2010-01-03 As For Me and My House

Mike Montgomery: It's good to be here and good to say happy new year to each and every one of you. It's good to be back, appreciate the opportunity to be away. In talking with many of you, there are two questions that you ask about our trip. Number one, how did we find the family, and doing really well, thank you, and secondly, did you see any snow? And I'll tell you, no, except on the way back, and it was so odd that we would be coming through Atlanta about 5:30 or 6:00 on last Wednesday and the temperature was 41 or 42 degrees and we got so excited, the snow flurries that were drifting our way on the highway. And I think Jenny first spotted them, and then we were all kind of, yes, it's snowing, look! And the closer we came to the truck in front of us, the snow flurries, those downy white flakes, became thicker and larger and as soon as we passed the chicken truck it all stopped. [laughter] Mike: But anyway, for a while it got our attention, and we thought it was snowing, but kind of fooled us. But it's good to be home, and good to see each and every one of you. And this morning as I begin I'll say that in history there are men and women who are known for their famous sayings or statements, so I'll read a few and you respond. Give me liberty or... All: Give me death. Mike: Right. One small step for man, one... All: Giant leap for mankind. Mike: We have nothing to fear but... All: Fear itself. Mike: And, in transition, we come to God's word. In the last chapter of Joshua, the 24th chapter, we have, I think, one of the greatest sayings or statements of the Bible. Finish it for me: Choose you this day whom you will serve, but... Mike and all: As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Mike: Turn, if you would, to the last chapter of Joshua, the 24th chapter. We realize as we do so that Joshua was over 100 years old. Bible records that he died at the age of 110, and this is near the end of Joshua's life. And parting words are pretty important, these words that he spoke to the children of Israel as they were about to enter the promised land. More importantly, these aren't empty words or words of a great historical figure, these are the words of God through his servant Joshua. "Choose you this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Three points I wish to make this morning: number one, we need to serve the Lord wholeheartedly. Serve the Lord wholeheartedly. We think about the Shema, Deuteronomy six verse four tells us that there's one god and we are to love him supremely with all our heart, with all our soul and strength, the idea with our entire being. What is it that Joshua says in verse 14 from the 24th chapter? Now, fear the Lord, honor, revere the Lord, and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped beyond the river and in Egypt and serve the Lord. But, Joshua says, 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 now living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped, Joshua tells the children of Israel. And I may pause to ask, are there gods with the little g or are there idols in our lives that we need to put away? Is there anything that might be keeping me, that might be keeping you from loving God with our whole being, loving God wholeheartedly, with wholehearted loyalty or allegiance? When I thought about this word, idolatry or gods with the little g o d s, I think about what the Apostle Paul says in Colossians three and I've already turned there, just listen as I read. Paul says that we are to put to death, mortify I think is a word in one translation, pretty strong language, put to death or put away or throw away, we can say, whatever belongs to your earthly nature. He lists sexual amorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and covetedness or greed, and he says, which is idolatry. So we understand that an idol or idolatry, anything that we want in place of God, the things of God. It's a new year and we often talk about out with the old and in with the new, and that's how it must be with the believer. And that's the point that Paul is making in Colossians, the third chapter: out with the old, in with the new. Paul says, you used to walk in these ways, your life before Christ, but Paul says now you're a new creation. You're being renewed in the image of your creator, Paul says. He says get rid of some things, anger, malace, slander, filthy language, do not lie. And a similar passage is found in Ephesians the fifth chapter, where Paul very strongly says you can be sure of this: no immoral, no impure, no greedy person has any inheritance in the kingdom of God. Don't be partners with such people, Paul says. It may be fine for the world to be characterized in such a way, but it's not to characterize the believer in Christ. Well, Joshua says make a choice. Either serve the gods your forefathers served or serve the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living, or serve the one true living god exclusively. Serve the Lord wholeheartedly. Throw away the foreign gods that are among you, we read in this passage, and yield your hearts to God. Yield your hearts to the Lord. Serve the Lord wholeheartedly. You know, I'm reminded of Elijah, maybe you are, too, in first Kings, the 18th chapter where Elijah says, how long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him, but if Baal is God, follow him. And I'd say, it's not both/or, but it's... let me get this right, it's not both/and, but it's either/or. One or the other. There was a musical many are familiar with, Oklahoma. What does Aunt Eller say? With me, it's all or nothing. It's all or nothing with me. It can't be inbetween, it can't be now and then, no half and half romance will do. So we understand that God demands exclusive, covenant love and obedience from his people. He demands. Does he force us? No. We choose. And I think about what's said in the faith chapter of Moses, Moses making a choice to endure hardship with Israel rather to enjoy the fleeting or the temporary pleasures of sin for a short season. So it's the pleasure of the present or the promise of the future. And in that 11th chapter, faith chapter, it said of Moses he was looking ahead to his reward, looking with eyes of faith, having a vision that we find in second Corinthians 4:18, fixing our eyes not on that which is seen but on the unseen, not on that only which is temporal, but on that which is eternal. When I visited, Donna, your mother on Friday, I told Sister Ruby that we have a wonderful hope. And she replied, yes, and we must hold onto it. And I think of parting words in the Bible, Joshua's choose you this day, as well we think of Moses's parting words, choose life, love the Lord, your God, wholeheartedly, listen to his voice, and the hold onto it, or hold fast to him. Secondly we are told, serve the Lord in faithfulness. That's Joshua's words. Now, fear the Lord, meaning to revere or honor the Lord, and serve him with all faithfulness. Serve him in sincerity and in truth. By the way, that's how we're to love one another, how we're to love fellow believers in our fellow man. Love must be sincere, Paul says, Romans 12. Apostle John says, dear children, let us love with actions and let us love in truth. We are to serve in all faithfulness, or in sincerity. And often when we read in the Bible about loving or serving sincerely, it means with integrity. And the English word "sincere" comes from two Latin words that mean "without wax". That's kind of interesting, "without... Mike Montgomery: Often when we read in the Bible about loving or serving sincerely, it means with integrity. And the English word sincere comes from two Latin words that mean without wax. That's kind of interesting, without wax. It was a word that was used to refer to dealers of pottery who sold first class pottery that didn't have the cracks that were patched with wax. When the patch pottery was held up to the light, the wax patch was easy to spot. And so it is with people who live insincere lives. When they're held up to the light, and the light certainly of God's word, their hypocrisy shows. So we're to serve the lord with all faithfulness and sincerity and in truth. We're to be in practice what we are positionally in Christ, which is what Paul is telling the believers to do in that Collatians third passage. And I would say our love and our service to the Lord is not to be based upon our feelings, which so often change. You know if we're honest, sometimes we might say, "I just don't feel like serving God or serving others at this particular moment." But God doesn't change. God is faithful in all that he does. He's true and we must be true to God. In this Joshua 24th passage chapter, in verse 25 we read that Joshua made a covenant for the people. And there at Checkham, he drew up for them decrees and laws. He recorded these things in the Book of the Law. And then he took a large stone and set it there under the oak near the holy place of the Lord. In verse 27, "See" he said to all the people, "this stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the Lord has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to God." I think that Israel was now sincere, and three times we read here that the children of Israel say, "We will serve the Lord." But it's interesting in verse 19 that after the people respond, "We will serve the Lord because he is our God, " Joshua says, "No. You're not able to serve the Lord." What does Joshua mean? What was Joshua's point? What's he trying to say? Don't be cavalier or cautious or too casual in your attitude. Don't be over confident perhaps. He wanted the people to really understand the commitment that they were making. But I think as we read in verse 24 that the people for the third time respond, "We will serve the Lord our God and obey him, " that they were sincere. Or we read in verse 31 that Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua, and throughout the lifetime of the elders who outlived him, and who had experienced everything that the Lord had done. The Book of Joshua ends with the burial of faithful men, including Joshua who had died at the age of 110. But a generation later, things changed. We read just a few pages over in God's word in the second chapter, that after the death of Joshua, after that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up who neither knew the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals, forsaking the Lord, the God of their fathers. The end of Joshua ends with the faithfulness. The burial of faithful individuals. The end of Judges, ends with the words: "Everyone did as they saw fit in their own eyes." Serve the Lord in faithfulness. Be true to the Lord. It's kind of what I think Paul is telling Timothy in saying: "Be an example to the believers in speech and life and love and faith and purity." And Paul continued to be diligent in these matters. "Give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress." "Watch your life and your doctrine closely. Persevere in them because if you do you will save both yourself and your heroes." Paul tells that to Timothy, and I say, "Wow!" We talk about tenses of salvation. That we are saved and that we shall be saved when our savior appears. But there is the sense as well that we are being saved as believers. As we're being changed, as we're being transformed more and more into the image of Christ. We know that salvation is wholly of God. But as Paul said to Timothy, "We can be God's instruments." And that's pretty humbling, that God can use us. Not Just Timothy, but he can use each and every one of us to bring others to a saving faith in Jesus. The third point this morning: serve the Lord wholeheartedly. Serve the Lord with all faithfulness and sincerity and truth. And serve the Lord in the strength that he provides. Again, Joshua issues the choice. The people say we will serve the Lord. And he says, "No, you can't. You're not able. God is a holy God. He's a jealous God." Joshua is trying to make a point I think. Don't be too overconfident. And in this chapter, in the previous verses, Joshua caused the people to gather to confirm their covenant relationship with their God. And part of this chapter then is recalling God's mighty acts on their behalf. How God had been at work to deliver and to bring about deliverance or salvation. We read words like I took, I gave, referring to God. I sent, I bought, I destroyed, I drove them out. In the 12th verse he says, "You did not do it with your own sword and bow." Joshua wants commitment. And I think he wants to understand that they need to serve the Lord in the strength that God provides. When Paul says, "Put the death whatever belongs to your earthly nature, " it's a command. And the context of caution is three in light of having been crucified with Christ, having been raised with Christ, Paul said, "You died with Christ and your life is now hidden with Christ and God." The believers identity with Jesus, as beautifully portrayed in baptism, dying to self and rising to serve in newness of life. It's a command. But it's a command that tells us it's not an impossibility. We have the assurance it can be done with God's help. We have the enablement of God's spirit, the spirit of Christ in the life of the believer. We need to serve, not at our own strength, but in the strength, the power, the enablement that God and his son Jesus provides. If we turn to the 8th chapter of Romans, we'd see how do we put to death the sin nature that Paul talks about. The answer in Romans eight is by the spirit. By being led or by living according to the spirit of God and the spirit of Christ. Jesus says, "Apart from me you can" what? Do nothing. It's interesting for me. I'm always finding parts of God's word that I hadn't read before or for a long time. I found a passage in Romans where Paul says, "I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God." And Paul went on to say, "I won't speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me." As we come to a close this morning before we enter into a time of communion, I will say again that Joshua's closing, parting words are not just the words of a great man, a great figure in history, they're the words of God. The words of God through Joshua to the children of Israel and to God's people throughout all generations. They're words of great importance. They are words to be heeded. "Choose you this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." And as I close I want to say that choices have consequences. Our choices affects us for the rest of our lives. And to choose the way of God, to choose the Lord, to accept God's son as our savior, is a decision that affects not only our present life, but our future destiny. When we look at the opening psalm, we find these two ways. We read: "The Lord watches over the way of the righteous. But the way of the wicked will perish." Speaking to everlasting destruction, death, second death in the lake of fire. We understand how important choices are. Joshua is resolute. Resolution, a word that we use this time of year. "I've made my choice, " Joshua is saying. "I choose the way of God, the way of righteousness." And when we make a choice or a decision to follow Christ, the most important one time decision we ever make, but we also make a day to day, moment by moment choice as well. I have chosen, I presently choose and I will continue to choose to serve the Lord wholeheartedly, with all faithfulness, and in the strength and power and enablement that the Lord provides. "Choose you for yourself this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."