Text: Joshua 24:14-18 March 17, 2013.
1) It is only a game: Recently there is a commercial for an online game based on Greek mythological gods, heroes and quests. The ad prescribes steps to get the game started: you go online to register, choose your god then follow the strategy to build your empire. Wow! ¡°Choose your god.¡± What a privilege we have to choose our favorite god. The game rules may sound casual in the ad, but it makes me feel dangerous and scary. To choose a god in a game may be insignificant, but in real life, choosing a god is very serious that might have lasting consequences.
2) It was not a game: To a generation of Israelis about to settled in a new land surrounded by all kinds of gods of the locals, Joshua declared that they must make up their mind to choose their god, not in a cavalier way. He set a good example for the Israelis to follow by saying, ¡°Choose for yourself this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your father served on the other side of the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.¡± Joshua continued to say, ¡°But as to me and my family, we will serve the Lord.¡± (Joshua 24:15)
HISTORY BETWEEN MAN AND GOD:
1) Man owes God his existence: ¡°Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils and the man became a living soul.¡± (Genesis 2:7) Man owes his being a living soul to God¡¯s breath of life for his being and living. Without that breath of life from God, he won¡¯t be a living soul but a pile of dust. Without that most important part, God, in his life, he is never complete, including those who claim to be atheists, people who reject the existence and power of God in their life.
2) Man craves to reach God: This is why man everywhere ever since history began seek to get back to God in their own way. When the premier of former Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev (1958-1964) was asked at the UN how was he sure there is no God, after searching for the best answer in silence, he exploded, ¡°God knows I don¡¯t believe there is a God.¡± Why would he ascribe God as the highest authority to validate his atheistic belief if he didn¡¯t have the idea there is a God to witness his mind? Man¡¯s soul is empty and void without God filling that spiritual vacuum. The fact that religion in many shapes and forms exist throughout history verifies the deep need of God in the souls of men.
3) Man made gods of their own: No one may know all the shapes and forms of god men tried to make in history. From the most primitive of natural environment to mythological figures to images crafted by man¡¯s hands, men tried to make something to represent the object of their devotion. Religious systems and practices are set or formed to dictate man¡¯s behavior to please their gods hoping forgiveness of their sins and deliverance of their souls. Man-made religious beliefs have become the most powerful divisions of man in history.
4) Relationship with God changes: Except the few most devoted, most people have a mixed relationship with their gods. Usually they prefer a more distant relationship with god in peaceful and easy times when things are under control and life runs its course without problems. They will clinch much closer to gods when life changes to the worse. Dedication and loyalty to gods varies depends on life condition. God has become emergency rescuer instead of the center of their life and being. Man has taken total control on how faraway or how close by they want their gods in their everyday life.
GETTING TO KNOW THE ALMIGHTY GOD:
1) He is the sole creator of all: ¡°In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.¡± (Genesis 1:1) Most gods in human history were created beings: From Greek mythological figures to natural items to deities of man-made images. Only the Almighty God of Christian faith is the sole creator of all things, from the universe to all things in heavens and the earth. Many of the gods of religions had the beginning, but out God is eternal with no beginning and no end. He is all-powerful to create everything in the universe including human beings. He is the sole sustainer of the universe and life.
2) He is the origin of love: Almost all the gods in many religions are fearful looking figures who punish the evil of man. Most believers of religions have to obey many religious laws and practices to try to please their gods in hope of less punishment or gaining favor. No god in all other religions has died to redeem their faithful from eternal damnation. There is no redemption of sin in religions except in our loving God who, in incarnation, was born and died to forgive the sins of men. Most religious gods are fearful looking and mean in spirit, always wait to pick on human faults and exercise punishment. But our God is full of love and mercy. ¡°Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord and he will have mercy on him, and to our God for He will freely pardon.¡± (Isaiah 55:7) The most famous verse in the Bible says: ¡°For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten, so who-ever believed in Him shall not perish but will have everlasting life.¡± (John 3:16)
3) He calls men to come to Him: In all religions, gods are far away. Elusive and unpredictable. Men need to fulfill many prescribed rules and practices to bribe their gods in hope of pleasing them. But our God is seeking man to come to him, in fact, He became a man, lived among men, died for men to save their souls. In the Old Testament, God expressed His desire to be the God of His people and He wanted to be their God. (Lev 26:12) God in Jesus proclaimed, ¡°Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.¡± (Matt 11:28) By the grace of God and our faith in his Son Jesus, we may ¡°approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.¡± (Hebrews 4:16)
4) He is the only way to salvation: ¡°But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.¡± (Eph. 2:13) Some of the religious founders did leave some good moral teachings like Confucius of China and Buddha of India, but none, I mean no one, had died to shed his blood as ransom for the sins of man. Man may learn to do good, but no amount of good may pay for the price of his sins. There is only one way man may get his soul cleansed and that way is through his faith in the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So, Christian faith is not a religion, but the only way to redemption.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT GOD: (Joshua 24:14-18)
1) Parting words of encouragement: ¡°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.¡± (24:14) As the leader of the Israelis in the conquering of the Promised Land and close to the end of his life, Joshua gave his final words to encourage the people to be truly faithful in serving the Lord. The fear of infidelity in their faith had been his most concern throughout the years. Now they had won the battles, occupied the land as God had promised. It was time to show their faithfulness to their God. How sad it could be if this people did not follow the words of their leader. It always bring grief to the heart of God and that of his faithful servants to see people of God forget God who had blessed their life through the years then turn away from being faithful in serving Him.
2) Giving the freedom of choice: ¡°But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourself this day whom you will serve.¡± (24:15)Choosing to serve God must not be a matter of pressure or force, or it won¡¯t be genuine and pure. Although God loves to see his people being faithful in their heart to serve him, but God never presses or forces anyone into serving him. God wants to see our love to him, service and reverence to him come from our willing heart. We all serve someone in our life time, both human and deity. God demands complete loyalty and faithfulness from us if we choose to be his children. God wants to see our single-mindedness in loving and serving him because he is a holy God. (24:19)
3) Taking the lead as an example: ¡°But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.¡± (24:15b) Being the leader of God¡¯s people, it is both his mandate and honor for Joshua to set good example for his people whom he and his family chose to serve. In this statement, we see the firm commitment in his faith and that of his whole family to serve God. Making a personal commitment to serve God is never easy. Making that same commitment on behalf of his family is much harder. How nice to see that the man of his house is able to make a commitment both for himself and his family in being faithful to serve God.
4) Counting the blessings of God: ¡°Then the people answered: Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord because he is our God.¡± (24:16-18)One of the reasons the people of Israel decided to follow the footsteps of Joshua to serve God was because they realized how much the Lord had blessed them in the past. How sad it is to see some Christians turned away from God who has blessed them so much in so many ways in the past but they did not remember or care to serve him. These people are despicable in their spiritual integrity and they don¡¯t deserve God¡¯s grace.
1) Continue to be faithful: With many objects available in the world competing to draw our loyalty and commitment, people of God need to be very careful not to be enticed to abandon our faith in our God. We need to remember God has done so much for us and he deserves our utmost faithfulness and service.
1) Choose your God today: With all the religions and philosophy floating around everywhere, you need to choose the only God who truly serves your commitment and service. Particularly it is very important to believe Jesus because he is the only Savior who can forgive your sins and save your soul. Do not wait for another day because salvation is an opportunity from your ears to your soul. Choose the right God to serve today.