Summary: Is our church failing its potential? Has the great things we dreamed of not come about? Why is our ministry so weak?

I. Introduction

A. Last Sunday I was asked what kind of program we could institute to help the church.

1. I didn’t have an answer then, but it started me to thinking

a. Then I remembered the words I had heard years ago from many pastors and teachers

b. Even the very best of programs will not be successful if the church is not spiritually right with God

c. And even the worst of programs can be extremely successful if the church is spiritually right with God

d. I am not putting down the question or the questioner in any way

(1) Perhaps it is the right question, I believe the intention is honest and pure

(2) But, is there another question that needs to be answered first?

2. In many churches the problem can be narrowed down to one principle

a. As I worked next to my pastor in Phoenix, he taught me one thing about God’s moving in churches. He said that there were times when it seemed that the Holy Spirit was about to do some great work in the church and then the whole thing would just die. Then later he would discover one or two people in the church had undisclosed, unconfessed and unrepentant sin in their lives.

b. He would say to me, there was an Achan in the camp.

3. One cannot tell if there is an Achan in the camp on there own, because some are expert in hiding their sin.

a. There are only two who really know what the problem is

(1) The individual

(2) And God

b. Chad Walsh, Leadership magazine made this statement, The true function of a preacher is to disturb the comfortable and to comfort the disturbed.

c. This morning I want to introduce you to Achan

B. The people of Israel had wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.

1. Moses was now dead

2. Joshua was the leader of the people

3. They had crossed the Jordan River and had the very spectacular conquest of Jericho

4. Now if you will turn to Joshua 6:18-19

Joshua 6:18-19 (NKJV)

"And you, by all means abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. {19} "But all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are consecrated to the LORD; they shall come into the treasury of the LORD."

a. The people of Israel were not to take any spoil of Jericho

b. Everything, people, clothing, animals, buildings, jewels, everything in Jericho was forbidden to the Israelites

c. The only thing that was to be taken was the silver, gold, iron and bronze articles

(1) These were to be in the treasury of the Lord

C. Now, after Jericho, Joshua was about to attack Ai

1. Now, Joshua sent spies to assess the vulnerability of Ai

a. Which is always a wise thing to do in battle

b. Commanders try to gather as much intelligence as possible

(1) To insure that his soldiers are given the best chance of winning an engagement with the fewest possible number of casualties

(2) I sat and listened to General of the Army Omar Bradley as he told us that the commanders that lost the fewest soldiers in any engagement was the ones he honored

c. So, Joshua was wise in sending the spies

d. And they reported that Ai was a small town

D. But something was amiss

1. As the army approached Ai, confident in their ability to prevail

a. They were surprised by the strength of the soldiers of Ai

b. And they turned tail and ran before the enemy

(1) 36 Israelite soldiers died, 36

(2) Well, Joshua had sent an army of 3, 000

(a) 36 is only 1.2% casualties

(b) But, it never should have happened

(c) Jericho was miraculously conquered without the loss of a single soldier

(d) And Jericho was a much larger city, more able to defend itself

i) Looking at Joshua 7:1 we see that

2. There was one problem at the time of the battle with Ai, there was an Achan in the camp

Joshua 7:1 (NKJV)

But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things; so the anger of the LORD burned against the children of Israel.

a. The cause of the failed assault against Ai was sin, terrible sin

(1) A soldier had stolen some things that had been given to the Tabernacle, that had been set apart and devoted to God and His service

(2) Not only that, but he had taken other things that had been forbidden, forbidden by God

(3) He had disobeyed his commander and the Lord

(4) The soldier's name was Achan, whose very name means "trouble.”

(5) The trouble he caused had far-reaching consequences: his sin affected the whole community of Israel.

b. But, wait a minute, one man sinned and the whole nation was punished?

(1) That’s not fair, is it?

(2) First of all, nothing happens in a vacuum

(a) Some one other than Achan knew that he had done these things

(b) Just look at verse 21

Joshua 7:21 (NKJV)

"When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it."

i) There was a garment, a robe of Babylonian design

ii) 200 shekels of silver

iii) And a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels

(c) That’s a bit of stuff, maybe no one else saw Achan take it

(d) But, his family had to know he had it, it was, after all, buried in the floor of their tent

c. Nothing happens in a vacuum

(1) Some one almost had to see this soldier weighed down with all that silver and gold and the robe

(2) However, in the heat of the event, the observer may not have understood what he saw.

3. In the modern context what does these items represent?

a. We must turn to 1 John 2:16 to know the three worldly sins

b. The very first thing we can see is that Achan was over come by the lust of the eye

(1) A beautiful Babylonian garment

1 John 2:16 (NKJV)

For all that is in the world; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; is not of the Father but is of the world.

(2) He saw the beauty of the garment and it moved him to lust after it, to crave it, to want to possess it

(a) Which proves the truth of James 1:14-15

James 1:14-15 (NKJV)

But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. {15} Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

c. The silver and gold were seen and also gave birth to what?

(1) Greed

(2) We know that Achan said that he coveted these things

(a) Covetousness is defined in Colossians 3:5 as idiolatry

i) Worshiping another or false God

ii) Now, Achan not only disobeyed his commander and God

iii) He stole from God

(3) In Genesis 3:6, the first sin, came from the lust of the eye

Genesis 3:6 (NKJV)

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

(a) We look at something and we want it

i) Some people can walk away after a moment and never be affected by the desire for the thing

ii) Some people can only wish, dream, scheme, plan, to obtain that thing

iii) There is nothing they wouldn’t do to get it

iv) They truly covet what ever it is

a) For some its a Cadillac or a BMW

b) For some its money

c) For some its a particular person, even if it is a wife or husband of someone else

E. One man had trespassed against God

1. That one man had been unfaithful to God, broken the trust with God.

2. But the man did not live in isolation; he was not an island unto himself.

3. He lived within a community; therefore, what he did affected the community as a whole.

4. His sin had a devastating affect upon the Israelites: it caused the assault against Ai to fail.

5. His sins separated the whole community from God, from His holy presence and guidance.

6. Therefore when Israel went into battle, God was not with them.

7. Their sin had separated them from God.

8. Sin had cut them off from God; consequently, when they went into battle, they fought in the arm of the flesh, not in the power of God.

9. And they were defeated.

10. All because of sin.

11. Sin always causes failure and defeat when fighting the enemies of this world.

12. There are two strong lessons in this point for us.

a. Sin always leads to failure and defeat when fighting against the enemies of this world. Enemy after enemy confronts us, enemies such as...

(1) Disease

(2) Accidents

(3) Broken relationships

(4) Financial difficulties

(5) Loss of job

(6) Natural catastrophes

(7) Misunderstandings Discouragement

(8) Depression

(9) Family problems

(10) Work difficulties

(11) Disappointments

(12) Tension and stress

(13) Loss of loved ones

(14) Lack of purpose and fulfillment

b. Such enemies will defeat us if there is sin in our lives.

(1) God will not dwell in the midst of sin.

(2) God is holy; therefore, He will dwell only where there is righteousness and purity.

(3) His presence and guidance are not available where there is sin.

(4) We stand alone to struggle against such enemies if there is sin in our lives, and the only help available to us is what help man can give us.

(a) Supernatural help, God's presence and power is available only as we live holy and righteous lives before God.

(b) Sin separates, cuts us off from God and His help.

(c) Sin causes failure and defeat.

(d) Sin causes us to live lives that are weak and wavering before God, lives that ebb and flow like the waves of the sea.

(e) Turn to Matthew 15:8 and listen to what God says about sin, this very familiar passage is so clear

Matthew 15:8 (NKJV)

'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.

(f) Psalm 59:2 says

Psalms 59:2 (NKJV)

Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, And save me from bloodthirsty men.

(g) Psalm 66:18

Psalms 66:18 (NKJV)

If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.

(h) and finally Isaiah 59:2

Isaiah 59:2 (NKJV)

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.

13. Achan was obsessed with material things, but if we look again at 1 John 2:16 we will see that it is not just the material things that can drag us down

a. Us as individuals

b. And us as a church

1 John 2:16 (NKJV)

For all that is in the world; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; is not of the Father but is of the world.

(1) The lust of the flesh

(a) Food

(b) Sex

(c) Physical excitement

(2) The lust of the eye

(a) Beautiful things

(b) Silver and Gold

(c) A nice house and car

(d) A trophy spouse

(3) The pride of life

(a) This one will get most people

(b) Our refusal to give up the right to hurt because some one hurt us

(c) Our refusal to concede anything to some one else

(d) Our refusal to humble the ourselves

(e) We dislike someone and so, cannot love them as God in Christ has commanded us

(f) We must have things our own way, no one could possibly know as much as we think we do

F. You will notice that Joshua cried out to the Lord

1. What’s going on here Lord?

2. And God revealed the problem to him

3. It took failure to open Joshua’s eyes and have him cry out to God, “What’s going on here, Lord?”

4. And God told him, there’s sin in the camp.

G. Have we harbored sin in our midst?

1. Is there an Achan in the camp?

2. I’m not Joshua

a. And so, in my prayer I quote Psalm 139:23 - 24

Psalms 139:23-24 (NKJV)

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; {24} And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.

(1) Is our sin one of covetousness? Things?

(2) Is our sin one of not forgiving?

(3) Is our sin one of disobedience?

(4) Is our sin one of not loving?

(a) Not loving God

(b) Not loving our neighbor

(c) Not loving a brother or sister in Christ?

(5) Is our sin one of pride?

(a) Are we a stiff necked person?

b. The list goes on and on, each one is the sin of idolatry because our lust and our pride is greater than our love for our Lord and Savior

(1) Lord, God,

Psalms 139:23-24 (NKJV)

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; {24} And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.

(2) Grant to us grace and mercy

(a) And through the power of Your Holy Spirit help each one of us to humble ourselves before you to give our hearts over to you.

(b) And grant that we may see Your great salvation in and through this assembly.

(c) In Christ we pray. Amen.