Jesus First

Don't let what you have been doing become the reason for your spiritual existence.

Scripture: John 3:14-15, Numbers 21:9, 2 Kings 18:4, John 3:14


Alright, thank you very much. And hello again, radio friends. How in the world are you? Yes, of course, this is your friend, Bob Cook, and I’m glad to be back with you. Feeling great, hallelujah! No complaints.


Everything outside of the lake of fire is pure grace anyway, isn’t that true? We need to rejoice and praise God even in circumstances where we might feel like grumbling because we know that we’re in his hands and that he’s guiding every step of the way.

Today, I want you to look at the third chapter of John where our Lord Jesus is saying to Nicodemus, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life.” You remember the story, this business about the brazen serpent. You see, our Lord used the experience of God’s chosen people in their wilderness journey to illustrate the truth of that much greater salvation that God is providing through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Well, what happened? The people of God were straying again and as a result, God sent serpents, snakes among them. As the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people and much people of Israel died. It would seem a very small thing, grumbling. “The people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Wherefore have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness. There’s no bread neither is there any water and our soul loathes this light bread.'” They were talking about that manna that God was sending to feed them everyday. Small thought here. When you grumble against God’s servants, you’re grumbling against God. Had you thought of it that way? [chuckle]

I’m a preacher so this sounds as though there was a little what we call enlightened self-interest [chuckle] in what I’m to say. Believe me, this is absolutely true. The Bible said don’t touch the Lord’s anointed. You and I need to be careful how we criticize other servants of our Lord. I think one of the saddest things in the last couple of years has been the promptness with which some ministers open their mouths to criticize other people who had fallen on rough times. I thought that was sad. There’s enough bad in any one of us to make us keep our mouth shut, wouldn’t you say?

But anyhow, what I wanna just to emphasize here in passing is, be careful how you grumble against God’s people because he, God that is, takes it personally. Notice, they spoke against God and against Moses. Said, ‘Wherefore have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness. We’re getting tired of this manna, we loathe this light bread.” Well, the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, they bit the people, and much people of Israel died. Therefore, the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned for we have spoken against the Lord and against thee. Pray unto the Lord that he take away the serpents from us.” And Moses prayed for the people and the Lord said to Moses, “Make thee a fiery serpent and set it upon a pole and it shall come to past that everyone that is bitten, when he looketh upon it shall live.” And Moses made a serpent of brass, put it upon a pole and it came to pass that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

Look and live. Remember that old song? Look and live, my brother live, look to Jesus now and live. It’s recorded in the book. Hallelujah. You have only just to look and live. Well, that’s what he said, and that’s what happened. Now our Lord Jesus uses that same concept. He said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so much the Son of man be lifted up that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

And so, the every essence of salvation is proclaimed there by our Lord, speaking of course of his crucifixion. “If I be lifted up shall draw all men unto me,” said our Lord later on, speaking of his manner of death, he was crucified, lifted up on a cross. And so by faith today, you and I, 2000 years nearly later when we look by faith to the Lord Jesus, we find that his eternal life is given to us in answer to our cry for help and he becomes indeed the Savior, the fulfillment of that picture experience. See, all of the things that happened in the Old Testament we’re told were foreshadowings of the ministry and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. And so, that brass snake on a pole high enough for everybody in the camp to see it, that was a foreshadowing of our Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified for us.

Well, now, there’s one other point that I wanna make here before this broadcast runs out and that is, that something which is evidently miraculous and godsent can become a snare. And I’m turning now to 2 Kings 18 where Hezekiah, at the age of 25, started his reign as King of Judah. “He did that,” it says, “which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done. He removed the high places, broke the images, cut down the groves… ” Now, look at this, this is 2 Kings 18:4, “and broke in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made, for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it, and he called it Nehushtan.” That means, it’s just a piece of brass. Nehushtan, just a piece of brass. “He trusted in the Lord God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, for he clave to the Lord and departed not from following him but kept his commandments which the Lord commanded Moses and the Lord was with him.”

“He broke in pieces the brazen serpent.” Now, you go back to Numbers and you find that that brazen serpent, that brass snake on a pole was a source of healing and of life. It says, “Came to pass if a serpent had bitten any man when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” That’s a pretty blessed experience, wouldn’t you say? A foreshadowing of the way we today look in faith to our Lord Jesus Christ, a blessed concept. Alright, now you come to 2 Kings and it says in those days, centuries, centuries after, what happened with Moses in those days, the children of Israel burned incense to it, they worshipped it, it had become an idol, it had become a religious detour, it had gotten them away from the worship of Almighty God. Hezekiah rightly identified it, he called it “Just a piece of brass.” Nehushtan.


My mother in love, Hilda Nilsen, used to look at things that might have might, that is have some value but that just were in the way and she’d say, “Get rid of that, it’s just trask.” [chuckle] Norwegian word, I guess, for trash; nearest thing I can anglicize it would be our idea of trash, just trask. [chuckle] Well, you can just hear Hezekiah saying, “Get rid of that thing, it’s Nehushtan.” [chuckle] Just trash, just a piece of brass. I wonder, is it possible that what you and I are doing religiously has become an end in itself? What the Germans called “Ding an sich,” the thing in by itself existing for itself. Churchgoing, sing in the choir, ushering, member of the board, chairman of the committee, active in various things that go on, things we do, things we experience, things that identify us. “Do you know John Doe?” “Oh, yes. He’s chairman of the trustees of the First Church of I will Arise.” We get identified by that, and by little and little, that which may only have been a symbol or a small part of our spiritual life becomes the everything.

A friend of mine said sadly after he had failed to be re-elected as chairman of a group, he said, “Well, have you been chairman? There just isn’t any place to go, I might just well quit.” [chuckle] Dear me. Brother, sister there’s always some place to move ahead with God. Don’t let what you’re doing or have been doing become the reason for your spiritual existence. It’s not what you do, it’s what you are. It’s not what you’re wearing, it’s who’s inside the clothes. It’s not the job description, it’s the person who’s involved in the job.

Long ago in some management course or other, I remember hearing the expression, “It’s not what you’re doing, it’s what you’re getting done that counts.” Well, be that as it may. Here, we’re God’s people and they had preserved this brass snake that Moses had formed in compliance with the command of God during that moment of judgment that had come upon the people, and they had preserved that through the years and now it had become an object of religious veneration, and they were actually burning incense to it and worshiping it; idolatry. Salvation had become idolatry.

Now, the only thing I’m saying today is watch out that what you’re doing religiously doesn’t get to be an end in itself. Let’s say you got a beautiful voice and often they ask you to sing the solos in a choir number and you do it well, bless your heart, you just sing like an angel, and everybody enjoys it. But now somebody else comes in that has an even better voice and so that person is asked now to sing the solo part. And what do you do? Well, you feel bad, you feel left out, you feel ignored, you feel hurt. And if you’re like a lot of people, you go away and just sort of sulk, and you don’t show up at choir practice, and you don’t sing in the choir quite so often, and you have all sorts of gilt-edged alibis. But the fact is, that what you were doing was so important that you couldn’t stand not to do it. You follow me? Alright. All we’re saying is, put Jesus first, He’s the one that counts. It’s not what you’re doing, it’s what He’s doing through you that counts.

Dear Father, today, help us to put Thee first, not what we’re doing but what God is doing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!

Thank you for supporting this ministry. While this transcription is presented to you free-of-charge, it does cost to prepare for distribution. We appreciate any financial donations to help keep Walk With The King broadcasts and materials free and available to all.

To help support this ministry's work, please click here to make a tax-deductible donation.

Thank you for listening to Walk With The King and have a blessed day.

All rights reserved, Walk With The King, Inc.