CHOOSING TO SERVE THE LORD Joshua 24:14-15 I want to talk to you this morning about what kind of spiritual influence you want to have on others. I‟ll be talking directly to the men but what I have to say affects all of us. The first thing I want to say is that God loves you—more than you‟ll ever know in this lifetime! If you only learn one thing from me, I hope it‟s that! The 2nd thing I want to say is that God is a perfect Father. When my children fail I sometimes get angry in a way that’s not fair to them. But God is perfect at everything, including being a Father. When we fail Him, He loves us perfectly; which means that even when He confronts us with a truth that smarts or even hurts, we can still trust Him because we can have complete confidence that it‟s for our own good. I needed to say those 2 things 1st because when we dads read scriptures like this morning‟s that shine light on what kind of spiritual influence we have in our families, we need to trust God and embrace His truth even if it makes us uncomfortable at 1st. Because no matter what kind of influence we may have been in the past, we can still make a more positive difference in the days ahead if we‟ll let God‟s words into our hearts. And the words we‟re about to read are ones that were spoken by Joshua to the men of his generation. As we join him we find him wrapping up what could be the best pep talk he‟s ever given. His „team‟ is about to break huddle and go out and do what they‟re promising to do. Only problem is that thus far they have been guilty of overstating and underachieving. They‟ve shown an inclination to do half the job. If we read the book of Joshua we‟d see that they‟ve loved the LORD they‟re God with half their hearts, half their souls, and half their minds. Here‟s Joshua… *** Josh 24:14- Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. ***  But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. We are shocked to learn that Joshua had to command the Israelites to “throw away their gods” here at the end of his career as a leader. We‟re shocked because it‟s hard to imagine the Israelites would still be worshiping idols after witnessing and/or experiencing all the incredible miracles and deliverances God worked in their generation alone. Should I name them? 1) The 10 plagues on Egypt, 2) the parting of the Red Sea, 3) the daily food from heaven, 4) the water from the rock, 5) the crossing of the Jordan on dry ground, and 6) the battle of Jericho… These were all incredible, undeniable miracles, and anyone who was still alive now who had been alive and under the age of 20 before Moses led Israel out of Egypt would have witnessed all of these miracles and victories. And yet here is Joshua telling this same generation to throw away their idols and choose to serve the LORD! (Before you tune me out because you don‟t keep carved statues in your possession that you pray to, or rub the belly of, for good luck, let me run by you what real idolatry is.) There is ever in the human heart a craving for visible, physical ways to express spiritual realities and ideas, and the Bible shows that this tendency does not go away when someone accepts the Lord. It is true that idolatry originally meant: the worship of idols and of false gods by means of idols, but idolatry in the OT also includes any worship of false gods, whether by images or not, as well as the worship of the true and living God but through visible symbols. But even that‟s not all. Ultimately idolatry came to mean not only the giving to any creature or human creation the honor or devotion that belonged to God alone, but also the giving to any human desire priority over God. *** Col 3:5- Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. How are these sinful desires idolatry? Let me define greed and you tell me. Greed is the arrogant and ruthless assumption that all other persons and things exist for one’s own benefit. Work that definition backwards into the rest of the verse and you will see how every one of those desires is idolatrous, not just greed. And that‟s why OT and NT believers alike are constantly warned to guard against it. The apostle Paul wrote:*** 1 Cor 10:14- Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. Because we can turn anything—even good things—into idols. We can make an idol out of another person, in our minds. Our children’s athletic abilities. Our children’s success. Our own beauty or our own cute figure or our own attractiveness. Our net worth. Our intellectual superiority compared to others. Our wonderful home with its opposing view of the Cascades. Our status at work. Our manly strength. Our good looks. Our unique skill at work. Our boat, our car, our yearly vacation to wherever. Many of these are perfectly acceptable things to enjoy but our depraved hearts are prone to use them instead of the person of God to shield us from the harsher realities of life. Which brings us to addiction. If we’re addicted to something then it is an idol to us. Alcohol can become a god. Certain expressions of sexuality are easily turned into idols. Money can be our god—Jesus said as much in Mt 6. I could go on but I think you get the point. Just because we don‟t have „little statues‟ on the mantels of our living rooms does not mean we don‟t gravitate twd idolatry. And if we want to have a positive influence on others then we must consider several things: the pull that we feel; the pull that they feel; and the LORD Himself, who gives us His Spirit. In the end, it comes down to a choice, just as it did with Joshua, and our world is as idolatrous as his was—maybe more so. If you‟re ready to choose to be a better influence on others—a godlier role model; a more positive example—then here are 3 steps for you to take. And the 1st one is… you. I. *** IT STARTS WITH YOU. It always starts with you. A. NOTICE WHAT JOSHUA SAID: He did not say, “As for MY HOUSE and me,” which sounds better, grammatically. No, he said, “As for me and my house,” which Microsoft Word puts that little green highlight beneath to suggest that Joshua‟s grammar was incorrect. But Joshua said it this way on purpose; the order is significant. He mentions himself 1st because he knows you can‟t take responsibility for your family if you won‟t 1st take responsibility for yourself. He wasn’t looking over at his wife when he said it, as if she were signing him up for Men’s Roundup or Promise Keepers. He recognized that as a man with tremendous responsibility as a leader of a family and of a nation he could not expect anyone else to serve the LORD as long as he were not willing to. He knew it started with him. The choice was his to make to begin with. B. That makes sense, doesn’t it? That rings true. At prayer meeting we pray, “Lord send revival—start with me.” When we‟re spiritually mature we stop pointing the finger of blame at everyone else around us and we begin with us, even if there is plenty of blame to go around for everyone. I don‟t care what anyone else says or does; I‟m doing the right thing. I‟m going the right way—God‟s way. The good news, men, is that most women I know of the Christian persuasion would give anything to have a husband who loves and serves the Lord. Not all; but most. But the choice must be yours; the choice ultimately is yours. I. *** IT STARTS WITH YOU. That‟s the 1st step. Then, 2ndly II. *** IT CONTINUES WITH YOUR FAMILY. A. IF YOU’RE A DAD, YOU’RE NOT ALONE IN THIS WORLD. Just because it starts with you doesn‟t mean it ends with you. You have people in your life—people who love you and who depend on you. If you and your wife are both Christians then that‟s wonderful, but it doesn‟t mean you should hand over your responsibilities for the family‟s spiritual development to her, and go watch TV, or work late every day without making it up to the family somehow. Serving the Lord starts with you but it continues with your family because God wants your children to respect Him and the first step twd that is that they respect you. If they don‟t respect you they will struggle to respect Him. So you must make every effort to gain their respect for you and then teach them to respect the LORD… using words and everything. B. IN V. 15, JOSHUA SAID, “AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSEHOLD, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD.” He knew they would likely follow his example. He knew that as long as he was faithful to the LORD, his family was likely to be faithful to the LORD. But he also knew from having led a nation made up of thousands of families that it didn‟t always happen that way. Many times, yes, unfaithful people come from unfaithful homes. But Joshua had seen that in some cases people who didn‟t fear the LORD also came from families that did fear the LORD. Somehow they rebelled or went astray. They never did fear the LORD like their parents did. It‟s hard to explain why. It‟s hard work raising godly kids. But I know families in which parents who feared the LORD did wonders with all of their kids, except for one. It happens. Hard to say what went wrong. Remember the Book of Proverbs is filled with guiding principles, not absolute promises. We‟re seeing that on Sunday nights. “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Pr 22:6) is a guiding principle, not a guarantee that if you do everything right your child will never do wrong or go astray. It means that if do what you‟re supposed to, the child will have those spiritual truths ringing in his/her ears for his/her entire life. They might end up behind bars or in the poorhouse but they will always know their own foolish choices put them there, not your failures as a parent. By the way; one more thing: when Joshua says, “Fear the LORD,” in v. 14 we should not misconstrue his words. Some people prefer, “Revere the Lord,” instead of, “Fear the Lord,” because they believe that fear ought not be part of the believer‟s relationship with God. I agree to a point but we must not overlook the fact that fear can either be destructive or saving. If we fear God because we‟re properly afraid of His judgment, then that‟s when God‟s mercy, grace and love can loom large and comfort us, allowing us to trust Him so that we do not need to fear His judgment! Choosing to serve the LORD… I. *** IT STARTS WITH YOU. II. *** IT CONTINUES WITH YOUR FAMILY. But what do we arrive at? III. *** IT ENDS WITH TOTAL LOYALTY TO THE LORD. A. JOSHUA SAID, “AS FOR ME and MY HOUSE WE WILL SERVE THE LORD.” Not the gods they left behind in Egypt, like Ra, not the gods their ancestors worshipped back in Mesopotamia, like Bel and Tammuz, and not the gods they‟d already become acquainted with since arriving in Canaan, particularly Baal. You see that one in particular, Baal worship, held a special appeal to the Israelites. It was the fertility cult of the Amorites, with its many corrupt and immoral practices that Joshua specifically mentioned. Why? Because after so many year of wandering in the wilderness they were now settling into an agricultural life. How would their crops fare? How could they trust there would be rain and not drought? And the reason Baal worship was attractive to the newly arrived, inexperienced Israelite farmers was that Baal worship had its origin in the belief that every tract of ground owed its productivity to a supernatural being, or „a baal‟, that dwelt there. The native farmers thought that from these Baalim (which is plural)—these fertility gods who presided over various regions—came the increase of crops, fruit and cattle. The worship of Baal involved kissing the image itself and some lascivious practices, including the sacrifice of children in the fire by parents, Jer.19:5. That was bad enough. But Baal was usually associated with a fertility goddess named Astoreth. That meant that in the vicinity of his altar there was usually an Asherah, a wooden pole or mast that stood Amorite worship groves. Often it was the trunk of a tree that had its branches chopped off; other times it was erected like a totem pole. Either way, it functioned like a red light in the red light district because Astoreth was the sex goddess. And I‟ll just say it, there were shrine prostitutes nearby whose duty it was to receive the worshippers offerings. Needless to say, Baal worship involved sexual practices that were forbidden according to the Law of Moses. Baal worship of that day amounted to giving free reign to one‟s carnal sexual desires through activities outside the bounds of marriage. But Joshua called on the men of Israel to shun these and other gods and idols with all their demonic subterfuge and give their undivided loyalty to the LORD, with singleness of heart. And although Joshua said, “Choose for yourselves,” he did not by any means dare them to try idolatry. He was so confident that the very thought of making a commitment to an idol would be so abhorrent to them that they‟d take a stand against that kind of worship. B. AND IF WE WANT TO HAVE THE KIND OF INFLUENCE ON OTHERS THAT JOSHUA DETERMINED TO HAVE, THEN WE MUST CHOOSE LIKEWISE. We‟re not just saying, “Yes” to the Lord Jesus Christ. We‟re also saying, “No” to all the substitutes and imposters that vie for our allegiance. CONCLUSION: None of these steps is easy. Looking in the mirror can be frightening. Taking responsibility for others can feel impossible. And remaining absolutely loyal to the Lord with everything around you pulling you away is not without difficulty. But God sent His Son to cleanse us and claim us, and His Spirit to indwell us and influence us. Have we let them do it?
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