In June of 1944, General Dwight Eisenhower had an important decision to make. All the men and material were ready for the momentous D-Day invasion of German-occupied France, but there were some reasons for hesitation. One of Eisenhower’s top aides came to him and said he didn’t think the airborne segment of the invasion would work, that they might have 90% casualties, and not be able to hold the vital bridges that would prevent German reinforcement. And then there was the weather. It was blustery and stormy — it looked like it “might” clear up some the next day, but it was uncertain. But if they didn’t go now, the tides — which were crucial to get around some of the obstacles the Germans had placed on the beach — would not be in perfect sync with the invasion plans again for some weeks. So after much consultation and deliberation, Eisenhower turned to his men and said: “OK, let’s go.”
Well had a big decision to make last week here at First Baptist as well. We have the keys to the building. We have a certificate of occupancy. There is no legal obstacle to our move. But we don’t have some of the acoustic panels – they will not arrive for another few weeks. The new chairs we ordered have been delayed time and time again, and may not be in for another month. But everything else is ready. After prayer and consideration our staff made the decision: “Let’s go!” We’re “anchoring up” at 972 Anchor Road next Sunday!
But we need to remember that this is not all about buildings and chairs; we need to keep in mind the spiritual aspects of what we are doing. Our passage for this morning speaks about how Joshua and the people of Israel were on the move into Promised Land, and God had this message for them. I believe this is His word for US today, too, as another people who are “on the move.” Let’s see what God said to them, and what He is saying to us today as well:
I. The Glory That Is God’s
:1 “Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying: ‘Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel.
I want you to notice who did and who did NOT get the glory here:
— Moses did not get the glory for God’s people entering the Promised Land. He was the one God used, in so many ways, to bring His people to this point. He had stood before Pharaoh: he was used to perform miracles; he brought them out of Egypt and through the Red Sea. He brought them to the brink of the Promised Land, where they turned back in disbelief, and then he led them through the wilderness wanderings for 40 years. Moses was used by God in great and amazing ways.
But he did not get to bring them in to the land of promise. Why didn’t he? I know there is a passage in which God tells Moses he won’t go in because he struck the rock and dishonored Him in the wilderness. But I have to wonder if there is not even more to it. Even despite Moses’ sin, God could have been gracious to him, and forgiven him for that — but He didn’t. And I think the reason for it may be because otherwise people might have said, “Look at what MOSES did. He took those people all the way from being slaves in Egypt to being victors of the Promised Land”. But that didn’t happen. Instead, Moses brought them to the brink — and then Joshua brought them the rest of the way in. And because it happened this way, it was not MOSES who got the glory for entering the Promised Land, but God instead.
God is very careful with His glory. We saw in Isaiah 42:8 in our Sunday school lesson recently where He said, “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another.” God is very jealous that His glory will not be given to anyone else. So He often orchestrates events to make sure that WE don’t get the glory for what happens, but that HE does. So like with Moses He may allow one man to begin a project, but another to complete it — to ensure that only HE is glorified in it.
That’s what happened with this church building, isn’t it? God used Bro. Rodney Bowman to kick this whole project off, by giving him the vision 16 years ago to move this church. Rodney got to see the purchase of the property, the beginning of the school, the developing of plans — but like Moses he didn’t get to move in as pastor into this new building. Thankfully Brother Rodney did not die, like Moses — but he didn’t get to move the church in. I think a lot of us might feel that in a way it would have been nice if Rodney HAD been here as pastor to see it through. But that evidently wasn’t God’s plan. And just like with Moses and Joshua and the people of Israel, maybe there’s a good reason for it. Because this way, It’s not Rodney who did this. And it’s certainly not Shawn who did it; things were well underway before I got here. Like Joshua, I just saw us across the river! But this way, maybe it’s more clear that it is GOD who is behind this. It’s GOD’S purpose for this church that is going forward to this new location.
That is how He works. It’s just like Paul wrote in I Corinthians 3:6. Of the church at Corinth he said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but GOD was causing the growth.” Paul said, I had a part, Apollos had a part, others had a part — but he said, this church is GOD’S doing. And it’s the same with our church Rodney planted, I’ve watered, but GOD is accomplishing what is being done. This church, what it is doing and where it is going, is for GOD’s glory.
And we need to make sure we keep that as our theme as we move forward. The First Baptist Church of Angleton is not about the glory of Bro. Rodney or Bro. Shawn or our staff or our people or anyone else. I know that’s Kyle’s desire, and Scott’s, and mine as well. This church exists for the purpose of glorifying God. And we need to make sure that we always give HIM the glory for the good things that happen here.
There’s a song that Ron & Pat Owens shared a few years back, called
“Touch Not the Glory”:
Have you been called to serve where others tried and failed,
And with God’s help and strength your efforts have prevailed?
Touch not the glory, for it belongs to God.
Have you some special gift, some riches you can share,
Or are you called of God to intercessory prayer?
Touch not the glory; for it belongs to God.
Has God appointed you to some great noble cause,
Or put you where you hear the sound of man’s applause?
Touch not the glory, for it belongs to God.
A watching world still waits to see what can be done
Through one who touches not that which is God’s alone.
Touch not the glory, touch not the glory, touch not the glory — for it belongs to God!
God reminds us here in Joshua 1 that all the praise and glory for what He does through His people on the move, belongs to HIM, and Him ALONE. When God does amazing things in this church in the days ahead, don’t you “puff up your chest” as if we’ve done something great — bow your head and lift up your hand to heaven, and give GOD glory. The glory is God’s alone.
II. The Challenge That Is Ours
:2b “Therefore arise, and cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel.
I LOVE THIS in :3 “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. From the wilderness and this great Lebanon, even as far as the great River, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory. No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous …”
I just want to share with you, that ever since Cheryl & I came here to Angleton, that God has just impressed this verse specially on my heart, as if it were for me, and for our church right now. It is this word from :3, “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you.”
What a promise: “every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you.” In other words, whatever we are bold enough to step out and attempt to do in this church, in God’s goals of worshiping, reaching, teaching, and caring, He will bless it. We are only limited as a church by our own courage, and our own faithfulness to follow Him. That’s why He says in :6-7 “Only be strong and very courageous.” He’s saying, I’ll bless you; whatever you are bold enough to do will succeed — but YOUR challenge is to be bold, and step out in faith so that I can bless you.
God has given us such great promises; I really believe we are truly only limited by how bold and zealous we will be in His work. Will we settle for little, or will we step out and strive for much?
In I Kings 13, the prophet Elisha told King Joash to take some arrows and strike the ground with them. So Joash took the arrows and he hit the ground with them three times, and then he stopped. The Bible says Elisha was angry with him, and said to him: “You should have struck five or six times, then you would have struck Aram (the enemy country) until you would have destroyed it. But now you shall strike Aram only three times.”
The message there is clear: be zealous and ambitious; go for it; don’t “settle” for little. God will grant us much if we push for much. STEP OUT in boldness and God will be with us, and bless us — but our challenge is to have the courage to step out in faith in our service for Him.
I’ve mentioned before John Bunyan’s famous book, Pilgrim’s Progress, which is an allegory, telling the story of how a Christian man, “Pilgrim,” is making his way through this life and all of its obstacles to the Celestial City, which of course represents heaven. At one point in the story, the path forward is guarded by two roaring lions. Two men, “Timorous” and “Mistrust,” saw the lions, and ran back in fear. But a porter in the nearby lodge told Pilgrim: “Fear not the lions, for they are chained, and are placed there for trial of faith … keep in the midst of the path, and no hurt shall come unto thee.” So Pilgrim moved forward, somewhat trembling because of the roar of the lions — but as he passed by he saw that they were indeed chained, and could not reach him. The way forward was open — the only question was: would he be courageous enough to move ahead, when God told him to?
I believe that is the same question that faces US today! I truly believe that God will bless this church in any ministry that we are bold enough and committed enough to undertake for Him — wherever we are bold enough to touch with the soles of our feet — the only question is: how bold will we be? What will we be courageous enough to step forward and do as a church?
Church, I want to applaud you for stepping out boldly in faith and making the move that we are making this week — this is bold step to take during the COVID pandemic! I have friends from all around the country who’ve said, “Y’all are building now?” And I said, “Yeah, I mean I wouldn’t have picked the middle of a worldwide pandemic to build a $4.5 million building, but that is where God has us right now!” It’s a bold step of faith. And it’s good that we’re being bold with this building — but we need to make sure we continue to take bold steps for God.
Now we need to step boldly from our new facility into our community:
— We’ve got a great housing addition right next to us: will we step out to reach it?
— Cecil Booth was sharing in Deacon’s Meeting on Monday night how there are at least 5 new housing additions going up in Angleton right now — potentially 1000 or more new homes in our community — and more being planned in the next 10 years. Will we be bold enough reach out to them?
— We’ve seen what we can do as a church: we saw it two weeks ago, as our whole church banded together to put on the Trunk or Treat — and God used that to bring hundreds of people by our new facility, and EIGHTY families who indicated that they had no church home! We didn’t know what to expect — but we stepped out, and God blessed it greatly as we did.
We’ve got to keep doing things like that. If we will, I truly believe that EVERY PLACE ON WHICH THE SOLE OF OUR FOOT TREADS — every place we are bold enough to go; every thing that we are bold enough to do in ministry in this town, God will bless and use — “Only be strong and very courageous”! Let’s not shrink back when we hear the “roar” of the enemy; let’s step out in boldness — and like Israel, we’ll see what God will bring about as we do!
III. The Foundation For Success
After God told Joshua twice here to be strong and courageous, then He told him in :7-8 ‘Be careful to DO according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, SO THAT you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth but you shall meditate on it day and night, SO THAT you may be careful to DO according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”
God told Joshua, THIS is the foundation you must have if you want the true success that I am promising you: you must build on the “solid rock” of commitment and obedience to My word.
This is the same thing Jesus told His disciples at the conclusion of His great Sermon on the Mount. He said there that “the one who hears these words of Mine and ACTS upon them is like a wise man who builds his house upon the rock.” Jesus indicated that “building on the rock” means hearing and then DOING His word. THAT is “building on the rock.”
That is what we have to do as individual people in order to be saved. God made us to know Him and live with Him forever in glory. But the problem began when we chose to sin against God, and our sin separated us from Him. So Jesus came to earth, to die on the cross and pay for our sins, so that we could be forgiven, and come back to the relationship with God that He intended for us to have with Him. That’s the gospel; that’s the word of the Lord. But Jesus says in Matthew 7, it is not enough just to “hear” this message — most people in America have “heard” this message — but you’ve got to DO it! The person who hears the message and DOES it: repents of their sin and follows Jesus as their Savior & Lord — that person is “building their life on the rock” and will be saved.
And the same thing is true for us as a church. If we want to build this church on a firm foundation for success, we must build it upon the “rock” of not only hearing, but DOING the word of God as a church body.
A few months ago, we had a little ceremony one day during the week, in which we placed a copy of the scriptures in the porch of our new facility, just before they poured the concrete for the foundation there. The ceremony took place during a week day, so many of us weren’t able to be there — so I thought I’d share again some of what I said there that day:
The scripture I read that day was from II Kings 22:8 where the Bible says that Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary: “I have found the book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” What an amazing — and troubling — thing. They “found” God’s word in the Temple? What had they been in the Temple doing all these years, if they had lost the word of God?
— For one, they had probably just been doing what they had “always been doing.” They were just following their traditions.
— Secondly, without God’s word to guide them, they probably just did whatever seemed right to them at the time to do.
— And undoubtedly they also had seen some of the worship of the nations around them, and they thought: “Hey, we should do that in YHWH’s house too!” So they just copied what everyone else around them was doing.
And this is what is happening in too many churches today, too. They’ve LOST the commitment of basing what they do on the word of God, so what do they do in church? Well, they do the same things Israel was doing: they just follow their traditions and do what they’ve always done; or they do whatever “seems” right at the moment; or they bring in whatever the newest “fad” is from the world around them. These things are exactly what churches all over America are doing today, because they have LOST the commitment to follow the word of God in the house of God.
So that day we dedicated and re-dedicated ourselves to be a church that is built on the foundation of the word of God — NOT just because there is a Bible buried in our front porch — but because we are committing to read, and study, and DO what God’s word tells us to do in His church.
And it IS the DOING of it that is important. God says: don’t let this word depart from your mouth; He said meditate on it day and night; but WHY? “SO THAT” — that’s the purpose clause — that’s the reason — “SO THAT you may be careful to DO according to all that is written in it. God says what is important is DOING what My word says. Only THEN, He says, will you make your way prosperous, and only THEN will you have success.
So if we want to be truly successful as a church — in GOD’S standard of success — we’ve got to make His word the foundation of our church.
— Last year we adopted the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 as our church statement of faith — primarily because of its high view of the word of God. It declares that the Bible has: “God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all scripture is totally true and trustworthy.” That is a strong statement about the word of God. I wanted to make sure our church had built into our Constitution a commitment to the foundation of the authority of the perfect word of God.
— But we also need to realize that it is not enough to have a statement in a document somewhere. We’ve got to have a continuing commitment to DO what God’s word tells us to do: to worship Him, and reach and teach and care for people, just like Jesus taught us. Moving out there is going to be a time for us to recommit ourselves to DOING God’s word.
The other day I told Cheryl, “You know, for the last almost 2 years, ever since we’ve been here, it’s all been about getting to the new building’” — and we’ve done some other things in ministry, but getting to the new building has been our focus, and rightly so. We’ve needed to do that. But NOW it’s time to move out there and focus on actually DOING what God has called us to do out there! We are not moving out to Anchor Road to just SIT there and enjoy the Promised Land. We’re moving out there to DO what God has called us to do: to worship Him more fervently than ever before; to reach out and teach and care for people more effectively than ever from this great new place that He has given to us.
This move is a time to recommit ourselves to rise up and DO what God has commanded us in His word to do. If we will, then NOTHING will stand before us. Everything that the soles of our feet touch, we’ll take! But we’ve got to DO what His word says: “THEN you will make your way prosperous, and THEN you will have success.” That’s the foundation that is required, for us to have true success as a church in the days ahead.
IV. The Promise That Sustains
:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
This is God’s promise that sustained Joshua and his people as they moved into the Promised Land — and this is the same promise that sustains God’s people today. Jesus repeated that promise in the New Testament, when He gave us His Great Commission to go and minister: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
THAT is the promise we’re depending on as we move out into this new adventure that God has for us: that He will be with us wherever we’re bold enough to step out with the soles of our feet. THAT is the promise that sustains us:
— Our promise as we move forward is not that we have such a great pastor and staff.
— And I love the people of this church as much or more than any church family I have ever pastored in 34 years of ministry — but our promise as we move forward is not in the great people of this church.
— Our great hope as we move forward is not the economy, or that we have a lot of money in the bank, or that there are a lot of new houses going up in Angleton.
Our promise as we “hoist anchor” and sail forward is WHO IS GOING WITH US!
You remember after God gave Israel the Ten Commandments, and they were immediately unfaithful with the Golden Calf, that Moses interceded for the people, asking that God would spare them, and God, I think, tested Moses by telling him that he could bring up the people to Canaan, but that God Himself could not go with them. But Moses was desperate: he answered God in 33:15 and said, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here”! In other words; God we need YOU — if YOU’RE not going with us, don’t sent us out of here.
That should be our very cry and prayer this morning: the plans are finished, the building’s built, the certificate of occupancy has been given, the way is prepared — but there’s ONE vital factor, without which, NOTHING else matters: GOD MUST GO WITH US! We need to be fervently praying: “GOD, YOU MUST GO WITH US!”
But we CAN pray that prayer confidently. Because God has said He WILL go with us, wherever we go:
— He tells us here in Joshua 1: “YHWH your God will go with you wherever you go.”
— Jesus told us in Matthew 28:20 “I will be with you always; even to the end of the age.” He said again in Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
So our comfort as we raise anchor and move out is that God has promised that He will go with us. And that will especially be true if we will apply what He shows us here in His word:
— if we will give Him all the glory for what happens;
— if we will step out boldly in faith wherever He leads;
— and if we will DO what He shows us in His word.
Then He will be with us wherever we go!
Folks, it’s time to “Anchor Up” at 972 Anchor Road!
Let me tell you: “I am bound for the Promised Land! … O who will come and go with me? I am bound for the Promised Land!”