Joshua-Wayne Barber/Part 11
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2004|
|When we choose to live after the flesh, and all of us do from time to time, when we choose to do that, we are just really putting ourselves back into bondage and we become prisoners of our own choices and that choice is basically, “Lord, I want to please me, not You.”|
Sin in the camp (Joshua 7)
During A.D. we saw the death of Ananias and Sapphira after they had lied about how much money they earned from the sale of their land. To many, God’s actions seem too severe. How do we understand His response? This sermon, by Dr. Wayne Barber, provides key insights into God’s discipline of His people.
We’re going to be in Joshua tonight again, in chapter 7. Joshua 7 is a tough chapter. Always enjoy the encouragement Joshua brings, but tonight is going to be more of a challenge to each of our hearts. When you teach through a book, you take it as it comes. We’re going to talk tonight about sin in the camp.
Now let me review a bit for you. The book of Joshua is such a powerful picture of how we possess the life that we have in Jesus Christ. We’ve been going to school on Israel. As Israel possessed the land God gave to them—it was an external covenant; it was a land—we learned from them. As they learned how to possess the land God had given them, we learn how to possess the life that God has given us in Christ Jesus.
The last time we were together, we talked about chapter 6. In chapter 6 we watched as Israel seemed to obey God in everything that He said. In their first battle against Jericho they had an awesome victory. I hope you’re seeing from this study that the battles don’t really begin until you start yielding to Christ, seeking to live a cleansed life, allowing Jesus to be Jesus in you. There really aren’t any battles if you’re not living that way.
When we choose to live after the flesh, and all of us do from time to time, when we choose to do that, we are just really putting ourselves back into bondage and we become prisoners of our own choices and that choice is basically, “Lord, I want to please me, not You.”
Jericho was the biggest battle that they would have in possessing the land. It’s amazing to me that He put it first and not last. He didn’t work them up to it. He puts it right there in front of them. That’s the biggest battle that they would have.
Our biggest battle—when we seek to live and possess the life that God has given us in Christ and walk in the newness of life as Romans 6 talks about—our biggest battle is the besetting sin that plagues all of us. Yours is different than mine. We’re all different in besetting sins that we have to deal with. That’s the biggest battle that we have to deal with—that sin—and have it cleansed before God before we can go on and possess what’s already ours in Christ Jesus. Until sin is dealt with, we cannot enjoy what God has given to us.
There have been many times in my life, and I’m sure in your life, you’ve gone through those dry periods when you just weren’t experiencing the joy and you weren’t experiencing the love and the peace that God gives to you. And I know now why: because of sin somewhere in the life. As long as it’s not dealt with, as long as it’s not being cleansed by the blood of Jesus daily, then we’re not enjoying what God has given to us.
In chapter 6 the people were told to march around the city once each day for six days. There was to be no sound. Only the sound of the trumpet. Now that trumpet was a shofar, a ram’s horn, but it was the Jubilee trumpet. What this was was a sound of victory. The sound of their anticipation of going back and possessing what God had already given to them. On the seventh day they were to walk around the city seven times, and then when they heard the trumpets, they were to shout. And we studied the chapter together, we saw what happened. The walls came tumbling down.
I thought tonight, you’d like to hear what that shofar sounded like. Jonathan has a shofar and he’s going to come up here and play for you what that sound is like. It’s a ram’s horn. But we want to hear that horn. This is the horn that they were hearing. No sound amongst the people. Just this horn.
I wanted him to play that for you tonight because I want you to get used to it. In my understanding of eschatology and scripture, the next time we hear that horn what’s going to happen? We’re going up to be with Jesus. So get that sound down real clear in your mind. Thank you so much, Jonathan. That just adds so much to me when you can hear. That’s the only sound they could hear as they walked around that city seven times on the seventh day, and then they shouted and the walls came tumbling down.
Well, for all appearances, Israel had obeyed God fully. I mean, the walls came down, they possessed the city. Everything happened the way God said it was going to happen. But chapter 7 is going to show us that there was a man who sinned and how his sin affected the whole nation of Israel.
We’re living in a day, and I think you’d agree with me, that we take sin so lightly. We call it everything but sin. In this day we live in this message to me is so needed. We don’t seem to realize that sin doesn’t just affect us. Unconfessed sin doesn’t just affect us, it affects everybody around us. This is the thing people don’t seem to understand. We’re not an island unto ourselves. We’re a part of the body of Christ.
The joy of their victory over Jericho was short-lived because of the sin of one man. Two and a half million people were affected by one man’s sin. It was done in the shadows. It was done when nobody was watching—he thought—but it affected the whole nation. It’s amazing how sin will take you further than you ever want to stray—ever heard that before? —keep you longer than you ever intended to stay, and cost you more than you ever dreamed you’d pay.
Three things about sin we’re going to see in chapter 7. And when we say sin, it’s not just the act, it’s the unconfessed act, particularly. All of us are going to sin until Jesus comes back, but if that sin is not confessed, if we’re not dealing with it, it has an effect and this is what we want to see.
- Sin is a betrayal of our covenant with God
First of all we see that sin is a betrayal of our covenant with God. I don’t know how you think about sin, but you need to be thinking about it this way. Verse 1 in chapter 7, “But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban. For Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah of the tribe of Judah took some of the things under the ban, therefore, the anger of the Lord burned against the sons of Israel.”
Now the ban that he’s talking about there, just to review a second, we’ve talked about in 6:18- 19: “But as for you, only keep yourself from the things under the ban, so that you do not covet them and take some of the things under the ban and make the camp of Israel a curse and bring trouble on it.” The whole nation was commanded this way. Verse 19, “But all the silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron are holy to the Lord. They shall go into the treasury of the Lord.” Every living thing in Jericho had to be destroyed, and no soldier could take anything that was valuable because it was to be given to the treasury of the Lord.
Now that was pretty clear. The whole nation understood the command, but a man by the name of Achan just couldn’t resist the temptation, and he took of the valuable things that were under the ban. And it says he deceived his brothers. In other words, he didn’t tell a soul. He acted in a very deceptive way. As a result, his thievery there, his covetousness, affected the whole nation of Israel. Once again notice the very last part of verse 1, “therefore the anger of the Lord burned,” not against Achan, but against what? “the sons of Israel.” You think, wait a minute. Achan’s the only one that sinned, why would it be against the nation of Israel? You have to understand, Achan’s sin was an offense and there would be a severe consequence for that sin. But God was not just upset with Achan, he was upset with the whole nation of Israel. Now why is that? See, the whole nation of Israel as a unit was in covenant with God.
This is so important for us to get down, because we’re not a nation any more, we’re the body of Christ that was affected by the new covenant. We need to hear this. The covenant was made with Abraham. Circumcision was its sign in Genesis 17. That was the outward sign. It was an external covenant. And that was on the part of the body that passed the seed on to generation, on to generation, and it set them apart from other peoples in the world. Now this covenant was passed on to Isaac, his son, and then it was passed on to Jacob, the younger of Isaac’s two sons, Esau and Jacob. And Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, and Israel had 12 sons, and there’s your 12 tribes of Israel.
Now you know the history of this. You know that the mommas and daddies of this group that we are studying in Joshua, they had died in the wilderness because they were disobedient. Part of their disobedience was they never had their children circumcised, the males in their family. So when they crossed the Jordan River, they were a disgrace before God because they were no different than the pagan nations of the world. But they were circumcised which renewed their covenant with God after they had crossed the Jordan River. Now they’re each one acting under the covenant that they had made with God as a unit. They were a covenant with God, but they were also in covenant with one another. You can’t just be in covenant with Him without being in covenant with each other. It becomes a whole here. Each of us is a part of the whole. As a nation, each member had a responsibility to honor and trust God. When one disobeyed, they knew it affected everybody.
Verses 11-12 in chapter 7 show us that the whole nation was guilty because of one man’s sin, “Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them. And they have taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things. And then God said, ‘Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their back before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore [God says] unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst.”
You know, this is a message that I just wish sometimes we could get it to everybody. When do you think we’ll ever learn that we’re members one of another? Nothing is ever done in isolation. Everything that Wayne does affects you. Everything you do affects Wayne. We affect each other by the way that we live. You say, where is that in the New Testament? I’m so glad you asked that! Romans 12:4. Paul is so clear you can’t miss it, “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function,” he says in verse 5, “so we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members one of another.” What one does affects the whole.
There are so many examples of this in scripture, particularly Old Testament. You find in Numbers 12—and I was going to read this, but it’s too long. I’ll just tell you the story—we find the account of Miriam. Miriam was the sister of Moses and she didn’t like his wife. He had taken a Cushite woman, which means that she was of darker skin. You think we just have problems today. There’s nothing new under the sun. And she got upset about it and began to sow discord. And God called her out and gave her leprosy. And the scriptures say that because of her sin and her discontent with God and with Moses, that the whole nation of Israel was kept from moving on towards that which God had given them for seven whole days. Perhaps one and a half to two and a half million people were affected because of one person’s sin.
We look at David and his sin with Bathsheba, and you see how that had so many ramifications to it. It affected the nation. It affected that family. Uriah, her husband was basically murdered by being put on the front lines so that David could cover himself.
You can just go on and on. But what we learn from this is that we are in covenant with God. We’re in the new covenant, based on better promises. We’re in covenant with God through Jesus Christ. Because of that, we are in covenant with one another. We are members one of another. We need to encourage each other, hold each other accountable. When you see a brother sin, Galatians 6:1, you go to him. And Matthew 18 talks about the steps of restoration of an errant brother, because sin affects the whole body of Christ.
You break this principle down into smaller increments and it fits because it’s true. You take a Christian family. You take a father who’s not walking with God, plays the game, makes no bones about it. That sin of that father is affecting the whole family. More than likely he’ll have a son grow up to be just like him. Chip off the old block we say. Because of the disobedience of that father, that whole family suffers. When I grew up, my momma’s family and my daddy’s family they were all alcoholics except for my mother and my dad. And I saw what had happened to families because of sin that was in their life. It’s the same principle.
A church is the same way. We’re a large church here. We cannot expect God to pour out His blessings in this church—I want to make sure I say that as nicely and as clearly as I can say it—we’re not going to experience God’s pouring out His blessings when there’s gossip and slander and maligning going on. When there’s sin in the shadows and people will not confess it, it’s going to affect God’s pouring out His spirit in the whole of the congregation.
This principle can be taken even further than that. If you have a staff, and we’re constantly praying for our staff, that we stay in unity with one another. If you have somebody who works as a secretary, if you have somebody in the music program that’s discontent, and will not deal with sin in their life, it not only affects the choir, it affects the church, it affects everything. Everything we do affects the whole. Why? Because sin, in its basic understanding, is a betrayal of our covenant with God. When we enter in the way of death and we said, “Oh God, I present myself a living sacrifice to you. I want to enter this covenant with you through the Lord Jesus Christ.” And when we sin, it’s a transgression, a betrayal, of the covenant we have with God. That’s why it affects everybody to some degree. And the more heinous the sin, the more affect it has on the body. So sin is a betrayal.
Sin cannot be swept under the rug. Boy, how many times in my life have I tried to do that? Sin has to be put under the blood. It has to be dealt with. When one person sins, he departs his walk. He must go back and deal with whatever it is he has departed. It’s got to be put under the blood of Jesus. And thank God we’re under the new covenant and God lives in us. He’s already cleansed us at the cross and wants to cleanse us daily as we come and keep our sins confessed up-to-date. Why? So that we can be vessels that He can use. Why? So that His Spirit can be poured out amongst His people.
Dwight L. Moody gives an account in his autobiography of God’s breaking out in a meeting. He says, “I remember one town that Mr. Sankey and myself visited.” He’s writing this. Mr. Sankey was his music leader. “For a week it seemed as if we were beating the air. There was no power in any of the meetings.” They didn’t sense the spirit. They didn’t sense the power of God. “At last one day I said that perhaps there was someone cultivating an unforgiving spirit.” And he says, when he said that, “the chairman of the committee that had set up the revival for a city-wide meeting, who was sitting next to me, got up and left the meeting right in the view of the audience.” The arrow had hit the mark and gone home to the heart of the chairman of the committee. He had had trouble and malice toward another one over six months. He at once hunted this man up and asked him to forgive him. He came back with tears in his eyes and he said to Dr. Moody, “I thank God that you ever came here. I thank Him.” That night their response room—well we call ours a response room, they called theirs an inquiry room—he said it was absolutely packed out. The chairman became one of the best workers Moody said he’d ever known and was active in Christian work from that time on.
One man held back the moving of the Holy Spirit of God for one whole week until he was finally willing to deal with the sin that was in his life. Sin is a betrayal of our covenant with God and that’s why we have failed each other. That’s why we need to hold each other accountable. That’s why we need discipline in the church. That’s why we need encouragement because our sin affects the whole.
- Sin is a burden to the whole community of God
Secondly, not only is sin a betrayal of our covenant, but sin is a burden to the whole community of God. Let me take this a step further; as a result of Achan’s sin, Israel was miserably defeated when it went to Ai. Joshua 7:2 “Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said unto them, ‘Go up and spy out the land.’ So the men went up and spied out Ai.”
It’s obvious here, now this is interesting, that Joshua knows nothing of the sins that has been committed by Achan. It has taken place in the shadows. It has taken place with nobody watching. Joshua doesn’t know about it. I’ve often wondered, in pastoring churches and in dealing with my own sin, I often wondered as we get together with leaders and you’re seeking God’s wisdom and direction, and it seems like doors are slammed in your face and defeat is everywhere. And sometimes you beat yourself up. But could it be, could it be, that there’s sin in the camp, someplace and that’s the real reason you can’t move on in the things that God has for the whole body of Christ? Joshua knew nothing about this. Joshua was moving on to the next place to possess the land that God had given.
Verse 3, “They returned to Joshua and said to him, ‘Do not let all the people go up, only about two or three thousand men need to go up to Ai; do not make all the people toil up there, for they are few.’” Now Joshua does an interesting thing. He listened to the spies. No place, unless I just missed it, does it say that God gives him directions. He’s listening to the spies here. It’s almost as if there’s a subconscious, but there’s a touch of arrogance here. After all, they just defeated, they’d just seen Jericho, the walls come tumbling down; the largest city in their whole journey together. “This little town of Ai, there’s nothing to it. It’s a piece of cake to us.” I don’t know if that was their attitude or not, but that just sort of jumps out at me.
Verse 4, “So about three thousand men from the people went up there, but they fled from the men of Ai. The men of Ai struck down about thirty-six of their men and pursued them from the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them down in the descent, so that the hearts of the people melted and became as water.” Verse 6 says, “Then Joshua [when he found this out] tore his clothes and fell to the earth with his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, both he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads.” That’s the idea of remorse and of repentance.
Joshua could not understand why they were so easily defeated. He just didn’t know, did he, that there was sin that was unconfessed in the camp? So he cries out to God. In his ignorance, He cries out to God. You see, not only had they been defeated, but when they turned and ran, they lost their confidence that God was with them. Do you see it’s affecting not only the activity of the people but the attitudes of the people? One man’s sin has caused every bit of this.
Joshua 7:7 says, “Alas, O Lord God,” Joshua was crying out now. “Alas, O, Lord God. why did you ever bring this people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been willing to dwell beyond the Jordan! Oh Lord, what can I say since Israel has turned their back before their enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?” Isn’t it typical of all our human flesh to blame God for the defeats in our life? We never seem to consider that sin just might be the culprit, not God.
Well, God answers Joshua in verse 10 He says, “What are you doing getting down on your knees, get up off that ground.” He says in verse 11, you can tell the anger of the Lord is here, “Israel has sinned,” God says, we read this earlier, but I want to read it in this context, “and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them amongst their own things. Therefore, the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turned their backs before their enemies, for they have become c cursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst.”
Verse 13 says, “Rise up! Consecrate the people, and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, for thus the Lord, the God of Israel has said, “There are things under the ban in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you have removed the things under the ban from your midst.”’”
Verse 14, “In the morning you shall come near by your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the Lord takes by lot,” now this is something that is hard to understand, but the casting of lots was a part of their culture. There’s a verse in Proverbs that says God is always in charge of that. You remember when Jonah, the book of Jonah, they wanted to know what was causing the storm on that ship. It was God’s prophet, and they cast lots and it fell upon Jonah. Something that is so far different than our culture, it’s hard to grasp, but he says, “which the Lord takes by lot shall come near by families, and the family which the Lord takes shall come near by households, and the household which the Lord takes shall come near man by man.” As the tribes go by, then out of whatever tribe it’s going to be that the lots fall on, then the family that’s in there, then all the households in that family until you get to the singular household. And then it’s person by person.
Verse 15, “It shall be that the one who is taken with the things under the ban shall be burned with fire, he and all that belongs to him, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has committed a disgraceful thing in Israel.” Now, again, I want you to see before we go too much further, I want you to understand how that one man’s sin, done in secret, done in the shadows, not confessed, has now affected a whole nation. And God says, “I am not about to bless you until you deal with this sin and forsake it.” What was done in the shadows God saw.
I remember when I was in college somebody said something to me in a chapel service one day. Preacher came and he said, “You are what you are,” and, boy, this convicted me then and it convicts me still, “when you’re by yourself.” That’s what you really are. Boy, I thought about that a million times. You are what you are when you’re by yourself. Nobody else is around; nobody can read your mind; nobody can watch what you do; nobody can watch what you do. You think nobody sees. God sees. And if that sin is going to be unconfessed and hidden as it was in Israel and deceptive—the person was even deceptive about it, the Scriptures mention this twice—then it’s going to affect the whole of the body in some way. What was done in the shadows, God saw.
They were moving in the direction they thought was right, the leaders were, and they got shot down. And come to find out, lo-and-behold, there’s sin in the camp. I tell you, I don’t know where you are in your walk with the Lord, but this principle was taught to me earlier on when I began my journey with the Lord Jesus. And every time something like this comes around, I always come here first. Lord, is there something in my life. Lord, search me, as the psalmist says; let me see if there’s a hidden sin, if there’s something here that might be the cause of this whole thing. You don’t go pointing a finger here and there. No, you look in. And remember that any sin, personally, unconfessed, will always have an effect upon others.
- Sin is a bearer of the consequences of God
Sin is a betrayal of our covenant with God; sin is a burden to the community of God. They were defeated and embarrassed. And now their attitude had even changed. They didn’t think God was with them anymore. They hadn’t really done anything themselves, but Achan had, and he was a part of them. And then thirdly, sin is a bearer of the consequences of God. Sin always bears a consequence. God determines that consequence, by the way. It always bears a consequence, but God determines it. We used to have a sign in front of the church I pastored that said, “You are free to make whatever choice you want to make. But you are never free to choose its consequence.” There will always be a consequence to sin.
In Achan’s case, the personal consequence was very severe. In Joshua 7:16, “So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel near by tribes, and the tribe of Judah was taken. He brought the family of Judah near, and he took the family of the Zerahites; and he brought the family of the Zerahites near man by man, and Zabdi was taken. He brought his household near man by man; and Achan, son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, was taken.”
Now it’s interesting to me that Achan never raised his hand and said, “I’m the reason.” Achan’s going to let this thing play itself all the way out. You see, I’ve seen this over the years. There’s a difference in being wounded and being broken. A lot of people are wounded when they are caught, or something happens to them in their life, and they tend to look as if they’ve repented. But they really haven’t repented. Brokenness comes when God’s convicted a heart. He’s going to wait to see if he’s going to get caught. I’ve always wondered what would have happened if he would have stepped forward first. Would he have had to pay such a severe penalty before God? We’ll never know. I’ll always wonder that.
Verse 19, “Then Joshua said to Achan, ‘My son,’”—and again, this affinity that they had with one another as family—“‘I implore you give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give praise to Him.” What does he mean by that? Does he mean sing a chorus? Does he mean say something good about God? No! Here’s what giving glory and giving praise to God is all about—“and tell me now what you have done. Do not hide it from me.”
I want to share something with you that hopefully will help you in your Christian walk. Confession of sin gives glory to God. See, many people are afraid to confess. I’ve been transparent for so many years of my life and people use it against me constantly. I’m constantly getting all kinds of things about, “Yeah, you’re so bad!” But you know what, I figured something out. If God already knows it, why do I give a rip if anybody else does? We should then deal with sin and go on and be transparent with each other, and nobody trying to present a standard that nobody else can live up to.
Verse 20, “So Achan answered Joshua and said, ‘Truly I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel, and this is what I did.’” Once he’s caught, now he’s going to tell it. “When I saw among the spoils a beautiful mantel from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath it.’ So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was concealed in his tent with the silver underneath it. They took them from inside the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the sons of Israel, and they poured them out before the Lord.”
Verse 24, “Then Joshua and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the mantel, the bar of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent and all that belonged to him; and they brought them up to the valley of Achor. Joshua said, ‘Why have you troubled us?’” Remember back in chapter 6 he said if you commit this sin of taking anything, spoils of war that are valuable, you’ll bring trouble against Israel. And he says, “‘Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.’ And all Israel stoned them with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones. They raised over him a great heap of stones that stands to this day, and the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger.” He turned away from that. “Therefore the name of that place has been called the valley of Achor to this day.”
Everything associated with Achan had to be destroyed. Now, the principle that this teaches us in the new covenant, in a brand new age, in the age of grace, what it teaches us is completeness. That sin has to be dealt with completely. The Bible says he that confesses and forsakes his sin shall find mercy. What it teaches also is how serious sin is. Sin doesn’t just affect me or you, whoever commits it. It affects other when left unconfessed. And as a result of that, defeat and discouragement can come into people’s lives, and they can’t understand what’s going on. And it can be the sin of somebody else that’s bringing in a corporate way a sense of defeat. It affects the whole body of Christ. Wow!
How does this truth affect you and I today in the new covenant? We live under the new covenant, the covenant that was made possible by Christ going to the cross to die for us. He paid a debt He didn’t owe, we owe a debt we couldn’t pay. This covenant is called the covenant of grace. It’s a part of what was promised to Abraham in Genesis 15.
Does God kill people who sin today, Wayne? No, not necessarily. However, if you could resurrect Ananias and Sapphira they may argue with you. The first church had just started and they lied to the Holy Spirit. Peter came in and said, “Why have you lied to the Holy Spirit,” and they dropped dead in their tracks. First John talks about the sin that leads unto death. Here’s the point, that’s an exception yes, but here’s the point, all sin does produce death. Instead of getting hung up on the theological arguments of all that, make it simple. All sin produces death—death to the privileges and to the blessings that we could have experienced in Christ. When we’re not walking in that, we’re definitely affecting others around us.
Sin still is the same. God is the same and sin is the same. It should never be played with or taken lightly. If each of us—and I want to say this out of my heart, and I don’t have any agenda, I don’t have anything in my mind, other than what I’m going to say—if each of us would daily deal with the personal sin in our life, and all of us will sin every day of our lives; 1 John says if you say you live without sin, you make God a liar. We know that we sin. All of us sin. But if we would deal with it God’s way: first, under the blood, and then with our brother—matter of fact, with our brother then under the blood, because he says go to your brother first—if we would deal with it God’s way, instead of covering over it, I believe we would be overwhelmed and history would be made at the way God would choose to move in our midst. That’s been my prayer for years for that revival that would come when people see the holiness of God and the seriousness of sin.
Sin is a betrayal of our covenant with God. Sin is a burden to the whole community of God. Sin is a bearer of the consequences of God. Is there any sin in this camp today? It doesn’t start by looking at others, folks. It starts by looking within and saying, “Oh, God, as the psalmist said, search me, try me, see if there be any wicked way.”
Gypsy Smith, the great revivalist, was once asked how to start a revival. And he answered the best answer I’ve ever seen. “Go home lock yourself in your room. Kneel down in the middle of your floor. Draw a chalk mark all around yourself, and ask God to start the revival you desperately want, let Him start it inside of that chalk circle. When He has answered your prayer, Gypsy Smith said, the revival will be on because it starts in here, first.” You see, evangelism is not revival. Many people misunderstood this for years. Evangelism is awesome, but it’s not revival. It’s the result of revival. It’s the consequence of a surrendered heart. Billy Graham was asked after a very successful evangelistic campaign, “Is this revival?” And Billy Graham said, “No, when revival comes, I expect to see two things which I have not seen yet. First of all, a new sense of the holiness of God on the part of Christians; secondly, a new sense of the sinfulness of sin on the part of Christians.”
I had the privilege when I was in seminary to go to Asbury Seminary for one short semester. I got to go there and hear the most awesome teacher, Dr. Robert Coleman, who wrote The Master Plan of Evangelism. Just an awesome man. He also wrote the book One Divine Moment of the great revival that happened at Asbury Seminary years ago. It lasted for I’ve forgotten now how long. It was several months or whatever, long time. And he told a story like this:
“There was a chapel service and a student had been asked to come up and give a prayer that day. The student came up, and as he stood in front of the pulpit, he couldn’t say anything. He just stood there and bowed his head and began to tremble and began to weep. And then he began to confess that sin was in his life and asked the people to forgive him and ask God to forgive him. Dr. Coleman said there was such an air, just an aura of the Spirit of God, to the point another stood up and began to confess sin, and another and another. And the chapel service was supposed to last 45 minutes has now lasted three and four days. Commentators all over the country heard about it and flew in.
Paul Harvey was one of them that flew in just to see what was going on. Nobody announced it. Nobody had time to announce it. People were on their face before God and people as a result of that, in the little town of Wilmore, Kentucky, began to get saved and understand that God was doing a mighty work at Asbury Seminary. Why? Because one young man had been in the presence of God, saw His holiness to the point that he began to see the disdain for his own sin and was willing to confess it and make it right. And the great revival that is recorded in the book One Divine Moment occurred at Asbury.
A newspaper man went down from London to report firsthand the marvelous happenings of the great Welsh revival. If you’ve never heard of it, you need to read about that; at the turn of the 20th century. On their arrival all these newspaper men in Wales, one of them asked a policeman where the Welsh revival was. Drawing himself to his full height he laid his hand over his heart and proudly exclaimed, “Gentlemen, the Welsh revival is inside this uniform.” You see, he had caught the Holy Fire.
I want to promise you, the Church will never know what God has for it until its people began to deal with sin, personal sin, because it’s affecting the whole. It’s mine, it’s yours, it’s all of ours. And as we’re willing to come to His throne and confess our sin and be cleansed and become vessels that He can trust, then He begins to move His power through us. And I ask one more time, is there any sin in the camp?