Audience: Awana Scholarship Camp, grade 6-12 who know the Bible really well
Goal:. They will understand they have a role in God's Kingdom to see it spread and they will go out in faith saying, "Give us this mountain" to transform their schools and neighborhoods.
Props: Risk board
In my youth group we have an all time favourite board game. I am not sure why we like it so much but it is a mad craze in our group. All of a sudden one of the youth will pick up the phone and start calling everyone, ëWe're having a risk game over at my house tonight, show up at 7' This one time we had so many people we had to pull out a second board so everyone could play. So we all gather around this map of the world and each person gets a set of armies and they place them in strategic places around the world. Every turn they get more men and they place them down on their places and take over neighboring countries. Steve often plays with the red troops and it is like a red plague sweeping over the face of the earth until the whole Earth succombs to his fearsome power.
In some ways it is like the antichrist and the Devil who are seeking to take over the entire Earth. The Bible says that at one time he will set up a one-world government and everyone shall have to submit to him. In the meantime he is called the Prince of this world (John 14:30 ; 16:11), he is the ruler over everyone in the kingdom of darkness that we talked about earlier this week. He is the one who raises his fist at God and says, ëI don't need you" and he is the one who encourages others to do the same. His goal is to make this world into a living hell for everyone on it and when we look around he is doing a fairly good job at it.
But we have been talking about another kingdom this week that is far greater than any kingdom of this world. This kingdom is directly opposed to the kingdom of Satan and like the little pieces on this board it is popping up all around the world and it is going to take over. Notice how the first thing Jesus says in the gospel of Mark is "The time has come" In other words all these years people have been waiting over here in darkness longing for the day to come when God shall overthrow this worldly kingdom and bring in a new one. ëThe time has come" says Jesus, "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" What good news! The kingdom of God is near! (Mark 1:14-15 )
And so Jesus comes in and right away He drives out an evil spirit and then starts healing people from all sorts of diseases. A women with a fever, Jesus just took her hand and she got up. A man with leprosy begs to be clean and Jesus says, "Be clean" and it is so. He goes around and preaches and drives out demons. And this is only the first chapter. In the second chapter he starts calling people to himself and ask them to follow Him. Look at how the Kingdom is penetrating right into the middle of the darkness. Right where people had given up hope Jesus like a light peels back the darkness and takes those who were forsaken and turns them into followers.
But this is not the kind of kingdom that has armies and fortresses and borders. That may have been what the people expected. Many of them were hoping for the Messiah to come and drive out the Romans with the sword and set up the literal kingdom of God on Earth but that was not God's plan. His kingdom is different from that.
At one point a teacher of the law comes and ask Jesus what is the most important commandment. Jesus answers to love God and to love ones neighbor as yourself. The teacher agrees and then Jesus makes a profound statement, Mark 12:34 reads, "When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God."
Far. Now there is an interesting word. All the man did was give an answer and Jesus says he is not far. Far, as in you are almost there, just a few kilometers more. The problem however was the man did not walk anywhere and yet somehow he was closer. The only explanation I can think of is that the Kingdom of Heaven must be in a persons heart. It is not a physical place that we can walk into but it is inside us. So when the teacher of the law accepted Jesus teaching and agreed with it then his heart was getting closer. He was open and willing to listen and beginning to accept it but yet he was still holding back, still not quite ready to follow and so he still had some ways to go.
This has an amazing implication. It is not God's plan to take over the world in a physical sense and set up a castle with knights and borders and subjects but His goal is to build His kingdom within our hearts. This way He can send us out and we make more followers of Jesus and we see the kingdom spread from one person to the next.
It is like a huge divine conspiracy where God is infiltrating every nation, every position, every trade, every place with people who are transformed on the inside. And now we see the Kingdom in part but one day it shall reach its fullness when we are all joined again in the great wedding feast of the lamb and the King sits upon His throne and all the people rejoice, forever!
Now here is the catch. You are one of God's agents. And by agent I don't mean secret agent but you are one of those agents who goes out there and tells others about Him. This doesn't mean that you have to be a pastor, no the role of a pastor is to equip people like yourself to go out there and reach others for Jesus. As part of His great conspiracy God needs you in whatever role you can serve. If you are a student. Good - God will use you as a student. If you are into mountain biking then God will use you to reach other mountain bikers. If you are into programming computers then God will get you to program for His glory and make things that will help spread the message. If you are into shopping then take some friends with you and see the kingdom expand. But how do you do that you ask? Well let's say you are going past a store and you know they sell a lot of bad things in there. Your friends want to go in but you tell them you don't want to because you don't like some of that stuff. Now you have a chance to share. Or maybe you are at a store and see something you love, why not have each of you buy one and buy an extra one and give it to that person in your school who is looking for some friends. Or why not just take that person with no friends with you and let them know they are accepted? All these ways will open doors for you to both show and tell the love of Jesus.
This is our last session together and I really want you to take what you have learnt here and go out into that world and make a difference for Christ. I am going to end with a story about a person to whom God made a promise and 40 years later he came back and claimed God's promise and went in and changed his world. That man's name is Caleb and he is symbolic of how we should take on this world.
We begin the story not long after the one we told about them coming up out of Egypt and making the golden calf.
So up they came from Egypt by the power of God, His presence with them by day in a cloud and by fire at night. Sustained by His miraculous Hand.
And so they came to the border of the promised land. Chose 12 men to go in and explore the land. And there is a famous song we used to sing as kids, "Twelve Men went to Spy on Canaan". So these 12 spies went in to see what they were up against and how wonderful this place God had promised was.
40 days they wandered through the land and at last they came back to the people. It took 2 of them just to carry one cluster of grapes for indeed the land was flowing with milk and honey. And as we learnt from the old milk and wheeties commercials if a young men drink their milk they will grow up strong and powerful. And that is what these men were, giants. We felt like grasshoppers in their eyes and they saw us as grasshoppers too.
So what do you do when God promises something too hard to take?
Well a man named Caleb knew what to do. Let us turn to Numbers chapter 13:30
"We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it."
What was the difference between Caleb's point of view and the view of the rest of them who were with him?
The bad spies saw through the eyes of man (13:33 ñ in our eyes)
The good ones saw through the eyes of God (14:8-9)
He saw things in the eyes of God and that changed everything. But the others struggled with the same problems we face today.
Fear of the unknown
Fear of failure
They knew the good they ought to do but were too afraid or too lazy to do it. For us it might be
Fear of telling a friend about Christ because they might be offended.
Fear of talking about God lest one might think we are fanatical
Fear of being enthusiastic for Christ and getting out there and doing it because we are either too concerned of our comfort and reputation or too lazy to count the cost pick the armaments of Christ and declare a holy war on the darkness blinding our neighbourhood. And as you can see ñ the goal of this message is to get out their and share Christ.
And so they wanted to go back to Egypt, to keep status-quo, to give in, to let the Devil win. They found it easier to trust in comfort then a God who challenged them to get up and make a difference in this world.
So opposed where they that they even talked of stoning them and the glory of God Himself appeared. (14:11-24,34)
(And here we have an excellent example of intercession, of praying for a people and God changing His heart even as we should pray for our community and see God turn towards it)
Let us take this as a warning friends? Because of their unfaithfulness they did not get what God was promising them but it was handed down to the next generation and none of them saw it but Caleb and Joshua who alone were faithful.
How about you? Are you going to see the work of God reaching your neighbourhood or are you going to let it pass you by? Do you know that many of the people in your neighbourhood are going to hell in darkness. I have struggled deeply with the topic of hell, every now and again it bothers me and it should bother me. Millions of people are going to hell and what bothers me the most is I stay quiet and it bothers me that they don't care. But some people do care. I was down a Wendy's with one of the youth and one of the employees there had recently become a Muslim. She saw us reading and she started to talk and ask us about it. She would talk a bit and then be called back to work. Looking for an excuse to talk about God she cleaned those chairs and tables better than they have ever been before. But she really wanted to hear. Then she said, "I am sorry, I do not mean to offend you by talking about it." I replied, "Do not worry, you did not offend me by talking about Mohammed. In fact, if you truly loved me you would talk to me, because where do you believe I am going if I die?" She said, "Well if you don't believe Allah is God then you are not going to be in paradise" Now if you truly love me, I said, you will do everything you can to convince me. Now, I believe beyond a shadow of doubt that there is a God, and that you can only go to Heaven through the work of Christ, by faith and not by works. Then she asked me one of the hardest questions a person could ask, "Do you believe I am going to hell?" I paused for a moment, wanting desperately not to offend her but knowing that she will be far more offended to find out later if I never told her, "Yes, if do not believe in Jesus Christ." She was a little taken back and then I explained a bit about how that is, "Anyone who trusts in their own works is actually rejecting God and saying they will do it in their own power and strength." And if I love you I will do everything I can to help you see that Jesus is God, and that you cannot save yourself but God offers you the most wonderful gift, salvation by faith, if only you will stop struggling to earn it but simply receive it."
But this thought makes us very uncomfortable but do we understand that our neighbours are going to a real place called hell? I think one of the greatest reasons we do not go out there and take on this world for Christ is that we have not taken God seriously about such things as Heaven and hell and salvation in Him alone. Instead we are too often silent, not wanting to offend anyone and in so doing we let them go to hell because we do not truly believe. But God hates hell! Hell was prepared for the Devil and all the angels who rebelled with him. He does not want anyone to perish but for everyone to be saved. And He has called you and me to join with Him to seek and to save the lost.
You have within you the really good news that God has brought salvation and you have all the resources of Heaven available and at your disposal to accomplish the tasks God has set out for you. Nothing is impossible for you with God. Fear not, God shall go before you but friend do not let these days pass into darkness or God shall let another take your place and blessing. The work of God shall be accomplished, the question of will it be through us and will it be in our day?
Through whose eyes do you see this battle ñ God's or your own? You see we too stand on the edge of the promised land. And what are some of the signs that lead me to this conclusion? Never before in my life have a I found people so open to spirituality than I have in these past few years. Bookshelves are full of books about angels, spirits, meditation, inner healing and Cosco even carries the NIV study Bible. I am constantly bumping into people who are seeking God in some way or another. I was walking through the park and I came across a young lady my age who was exploring Buddhism. She sensed an emptiness within her and wanted it filled. I was painting a fence with another lady and I asked her if she had a spiritual belief, she replied, "Yes, I think I am spiritual but it is not the kind that is organized by a religion". Wherever I go it seems more and more people are sensing an emptiness within them and seeking out for God. I find that today's youth are far less interested in playing games as they are in experiencing God. So they sing with all their hearts the latest worship songs, they travel around the world sharing the Gospel, they look for ways to be involved in making a difference in this world - they are tired of seeing God from a far and want to come up into that holiest of holy places and touch God and be touched by Him.
So we stand at the edge of the promised land, what shall our response be?
Let us turn to Joshua chapter 14 to read the next part of Caleb's story who after 40 years came back and speaks, (Joshua 14:6-13 ) He knew what God's plans were and God's intention and he was going to do it. His request was, "Give me this mountain"
And like Caleb we stand on the bank of the promises land and we say, "Give us this mountain." We declare war on the darkness blinding people's lives, on Satan, on apathy and fear. We are not afraid but stand in the power of God. Are you ready to take on your school for Christ, to see the lost saved, the blind see, the bound released. Will you take up the mantle and fight for Christ? Are you ready to swallow your fear and speak up about Christ. What about your neighbor? Your co-worker? Your friend?
We stand again on the banks of the promised land and in the spirit of Caleb we fix our eyes not on our fear or comfort but on God and His Kingdom praying, "Oh God, give us this mountain" and we go out and do it in the power of God for the very gates of hell shall not prevail against us!