Where Does Real Courage Come From?

Friday, July 22, 2016

“GRUMBLING THIS SIDE OF THE CROSS” – Part 7 (1 Corinthians 10:9-10)

If we belong to Christ, why aren’t we completely healed?

Why do we still grumble? The moment life turns against us; something horrible happens; we get hurt; we lose control; we get frustrated and can’t believe the Lord allowed it – caused it – hasn’t stopped it.

That sound deep in our soul.

Shouldn’t knowing Jesus make a difference? Every time we grumble we “grieve the Holy Spirit of God” who lives in us (Eph 4:30; 1 Cor 3:16)? Does that help us stop? Can we tell our hearts get calloused toward Him the more we do it?

The fact is: Christians grumble.

We do. The apostles knew it. It’s why they wrote, “Do all things without grumbling” (Phil 2:14; see Jas 5:9; 1 Pet 4:9). But it’s the apostle Paul who takes us back to Numbers 21. He reminded the Corinthians not to “put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble” (1 Cor 10:9-10).

There they are again – the serpents.

We still have a problem. We know what happened on Calvary. Jesus defeated Satan utterly and completely. He disarmed him. He put him to open shame. He triumphed over him (Col 2:15). And yet, before our Lord’s return, the devil’s still around. He still torments. We still have “to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph 6:11).

But here’s the good news: Numbers 21 is still ours.

Grumbling – do we know when we’re doing it? Do we have Christians around us who have the courage to tell us to stop it? Can we, in turn, let Jesus help us by showing us why we’re grumbling? What’s the cause? How can we confess the sin of grumbling if we don’t know why we’re doing it?

Confession – it’s where healing starts.

Our Lord, in responses, does what He did in Numbers 21. He had Moses lifted up the bronze serpent. Today, on this side of the cross, the Father points us to Jesus. We see Him lifted up. It’s on that cross where Satan and his hosts were defeated. The message of the cross “to us who are being saved…is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18).

That power is still ours. Every time we look to the cross, it’s the “blood of Jesus” that cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). It’s the power of the Holy Spirit abiding in us that can “do far more abundantly than all that ask or think” (Eph 3:20). The battle is strong. But the Lord is with us. He has put us together in His church. Every time the grumbling starts, we do what Numbers 21 tells us to do.

We lift up Jesus. We help each other see Him so His healing power can come and fill our soul with praise!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

“IF I BE LIFTED UP” – Part 6 (John 3:14-15)

Can Numbers 21 really impact your life today?

This story comes with a surprising twist. On the surface, it feels like it is an “example” to us, “written down for our instruction” (1 Cor 10:11).  The Israelites grumbled in the wilderness. They shouldn’t have. The Lord sent in fiery serpents.

Moral: Don’t grumble. Don’t play into the devil’s hand.

Is that it?

No. There’s more. Jesus spoke about Numbers 21. He took the story to a new depth. He remembered how Moses “lifted up the serpent in the wilderness.” Isn’t it obvious why? Don’t we expect Him to say, “Like Moses, I will lift up the fiery serpent – the devil – in great triumph for all to see”? And why not, it’s true.

It’s why He came -- “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8). But that’s not what Jesus said to His listeners that day.

Here’s the shocking twist. He said as Moses lifted up the serpent, so He must be lifted up. He didn’t compare Himself to Moses. He compared Himself to the bronze serpent.

Why did He do that?

The image is unnerving. We can understand how the bronze serpent can symbolize the real serpent, the devil himself. But how can we understand the bronze serpent as Jesus and Jesus as the bronze serpent?

But that, our Lord said, is the story of His cross. He told His listeners the only way to defeat the devil is that He Himself die. He said it later this way: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” The Bible quickly adds, “He said this to show what kind of death he was going to die” (Jn 12:32-33).

And it’s true. It’s exactly how Jesus died – He was lifted up on the cross.

Just as the bronze serpent was lifted up on a pole.

Our Lord used Numbers 21 to show us His cross. Just as the bronze serpent put an end to the fiery serpents, so His cross put an end to the real serpent. Just as the people of Israel were healed when they saw the bronze serpent, so we are healed when we see Jesus and believe in Him for eternal life. The stories are inexorably bound together.

Jesus said it so plainly: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believe in him may have eternal life.”

You see, Numbers 21 can impact our life today. Every time we lift up the name of Jesus and let people see His cross, we tell the story. The serpent is done. We can be healed. There is power in our Lord’s cross for us even now.

Monday, July 4, 2016

“LOOK AND LIVE” – Part 5 (Numbers 21:8)

Why is it hard to receive God’s cure for us?

It couldn’t be simpler. Moses made a bronze serpent as God instructed, put it on a pole, and lifted it up. All the bitten Israelites had to do was look at it and live. That’s it. It wasn’t complicated.  

There, on the pole, the bronze serpent was dead, lifeless, and powerless. That was God’s message of mercy. He had rendered the fiery serpents dead, lifeless, and powerless. Their bite, their venom had no power to kill the Israelites. Not anymore.

One look and they were healed.

But the cure was more than healing their physical bodies. The deeper cure had power to heal their souls from the tormenting disease of grumbling. This was the real poison.  Not from the serpents in the wilderness but from the ancient serpent of Eden who’d inflamed their self-centered lusts and passions.

Look at the bronze serpent again.

It tells two stories. First, the power of the fiery serpents is over and, second, God has promised the end of the real serpent, the devil.

That promise came in Eden. After Adam and Eve fell into sin, the Lord spoke of a day when a Savior would come and “crush” the serpent forever (Gen 3:15 NIV). The devil would no longer have power over us. Sin and death would no longer reign in our mortal bodies (Rom 6:12). The Savior would come to render the serpent dead, lifeless, and powerless so we, the bitten, could look and live.

This is why our Savior came: “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8).

All we have to do is look and live.

Why is this hard to do? Is it possible it’s because God’s cure is free of charge? We can’t buy it. We can’t do anything to earn it, work for it, or muster our human strength to acquire it. We can’t take any credit for getting it. We can’t boast we deserve it. There’s nothing we can do but confess our sin and beg for His mercy.

His cure is a gift to us. He gives it because He is good. He is kind. He is merciful. It is all about Him, not us. He loves us and saves us “by his grace as a gift” (Rom 3:24). It never comes by “works done by us in righteousness” (Titus  3:5; Eph 2:8-9).

Just look at the Savior and be healed.

But this runs contrary to our bitten, sinful nature. We grumble because of pride. We never receive anything for free. Only the weak take handouts. If we can’t be part of the solution, we don’t want it. This has always been the argument. It still is today. It’s why people all over the world refuse to look at what our Savior has done and let the healing power of God come into their souls.

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