Moses is not allowed to enter the promised land because he had rebelled against God in front of the people. Instead, God takes him to Mt Nebo and simply shows him the land. But if you fast forward many decades into the life of Jesus, you'll remember a story when Jesus is on the Mount of Transfiguration and there, in front of Peter, James and John, He's transfigured and they see Him in His glory. Remember who's standing with Him at that moment? Elijah and Moses. Now, think about it. God could not let Moses into the land on his own because of his sin. But through Jesus Moses got there. You see, folks, when you follow Jesus you'll go places. Through Jesus Moses got there. Isn't that a beautiful picture of our lives? Because of our sin, on our own we can never step one foot into heaven which is our Promised Land. However, when we put our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Bible guarantees us that we get eternal life in heaven through Him. Moses becomes a beautiful picture of our relationship today with Jesus. On our own, we can never get to heaven. But through faith in Jesus we will someday be in that incredible place.
In Numbers 27, it is time for Moses to die. Before he does, God takes him up on Mt Nebo and shows him the Promised Land. I have had the privilege of standing on Mt. Nebo many times. When I first read this passage I thought that God supernaturally allowed Moses to see all the land of promise but then I stood up on Mt. Nebo myself and saw that on a clear day you literally can see all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. This is not in the Bible but I have a hunch that on that day God probably explained to Moses what was going to happen in that land. Can't you picture God saying, “Now, Moses, you see that palm tree way over there? That's a place that will be called Bethlehem and one day I'm going to send My own Son and He's going to be born of a virgin right there. And see that hill right over there? That's going to be called Jerusalem and just outside that city one day My Son is going to be crucified to pay the penalty for the sin of the world but then He is going to rise again. I think that on that day Moses and God had quite the intimate conversation before Moses died.
In Numbers 13, the majority of the spies give a very negative and fearful report of the obstacles they saw in the land God had promised them and in spite of God’s promise, the people buy into the negative words of the spies and reject the promise of God. This is a great example of the fact that our negative words have a far greater negative impact on people than our positive words have a positive impact on them. Let me say that again. Our negative words have a far greater negative impact on people than our positive words have a positive impact on them. If you don't think that's true, talk to any business person who runs a customer service oriented company and who relies on reviews for their success and they will tell you that for every negative review, it takes 12 positive reviews to overcome the damage. We have to keep this in mind when it comes to our churches, our lives, our families, and where we work. When we speak negatively, when we utter negative words, it has a far greater negative impact than our positive words have a positive impact. No wonder Paul wrote in the book of Ephesians to not let any unwholesome word come out of your mouth.
God had made a promise to the Children of Israel that He was going to give them the Promised Land. Unfortunately, after sending out 12 spies to scout out the land, ten of those spies would not put their trust in the promise of God because of all the obstacles they saw. The result was that Israel would wander in the wilderness for 40 years. From this example we see the importance of putting our roots down in the promises of God. When you read the Bible, write down every promise you see. There are over 7,400 of them in the Bible. Now, be careful. They don't all apply to you. Some are directed toward an individual. For example, God promised Abraham and Sarah that in their old age they would have a baby. You can't claim that promise to which most of you would say, “Amen!” Some promises in the Bible that are conditional. I will do this, God says, if you do this. For example, 1 John 1:9 says, if we confess our sins then He is faithful and just to forgive us. So God will keep the promise based on what? Our condition. the more you know the promises of God the more you can make decisions of faith even when there appears to be obstacles.
Joshua would be a great military leader for Israel but for the first 95 years of his life he knew nothing but slavery and the wilderness - two very horrible scenarios. However, what prepared Joshua to be a great leader was the many spiritual lessons he learned during the 40 years he wandered in the wilderness. All of us have wilderness times in our life. Some of you are going through a wilderness time right now as you find yourself facing a huge adversity. It's so easy for us, when we get into these wilderness times, to become discontent and to complain. Isn't that what Israel did during there 40 years? Can I remind you of something? God brings wilderness times into your life for a purpose. The greatest lessons God wants you to learn He teaches you in the wilderness. If you're going into a time of wilderness in your life, don’t despise this time. Don’t become bitter and slip away spiritually. It's the 40 years in the wilderness that prepared Joshua to be a great leader. If you will stay faithful in the wilderness, if you will keep your heart open to the lessons God wants to teach you during this time, on the other side of the wilderness you will see incredible growth.
In Exodus 33 we see Moses going out to the tent of meeting where he met with God. When the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of this tent they knew that God was talking to Moses and they also would worship at their own tent. When Moses returned to the camp, Scripture says that Joshua stayed there. You see, those who make good leaders desire God in even greater ways than their own leaders did. From watching Moses, Joshua had gotten a taste of what it's like to be a man who talks with God, and now he wanted that in an even greater way. In 2 Kings we see another example as Elijah, before going to heaven, gives his student, Elisha, one request. Elisha asks that a double portion of the power of God that had been on Elijah would now rest on him. Elisha had seen how God used Elijah, even calling down fire from God on Mt. Carmel. He had gotten a taste of that and now he desired to see God use him in an even greater way. I hope that happens with my kids and grandkids. I hope that they will love and serve Jesus in greater ways than I ever did. I hope that my spiritual ceiling becomes their spiritual floor.
Those who become great leaders must first learn how to be courageous followers. That is foreign in our culture today, isn't it? Our culture doesn't follow well. Our culture is one that criticizes and rebels against authority. Unfortunately, we have brought that same mindset into the church. Can I ask you a question? How courageously do you follow your boss at work? Teenagers, how courageously do you follow your parents? How courageously do you follow your church leadership? I'm not talking following them if they're doing something wrong. I'm talking outside of that. I remember a particular time when I was an assistant pastor and my Senior Pastor came up with an idea that I was convinced would not work. I sat down with him in his office and showed him all the ways it could fail, trying to get him to change his mind. But at the end of the conversation he stuck with his idea. Though I thought it was a bad idea, I left his office the greatest cheerleader for that idea that the church had. Why? Because I knew that if you're ever going to be a good leader, you must be a courageous follower. How are you doing when it comes to courageously following the authorities that are over you?
Those who become great spiritual leaders are those who spend time carefully observing the spiritual walk of other great leaders. That was the story of Joshua who prepared for being a great spiritual leader by watching Moses’ walk. I think of the different leaders that God brought into my life that, who by observing their walk, made a huge difference in who I am today as a spiritual leader. I think first of my dad. As I observed my dad growing up I saw a man who was faithfully committed to the local church. By watching my dad, I developed a passion for the local church. I think of a Sunday School teacher I had named Rick Matthew from whom I developed a passion about sharing Jesus with others. While at Liberty University I watched the walk of my dorm supervisor, Harry Walls, and from him I learned how to pray. I watched the walk of a professor of mine named Paul Fink and from him I learned how to study my Bible. What spiritual leader are you watching so that you can catch from them lessons that will allow you to improve your spiritual influence with others? Those who become great spiritual leaders are those who spend time carefully observing the spiritual walk of other great spiritual leaders. Joshua did this! So should we!
In Romans 5:8 we see four aspects of a radical love as exemplified by God. First, radical love is a divine love. The verse starts with the words “but God.” The source of radical love is God Himself. The only way I'm going to be able to radically love people is if I know God personally and I’m growing in my relationship with Him. Second, radical love is a demonstrative love. You can see it. "But God 'demonstrated' His love." Radical love in the Bible is never seen as a feeling. It's always a choice. Third, it's a diverse love. "But God demonstrated His love toward us 'while we were yet sinners.'” Radical love involves loving the unlovely. And fourth, it's a deliberate love. "But God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners 'Christ died for us.'” Radical love always involves sacrifice. If there's no sacrifice then it's not radical love. When Jesus, the perfect God-man, hung on that cross, God took every sin you would ever commit, even though you hadn't been born yet, and He placed that sin on Jesus. Everything that had to be done happened when Jesus died on the cross. He paid the penalty for your sin in full so you don't have to. That's a deliberate love. That's radical love.
Jesus has called us to love one another but the challenge is that we live in a society where we divide on many fronts. We divide based on race, based on denominations and based on politics. The same was true in Jesus’ day. If you were a Jew in Israel at the time of Jesus there racial divisions between Jews, Gentiles and Samaritans. From a religious standpoint, you could be a Pharisee, a Sadducee, or a host of other religious groups. And back in Jesus' day there were political differences. Take two of Jesus' followers for example. When Jesus calls Matthew, he was a tax collector which meant he was pro the Roman government. Tax Collectors got rich off their own people by collecting more taxes than were owed, using the authority of the Roman government to do it. But there's another follower of Jesus called Simon the zealot. Zealots hated the Roman government and wanted to overthrow them, even by force. From this we learn a powerful principle that says. "That which unites us as followers of Jesus is far more powerful than the myriad of societal issues that try to divide us." Folks, listen, if a tax collector and a zealot can follow Jesus in love back in Jesus' day then a republican and a democrat can follow Jesus in love today.