encourage you to join me in really doing it! Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what is holding you back and consecrate yourself to the LORD, expecting God to do great things. Offer yourself. I joined with over 95 other people last Sunday and did this exercise. What you see in the picture on the left, is my promised offering up of these spiritual road blocks to God by burning them after praying over them.
If God's people in Joshua's day had to go through the process to consecrate themselves, we can't take short cuts and not offer ourselves to God! Let's offer up those stumbling blocks that are holding us back and let God forgive them, cleanse them, heal them and make us holy and ready for his work in our lives. And then let's watch what the LORD can do... and will do... when we consecrate ourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among us!