Lift Him Up!

Bible Book: Numbers  21 : 4-9
Subject: Missions, Soul Winning; Evangelism; Jesus, Savior

Lift Him Up!

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor,

Numbers 21:4-9 ...

"Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived."

What is 1 million miles long, reaches around the earth 40 times, and grows 30 miles longer each day? Answer: The line of people who are without Christ. (updated in 2006 personally using stats from Pulpit Helps - 1990). As you can see, this stat was true 30 years ago, imagine how long that line is right now. It is much longer, I assure you.

We live in a world that desperately needs Jesus Christ. This was brought home to me in an even more vivid and graphic way when I saw the recent report in Newsweek magazine on a study that was done of religious life in our own country. You have heard it stated, and rightly so, that 90% of all Americans say they believe in God. Almost 50% say they go to church or synagogue regularly. The most recent survey, however, blows holes in these statistics. The poll to which I am referring was done in a different way than previous samplings. First, more people were interviewed. Second, specific questions were asked. The results showed that only 19% of Americans have enough religion to get them into a place of worship each week. The study, reported in the book, One Nation Under God, reveals that Americans say they go to church and that they vote because they believe those are two good things; but, statistics just don't uphold the high figures we have accepted in the past.

Noting that America is far more irreligious than we have been told should not as a surprise. Look at our heroes today: rap stars who blatantly encourage crime and promote sexual license; female entertainers who love to take off their clothes in public, athletes who opening live promiscuous lives; cartoon characters whose names I will not even repeat, and I could go on and on.

If America is one of the most religious nations on earth, and yet has so many moral and ethical problems, what can be said of the rest of the world? In reality, our nation and our world never needed Jesus Christ more than it does right now. For a long time America, and perhaps the world, feared nuclear destruction more than any other problem. Though that fear has not totally evaporated, it is secondary now to the fear of drive-by shootings, viral infections, other crimes, street violence, and terrorism of all kinds. In all honesty the real problem for the world right now is one of personal sin and the coming accountability for it.

Today, I want us to look at a message entitled, "Lift Him Up!" Let us turn our attention to the hope of the world

I. The Simple Plan

In the Old Testament Book of Numbers we see the terrible situation that gripped the people. They had sinned greatly and judgment came upon them in the form of venomous snakes. The snakes bit the people and they were dying due to the poison. This Old Testament story made me think of the awful Covid virus that is ravaging our world at this very moment. The vaccines available do not keep one from being infected, though it may reduce the chance of dying from the virus. In our story from the Bible we note that God, in His mercy, gave Moses a plan to save the people. We need God to give us such a plan for physical healing today. Yet, you need to know that the serpent bite was more than a physical problem - it was a spiritual one and reflected the need for a cure in the souls of humanity more than just a need for physical healing.

Moses prayed for God to do something to help the dying people. God instructed Moses was to make a brass serpent and place it on a pole. Then he was to lift up the serpent and tell the people that all who looked upon it would live. It may have appeared to many as a strange idea, but in reality it was a simple, divine plan. God never makes His plans to difficult for us to understand. He loves us and offers a cure than even a 10 year old can understand.

God's plan was simple indeed, and was based on a divine grace that could save the people from death. In John's Gospel, chapter 3, verse 14, we see the meaning behind this Old Testament event. Jesus revealed that the serpent on the pole was a prefiguring of His coming death on the Cross. Jesus said ...

"As the Moses lifted up the serpent in the Wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up." Jesus also said, "And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me."

Jesus was lifted up on the cross to die for our sins, and our task now as Christians is to lift Him up through testimony and witness as the only hope this world has for salvation.

Note that this is a simple plan, but not necessarily an easy one to make known to all who need to discover it. To lift Jesus up will cost us in energy, time, and, yes, in money. Many Christians and many churches are just not carrying out God's simple plan. Why? Many have turned inward and joined the "me-ism generation" - thinking only of self and personal comfort in their churches and lives.

A story out of the life of David Livingstone can help illustrate what I am saying. A certain missionary society in South Africa heard about Livingstone's work in the deepest and most dangerous areas of Africa. They sent a message that essentially stated the following: "Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we want to send other men to join you." David Livingstone replied, "If you have men who will come ONLY if they know there is a good road, I don't want them."

Livingstone knew that those who are looking for an easy road to fulfill the missionary work of our Lord cannot possibly be useful in the tasks to which we are called. It was not easy for Jesus to climb that awful hill called Golgotha. It was not easy to wear the thorns for us. It was not easy for Him to endure the taunts of the crowd. It was not easy for Him to endure the pain of the nails in His hands and feet. It was not easy to take upon Himself the iniquity of us all. It was a simple plan to save us, but not an easy one to be carried out, and it is not easy to be a truly missionary church or missionary Christian. The plan is simple, the cost is great, but the results are worth it.

Friedrich Max Muller once wrote, "Christianity is a missionary religion, converting, advancing, aggressive, encompassing the world; a non-missionary church is in the bands of death." (Instant Quotation Dictionary_, p. 59.) He was right, and many of our churches are dying because they have ceased to be a witness to the world. Many churches turn inward and think only about their buildings, programs, history and wellbeing. That is the path to death for a church.

Many churches are suffering from missionary malnutrition. God feeds the missionary church with power, strength, opportunities and servants to carry out His mission. If we were more missionary, we would be more effective in all that we do.

Note also ...

II. The Sure Promise

The work of missions is not easy but the results are assured. God has given us a Sure Promise that if we simply obey Him He will supply the results. Yes, the results are not up to you or to me. God tells us to go and He will be with us. We never convert a person, only God can do that. However, we are to be the source of sharing His message of life and grace. He has told us, "He that goes forth bearing precious seed, shall no doubt come again rejoice, bringing his sheaves with him." The promise is sure. Indeed, I know of cases where others have gone before and sorrowed that they reaped no harvest of souls, but then along came someone else and the people turned to God in faith and were saved. One sowed the seed, another watered it, but then God kept His promise so that yet another came along and experienced the harvest.

In Numbers 23:19 we read ...

"God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?" NKJV

God will keep His Word - He will keep His promises. He promised to bless the great work of carrying the Gospel to the world. We do the "lifting up" and He does the "drawing" to Himself. He is working even when we cannot see it.

In the Bible incident before us, the Lord said that those who looked upon the serpent, upon the pole, would live. All who looked, lived! Jesus said, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all people unto me." And that He will do just what He promised. Missions is using all means possible to lift Him up before the world.

William Penn, the founder of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, was well liked by the Indians. Once they told him he could have as much of their land as he could encompass on foot in a single day. So, early the next morning he started out and walked until late that night. When he finally went to claim his land, the Indians were greatly surprised, for they really didn't think he would take them seriously. But they kept their promise and gave him a large area that today is part of the city of Philadelphia. William Penn simply believed what they said. Should we do less with God? If we will go forth to share our faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, God has promised to bring a harvest from it. It is shameful not to take God at His Word.

III. The Serious Problem

The snakes, as recorded in Numbers, had bitten many people. The problem was serious. People were dying. Today, as I stated when I began, millions are without Christ and without eternal life. The need is growing more intense every year. And, the problem is no longer one that is distinctively far away in the lands that we know little about. The world has arrived at our doorstep right here in the shadows of the great city of Atlanta.

Let me give you an example shared by former Baptist leader, Dr. Edwin Cliburn. He tells how Nelson Price, former pastor of the Roswell Street Baptist Church in Cobb County Georgia, wanted to place his church's television ministry into the most unchurched counties in America. Price contacted the Research Department of the North American Mission Board and asked them to give him a list of the most unchurched counties in America. To his utter astonishment, one of those counties was Cobb County Georgia, the county in which his own church was located. Not only must we support missionaries around the world, we must be missionaries right where we are. Many who promote missions everywhere do really go anywhere to share Christ with others. Sending others to witness does not dissovle us of our responsibility to share our faith right where we are.

Missions encompasses lifting Christ up wherever we are, wherever it is needed and at whatever cost required. That is what we are doing as a church right here in the Altanta metroplex and what we must continue to do with even more vigor and commitment.

During the Arab-Israeli war 1967 an American reporter was flying over the Sinai desert with an Israeli officer, and they spotted some fifty thousand stranded Egyptian soldiers who obviously were dying of thirst. When the situation was reported in the newspapers, a number of world leaders and organizations tried to do something to help. But every time a plan was suggested, some military, diplomatic, or bureaucratic obstacle prevented them from being able to carry out a plan. By the time they could get help to those stranded men, literally thousands of the soldiers had died.

It is just as sad for churches to get bogged down today in programs, committees, and personal debates while thousands around them are desperately in need of Jesus. We must lift Christ up NOW! He is the Water of Life that the thirsty souls of this earth need. It is, indeed, a serious problem.

Now, note with me...

IV. The Single Person

Moses was just one man, but he was available to God and God used him. Thousands were dying, but one man brought the grace of God to them and they were saved. One person can make a difference. One person's gift, one person's prayers, one person's involvement, and/or one person's witness can make such a tremendous difference in bringing the lost to Christ.

I think about the woman who came to the well at Sychar. She was a moral outcast and came to the well at midday, likely because the women of the city did not want to be seen with her. Usually women came to the well early in the day or late in the day, but this woman came at the odd hour of noon.

When the sinful woman got to the well, she met Jesus. You will recall that the 12 disciples had gone into Sychar for food, so Jesus was talking to the woman alone. You know that story well. He introduced her to the Water of Life and she believed on Him as the Messiah and Savior that the Scriptures had promised would come. She ran back to the city and told people everywhere about the Man who had told her everything she had done. The people came out to meet Jesus. The disciples had gotten back by this time and witnessed the great crowd coming to Jesus. The men of Sychar persuaded Jesus to stay with them and He did so for some time. Now here is my point. Twelve trained disciples went into the city and brought back nothing but food. One woman who had no theological training, but with a deep gratitude for the newness of life she had found, managed to bring the whole city out to meet Jesus. One person with passion, drive, desire and commitment can make all the difference in the world when it comes to missions. It is not how much we know as much as it is the fact that we know the Lamb of God that makes the difference. That day at Sychar one woman did what 12 trained preachers did not do. All of our training is to no avail unless we have the commitment and use it to share Jesus with others.

Also, notice that the woman who came to the well got so excited about meeting Jesus that she left her water pot at the well as she departed. Something that occupied her time and her mind was left behind because of her excitement about Christ. Without a doubt, we will never win this world to Christ unless we become so excited about and committed to Christ that we leave behind things that formerly occupied out time and attention. If we keep doing what we are doing, we are going to keep getting the results we have been getting. God is called us to a new level of commitment. We must do more, give more and pray more than ever before in order to Life Him Up.


I want to ask you to make a new commitment to Jesus and to His mission. After all, the missionary work we do is not our work, it is not our church's work, it is not denominational work, it God's work. It all starts with a new commitment to HIM!

To fail is a serious matter. Millions are dying without the Lord. Even if we do well at many other church duties and ministries, if we fail in our commitment to and work in missions, we have failed at the most important work of all.

The late Corrie ten Boom, holocaust survivor and great Christian speaker and writer, used an illustration to point out how serious it is to fail at the missionary mandate. In her book "Amazing Grace," she used the following thought. She asked, "If I came to your home and straighten the pictures on the walls, would I be committing a sin?" She implied, "Of course, no sin would be committed in that case." Then she continued, "But suppose that your house were on fire and I came in calmly and went about straightening pictures, what would you say? You think that I was either stupid or very wicked! The world today is on fire. What are you doing to extinguish the fire?" (Amazing Love, Corrie ten Boom, p. 101)

We cannot straighten pictures on the walls of our churches while the world is burning down. Let us, in this very moment, make a new personal and church commitment to take the gospel to our community and to our world. Let's LIFT HIM UP!