Many today are feeling overwhelmed with all the challenges facing our nation and the world. They feel dry and weary; stuck in the wilderness; wondering what to do and where to go to find a way out. Are you there?
You might be struggling through stress, anxiety, sorrow, depression, even concerns about the future. But I believe God is saying, “the future is now, it’s time to cross the Jordan into the Promise Land!”
Let me just share a few thoughts out of a book entitled, Who Will Cross the Jordan?, I initially wrote in published in 1990, then updated and republished under the title, It’s Time To Cross The Jordan, in 1998 and 2002, that can help you cross the Jordan you face today. Leonard Ravenhill, revivalist and author of “Why Revival Tarries”, “Tried and Transfigured”, and other books had become an important figure in my life. He used to give out cases of my first book, and said, “I pray your book will help those who are stuck between Egypt and the Promised Land to find escape and entrance. This book challenges and is ministering life. Press on!”
For each Christian, the Jordan is the line between wilderness living and Promise Land living. It is the line between living in the power of self or in the power of Christ. It’s the line between complacent and mediocre Christianity, living for self, or unyielding and exceptional Christianity, living for Christ.
For some, that line seems to be a simple step, a decision of their will, for others the line seems to be an almost impassable barrier of war against their will. Whether a simple decision or a battle within, the choice is ours and it must be made, even fought through if necessary. Either we wear the wilderness garments of the world, or we wear the promised land garments of Jesus Christ. Wearing the garments of Christ means to hate sin and love God with all of our heart, soul and mind. To love God in this way is to open us to truth and correction. If we’re not willing to receive truth, correction and chastisement then we will never enter into the completeness of what God has for us. As a Church, we are in great need of truth and correction today.
What Will Your Choose?
A survey taken back in the 1980s showed that 80% of Americans considered or professed themselves to be Christian. But only 13% of that 80% said they would suffer persecution for the sake of Gospel. Other surveys around that time, revealed that out of the 80%, only 13 or 14% believed in the Biblical commandments of God. I daresay those percentages might be even less today.
The Aposle Paul suffered much for the sake of the Gospel, and yet he wrote in Phillippians 3:10, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” Paul understood that suffering for the Gospel draws us closer to Christ and allows us to know Him more fully..
The Bible teaches in 2 Timothy 3:12 that all who would love God in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution, “ Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” So, if we are truly born again, we must assume at some point we will encounter persecution. Lackluster faith won’t cut it, In fact, the lifeless devotion to the Lord that I see today is a quandary for the Church and does not bode will regarding the influence that we will leave for the future.
In January of 1990, I joined a group of Vietnam veterans on a trip to Vietnam by invitation of friend, Vietnam Veteran Roger Helle, executive director of a Teen Challenge family center and the V.P of Vets With A Mission. He had asked that I go also as a minister and potential chaplain to some of these veterans. This group of veterans were on the trip to return to where many of their friends and comrads were killed. Some had what they called survivors guilt that affected them well after the war. Together, we also served orphanages, built medical clinics and did other humanitarian projects. Bill, the president of Vets With A Mission at the time led the group, and he shared with me something about poverty, persecution and prosperity. He said, “there are three things the Church has struggled to overcome over the last 2000 years, poverty, persecution and prosperity. History shows that even in times of persecutioin and poverty and challenges, that the Christian faith and Chruch continues to grow and flourish. Whereas, during long periods and times of peace & prosperity, we can tend to forget that our prosperity and successes are given from God as a stewardship to extend the gospel. And, we may even have a form of religion, yet forget God, like the Israelites did even after God warned them in Deuteronomy8:11-17:
“Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, 12 lest—when you have eaten and are [a ]full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; 13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are [b ]multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; 14 when your heart [c ]is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; 15 … 17 then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’”
Attributing success to our own efforts is actually a form of idolatry, which spawns self-centeredness, complacency, and ultimately, compromise. Instead of fearing God, some fear the world and seek it’s deceiving goods. This has been the case in recent Church history, I believe, and so it is today. Scripture teaches us that the stewardship of riches, honor and life, comes through humility and the fear of the Lord. When we circumvent or forget the humble ourselves before the Lord, and that we are stewards of His Peace and Prosperity for the sake of the gospel, not self absorption, we will find ourselves being shaken.
The Lord’s chastisement, like a consuming fire, can do one of two things. It will either harden our hearts. or it will cause us to refocus our priorities and reevaluate our purpose for living. God chastises us to bring us back in line with His truth, in His grace, so that we can be partakers of His Holiness. Hebrews 12:10 says, “ For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.”
I say to you today, don’t be discouraged. Don’t be weary. Let’s cross the Jordan together. Let’s receive truth and correction; and get ourselves in position to receive the anointing, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. There may be traps and temptations along the journey. But we are able to overcome them as we keep our focus on our destination and hold on to the promises that the Lord has given us.
Clinging to the things of this world prevents us from entering into the promises of God, or crossing our Jordan; and leaves us in the wilderness, living between two kingdoms. I Kings 18:21 says, “Elijah came to all the people and said, ‘How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him. But if Baal,l follow him.’ But the people answered him, not a word.” The Kingdom of God is righteousness. But the kingdom of satan is the love of the world and all that is contrary to righteousness. They are two different spiritual kingdoms.
To be a true follower of Christ, It is not possible to live in both worlds. Jesus said that God’s children cannot serve both God and mammon (Matthew 6:24). Mammon is an illustration of how wealth itself has become exalted to the place that should be only occupied by God Himself. We cannot serve God and also serve sin. Worldliness is an abomination to God. Luke 16:13 says, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
It is impossible to embrace the covetousness and greed of this world and at the same time, embrace the righteousness of God. We live in this world, but we’re not of it. If the Lord is truly Lord of our lives, then we serve His kingdom. We’re ambassadors for Christ, ministers of reconciliation. We become part of His kingdom and His kingdom is greater than the kingdoms of this world.
What Makes God Sick?
For a time, I took regular ministry trips to Vietnam. During one of those trips, I became desperately ill. I contracted a severe illness and all I knew was that my body was fighting desperately to get something out of it. After a lot of prayer, and seeing the doctors, I finally received a clean bill of health.
What I experienced with that sickness is, in some way, a picture of what the Bible describes about the Church of Laodecia in Revelation 3:16, “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither [a ]cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” It gives me sense of what Christ means when He wants to get the lukewarmness out of the Church. See, lukewarmness makes God sick and everything within Him wants to be rid of it. Yet many professing Christians are worshipping the god of worldliness while serving the kingdoms of this world. By doing so our actions are a form of despising God, Himself.
Lukewarmness comes on gradually. We’re hot and on fire for God. Then the process of justifying and rationalizing sin begins to take place. When truth is finally shoved aside, we become friends with the world and are no longer hot, nor cold, but simply lukewarm.
As believers in the Lord, we know that our bodies are to be the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:19). So each time we trust in the world system to sustain us, we are placing the temple of Holy Spirit in bondage to a satanic world system. We become idolaters and worshipers of this world. Now, I’m not talking about in the natural course of relationships and building business or developing success. I’m talking about the love of this world and living in a worldly fashion. Obviously this lukewarmness is not acceptable to a Holy God.
What I saw during my first trip to Vietnam in 1990, became a life lesson to me. The poverty and oppression of the general populace were a sharp contrast to the spiritual riches of those precious persecuted Vietnamese Christians. They were hungry for God, even in the midst of scarcely adequate food and resources. They met under threat of their lives and yet joyously worshipped and encouraged one another in the Lord. To me, they embodied what Christ spoke to the Church of Smyrna in Revelations 2:9 saying, “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich).”
But to those who become enamored by the abundant blessing we enjoy, I can hear Christ saying, as He did in Revelation 3:17, “you say ‘I’m rich, have become wealthy and have need of nothing,’ and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.” It is so easy for us to become naked and poor spiritually, in the midst of our physical comforts and the riches around us.
The loving and compassionate Christ, who laid down His life for us on the cross of Calvary, is the very same Jesus who says He will vomit us out of His mouth if we’re found to be lukewarm through comfortable compromise with the world. The Lord leaves no room for carnal Christianity or worldliness. In fact, carnal Christianity is a self delusion. It’s just another way of saying, I want to live for the world, but I also want to be accepted by God. I want to partake of the pleasures of sin, but I also want fire insurance. Either we’re disciples of Christ or not. Either we love God, or we are at enmity with Him.
Jesus loved us so much that He voluntarily laid down His life and poured out His blood for us; choosing in His flesh to be separated from God during that climactic moment on the cross. And so doing, uniting Himself with us, that we might have eternity with Him. What love! He paid a very high cost of love on Calvary for us! How can we return to Him less than a genuinely yielded life consecrated to Him?
Whatever we choose, there are consequences to our choices – good or bad.
Proverbs 13:13 says, “He who despises the word will be destroyed, but he fears the commandment will be rewarded.” God’s point is clear to us. When God’s truth is shoved aside and His commandments are ignored, we bring judgment upon ourselves or we suffer consequences. When we continue to set our affections between two worlds and persistently live a compromised spiritual life, we will suffer the consequences. Simple obedience to God, on the other hand, brings great reward and yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
God passionately desires communion with us. He continues to reach out to us in many different ways. Through His loving chastisements, God wants to bring us to a place of walking with Him in oneness of heart, soul, mind and spirit. His chastisements mature us so that others will see Him living through us. They will see that we are different from the world, in our values, the way we act and how we do business. All aspects of our lives will be transformed, wholly acceptable unto God. Either we receive His instructions and reap its rewards, or we will despise them and suffer the consequences. Either we deliberately cross the Jordan and enter into His rest, or we continue to wander in the wilderness of life.
Romans 12 :1 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
My friends, don’t be stuck between two kingdoms. We live in this world, but we are not of it. We don’t have to be worldly to have a godly influence. I want to encourage you to cross the Jordan and possess the Land of Promise.
As Joshua challenged the Children of Israel, so I challenge you, “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” Joshua 24:15.
*Article adapted from the first chapter of It’s Time to Cross the Jordan by Doug Stringer.