Sermons. They moved without having to turn around

The Lord wants us, as Christians, to pay attention to the way we make efforts, directing our lives according to His will. He wants us to be wise people; He desires that our church might achieve the exact purpose He has determined for us.

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Sergey Koudrin

I would like to tell you about one important detail of what we have to do if we follow Christ, as the Scripture commands.

When we call upon God, when we experience some communication with Him, we notice that many new perspectives and unknown opportunities are open for us. We can have a lot of different ways to minister and to apply our energies to that. And it is more and more often that we see in our life a need of a purposeful movement, of a refusal to something usual, comfortable and just attractive. That is not because this is wrong, but the Holy Spirit calls us to “put all things to the test, keep what is good and avoid every kind of evil”. “Good” is what is important for a moment, something actual as the Philosopher says in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses”.

The Lord wants us, as Christians, to pay attention to the way we make efforts, directing our lives according to His will. He wants us to be wise people; He desires that our church might achieve the exact purpose He has determined for us. The latest events and our latest prayers are a bright example of it. Combining efforts in intercessory prayer for our relatives, we strive towards the common purpose for every Christian, and we see the results.

I know that many people who have not been going to church for a long time have visited the latest evangelistic ministries of the church “Philadelphia”. They have not been going to church for years, but they have come. We have seen the miracles of people’s conversions to God, because those who we were interceding for them have really devoted their lives to Jesus.

It is not possible, you know, that common efforts Christ wants us to make are in vain. This was always the same in Jewish peoples’ lives. It is the same in our life and in our church – there are some objectives we have not only to make, but to combine efforts to achieve. The state of chaos is a big problem in a Christian’s life when he dissipates everything God has given him – just a bit here, just a bit there… So as a result we can meet people who turn back to look at their life asking themselves the question: “I am so old! And what is behind? What has my life consisted of? Vanity…” They sigh and think whether their life was in vain or not.

The book of Ezekiel, chapter 10, describes the vision of God’s Glory sitting (in state) on the living creatures. These angels were pictured on the ark cover, the place of God’s presence. And exactly above that cover there was His presence called “Schekhina” – God’s Glorious presence.

And after God opened the eyes of Ezekiel’s heart, he saw another image of the living creatures which were real, not pictured. He saw the Glory of the Lord sitting on these amazing angelical creatures, like it was in the tabernacle.

“Then the dazzling light of the Lord’s presence left the entrance of the Temple and moved to a place above the creatures” (Ezekiel 10:18)

These words are repeated twice, and even four times, because in the previous chapters Ezekiel said the same words describing the living creatures.

This was one more vision of the living creatures and of the Lord’s Glory sitting on them. Ezekiel tells about these bearers of God’s Glory four times in the same words: “They moved without having to turn around”!

This is what will be the subject of our preaching today: “They moved without having to turn around”.

We have been following Christ. And our following is a movement. “Follow me,” – Christ said. Devoting our life to Him, we follow Him. What is our movement is like? Is our movement after Christ like a majestic procession? Don’t we look around fussily examining our physical defects and asking ourselves, “What will people think of us?” The wise author of the psalms tells us about it: “Everything they say is crooked and deceitful. – They like that. – They refuse to act wisely or to do what is good. This is such a sly, cunning movement of a man’s soul – to experience the pleasure of rummaging in his sins, of castigating himself and saying: “I am a bad man. Such a bad man am I…” Orthodox believers call this sin delusion or self-flagellation.

Dear friends, what is our movement like? The Holy Scriptures and the New Testament exactly say that we are the bearers of God’s Glory!

God has chosen us. He has made us and our life His Holy Spirit’s temple. The New Testament says God has made us “vessels for honor”, i.e. the receptacle of His holy presence, bearers of God’s Glory! Not just standing still in our place, but moving and spreading this Glory even to the ends of the earth. Christ said “Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples…”

And our movement, what is it like?

Unfortunately, we see a fussy, nervous movement more and more often. A man is pretending to follow Christ, but what is the character of this following?

My dear friends, are Christ’s words close to our hearts? Are they a motive to pray before God? Because this is His plan for us, this is His will.

The Lord says: “Those whom He predestined, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified; and those whom He justified, He also glorified”.

He wants the chosen one, the called man – whether His son or daughter – to not only be “escaped through the fire” like Lot. Lot was a righteous man, but he escaped through Sodom and Gomorrah’s fire of God’s judgment. He had just survived. And his life was sad and inglorious. His daughters disgraced him and gave birth to the posterity which caused problems for the whole Jewish nation for many years.

A righteous man! But what was his life like?

Let us look at Abraham, a righteous and glorious man who followed the Lord being brought up in obeying God. This man’s movement was a real “procession”.

Are soldiers and officers marching in the review looking around them and asking whether spectators are admiring them, smiling?

My friends, in a march or during a procession people are subordinated to one common purpose. They accomplish the object which is destined for them – and they look majestically! They don’t look around.

As for us, what is our movement after Christ like? Do we want to be firm of purpose following Him?

That is the characteristic of bearers of God’s Glory that God revealed at all times throughout the biblical history. On those who are firm of purpose, the Lord’s presence is sitting.

The angelic world image confirms that. The living creatures – cherubs – are covered with eyes, are moving majestically, not standing at one place and not looking around as the Holy Spirit tells about it. “They moved without having to turn around”. They were bearers of God’s Glory.

Is that what our heart desires?

Dear friends, this is extremely important for different spheres of our life. But the main thing is not to turn around, not to look around when we struggle against sin. For the Scriptures tell that the opposition to sin is a struggle: “For in your struggle against sin you have not yet had to resist to the point of being killed”.

Talking to people I realize that many of them make the same strategic mistake – they don’t consider sin as an object to carry on a struggle against. We have to be respectful to our enemy – not in the meaning of failing, but of fighting adequately, with fortitude in respect of the struggle and the enemy.

In the time of the exodus from Egypt Jewish people suffered God’s punishment for their unfaithfulness and grumbling – that is what God was angry about. And snakes appeared and bit Jews.

Then, due to God’s man, Moses’ prayer the Lord made salvation for Jewish people. But what was that salvation? It was a very unnatural, very illogical salvation. God said to Moses: “Make a bronze snake and lift it up on a pole”. The sign is a symbol of victory. Everyone who turns to look at this snake will be healed.

My dear friends, this is not natural at all! This is so illogical! When I am bitten by a snake and death is close to me, I must hurry up! I have to do something! Can “some look” make sense for me? When people around me fall on the ground and their life forces disappear under the influence of the poison? Perhaps a close friend of mine is dying next to me and I have got to help him…

And I am told: “Look at that bronze snake and believe it will bring victory”...

It may seem crazy, but everyone who followed God’s order was really healed.

Afterwards, the Gospel according to John, chapter 3, tells us: “As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the desert, in the same way the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life”.

So Jesus Christ was crucified on a pole, on the cross of Golgotha.

And we in our movement after Christ, in our struggle against sin, are supposed to be restored to our normal state, but sin struck us. Sin is always death. “Death gets its power to hurt from sin” as it is written. Death bites by sin. As sensible people we realize that sin hurts us.

We see it happen in our and other people’s lives. So what do we have to do? Restore our moral portrait to a good state? Fight against our inner condition? Try to bring ourselves up morally?

If we suddenly discover a sin that is hurting us – anger, fury, envy, desire to deceive, to steal and so on – what do the Holy Scriptures suggest we do in this case?

“They moved without having to turn around”.

The Massage in Hebrews, chapter 12, tells us to “run with determination the race that lies before us and to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end”.

Not even a fighter can allow looking around in a struggle. He is thoroughly concentrated.

I talked to one man who went in for a single combat, and he said: “When I am fighting, I must be concentrated on my adversary’s eyes so that all his personality and all his intentions are in front of me. I have to know them. Then I will be able to react. And if I look aside, I fail immediately”.

Dear friends, sometimes believers fail because of that – they look aside, away from Jesus Christ’s crucifixion which contains the power and worth of salvation. The Lord Jesus died for our sins and our crimes. If you look aside you fail.

“They moved without having to turn around”.

It is very dangerous to look around in a struggle against sin, so we have to fight it gazing at Christ’s cross of Golgotha.

Jesus once said telling people about this world, about the last times: “Remember Lot’s wife”. And He said that as it was before the Flood and before the Judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, it will be so in the last time, before the Advent of the Son of Man.

Nothing will presage disaster! Men and women eat, drink, marry…

And suddenly the Flood came! But Noah was ready. And Lot was given notice about the Judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah. This will be the same in the last time. And so Jesus Christ says: “Remember Lot’s wife”. What sense does it make?

Lot’s wife was coming out of the place of God’s Judgment, from Sodom and Gomorrah with reluctance; she did not feel like leaving it. But the main condition of salvation was not to turn around! Do not look back even if your close people are there! But Lot’s wife’s heart seemed to be sorry about the belongings made for many years, about the relationships with some people in Sodom and Gomorrah… She could not inwardly refuse it. This woman had already begun moving, but her heart was staying back there.

And then, at last, she turned back and saw something which led to all the processes of her organism becoming paralyzed – so she was turned into a pillar of salt.

“Remember Lot’s wife”, the Heavenly Spirit warns us seriously.

Each time my heart is not in a hurry to get out of some bad associations, wicked relations, I know it will lead to no good. The Heavenly Spirit is talking to our hearts. But if it does not hurry to make a step after the movement God prompts to our spirit, we see our heart becoming hardened.

Sometimes you meet a brother or sister in Christ to whom you have talked recently, eaten at the table together and prayed together, but his eyes have already become “cold” and lackluster. There is no love, no compassion, because his heart went mad on something sinful, began looking around and saw something of interest for himself in this world. So something in his organism begins braking, becoming hardened. The Heavenly Spirit tells about the “stony hearts” unable to love, to be compassionate, to show mercy.

“Remember Lot’s wife”.

In one of his sermons Jimmy Swaggert told about a man who once was passing by the house where he had committed adultery, and he remembered those moments. He experienced a sinful nostalgia; he wanted to return to that place. In fact, it is very often when a temptation comes into a man’s life: he did not finish drinking, eating, deceiving, fornicating, stealing…

It was so lovely, so pleasing! And now, he is supposed to be a believer, he must not experience such nostalgetic feelings about sin, about the “decrepit” life, but… and that man lifted before God such a startling, such an unwise prayer!

- Lord, please wait for me here, I’m coming in for a moment…

What for? He just looked back. He came in and sinned. And then, when he came out of that house, he realized God had not been waiting for him. It was very-very difficult for that man to return back to Jesus. He was lucky to meet a good minister who helped him do it.

“They moved without having to turn around” – that is the characteristic of bearers of God’s Glory.

The Holy Scriptures appeal to us not to look back in our ministry.

Luke, chapter 9, tells us: “Anyone who starts to plow and then keeps looking back is of no use for the Kingdom of God”.

My dear friends, there are many good things in our life we have to refuse. We see in the text one man who wanted to follow Jesus asking Him: “Let me say goodbye to my family. Let me go back and bury my father”. But Christ said: “Anyone who starts to plow does not keep looking back”.

When we are taking the helm, would it be reasonable for us to keep looking around, to keep reading advertisements along the road? No, because we are threatened by an immediate accident! Driving a car, we have to be extremely concentrated.

Life on the road is not easy at all, and life crossroads are difficult indeed. We need to be attentive as much as possible especially when we start to accomplish our ministry as God desires for everyone of us.

The Scriptures says that the man who looks back, who is not ready to do the main business of his life will not be successful. He is not a reliable man. Today you call him to pray together, but he is busy. Tomorrow you will call him to visit your brother in Christ, but he will have lots of things to do… It is not bad in general, but it puts obstacles in his way of movement after Christ. Unfortunately, in fact there are a few reliable people.

My dear friends, it is not a sentence. If you understand you are not reliable, you can change your attitude in respect to God and to your own life tomorrow, today or right now. You can be trustworthy. This beautiful perspective is before every one of us.

What will we choose? Will we move after God as reliable people for Him and for our neighbors? Or, will we have accidents looking back on the life crossroads? This is our choice, this is it.

So, I’d like to remind you of the words from the book of Ezekiel: “When the creatures moved, they could go in any direction without turning. They all moved together in the direction they wanted to go, without having to turn around”.

Let our heart meditate on the character of our movement after the Lord Jesus Christ. If we can fulfill this important condition which is not to turn around in our movement, we will be successful, and blessed, and happy. And we shall see God’s Glory in our life. We are to decide.

May God bless our hearts and souls!