STEPPING INTO THE WATER
“And Joshua rose early in the morning; and they removed from Shittim, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host; And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed [this] way heretofore. And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the LORD will do wonders among you. And Joshua spake unto the priests, saying, Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass over before the people. And they took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people. And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, [so] I will be with thee. And thou shalt command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, ye shall stand still in Jordan” (Joshua 3:1-8).
And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,) That the waters which came down from above stood [and] rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam, that [is] beside Zaretan: and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, [even] the salt sea, failed, [and] were cut off: and the people passed over right against Jericho. And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan” (Joshua 3:15-17).
We are going to build the church on the Mountain and we will build “a church to change the world.” But, I have said we are going to construct the new building as the money comes in. Two weeks ago we began to clear the property of trees, this is really A FIRST STEP TO CLAIMING THE MOUNTAIN FOR OURSELVES. By clearing trees and beginning some work on the property, we are stepping into the water. This is a picture of what God promised Joshua.
In order to enter the Promised Land, Israel faced a huge barrier, i.e., the overflowing Jordan River at flood time. Joshua had a million and a half people following him, this included total families . . . babies . . . cattle . . . possessions . . . everything that they owned. They needed a miracle to enter the Promised Land just as TRBC needs a miracle to move to the Mountain.
The raging river was before them.
The families couldn’t enter.
God had commanded to possess.
The answer: take one step at a time.
A new location to “touch” Central Virginia.
A new church building as a testimony of faith to the Christian world.
Located on the Mountain to influence Liberty University so together we can be a church to change the world.
But we don’t have the money.
The answer: build as God supplies the money.
SIX THINGS TO DO: TO PART THE WATERS
1. Make an early decision to start.
“And Joshua rose up early in the morning; and they removed from Shittum, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over” (3:1).
I have learned in my life that you don’t do exploits for God until you make a decision to begin. Joshua and all the people got started early in the morning toward Jordan; notice, they didn’t remain back where they were to wait for God to do the miracle before they took a step. They walked right up to Jordan. This was an attitude of faith to follow God.
You do not have the power to obey God
Until you make a first-step to follow God.
2. To realistically face the challenge before you.
Joshua came to the River Jordan, i.e., his barrier. “Joshua . . . came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there” (3:1). Let me give you three suggestions:
Don’t be afraid of problems that are so far in the future. When you give in to problems that you have in your life, you are living in fear.
Don’t make decisions that you don’t have to make. Joshua didn’t stay home and worry about the water and how to cross it. Joshua didn’t have to make a decision about how to cross the Jordan, but he obeyed God by coming to the edge of the Jordan where he would be faced with a decision.
You are only responsible for the next step in front of you today, you are not yet responsible for the steps you have to take three days from now, or three weeks from now; or three years from now. If you are following God today, He will take care of decisions three years from now.
3. Always follow the presence of God when you are making a decision.
“And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it” (3:3).
We all know that the ark is where the presence of the Lord rested. The Bible says that His people could meet Him at the Ark of the Covenant. “And there will I meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony” (Exod. 25:22).
As we face the Mountain, I believe that God wants us to go to the Mountain. Why must we go? Because God wants to go where He can do more to reach the world. I believe we can do more on the Mountain than we can do here. True, God is everywhere and can do great things in this location, but I believe God can do greater things in our next location.
As a matter of fact, I believe that we cannot stay here on Thomas Road in this facility, but we must go forward. So, the important question to ask is not “Can we do it?” In the flesh we can’t do it. The important question to ask is “Where is the presence of God?” When we find God’s presence, we must follow Him. So the ultimate question we must ask is “Where is God leading us?” When we find out, we must follow Him.
4. We must act on faith to follow God.
Many times I have tried to define faith for you. I have said, “Faith is affirming what God has said in His Word.” This means faith is acting on what God has said in the Bible. In today’s passage, when the presence of God in the Ark of the Covenant passed before the people, they were told, “Go after it” (3:3). They had to act on what God was telling Joshua. When the people started following the Ark of the Covenant, they were exercising their faith.
If God is telling us to go to the Mountain, then we must exercise our faith and follow Him to the Mountain. We don’t know where the money is coming from, but we believe in a miracle-working God. Notice carefully, I did not say we do not believe in miracles! I have seen certain men of God who place all their confidence in miracles. That is ill-placed faith. Faith is placing your confidence in God Himself. I believe in God and He can do miracles for us. Israel had to leave the security of their tents, and their normal life of walking on terra firma for the past forty years. Now, they had to walk out into the surging Jordan, not because they wanted to move God; they walked into the Jordan River because they wanted to obey God and follow God. You see when the Ark was in the surging flood waters, it meant God was in the waters. I believe God is in the middle of our problems before we get there.
5. You must prepare for an uncharted journey and an unknown future.
Notice what God told the people, “For ye have not passed
this way heretofore” (3:4). Thomas Road has seen great miracles of healing . . . soul-winning . . . and provision of money. We have prayed for Liberty University--dormitory by dormitory--and have seen God do exploits. I have asked this congregation to fast and pray for 5 million dollars because seven dormitories stood on the Mountain uncompleted. They were just shells of a building with walls and a roof, but they had not been finished internally. We fasted . . . we prayed . . . and God answered.
But when I am talking about putting a church on the Mountain, we’re talking about a lot more money because:
The church building is much larger than a dormitory.
Inflation has pushed the cost of construction unbelievably high.
We’re going to build a more complicated building-- electronically, technologically, and architecturally.
When we enter construction on the Mountain, there will be problems, barriers; at times, confusion and delays. But we must move forward through the open door He has given us.
6. You must separate yourself from all known sin.
I believe that this is the greatest challenge facing the Thomas Road Baptist Church family. If we are going to pray together . . . pray in faith . . . and pray victoriously; then one thing we must do is have all known sin confessed, and we must repent of sin, and turn from sin.
Notice the condition for God’s miraculously delivering His people across the Jordan River. Joshua said unto his people,
“Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the LORD will do wonders among you” (3:5). Of course the word sanctify is the word for holy. When I challenge you to separate yourselves from sin, I want to remind you that just sweeping the house clean of all filth and trash is not enough. Getting rid of sin is not enough.
Many times independent Baptists have talked about living the “separated life” which means we separate ourselves from sin. But I challenge you to go a step beyond separation. Go to holiness. You must live a godly life, you must live a holy life. This means you separate yourself to God as you separate yourself from sin. And what does it mean to live a godly life?
To live in the Word of God so that you know His will.
To live by the Word of God so you honor Him.
To commune with Him daily so you become like Him.
To pray in faith for victory.
To have the evident blessing of God in your life.
To magnify the Lord God in all you do.
As God’s people prepare to go through the River Jordan, notice what happens: “This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, [so] I will be with thee” (3:7).
“And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan” (Joshua 3:17).