Posts Tagged ‘Covenant’


As we look at all we have “Because of the Cross”, we need to remember three Principles of the Cross:

1. The Cross is the Wisdom & Power of God.

  • The Cross reveals the Heart of God, His delight in mercy, justice and righteousness.
  • At the Cross we partake of the unfailing love of God, the justice of being made right with God, and the Righteousness that is in Christ whereby we have victory over sin, over Satan and over death.

2. The Cross is opposed to the wisdom and power of man.

  • The cross requires humility. The cross strips man of all rights and powers. The Cross reveals the foolishness of man’s attempts at standing and self-righteousness.
  • Man says to love yourself first, seek for yourself first. Instead of submitting to God’s love, We are our own person, we are OK as we are, we can do as we please as long as we don’t hurt anyone. Instead of submitting to God’s Justice, Man emphasizes your own accomplishments, your own standing, your own right to live as you see fit. Instead of depending upon God for our righteousness, Man emphasizes works, riches, possessions as justification for the way he lives.

3. The Cross represents the Perfect Blood Sacrifice required by God

  • God declared that life is in the blood. The only way for sinful man to enjoy life with Holy God is through a blood sacrifice for our sins. The Cross is that perfect blood sacrifice.

We have seen the Principle of the Cross with Adam and Eve, and how Cain quickly established Man’s wisdom in opposition to the Cross. That Opposition grew until we read:

 Genesis 6:5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

So God called Noah to build an ark. God saved His creation by a worldwide flood, and the earth was transformed, and Noah and his family went forth to re-populate the earth. This new world was established with the Principle of the Cross, for Noah took of the clean animals and sacrificed them to God.

Kingdom of Man Rears its Sinful Head (NIMROD)

In the Dispensation of Noah it did not take long for the wisdom and power of man to rear its ugly head in opposition to the Cross. Mighty men came along, led by Nimrod, the mighty hunter of men, and directly opposed God. They built a Tower that was reaching to the heavens, so they could worship themselves and insure a place of refuge should God ever decide to flood the earth again.

God confounded the wisdom and power of man, and the languages of the earth were born, and the kingdom of man became fragmented.

In the face of God’s wisdom and power, man corrupted the Principle of the Cross, and began to sacrifice to gods of their own making. They worshipped ‘idols’ and engaged in religious worship in opposition to the Creator God Jehovah. They offered sacrifices as He demanded, but with hearts devoted to the kingdom of man. They created god’s of their own design, god’s whom they could worship as they chose. The altar of sacrifice had been corrupted by man to honor the god’s of their making, instead of the Making God!

It was among these idol worshippers in the “Ur of the Chaldees” that Jewish tradition has a young man named Abram working in his father’s idol merchant shop. This young man was about to receive a special call for Creator God. This is the beginning of the Patriarch Dispensation.

The Calling of Abram

Genesis 12:1-9 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran (best meaning ‘to tarry’). And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar (mizbeah) to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD. And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb.

We know Ur of the Chaldees was a ‘hotbed’ of idolatry for two reasons:

1. Abraham’s father, Terah according to Joshua 24:2, worshiped idols. Jewish tradition refers to Terah as an idol maker. Ur was an idolatrous city worshiping many different Gods such as the god of fire, moon, sun and stars. Sin was the name of the chief idol deity of Ur. Ningal, was the wife of the moon-god, Sin, and was worshiped as a mother God in many other cities. Ur was a evil and sinful city as can be seen in the worship practices of the moon-goddess, Ningal.[1]

Joshua 24:2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods.

2. Ur ‏אור‎, which means flame or fire of the Chaldeans, from the worship practiced there. Scholars say the people of this area were worshippers of fire, and there is evidence of fire sacrifices to various gods.[2]

Abram rejected the many god’s of his father’s, and followed the call of the one and only True God. Abram’s journey to Canaan was marked by humility resulting in the altar of sacrifice. At the Oak of Moreh God appeared to Abram and told Him, “To your offspring I will give this land.”

So which is it: Plains, encampments, oaks or terebinths? Different translations have served to obscure the great truth of this passage.

Plains and encampments, I think, can be dismissed immediately. They do not fit other passages using this expression. They cannot possibly be the correct translation of elonei mamre. That leaves oaks and terebinths. I’ll take oaks.

Here’s why. In the first place, while “oaks” is the oldest translation we have of elonei, “terebinths” is the most recent. The Septuagint rendition may represent a genuine tradition passed down from the time the book of Genesis was composed. Moreover, terebinths, whose small leaves indeed smell a bit like turpentine when crushed, may have an impressive-sounding name, but they are not very impressive in appearance. The terebinth is an evergreen shrub that rarely grows to more than 7 or 8 feet and is found all over Israel. The common Palestinian oak, on the other hand, develops into a tall, stately tree. A whole forest or grove of such trees, now seen in only a few places but less rare in Abraham’s time, is an impressive sight indeed. Certainly these could be a landmark worthy of mention in God’s Word.

Would the Bible have bothered to point out that Abraham was sitting by some perfectly ordinary shrubs? In my thinking, the mighty Oak wins this match against the insignificant terebinth.[3].

Evidently there was a significant tree in a grove of trees at Moreh near Shechem. The Hebrew moreh is derived from the verb yarah, “to teach,” “to direct,” and indicates one who directs, or gives oracular answers.[4]  Picture a place known for receiving direction or oracles from God.

Now it was here that God first appeared to Abram, and confirmed to Abram that this was the land that God was giving him. No doubt Abram had seen the Canaanites, and had seen their vileness and fierceness. Perhaps he doubts were running rampant in his mind, doubts about the voice he had heard calling him. In the midst of those doubts, Abram saw God by that majestic tree. There God renewed His promise to Abram. As soon as God went away, Abram built an altar (place of sacrifice) unto God.

Can you picture Abram, a former idol worshipper, seeing Jehovah God? This was no wood carving, no stone object. Abram saw the Living Creator God. In the presence of God there are no doubts, there is only hope, there is only His love. Abram was so in awe of God that his first reaction was to build an altar and offer a sacrifice to God. Sinful man had met Holy God at the tree. At the tree Abram offered himself to God.

Does that sound like anything familiar to you?

It is before this significant tree that an altar is made, sacrifice performed, and Abram’s life, family and possessions are committed to God’s Promise. Here we see the principle of the Cross in establishing Abram’s possession of the Promised Land.

This appearance of God was significant, for just as God walked with Adam in the cool of the evening, so now God appeared to Abram in the coolness of the shade of the Oak Tree of Moreh. When ever God begins something new, His presence is all over it!

The Oak Tree of Moreh was near Shechem

There are 3 references to the Oak tree(s) of Moreh at Shechem in the Bible. Plus there is one more subtle reference worth noting.

1. Genesis 12:6-7

“Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was then in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.”

God called Abram out of the kingdom of the wisdom and power of man. He called Abram out of the land of idols and manmade gods. He called him to a new land, to form a new nation that followed Jehovah, their Creator God. He called Abram to follow God’s wisdom and power, and submit to the principle of the Cross. When Abram saw God, he submitted and sacrificed.

You are familiar with his life. Along this journey Abram made mistakes. He lied, he resorted to following the wisdom and power of man in having a baby boy Ishmael. Still, God blessed him, for God had set His Name upon Abram. Instead of being Abram, his name became Abraham, father of a great nation.

Finally, God gave him that promised son, Isaac. As we will see in later writings, the Principal of the Cross was upon Isaac, and upon Jacob. But for today, we are camping under the Oak of Moreh, near Shechem.

Abraham’s grandson had returned to the idol loving land of his great-grandfather. There he met his wife(s) and labored for his uncle, Laban. Jacob was a man who fit in well with the kingdom of Man. He was crafty, deceitful, proud and boasting. God still blessed him, because God had promised Abraham. God issued a call to Jacob to return to the Promised land, and face his estranged brother Esau. God was there when the brothers met. Jacob and his family were spared the wrath of Esau. And Jacob continued on, making a stop in Shechem.

Genesis 33:18-20 Now Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram, and camped before the city. He bought the piece of land where he had pitched his tent from the hand of the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money. Then he erected there an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel. (Meaning “El, the God of Israel”)

Even though Jacob offered sacrifices to God, the God of Israel, he was still living in the kingdom of man. He was still living by his own wiles. His heart was divided. (Notice he did not say “My God!”) Jacob had to learn a costly lesson before he could go on to the House of God (Bethel). Chapter 34 sees the chastening hand of God upon his Jacob and his family. At Shechem, his daughter Dinah was raped by the prince of the land (Shechem). What follows is deceit upon deceit, as Jacob’s sons plot to avenge their daughter, and the leaders of of Shechem plot to take Jacob’s livestock and possession. In a clever plot indicative of the treachery of their father, the sons of Jacob murder the men of Shechem, plunder their riches and livestock, take the women and children, and bring dishonor upon the house of Jacob.

Genesis 34:30-31 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and my men being few in number, they will gather together against me and attack me and I will be destroyed, I and my household.” But they said, “Should he treat our sister as a harlot?”

In Genesis 35 we see that Jacob makes a decision to wholly follow God. Once again, the Oak Tree at Moreh plays a significant role.

2. Genesis 35:4

Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and purify yourselves and change your garments; and let us arise and go up to Bethel, and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods which they had and the rings which were in their ears, and Jacob hid them under the oak which was near Shechem.

God spells out the problem He had with Jacob. Sure, Jacob professes belief in God, even honoring Him with an altar and sacrifices. But Jacob’s heart was divided. He loved the Kingdom of Man, with its idols and riches. He was a “double-minded” man. His life in the land of idolatry had tainted his already flawed soul. Jacob and his sons were even dressing like the idol loving people of the land, thus the reference to the “rings in their ears” and their garments.

Bethel was the “House of God” Bethel was the place of God that Abram pitched his tent, built an altar of sacrifice to God, and where he called upon the Name of the Lord! There is salvation in the House of God!

Genesis 12:8 Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD.

God appeared to Abram, and he sacrificed to God. He continued on to Bethel, in the heart of Canaan, and pitched his tent, and called upon the Name of the Lord. You can almost see the progression of his heart. He answers the call of God, yet decides to tarry a while in Haran. After the death of his father, he decides to move to Canaan, and stops at Shechem. There he sees his Creator God. He submits and sacrifices. But you get the feeling he is not all in yet. But he travels further into Canaan, and decides to pitch his tent on a hillside at Bethel, the House of God. Abram has made a decision. He is all in. There is no turning back. His tent is pitched, and He cries out to God!

We see the Principle of the Cross at work in his life, and we will see why he did what he did with Isaac next week.

As with Abram, God called Jacob to come to a place of decision. What will Jacob do? Will he come to God with everything, depend upon God for everything? Is he ready to forsake the crafty kingdom of Man and give himself 100% to Jehovah God? There is no use going to Bethel if your heart is divided. God is a jealous God. He wants all of us. Jacob can’t deceive God like he did his father, like he did Laban. God could see Jacob’s heart, that it was divided.

He can offer as many sacrifices to God as he wants, but unless his heart is given 100% to God, it does no good. This is what God means when He says it is better to obey than to sacrifice.

Here at Shechem, in spite of the pain of his heart over Dinah and his sons, Jacob makes a decision to follow God fully. He and his household obeyed God and put all of the idols and their precious possessions at the foot of the Oak tree.

This is what we do at the foot of the Cross!

Fast forward a few hundred years. Jacob died in Egypt, and the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob escaped the slavery of Pharaoh. It had been 400 years since they had been in the promised land. God used a meek man to lead his people from Egypt. Now in Deut. 11 Moses is addressing the people.

3. Deuteronomy 11:29-30.

“It shall come about, when the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, that you shall place the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. “Are they not across the Jordan, west of the way toward the sunset, in the land of the Canaanites who live in the Arabah, opposite Gilgal, beside the oaks of Moreh?

Moses has shared the Law of God with his people. He has detailed all the blessings God promises to those who wholly follow the Lord. He instructs them to go to the Oaks of Moreh, and stand upon the two mountains there, Ebal and Gerizim. There they are to dedicate themselves to following God and His Word completely, and they are to acknowledge the blessings and cursing associated with that commitment.

The account of that event is given in chapters 27 and 28 of Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 27:4-8 And when you have crossed over the Jordan, you shall set up these stones, concerning which I command you today, on Mount Ebal, and you shall plaster them with plaster. And there you shall build an altar to the LORD your God, an altar of stones. You shall wield no iron tool on them; you shall build an altar to the LORD your God of uncut stones. And you shall offer burnt offerings on it to the LORD your God, and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and shall eat there, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God. And you shall write on the stones all the words of this law very plainly.”

One by one the Levites read the Blessings and Curses of the Law

Can you hear them:  ‘Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ (Deuteronomy 27:26)

And all the people shout, ‘Amen!’

The vibrating, thundering chorus of two million of voices shouting ‘Amen’ in unison to the terms of the covenant, from hill to hill, echoed powerfully in the streets of Shechem below. The Oaks of Moreh were shaking in response. They were witnesses to this momentous occasion.

The Jordan river signifies death to the wisdom and power of man. When Israel passed over the Jordant, they were symbolically announcing that they were dying to life in the wisdom and power of the flesh, and were now living in the wisdom and power of God and His Word. They were embracing the Principle of the Cross. This was so important, that at the end of Joshua’s life, he had the people return to this spot and reaffirm their commitment to following God’s Word.

Covenant ratified one more time…

At the end of his life, Joshua called for Israel to assemble again — at Shechem. The solemnity of the occasion cannot be expressed better than by its simple yet inspired biblical description:

Joshua 24:1 Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel. And they presented themselves before God.

Joshua recounted God’s faithfulness from the time of Abram’s calling until He gave them the Promised Land. He solemnly impressed upon them the importance of keeping faithfulness with God and his covenant. Listen as Joshua brings the point home:

Joshua 24:14-15 “Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

The people responded that YES! They would serve the Lord! Joshua tried to tell them they were not able to serve the Lord:

Joshua 24:19-21 Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.” But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the LORD.”

So Joshua told them: “Now then, throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” (Joshua 24:23)

So Joshua took a large stone and placed it under the Oak by the sanctuary of the Lord (in Shechem). That stone represented their decision to yield their hearts totally to God! This is what Abram had done! This is what Jacob had done! This is the Principle of the Cross!

Joshua 24:24-27 The people said to Joshua, “We will serve the LORD our God and we will obey His voice.” So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be for a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD which He spoke to us; thus it shall be for a witness against you, so that you do not deny your God.”

That stone was not the only witness. The Principle of the Cross was there at Shechem in the form of the Oak tree of Moreh. Eight hundred years had elapsed since Abram first built an altar under the Shechem oak tree. The original oak tree had probably given way to an offspring. But the mention of the ‘sanctuary of the Lord’ confirms this Oak tree was probably near the altars built by Abram and Jacob, and was now taken to be the official substitute.

I can see Joshua pointing to the altars and the tree as he recounts their stories to his people. I can hear him tell them that God appeared to Abram at this very spot. I can see him pointing to the ground and saying, “somewhere down there are the pagan gods your father Jacob buried; do the same, bury your false gods, and serve the one true God only.”  On that day, under Abram’s tree of promise, Israel ratified her covenant with God, the covenant she had made at Sinai nearly one hundred years earlier.

Treason at the Cross

Everyone remembers the story of Gideon and the way God used him in a miraculous deliverance of Israel from the Midianites. After that victory, the men of Israel wanted to make Gideon King.

Judges 8:22-23  Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the LORD will rule over you.”

Now Gideon (Jerubbaal) had seventy sons, for he had many wives. One son was Abimelech, born of a concubine who lived in Shechem. After Gideon died, Abimelech schemed to become King over the land. He got the leaders of Shechem on his side, got them to pay him money with which he hired thugs. Then he murdered 70 sons of Gideon with one stone. One son, Jotham, got away.

Immediately, “all the leaders of Shechem came together, and all Beth-millo, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar at Shechem.” (Judges 9:6)

At the very spot where, under the very tree where, next to the very pillar where, three hundred years earlier, all Israel had sworn faithfulness to God and His covenant, where one thousand years earlier God first made the covenantal promises to Abram, where Jacob later buried the vestiges of his false gods, the populace of Shechem declared that a mere, evil man, was now their king [6].

Rebellious men refused to humble themselves to the Cross, and so rejected God in favor of man’s wisdom and power. Shechem erected the Kingdom of Man in opposition to the Kingdom of God.

The outcome was utter disaster, perhaps even greater than that which had occurred in the same city hundreds of years earlier when Simeon and Levi slaughtered the entire male population.

Read the entire account for yourself in Judges 9:1-20. In short, the honeymoon between Abimelech and the Shechemites was short-lived. God set animosity between them, resulting in Abimelech’s massacre of the entire population. One thousand people perished in one incident when Abimelech set fire to the temple of Baal in which they were cringing in fear. That one thousand people could fit inside testifies to its considerable size.

Why did this disaster occur? Listen carefully to what Jotham, Abimelech’s lone surviving brother, had to say to the citizens of Shechem days before the massacre:

Jotham told a parable, about the trees wanting someone to reign over them as a King. The tried the Olive Tree, the Fig Tree, a Vine, and each one refused. Finally they went to a lowly bramble bush, and he accepted.

Jotham warned the people:

Judges 9:16-20 “Now if you have acted faithfully and honestly in making Abimelech king, if you have done well by Jerubbaal (Gideon) and his family, and if you have rewarded him appropriately for what he did— for my father fought for you, risked his life, and delivered you from the hand of Midian, and now you have attacked my father’s house today, killed his 70 sons on top of a large stone, and made Abimelech, the son of his slave, king over the lords of Shechem ‘because he is your brother’— if then you have acted faithfully and honestly with Jerubbaal and his house this day, rejoice in Abimelech and may he also rejoice in you. But if not, may fire come from Abimelech and consume the lords of Shechem and Beth-millo, and may fire come from the lords of Shechem and Beth-millo and consume Abimelech.”


Twice in one short message Jotham tells the people to judge themselves, whether or not they have acted faithfully and honestly. Understand, the Cross is a divider of men. It divids the children of God from the children of the world. It divides Spirit-filled believers from fleshly pretenders, or worldly Christians. There is Blessing at the foot of the Cross. There is Cursing at the Foot of the Cross. You can bear the curse yourself, or you can realize that Jesus became cursed for you upon that Cross. Yield your heart to the Cross, and enjoy the Blessings of Jesus Christ!

We have a tree that rules over us. It is the Cross of Jesus Christ. We do not worship the Tree, for it is but a principle. We worship the one who was crucified upon that tree. He is our King, He is our Lord. The principle of the Cross must be applied to our lives if He is to reign!


[1] Halley’s Bible Handbook, Henry H. Halley, Zondervan Pub. House, Grand Rapids, page 95.

[2] Adam Clarke, A Commentary and Critical Notes, (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1826), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Genesis 11”.

[3]“Oaks or Terebinths?” Philologos, http://forward.com/articles/11956/oaks-or-terebinths-/

[5] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1-17, 1990, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, p. 389.

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This outline was the basis of our “Covenant Sunday” We began the process of revising our archaic Church Covenant over six months ago, and finally arrived at a church covenant that was relevant and applicable for our church, that was also in harmony with the teachings of Scripture. After reading the new Church Covenant, all members affirmed their support of the Covenant with their written signature.

I. The Church is Built upon a New Covenant

  • Matthew 26:27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you,
  • Mark 14:24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.
  • Luke 22:20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you

Hebrews 9:15-17 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.

The New Covenant is Conditional

Hebrews 10:26-31 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The Purpose of our Church Covenant

Our Covenant Reinforces the Conditions of this New Covenant with Jesus Christ

Our Covenant is the Practical Application of God’s Word to our Church Family

It is a Promise of how we will live our lives in the Church, in our Family, and in the World

It is a Summary of our Family Values

It is our Commitment to each other as a Family of Followers of Christ

It is our Ethical Statement to the World

It is our Biblical Standard for our Family

A.  Basis of Membership (Partnership)

  1. The first century church transformed the way believer’s thought, lived, and used their resources of time and money.
  2. A bond united genuine believers and exposed those who were not a part of the body of Christ. Acts 5:13
  3. The Distinguishing factor between those who were part of the fellowship and those who were not: 1 John 2:19-20

1 John 2:19-20 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. (anointing is the word charisma “the special endowment of the Holy Spirit”)

B. Basis of Discipline

1. Fellowship was so vital and valuable that early discipline was to be disallowed from fellowshipping with the church.

1 Corinthians 5:13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”

2. Loss of fellowship was so powerful that it would produce great sorrow.

2 Corinthians 2:6-7 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.

C.  Basis of Mutual Edification

1. Ultimate purpose of the body is to edify one another so that each believer can come to full maturity and a unity in faith.

Ephesians 4:11-13 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

2. Primary purpose is to provoke one another to do good works.

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

  • Twenty five “one another” commands in the N.T. are listed in our new Covenant

Our Church Covenant serves to unite our family together as the Body of Christ meeting as Pleasant Prairie Baptist Church. He is our Head and we are to function and grow as His Body. Our Covenant is the practical statement of how our body will work together and live together and relate with each other. Our Covenant is what distinguishes our family from the families around us. Our Covenant also provides the basis for dealing with problems in the family. The purpose of the Covenant is not to chain people together, but to promote growth with one another in Jesus Christ. The wellness of the body is the chief aim. Our Church Covenant is to serve to Edify the body meeting as Pleasant Prairie Baptist Church.

II. The Power of Edifying One Another

A. The Goal of Fellowship is to produce spiritual maturity through mutual Edification.

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

The Church is to provide opportunities for believer’s to give testimonies of God’s Working in their lives.

Paul testifies to the Power of public testimonies:

1 Corinthians 14:23-25 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”

    • Secrets of his heart will be exposed
    • Conviction of sins
    • People falling to their face and worshiping God
    • Knowing God is among you

Teaching of the Apostles was the ‘rhema’ of the Word, not the ‘logos.’

  • John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words (rhema)that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
  • John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words (rhema) abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

A “RHEMA” requires confirmation of two or three witnesses

2 Corinthians 13:1 This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word (rhema) be established.

Paul gives further instructions about the importance of sharing what God is doing in your life:

Strengthens the Body

1 Corinthians 14:26-27 26 What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.

Provides Training in Godliness

1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

  • Testimonies-Psalm, message in sacred song
  • Instruction from Scripture
  • Personal rhema from the Word.
  • Insight into Christian living
  • Report on how truth was applied.

B. Specific Types of Edification

  1. Build faith by sharing rhemas – Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word (rhema) of God.
  2. Glory to God for Answers to prayer (Psalms 50:15 “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”)
  3. Sharing fruit from building spiritual disciplines in your life.
  4. Sharing your growth from salvation
  5. Sharing about others coming to Christ
  6. Testifying to the truth of God’s Way of Life – problem in life and how obeying God’s Word has resulted in life.
  7. Dealing with Sin and the illnesses it causes
  8. Sharing the rewards of suffering, or thanking God.
  9. Wisdom gleaned from wise men
  10. Results of good works
  11. Benefits of Godly standards
  12. Praise others for their example

C.  Powerful Potential of Fellowship

  1. Testimonies often reveal needs that the Holy Spirit then impresses others to meet.
  2. Builds ‘koinonia’ -partnership, interaction.
  3. Fellowship of the churches in Macedonia

2 Corinthians 8:1-5 Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.

Our New Church Covenant:

The Foundation

Believing that Jesus Christ is the head of the church, and the church is the body of Christ, and that only by the Holy Spirit is one made alive to God and placed “in Christ”, I make the following two affirmations:

  • I have been born again by the Holy Spirit, having personally repented of my sin before God, received His forgiveness, believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ—crucified, buried, and resurrected—as my one and only Savior.
  • I have identified myself publicly as a Christian and have followed my Lord in baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The Promises

Having given ourselves to God by our faith in Jesus Christ, and having adopted the Word of God as our rule of faith and practice, and as members of this local Body of Christ, we now give ourselves to one another in this solemn covenant. We hereby promise:

  • To be committed to each other in seeking to love and obey Jesus Christ; and for His sake love, accept, and forgive each other with affectionate care and watchfulness.
  • To join with fellow members to seek God’s will in our common decision-making; to allow every member the privilege of seeking to influence the church in its pursuit of God’s will; to accept congregational decisions without grumbling; and to work to prevent division in the body.
  • To help one another grow in Jesus Christ by building up one another, bearing one another’s burdens, encouraging one another, exhorting one another, praying for one another, confessing our sins to one another, speaking the truth in love to one another, admonishing one another, teaching one another, comforting one another, submitting to one another, serving one another, patiently bearing with one another, being hospitable to one another, being kind and tenderhearted to one another.
  • To work together for the continuance of a faithful evangelical ministry in this church, as we support and sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline and doctrines. As we are being built up we will reach out to the lost and to the fallen and through our love and service seek to bring them into fellowship with Jesus Christ. Through self-denial, faith and good works we endeavor to grow together in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
  • To practice Biblical stewardship of our resources, and to contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the Gospel to all nations.
  • To seek, by God’s grace, to live carefully in the world, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to be an example in our speech and conduct, purposing to lead new and holy lives in the power of the Holy Spirit, especially with regard to the following:
    • To use chemical substances such as alcohol and drugs only as informed by the teachings of the Bible, wise medical counsel, and the dictates of the law.
    • To flee sexual immorality; to shun pornography; to reserve sexual activity for one man and one woman united in the covenant of marriage;
    • To initiate divorce proceedings only when there has been clear and continual violation of God’s Word regarding divorce and marriage. Anyone in such a situation agrees to consult with church leadership and seek Christian counseling.
    • To protect and defend the lives of our children from the moment of their conception; to bring up those in our home in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and by a pure and loving example seek the salvation of our family, teaching and encouraging them to love, follow and serve God.
    • To practice justice and compassion toward all people, especially the poor, the sick, the disabled, widows, and orphans.
    • To conduct all business in honesty and integrity, counting it our chief business in life to extend the influence of Christ in society.
  • To submit to the leadership of the Holy Spirit and pursue the fruit that He brings forth and to work and pray for the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, that the Kingdom of God may come, and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

The Protection:

We enter into this covenant voluntarily and affirm the ambitions of this covenant as our own. We realize that we can only fulfill this covenant through the power of Jesus Christ living in us. We invite fellow members to pray for us, teach us, correct us and rebuke us, if necessary; in a spirit of gentleness and humility should we stray from the Lord’s commands. We voluntarily submit ourselves to one another and to the biblical authority of this church. If we fail to live up to this covenant, we commit to yield to correction with meekness, to seek forgiveness and reconciliation, and to turn from our sin, relying on God’s grace to lift us up. Should church discipline ever be required, it will always be undertaken for the purpose of restoration to fellowship with God and with this covenant community – and it will always be done in accordance with Scriptural procedures in Matthew 18:15-22 and Galatians 6:1. We further commit to never refuse forgiveness and reconciliation in the face of Godly repentance.

If we find ourselves unwilling to try to fulfill this covenant, we commit to remove our self from this congregation. If relocation outside the community prevents us from fulfilling this covenant, we commit to unite with another congregation and to continue to pursue growth as a Christian.

The Blessing

May the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit Be With Us All. Amen.



Abram Had his doubtsAbram behaved as a True Elder Brother when he went after and rescued his nephew Lot. The Elder Brother is to be the responsible one, and protect the family. He spared no expense in rescuing his nephew. Yet after wards, he did a very ‘un-elderly brother’ thing when he refused the loot offered by the King of Sodom. This is what made Abram a Godly Elder Brother – his focus was on his relationship with the Father, not on “stuff”.

But he must have had his doubts. It is hard for Elder Brothers to not think ‘practically’. That is why God appeared to him in Genesis 15:1,

“Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”

God never wastes words. He would not have told Abram not to fear if fear was not in his heart. Perhaps he was afraid his following this invisible Jehovah was a waste. After all, Jehovah had still not provided him with an heir. What kind of God is that? So he complained to Jehovah:

“O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.”

Abram the Elder Brother was responsible, obedient and childless. His labors would all be in vain if he had no heir. So fear was in his heart. Do I keep following Jehovah, or return to the gods of my forefathers? After all, Abram began life as an idolater in a foreign land.

milky-wayGod could see the fear and hesitation in his heart, just as He sees the fear and hesitation in every Elder Brothers heart. So Jehovah took Abram outside and showed him the Milky Way. “Your descendants will be as many as the stars!” In that moment, Abram believed Jehovah, and it was counted unto him as righteousness.

A simple display and Word from Jehovah was all it took to dispel the fear in Abrams heart. When fear gripped his heart and he started to lean on his own understanding, he looked to the stars and believed the Word of God!

Abram Believed God

Elder Brothers, if you have doubts and fears about your labors and what good they are, open the Word of God and look for His promises to you. Ask Him for a special Word that will dispel the fear from your heart. Elder Brothers mask their insecurities with hard work, tasks and accomplishments. Yet inwardly we are beset by fear and doubt. Is this all worth while? Will anyone appreciate what I have done when I am gone? Will my children realize all I have sacrificed for them?

Look to the heavens, and hear the Word of Jehovah! His love for you is overwhelming. He is building His Kingdom on the backs of His faithful and hardworking Elder Brothers. We are the ones who must rescue our captured kinsmen.

Father: Open my heart to hearing your assuring voice, open my eyes to see your wondrous power!


The Great Con in JoshuaWe’ve all heard the word “con”. There are many synonyms: bamboozle, bilk, bluff, bunco, cajole, cheat, chicane, coax, crime, deception, double-cross, dupe, flimflam, fool,  fraud, gold brick, graft, gyp, hoax, hoodwink, hornswoggle, humbug, mislead, mockery, rip off, rook, sweet-talk, swindle, take in, trick, wheedle. Today we will look at the great Gibeonite Con and how Joshua overcame it with wood and water.Con Tweedle Hoodwink

The Leagues we make can be dangerous. They can be destructive. Perhaps you have heard the term “In League With the Devil?” Just so you will be relieved, here is a headline straight from the news:

Procter & Gamble Not In League With The Devil

Not in League with the DevilMarch 21, 2007: Procter and Gamble does not worship Satan, according to a court ruling that revolves around a decades-old urban myth targeting the world’s biggest consumer goods company. P&G said March 19 it had won $19.25 million in a civil suit brought against four former distributors of direct-selling company Amway who were accused of spreading false rumors.

On March 16 the Salt Lake City jury award represents the latest in a long line of court battles between P&G and Amway over the devil-worshipping claim, which has taken on new currency in the Internet era. “This is about protecting our reputation,” said Jim Johnson, P&G chief legal officer.

The former distributors were accused of rehashing a rumor that dates from at least 1981, to the effect that P&G is in league with the Devil. According to the false urban legend, the global company’s logo contains a “666” symbol, its bosses have appeared on television talk shows to declare their love of Beelzebub, and part of its profits go to the Church of Satan.

Amway has itself been forced to debunk accusations that its business model amounts to little more than a “get rich quick” pyramid-selling scheme. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

League:  To join in a league; to cause to combine for a joint purpose; to combine; to unite; as, common interests will league (Bowling League, Baseball League)

I know that none of you has knowingly and willingly made a league with the devil. But I would venture that you entered into a contract, a friendship, perhaps a marriage, that turned out to be destructive and detrimental, or at best that you regretted. Hopefully you have healed and come to see how God worked the character of Christ through your mistake. If not, then listen carefully toward the end of this message.

The truth is that a dentist’s mistake is pulled out, a lawyer’s mistake is imprisoned, a teacher’s mistake is failed, a printer’s mistake is corrected, a pharmacist’s mistake is buried, a postman’s mistake is forwarded, and an electrician’s mistake can be shocking. The novelist Joseph Conrad wrote, “It’s only those who do nothing that make no mistakes.”

If you are going to do anything in this life, you will make mistakes. This is exactly what happened to Joshua and the leaders of Israel. They made a serious mistake that threatened their inheritance. But they overcame it, and we will learn how.

  • If thou hast never been a fool, be sure thou wilt never be a wise man. ~ William Makepeace Thackeray (English novelist)
  • “Our wisdom comes from our experience, and our experience comes from our foolishness.” ~ Sacha Guitry
  • “Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.” ~ Charles H. Spurgeon, English preacher
  • “There is a foolish corner in the brain of the wisest man.” Aristotle

Have you ever signed a contract and then regretted it later?

Regret Signing a ContractContracts come in different forms. There is the obvious contract such as a real estate or auto purchase contract. There is the financing note contract. There are also less obvious contracts. A Wedding license is a contract that both bride and groom must sign to give them legal standing in the state in which they live. A credit card receipt is a contract stating you will pay for the items you received. A sales receipt is a contract that states you received these items for such and such an amount. Behind all purchases is a warranty contract unless you buy something “as is”. There is not much that you bring into your home that does not have some sort of contract attached to it.

Groceries, Furniture, Electronics, Toys, Cable Service, Phone Service, Utility Service, all come with agreements or contracts, whether implied or written. In the Old Testament, when you invited someone into your home to dine with you, it implied a contract or agreement that meant you were providing hospitality to them. That agreement of hospitality meant that what is yours is theirs.

Marriage was never entered into lightly, because it involved the uniting of two families. That meant that the cultures, practices, religious observances were being united. It was a serious thing to marry someone of a different race or culture, because it could involve conflicts within the family.

Even at our church we have a contract, which we call our Church Covenant. When you join this church you are agreeing to abide by our church covenant. As Pastor I am charged with upholding this contract, and along with leaders, enforcing this contract.

We talk about the good ole days, when a man’s word was his bond. Yet with God, there has never been a change in that adage. With God, our Words are important. We will be judged for every idle word that comes from our mouth. God holds you to every thing you have told Him you would do. That is why many Christians suffer from guilt-because of not following through on what we say to God.

That is why God says to never use His name in Vain. Most of us think that means not to say a certain phrase. But actually it means to never use His name lightly, without purpose, or meaning. When we say the name of God, it is with reverence and love and the utmost respect.

Our words mean everything to God. Our words can bring health to our body, our words can bring death. With our words we confess Christ as Lord.

I think we all have horror stories of what happened to us when we signed something or said something we shouldn’t have, or perhaps not thought it through clearly, or rushed into, or didn’t read the fine print. I remember buying a home in 1997 and thinking I had a fixed rate loan and then two years later getting a big increase in my mortgage payment. Boy was I mad. Then there were those internet stock days when all these hot IPO’s were coming out and if you could just buy a few of the IPO shares you could turn around and make a killing. Well, when you purchase stock you are entering into an agreement. I entered into one of those agreements only to wish I hadn’t because the stock tanked.

Eye Irritants and Thorns in the sideJoshua 9 reveals a horror story that happened to Joshua and the leaders of Israel. If this had happened in America they would have taken the people to court and proved fraud. They would have gotten out of their league with the enemy.

God doesn’t abide by man’s laws. If you want to live your life by man’s laws, go ahead, but you are being a FRIEND OF THE WORLD. Being a friend of the world is being an enemy of God. This is what made Joshua’s League with the Gibeonites so dangerous. This simple league, this little agreement meant that the warning of God would come to pass:

Numbers 33:50-56 (NKJV) Now the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you have crossed the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, destroy all their engraved stones, destroy all their molded images, and demolish all their high places; you shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land and dwell in it, for I have given you the land to possess. And you shall divide the land by lot as an inheritance among your families; to the larger you shall give a larger inheritance, and to the smaller you shall give a smaller inheritance; there everyone’s inheritance shall be whatever falls to him by lot. You shall inherit according to the tribes of your fathers. But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell. Moreover it shall be that I will do to you as I thought to do to them.'”

Deuteronomy 7:1-4 (ESV) “When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than yourselves, and when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.

Agreements, Leagues, Contracts, Church Membership, can affect our lives and livelihood, our friendships, our walk with God, our inheritance, our eternity. God wants us to make the Right Agreements. He wants us to enter the Right Leagues. This is His purpose in wanting Joshua to destroy all the inhabitants, and destroy all their idols. But when we mess up, God can use our mistakes for His Glory!

David made Right AgreementsDavid was not permitted by God to build the temple. His hands were bloody. So Solomon built the temple. Yet his father David made all the treaties, agreements that gave Solomon all the materials he needed to build a glorious temple. Dad’s, your friendships, your agreements, your work habits, will leave an impression and imprint on the lives of your children. Wrong friendships can result in harm. Witness child abuse at the hands of boyfriends, step fathers, even day care centers. We must guard our families against the evil and the corruption that is in this world.

If you doubt the way God listens to what we promise, and how he holds us to it, consider what happened in Israel several hundred years after this League with the Gibeonites:

God holds us to our word2 Samuel 21:1-6 (ESV) Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year. And David sought the face of the Lord. And the Lord said, “There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.” So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them. Now the Gibeonites were not of the people of Israel but of the remnant of the Amorites. Although the people of Israel had sworn to spare them, Saul had sought to strike them down in his zeal for the people of Israel and Judah. And David said to the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? And how shall I make atonement, that you may bless the heritage of the Lord?” The Gibeonites said to him, “It is not a matter of silver or gold between us and Saul or his house; neither is it for us to put any man to death in Israel.” And he said, “What do you say that I shall do for you?” They said to the king, “The man who consumed us and planned to destroy us, so that we should have no place in all the territory of Israel, let seven of his sons be given to us, so that we may hang them before the Lord at Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the Lord.” And the king said, “I will give them.”

I want us to look briefly at what Joshua did wrong in making this ungodly League. Then I want to look at what Joshua did in order to turn this league into good for Israel, and see the lessons that we have for our lives, in turning bad decisions into good for our families.

Cons require Props and wordsGreat Cons Require Two Things:

  1. Deceptive Props (Bait)
  2. Deceptive Words (Con)

The Gibeonite Props:

Gibeon was located only twenty-five miles from the camp of Israel at Gilgal and was on Joshua’s list to be destroyed. In Deuteronomy 20:10-20, God’s law stated that Israel must destroy all the cities in Canaan. If after the conquest Israel was involved in other wars, they could offer peace to cities that were outside the land. (See also 7:1-11.) Somehow the Gibeonites knew about this law and decided to use it for their own protection. Since the enemy knows how to use the Word of God for their own purposes, God’s people must keep alert (Matt. 4:5-7).

Gibeonite PropsThe Gibeonites assembled a group of men and equipped them to look like an official delegation from a foreign city. Their clothing, food, and equipment were all designed to give the impression that they had been on a long and difficult journey from a distant city.

  • Satan is a counterfeiter and “masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14; niv). He has his “false apostles” and “deceitful workmen” (v. 13, niv) at work in this world, blinding the lost and seeking to lead believers astray. It’s much easier for us to identify the lion when he’s roaring than to detect the serpent when he’s slithering into our lives.
  • We allow ourselves to get into wrong agreements because of greed, desire for fame, desire for popularity, desires of the heart that are not honoring to God.
  • The enemy knows our weaknesses, just as the Gibeonites knew that if they could trick the Israelites into making a covenant with them, they would have to honor it according to God’s commands.

What the Gibeonites said (Josh. 9:6-13).

Gibeonite WordsSatan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44), and human nature is such that many people find it easier to tell lies than the truth. With tongue in cheek, the American political leader Adlai Stevenson said, “A lie is an abomination unto the Lord—and a very present help in trouble.” The Gibeonites told several lies in their attempt to get out of trouble.

They lied about their origin.

  • They said they were “from a very far country” (Josh. 9:6, 9) when they actually lived twenty-five miles away.

I have to tell one story about Christians. I would never hide the fact that I was a Christian businessman and that my company had been given to the Lord. But I never made that the basis for why you should do business with me. I have had people in the past approach me about buying this or that, and want me to extend credit without the proper reference check. They even dropped names of good Christians I knew. I remember one guy in particular that got me to extend about 600 in credit for hose (when I was at Tompkins Industries). He went on and on about being a great Christian. But he never paid his bill. In fact, we could never find him. To even try to collect.

  • My caution to you: if someone wants you to do business with them, invest with them, give them money because they are a Christian, be doubly wary. They may be lying about their origin.

They lied about their clothing and food

  • “This bread of ours was warm when we packed it at home on the day we left to come to you. But now see how dry and moldy it is” (v. 12, niv).

Words alone could not deceive the Jews. Everything about their clothing, their property and provisions had to look the lie. Con men know they have to look the part, act the part, talk the part. They take great care to look exactly as they think you expect you to look. They will arrange all the props to be exactly as they think you would want them to be.

They lied about their purpose

  • called themselves “your servants” (vv. 8, 9, 11),

In reality they were the enemies of Israel. But they puffed up Joshua by caliming to be his servants. Note: I have never been to a time-share presentation where the presenter did not pretend to be my closest friend. I even had one guy take me by his home and met his wife and kid. They try to establish that connection that makes it difficult to say no. The Gibeonites were doing just that by twice saying they wanted to be their servants.

They lied about wanting to Follow God

  • “because of the name of the Lord your God.  For we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt”

When they said they had come “because of the name of the Lord” (v. 9), it was blasphemous. Con men, Satan, have one thing in common: they have no conscience when it comes to God. They will blaspheme, they will lie, they will excuse. Bernie Madoff, who could receive up to 150 years for the billions of dollars he conned people out of, requested only 12 years. His lawyer said this should be sufficient.

WHY THE CON SUCCEEDED

Joshua 9:14-15 (ESV) So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the Lord. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.

The Con Succeeded because of two things:

  1. The Pride of Life
  2. The Prayerless Flesh

The Pride of Life

Pride of LifeDid success go to their heads? In spite of all the alarm bells sounding, Joshua and the leaders bought the con and made a covenant with the strangers. Their ego got in the way. Their recent successes had gotten into their head.

Struggling actors that all of a sudden make it big, child actors used to having their way, average Joes that when the lottery, anyone who starts to get attention because of some success, they are all prey for the devil, for con men, for being defrauded.

The sad news is that 1 in 3 lottery winners are in serious financial trouble or even bankrupt within 5 years. Why? The suddenly wealthy often never learn to manage their money. Financial windfall coupled with reckless buying and no concept of money almost always leads to trouble. This is especially true for people who decide to use their winnings to create a new business, said Birke, a psychologist on retainer with Lexington Wealth Management.

Andrew Jackson “Jack” Whittaker was already a millionaire when he won the multistate Powerball lottery in December 2002. At 55 years-old, he was president of a contracting firm in West Virginia; he had a beautiful family, a big house, and drove a Lincoln Navigator. On December 25, 2002, Whittaker became the biggest single lottery winner in US history, winning a $314.9 million jack pot. His initial expenditures consisted of building churches and beginning a foundation for the less fortunate. But things spiraled out of control, very quickly.

Whittaker was robbed numerous times, once of more than $500,000 at a strip club. He became a heavy drinker. He and his wife divorced. He was accused of bouncing checks at Atlantic City casinos. And then to make matters even worse, his granddaughter Brandi, whom Whittaker bought four cars for and was very close to, was found dead of a drug overdose. A drug problem that was easily funded with the $2,100 per week allowance he gave her.

The Gibeonites kept saying “We are your servants” We heard what mighty things Your God has done. You guys are amazing, you are rock stars and we want to be in your entourage! Joshua and his men bought the deception.

The Self-Sufficient Flesh

Self Sufficient Flesh ColumboJoshua had just renewed the commitment to God, and yet at the very first test, He didn’t go to God. He figured he could handle this decision on his own.

I loved to watch Columbo. He always played dumb, he always asked dumb questions, he always acted as if he was a bumbling fool. He would always catch the criminal off-guard. They thought they were smart enough to get away with it, they thought this stupid detective could never figure it out, so they let their guard down. He always got them in the end.

When ever you think you’ve got this life figured out, you don’t need God, you get up without praying, with out reading the word, you are letting your self-sufficent flesh run your life.

God calls this evil. He says in Jeremiah 2:

Jeremiah 2:13 (ESV) “my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

You don’t just commit one evil, you commit two. The first evil is to forsake “Relinquish, Let Go” You literally let go of God. You rely on yourself. But the second evil is when you use this self-sufficient flesh to live your life. Your plans, your job, your house, your contracts. The things you do become “YOUR WORK” your hollowed out cistern. God says, it is full of holes.

For the leaders to make that covenant, to sign that agreement, to make that league without first going to the Lord was committing evil in the sight of God. As Christians we are to abide in Christ. We are to cling to the branch. When we make any agreement, sign a contract, without checking with God, we are committing evil, we are “letting go” of God, and beyond that, we are hewing out cisterns of our own making.

I have even had a timeshare salesmen tell me they are going to go get some coffee so they can give Lydia and I time to pray about it.

The thing that God wants us to understand is that He wants to be involved in the minutiae of our life. He wants us to depend upon Him, even when it comes to signing contracts, making agreements with others, even in our friendships. There is nothing too small for you to depend upon, and nothing too small to trip you up.

The Challenge is to Walk by Faith and Not by Sight.

After listening to the strangers’ speech and examining the evidence, Joshua and his leaders concluded that the men were telling the truth. The leaders of Israel took the “scientific approach” instead of the “spiritual approach.” They depended on their own senses, examined the “facts,” discussed the matter, and agreed in their conclusion. It was all very logical and convincing, but it was all wrong. They had made the same mistake at Ai (chap. 7) and hadn’t yet learned to wait on the Lord and seek His direction.

Proverbs 3_56The will of God comes from the heart of God (Ps. 33:11), and He delights to make it known to His children when He knows they are humble and willing to obey.

We don’t seek God’s will like auto buyers considering different options, but like servants who listen for orders. “If any of you really determines to do God’s will, then you will certainly know” (John 7:17, TLB) is a basic principle for victorious Christian living. God sees our hearts and knows whether we are really serious about obeying Him. Certainly we ought to use the mind God has given us, but we must heed the warning of Proverbs 3:5-6 and not lean on our own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

The Rest of the Story

The story doesn’t end here. Soon someone spilt the beans and the Israelites discovered they had been duped. They immediately set out to find out if it was true.

Joshua 9:16-23 (ESV) At the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, they heard that they were their neighbors and that they lived among them. And the people of Israel set out and reached their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim. But the people of Israel did not attack them, because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel. Then all the congregation murmured against the leaders. But all the leaders said to all the congregation, “We have sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel, and now we may not touch them. This we will do to them: let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath that we swore to them.” And the leaders said to them, “Let them live.” So they became cutters of wood and drawers of water for all the congregation, just as the leaders had said of them. Joshua summoned them, and he said to them, “Why did you deceive us, saying, ‘We are very far from you,’ when you dwell among us? Now therefore you are cursed, and some of you shall never be anything but servants, cutters of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.”

WoodCutters and WaterBearersThe army wanted to wipe out the deceivers, but the leaders said no, we must honor our word or run the risk of receiving God’s wrath. They told them to let them live, and the army grumbled. But here is what they did. Since they said “we are your servants” they gave them what they said. From that day forward the Gibeonites, these mighty soldiers as we see in chapter 10, would be woodcutters and waterboys.

You say that was tough, that was mean. While it may be mean it certainly was wise on the part of Joshua and the leaders.

Remember how God had warned them that if they let any Cannaaites live they would become thorns in their side. They would draw their hearts away from God. Well, by making the Gibeonites wood cutters and water bearers, Joshua was making sure it did not happen that way.

The Death of the Wood Cross, The Living Water of the Word.

Satan wants to deceive us to get us away from God. The only way to maintain a heart that keeps true to God is to apply two things to it: The death of the Cross and the Living Water of the Word.

Wood is kind of scarce in Canaan. You have to work hard to get it. And yet wood was needed constantly for sacrifices. The wood was set on the altar and lit on fire to consume the sacrifices. The wood is a picture of the Cross of Jesus Christ. It is on the Cross that our mistakes, our sins have been nailed and forgiven. It is on the cross that we die to self, die to pride, and live to Jesus Christ.

Water was needed in daily worship. Water was needed to was the blood away, it was needed to cleanse people coming to worship. It was needed for life itself.

So too we must depend upon the Word of Life, the Word of Living Water that washes us and cleanses us and brings life to our spirit and soul.

Jesus Carried the Wood and Bears the Water of Life

Jesus Carried the Wood and the WaterWhen Joshua discovered their deception and confronted them, he said “Now therefore you are cursed”. But by making them woodcutters and water bearers, he was giving them a way to escape the curse of Satan.

By making them wood cutters and water bearers, Joshua was guaranteeing that they would constantly be exposed to the worship of this Awesome God, this Powerful God that they had expressed an interest in. Their hearts would become converted and cleansed by the sacrifices and the testimony of the Word!

We are going to make mistakes. We are going to get conned now and then. We are going to give into pride, into the flesh. But we must become servants to the wood and to the water. We must give our hearts and lives to the Cross and to the Word!

I encourage parents with children to enter into agreements when it comes to dating standards, driving standards, friend standards. Do it before the need arises, do it based upon what your child believes is reasonable. Involve them in the process, and then get them to agree to it, and sign on the dotted line. That way when they are tempted to do something they shouldn’t, you both can get out the agreement and say here- this is what we agreed upon, and here are the consequences.

God has a similar agreement with us. We really had no part in drafting it, but the consequences of disobedience are well stated. We call it the Law, the Ten Commandments. Most of us know most of them, but, don’t really give them much thought.

But I think we need to bring the Ten Commandments into the Age of Grace, and see them through the eyes of the woodcutters and water bearers.

Overcoming the Devil and the World With Heart Agreements:

Gueards against the Great ConHere is a modern application of the Ten Commandments:

1. “You shall have no other gods before me.” = The Bible is the Inspired Word of God and the final authority for my life.

2. “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” = My purpose in life is to seek God with my whole heart and to build my goals around his priorities.

3. “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” = My body is the temple of God and must not be defiled by the lusts of the flesh.

4. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” = My church must teach the foundational truths of the Bible and reinforce my basic convictions

Guards against the Con 25. “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” = My children and grandchildren belong to God and it is my responsibility to teach them scriptural principles, Godly character, and basic convictions.

6. “You shall not murder.” = My activities must never weaken the Scriptural convictions of another Christian.

7. “You shall not commit adultery.” = My marriage is a life-long commitment to God and my marriage partner.

8. “You shall not steal.”  = My money is a trust from God and must be earned and managed according to Scriptural principles.

9. “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” = My words must be in harmony with God’s Word, especially when reproving and restoring a Christian brother.

Guards against the Con 310. “You shall not covet” = My affections must be set on things above, not on things in the earth.

Blessing of the Water with the Cross

Hold the Cross Up HighEach year at Epiphany, the Greek Church performs the “Blessing of the Water”. An Orthodox priest throws a wooden cross into the water and swimmers race to be the first toretrieve the cross. Along with Blessing the Water, the victor reeives a special blessing for good health all year long. Here the winner, Evaggelos Kargiofilis, holds up the wooden cross during an Epiphany ceremony to bless the water in Greece’s northern port city of Thessaloniki on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009. He is holding high the Croos of Christ. He is living large in the Living Water.

Are you holding high the wooden Cross of Christ? Are you dying to self and living to Jesus your Lord? Are you Living Large by the Living Water? Only by bearing the cross and the water will you overcome the deception and wheedle’s of the devil and the world.

Are you zealous of God? Do you love Him with all your heart and soul and strength?

Is there anything in your life which you are putting before God? We make all kinds of compromises with the world, with our possessions, with our desires. We allow them into our lives, and before long, they have stolen our love for God.

1 John 2_15-17Do you desire the Cross above all? Do you desire the Living Water above all?

1 John 2:15-17 (NIV) Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

If there is any love of the world in your heart, it robs you of your love for God. Any of these cravings of the flesh, of our eyes, of our boasting do not come for God, but is the great Con of the Devil. He is enticing your heart to make a leagu with him, and with his stuff. All this stuff is only for a moment. Only the man who does the will of God will live for ever.

The will of God is that you come to the Cross and carry the wood, that you die daily to the world, and live daily with a heart totally in love with God. That love leads you to the Living water of His Son, the word of God. Do you love Jesus this morning. Are you in love with His Word? Does He live in your heart and life?