Nothing is so damaging and hurtful as when a person, especially a Christian, lives in sin. In this lesson we will see what happened to the nation of Israel as the result of one man’s disobedience to the Lord.
Moses had died and Joshua was now the leader of Israel. His task was to lead the nation of Israel across the Jordan River and into the land of Canaan. Canaan suggests a parallel with the Christian life. The battles the people of Israel faced as they entered Canaan represent the battles we face today. The Israelites faced three main types of battles.
I. THE BATTLE OF JERICHO (CHAPTER 6).
The city of Jericho symbolizes the world. God told the children of Israel they were not to take anything out of Jericho as they went in to fight. But one man did not listen to God and sinned by taking what God said was to be destroyed or was to be saved for Him.
II. THE BATTLE OF AI (CHAPTER 7).
One lesson from the battle of Ai is the danger of self-sufficiency. As you study Chapter 7, you will find that the children of Israel underestimated their enemy (read Joshua 7:3-5). The lesson we can learn is this: We must never overestimate our personal strength. The instant we think we are strong enough and have control over the flesh, we are headed for a fall. Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” The second lesson is also found in Chapter 7. Israel has just been defeated by the people of Ai. Thirty-six people lost their lives for nothing, and Joshua and the Israelites were discouraged. They fell on their faces in prayer, searching for answers. God explained to them why they lost the battle (read verses 10-13): there was sin in the camp! A man named Achan had stolen 200 shekels of silver, a wedge of gold, and a Babylonian garment from the city of Jericho. As a result, the whole nation of Israel suffered defeat, and Achan and his family lost their lives.
You may have heard the saying, “One bad apple spoils the whole lot.” We must understand that if one individual in our church is living in sin, the rest of the church will suffer as a result.
III. THE BATTLE AGAINST THE GIBEONITES (CHAPTER 9)
The battle against the Gibeonites was not a flesh-and-blood battle; it was a spiritual battle of deception. God told Joshua to wipe out all the inhabitants in the land. God was not unmerciful; He knew the people in Gibeon were pagan and would soon have the whole nation of Israel worshipping the same false gods they did. But the Gibeonites tricked the Israelites and caused them to sin.
If we allow sin to rule our lives, many of our prayers will go unanswered, and the work of the church will not move forward. Two types of sin merit special attention:
A. Sins of the flesh. When I speak of “the flesh,” I am referring to activities such as drinking, infidelity, sexual misconduct, pornography, and so on.
B. Sins of the spirit. These sins include pride, anger, bitterness, greed, unbelief, rebellion, etc. When we do not confess and repent of these sins, God will withdraw His Spirit, and nothing will happen in our church.
If sin remains in our lives, three things can happen:
Our prayers will be hindered (verse 10). In 2 Chronicles 7:13, 14, we read, “If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; if my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
Our power will be limited (verse 12). God’s presence brings power. Isaiah 64:1-3 says, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.”
It is an uncomfortable experience to stand behind the pulpit when there is unconfessed sin in our lives. God cannot bless our ministry until our sins are removed.
Our prosperity will be limited. Joshua 1:8 says, “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (See also Ps. 119:10, 11, 102, 105, 133.)
Considering this reality, we need to do four things.
Examine your heart. Your first concern is not your brother or sister— it’s you. Don’t examine others. Examine yourself (2 Cor. 11:31, 32). Search your own heart, your own motives, your own priorities, and your own relationship with God.
Confess. Agree with what God has to say about your sin. Go to Him in contrition, confessing your failings. Recognize the ways in which you have broken God’s law.
Repent. Turn from your wicked ways. Turn to God in genuine sorrow and seek His Spirit’s guidance.
Resolve. It is only through God’s strength that you can change. With the power of His Spirit, you must resolve not to return to your past way of life. As you spend time with God, He will strengthen your resolve.
Each of us—from the pastor to the youngest church member—must do some serious soul-searching. Let’s get our hearts right with God—and get sin out of the camp. Then the church can grow and prosper.
General Conference Ministerial Association