Grace and the Ark on Our Shoulders

We move in the presence of God by His grace. Self-reliance is not what we were made for. We were made weak to rest in Him. (2 Corinthians 13:9; Joshua 3:17)

Speaker(s): Pastor Matt LaFlamme, Pastor Chris Moore, Pastor Thomas Schaller
Sermon # 11326
6:30 PM on 9/3/2017
P. Matt Laflamme

I’ve been living in Turkey for about 5 months before I came back from Convention. We’re going back next month sometime. We are speaking with our people there. There’s a small group that gathers in Roger Robbins’ apartment. One street in Istanbul, it says about 3 million walk up and down it every day. That’s a lot of people. I’ve been on that street and P. Roger Robbins is there. The opportunities there and all over this world especially in places where people never heard the message of Christ. They know of Him, but they’ve never seen Him.  They’ve never seen his love, tasted his goodness, his closeness. They know His name, but that’s about it.  He’s a prophet in the Koran but they don’t know who he is. Such a privilege to bring Jesus, in our weakness, stumbling, we bring His character…from this Word. People are impacted and affected by that. There are many challenges but so much to be thankful for.

1 Sam 15, This is a story I can paraphrase. It’s about Saul who wins this great victory. He’s coming back to make a sacrifice to honor God for the victory. Samuel is there and Samuel hears the sheep. He hears Saul has not followed exactly the word God gave to completely wipe out this army and their holdings. He thought it was better and God would be happier if I kept the best things and offered them to God. Not a bad idea. A lot of sacrifices in the Old Testament were not a bad idea. Are even heart felt. What was so bad about Cain’s offering? He was giving his first fruits; he was basically tithing. We do it.  That’s not the point and that’s what Samuel says. You don’t have the understanding of the gravity of sin and the gravity of grace. Those two things are interlocked. You can’t separate the gravity of grace from the gravity of sin. They are very much linked. There wouldn’t be a need for grace if there wasn’t a falling from perfection. Grace is God bringing his character and nature to a world so far from him. That’s how beautiful grace is.  The point here is not that Saul was a sinner.

In the next chapter, David became the next anointed king and we know that David committed his fair share of sins. He had a man killed so he could have his wife, that’s about as bad as it gets.

Ps. 51 this is David’s confession. vs. 3. He’s speaking to God. Against you and you only have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight. vs. 5. The key:  Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts. And in the hidden part you’ll make me to know wisdom.  I’ve been thinking about that a lot – The hidden part of our lives.

Saul in 1 Sam 15 does something obnoxious to us reading it, but it’s actually very much like us. After he’s found out by Samuel for this sin, he says, I have sinned. Sounds the same as David. But honor me now, he says to Samuel, before the elders of my people and before Israel that I may honor the Lord…Samuel is saying he’s not getting it. I’m going to anoint David tomorrow. Saul doesn’t get it. He’s lost it.  He doesn’t understand how amazing God is and the opportunity he has to be humbled and have a change in his life, and to cause him to grow. Instead he is so worried about what others think and what people see him as, as this king, this powerful person.
We can also be like that. We can have an issue, a sin, even something hidden and we can put on our Sunday best and keep living our life pretending nothing’s going on, going to church. Meanwhile I’m falling apart and this sin is eating away at me and there is pride in my heart, and everything I’m doing is meaningless at this point, because I’m making light of grace by making light of sin, hidden sin. This is more for all of us, not at anything or anyone.
I remember P. Schaller preached a message when I was in Bible College, I think it was in ABD. He read a verse in Psalms and it says when I’m in my house, my steps are perfect in my own house. When the door is shut, you go in and pray. His whole message was about when the door is shut, what is happening when the door is shut and it’s just me? There’s no one to see me serving or whatever you think about on the outside.  It’s just me and God. What is the gravity of my life? That’s where grace is so vital, so important. Because we are the body of Christ.

This should be and is and every church should be and hopefully is a place that is safe. Behind closed doors there are good things happening, not judgment or sin or anything of that nature. If there is ever, God forbid, then let us be like David. We are all going to go through times where we fall into sin. Let us be like David.  Not like Saul who brushed it under the carpet and said, Honor me among the people and make me look good. No!  Life is so short. Are you going to run away from all your problems? The grace of God has appeared to all men teaching us to deny all ungodliness.

Titus 2:11-12. We taught this to Izmir and they loved it, that grace is not a theme or word but a lifestyle. It’s the reality of God, the gravity of God falling on us and saying I can be involved in your life and do something in your life, and cause you to grow inside in the inner parts. We want to be changed. That’s why we come to church; we want to be changed. We know HE can change us in our hearts. He can make something happen. It has to be the truth and it has to be in the inner part, not just the outer thing. They are amazing if fruit of the inner part; they are not to be talked down but we need it on the inside. When there are no ushers around, no musicians around, just me and a few others.

When I go home – How do I treat those people? Do the people in Houston affect me? Do I have God’s love for people? Sometimes we wake up and say, God, I don’t love you. I don’t know what happened, but there’s no connection here.  I don’t want to just live my life before people. I want truth in the inner part. I want a real understanding of your grace and the gravity of grace, and that’s what he’s here to give you tonight.  So don’t run from your problems. Run to Jesus. Come to Christ. Say I am a sinner and I have sinned. I don’t care about anyone else right now. Just come to me. Teach me and give me that grace I so desperately need right now. He’s so faithful to do that. That’s what we are all about.

P. Chris Moore
Howdy! That was a great message, wasn’t it? You haven’t lived until you have been on a mission trip with P. Matt LaFlamme. That is just an amazing experience.  We were together for a trip in Cyprus that we still laugh about.
We were supposed to be gone a week ago but God knows better. His ways are not our ways, and we’ve just been enjoying our time here. Wonderful to stand here and look at you and have the support of this Body in Houston, Texas. My wife is here. Thank you P. Schaller and the elders for your support. I don’t know what we would do as missionaries without a home base just to call and pray with. When it’s really bad, I call my brother in the Inreach Department!  And he always has a word in season.  How many have ever gotten a great call from my brother, P. Jason? I have great stories about him but this is not the time to tell them.

(Prayer:  Heavenly Father we thank you for the sacredness of this night together.  Thank you for the body purchased with the blood of Christ.  Thank you for the Spirit of the Lord that brings in liberty to be empowered for the will of God which is our meat and our eternal purpose.)

I thought I was doing an introduction tonight. It’s good to be ready.
Josh 3, I’ve been trying not to look at all the images in Houston because they can become overwhelming. Can dilute the energy and purpose of what God wants to do in Houston. I really believe God wants to do something great in that city.  I believe after this disaster we’ll see awesome things happen.  The body of Christ coming to the aid of people. I read there are so many churches there and have been forced to come out of their walls and church buildings and get into their neighborhoods with the Gospel, comfort. We have three families who lost everything. They are taking it with stride. There was a great service this morning in Houston. They even sang in Spanish. There was a lot of joy. The weakness that can happen because we are living in a fallen world that can turn for the great purpose of God. You can look at pictures and start internalizing the trauma, pain and the hurt – the unbelievable pictures. I was reading and it gets to the point you can’t look at it anymore. I was reading a story and burst out laughing. It hit me in such an amazing way… Not to be disrespectful of the tragedy, but I heard there was a crocodile farm in Houston just south west of the city, not far from the city at all, and it flooded. All the barriers came down. 350 crocodiles escaped and headed straight for downtown. I don’t know if they open up or down but they are dangerous either way, and they’re headed straight down town. A guy comes home after the flood, opens the front door of the house and a crocodile 10 feet long is sitting in the living room!  Snapped a picture of it and it went right on Twitter.  What’s happening there is incredible.

God’s work is such an incredible work of God that we can’t get our minds around it.

When we think of the great weakness that comes into the world we live in, God has one purpose in weakness, 2 Cor 12:9. His great purpose is not that we would strengthen ourselves and pull ourselves up with our bootstraps. I think That’s really the mentality in Texas, self-reliance, achievement complex – Let’s get her done. A mentality – We face a problem, a threat, and we gear ourselves up to face the task. It’s in our DNA, human nature.

Yet in 2 Cor 12:9 Paul says, I pleaded with You three times to remove this from me. Each time God’s reply was what? My grace is sufficient. It is made perfect in what? It is made perfect in weakness. The Greek word “made perfect” is from our finished work word which means make mature. Maturity comes into life in great weakness, John 6. When our strength is weak our spirit is willing. God wants the power of Christ. 2 Cor 12:9, I’ve been thinking of these words all week, that the power of Christ might rest on me. Ever sense that in a situation when you are out of options?  There’s no Plan B.  I don’t know what to do next. I’m in utter perplexity.  Paul said that in Asia Minor.: We were under such pressure, in such a place of despair. We had the sentence of death. One commentator says they were almost thinking suicidal. We wish our life would be over.

The purpose of God in suffering is not to prove us wrong, but to strengthen us and that we would grow in maturity and we would come to a place (Nu 20:12) where we are sanctifying the Lord in our midst and in our weakness.

When I think of that verse, that the power of Christ might rest upon us, I think of Josh 3:17.  We read those verses and Joshua is leading his people across the Jordan. It is probably about 2 million or more crossing through this Jordan River. Imagine the scene. Here is Joshua.  New leader leading 2 million people. I think every leader goes through this. Pray for your leaders, your pastor. Really support them. Get behind them and encourage them. Sometimes when you look at them you think he never has any problems. No, We need to get behind them in prayer. Get behind them in appreciation. They are a gift. There are churches all over America and all over the world that don’t have a pastor. We are grateful.

Here is Joshua living in the midst of his own insufficiency. We see him in Joshua 1:9 as a man of great courage. Be strong and of great courage. We think of him as a man who was never afraid or doubted or wavered. I think Joshua needed a lot of encouragement. 99% of problems people have is because they are not encouraged in the finished work, in the Word of grace.
Here’s Joshua is leading these people. He has no rod. Moses had the rod. I’m wondering how this is going to work. God speaks to him. He sends the priests who are bearing the ark of the testimony on their shoulders. As soon as they step into the water…I don’t know how long they were standing there. That was a moment of weakness, I would imagine. 2 million plus people are looking at these priests. They are standing in the Jordan and the banks were overflowing. They are standing there and wondering if this is going to happen.  Can you imagine that? The Ark of the Covenant is on these men’s shoulders. Have we been there before? Standing in the Jordan, believing something amazing for our kids, our finances, our mission, our church plant or in our personal lives, standing there and the waters are lapping against the ankles. I’m sure there’s a moment when they’re thinking, How can this go? I don’t know if this will go so well.  And as they’re standing there we know God is doing something amazing farther up the river.  We know it in parts.

That’s amazing but another amazing part is vs. 14-17. In Joshua 3:17, Stand fast in faith. Stand fast on the ground. They stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel passed over on dry ground. Standing firmly with the presence of the ark.

How does this correlate with 2 Cor 12:9? The ark for us as a New Testament Christian is when we are standing in weakness by faith in our Jordan that we have been called into. And we are there.  What is that? It’s the grace of God we are standing in in utter weakness not towards sin but towards the flesh. The immediate response as a creature is we would respond in our own energy. I got this. This is what we are going to do. But here the priests are standing in this river. It is a picture of the power of Christ resting on the New Testament believer. The power of Christ resting on us when we don’t have it.  We wake up and realize, I don’t have what it takes. Maybe we wake up like that every morning and draw near to God.

And it’s ok.  We present ourselves, Rom 12:1-2. I’m presenting myself to you and not trying to produce something in my own energy. We were in Philadelphia this morning and God is doing something beautiful there. You look sometimes at the work of God and look at what is happening in your own life, in our own Jordan’s, and you think… School is starting this month. So much going on, and you can look at what’s going on and can think, I don’t know how this is going to work. 7 out of the 10 megachurches in the U.S. are in Houston. You could be so intimidated – God, why did you send us there? Here comes an opportunity for the Gospel. Weakness toward God and not strength in our flesh is our greatest asset. In our human pride we resist that, reject it. We actually apologize to God saying, I’m sorry I’m not stronger. Make me do more for you. Make me greater.

These are sincere prayers but in Ps. 103 he weakens me in the way. Maturity is defined here in 2 Cor 12:9 as becoming more and more dependent on God and less and less dependent on the flesh. This is the practical application I’d like to bring this evening to us, that the ark that is being borne on our shoulders is the presence of Christ, the power of Christ and what makes the difference.

P. Stevens in his devotional, “What does it mean to bear the ark, to stand in the Jordan River with the ark on your shoulders until everyone gets over? What does it mean to be the innocent one standing with no condemnation until the guilty party comes over the Jordan? It means bearing the love of God in identification. It is only unconditional love that can stand in the Jordan until even the weakest passes over into the Promised Land. We as priests bear the ark of God. We stand our feet in life with no guilt, no condemnation, and no judgment being experienced within ourselves or towards others.”

Picture it. Here are these priests and the entire nation just goes by them. Think of that moment:  They are watching them go by them and recognizing them and thinking of their stories. I know what is happening in this family, or this one just messed up, or this one just destroyed their life, or this one is experiencing victory. They’re just going by.  This is what you and I are called to do. We in weakness in ministry or circumstances wherever God has placed us in His plan, we find ourselves in a place where we are not able.
And at that moment we present ourselves to God in Eph 4:23 and are quickened in the spirit of our mind and in a place where we can stand.  That’s all God has called us to do.

Eph 6 having done all just stand. Gal 5 stand in the liberty you have been given. That’s when the power of Christ rests on the believer’s life. (Nu 20:12).
As we are doing that, we have capacity to watch people go through their stuff, their situation. I don’t know how long it takes 2 million plus people to walk across that river. Was it days? It was not a couple hours. We’ve been called to bear the presence of Christ walking in our liberty, in a joyful spirit. Whatever we do in Turkey or Houston or Baltimore or wherever we are at, we are called to stand fast, to bear the presence of Christ and watch frail people bear all their stuff.

We are frail.  We are strong in Christ but isn’t it amazing that God chose to save frail human beings? That’s how he gets the greatest glory, that in our weakness, he is made strong. When we are in a situation we can’t handle, we say, I can’t do this but I’ll let the power of Christ rest on me. And as we do that, we’ll see a ministry come.  We’ll see joy, encouragement, peace that passes understanding and love that passes knowledge about the situation, about what I know is happening in people’s lives. We’ll have that privilege of seeing God’s people pass by as we bear the ark. That’s missions.  We are going down to these neighborhoods with the ark on our shoulder.  I’m doing this in weakness, but I’m knocking on this door.

I talked to so many the last few days. We’re thankful for the outpouring of gifts and support. Christ is being made great in this situation and the Lord will be sanctified in our midst. We will be happy people walking in joy of the Lord. We love this Body. Come and visit us. We love you.  It’s so great to be a part of this great work of God here in the U.S. and internationally.

(Prayer: Father, we don’t want to be like Uzzah who reached his hand out to steady the ark, and grabbed a hold of it.  He was encroaching on the ark, on the testimony. Christ in our midst has a testimony.  When things look a little rough, that we would not jump in in natural energy but stand in awe.  Great grace is upon us all.  We thank you for that.)

 

 


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