Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Monday, July 02, 2007

Sermon--6/1/-7--Declaration of Dependence

The Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays. I remember going out to the lake, sparklers, staying up past bedtime to see the fireworks, cookouts, homemade ice cream. Good times.

Independence Day is a great day in world history because it marks something new and powerful that exists to this day. In our heritage as Americans, our forefathers were willing to stand up against the world’s strongest superpower and say enough.

"When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

"That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."

They were willing to stand up and make these bold statements, knowing full well the potential consequences of their actions of striking out on their own—to govern themselves, go their own direction, to defend their own interests using their own strength, power and ability.

While this day should be greatly remembered and celebrated… it’s not the first time human beings made a declaration of independence. It didn’t take us long to do it. The first Declaration of Independence occurred in Genesis 3. By ignoring and breaking God’s one restriction—Adam & Eve declared their independence—believing the lie that Satan told them that their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness were hindered by their relationship with God.

While we’ve been living with the privilege of the Declaration from 1776, humanity has been suffering with the curse of the first declaration much longer than that.

Last week the people of Israel approached the Jordan River, a few of them crossed it, looked around and refused to cross over. Now, after 40 years in the Desert, the people of Israel are back at the Jordan River—

Joshua 1:1-2

The question remained for the people of Israel—would they continue to wander the desert in their Independence, or would they make a new declaration of dependence upon God? They had to make this declaration in order for them to Crossover the Jordan and experience true Victory.

In many ways, we are at a similar crossroads. Are we, you and I going to remain in the desert or are we going to cross over into the Victory and advancing of His Kingdom that He has promised?

I say that because I believe that God is laying the ground work for blessing right now. Last week, Phil shared that he felt we were “on the cusp” of a powerful working of God.

In order to be ready for that, we need to make a new Declaration—not one of Independence but on of Dependence—because so many things are impossible for you and me—it is the things that are impossible for you and me are exactly the kind of things that God wants us to be a part of—because nothing is impossible with Him.

As a recap—it was impossible for Israel to escape from Egypt. It was impossible for hundreds of thousands of people to survive the desert. And in the same way, it was impossible for this rag tag collection of people to cross over the Jordan and take the land that was before them, to defeat the powerful cities, that had better tactics, better weapons. Without a dependence on God 40 years earlier—the Israelites did exactly what we would have done—they ran.

So when we Declare our Dependence on God, the first few chapters of Joshua give us an idea of some areas that we must Depend on God for if we are going to Cross the Jordan as the People of God and as a Church

1. Depend on God for Strength & Courage—vs. 1:5-9

a. Left to ourselves, we would have no strength, we would have no courage. I would not have the courage in myself to be preaching without the Holy Spirit compelling me. When we truly rely on God; declare our Dependence on Him—He will give us the strength and courage we need. 2PE 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

b. When we see the Power of God at work in the life of the early church and the apostles—it was to help them confront a world that had no influence of Christian morals or principals with the Good News. They had to depend on God for strength and courage to face the persecution, to face the jails, the lions, the demons that stood in their paths. They had to have the strength and courage that came from the Spirit within them—they had to have the power to endure, to overcome, to confront, to free those in bondage to the demonic.

c. Along with the Holy Spirit, a source of our strength and courage is the Word of God—vs. 8—it must be a part of our daily life. The Word and the Spirit are our source.

d. Without God—Independent, they wouldn’t have any of the strength they needed, they wouldn’t have the courage, they wouldn’t have the power.

e. In order for us to Cross the Jordan, we must renounce our declaration of Independence and Take up our Declaration of Dependence—dependence on God for Courage & Strength. We must also be willing to…

2. Depend on God for Amazing Things—Joshua 3:1-5

a. We are not the source of our strength nor our own courage. We are also not capable of doing what is necessary to advance the Kingdom of God without the Power of God at work in our lives.

b. This consecration that the people were to do—this setting apart for service of God—making themselves Holy and dedicated to Him was their Declaration of Dependence.

c. Are you willing to consecrate yourself to God—to set yourself apart to Serve Him and for His Glory as opposed to your own? If we are not willing, we will wander without any direction.

d. And when the people were willing to do this, depend on Him even when the future seemed impossible, God promised that…

e. He will show the Way even though we’ve never been there. This is a very important promise to those who had spent the last 40 years wandering through the desert.

f. Wherever He is taking us, He knows the way—we can try to strike out on our own, but we aren’t likely to end up in the Promised Land—we have never been to the places God can take us. We don’t know where we’re going. We cannot magically arrive at our destination our own knowledge.

g. God is willing and CAN Do Amazing Things In Us & Through Us

h. EPH 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

i. It is for His Glory that He is willing and able to do Amazing things among us. Things we cannot even imagine. We cannot out dream or imagine God. The Israelites could not have imagined getting out of Egypt the way they did. They couldn’t have imagined the Red Sea parting for them, the daily food nor cloud and pillar. Because the Israelites consecrated themselves to God—He parted the Jordan River for them and let them walk over on dry land.

j. In the same way we have no idea the places God desires to take us. We have no concept of the amazing things He can do to get us there—the most important thing for us to do is Hold On. What can God do in our church? What can God do in Macomb? How many kids can we have in Vacation Bible School? How many will Trust Christ as their Savior? How many families and parents will come to know Christ because of it? Do you believe God can do it?

k. The book the deacons just finished reading had a powerful line that said, “I am afraid of the possibility of living our entire life without seeing a powerful move of God.” I also live with that fear—don’t you?

l. We must depend on God to do amazing things—we cannot manufacture them, only God can do them in and through His people that are willing to Depend totally and completely on Him.

m. And if His people will Depend only on Him even for the Amazing things—you and I must then Depend on God for our Victory

3. Depend on God for Victory—6:5, 20

a. The Israelites had no experience fighting a fortified city, they didn’t have the tactics, they didn’t have the machinery. Victory was beyond their grasp—until they trusted and depended on God for the Victory—to see God do amazing things. What is more amazing than the walls of a city falling down at God’s command—because His people trusted and depended on Him.

b. When God’s people—when you and I depend on Him—He provided a Victory we could not achieve on our own. Victory over sin, over temptation, over gossip and disunity, over spiritual deception, over hardened hearts, over unbelief. There can be true Transformational Victory In Christ.

c. God can provide victory for us—He can tear down greater walls than that of Jericho and He will do it so people will believe—believe that Jesus is God With Us—that He died on the cross for our sins, that He rose from the Grave and has promised us Victory in Eternal life

d. As human beings, we’ve been declaring our independence from God for a long time.

e. Those who wanted to declare their independence from God “In the Beginning” were the ones who said, “I’m going to eat this fruit because I want to, regardless of what God says.”

f. Those who wanted to declare their independence from God during Moses day said that the land was untakeable.

g. Those who wanted to declare their independence from God were the ones who said that the walls of Jericho would never come down.

h. Those who wanted to declare their independence from God in Jesus day were the ones who said, “I don’t care who this Jesus claims to be, kill him anyway.”

i. Those who want to declare their independence from God today are the ones who say—“don’t tell me how I’m supposed to live—it’s my life”. They say—“I want to believe what I want to believe—don’t tell me Jesus is the Only way to Heaven, don’t talk to me about Hell”. They refuse to believe accept the gift of forgiveness because they have Declared their Independence from God in spite of His love, in spite of the Proof of it in the sending of His One and Only Son, Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.


Anonymous said...

Maybe some of us have simply declared our independence from organized religion rather than moved away from Jesus entirely. In general, I do not agree with the way Christian religions practice active and open judgement against those it considers unworthy. Can you imagine the hardship that religon and the self-annointed righteous places on the lives of people who are the subject of their attacks and negative propaganda? I find that my personal relationship with Jesus is all that I need. I do not need to worship with a mass of like-minded automatons who lack compassion for those who are different from them.

Kelly Reed said...


Thanks for stopping by and reading the post seriously.

Organized religion does often interfere with the hope and love of God because it is voiced by fallible human beings who don't represent Him well or with the true pain and anguish that the sin of the world puts in His heart.

Allowing the church to embody His name and serve as His ambassadors (those who are supposed to give a favorable representation of their home) is one of God's greatest risks (see the book by Philip Yancey called "Disappointment With God" for a fuller discussion of that point).

You used the phrase, "against those it (the christian religion) considers unworthy". I found that phrase an unusual choice of words. Who do you say the church considers "unworthy"?

From my perspective, no one, no group, no anything is unworthy of the love of God. It is often those who are deepest in their sin that God has the greatest heart for. Many Christians rail against "those people" but they are the ones God heart breaks for the most--the ones He wants to reach out to the most--the ones the Church is supposed to be welcoming. Too often we expect everyone's life to be "in order" (to our expectations and comfortability) before they come through the doors of the church. This is wrong on our part. The responsible church will still call and encourage you to change things--to make your life more in line with His Word, but it should not ask you to leave.

Notice though that the message does not call people to depend on the Church, but on God Himself. To depend on Him, to make Him "Lord" of your life means you look to Him for all that you need (more than want), to look to Him for how to live in a body that can succomb to and is surrounded by sin. How can we live in a way that is pleasing to Him? That's a great question.

Ultimately it's not the church or organized religion that defines that. It's the Bible--something inspired by Him, using human agents, but conveys His Truth--and is His clearest/most direct means of letting us know.

I take my cues for how to live from that and voluntarily submit my life to that. It doesn't make me an automaton (or anyone else--see my church for the variety of perspectives and opinions)--it can be difficult at times b/c my natural tendency is not to live God's way. I struggle to this day, and that should keep me from ever being arrogant or without compassion. I definitely preach more about what I am for & how we must be live, love or be changed rather than what I am against, railing the evils of the world. When asked, I will stand with what Scripture clearly teaches even if that's not popular opinion-but it should always be done with gentleness and respect. A lot of us fail at this point, some more than others, but me included. With that I also need to realize that there needs to be greater humility from the Church, especially where Scripture is not explicit.

It's helpful for me to remember that Jesus' harshest words were for those who were "religious", those who "guarded" the sacred. I'm going to try to post a song/video from Youtube, I'd recommend listening to it--very powerful and convicting.

Let me just encourage you that many churches are beginning to learn that they have missed the mark on compassion and self-righteousness. It is possible for the church to stand for truth in such a way that does not portray people as "the enemy" but as those whom God dearly loves and whom He is desperately passionate to save (see the book of Hosea and Jesus' own tears).

You don't need organized religion--you can curl up with your Bible and know God and live for Him--just don't pick and choose the things you like and dismiss the things you don't--that puts "lordship" back on your own wants and desires instead of His wants and desires. On your own, you may never be stretched or encouraged to change--you will have no accountability to grow, but you'll also not have anyone to care for you in times of struggle.

Even in matters of faith, we are not meant to be alone but to draw strength from a community of faith that will help bear our burdens, struggles, temptations as well as rejoice in our victories.

If you are a disciple or truly saved follower of Jesus, then you are a part of the Body of Christ and connected to those whom you call "organized". They need you, you need them.

In many ways worship and fellowship with the body of Christ in "church" is like a family reunion. Sometimes you look around and say, "am I really related to them???" You often know all their stories, their faults, their annoying mannerisms. You know the uncle who's going to drink too much and say something to insult or embarass everyone. Even still, he's still your uncle--you can love him without accepting everything about them.

As a Christian, you have a family, you are part of the Bride of Christ--it's hard to say how you can love Jesus, but not the Bride that He died for, whom He created, and gave the responsibility of representing Him on earth--to include as many as possible in the Bride.

Let me just encourage you to not give up on finding that fellowship and worship with other believers who are true, not only to the Word of God, but also the Spirit of God who does desire "mercy, not sacrifice". They are out there. Pray for me as I try to lead my congregation to reach out to those who are hurting and in greatest need of the love of God.

Thanks for stopping by and adding your voice. Please continue to do so.

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,


Kevin Bussey said...


I'm sorry that you have had a bad experience with organized religion. I'm in the ministry and have experience my share of hurt from other so-called believers. But what I've learned is I need to focus on my relationship with Christ. But I also need to worship with other believers. I would recommend finding a more graceful fellowship to worship.