Tomorrow!

Joshua 3:1-5 

In the town hall in Copenhagen stands the Jens Olsen’s World Clock, the world’s most complicated clock. It took forty years to design and build at a cost of more than a million dollars. That clock has ten faces, fifteen thousand parts, and is accurate to two-fifths of a second every three hundred years. The clock computes the time of day, the days of the week, the months and years and the movements of the planets for 2,500 years. Some parts of the clock will not move until twenty-five centuries have passed.

While we might be able to build clocks to mark the passing of time, Jesus said we cannot add a single hour to it.

Time is the stuff of which life is made

Every person is allotted the same amount every year:

24 hours/day – 168 hours/week – 52 weeks/year.

Some seem to accomplish so much, like the athlete in training, working toward a goal. Others are lethargic, jogging in place, going nowhere. They have the same amount of time, but so little to show.

365 days deposited -- how will you use them? As Dec. 31 of this year rolls around, what will you have to show? A few more paycheck stubs, gray hairs, hours logged on the TV or video game?

What about things of real substance -- investments of time and energy and dreams?

  • Where will your spiritual life be in one year? Will you be deeper in the Word, stronger in prayer, closer to your Lord?
  • Family? -- Will you know your children better, will your marriage be stronger, will you have drawn your family closer to God?
  • Service? -- Compare the hours spent in front of the TV as compared with the time you spend in worship and in service to the Lord. Do you have ministry, a vital role in the church – not only a place where you fit, but a place where you make a difference? Or a year from now will you still be a spectator, showing up but not joining in?

As we stand on this side of the threshold of 2017, let me invite you to spend some time with me this morning examining our lives, and catching a vision of where we should be /can be/ where God wants us to be.

Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. After three days the officers went throughout the camp, giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between you and the ark; do not go near it.” Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.” (Joshua 3:1-5)

What an exciting day that must have been. But I’m sure it was also filled with fear and uncertainty. There were some incredible phrases in this passage. I want to think through three of those as we think about what God was wanting them to do and what kind of people he needed them to be.

Vs. 3 - “When you see the ark… follow it.”

Joshua told them to follow the ark, but what he was really telling them was to stay close to the Lord. That’s what they really needed – to keep their eyes firmly fixed on God. And just as important – to let the Lord go before them.

They had tried it their own way too many times – too many times they had relied on their own experience, wisdom, resources, power. And every time, they found themselves in trouble. This time, Joshua said, “follow the Lord.”

Vs.4 - “Then you will know which way to go… For you have never been this way before”

He’s right you know, though I’m sure that on everyone’s mind was what happened forty years earlier, when God had brought them a first time to the threshold of the promised land, but the faithlessness and rebellion of their parents had sent them wandering in the desert for 40 years. But this was a new day, a lesson learned, a fresh resolve to follow the Lord.

Vs. 5 - “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” 

“Consecrate yourselves”

Part of their problem was that they had wanted the second without doing the first. They wanted the promise without the imperative. “Consecrate” means to commit yourself 100% to the Lord, to set yourself apart for him completely. The Potter has to have clay that is malleable in his hands in order to create a work of art. But if we will consecrate ourselves and yield ourselves, he can mold us into vessels of beauty and usefulness. And Joshua says:

“The Lord will do amazing things”

Life in the Lord is an incredible adventure as we see God do amazing things in us and with us and through us that we could never imagine possible. We have the advantage of being able to turn the pages and see the amazing things he would do with them: bringing down the walls of Jericho, the strategic defeat of Ai, the victory at Gibeon when the Lord hurled hailstones and made the sun stand still. God does amazing things with people who are consecrated to him.

As we stand on the threshold of a new year, a little anxious, a little excited about the year ahead, we are also stepping out into territory where we have never been before. We will experience things in the coming twelve months that will take us completely by surprise.

Some will change jobs, some lose jobs, some will retire.

Some will bring new babies into the world, some will have loved ones who pass away, some will experience illness themselves and undergo surgery.

Some will move – some to bigger houses, some to other cities, some will marry and begin new homes of their own.

Some will start school, others will finish school, some will move the last one out and have an empty nest for the first time.

This year will bring some great blessings and some terrible tragedies. And the key to it all is to “follow him.” Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, let him go before you and direct your steps. Let’s try and get a little clearer picture of what it means to follow him:

1) Root yourself firmly in God’s will

  • Eph 5:10 -- “Find out what pleases the Lord”
  • Eph 5:17 -- “Understand what the will of the Lord is”
  • Whatever else you do or decide, place yourself humbly, totally in God’s hands. When you step out of the boat, don’t take your eyes off of him. When you set your foot in the water, don’t look down/back.

2) Establish God centered priorities

  • When God gave commandments they were not arbitrary prohibitions, but specifically focused on creating a people who would honor him: literally the abc’s of how to be God’s people – this is how to be God’s people – this is what my people look like.
  • The same thing is true of the priorities we set in our lives.
  • When you decide what is most important, what you really want most in life, then you have a perspective from which to judge demands on your time, energy, finances, resources. You cannot say yes to one thing without saying no to something else. When you have no priorities, you will be tyrannized by the urgent, while the important lies neglected.
  • If worshiping the Lord and being a vital part of the body of Christ is your priority:
  • You can’t wait until Sunday morning to decide whether you feel like coming to church. It’s a decision you make now that this is where you will be on the Lord’s day.
  • You can’t open your wallet during communion to see what’s left over. Come ready to give from the first fruits that will honor God.
  • You can’t spend every weekend out of town traveling and vacationing and expect to be vitally involved in the work here. Make your church family a priority.

Life is a series of choices where we display our priorities and values. A person who doesn’t have time to come to Bible study and worship, who always seems to have conflicts that interfere with church – it’s not a problem of time or scheduling. It won’t be solved by an appointment calendar or even an extra day in the week. It is a problem of the heart. When God told his people “love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength” they were sitting on the eastern shore of the Jordan looking across the river into the promised land. God knew what they needed most. This is it: to be a people totally consecrated to him.

3) Set goals for your spiritual growth, a road map for getting to where you want to end up.

It’s funny - we set financial / diet / career/ academic / athletic goals, but not spiritual. If you aim at nothing, you are sure to hit it.

It’s not enough to say “I want to grow spiritually, be a better Christian,” you have to be specific -- set goals for:

Bible reading

Prayer

Serving

Giving

Relationships

Evangelism

Set goals that are demanding, realistic, attainable

4) Look ahead – not a month or year, but a lifetime.

  • The Jordan river blocked their path – Jericho was insurmountable.
  • Some start out with enthusiasm and energy, but meet obstacles, find it hard to follow through, get discouraged, and finally abandon their goals. (We are basically impatient – we want it now!)
  • Our resolve can’t be a short burn or a quick sprint. We need to find the motivation to follow through for a lifetime. We need to run hard and finish strong.
  • Status Quo (Marshall Keeble – Latin for “the mess we’s in”) Forty years in wilderness – For the Israelites it was a rut they had been traveling so long, it had begun to feel comfortable, normal -- filled with apathy and discontent, with complacency and critical spirit.
  • We can get in the same kind of rut. Even things that are good can lose their power and meaning and become a rote recitation of ritual. Lifeless and meaningless. What does it take to get out of the rut? Once you’re in it you will stay there unless you intentionally make the effort to climb out of it. And I believe it begins with opening our eyes to God’s presence and power in our lives. We need to look for what God is doing and how he is involved in our lives. We need to expect and anticipate what God will do with us.

I am excited about what the Lord is doing among us! There are so many of you who are dedicated servants, hungry for the word, prayer warriors, gifted in so many ways. I see God working in you. I think of what God can do through each of you and all of us in this coming year.

The evening before, Joshua stood on the western shore of the Jordan and thought back 40 years earlier. He had been one of the twelve spies. Ten of them brought a frightening report of giants in the land and the people lost faith in what God was able to do. Tonight, he looked across the Jordan to a land where God was going to lead them and bless them – “Tomorrow, the Lord will do amazing things among you.”

 That was God’s message to Israelites -- to the Glenwood church, it is the same: “The Lord will do amazing things among you.”

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