Do you really love your neighbor as yourself? If you do, you will be concerned about their eternal well-being. In a very real sense on fire believers stand between those who are spiritually alive and those who are spiritually dead.
An Old Testament Example
In the book of Numbers there is a story of a plague that broke out among the children of Israel. In this event we have a powerful example for those of us who live in today’s world. Moses and Aaron decided to follow the New Testament principle of “love your neighbor as yourself.” Even though the people were actually opposing their leadership, they stepped in to help the people. What they did was extremely significant for us today. Numbers 16:41 tells us that the whole Israelite community had grumbled against Moses and Aaron.
Let’s pick up the biblical narrative in Numbers 16:44-47 “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.”
And they fell on their faces. So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a censer and put fire in it from the altar, put incense on it, and take it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them; for wrath has gone out from the Lord. The plague has begun.” Then Aaron took it as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the assembly; and already the plague had begun among the people. So he put in the incense and made atonement for the people.”
I want to call your attention to the next verse: It says in Numbers 16:48 “He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped.” God is looking for people to stand between the living and the dead. He is looking for those who will say, “I want to fulfill Christ command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Will you be one who is willing to be all God has called you to be?
How this parallel’s today’s society and culture:
The first parallel is that just like in that day in our day
- A plague has broken out.
I am not talking about a plague of sickness and disease. I am talking about a plague that is worse than that. I am talking about a plague that brings eternal death. It is a plague of sin. The bible tells us that sin is like a plague. Just like a plague caused by bacteria or virus brings physical death, even so, the scripture says in Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death…”
There is a plague of sin in America. I don’t need to prove it. Just walk around. Read the newspaper. Listen to the music of the day. Today’s generation is one of lawlessness. People today think nothing of taking God’s name in vain, of taking their child’s life through abortion, or getting so drunk they can’t walk. Many young people think it’s okay to have sex before your married, and that homosexuality really isn’t a sin, but rather a lifestyle. Pornography and human trafficking are rampant. Verbal and mental abuse happens in many homes. It seems that each year the plague of sin brings the human condition to a worse state.
If you really love your neighbor as yourself, you will warn them that sin earns a wage. It is called death. The next parallel is that
- Judgment is coming
In this story here in Number, Gods wrath was just about ready to fly. Judgment had come to a people who had rebelled against God. While I know that God loves people and wants them to be saved, I also know that as a student of end time events, we know that God’s judgment is on the horizon. The rapture of the church could take place at any time. During the seven years that follow God’s judgment on a rebellious earth will be seen.
I believe that God is going to take his people out first. This is good news for the church. God removes the righteous before he pours out his wrath. In this story, God said to Moses and Aaron, Get out of the way, I’m going to destroy these people. In Noah’s day, he said, build an ark, save whoever will come inside. I’m destroying the earth with a flood. Before he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities that were known for their homosexuality, God warned Lot to get out of there and Lot escaped just before fire rained down from heaven.
The third parallel is that
- God’s people can make a difference.
We are in the same spiritual position as Moses and Aaron. We can’t simply let the plague of sin continue.
Let me give you things we need to do to effectively stand between the living and the dead.
- STOP REGARDING PEOPLE FROM A WORLDLY POINT OF VIEW.
Saul was persecuting the church of Jesus Christ. He was the churches biggest enemy. There was a day when he saw the church from a worldly point of view. He saw all believers in Christ as a false religious sect that needed to be stamped out. Thinking that way, he went around persecuting the church, he made orphans and widows. He scattered the church of that day.
In those days, Saul even regarded Jesus from a worldly point of view. He thought that he was just a man. But one day Saul had an encounter with Jesus. He realized that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, the Savior of the world. And the rest is powerful biblical history – Saul changed his name to Paul God revealed to Paul the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And the way Paul viewed the world changed.
He saw people in two categories:
- Those Jesus had died for who had given their lives to him.
- Those Jesus had died for who had not yet given their lives to him but needed to be persuaded and loved into it.
Paul stopped living his life from a worldly point of view and started seeing the world through Gods eyes. He started seeing that people without Jesus in their life really mattered to God. If you are reading this article and are not a believer. You need to know that you matter to God and to those who are believers.
2 Corinthians 5:14 Paul writes “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and raised and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.”
I wonder what would happen today if God would open our eyes and let us see the world around us as he sees it. It is so easy to see things from a worldly point of view. We drive down the street and our neighbors look relatively happy. My wife and I drive by a group of people out playing soccer on the soccer fields every Sunday, they look fine. We stand in the grocery line and we work with people in our companies and rarely does our mind think about where these will spend eternity. Their eternal standing with God is in jeopardy!
The bottom line truth is that without Jesus in their life they are in risk of perishing eternally.
On 911 we made heroes out of the firemen. And let’ s not forget their lives. Why? Because they literally went into the flames to rescue those they could. They were heroes. Thank God for firemen. They stood between the living and the dead. They went forward risking their own lives to rescue the perishing and care for the dying.
Jude tells us that we have a role that we are to fulfill. It is like the role of a fireman. We stand between the living and the dead. These are his instructions: Jude 22-23 “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them…”
Lost people matter to God. Every person on the planet is important in Gods eyes. See the people around you from God’s point of view. I am convinced that if the church saw things from a spiritual point of view, things would be different. There would be no dry-eyed prayer meetings
In fact, prayer meetings would have the biggest crowd. The pastor wouldn’t have to plead with people to get them to come to an altar to pray. There would be more passionate preaching and soul searching at the altars. There would be less sin in our lives. There would be less TV watching and more bible reading and more crying out to God. There would be more moms and dads and grandpas and grandmas that would cry out to God for their families.
And God would come, devising the means for people to be saved. Let’s stop thinking that those around us are okay without Jesus. They are not! To love your neighbor as yourself is to really care about the eternal destiny of their lives.
We cannot sit and do nothing. Aren’t you getting a little carried away? Let me ask you this in the words of Leonard Ravenhill:
Could a mariner remain idle if he heard the drowning cry?
Could a doctor sit in comfort and just let his patient die?
Could a fireman let people burn and lend no hand?
Can you sit at ease in Zion with the world around you damned?
The enemy has too many preachers buffaloed. The devil tells them…Why don’t you just settle to have a nice church? You could have a nice little sermonette for Christianettes. Don’t preach against sin. Don’t challenge people to change their behavior. Don’t encourage them to read their bible. Don’t preach about the power of God to heal and set free and deliver. Don’t preach about the need for repentance. Don’t preach about the need to live a holy life. Just tell people God loves them, and all they need to do is keep bringing their tithes and coming to church every once in a while.
I am a pastor, and I cannot and will not succumb to that kind of thinking. I don’t think that you want to have that kind of church. Let’s be a church that sees people from Gods point of view.
THIS GENERATION OF BELIEVERS IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS GENERATION OF LOST PEOPLE!
In order to stand effectively between the living and the dead you must
- ASK GOD TO BREAK YOUR HEART
Some of you may not have ever been around someone who his heart is broken for the world. I can assure you that that person never opts for the Wednesday TV line up when its prayer time.
I have a friend by the name of Steve. He is a fun guy-his personality is jovial, he always has a smile, but underneath that there is a sensitivity for people who need Jesus. Years ago, we were in India together in a van on the way to preach in a village where we would be planting a church.
But that day we decided to pray as we drove through the city I was able to observe a man with a broken heart for the lost. I will never forget the tears are running down his cheeks and his heart is broken, and he is calling out to God. And as he begins to weep and his weeping turns into great big sobs. I will never forget how the power and the presence of God just filled that van. The glory came down and the Spirit of God was interceding through us in a spiritual way with groans and cries that flowed from deep in our spirits.
You may be thinking, “I am just not an emotional person. All of that emotion is not necessary. Maybe you need to become a bit more like Jesus who cried out to His Father with loud groanings and cryings.
Romans 10:1 Paul lets us in on the condition of his heart. “Brothers, my hearts’ desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they will be saved.” Romans 9:2-3 he says, “I have great sorrow and anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race…” Paul had a burden and it was evident in his life.
When you have a broken heart for the people of the world, it will be evident in your life. It will show up in your life in a variety of ways. You will see opportunity to turn conversations to Christ. You will see opportunity to tell others what he has done for you. You become conscious that things you are doing in front of others may reflect badly on the Lord. In the book of Hebrews God warns the church of Jesus Christ about their heart. Over and over again he says…
Hebrews 3:7 “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” Let me ask you today…what is the condition of your heart? Is it soft? Is it pliable? Is it broken? If it is not then why not present it to the Lord to be broken.
A lot of investigation has been done in recent years about the great ship – The Titanic. In a sense it was hard proud hearts that sunk the Titanic.
The Titanic was warned six different times that there were Icebergs in the water. Yet the captain said, “No, we will continue on full steam ahead.”
Of course, you know the story. They hit the iceberg and they began to sink. They sent out an SOS. The closest ship to them was named The Sampson. It wasn’t but a few miles from where the Titanic was sinking. They could have turned toward the Titanic and saved many lives.
History records that the ship shut its lights off and left the scene. Why? Because their hearts were hard. They were hunting seals in those waters illegally and they were afraid that if they would have tried to help, their actions would have been exposed for what they were. They choose to just slip away in the night, rather than rescue someone.
Yes, there are some Christians who wouldn’t dare to speak of Christ at their workplace. It is because they know down deep that there is sin in their heart. They don’t want to be exposed.
I want to tell you that many Christians live for years and they are afraid to deal with the issues of their hearts. And so sin comes in and robs them and makes them ineffective in their calling and in their Christian life. I had a man who attended a church once that I pastored. He just had a gift. He could get more people in church than anyone. Yet he was largely ineffective because his walk didn’t match his talk. He lived a life entangled in deep sin.
It may not even that deep of a sin that keeps us from being effective. It could be a myriad of other things. Don’t you think it’s time to get healed and get well and get whole so that we can become effective for the kingdom?
Hebrews 3:13 says “See to it, brothers that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the Living God. But encourage one another daily…so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
There was another ship called the Californian. They also tried to warn the Titanic though about the fog, and about the icebergs. They were about 17 or 18 miles away. When they got the SOS, instead of immediately turning and going full throttle as fast as they could, they put their own concerns and their own comfort ahead of those who were perishing. They decided to be cautious and they went very slow and by the time they got there it was too late. Their hearts were hard and lukewarm because they thought of their own comfort. That ship reminds me of those in this world who are consumed with cares of this world and the riches of this world.
Why, yes, they are kind of concerned about the situation of lost people. But let’s not become fanatical about this thing. Let’s not risk anything. Let’s not put ourselves in harms way. They are like the Laodicean church. They aren’t cold or hot. They are lukewarm.
There was another ship. It was called the Carpathia. They were a full 47 or 48 miles away. They also tried to warn the Titanic. When the SOS came. They woke up the Captain. Immediately the Captain put extra people on the bridge. And they didn’t waste time. They went full throttle ahead. At risk of their own lives, they sped ahead and they were the first ship on the scene.
And from the waters they were able to rescue 705 people. I just wonder how many more could have been rescued if the Samson and the Californian had done their part?
What am I saying? I am saying church that God wants to break our heart for a lost and dying world.
- DARE TO STAND BETWEEN THE LIVING AND THE DEAD
I want you to know that this message is a call. I hope this is message has an urgency in it. I hope it penetrates every heart and sets us on fire! Because this article is a call for action. I do not apologize for the urgency conveyed in this article. I do not apologize for being passionate about the cross.
I am preaching this morning as a dying man to a dying generation. This is a call for unction in the pulpit and action in the pew. The question is: Who will have the courage to do what Jesus did and dare to stand between the living and the dead? Who will do what the Carpathia did and rush in to save those they can?