Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Breaking Down the Walls

Below is an extract from Sunday's sermon.  God is really challenging us in how we think not only about ourselves but about God.  There are so many things in our world, and so many experiences that we have had in our lives that hinder who we are in Christ.  These experiences and false belief systems have a huge impact on how we live our lives.  This week we looked at the issue of walls and how the walls that we build in our lives can actually hinder not only our relationship with others but more importantly our relationship with God.

Walls are important for many reasons but regardless of the wall and its type there are a couple of things that every wall has in common. Their purpose is to either keep hidden the things that are behind the wall, to keep things from getting in or to prevent things from getting out. Walls that people construct usually have a purpose and they can either be of benefit or they can be a hindrance. 

In Joshua 6 we read about one of the most famous walls in history, the wall that protected Jericho. It is thought that Jericho is the oldest city in the world. The city was inhabited by the Canaanite people, a people who enjoyed the pleasures of life. One can only imagine what was being hidden by those city walls. Jericho was also a strategic stronghold that needed to be defeated if Israel was to possess the Promised Land that Joshua was leading the people into. Jericho was also a large city surrounded by two enormous walls which were lined with soldiers and watchmen that stood at every gate. And so the walls very purpose was to keep invading armies out and to protect what was going on within the walls. Jericho was quite literally a fortress. This was the obstacle that stood in the way of the children of Israel and they had several options that they could have attempted in order to invade the city.

But God had a plan and we see that in the early verses of chapter six God speaks to Joshua and promises him that Israel will have the victory over Jericho if they follow Gods instruction perfectly. God will deliver the city into their hands. We see as the story goes on that this is exactly what happened. The people did as God had said and in an awesome shout of victory after seven days of marching around the city, the walls collapsed and Israel was able to enter safely through its walls and conquer the city. 

This event has been called by many as the battle of Jericho but it is interesting to note that at no point prior to the collapse of the walls were the armies of Israel used. No weapons or military tactics were used in bringing down the walls that defended the city. Rather, Joshua relayed God’s words to the priests of Israel and it was the priests that led the march around the walls. You see this was a spiritual battle and not a military one. God was the one that was going to win this war and not the efforts or wisdom of the people. 

Friends the war of the Christian is similar in that the battle we fight is not a military one; it is not a war that we can win by using human methods or human understanding but it is a war that requires faith and obedience. In Ephesians 6 the apostle Paul reminds us that our war is against the things of the spiritual realm but even within the spiritual realm there are walls that need to be conquered.

We have already heard how walls were used by cities to keep out the invading armies of the enemy. We have heard that often cities used walls to protect what was inside them, but I want to suggest to you today that as Christians we too can build emotional and spiritual walls within our minds and hearts to protect us from things like emotional hurt or to even hide the sin in our lives from those around us. In fact sometimes the walls that we build protect us so well that they can even hinder us from reaching our promised land.
Sometimes the walls in our own lives have been there for so long that we don’t even realize that we have built them. I wonder; have some of us here today erected walls of protection in our lives? Are there some of us here today that have been so hurt emotionally or spiritually that we vow never to be hurt again. Have we built walls in to our lives to keep people out? Or worse, have we built walls to keep God out? The problem with walls is that over time they can actually become more of a prison than an act of self-preservation. Sometimes the walls that we build into our lives and into our minds are so strong that they prevent us from experiencing all that God has to offer, and they can cause us to become entrapped in our own anger, our own bitterness, in un-forgiveness, and even in a state of low confidence and fear. If not removed these walls that we erect in order to protect ourselves will over time, actually destroy us.

In John 10 verse 10 Jesus tells us that the “thief comes to steal and destroy and that he came to give us life, and life to the full.” Sadly there are often times when the walls that we build prevent us from experiencing life to the full as well as spiritual fullness. What are the walls in your life? Are there things that you have put in place to protect you? Is there sin in your life that has caused you to build walls to hide it from those around you? Friends, walls limit movement. They trap us and project a false belief that everything is ok and that this is all there is. Are these walls preventing you from living a life of fullness? Are the walls you have built preventing you from moving forward and growing spiritually in God?

In order for Israel to be victorious over Jericho the walls protecting the city had to be brought down. Friends the only way Israel would claim freedom and were able to move forward toward the land of milk and honey was by defeating the walls that were preventing them from moving forward.

We see that in the Jericho story there were three key factors that determined the victory of Israel and they are also the three key factors that will help us break down the walls and strongholds that prevent us from moving forward in God.

The first is quite simply the promise of the Lord.

God said to Joshua that he would deliver Jericho into the hands of Israel. The victory for Israel had already been won. All the people had to do was claim the promise of victory and obey God.

Friends victorious Christians are the people who know the promises of God, because they spend time meditating on the word of God. They believe the promises of God because the Word of God generates faith in their hearts.

A couple of weeks ago I shared with you about what it means to be conquerors in Christ. The message today from Joshua is similar in that God promises us victory over the walls in our lives, we are more than conquerors over these blockages because in Jesus we already have the victory; we just have to claim it.

The second key is faith.
Hebrews 11:30 tells us that “it was by faith that the walls of Jericho fell down after the army had marched about the city for seven days.” In 1 John 5:4 we are told that “this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.”

Charles Spurgeon once said that “A little faith will bring your soul to heaven, but a great faith will bring heaven to your soul”

Martin Luther once said that “Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible, and receives the impossible. Then to accept the impossible, do without the indispensable, and bear the intolerant.”

Friends, faith was essential to victory for Israel. They had to believe more than anything else, that the promise God had given, to give them the city, was going to happen. If we are going to overcome the walls of hindrance in our lives then we must believe and receive in faith that God can handle our circumstance. Sometimes the walls we put up are too hard for us to break down on our own, but God promises that through Jesus we are able to break down the walls and strongholds in our lives. Our enemy would want us to be imprisoned behind our walls but Christ gives us hope and He wants us to overcome the things that hold us back. God is bigger than our walls and if we allow Him he will help us break free.

Finally, breaking down the walls is a process.

Walls take time to come down. It took Israel 7 days before God delivered the city into their hands. The activities of the week were a test of the Jewish people’s faith and patience. No doubt there would have been some who were anxious to get the walls down so that they could move forward and take the city. I am sure some would have even thought that the way God told them to do it was futile and a waste of time. God was teaching them patience and obedience. Friends as God helps us deal with the walls we have erected in our lives it can take time. Sometimes we just want to get rid of the blockages so that we can move forward spiritually in Christ; sometimes we don’t want to deal with the walls because we feel that we would be vulnerable without them. This all takes time especially if we have hid behind our walls for a long time. Often our prison can become the norm for us and we need to learn how to trust God as he takes us outside of our comfort zone in order to be free. Friends if you are feeling your walls are just not coming down then I want to encourage you today to hang in there. God has already given you the victory but He may be trying to teach something through the process.

Breakthrough also takes more than just time, it also takes effort. God won’t just move in and break down our walls. If we want to be free; if we want to move forward then we need to want, and work towards breaking free. As Israel marched around the city they blew their trumpets and carried the ark of God before them. So too if we are to see our walls come down then we need to keep God in front of us. We need to remain completely focused on Him and we need to be praying and praising God throughout our experience. When we do this we will at some point see breakthrough and success. Friends if we are to be truly free and if our spiritual and emotional walls are to truly come down then we cannot remain the same. We cannot keep doing the same things that we have always done and expect a different result. Freedom comes at a cost and it come by pushing into God even when we don’t feel like it.

Friends, is there a Jericho sized wall before you today that is preventing you from growing spiritually with God? Are there walls of fear, bitterness, un-forgiveness and anxiety in your life? I want to encourage you this morning by saying that God wants to set you free. There is hope in Jesus. He came that we may live life to the full and to not be imprisoned by our walls. Are you willing this morning to take a step of faith and allow God to bring down your Jericho? Is there un-forgiveness in your life that you want to be free from? Is there fear in your life that you want God to tear down? Is there un-repented sin that is preventing you from fully immersing yourself in the presence of God? If there is then you need to trust that God is able to set you free. It may take some time and it will certainly require you to act in faith. If we are going to break free from the prison walls then we will need to change what we have always done.

"Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands..."
Joshua 6:2

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