Note: This is the first of a two-part article.
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 titled Who Will Cross the Jordan?, I initially wrote and published in 1990, then updated and republished under the title, It's Time To Cross The Jordan, in 1998 and 2002. I believe it 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 You 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 the 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 apostle Paul suffered much for the sake of the gospel, and yet he wrote in Philippians 3:10, "to 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 a godly life 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 and Vietnam veteran Roger Helle, executive director of a Teen Challenge family center and the vice president of Vets With A Mission. He had asked that I go as a minister and potential chaplain to some of these veterans.
This group of veterans was on the trip to return to where many of their friends and comrades 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 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 persecution and poverty and challenges, the Christian faith and church continue to grow and flourish. Whereas, during long periods and times of peace and 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 Deuteronomy 8:11-17: 'Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, and His judgments, and His statutes, which I am commanding you today. Otherwise, when you have eaten and are full and have built and occupied good houses, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery, who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, where there were fiery serpents and scorpions and drought, where there was no water, who brought forth for you water out of the rock of flint, who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might prove you, to do good for you in the end. Otherwise, you may 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 its deceiving goods. I believe this has been the case in recent church history, 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 to 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 disciplined us for a short time according to their own judgment, but He does so for our profit, that we may partake 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. First Kings 18:21 says, "Elijah came to all the people and said, 'How long will you stay between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him, but if Baal, then follow him.'" 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 (Matt. 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 (KJV) 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.
Article adapted from Chapter 1 of It's Time to Cross the Jordan by Doug Stringer.
Doug Stringer is founder and president of Somebody Cares America and Somebody Cares International, a global network bringing hope and healing to communities through prayer initiatives, compassion outreaches and cooperative efforts. He is the author of numerous books, including In Search of a Father's Blessing and Leadership Awakening: Foundational Principles for Lasting Success.
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