When you were a kid, did you ever play “Let’s Pretend?” I did! Some of the most exciting days of my childhood were spent with my best friend pretending we were in a faraway place, away from the countryside of our small southern town.
So, I invite you today to pretend you are in a faraway place. I have even it picked out for you, so I can make the points I wish to make. (You get to choose next time we play pretend.)
Here goes. Pretend you are standing on the banks of The Jordan River back in the days of Joshua and Caleb. You watch as the water parts and Joshua and Caleb, along with a new generation of Israelites, walk across on dry land into their long awaited Promise Land.
You are standing there, watching the scene unfold before you, but then you notice that everyone gets very quiet. “What is going on?” Then you realize that Joshua is getting instructions from God, telling them a couple of things they must do before moving forward. (Joshua 4-5)
Let’s lend an ear.
Build a Memorial Monument with Stones: “Take 12 men from each of the 12 tribes of Israel and build a monument with stones. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What is this monument for,’ you can tell them it is to remind you that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the ark of the covenant went across. The monument will be a permanent reminder to the people of Israel of this amazing miracle.”
Circumcise Every Male: “During the forty years you spent wandering in the desert, you stopped practicing the sign of the covenant I made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As your sons were born during the wilderness wanderings, my people failed to honor their covenant obligations. Don’t try to move forward in disobedience until every male is circumcised!"
Okay, our pretend game is over and now we must face the reality of how this scene is significant to us today.
I believe it goes without saying that if we had to place a big stone in our backyard every time we encountered God’s faithfulness to us, the monument would surpass the size of Mount Rushmore. When times are rough with new trials, and we want to cry out, “God, where are you,” all we would have to do is look at the stones in our backyard and remember His faithfulness to us in times past; they push us forward, rather than feeling defeated.
But, yikes! What about that circumcision He was talking about? We know in our world today, circumcision means out heart. May I just put it to you bluntly and say: “We must get the sin out of our life before we try to move forward in disobedience.”
Sin is not something we like to talk about, is it? We prefer instead to talk more about God’s love, and how we’re just going to stand on the promises of His faithfulness to us, regardless of our lifestyles. Then we expect God to shower His blessings on us. We don’t think that God would actually withhold His goodness just because of how we live. After all, nobody is perfect, right?
The late David Berheimer, my pastor for over 25 years, drove a point home to me one Sunday morning as it applies to the circumcision of my heart from Paul’s writings in Galatians 2:21:
I do not frustrate the grace of God
He pointed out that grace refers to the unmerited favor of God to bless us. It was by grace that Jesus paid our sin debt by dying in our place. It is by grace that he helps us through the storms of life. But he pointed out that when Paul said, “I do not frustrate the grace of God,” he was indicating that there are ways to stop or nullify and keep the grace of God from working in my life
The question is:
"How can I stop God’s grace from working in my life?”
First of all, it is important to understand some of the things that do not frustrate God’s grace. A partial list might include: scars from past hurts, poor choices that have messed us up. These only intensify God’s grace.
Some things that frustrate the grace of God and nullifies it might include:
- walking too far away from Jesus
- neglecting His word
- trying to be good in our own strength
- sins of the flesh that God has repeatedly convicted us of, yet we fail to confess it and turn from it such as: unforgiveness in our hearts, unrighteous anger - things that have become a pattern in our lives.
So, my question to you today is:
"Do you frustrate the grace of God?"
"Is there sin in your life that God has gently asked you to get rid of
time and time again?"
I encourage you today to: “Stop right here, and circumcise your heart before going forward. Only then can you become what He desires for you to be from the Inside Out! Only then can you be free to pursue your dreams and passions and go forward.
I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I haven’t been doing. Oh yeah, the whole month of January has been spent in my “War Room” with God circumcising my heart.