Where Does Real Courage Come From?

Saturday, June 25, 2016

“BRONZED AND LIFTED UP” – Part 4 (Numbers 21:8a)

Do we care how God heals us?

If we do, we’re grumbling again. We’re telling God what we think He should do. Why do we do that? We push Him off His throne, take His seat, and think our opinions matter. In our arrogance, we know what’s right, what’s best, what He should and shouldn’t do.

It’s exactly how the serpent thinks.

He said in his heart, “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (Isa 14:14). Every time we grumble, we say the same thing. We think like that ancient serpent, the devil. We pretend we’re God.

But we’re not God. In Numbers 21, it takes the invasion of fiery serpents to awaken the Israelites. They come to their senses. They confess their sin. They ask Moses to pray God for mercy. They need Him. They’re not in control. They need the serpents to go away.

The Lord, in His kindness, responds.

Does it matter how He responds? Are we like Naaman, commander of the Syrian army? He went to the prophet Elisha to be healed of his leprosy. Elisha told him to wash seven times in the Jordan and he’d be healed. But Naaman was furious; he didn’t want to wash in the Jordan. He wanted Elisha to “wave his hand” and cure him (2 Kgs 5:8-14).

Naaman grumbled.  That’s not how he wanted to be healed.

His servant spoke reason to his heart: “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” Naaman came to his senses, obeyed Elisha, and was healed.

Is that our story? When we need His saving power, have we got any right to complain about how God answers; if God answers; when God answers? Has arrogance filled us to the point we say, “Heal me but not Your way. Do it my way”?

This grumbling -- it’s still happening today.

People come to their senses and cry to God for help. But they don’t like His answer. He says He sent His Son to rescue them from the poison of that ancient serpent. He declares there’s no salvation other than the one found in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). They object.

They don’t want to hear about Jesus. They want salvation their way, not His way.

That didn’t happen in the wilderness. No one complained when the Lord told Moses to “Make a fiery serpent and set it on pole.” It’s what cured the Israelites in the wilderness. It’s what cures us today. All of us need to know the serpent is dead, bronzed, judged, and has no more power over us. Not our bodies, hearts, or minds.

That’s God’s way. And God’s way is the only way to heal the soul from grumbling.

Friday, June 17, 2016

“WE HAVE SINNED” – Part 3 (Numbers 21:7)

Why don’t we get it? Grumbling is wrong.

It was wrong when it first happened in Eden. Adam, putting self at center, blamed God and Eve for what he did. He grumbled against them saying it was the “WOMAN whom YOU gave to be with me” (Gen 3:12).

It was wrong in Numbers 21. Their grumbling against God and Moses had immediate consequences. The Lord sent in fiery serpents. The people forgot their complaint for better food and more water. They were being bitten. They were dying. They knew why.

They got it.

In the story of the prodigal son, the Bible says it this way, “he came to his senses” (Lk 15:17 NASB). He stared into the eyes of pigs and got it. He knew his misery was a direct result of his own actions. He had sinned against God and his father.

But this “sense” is not a natural sense. It’s a God sense. Anytime we use the word “sin” we speak in reference to God. He sets the mark of holy, right, and good. To miss the mark that God set is what the Bible calls “sin.” Our natural sense thinks in reference to self. But when our God sense is awakened, God comes first and we get it.

The Israelites got it. They realized their grumbling had caused God to send in the fiery serpents. He wasn’t to blame. Moses wasn’t to blame. They were and they confessed it.

“We have sinned.”

They went to Moses and said, “we have spoken against the Lord and against you.” Their only hope was to ask Moses to pray to God on their behalf. They needed mercy, “Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.”

This is where it all begins: We need our God sense awakened. We will not change until this happens. No matter our circumstance, our sinful nature always puts self at center, others to blame, God to blame. With ease, we unleash the sound of grumble that comes from the depths of our souls.

We don’t get it, we never will.

Not until the God sense kicks in. When it does, we see Him on the throne. Not us. He takes His rightful place at the center of all things. We become profoundly aware that God is right. His judgment is right. Our grumbling is wrong and we have sinned against Him.

We get it and, when we get it, we confess it.

The sinful nature laughs at confession. It sees the fiery serpents and complains all the more. More grumbling, more blaming God. It has no sense those serpents have come because God is kind and His kindness leads us back to Himself (Rom 2:4).

So we can say what needs to be said, “We have sinned.”

Friday, June 10, 2016

“THAT FIERY SERPENT” – Part 2 (Numbers 21:6)

Why do we grumble?

Isn’t it obvious? We’re unhappy. Our situation is unbearable. We’ve been hurt; treated unfairly; everything’s turned against us. Out it comes. We grumble against those who had a part in it and God for allowing it -- maybe even causing it.

That’s the story of Numbers 21. The Israelites knew exactly why they were grumbling. Their needs were not being met.

Enter: The fiery serpents.

The wilderness was full of “fiery serpents and scorpions” (Deut 8:15). Up to that point, God had prevented them from hurting the Israelites. But now, in one sense, He withdrew His protective grace, allowing the serpents to attack. In another sense, He sent them in by an act of His will to bite, poison, and kill.

Our sins have consequences.

But why send in serpents? He could have done whatever He wanted. Why choose this? Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the gospel of John, will explain it in great detail. But even here, even now, it is clear the Lord had a bigger purpose in mind. We think our grumbling has to do with our present situation and all that’s going wrong.

God sees it differently.

He takes us back to the Garden of Eden and “that ancient serpent who is called the devil and Satan” (Rev 12:9). It’s our involvement with him that’s the root cause of it all. Back in Eden, the devil came to Eve in the disguise of a beautiful serpent. He questioned God’s word, “Did God actually say?” (Gen 3:1) He made her see the forbidden tree as desirable to eat; something that will make her “be like God” (Gen 3:5).

She ate. Adam ate, and the Bible says “sin entered into the world, and death through sin” (Rom 5:12). From then on, we’ve been in the serpent’s kingdom. By an act of our will, we’ve been bit. In this kingdom, God is not first. God is never first – we are.

Does it surprise you that Job’s wife, suffering unspeakable tragedy, told her husband to “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9)? Isn’t that our natural reaction when bad things happen? We immediately blame Him, “God did this. God allowed it. God caused it.”

We don’t turn toward Him. We turn against Him.

If we’re going to stop grumbling, we’ve got to break from the serpent’s kingdom. We need his poison out of our system. No matter what we’re going through, we need to do what Job did in the hour of his greatest need. He worshiped God. He did “not sin or charge God with wrong” (Job 1:20-22). But how did he do that? There’s only one way. Job knew his Savior. He’d been given power to break from that fiery serpent.

It’s what you and I need. Without a Savior, we will never be free from grumbling.

John 15:1-11, the Vine and the branches. "Is He everything to you?