Then Moses said to God, “If your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from this place.”

Exodus 33: 15

 

In this part of his conversation with God, Moses is being honest, and he is letting the Lord know just how much he relies upon Him. Moses understands that there is no amount of honor, acclaim, or power that people can give to him that would make leading the Hebrew nation worth doing if he were not following God’s path in the process. Now Moses was the leader of a great number of people, and he commanded an enormous amount of respect in that position; yet, he was wise to in the ways of God and of living life, and he had come to the place where he understood that this wisdom all came from the Lord.

 

We should adopt the same attitude in all of the things that we set out to do in life and for all of the journeys that we take. Now I find it easier to consider that I should seek out God’s will for the really big things and the significant movement through life; however, Moses was really saying that he did not want to take one single step that was not in the footprints of God; that’s right, not even one! The Lord wants to go before us through everything and to every place, and when that is true, great things can happen in the most routine of circumstances; for then, we will be bringing the reflected glory of God into the sorts of places that we often don’t consider to be a part of the sacred. Isn’t that exactly where the presence of the Lord is most needed?

 

Yet, this request of God already has an answer, for the Lord has promised that He will never desert us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13: 5) So, the answer to this request gets down to my own desire to see it fulfilled; since, the Lord will lead me along His path and through any situation where His will desires for me to go. My part in all of this is much the same as was Moses’, for he had been talking with God in order to know the Lord better, and Moses had opened his heart and expressed both his desires and his concerns to God so that he could hear God’s perspective and will in these matters. We can do exactly the same thing. We can get to know God better every day; talk with Him about all of life and about all of its concerns and challenges; and be prepared to step forward with Him as the Lord takes you on His great journey.

 

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Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.”

Joshua 3: 5

 

In his great song “Elijah” Rich Mullins speaks about the fact that “The Jordan is waiting.” Mullins used the river that faced Joshua and the people of Israel as a symbol of the enormity of what lies ahead for himself and for each of us as we seek to follow Christ in our world. The raging waters of that river were really only the smallest of the concerns that were there, and that is not different from what lies outside of our front doors every day. I know, for most of us there are no rushing torrents of bolder roiled water, not even one hungry lion, and very few actual spears and arrows pointed at us. However, there are opponents and they will mount opposition in many different forms. Some of them are giants indeed, who bring great force and power to bear against us as we confront their sacred places with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

Like Joshua and the people that he led, we have a sacred duty to perform. Their task was considerably more important than just acquiring a place to settle down and conduct life. God gave them the responsibility to take back a portion of creation from the hands of evil. So, their mission was much greater than just settling the country, building homes, and raising families; it was even more important than entering into regular worship of the Lord. These followers of God were to dwell in this place in a manner that would bring the presence of the Living God into the midst of the other people of the earth. Their lives and the conduct of them was intended to draw people who were lost, wandering, and separated from God into His love, grace, and salvation. That is why the task before them was truly holy in its nature so that it required them to be prepared in body and in spirit to undertake it.

 

The place where Joshua and the Israelites were on that day is not all that different from the one where each of us who follows Christ is today. When we head out of the door at the start of a new day, we are not just going to a workplace, to school, out to meet a friend for coffee, or even just for a simple walk around our neighborhood. The land out there is not all that different from Canaan with its raging river and fortified walls, its armed opposition and seductive enticements. In Christ, we are all called upon to consecrate our days and ourselves to serving our Lord. For me this means that I seek out His will for this day, enter into prayer as the primary means of preparation for the journey, and set out with my heart and my mind intent upon listening to the Spirit and heeding His voice’s prompting every step along the way. This form of total commitment is never easy to hold onto, for the sound of the water is pounding in my ears as I open my doors. Yet, Christ speaks to me from deep inside where His Spirit dwells, and He calls me back into the surety of His loving will and the confidence that comes out of a heart that is consecrated to my Lord.

Know that the LORD, he is God!

It is he who made us, and we are his;

we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

Psalm 100: 3

 

Most people do not like the idea of being owned. I know that this is true for me; I may speak about submission and granting my allegiance to positions and to people with authority, but actually doing this is another matter. Yet, God’s position is far higher and His rights are much greater than any of these human and earthly leaders and institutions that seek and that even attempt to place demands upon my life. All power, authority, and mandates for loyalty that exist on earth are derived out of God’s willful establishment of them. Now people do corrupt the positions that they hold and governments are also known to exceed God’s mandate and to abuse their right to rule over us, and when this corruption turns the corner into the outworking of evil in our world, we have a responsibility to work against those evil purposes and to strive to see righteous thinking and actions implemented in place of that which defies God’s will.

 

Still, for a follower of Christ, all of life is to be conducted from the perspective of being a person who is the beloved possession of God As hard as it is for me to admit, I am not free, for God is my creator, and He has not relinquished the title to my body, mind, heart, and soul. This right of ownership and the authority that comes with it are complex things. God has chosen to design His relationships with people in this manner. He could have determined that we would follow His will out of compulsion and without the capability to make our own choices regarding entering into it, but the Lord granted us the ability and the capacity to make decisions about almost everything in our lives. God does desire for each of us to determine that we want to enter into a relationship with Him, and the Lord’s will is for us to order all of our lives under His Word of Truth and within the counsel of His Spirit.

 

When we choose to follow God by coming to Christ, we are giving away the right to go our own way in life whenever and however we might decide is best for us. We are accepting the fact that God has the best plan for all people’s lives and that He may set a course for me that is radically different that the one that I would pick on my own. However, God has promised that His way is the one that leads to peace in my heart, to satisfaction for my spirit, and to meaningful engagement for my mind. Sometimes these things are highly apparent to us and at other times they are obscure. In and through it all, we can count on the fact that we are loved fully by God and that His will for our lives is perfect and complete. We can dwell in the Lord’s pasture of blessing and graze on His bounty of truth, grace, and mercy. Christ is the gentle and loving master who guides me into the joy and the peace of service to His kingdom. So, I desire to be owned by Him.

 

You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.

Deuteronomy 13: 4

 

When I think about the idea of a servant in a story from a time long ago I have an image of a sort of submission that is both total in its scope and oppressive in its nature. My mental image involves the servant walking an appropriate distance behind the master with eyes looking down and the servant’s spirit doing the same. This is a life without honor, dignity, and satisfaction. In this world the only reward that faithfulness brings is another day of the same life. There will inevitably come a time when the heart either becomes numb to it all or the person is compelled to escape by any means available. This is exactly the kind of service from which God seeks rescue everyone.

 

The sort of service that denies value and worth and that holds the one so committed under the harsh thumb of his master is the nature of the relationship that Satan engages in with us. Sin is a relentless and a harsh master. It doesn’t allow room for us to find peace and to enjoy a life that is filled with God’s perfect love and grace. However, no one needs to live a life that is ruled by this sort of servitude. Christ gives us the way to move out from under the thumb of obedience to evil as He grants us the opportunity to follow in His steps through life. The Lord calls to people and offers us forgiveness and grants us a new home where truth is the air we breath. When we yield to Christ and enter into the service of the Lord, He becomes the master who we follow behind.

 

Christ, Himself, is an easy master to follow. He never asks anything of us that is not possible, and He never sends us anywhere where He will not go. Perhaps the hardest part of it all comes from the fact that Christ does demand that we yield our will totally to Him and that we surrender ourselves completely to His service. He does not allow room for us to serve Him and to hold onto other gods. Christ calls us to go with Him exclusively and at all times. There are no vacations or leaves from serving Him, and there is no corner of life where He is fine with our tasting of evil or dabbling in sin. However, as Christ demands us in total, He also gives us the blessing of new life absolutely. He brings us into the joy of heaven as we engage in serving Creation’s King.

 

 

And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.

1 Kings 18: 21

 

This is a hard moment in the history of the people of Israel. Ungodly rulers are leading them into evil ways and unrighteous actions, and they are quietly and passively going along with it all. Admittedly, defying the king or queen would almost certainly result in a very unpleasant outcome, but even the fear of death is for them a failure of faith. These are people who have heard the stories of various miraculous and wondrous ways in which God has saved and preserved their ancestors. Yet, they live in the compromised state that Elijah describes here. Instead of expressing the beautiful and fluid worship practices that are directed to the Lord, they go about in the broken cadence of people who do not know who they are and do not worship any one true god.

 

We do not live in those times. Our nations are not created and designed as theocracies, and our rulers are not the direct appointees of God. They are not intended to establish and guide the spiritual tone and tenor of the land. Yet, there are some striking similarities between the times of Elijah and ours. The challenge that the prophet threw down for the people is still valid today. There are only two paths through life that we can choose. We either choose to follow God, which means that we become committed disciples of Christ, or we follow the ruler of this world and make ourselves into disciples of Satan. I admit that those words sound hard and harsh, and there is much in this life that we encounter that is not absolutely clear.

 

However, when it comes to making our fundamental decisions about what is right and worthy and what is wrong and outside of God’s plan for His people, the only direction that a follower of Christ can go is to submit ourselves to our Lord. His will is found within the pages of His Word, is brought to light through committed prayer and meditation upon that word, is given support and encouragement in the fellowship of Christ’s body the church, and is strengthened and developed as we enter into the struggle of life with the truth and love of the Gospel as our banner. This is not an easy choice to make. But, if Jesus is Lord and He is God, then there is no other path to choose than the one that engages in full-on and total discipleship to Christ.