When I know Jesus is Holy, then I know a real salvation


Jesus is absolutely holy


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Joshua and the General
Timothy Keller

Daring to Draw Near—September 22, 1996

Joshua 5:13–15; 6:1–5


Just to make sure you put it in context and you realize where this happens, I’m going to read into chapter 6, but we’re really just looking at these three verses in Joshua 5.


Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”


“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” The commander of the Lord‘s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.


Now we continue with Chapter 6, which says …

Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days.


Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.”


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……Are you starting to get a picture here? Jacob seeks to meet God, and he ends up in a wrestling match. Job wants to meet God, and he meets a tornado. Joshua wants to meet God, and he meets a Man of war, armed to the teeth with a drawn sword. Are you getting any picture here? There’s nothing warm and fuzzy about meeting God.


What is the holiness of God? It’s his greatness. It’s his superlativeness. If you want to know what it means to finally see the holiness and greatness of Jesus and not simply his love, if you don’t see his holiness and his greatness, his love really is of no transforming benefit to you. Some years ago, in the early days of the church, I used to do all the membership interviews myself. If I interviewed you as a member, you know you were one of the very first.


I do remember interviewing a woman. I said, “Tell me when you became a Christian.” She said, “Well, I don’t know myself. Let me ask you. Do you want to know when I subscribed to Christianity, when I took a class, when I learned about it in church, and I said, ‘Yes, I’m a Christian,’ and I got baptized, and all that? Or do you want me to tell you about the time when I realized, one day it hit me like a thunder bolt, if Jesus is who he says he is, that changes everything about my life? If Jesus is who he says he is that means not a single corner of my life can belong to me. Everything has to belong to Jesus.”


I said, “I’d like to hear about that day.” Of course, it sounded a lot more interesting, but do you know what happened to her? Here’s what happened to her. I don’t know when she got converted. I won’t say she was converted before that. I can’t be sure, but here’s what happened to her. The day that happened was the day she heard God say, “No. Neither. Take off your shoes.”


There was a very interesting incident in my life when I was a fairly new Christian. It happened in 1970. I went to an InterVarsity camp at Bear Trap Ranch in Colorado, and I heard a woman named Barbara Boyd give what they called “The Lordship Talk.” I’m not sure. That might have been the first time I had an experience like this myself. A lot of you, as soon as I tell you some of the things that are in “The Lordship Talk,” and I still have the notes from that, you’ll realize it has echoed in my preaching ever since.


That was the day she looked at us, and she said something like, “If you want to invite me into your house, and you say, ‘Come in, Barbara. Stay out, Boyd,’ I wouldn’t know what to do because I’m Barbara Boyd. In fact, I couldn’t even say, ‘This half is Barbara and this half is Boyd, so I’ll just bring this half in,’ because I’m all Barbara and I’m all Boyd. I’m both, so you either get me all or get neither of me.”


Then she turned around and she said, “If you say, ‘I would like the loving Jesus. I would like the helping Jesus. I would like the Jesus I can ask to help me through the hard times, but I don’t want the holy Jesus. I don’t want the powerful Jesus. I don’t want the Jesus, who is great,’ you get no Jesus at all.” She said, “Think about this for a minute.” Some of you, if you’ve been around, you’re going to say, “Gosh, this is where he got these things from.” It has echoed ever since.


She said, “If the distance between the earth and the sun was the thickness of a piece of paper, if the 96 million miles between the earth and the sun was the thickness of a piece of paper, do you realize the distance from the earth to the nearest star would be a stack of papers 70 feet high? Just the diameter of our little galaxy would be a stack of papers 310 miles high, and our little galaxy is just a speck of the universe. The Bible says in Hebrews 1, ‘Jesus Christ holds the universe together with the word of his power.’ ”


She said, “Jesus Christ holds the universe together with his pinky.” Then she looked, she smiled, and she said, “Do you ask somebody like that into your life to be your assistant?” I want you to know everybody comes to Jesus initially like Joshua. Everybody comes saying, “I have an agenda. Are you going to help me with it? I’ll become a Christian if you help me with it.” Everybody does that.


Almost everybody starts to come to Christianity when you have a problem. “I have a problem. I just broke up with somebody. I have self-esteem problems. I’m having relationship problems. I’m having financial problems.” You come with a problem, and you say, “I need something. I need someone to help me live the life I already know I should live. I have an agenda. I have a campaign going here. I want to know. Are you for me or against me?”


Everybody does this. As long as you’re doing that, you don’t know whom you’re talking to. How do you ask somebody like this into your life as your assistant? How do you come with conditions? Remember, there were two thieves on the cross. One of them we call the bad thief, and the other one we call the good thief.


The first guy, the bad thief said, “If you’re the Son of God, get us down. I’ll believe in you. I have an agenda: I would like to live. I would like to survive. Therefore, would you please help me?” The other thief said, “As long as you’re with me.” The first thief said, “Are you for me or against me?” The second thief said, “I realize the real question is not whether God is for me or against me, but whether I’m for or against God.”


You can’t talk to God this way, the Commander of the Lord’s hosts, the real General. When you come and you say to God, “I’d like to believe in you, Lord Jesus, but will you help me with my problems? Will you help me do this and that? Will you help me get through law school? Will you help me get to my goals?” Jesus says, “That’s the wrong question. The answer isn’t yes or no, really. The answer is neither, none of the above.”


That’s what he’s saying. “I don’t like this multiple-choice question. None of the above. The point is not whether I am going to be for you or against you, but whether you’re going to be for or against me. In other words, if you come to me conditionally, if you say, ‘I’ll obey you if …’ you haven’t come to me at all. You haven’t even come to grips with me. You don’t even know who I am.”


When I listened to that lordship talk and she said, “You don’t ask somebody like that into your life to be your assistant,” as soon as she said, “If you ever say to God, ‘I’ll obey you if …’ if you have any ifs, that means you’re not obeying at all. [That’s where I got that from.] You’re still master of your life. You’re still lord of your life. You’re still trying to get him enlisted in your army. You’re the general. He’s the lieutenant. He comes and says, ‘I either don’t come in at all, or I come in as the General,’ ” I remember that day I walked out, and I wept.


She said to everybody, “I’m sure you’ll have some things to think about. Just be silent for about a half an hour. Just walk around.” I can still remember the place I stood. I can still remember the rocks on the path. I still remember weeping, because I remember what happened was I realized I was saying to him, “Are you for me or against me?” and I heard him say, “Neither.” I heard him say, “Hit the deck.” I heard him say, “Take your shoes off.” First time. I’m not sure I was a Christian before that, no matter what. I’m not sure.


Extract from Timothy Keller’s sermon - Joshua and the General