Today’s selected reading continues in the first epistle of the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian congregation, and more specifically, is found in verses eight through sixteen of the eleventh chapter. This particular passage of scripture begins both in and with the first verse of this chapter with the apostle Paul instructing the Corinthians to be followers of him even as he was of Christ. This is actually quite an amazing invitation issued by the apostle Paul, for it is no small or light thing to invite others to follow you. This is especially true when you consider that the only other individual found within the New Testament to invite others to follow Him was Jesus who is both Christ and Lord. In fact, aside from His warning to repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, His invitation to Peter and Andrew to follow Him were the first words He spoke after His public revealing at the Jordan River. It was there at the Jordan River where Jesus allowed Himself to be baptized of John the Baptist in order that they might together fulfill all righteousness. Immediately after Jesus came forth from the waters of baptism in the Jordan the Spirit of the sovereign Lord descended upon Him in the form of a dove. This was subsequently followed by a voice from heaven not only declaring that Jesus was the beloved Son, but also that the Father was weak pleaded with Him. Keep in mind that these words were spoken before Jesus had ever preached a single sermon, taught in any form, spoke in any parable, healed the sick, called the twelve, and even cast out devils. The Father spoke from heaven and not only declared that Jesus was His beloved Son, but also validated that by causing the Spirit to descend upon Him in the bodily form of a dove.
When studying the life and ministry of Jesus who is both Christ and Lord, we notice that immediately after He emerged from the waters of baptism, and immediately after He was publicly affirmed and declared to be the Son of God by the voice of His own Father speaking from heaven, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where He would be tempted by the devil. Jesus would spent forty days and forty nights in the wilderness in fasting and prayer, and in the midst of that hunger and thirst the devil would tempt Him according to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. What’s so incredible is that after the devil had ended his temptations of Jesus and departed from Him, and after angels came and ministered unto Him, Scripture declares that He returned from the wilderness in the power of the same Spirit who led Him unto wilderness. RETURNING IN THE POWER OF THE SAME SPIRIT WHO LED YOU INTO THE WILDERNESS! This particular reality is one that is actually quite astounding and remarkable, for this was to be the testimony which the children of Israel had when they emerged from the wilderness. In all reality, that first generation which escaped the bondage and oppression of Egypt into the wilderness, that first generation which experienced the salvation of the Lord at the Red Sea through the parting of the waters and the destruction of their enemies, that first generation which stood before the glory and power of the Lord as He descended upon the mountain in the desert of Sinai, and that same first generation which experienced the glory of the Lord descending upon the tabernacle after it had been reared up should have come forth in the power of the One who led them into the wilderness.
It must be noted that that first generation of the children of Israel—that first generation which experienced deliverance, salvation, provision, and revelation—would not exit the wilderness into which they were led according to and with the power of the One who led them into the wilderness in the first place. THAT FIRST GENERATION SHOULD HAVE LEFT THE WILDERNESS RATHER THAN PERISHING WITHIN IT. Instead of emerging from the wilderness in, with and according to the power of the One who led them into the wilderness, that entire first generation—save Joshua and Caleb—would fall and perish within it over the period of forty years. What’s actually quite astounding is the tremendous parallel the account of the children of Israel has with countless men and women among us within our own generation. What’s more, is that there is an astonishing parallel that exists and is found with the account of that first generation of the children of Israel with countless men and women among the generations which have existed upon the earth. IT’s absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that that first generation was not led into the wilderness in order that they might not be able to enter into the land of Canaan and emerge from the wilderness in the power of the One who had brought them into the wilderness and led through through it. Consider the fact that those forty years which were spent in the wilderness weren’t merely to be spent wandering instead of conquering, and wandering instead of inheriting, and wandering instead of possession, but those forty years were spent waiting for an entire generation to fall and perish in the midst thereof. How absolutely tragic it is that the same generation which witnessed the tremendous power, glory, might and splendor of the Lord in and through their deliverance and salvation would not walk in the authority and the power they were intended to walk. It would be that second generation that would emerge from the wilderness which would enter into the land of Canaan and walk in the power and the authority of the One who had delivered their fathers from Egypt, who had led them through the wilderness for forty years, who and had experienced the provision and presence of the Lord in the wilderness.
It’s worth mentioning and acknowledging that that first generation which emerged from the land of Egypt was to also emerge from the wilderness and enter into the land of Canaan in, with and according to the power and authority of the One who had led them through the wilderness. When that second generation emerged from the wilderness, they would not only experience the parting of the waters of the Jordan River as they would walk on dry ground, but they would spend a considerable amount of time engaged in a campaign of dominion, authority and power within the land of Canaan. I cannot emphasize and state this enough—that first generation should have been the ones who emerged from the wilderness and entered into the land of Canaan with the power, the dominion, the authority, and the might of the One who had brought them into the wilderness and led them through the wilderness by the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. I can’t help but wonder how many men and women emerge from their slavery and bondage as represented by Egypt, and experience the salvation of the Lord at the waters of the Red Sea, and yet those very same men and women find themselves perishing in the wilderness they have spent years wandering in. There are a number of men and women among us today within this generation who are wandering in the wilderness when they should be taking possession of the Promised Land. There are a number of men and women among us today within our generation who are wandering in the wilderness when they should be entering into the wilderness and exercising dominion and authority over their enemies, adversaries and foes. There are men and women who are spending their days and their nights in the wilderness wandering by day and night, eating of manna from heaven, and even drinking from the water which flowed from the rock when they should be crossing the Jordan, and exercising the dominion, the authority, and the power of the One who had brought them forth from the land of Egypt in order that He might bring them forth into the land of Canaan. YOUR DELIVERANCE FROM EGYPT WAS TO BRING YOU INTO THE LAND OF YOUR INHERITANCE! YOUR JOURNEY INTO THE WILDERNESS WAS TO BRING YOU TO THE PLACE OF MANIFESTATION AND REVELATION! It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this very reality, for it lends a great deal of truth on to the current condition and state of countless lives of men and among women us in this generation.
If you turn and direct your attention to the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of the Old Testament book of Numbers, you will encounter the account of the defining moment for that first generation of the children of Israel which emerged from the land of Egypt. As instructed by the Lord Moses chose twelve men from among the twelve tribes of Israel to enter into the land of Canaan and to spy out the land in order that they might see what type of land it might be, and what type of people might be present within the land. Scripture records how those twelve spies spent forty days within the land of Canaan, and how they brought back with them a cluster of grapes which they bore between two of them upon a staff. What’s more, is that these twelve spies brought forth from the land of Canaan pomegranates and figs, thus bringing forth from the land of Canaan the fruit of the land. It’s interesting and worth noting that while it is true the twelve spies brought forth fruit from the land of Canaan, ten of them brought back an evil report, while two of them brought forth a good report. Of the twelve spies which entered into the land of Canaan, only two—Joshua and Caleb—brought back a favorable report concerning that which they saw within the land of Canaan. If you begin reading with the twenty-sixth verse of the thirteenth chapter of the book of Numbers you will find the following words regarding the report that was brought back by the twelve spies:
“And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kaddish; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. NEverhtless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the JEbusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan. And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. But the men that went went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that were saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (Numbers 13:26-33).
When you come to the fourteenth chapter of this same Old Testament book you will find the response of the people to the divided report that was brought back from the land of Canaan by the twelve spies. Beginning to read with the first verse of this chapter we find the following words recorded by Moses: “And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them , Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? Were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt” (Numbers 14:1-4). Please don’t miss the significance of what is taking place here, for not only did that entire generation refuse to rise up and enter into the land of Canaan to take possession of it as their inheritance, but they also sought to make unto and for themselves a captain who would lead them back into the land of Egypt. In other words, it wasn’t enough simply to not go up into the land of Canaan and take possession of it, for they sought to return unto the land of Egypt. It is an incredibly tragic day when men and women would rather return to the slavery, the bondage, the oppression of the land of Egypt rather than go up into the land of Canaan and confront the enemies and adversaries that exist within the land. It is a tragic day when men and women would rather return to the source of much anguish, mush sorrow, much grief, much weeping, and the like, rather than going up in the power of the Lord into the land of their inheritance to take possession of it. Within this particular passage of Scripture we notice three distinct actions which were committed and taken by this first generation of the children of Israel there in the wilderness. The first was that they murmured against Moses and Aaron—essentially murmuring and raising up their voices and complaints against the Lord. The second was that they refused to go up into the land of Canaan and take possession of it according to the power, the dominion, the authority, and the strength of the Lord who had been with them thus far. The third was that they sought to make for and unto themselves a captain who would lead them back through the wilderness and back into the land of Egypt.
This particular reality must be noted by us, and noted well, for it is a tragic day within our own lives when we would rather return to the land of Egypt than rise up and enter into the land of Canaan. It is a tragic day in our lives when we would rather return to the land of slavery, bondage and oppression rather than going up and entering into the land of inheritance, promise and blessing. The children of Israel chose to listen to the negative report of the ten spies rather than the words of Joshua and Caleb, and as a result, they not only wept throughout the night, but they also murmured against Moses and Aaron. We must understand and recognize that that first generation of the children of Israel were to emerge from the wilderness and enter into the land of Canaan with the power, authority and dominion of the Lord over the people within the land, over all the defenses within the land, over all the walls of the people, over all the cities, over all the weapons, and over all the giants which dwelt in the midst of the land. It was the Lord who deliberately and intentionally led the children of Israel into the wilderness according to His dominion, His authority, His power, His strength, and it was that same Lord who sought to lead them out of the wilderness with them being able and capable of exercising that same dominion, that same authority, that same power, that same strength over their enemies, adversaries, and foes within the land. Oh that we would truly understand, recognize and get this, for it lends a tremendous amount of truth within our own lives concerning how we proceed and move forward within and throughout the course of our lives. The children of Israel emerged from the land of Egypt after the Lord had displayed His dominion, His power, His strength, His authority over all Egypt, and they emerged from the waters of the Red Sea after the Lord exercised His dominion, strength, His authority, His power, and His strength—not only over the waters of the Red Sea, but also over the Egyptians as they pursued them through those very same waters. There needed to come a point, however, when they would recognize the dominion, the authority and the power of the Lord of hosts, and walk in that reality themselves within the land of Canaan.
When I read the account of Jesus emerging from the wilderness after not only spending forty days in fasting and prayer, but also after being tempted of the devil, I can’t help but consider how Jesus fulfilled that which the children of Israel were to accomplish themselves. Of course we know that a second generation emerged from the wilderness, and it was that second generation who not only emerged from the wilderness with the power, the dominion, and the authority of the One who led them into the wilderness, but also exercised that authority and dominion within the land of Canaan. There was, however, a first and previous generation who perished in the wilderness because they refused to walk in and exercise the dominion, the authority and the power of the Lord of hosts. I absolutely love what I read concerning Jesus the Christ when He emerged from the wilderness, for Scripture reveals how He emerged with the power of the Spirit who had led Him into the wilderness to begin with. Notice how the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke begins and opens in the first verse of the chapter: “And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned form Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Luke 4:1). If you transition to the fourteenth verse of this same very same chapter you will read the following words written concerning Jesus: “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and there went out a fame of Him through all the region round about” (Luke 4:14). What’s more, is that not only do we find Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost and being led by that very same Spirit into the wilderness, not only do we find Jesus returning from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, but when He taught in the synagogue in the town of Nazareth, we find Him reading a very particular and peculiar passage found within the Old Testament prophetic writing of Isaiah. Beginning with the sixteenth verse of this fourth chapter we read the account of Jesus at the synagogue found within the town of Nazareth: “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:16-19).
Not long after Jesus emerged from the wilderness after being tempted of the devil, we find Him beginning to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Immediately after we read these words in the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find Jesus walking by the Sea of Galilee, and seeing two brother, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea. Matthew records how upon seeing these two brothers, Jesus said unto them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” It’s worth noting that the very first invitation of Jesus found within the New Testament was to repent, while the very next invitation was to follow Him. It’s necessary that we recognize and understand that these two realities are not independent of each other, but are actually directly connected to each other. It’s worth noting that these two invitations—the invitation to repent and the invitation to follow Jesus—are but two sides of the same coin. One thing we must recognize and understand is that it is impossibly to follow—to truly follow—Jesus until and unless we have first repented. Those who follow Jesus the closest are those who have given themselves to truly repenting before the Lord for their transgressions and sins. This is what was so tremendous about the ministry of John the Baptist, for he was sent to preach a message of conviction in the wilderness of Judea, and he was sent to baptize men and women in a baptism unto the remission of sins. We dare not seek or make any attempt to separate repentance from following Jesus, for I am convinced that we cannot truly follow Jesus if we have not truly repented and surrendered ourselves to the kingdom of heaven. If you read the four gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus, you will find that there were multiple accounts of His calling Simon and Andrew, as well as James and John to follow Him. What’s more, is that you will find multiple accounts of Jesus calling Matthew the tax collector to follow Him. What’s more, is that there are other references concerning Jesus calling those who gathered themselves unto Him to deny themselves, to take up their cross, and to follow Him.
What marks the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthians is that he is the only other individual within the New Testament who invited others to follow him. What’s more, is that what we read in the eleventh chapter of the first epistle which was written unto the Corinthians is that this wasn’t the first time he had invited and instructed them to follow him. If you turn and direct your attention to the fourth chapter of this epistle you will find the following words written unto this congregation—“For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. What will ye? Shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?” (1 Corinthians 4:15-21). When writing to the Philippians the apostle Paul writes the following words: “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample” (Philippians 3:17). When writing to and concerning the Thessalonians, the apostle Paul wrote the following words: “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost” ( 1 Thessalonians 1:6). In the second epistle written unto the Thessalonians we find the following words written unto them: “For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we beheaded not ourselves disorderly among you” (2 Thessalonians 3:7). Only two verses later we find the apostle Paul going on to write the following words: “Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us” (2 Thessalonians 3:9).
This particular passage is absolutely incredible—not only because the apostle Paul invites men and women to follow him, but also because in some translations this first verse connects Paul’s invitation to others to follow him with his willingness to follow Christ. It is absolutely necessary that we understand and recognize this particular passage, for it is possible for men and women to have others who follow them, and yet they have never truly followed Christ. I am convinced there have been and there presently are men and women who have others following them, and yet they themselves have never followed Christ, nor are they presently following Christ. That which the apostle Paul was inviting men and women to experience was not merely following a man, but following a man who was following Christ. What’s more, is the apostle Paul was inviting men and women to follow Christ whom he himself was following. I am convinced that the apostle Paul wasn’t elevating or promoting himself, but rather the Christ whom he followed with all his heart. I recently saw the new movie Paul: Apostle of Christ, and at the end of the movie—after Paul was beheaded by the Romans, the scene transitions to the apostle in glory and being greeted by fellow saints who were martyred for their faith under the cruel Roman grip—including Stephen whose death he publicly and openly gave his consent. The movie concludes with a portrayal of Jesus walking toward the apostle Paul and a look of completion, and awe, and wonder in the eyes of the apostle as he saw for the very first time the One who had appeared and spoken unto him on the road to Damascus. The other twelve disciples actually walked with Jesus the Christ for three and a half years, and they actually saw Him and beheld Him, yet the apostle Paul did not have such a privilege. Despite the fact that the apostle Paul never walked with Jesus as the disciples did, he nonetheless followed Jesus for the rest of his days after He appeared to him on the road to Damascus. The disciples not only walked with Christ while He walked upon the earth, but they would follow Him while He was present among them, and continue to follow Him after He ascended unto heaven. The apostle Paul never walked with Christ as the apostles did, yet he followed Him with everything inside of him every day for the rest of his life, and I can’t help but imagine that moment when the apostle Paul finally looked upon and beheld the One who had appeared to him on that road, and the one whom he followed so closely for all those years after that encounter. The question I will leave you with is not whether or not you are walking with or following men, but whether or not you are walking with and following Jesus who is both Christ and Lord.