Choose You This Year
It was not only a new day for the Jews, but a new year...a new era! But the choices they make at this critical juncture will affect many others for a long time.
The people of God had not yet completed the conquest of the Promised Land, and they were restless.
Some of the people were strong in the faith.
There were others who had sold out body and soul to immorality.
And in between the two were a large group of their countrymen who had made no clear decision as to where they stood in relation to God.
To this group Joshua address his remarks urging them to move beyond indecision and restlessness, to a clear-cut decision for God.
All 3 groups still exist today. Which one are you in? How about your house? I can only speak for my house.
Why is it that right decisions are more difficult to make than wrong ones? Someone has accurately observed that the path of least resistance is what makes rivers crooked…and people. Some of the decisions that we make in life are not that earth shattering. History will see little difference in the cereal you chose to eat for breakfast, but there are choices in life that are important, even life altering. These are choices made by every human being. And we have to live with the consequences.
Joshua begins by rehearsing for them all what God had done for them. vv. 2-13
He is asking them to examine the facts and then decide. Joshua’s primary concern is crystal-clear; He wants them to know who the real God is. It is not with the might of their swords or bows that the victory has been won, but by the power of God. God had done it all. But the people nevertheless have to choose God for themselves –willingly.
This is the God who made heaven and earth. This is the God who loved man too much to leave him in his sin. This is the God who demonstrated His love by sending His only Son to earth to live among us. This is the God who knew that we could never earn our way into heaven by good works, so He went to the cross bearing our sins. This is the God whom the grave could not hold, who rose victoriously from it. This is the God who established the church and who is coming back in the form of His Son to bring all of human history to a culmination. This is the God that we are called to serve.
WE CHOOSE WHOM WE WILL SERVE
The word “serve” appears seven times in verses fourteen and fifteen. Joshua that day called for a decision that would help put an end to godless immorality that marked so many lives. Joshua demands a commitment when he says, “And now fear the Lord and serve him whole heartedly and without reservation.” Paraphrase of v. 14a
Hundreds of years later, the prophet Elijah on Mount Carmel gave a similar challenge.
1 Kings 18:21
And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.
Jesus said the same. Cold or hot! In or out. Get with it or without it.
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Joshua now presents them with four options:
1. They could follow the old gods of Mesopotamia, “the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River,” as Abraham did before his call.
2. They could worship the gods of Egypt which they are so familiar with from 400 hundred years of slavery in Egypt.
3. Or if they preferred they could adopt the gods of the Canaanites whom they had just spent seven years defeating.
4. But the real, true and living God was still an option!
Reflecting on all that God has done (vv. 1-13) that is the only reasonable response to overwhelming waves of God’s goodness. The same pattern is repeated in the New Testament, the lavish goodness of God is depicted in Romans 1-11 and then Romans 12:1 calls all men to the only rational response.
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Four ingredients of a true decision for God:
1. We Must Quit Straddling the Fence
There are far too many professing Christians today who are trying to keep one foot in the world and one foot in the church. They don’t want to make a commitment that might change their status in the world. And they don’t want to give up their sin in order to really be right with God. So they end up sitting on the fence, not really a part of the world and not really a part of the church. And they are miserable! They have enough Jesus in them that they can no longer enjoy the world, and yet still enough world in them so they can’t enjoy Jesus.
Joshua challenges us to acknowledge that it is time to make a decision. Either enter the world and live by its standards and collect its rewards, no matter how temporary, or make a decision to follow God, wholeheartedly and without reservation. One finally has to make a decision. If I do this, I do it right…all the way!
The answer for some is, “Well I want to but not now--now is not a good time.” The truth is that for some there is never a good time. They will not come to Christ when they are up because they don’t sense the need. They won’t come to Christ when they are down. They are too proud. They won’t come when they are in between because they don’t even take time then to think about it.
A decision must be made…
2. We must not make this decision lightly
Joshua was, at this point, 110 years of age. He was a soldier hardened from battle. He bore the scars of long-term commitment. His choice to follow God was not made lightly.
In his study of Joshua, Francis Schaeffer points out that when Joshua challenged the people to choose to serve God and affirmed that this was his settled choice as well, the tense that he used implied more than just a once for all time choosing, as if he could make a choice and be done with it forever. The tense involves continuous action. That is, it involves the past, but it also involves the present and the future. It is as if Joshua had said, “I have chosen to serve the Lord; I am choosing the same path of service now; and I will go on choosing to serve God until the very end.” To Joshua serving the Lord was a daily choice. [Francis Schaeffer. Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1975) p. 208]
3. We must be willing to go public with our faith.
Jesus had something to say to those who have a private confidence in Him but are unwilling to acknowledge Him in public. He said, “He that denies Me before men, him will I deny before My Father which is in heaven.” Don’t say that you believe in Christ if you are not willing to identify yourself as one of his disciples, in your home, in your business, in you social life, in fact...wherever you go!
4. We must be willing to follow through with all that we have.
There could be no mixing of allegiance to God with other gods. When Joshua led the children of Israel into the Promised Land they had picked up the local religious practices and had mingled them with those laid out in the word of God. A firm choice had to be made then, as well as every generation to follow. Men must choose between expediency and principle, between this world and eternity, between God and anything that would try to take His place.
WE INFLUENCE OTHERS WITH OUR CHOICE
Joshua ends his address with what has become known as one of the most powerful and courageous testimonies in all of Scripture. Joshua said, “… But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” This statement is the culmination of a life lived in obedience to God and His word. There were times when Joshua failed. There were times when he was discouraged, but once Joshua had committed his life to God he went all the way with it.
Joshua not only influenced his own household but also motivated many others to serve the Lord. For bad or good, our influence always extends beyond our immediate surroundings.
16 And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods; 17 For the LORD our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed:
We are challenged to go on and daily follow Christ in fearless faith just as Joshua did. It may not make us popular but it will make us powerful as the people of God.
The book of Joshua ends on a note of affirmation. The people responded.
And the people said unto Joshua, The LORD our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey.
Perhaps you need to make a decision for Christ this morning. That is the bottom-line decision in life and when you come to the end of your life it is the only one that will truly matter. I beg you not to put it off any longer. Please remember that when you are faced with a choice and you refuse to make one...that too is a choice!
I urge you to not go on straddling the middle. The apostle John described a church made up of people who were neither hot nor cold (Rev 3:15). The Lord said there “I wish you were one or the other.” But the fact that they were just lukewarm the Lord said He found nauseating.
God is looking for men and women of fearless faith, who will step up and step out to accomplish something great for God!
[based on message by John Hamby]
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