The Overcomer Trust

  • Overcomer Literature Trust
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By J.C.Metcalfe.

The theory seems easy. The practice is a very different thing. 

The life which is abandoned to God for the filling of the Spirit is a life that has given up its own plans, purposes and hopes, and has taken instead the plan, purpose and hope of God.

(G. Campbell Morgan).

In the same way that the apostles were forbidden to engage in the work to which they had been called and trained without the power of the Holy Spirit, so Joshua, before attempting to carry the burdens of leadership, had to be anointed and endued. We cannot exercise an effective ministry without the personal ordination of the risen Christ and equipment for service by the Holy Spirit. 

In Numbers 27 v15-23 we read, “Moses said to the Lord, ‘May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them . . .  so that the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd’. So the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him’ . . . . Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and made him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole assembly. Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, as the Lord instructed through Moses”. The time of the death of Moses had come and his successor had to be appointed. Joshua, who had already been undergoing training, is God’s choice. This passage describes the official anointing of Joshua for his task. 

The scope of Joshua’s commission is to be, “a man over this community, to go out and come in before them . . . so that the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd” (v16-17). The work of a shepherd is a royal tradition. Moses himself had kept the flock of Jethro as a preparation for his office as shepherd of the Lord’s people. David was taken from “following the flock” (2 Sam. 7 v8) to sit upon the throne of Israel. But above all, this is a title that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ Himself uses in relation to His saving work, and reigning authority, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know Me” (John 10 v11 & 14). 

What more beautiful or exact description could you have of the calling of a Christian minister? As shepherds we can never again live to ourselves. We are called to give our lives for the sheep, to know them and their needs, and to be known to them so that they may at any time claim our service and our love. Our own comfort or prominence, our own convenience and reputation, take a very secondary place in comparison with the needs of the sheep. The denial of self is the shepherd’s privilege and duty, and is a very real part of his being conformed to the image of his Lord.

The passage states that Joshua was already indwelt by the Holy Spirit, “So the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him’ " (v18). To be a minister of God a person must be a Christian, sealed and indwelt by the Spirit. The Scripture teaches very plainly that the indwelling of the Spirit is the only certain sign of acceptance by God. A number of passages immediately come to mind. “Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit . . . guaranteeing our inheritance” (Eph. 1 v13-14). “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Rom. 8 v9). “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as He had come on us at the beginning” (Acts 11 v15). “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, the Spirit who calls out, Abba, Father” (Gal. 4 v6). “And this is how we know that He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us” (1 John 3 v24). “We know that we live in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit” (1 John 4 v13).

These, and many other passages, teach that only those who have been brought near through the blood of Christ are accepted by God and are sealed as His possession by the Holy Spirit. It is impossible to over-emphasise the importance of this, and we can be perfectly sure that the necessary prelude to the anointing of the Spirit for service is the indwelling of the Spirit as the only valid evidence of our acceptance with God, and our right to call ourselves His children.

The next aspect touched on in our passage is the placing of some of Moses’ authority upon Joshua, “Give him some of your authority so that the whole Israelite community will obey him” (Num. 27 v20). Here we have a clear picture of the Saviour’s close identification with His servants which can be seen again and again in the New Testament.  “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17 v18). “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you" (John 20 v21).  “For we are God’s fellow workers" (1 Cor. 3 v9).  “God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation . . . we are therefore Christ’s ambassadors” (2 Cor. 5 v18 and 20). “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples” (Matt. 28 v18-19). These and many other passages point to the close union between the worker and his Lord, and show that their ministry is one with His. Since this is so, it is only to be expected that some of His authority will be put on them, and will constitute the ambassador’s uniform and badge of their royal service. 

There is a striking passage which links the gift of His likeness with the presence of the Holy Spirit within. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3 v17-18). This is in agreement with the statement, “I have given them the glory that you gave me” (John 17 v22) and again, “My Father will honour the one who serves me” (John 12 v26). 

Moses knew all along that the presence of God was absolutely necessary if his task was to be accomplished, and that the only difference between His people and mankind in general was the special honour of His presence (Ex. 33 v15 & 16). Matthew Henry comments, ‘Moses speaks as one who dreaded the thought of going forward without God's presence, knowing their marches could not be safe if they did not have God with them’. 

Joshua is to have God’s gracious presence with him, and we dare not engage in His service without a portion of His authority, apart from which there can be no true fruit and blessing. John Newton once said, ‘None but He who made the world can make a minister of the Gospel’. This is true. The God who clothed the earth with beauty, must also invest His servants with that dignity and authority which alone belongs to His Son, our Saviour. This He has promised to do, and the grand objective and completion of all true service is that “we shall be like Him” (1 John 3 v2). It is a likeness which will grow day by day as we lay hold of the gift of His authority put upon us that we may serve Him aright. 

Our passage tells us, “Then he laid his hands on him, and commissioned him, as the Lord instructed through Moses” (Num. 27 v23). 

There are many who want to choose what they will do, or who seek to model themselves on some other person who they specially admire or who they feel is specially successful. This is not the way of a commission from God to ministry. God lays upon those He calls a specific charge which gives a sense of utter inability and yet links us to an unshakable purpose. Joshua was to lead the people into Canaan and was to seek to ensure that the careful instructions given them by Moses before his death became part of their life. 

So the commission of the minister of the Gospel is clear, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28 v19-20). Our specific role in this campaign will be made known to each one of us individually, but it will be strictly in harmony with this general commission, which is the grand aim of the Christian Church. Never treat ministry lightly. Seek constantly to know and understand all that your commission implies and be faithful to it in detail.

The charge to Joshua is again underlined in Joshua 1 v7-8. “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it . . . be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful”. The Christian worker must be steeped in the Scriptures. He must know them, love them, live by them, and teach them. 

Wherever you turn for guidance about Christian ministry you will find this strongly stressed. Doing Christian work is not our commission. Many are tiring themselves out working for God, when God wants to make His word so real in them that they may by life as well as ministry manifest His grace to others. Paul says of himself, “I run the race then with determination. I am no shadow-boxer, I really fight! I am my body's sternest master, for fear that when I have preached to others I should myself be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9 v26-27, J.B.Phillips’ version). If he felt the need to keep his charge clear before him and discipline himself in its fulfilment, how much more should we exercise care and watchfulness. “In the presence of God . . . I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season . . . ” (2 Tim. 4 v1 & 2). We face a great responsibility but have great privileges.

We are to make Him known in our day and generation, whatever the details of our calling are, and must keep this charge clear before us. Satan is clever at clouding the issue and we need to be positive in staying with our purpose so that at the last we may be able to say with the apostle, “I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven” (Acts 26 v19).

From: ‘Learning to Serve’.