Don't Hold Back (Part 2) - Radical

Don’t Hold Back (Part 2)

There is a constant temptation for all of us to settle for a safe, easy, comfortable Christianity that consists of casually going through motions on Sunday morning and moving on with our lives however we want to live them.  But that is not biblical Christianity, and it’s not what we’re made for. In this message from Exodus 14, David Platt urges the church to pursue the Lord’s lead and not to hold back from following him. Relying on God’s Word and empowered by his Spirit, we look expectantly for how the Lord will work out his saving purposes in and through us.

If you have Bible—and I hope you or somebody around you does that you can look on with—let me invite you to open with me Exodus 14. It’s good to be together around God’s Word as we seek God.

Exodus 14:1–34. This is the Word of God right after He delivered His people from centuries of slavery in Egypt. The Bible says:

1 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so.

When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” So he made ready his chariot and took his army with him, and took six hundred chosen chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the people of Israel while the people of Israel were going out defiantly. The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and his horsemen and his army, and overtook them encamped at the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

10 When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” 13 And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

15 The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. 16 Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground. 17 And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. 18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”

19 Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, 20 coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.

21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 23 The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24 And in the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, 25 clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.”

26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.” 27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threw[c] the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. 28 The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. 29 But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

30 Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.

Wow. That seems an appropriate word to describe this story, and “wow” seems to be an appropriate word to describe what is happening in our church family. That’s the word that another pastor in our city, who was with us on Thursday night, used to describe what he saw among us right now. Wow. 

So let me bring you up to speed just in case you’ve missed some of the last week, as well as recent years that have led to this last week. As a church family, we have walked through many trials and challenges over the last few years, from many directions. From without, a pandemic, isolation, polarization, tensions, a cultural climate that is quick to criticize and cancel, plus increasingly quick to cancel what the Bible says about everything from sexuality and marriage to sin and hell.

And trials and challenges from within. I won’t recount them all, but these have been hard years in our church family that have threatened our unity around love for Jesus, each other and the world around us. Last week a book came out that is really the overflow of all these things—not just in my own heart, but in the heart of our church family. Don’t hold back. Don’t give up, even when it’s costly. Don’t coast where it’s safe. Do all that God is calling you to do in this time, in this place. Be an otherworldly family with multiethnic beauty. Turn the tide on centuries of racial division in the church. Love and honor every person made in the image of God, especially those who disagree with you. Do justice extravagantly in a world of injustice. Love mercy. Spread the glory of Jesus’ name among all the nations of the earth. Don’t hold back from any of these things. 

Most importantly, don’t hold back from God as the goal of it all. See and seek more and more and more of God. We talked last week about how God has been moving in some special ways in our country, including among students on college campuses, stories of thousands of people traveling to Asbury University to see a movement of God’s Spirit. We also talked last week about how we don’t have to travel anywhere to meet with God. He is here. He’s near to us right now in these rooms where we’re gathered. He’s here. So we opened God’s Word to Isaiah 55 and heard God say, “Come to me. Come. Anybody, everybody who’s thirsty. Come to the water that I alone can give you. Come to me and find compassion and pardon for all your sins. Come to Me, that you may live. You will die forever without MM. Call upon me while I’m near, today, here.”

So we said, “We’re going to do this. In our gathering here and in other locations, we’re going to stand, we’re going to kneel, we’re going to lift our hands, we’re going to fall on our faces. We’re going to sing, we’re going to pray, confess our sin, surrender our lives and ask for His help. We’re not going to hold back from God.”

In a way nobody could have planned, people started responding in different, unforgettable, life-changing ways across our church. This gathering kept going and going and going. Whereas we normally finish by 12:30, we didn’t end until almost 4:00. That’s something I have never experienced on a Sunday, not just in ministry, but in 40-plus years of my life. Worshiping, praying, confessing sin, interceding for each other. Praying for healing and help from God. It was awesome. I was hesitant to end the service even then. 

One person down front shouted, “Is this what heaven is going to be like?” I was like, “I think it’s a glimpse, except we won’t be praying for healing; that will be all taken care of. So not that part, but all these other parts—yes.” Part of me didn’t want to stop, but I felt like it was time. I think we had used all the songs the worship band knew how to play together. 

So we left and I went home physically exhausted but spiritually full. I actually had an opportunity to sleep in a little extra the next morning, but I woke up early. The only way I can describe it was like a holy nudge, a physical compulsion, to get out of bed earlier than I’d planned. So I did. I went into my time with the Lord, then at the end of that time—after praying through all kinds of things, including thanking God for the day before—the thought came to my mind: I wonder if we should invite people to gather again tonight? 

So I reached out to other pastors. “What do you guys think?” As we talked about it, we were like, “Well, why not? We don’t know how many people will come, but if 20 people show up to seek God, that will be awesome. If more show up, also awesome. Awesome or awesome, let’s do it.” We put the all-call out, sent out the eNews. [If you don’t have the eNews, you totally missed out this week. Sign up for the eNews.] 

We were trying to get word out, “Hey, we’re going to gather tonight at 7:30.” We did that on Monday night and more than 20 people showed up. We prayed, we worshiped, we confessed sin, we interceded for each other. It got to about 10:00 and there was still so much energy in the room. I mean, it was loud. The only way we could stop at that point was if we said, “Okay, we’ll try to get together again tomorrow, if we’ll stop now. That way we can sleep and come back.”

So the next morning we got together, “Hey, let’s do it tonight.” We put the all-call out, came together on Tuesday night and the same thing happened. It went past 10:00. I thought, “Okay, I think we can maybe try to do this again tomorrow night.” So we put the all-call out Wednesday. Well, Wednesday night it was like, “No brainer—we’re coming back on Thursday night.” 

We spent hours every single night this week as a church family with God leading us in a way that nobody had planned. We were like, “Okay, let’s sing this song at the start.” Then we sang the same song at the start every night. There wasn’t really a lot of planning to it; more like, “Let’s just do what we did last night.” 

Then after that first song, for a few hours, it was just the Spirit of God leading us to pray in all kinds of ways. People came to know Christ. We prayed for people to come to know Christ on one night who came to Christ on another night. People were praying for each other, confessing sin, idolatry of money, idolatry of possessions, idolatry of work, overwork, sexual immorality, adultery, addiction. 

There was one night, I think it was early on Monday, when we were confessing sin and the last brother to share just broke down. He confessed his addiction to drinking in front of everybody who was there. Mike was there with him and invited anybody who has been an addict to come and pray over him. Then a group of people from all across the room came and prayed over him.

Then I thought, “There are others in this room who are probably struggling with addiction at least.” So I said, “Is there anybody else who’s addicted in some way and you’d like this group to pray around you like that?” People started coming down to the front from all across the room. We gathered around all of them, praying for freedom from sin and no condemnation in Christ. 

Then there was another night when somebody was sharing about depression and suicidal thoughts. I just stopped and said, “I’m guessing there are people in this room who are struggling with that. If you’d be so bold as to say, ‘Yeah, I struggle with depression or suicidal thoughts,’ I want to invite you to stand, then we’re going to gather around and pray for you.” People stood up all across the room. saying, “That’s me.” I know of at least one person who was about to take their life, but somebody came rushing home to them and they came together that night. We prayed for healing over them. I know of at least one person who God used this week to save their life. 

Then at different points our teenagers and young adults spoke what I can only describe as Spirit-prompted speech. They were boldly speaking over their peers about everything from obsession with what others think about you, to anxiety and depression. They spoke such truth. I was standing here with the microphone, just stunned. This is all based on the Word of God and was coming from the Spirit through these teenagers, not just to their peers, but to our whole church family. I was thinking, “We all needed that one.”

It was one after another after another. Young adults the next night, we saw God bring healing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, relationally. Marriages that are hurting. Thursday night we saw a host of people of all ages on their knees and on their faces in front, just prayerfully saying, “I think the Lord may be calling me to go to the unreached with the gospel. I want to do whatever he wants me to do.” Again, all of this was in a way nobody planned or could have planned. We just came together to seek God and God, by His Spirit apparently, is near to those who are seeking Him. 

Let me tell you a story. On Wednesday night, we’re praying for marriages and a couple shared their testimony. After 30-plus years of marriage, they started talking about divorce. They had never talked about that until 30-plus years in. They were confessing things in their own hearts that led to that, then they shared how God restored their marriage. So we were praying for marriages after that, but I also knew there was another story in the room of somebody who works with our Re-engage marriage ministry who had led somebody in that ministry to Jesus on Tuesday night. So I said, “Hey, Glenn, I want you and your wife Sharon to come up here and share that story.” I thought, we’ll pray for marriage again, then we’ll kind of move on to something else.

But Glenn started sharing that a week before he had sent out a text to a group of people. The text had a variety of things in it, but specifically the first question he asked was, “Do you have a personal. intimate relationship with God through Jesus?” Someone texted him back and said, “No, I don’t.” So they met on Tuesday and this guy came to faith in Jesus. 

As Glenn was sharing this on Wednesday, I thought, “We need to ask that question right now to everybody in this room. ‘Do you have a personal, intimate relationship with God through Jesus?’” This was during our 9:45 prayer gathering and I thought, “Why would I ask that here? Why else would you be here?” Then I started thinking, “Where does it say in the Bible that everyone who goes to prayer gatherings at 9:45 at night shall be saved.’ It’s not in there.” So I just said, “Okay, this is not something I was planning on doing, but I just want to ask that question in this room, right now. Do you have a personal, intimate relationship with God through Jesus? If not, I invite you to come down here to the front. I know that’s bold, but God is seeking you. I just want to invite you to respond to Him.”

We paused and waited. At first nobody moved. Then all of a sudden, a guy over on this side of the room stood up and literally jogged down to the front. His grandmother, who’s been praying for him, was on the other side of the room. So she comes down. Then another person started coming and another and another. Before long, this area in the front was filled with people who were either saying they had never begun a personal relationship with God through Jesus, or that was something they did a long time ago and a lot’s happened since then, so they were far from God. People just started coming down. Everybody’s cheering them on as they did. We prayed over them.

Then the story gets better, because the next night, I heard about Victoria. Victoria is 21 and in our young adult ministry. I didn’t know all the details until she was up here sharing that on Tuesday night there was a 92-year-old woman who  was baptized this last Sunday. We asked, “How many of you have parents who don’t know Jesus that you’re praying for? Don’t give up. Don’t lose heart praying for them.”  So we asked people to stand if they had parents are on their hearts who don’t know Jesus. People were standing, tears in their eyes, praying for their parents. They stood, we gathered around and prayed for those parents with them. So then Victoria stood on Tuesday night and prayed for her mom. 

Well, on Wednesday night, Glenn was sharing about this question he asked and Victoria said she had invited her mom to come on Wednesday night. There were a variety of challenges, so she ended up coming in late, but Victoria knew she had come. Victoria said, “I was sitting there and prayed while this guy was sharing. I prayed that you would give an invitation for people to come to Jesus. And specifically I prayed that you would invite people to come down to the front.” Now, I wasn’t planning on doing that until that moment. So I gave that invitation, people were coming down to the front and you’ll never guess who came down to the front. Victoria’s mom, who we prayed for on Tuesday night.

We don’t plan this. We don’t orchestrate this. God alone can do this. God is doing in our midst that which can only be explained by His hand and only be attributed to His glory. I want to see more of that! Don’t you want to see more of Him and His hand at work in ways that can only be attributed to His glory? 

So Thursday morning we were asking, “What do we do? How often do we keep meeting like this?” Do we keep meeting Friday and over the weekend?” That’s when we were reminded that, unlike Asbury or a college campus that is designed for academic training, we’re different. We’re a church, meaning we’re built for this. We’re designed to gather every single week to do this. Not to go through religious motions and check off a box and then move on with our lives. No! We’re designed to meet with God every week, to seek God and follow the leadership of His Spirit in our midst. This is who we are. This is what we exist to do.

We can call special gatherings like this any time. We should be sensitive to gather like this, not just in large groups. It doesn’t have to be big. It could be in homes, church groups, smaller settings, friends who get together. Let me show you a picture from our Loudoun campus on Wednesday night. We’re gathered here on the Tyson campus with lots of people. Fifty people were gathered in the Taylor  home. They had invited high school students and adults, including their parents, just to come, worship and pray in their home on Wednesday. They had 50 people in their home. The students were meeting downstairs; the parents and adults were upstairs. At one point the students gathered in the basement were singing so loudly that the adults who were upstairs praying together couldn’t hear what each other was saying. So the adults decided to start singing whatever songs the students were singing. Is that not awesome? The songs of students combining with the songs of their parents and adults are rising in praise to God. They came from all kinds of nations and generations. There were families in that home from South Korea, Uganda, Haiti, India, from baby boomers down to a two-month-old. They said it felt like a glimpse of heaven. 

So here’s the deal: we’re not going to stop doing this in homes, in small groups, throughout the week, all together on special occasions. We’re going to do this every single Sunday. It is time to shift our expectation for what happens when we come together with the people of God, seeking the glory of God. We are here because we want more of God. We want to seek Him. We want to see more and more and more of Him. We want His Spirit to move among us.

Let’s come back to our passage in Exodus 14, which just so happened to be in our church’s Bible reading plan on Friday morning. After all that took place this past week, God ordained for us to read this chapter at the end of this week. Based on the Word of God to us, I want to share two things.

We’re not going back.

God is moving among us, leading us to a new place as a church, over recent years and recent days. You don’t see God move in these ways and then go back to normal. You have a new normal. That doesn’t mean you don’t look back with respect and even awe for what God has done in the past. 

I was so encouraged this week when somebody sent me a message from a distant family member of Allan Gardner, who was pastor of MBC decades ago. This distant family member of Allan—who is now with the Lord—was just cheering us on as a church. We praise God for what He has done, by His grace, in His power, for almost 62 years in this church. 

At the same time, He’s not leading us backward; He’s leading us forward. This week is not the end of something; this is the beginning of something. Notice in Exodus 14 that God is leading His people into a new land, even as He gives them explicit instructions to remember His grace and power in the past. Then what happens around verses 10-12? They start to get nervous and afraid. They start saying, “We want to go back where we were, because we’re not sure where this is leading. We’re afraid of what’s happening.” Moses says—remember this?—“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Just be quiet and follow Him. See Him. 

Brothers and sisters, when God calls you forward, you don’t go backward. Let’s take that principle and bring it into this picture, in this moment. There is a constant temptation for each of us, including me, to settle for a safe, easy, comfortable Christianity that consists of casually going through motions on Sunday morning, then moving on with our lives however we want to live them. That is not biblical Christianity and it’s not what we were made for. We were made for so much more. We were made to gather every week, and 

Can I just mention this is not to be online. I am thankful for an online broadcast that makes it possible for people who are physically unable to be here, those who are traveling, to stay connected to what God is doing in our midst. But you don’t experience what we are experiencing in our gatherings by watching a screen. This is not a show to watch. This is a body to be with in worship. 

I think about Sean Kim, whose body has been deteriorating from cancer and all kinds of challenges. He tried to come Monday night, but he fainted.  His wife and daughter still came. Tuesday night he had to get through some bloodwork, then stopped by but he only made it inside far enough to lay down in the medical area we have back there. So we prayed over him then and there.

I want you to know, this brother, who has been weakening in his body, has still been going out to our Loudoun location. He’s laid down on a couch outside the gathering, just because he wants to be with the people of God. Then Sean Kim went to be with the Lord late this week. He’s home and he’s healed. His testimony beckons us, “Bring your struggles. Bring your hurts. Bring your pains, be with the people of God. Seek Him.” 

This is more important than sports on Sunday. This is more important than so many other things that vie for our attention. So don’t just do this when it’s convenient. What we’re doing here is the most important thing we can do—gathering together with the people of God, meeting with God. Let’s make this a priority. Let’s put aside lesser priorities and seek God.

We made an intentional decision on Monday morning not to broadcast these gatherings each night, because we wanted to prioritize doing what the church does according to Hebrews 10:25, gathering together under the banner of the blood of Jesus Who paid the price for our sins and opened the door wide for us into heaven, so we can meet with God, seek God. We hunger in our hearts to say to God together, “We want more of You,” and to see what He does in our midst. We want to meet with God like this every Sunday. We’re not going back.

Then we want to scatter throughout the week to share life with each other, getting together around God’s Word, praying for each other, confessing sin to each other, bearing each other’s burdens and working together in the power of the Holy Spirit to spread the gospel in this city. We’re not going back to anything less than this. 

We’re not holding back.

Think about these Israelites in Exodus 14. When you see waters part, you’ve got two options. You can sit on the shore, pull out your camera and think, “This is pretty awesome.” You watch it, You post it. Or, you can stand up and walk into a place that used to be a sea and now it’s dry land. You can walk through it. You don’t have to be a passive observer. You can walk through walls of water on both sides of you. 

I’ve watched men, women and students step into that this week, saying, “We don’t want to hold back.” Here’s how I’d summarize it. From one biblical conviction, let’s be clear. This Word is our guide in everything we do. We don’t want to do anything that’s not directed by God’s Word. We want to hold fast to this Word. But not with just cold intellectual belief. Not thinking, “Hey, the goal is just to get more information for our minds.” Yes, biblical conviction leads to humble confession of sin in our lives. We’re not just going to gather and go through motions, holding on to the same sin we came in here with. We can do that if we’re not careful; I would say we usually do that. 

Where the Spirit is truly moving, there’s brokenness over sin. God has been doing this all week and we can’t stop. There’s more work to be done in all of our hearts. So let’s be real. Let’s be honest. Let’s not hold back from humble confession of sin in our lives—to God and to each other. 

I had just told everybody here to confess their sins to each other that they may be healed. That’s what James 5:16 commands: “Confess your sins to one another”—tell others about your sin—“and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” 

As I said that, I was  convicted of a specific, ugly sin in my life. God said, “David, you need to confess that to somebody else.” I thought, “I don’t want to share that with anybody else.” But I knew I needed to. So I pulled Mike aside and said, “Bro, I need you to pray for me.” I shared with him and felt so ashamed afterwards, yet so free when he finished praying for me. 

God’s Word is true. We can’t, not one of us, hold back from honest, humble confession, or from faithful intercession for each other. There are so many hurts, so many struggles, in this gathering right now. So let’s not hold back from praying for each other. When I invited people to stand who were struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, it took boldness and courage to stand and say that, then to be prayed for. We need that. Let’s stop pretending like everything is perfect and we don’t need each other. We’re designed to pray for each other, to carry each other.

If you’re so prideful that you think you don’t need others, at least open your eyes to the fact that maybe somebody else needs you. Let’s intercede for each other with faith in God’s power to heal, God’s power to sustain physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, to restore marriages, to redeem broken relationships, to save spouses and parents and prodigal kids. Let’s pray, full of faith in our God. I’ve just seen faith rising, in my own heart and in the hearts of so many people  who are actually believing God is listening and answering according to what we ask. 

So let’s not hold back from faithful intercession, and fruitful obedience. This is one of the things I love about what God’s doing. These gatherings have been marked in such sweet ways by the fruit of God’s Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. One person who came to faith this past week said, “I walked into the room and could sense the love of God in this place.” May that be the aroma of our church family, when we gather and when we scatter. You’ll be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit so you’ll be a what? A witness to His love in the world. 

This leads to the next thing—urgent mission. People have been sharing the gospel this week with boldness, coming out of these gatherings. May a mark of the move of God’s Spirit be boldness in the church and openness among the lost. Don’t we want both those things in our city? Don’t we want to pray that God would soften hearts all across this city? So people are open to hear and we’re bold to share, then people are coming to Jesus. We want that in our city. We want that among the nations. Do not hold back from urgent mission. 

We also want spiritual worship. I use this phrase intentionally. One, in the sense that when we gather for worship, we want our worship to be led by the Holy Spirit in ways you just can’t plan or program. I pray today, “God, please, lead by Your Spirit in a way only You can lead.” We want to be prepared. 

  1. Campbell Morgan said, “We cannot organize revival, but we can set our sails to catch the wind from heaven when God chooses to blow upon His people once again.” So set the sails and pray for the wind. Let’s set the sails with spiritual worship. 

Then I also use this phrase because it’s language straight from Romans 12:1. We wholly offer our bodies as a sacrifice on the altar before God. We don’t want to hold anything back from all of our lives in worship to Him. We want to do that as a church family. We want to do all these things together as a family. 

One of my favorite moments actually happened last Sunday here. On Thursday night we were praying together in different languages, for different countries we’re from. It went on and on and on. I think we covered the whole U.N. in just this room. It was so amazing. I was reminded in a beautiful way that we are a family of brothers and sisters who have very different bloodlines. At the same time, we all share the one bloodline that matters most. The blood of Jesus Who died for our sins makes us a family. We all have the same Father; we all love Him! This is what brings us together. We love Him. We love running to Him. We’re like kids before our heavenly Father Who’s greater than anyone or anything else in the world put together.

So we’re going to pursue Him with all our hearts. I want to invite you to join in. As I mentioned already, everyone gathered is about to divide into two groups: observers and participants. Some of you are going to watch other people seek God and you’re going to miss out. I want to invite you to participate. Seek God. Don’t miss out.

This week, I’ve seen a church family that said, “We’re going in the same way God’s people did in Exodus 14.” Can you imagine that scene? Stepping into what was a sea just a minute ago but is now a dry highway. You see a wall of water on your left. I’d touch it. Or maybe stay as far away from it as possible, keeping my distance, staying right in the middle, I don’t know what I’d do. But a wall of water on the left, on the right, an angel in a cloud leading us. This is amazing!

Then we see this angel in the cloud come behind and light up the night, keeping the Egyptians from touching one of us. God, our leader. God, our defender. At the same time, we walk through and see God do what only He can do. When we get to the other side, are we not asking, “What just happened?” That was awesome. What we’ve seen can only be explained by the hand of God, can only be attributed to the glory of God. Yes, yes and yes, let’s have more of that. 

So we’re going to seek Him right now. It’s what we’re here to do. Much like last week, I want you to have freedom during this time, under the leadership of the pastors in our church, to sing in worship in ways that are pleasing to God. To pray, as God puts it on your heart; to stop singing and start praying. By yourself or pray with others around you. With somebody else, a group of others, where you’re standing, with your hands in the air, seated, on your knees, on your face before God. You have freedom there in your seat, in the aisles, down here at the front. Maybe quietly praying or maybe crying out to God. Just seek Him as He’s leading you to seek Him. Confess sin to God. Confess sin to somebody else. You want to be healed? Confess sin and ask them to pray over you. Maybe God will lead you to pray for things in your life or things in another’s life. Maybe He will lead you to pray with others, for somebody else. Ask somebody to pray for you about something. 

Don’t just be an observer. Participate in whatever way God is leading you to participate. Pray for courage to share the gospel with people who don’t know Jesus. Maybe some of you are facing some decisions in your life. Just pray, “God, help me do whatever You’re calling me to do.” Praise God for Who He is. Thank God for what He’s done in your life.

Then some of you who don’t have an intimate relationship with God through Jesus yet, in this moment, right now, His Spirit is speaking to your heart, inviting you to come to Him. Don’t hold back. Why would you not come to God? Come to His waters? Why would you keep drinking from the waters of this world that will not satisfy you, when you have been offered a well that will never run dry? Jesus has died on a cross for your sin. He’s risen from the dead so you can have life forever with Him. Don’t hold back from that. Don’t just watch others seeking God. Seek God. Let’s all do this. Let’s pray. 

God, we praise you for the privilege made possible for us right now by the blood of Jesus to come into Your throne room, a window of heaven opened wide for all of us through Jesus. So we pray, lead us by Your Spirit. Convict us of sin, we pray. Open our eyes to sin. Lead us to confession, to humility before You and before others. Lead people to salvation through You. Lead people to strength and courage in You, hope in You, help from You in all kinds of ways.

God, I just pray that in these moments, Your Spirit would have free rein in our hearts. Lead us according to your Word, by Your Spirit, to seek You with all our hearts and to find You, to drink from Your waters now. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. 

What does this passage mean?

Read Exodus 14 aloud as a group.

1) What do you notice about God, and about the people who don’t know God in Exodus 14:1–9?

2) What do you notice about God’s people when they took their eyes off of God and turned them to the people and things of the world that pursued them in Exodus 14:10–14? What does Moses tell them?

3) What does God mean by telling Moses to move God’s people forward (Exod. 14:15)?

4) What can you conclude about God, Moses, God’s people, and the Egyptians from Exodus 14:16–31?

How can we apply this passage to our lives?

During this sermon, our pastor shared much about the movement of our church this past week during prayer gatherings. We heard about people giving their lives to Jesus and coming to resurrected life. People confessing sins and being prayed over by fellow sinners. People professing thoughts of taking their own lives and coming to the foot of the cross for life, peace, and salvation. Our pastor shared how he personally confessed sin to a fellow pastor who faithfully prayed for him. We continue to realize that there is not a person in our Church
Groups who doesn’t need to seek God personally and collectively. Church Group Leaders, again, please offer your group an opportunity to process Sunday’s sermon together. Consider the following:

1) In what ways can you pray to move forward as a disciple of Jesus and not to go back?

  • For salvation.
  • Through confession of sin.
  • In submission to His ways.
  • For help for ourselves and others.
  • In praise and thanksgiving.

2) Describe the specific things that you personally need to do so you don’t hold back in specific areas of:

  • Biblical Conviction
  • Humble Confession
  • Faithful Intercession
  • Fruitful Obedience
  • Urgent Mission
  • Spiritual Worship
  • Church Family

3) Take some extended time for unrushed prayer as a Church Group. Seek Him corporately. You might work through the acronym PRAY as a Church Group.

  • Praise. Don’t hold back from praising our King. Allow time for your group members to share Scriptures and one-sentence prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving to God (Psalm 96:1, Psalm 100:4, Psalm 138:1).
  • Repent. Don’t hold back from confessing sin today. Confess that we want God’s ways to be our ways, and God’s thoughts to be our thoughts. Allow time for your group to share Scripture passages and one-sentence prayers of confession (James 5:16, 1 John 1:9).
  • Ask. Don’t hold back from boldly coming before the Father to ask for what we need. Allow time for your group to share Scripture passages and one-sentence prayers of intercession for others and prayers asking our good Father for His help (1 John 5:15).
  • Yield. Don’t hold back from boldly yielding our lives and actions to God. Allow time for your group to share Scripture and one-sentence prayers as we yield to God’s reign in our lives (John 14:15).

Exodus 14:1-31 ESV

1  Then the Lord said to Moses,  2  “Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea.  For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’  4  And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so. 5  When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?”  6  So he made ready his chariot and took his army with him,  7  and took six hundred chosen chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them.  8  And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the people of Israel while the people of Israel were going out defiantly.  9  The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and
chariots and his horsemen and his army, and overtook them encamped at the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon. 10  When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord.  11  They said
to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt?  12  Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”  13  And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14
The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” 15  The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.  16  Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground.  17  And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen.  18  And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.” 19  Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them,  20  coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night. 21  Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.  22  And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.  23  The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.  24  And in the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, 25  clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.” 26  Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.”  27  So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea.  28  The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained.  29  But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 30  Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.  31  Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.

1) We’re not going back because God is leading us forward.

2) We’re not holding back because God is leading us by and through:

  • Biblical Conviction
  • Humble Confession
  • Faithful Intercession
  • Fruitful Obedience
  • Urgent Mission
  • Spiritual Worship
  • Church Family

3) Seek the Lord:

  • For salvation.
  • Through confession of sin.
  • In submission to His ways.
  • For help for ourselves and others.
  • In praise and thanksgiving.
  • Alone or with someone else or with a small group.
  • Sitting, standing, kneeling, lying prostrate, lifting hands, etc.
  • At your seat, at the front, or somewhere else.
  • Silently or aloud.
  • Praying or singing.

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical.

David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Don’t Hold Back, Radical, Follow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, as well as the multiple volumes of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series.

Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

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