Sun, Jun 01, 2008

THE CALL OF GOD'S PEOPLE! EXODUS 19:1-8

THE CALL OF GOD’S PEOPLE!
EXODUS 19:1-8

            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Exodus chapter 19 as we look at: THE CALL OF GOD’S PEOPLE! You see, the call that God gave to the children of Israel is a call for us as Christians today. Yes, we are not Israel but Israel has been put on hold for a time, until the fullness of the gentiles comes in, and once that is completed, then God will deal with the nation of Israel once again. And this will take place after the Rapture and it is during the Tribulation Period that God will deal with Israel as a nation! Thus, this call we see here in Exodus chapter 19 we see God speaking to the church today.

            Now, before we get to our text this morning, let me share this story with you. It is not exactly what God had in mind, as you will see. In this story we will hear from Atlanta Air Traffic Control as they speak to two different airline pilots that are coming in for a landing and their response. We are told:

Atlanta ATC: 'Tower to Saudi Air 911 -- You are cleared to land eastbound on runway 9R.'

Saudi Air: 'Thank you Atlanta ATC. Acknowledge cleared to land on infidel's runway 9R - Allah be Praised. 

Atlanta ATC: 'Tower to Iran Air 711 --You are cleared to land westbound on runway 27L.'

Iran Air: 'Thank you Atlanta ATC. We are cleared to land on infidel's runway 27R. - Allah is Great. 

Saudi Air: ' ATLANTA ATC - ATLANTA ATC'

Atlanta ATC: 'Go ahead Saudi Air 911?'

Saudi Air: 'YOU HAVE CLEARED BOTH OUR AIRCRAFT FOR THE SAME RUNWAY GOING IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS. WE ARE ON A COLLISION COURSE. INSTRUCTIONS, PLEASE.

Atlanta ATC: Well bless your hearts. And praise Jesus. Y'all be careful now and tell Allah 'hey' for us -- y'all hear?

- Source Unknown

            Funny, yes, but obviously that is not what God has called us to do or say. Thus, this morning we will look at what God desires of us as Christians, what kind of people we are to be. And, obviously it is important to know these things as we live out our Christian faith!

            So far in our study in Exodus we have seen God deliver the children of Israel from their bondage in Egypt. He brought them through the Wilderness of the Red Sea, through the Red Sea or the Gulf of Aqaba and now they are traveling to the mountain of God, Mount Sinai in Arabia.  Why did they go this way, it is so much farther to get to the Promise Land, the land of Canaan?  Two reasons I believe they took this route.

            First of all if they headed north to the Promise Land they would have to pass through Egyptian guard posts and that was not safe. Also, the Philistines lived along the coast and that was not a good idea to pass through their land, there would be confrontation for sure.  Now, in saying that and if you really think about it, God defeated the 250,000 soldiers from the Egyptian army who were coming after them, thus, He surely could have taken care of those Egyptian guard posts and the Philistines. So I don’t believe that was the main reason for them traveling to Arabia!

            I believe the main reason is given to us in Exodus 3:12, where we are told, So He said, ‘I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.’  This mountain where Moses encountered God in the burning bush, is the same one God said that Moses and the children of Israel would meet with Him and worship Him once they have been delivered from their bondage in Egypt.  Thus, the mountain of God is Mount Sinai, also called Mount Horeb and that is where they will be gathering as we open up this morning in Exodus chapter 19, starting in verse 1.

EXODUS 19:1-8

            As the children of Israel arrive at Mount Sinai, Moses goes up the mountain to speak to God, to hear from God.  And God wants Moses to tell the people that if they obey Him, there will be tremendous blessings that will flow from their lives. He reminds them of His power in defeating the Egyptians and showing His great love for them.

            In verses 5 and 6 of Exodus chapter 19 God speaks of three things that will fill the lives of His people if they obey His voice. First of all: THE HIGHEST PRIVILEGE – “A SPECIAL TREASURE TO ME.”  Secondly: THE HIGHEST SERVICE – “YOU SHALL BE TO ME A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS.” And thirdly: THE HIGHEST CHARACTER – “A HOLY NATION.”

Now, as I have said, the church is not Israel nor will the church ever be Israel. But I believe God has also given to us these things and all He asks us to do is obey His voice.  You see, this truly is the call of God’s people and thus, let’s see what lessons we can glean from theses verses this morning.

1.  THE HIGHEST PRIVILEGE – “A SPECIAL TREASURE TO ME.”

            I think as Christians many times we lose sight of this.  God has taken us and adopted us into His family, we are children of God, we are co-heirs with Christ, we are a special treasure! To me, that is the highest privilege.

            Imagine someone who is very, very rich, like Bill Gates and he adopts you into his family, you are now a child of Bill Gates, heir to all that is his. In fact, you would have access to it now. All is at your disposal, all you would need to do is ask and it would be yours. Many would see that as the highest privilege, wouldn’t that be great, to have all that? How much better could things get?  To be adopted into the family of one of the richest men in the world!

            Folks, that does not even compare to what the Lord has for us, His children.  Paul, in Ephesians 1:3 makes this very point regarding what the Lord has for us as His children. He wrote, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.  The Amplified Bible puts it like this, May blessing (praise, laudation, and eulogy) be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) Who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual (given by the Holy Spirit) blessing in the heavenly realm!  You see, it all begins by being INChrist, being saved, asking Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, forgiving you of all your sins and once you do that you are adopted into the family of God and His resources are at your disposal!

            Are you hungry? Jesus said, “ . . . ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger . . .’” John 6:35. Are you thirsty?  Jesus said, If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.  John 7:37-38.  Are you trying to find your way?  Jesus said, I am the way.  John 14:6.  Are you trying to find the truth?  Jesus said, “[I am] the truth.John 14:6. Are you trying to find life? Jesus said “[I am] the life.  John 14:6.  All the spiritual blessings are found IN Christ!  It is as Paul said in II Corinthians 1:20, For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. The Amplified Bible puts it like this, For as many as are the promises of God, they all find their Yes [answer] in Him [Christ]. For this reason we also utter the Amen (so be it) to God through Him [in His Person and by His agency] to the glory of God.

            Not only that, but Paul tells us that the Father has chosen us, Jesus has saved us and the Holy Spirit is our guarantee that what God has begun in us He will complete, we will be taken to glory one day! Our Father owns everything, He owns it all and as His children He will give to us what we need to complete the work He has called us to do!

            Also, in Titus 2:11-15 Paul tells us, For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.

Notice what the focus is here, not on what we have done for ourselves, but what He has done for us!  Jesus gave Himself for us, He was not forced to do it but freely laid down His life for us.  He was the substitute for our sins, freely placing Himself on the cross of Calvary!

            By doing that He redeemed us which means “to be bought out of slavery by the paying of a ransom.”  We were slaves to sin but Jesus purchased us out of that condition by giving His life so that we then would serve Him. It is as Peter said, in I Peter 3:18, For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit. 

We are a peculiar people or a special people as the world looks at us, we are different because Christ is in us and He lives through us as the Holy Spirit purges the garbage from our lives.  And we are God’s special people because we are His children, adopted into the family of God through Jesus Christ!

            We are redeemed so that we could be zealous for good works not lethargic in the recliner!  It is God’s Word living in us and manifested through us in good works, not for salvation but evidence for our salvation!

            Too often Christians don’t even realize the blessings they have IN Christ let alone use them for God’s glory.  And folks, that is tragic.  Let me share this story with you and you will see what I mean. We are told:

Unless you subscribe to The Atlanta Journal Constitution, you probably missed the story that was in the May 17, 1987 edition.

A rock hound named Rob Cutshaw owns a little roadside shop outside Andrews, North Carolina. Like many in the trade, he hunts for rocks, then sells them to collectors or jewelry makers. He knows enough about rocks to decide which to pick up and sell, but he's no expert. He leaves the appraising of his rocks to other people. As much as he enjoys the work, it doesn't always pay the bills. He occasionally moonlights, cutting wood to help put bread on the table.

While on a dig twenty years ago, Rob found a rock he described as "purdy and big." He tried unsuccessfully to sell the specimen, and according to the Constitution, kept the rock under his bed or in his closet. He guessed the blue chunk could bring as much as $500 dollars, but he would have taken less if something urgent came up like paying his power bill. That's how close Rob came to hawking for a few hundred dollars what turned out to be the largest, most valuable sapphire ever found. The blue rock that Rob had abandoned to the darkness of a closet two decades ago -- now known as "The Star of David" sapphire -- weighs nearly a pound, and could easily sell for $2.75 million. 

- John MacArthur, Grace to You Newsletter, April 15, 1993

            God has so much more for us as His special people and I am not necessarily talking about physical wealth, which is temporary but spiritual blessings, which are eternal. May we use what God has given to us for His glory. You see, THE HIGHEST PRIVILEGE – WE ARE A SPECIAL PEOPLE TO GOD!

2.  THE HIGHEST SERVICE – “YOU SHALL BE TO ME A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS.”

            This may seem strange to some of you, that God wants us to be priests, but please listen carefully to this, because God has called us to this role. What was the function of the priest?  He was to bring the Words of God to the people and he was to bring the people to God! Folks, that is what we are to do as Christians. We are to bring God’s Word into peoples lives, share the truths of God found in the Word of God.  But not only that, we are bring the people to God, to bring them to Jesus so that they may receive Him as Lord and Savior of their lives.  You see, we are to minister to the lost and to the saved using the Word of God, bringing them to Jesus!

            Now if you are still unsure, listen to what we are told in Revelation 1:4-6, John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

            God has called us to be priests, to represent Him before the people.  I am not talking about the position of a priest or pastor but to minister to others as God has called us. And if you doubt that calling, listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.

            Who is Jesus speaking to here, priests or pastors?  Absolutely not!  He is speaking to the disciples, followers of Jesus Christ.  In other words, He is speaking to you and me and He is telling us to go out and bring people to Jesus and then bring the Word of God to them so that they may grow! 

            The following ad occurred in a London newspaper: “Men wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.” The ad was signed by Sir Ernest Shackleton, Antarctic explorer. Thousands responded instantly to the call. They were ready to sacrifice all for the elation of adventure and uncertain honor. Should God’s children do less.

- Source Unknown

            I do realize for many, this is not an easy task to do but remember what Jesus said in Revelation 3:8, I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.  God opens the doors of opportunity for us and all He is asking us to do is to walk through that door by faith and see what He will do as we bring people to Jesus and bring God’s Word to the people.  You see, THE HIGHEST SERVICE – WE ARE A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS!

3.  THE HIGHEST CHARACTER – “A HOLY NATION.”

            Folks, this is so important for us as Christians, to know and apply this to our lives. To have godly character, to be a holy people, set apart from the world. Now I am not talking about gathering Christians together and living on some commune. What I am saying is that we are to be separated from the world, not to hold to their values, their ideas, their behaviors and-so-on. We are to be doing what God desires of us, separated unto Him!

            The problem for us many times, and it was no different for the children of Israel, taking them one day to get out of Egypt and 40 years for Egypt to get out of them! You see, Egypt is a type of the world and for us, how long does it take for the world’s influences to get out of our lives? I guess that depends on us, if we are willing to let go and let God!  Paul makes this very clear on how we are to live, how our lives should be in II Corinthians 6:14-18, as he wrote, Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.’ Therefore ‘Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.’ I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.

            You see, God has called us to a higher standard, to be holy as He is holy! What the church is trying to do is to fit in with the world and it doesn’t work and it ruins our witness. We are not like the world, we should be like God, to reflect His nature, His likes and dislikes, to be a holy people! If the world looks at us and they see no difference, what kind of witness is that? It is not a witness at all and they see themselves as no different than us, and tragically that is what the world is seeing many times today!

            In I Peter 1:13-16 Peter tells us, Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’

That phrase, gird up the lions is not one we use today.  To put it into our vernacular we might say, “It’s time to roll up your sleeves.”  You see, back then men wore long robes, which were fine for walking in but were a hindrance when you tried to run or do battle.  It would be like wearing a long dress and trying to run a race.  It would be very easy to fall, to stumble as you trip over it.

            Peter’s point is this. God wants us to live a life that is ready. You are not going to place yourself in a situation that will cause you to stumble, to fall.  Prepare your minds so the enemy doesn’t trip you up!  This is a conscious act of our will to obey God, to follow His commands, to live a life that is holy, honoring Him, not because the Law makes us, but out of our deep love for Him!

            Now in these verses we see five points that Peter is making:

            A.  PREPARE YOUR MIND FOR ACTION: Paul, in Romans 12:1-2 tell us, 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.  You see, as you let your guard down you give Satan an opportunity to trip you up!  Don’t let him, allow the Word of God to transform your life – be prepared!

            B.  BE SOBER OR SELF-CONTROLLED: The idea here is not to allow the outward circumstances to control your life but to allow the Spirit of God to control you!  Peter is speaking of mental and spiritual drunkenness or excess – don’t let that control your life.  Paul, in Ephesians 5:15-21 tells us, See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.  Thus, be continually being filled by the Spirit of God and you won’t fulfill the lusts of the flesh!

            C.  SET YOUR HOPE FULLY ON THE LORD People place their hope in all kinds of things because without hope we lose the will to live.  The only problem is, if you place your hope in something that is hopeless, like the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series, you are going to be discouraged, disappointed, you will lose hope eventually.  Thus, we need to place our hope in the Lord because He alone has given to us eternal life and that eternal life is only found in Him and it is a guarantee.  We have a place reserved for us in heaven by God that no one can take away!  And one day we will see Him face – to – face! It is as Paul said in Romans 5:5, Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.  Thus, holy living demands determination – set your hope fully upon Jesus!

            D.  DON’T CONFORM YOURSELVES TO THE FORMER LUSTS:  Paul, in Ephesians 2:1-3 tells us, And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.  You see, we are a new creation in Christ and no longer are we controlled by the flesh but by the Spirit of God.  Thus, what God is doing on the inside of our lives is then manifested outwardly, how we conduct ourselves.  We no longer meander through life without direction, but God is guiding us and we live accordingly.

            E.  BE HOLY BECAUSE GOD IS HOLY The word holy speaks of being set apart, and we are to be set apart for God.  Again, the idea is that we are God’s children, born again by the power of God and thus, we need to live accordingly.  Paul, in Ephesians 1:3-4 tells us, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.  You see, that is the standard that God has set and He is calling us to live that way, to be holy.  “But I can’t do that?”  Yes, that is partially true and we will deal with that in a minute.

            Before we get to that, listen to what Paul says to the Thessalonians regarding this issue of sanctification or that process that God is using to purge the garbage from our lives and to make us more like Him. 

We are told in I Thessalonians 4:1-12, Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified.  For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit. But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing. 

God’s will is for our sanctification, that we would be holy as He is holy.  But how can we do that? Yes, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak!  Listen to what Peter tells us in verse 17 of this chapter because he is going to show us what we need to do to accomplish this in the next verse.

In I Peter 1:17 Peter tells us, And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.  Folks, we can call upon the Lord, our Father and ask Him to help us to live a life that is pleasing to Him and He will give us the power to do that.  You see, He has called us to be holy and our response is that we are to walk accordingly!

            Now Peter does give us a warning, he tells us that God shows no partiality towards us, He doesn’t have a favorite, a “teachers’ pet” you might say.  He doesn’t say, “I’ll excuse Stevie boy because I really like him!”  You see, that would be inconsistent with His character, His nature. He will chasten us because we are His children and when we go astray He loves us so much that He will do whatever it takes to bring us back.

This really is a character issue, godly character. What is that? Listen to what a few have said regarding Character:

Character is simply long habit continued. - Plutarch

Only what we have wrought into our character during life can we take with us. – Humboldt

Character is not made in crisis—it is only exhibited. - Freeman

We do not need more knowledge, we need more character! - Calvin Coolidge

Character is what you are in the dark. - D.L. Moody

            I think D. L. Moody hit the nail on the head. It is what you do when no one is around, what you do in the dark when no one is looking!  And what you do in the dark will eventually manifest itself to others as this story illustrates for us. We are told:

A number of years ago the Douglas Aircraft Company was competing with Boeing to sell Eastern Airlines its first big jets. War hero Eddie Rickenbacker, the head of Eastern Airlines, reportedly told Donald Douglas that the specifications and claims made by Douglas’s company for the DC-8 were close to Boeing’s on everything except noise suppression. Rickenbacker then gave Douglas one last chance to out-promise Boeing on this feature.

After consulting with his engineers, Douglas reported that he didn’t feel he could make that promise. Rickenbacker replied, “I know you can’t, I just wanted to see if you were still honest.”

- Today in the Word, MBI, October, 1991, p. 22

            You see, people are watching our lives, what we do, what we say.  And, as I have said, even more importantly, God is watching what you do in the dark, what you do when nobody is watching you. He wants you to be holy because He is holy!  Lets take a minute and look at the difference between reputation and character, because there is a difference. We are told:

Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next. The circumstances amid which you live determine your reputation; the truth you believe determines your character.

  • Reputation is what you are supposed to be; Character is what you are.
  • Reputation is what you have when you come to a new community; Character is what you have when you go away.
  • Reputation is made in a moment; Character is built in a lifetime.
  • Reputation grows like a mushroom; Character grows like an oak.
  • Your reputation is learned in an hour; Your character does not come to light for a year.
  • A single newspaper report gives your reputation; a life of toil gives you your character. 
  • Reputation makes you rich or makes you poor; Character makes you happy or makes you miserable.
  • Reputation is what men say about you on your tombstone; Character is what angels say about you before the throne of God.
  • Your character is what God knows you to be. Your reputation is what men think you are.

- William Hershey Davis

            Thus, may we live holy lives, not for salvation but as a witness to the world of what God has done, is doing and will do in our lives! You see, for us as Christians, THE HIGHEST CHARACTER – TO BE A HOLY NATION!

            As I begin to close this morning, listen to the response of the children of Israel to what Moses told them. In Exodus 19:8 we are told, Then all the people answered together and said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do.’ So Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord.

            D. L. Moody made this remark regarding to their response of obeying all the Lord has told them. He said, “‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do.’ Bold and self-confident language. The golden calf, the broken tablets, the neglected ordinances, the stoned messengers, the rejected and crucified Christ, are overwhelming evidences of man’s dishonored vows.”

            Maybe that is your response this morning to what you heard, what the Lord was showing you, and I hope it is. That you want to obey all the Lord has shown you. The children of Israel failed because they tried to do it on their own, they walked away from the Lord, they did not obey the Lord as the Lord had instructed them to do. And folks, if we follow in their footsteps we too will fail!

            Our only hope, the only way we will succeed is by surrendering to the Lord, submitting to the Holy Spirit and if we do we will have: THE HIGHEST PRIVILEGE – “A SPECIAL TREASURE TO ME.”  Secondly: THE HIGHEST SERVICE – “YOU SHALL BE TO ME A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS.” And thirdly: THE HIGHEST CHARACTER – “A HOLY NATION.”

            It is as Peter tells us, just as Moses told the children of Israel, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.  I Peter 2:9-10.  It is THE CALL OF GOD’S PEOPLE!

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