Sun, Jun 22, 2008

WHO WILL YOU FOLLOW? EXODUS 20:20-33

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
WHO WILL YOU FOLLOW?
EXODUS 23:20-33

            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Exodus chapter 23 as we look at the topic of: WHO WILL YOU FOLLOW?  This may not seem very important to you, but it truly is. You see, whoever you follow they will be leading you towards something. Thus, if what or who you are following is leading you in the wrong direction, that can be dangerous, it can be deadly.  On the other hand, if what or who you are following is leading you in the right direction, that will be a blessing, it can bring abundant life!  Let me explain it this way with the following story. We are told that:

Eli Black was a brilliant businessman best known for two events in his life: He masterminded the multimillion dollar takeover of the United Fruit conglomerate, and he jumped to his death from the 42nd floor of the Pan Am building in New York City.

In the book An American Company, an executive described a business lunch he had with Eli Black. When the waitress brought a plate of cheese and crackers as an appetizer, Black reached out and took them, placed them on the table, blocked them with his arms, and continued talking. The executive hadn’t eaten for hours and hinted that he would like a cracker. But Black acted as though he hadn’t heard him and went on with the business meeting.

After a while, Black placed a cracker and cheese on the tips of his fingers and continued to talk. Several moments later, Black placed the cracker on the executive’s plate and then blocked the rest as before. It was clear that Black was in charge, manipulating others as he pleased.

When you play “follow the leader,” check to see who is at the head of the line. Eli Black, for all his power, ended up in suicide. Jesus Christ, in all His humility, ended up the Savior of the world.

- Our Daily Bread, February 6, 1994

            Here in Exodus we have seen the children of Israel brought out of their bondage in Egypt as God lead them through the depths of the Red Sea and to Mount Sinai in Arabia! Now, at this mountain of God we see the Lord give them the Moral Law or the Ten Commandments, which deal with our relationship with God first, or the first four Commandments and then our relationship with our fellow man, the last six Commandments!

            Next, the Lord gives to them the Civil Law or how the nation is to function, laws to keep order within the nation, to protect lives and-so-on. And then God will give to them the Ceremonial Law or how they are to worship God, set up the tabernacle, how the priests were to function and-so-on.

            Now, there is a choice to be made. They can follow the Lord or they can disobey the Lord and there are consequences to both. With that as our background, let’s begin reading in Exodus chapter 23, starting in verse 20 and see what the Lord has for us as we look at: WHO WILL YOU FOLLOW?

EXODUS 23:20-33

            God is speaking to the children of Israel here but I believe these principles can be applied to our own lives as we walk with the Lord. And in these verses we have read this morning I see five main points being made.  First, we see SALVATION – EXODUS 23:20-21.  Next we see THE BLESSINGS OF WORSHIP – EXODUS 23:22-25.  From there we move to SANCTIFICATION – EXODUS 23:26-30.  Then we will look at INCREASING YOUR BOARDERS – EXODUS 23:31.  And finally, NO GOING BACK – EXODUS 23:32-33. So lets dig in and see what the Lord has for us as we follow Him!

1.  SALVATION – EXODUS 23:20-21

            Now of all these promises of God there is only one that is not conditional, that is not based upon their obedience and that is the promise to send this angel.  Thus, it is important for us to understand who this angel is and then we will move on from there.

            I believe this angel of the Lord, the one who is to lead the children of Israel is not Michael the Archangel but the pre-incarnate Christ. I believe this is an Old Testament appearance of Jesus Christ and the reason I can say that with such confidence is because of what the Lord said in verse 21, for My name is in Him. In other words, Jesus, YAH-SHUA, the name of the LORD or YAHWEH is in Jesus. You see, He is God and He is not only the One who was leading the children of Israel but He leads us also!

            And notice, if we obey the Angel of the Lord, if we obey Jesus, then He will pardon our iniquities, our transgressions, but, if we don’t He won’t!  What does that mean to us today?  It is really very simple and yet, obedience to this brings forth everlasting life! You see, we must believe and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives. We must believe that He is God and thus, He alone can forgiven sins and that forgiveness of our sins is a free gift that is given to us based on the finished work of Jesus on the cross of Calvary!

            In John 8:24 Jesus said, Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.  When they were translating the Scriptures into English the word He was added for clarity, but I believe it takes away from what Jesus is really saying!  This verse should read, Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins. In other words, if you do not believe that Jesus is the Great I AM, the voice from the burning bush in Exodus chapter 3, Almighty God, then you will die in your sins!

            Also, in John chapter 16 Jesus is speaking of His departure, His death and the coming of the Holy Spirit. And starting in verse 8 we are told, And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.  John 16:8-11.

            When the Holy Spirit comes He is going to do these three things, He will convict the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. Now, what does that mean?  You see, you can ask 10 people what that means and you may get 11 different answers.  But we don’t have to guess because Jesus tells us exactly what that means!

            First of all notice that the conviction of sin is not based on our goodness, our righteousness, why? Because Isaiah 64:6 tells us, But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.  And that word, filthy speaks of used menstrual rags! I know, not a pretty thought and that is the idea. If anyone thinks they will enter into heaven because they are good, they are righteous, guess what? You won’t and Isaiah is very clear on that! The reason people will be convicted of sin is simple, they have rejected Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives – THEY DO NOT BELIEVE IN ME! We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone, or as Paul put it in Ephesians 2:8-9, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  So apart from Christ you will die in your sins!

            The next thing they will be convicted of is righteousness and as we have seen, our righteousness is like filthy rags before a holy and righteous God. Thus, the only righteousness that God will accept is the righteousness of Christ or perfection – HE HAD NO SIN!  The Scriptures verify this fact that Jesus was and is sinless. In I John 3:5 we are told, And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.  Also, in Hebrews 4:15 we are told, For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

            Now, if the only righteousness that the Father will accept is the righteousness of Christ, is there any hope for us? Absolutely, but not apart from Christ! Here is the wonderful thing folk’s. In II Corinthians 5:21 Paul tells us, For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  The Living Bible puts this verse like this, For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God's goodness into us!

            You see, it is not our righteousness that gets us into heaven because our righteousness is like filthy rags! But it is the righteousness of Christ that has been imputed into our lives, poured into our lives by faith! Thus, as we stand before God the Father we don’t stand before Him in our own righteousness but in the righteousness of Christ given to us by faith. Thus, apart from the righteousness of Christ imputed into our lives, we will not see the Father!

            And lastly, the Holy Spirit will convict the world of judgment because the ruler of this world will be judged – SATAN! What does this have to do with us? If you are not following Jesus, if He is not your Lord and Savor, then you too will be judged for your sins in the Lake of Fire. You go there because you have rejected Jesus and the degree of punishment for eternity is the payment you received for the sins you have in committed in your life over the years. And that is not good, there is weeping and gnashing of teeth in the Lake of Fire for eternity!

            So we will die in our sins apart from Christ! We won’t see God the Father apart from the righteousness of Christ imputed into our lives or poured into our lives by faith in Him. And lastly, we will be judged just as the ruler of this world will be judged one day! But it doesn’t have to be that way. Jesus said in John 3:16-21, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.

            Notice, God’s love is active and man’s love needs to be responsive, it needs to respond to what God is offering us, what God is doing, and thus, receive Jesus as Lord and Savior into your lives!  But it is a choice, to follow or not to follow. It truly begins with ourSALVATION folks, and apart from that, He will not pardon our transgressions!

2.  THE BLESSINGS OF WORSHIP – EXODUS 23:22-25

            God wants our obedience. He alone wants our worship. But, there are so many other things that are competing for our worship with God and the Lord tells us, You shall not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their works; but you shall utterly overthrow them and completely break down their sacred pillars.  Exodus 23:24.

            Imagine this situation and see if it would fly. You are married and yet you still go out with the different women or men that you were dating before you were married. How do you think your spouse would feel?  Men, what do you think their response would be? After you woke up from being hit over the head with a frying pan, hopefully you would come to your senses. That you would conclude that this is not a good idea, your spouse wants your attention, your full attention!

            The Lord is no different, He alone deserves our worship and thus, destroy those things in your life that are taking your time of worship away from the Lord! Serve the Lord alone, don’t sit on the fence not sure what you want to do. As the life of Joshua was coming to an end, he wanted to encourage the children of Israel to follow after the Lord, to serve Him, to worship Him alone and in Joshua 24:14-15 we are told, Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! 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.

            The bottom line was this, you can do what you want but if your serve the Lord, that is what is best for your life! But even if you don’t, Joshua tells them that He and his house will continue to follow the Lord, they are not going to be influenced by them and what they are worshiping!  May we learn the lesson!

            And here’s the thing. If your faith is real, if you stand up for what you believe, then the Lord will strike fear in the hearts of your enemies. You don’t have to fear them, but they will fear you because of the Lord your serve!  But it all begins with a heart of WORSHIP that can only take place after our SALVATION!

3.  SANCTIFICATION – EXODUS 23:26-30

            In these verses I believe we see the Holy Spirit teaching us of the sanctification process. Yes, for the children of Israel these were physical enemies that God would drive out of the land little by little and give the land to the children of Israel.  For us, it is those issues of the heart; lust, pride, anger, rebellion, lying, cheating, coveting and-so-on that God will drive out of our lives little by little and make us more like Him!

            First of all the sanctification process begins with the shed blood of Jesus applied to our lives by faith. Paul put it this way in Hebrews 9:13-14, For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?  Then, after we are saved there is that daily cleansing that takes place in our lives as God is purging out that garbage to make us more like Him!

This happens as we read and apply the Word of God to our lives.  David put it like this in Psalm 119:9-11, How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You. Also, Jesus tells us in John 17:17, Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

Do you know how sheep operate? From what I have learned, sheep will follow, they will be lead.  You can hold up a pole 10 feet across. The lead sheep will jump over; and then the next sheep, and the next one. Finally, you can remove the pole, and the sheep will continue to jump over a pole that isn't even there.  With God’s Spirit working through His Word we will be guided through our daily lives and all God wants us to do is obey!  And folks, it is not that we receive Jesus and that is the end of the story. We need to grow in Him, not for salvation but for sanctification!

Listen to the following story and you will see what I mean regarding what God is doing down here in our lives, the sanctification process. We are told:

A famous evangelist told the following incident: I have a friend who in a time of business recession lost his job, a sizable fortune, and his beautiful home. To add to his sorrow, his precious wife died; yet he tenaciously held to his faith -- the only thing he had left. One day when he was out walking in search of employment, he stopped to watch some men who were doing stonework on a large church. One of them was chiseling a triangular piece of rock. 'Where are you going to put that?' he asked. The workman said, 'Do you see that little opening up there near the spire? Well, I'm shaping this stone down here so that it will fit in up there.' Tears filled my friend's eyes as he walked away, for the Lord had spoken to him through that laborer whose words gave new meaning to his troubled situation.

- Our Daily Bread

            And here is the amazing thing, if you are not already amazed at what God is doing in your life.  Paul, in Hebrews 2:11 tells us, For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.”  You see, He is working in our lives, sanctifying us or setting us apart from this world for His glory. But, not only that, Paul also tells us in I Thessalonians 5:23-24, Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.  Notice, one day we will be completely sanctified and that is when we go to be with the Lord, but God will continue to work and He will complete the work, He will do it, the work will be finished!  So, God SAVES us, and out of that there isWORSHIP of Him alone, as He is SANCTIFYING us!

4.  INCREASING YOUR BOARDERS – EXODUS 23:31

            Yes, for the children of Israel God was speaking of physical boarders, but for us, it is much more than that. In I Chronicles 4:9-10 we are told, Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain.’ And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!’ So God granted him what he requested.  Now I do realize that some have taken this to unbiblical conclusions with books and formulas for success, but don’t negate the prayer because God thought it was good and He answered it! And our focus of this prayer is the boarders that were increased and we should not be afraid to ask God to increase our boarders!

Jabez did not limit his boarders to his ability.  Yes he could not do it on his own, whatever handicap he may have had, but that did not stop him.  Whatever it takes, he was willing to do for God so that the boarders of his ministry may be enlarged.

Don't ever be so narrow minded in your thinking to feel that because of your ability, or lack of ability, God can't use you.  I think of Joni Earekson Tada, who was paralyzed in a swimming accident, and most of us would write her off.  We would tend to feel because of her handicap, God could no longer use her.  The reality is, that it was this accident that drew her to Christ, and now that she has been broken, God has blessed her and enlarged her boarders.  Now she encourages us by her faith.  God is not looking for the strength or talents of a man or woman, but the availability and the heart of that person.

Remember what God instructed Joshua and the children of Israel to do as they entered the land.  Through Joshua, the Lord said ". . . Go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess."  Joshua 1:11.  What has God given to you that you have not taken by faith?  What has caused you to stop progressing forward and using your God given talents, seeing your boarders of ministry enlarged?

Jabez simply turned to God by faith and asked for his boarders of ministry to be enlarged, even if it meant fighting against the enemy to retake the land.  You see, we must remember what God said in Zechariah 4:7, it is "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord of hosts."  Don't look to your strength, your ability, or even your talents, just ask God to use you to the fullest to enlarge your boarders, Jabez did!

            So we have seen that our SALVATION is based in Christ alone. We have seen there are blessings as we WORSHIP the true and living God and Him alone! But we can’t worship Him apart from being saved! Also, God is purging out the garbage in our lives, theSANCTIFICATION process, making us more like Him every day or at least that should be happening.  And again, apart from salvation there is no sanctification. And as we are faithful, as we serve the Lord, He INCREASES OUR BOARDERS of ministry, not because we deserve it, but because He loves us and wants to bless us and use us for His glory. Now, in saying all that, it leads to our last point, NO GOING BACK!

5.  NO GOING BACK – EXODUS 23:32-33

            It all boils down to this, if you play with fire you will get burned!  Thus, don’t go back to the old life, the old ways because once you begin that journey it is a slippery slope down to the bottom!  Paul, in I Corinthians 6:9-11 tells us, Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

            But Paul also knew it was a battle and he was going to fight in the power of God to crucify the flesh. In I Corinthians 9:24-27 Paul put it like this, Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.  Paul understood the battle and took it seriously. He was not going to go back but he would fight for what he believed in.  He is not speaking of losing your salvation but missing out on service, being put on the shelf instead of being used by God because of our disobedience to Him and Paul did not want that to happen and neither should we!

            Jessie Brown Pounds wrote this poem in regards to following Jesus. She wrote:

            Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go; Anywhere He leads me in this world below; Anywhere without Him dearest joys would fade; Anywhere with Jesus I am not afraid. Anywhere, anywhere! Fear I cannot know; Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go.

- Jessie Brown Pounds

            In John chapter 6 Jesus said some heavy words and because of what He said, many walked away from Him. And in John 6:67-69 we are told, Then Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you also want to go away?’ But Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’

            Peter, with all of his problems of speaking before he thinks, hit the nail on the head on this one. The world had nothing to offer that is lasting and Peter knew that.  It’s fun, its fulfillment is short-lived, and it is limited while God’s abundant life is eternal! We tend to go for the short-lived things instead of what is best! Thus, there is no other place to go except to the Lord, except Jesus, for He alone has the words of eternal life!

            But as you start to compromise your faith, making covenants with these false gods, they will bring you down just as we see with the nation of Israel. They did not completely drive out the enemy, they made covenants with them and it was the enemy that taught them these false worship practices and eventually brought judgment upon them, brought them into captivity!

            The bottom line is this and it is what the Lord is saying here in Exodus. You gotta serve somebody and where your heart is at, where your passion is at, that is who you will follow. Some of you may remember the Bob Dylan song, Gotta Serve Somebody and it does fit perfectly in with what we have been looking at this morning.  The song goes like this:

You may be an ambassador to England or France,
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance,
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world,
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearlsBut you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.You might be a rock 'n' roll addict prancing on the stage,
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage,
You may be a business man or some high degree thief,
They may call you Doctor or they may call you ChiefBut you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.You may be a state trooper, you might be a young Turk,
You may be the head of some big TV network,
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame,
You may be living in another country under another nameBut you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.You may be a construction worker working on a home,
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome,
You might own guns and you might even own tanks,
You might be somebody's landlord, you might even own banks
 

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride,
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side,
You may be workin' in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair,
You may be somebody's mistress, may be somebody's heirBut you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk,
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk,
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread,
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bedBut you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.You may call me Terry, you may call me Timmy,
You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy,
You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray,
You may call me anything but no matter what you sayYou're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody.
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.
 

- Bob Dylan – Gotta Serve Somebody

            So the bottom line is this. You will serve somebody and if it is not the Lord, then it is the Devil, those are the only two choices out there.  May it be the Lord as the blood of the Lord has SAVED you.  May it be the Lord as the one you WORSHIP. May it be the Lord as the One who is setting you apart not for judgment, but SANCTIFICATION. May it be the Lord who INCREASES YOUR BOARDERS of ministry. And may you NOT GO BACK but follow the Lord all the days of your life or as David said, One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His temple. The Amplified Bible puts it like this, One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek, inquire for, and [insistently] require: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord [in His presence] all the days of my life, to behold and gaze upon the beauty [the sweet attractiveness and the delightful loveliness] of the Lord and to meditate, consider, and inquire in His temple. [Ps 16:11; 18:6; 65:4; Luke 2:37.]  Psalm 27:4. May we be satisfied dwelling with the Lord. As I close, let me leave you with this to think about, WHO WILL YOU FOLLOW?

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