by Anita Wansley
Joshua 24: 15
November 9, 2008
A couple weeks ago we were having a bad day. I emailed a friend and said, these are not my children. They are rude, aggressive, unkind, lazy, and they can’t be mine. I did not raise them to be like this… when are their parents coming to pick them up… they are ungrateful, unwilling to help… I sacrifice for them and this is the appreciation… one battle after another… they cannot be mine!
The next day I was listening to the radio and going through in my mind what being a mentor to Katie in the new believer’s class will mean and what points I wanted to stress to her. I thought about what God has been laying on my heart about being in Christ means we change and turn from our old ways. It hit me!
How many times must God look down at me and say… she can’t be mine… she is rude and ungrateful… she is not being kind… I didn’t raise her like this. I sacrificed my own son for her. I didn’t redeem her, care for her, give her a new identity to act like this! Oh my, how humbling. Thank goodness I can’t give my children up, and thank goodness God doesn’t give me up. I am just like my children. I don’t act like my Heavenly Father. I don’t live out what He has done for me. I am not showing whose I am so that others will want to be in the same family.
This is Missions Sunday in the broader Mennonite church. We have heard from Gerri what sharing God’s mission has meant for her. She chose to follow her Heavenly Father’s call to give up her time and go share His love. As a church we are carrying God’s mission by putting on this fall festival next Saturday for our neighborhood and friends. We are choosing to give of our time, money, and energy and show others Christ’s love. We are followers of Christ, and I believe we demonstrate a desire for sharing God’s mission.
But I wonder how many times God looks at us and shakes his head. I wonder how many times God looks at us and says, “Oh, my children, are you ever going to fully follow me? Are you ever going to really know whose you are? I sent my son to die for you and you still haven’t really given me your heart. I need you to carry my mission, but you haven’t really decided you want to live it out. People are watching you and are learning about Me… Come follow me for real!”
It was brought up in our Sunday school class last Sunday that there was a survey done and reported on Klove that this country is about 70 percent Christian. Those who are not believers were surveyed as to why they were not Christians. The number one answer: other Christians. If we are to carry out God’s mission in this world and proclaim the amazing good news of Jesus to a hungry people, then we must choose who we are going to serve and change our ways. We must claim the identity and power that is in Christ and live this out in every aspect of our lives.
These were the things that I believe God was laying on my heart, and then I looked at the resource guide for this missions Sunday. Joshua 24:15 was the focus verse. Yeah, God is trying to tell us something!
Let’s look at this chapter:
The book of Joshua gives vivid examples of God’s people obeying Him and Him providing. It also gives examples of God’s people doing it their own way and experiencing God’s wrath. Chapter 24 is the last chapter of this book and in my Bible is labeled as Joshua’s farewell speech.
24:1-13. Joshua is telling the people what the Lord wants to remind them about… all the times from Abraham to their present time that He provided for them, brought them out of hard situations.
24:14-24. Joshua then gives them this challenge. Let’s look at these verses and find meaning for us:
Vs. 14 Fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Serve him with ALL faithfulness, no 50% here.
Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped.
We have to change. We have to humble ourselves and throw away that which keeps us from being faithful and serving our Lord! I am going to come back to this…
15 Joshua says, “If serving the Lord seems undesirable for you, then choose this day whom you will serve!”
Wow! Make a choice. Serving the Lord is not about 20% or half our lives, or just on Sundays, or just with our offerings, or just with the committees that are easy. We have to make a choice. If what God is doing in our lives is uncomfortable, if serving Him and giving up everything for His kingdom is too much, if loving our neighbors like ourselves is not fun, if giving up of ourselves for Christ’s calling is too complicated… then choose! Make a choice as to who you are going to serve.
Joshua chose… He states, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Maybe we answer this challenge like the children of Israel.
Verse 16. They say, “Far be it for us to forsake the Lord to serve other Gods.” He did provide and protect us. What are you saying, Joshua, that we have to choose? We have chosen! Maybe you are saying to me this morning, “Good grief, Anita, what are you talking about? I’m here this morning. I have chosen.”
Well, Joshua goes on to say to the people, (verse 19) “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God and a jealous God. If you forsake God and continue to serve foreign idols then God will bring disaster to you.”
Okay, these are the people who saw the walls of Jericho fall by marching around the walls and making a shout. They saw God work in mighty ways and yet they wanted to hold on to other gods. Maybe it was just in case. Maybe it was because they always had them. Maybe it was the way they were brought up. I wonder if they thought that they were alright hanging on to these gods. Maybe they didn’t put them on display…they were hidden. They weren’t a big deal, were they?? Joshua challenges them. The people say again that they will serve the Lord.
Verse 23. Then Joshua says again to throw away the gods that are among them and yield their hearts to the Lord
It is time to choose this day who you will serve and part of that is to throw away the gods in your life that keep you from God.
This is where in spiritual conversations Chris will look at me and say, “Okay, Anita, but give me some examples. You are talking up there (as he waves his hands) and I need some tangibles.”
Here it is:
Choose this day whom you will serve and throw away the idols that keep us from serving the one true God. In the dictionary the definition of god includes these definitions:
1. An object or person controlling a particular aspect or part of reality
2. a person or thing of supreme value
3. a powerful ruler
What things are controlling a particular aspect or part of your reality and are keeping you from choosing to serve God? What thing is becoming of supreme value to you? What thing, belief, or attitude is taking power over you?
Well, the scripture today tells us to throw away these gods that are keeping us from choosing 100% to serve God, our maker. Our God is a jealous God. He doesn’t want to share his influence or power with anything else. I was telling John Opel last Sunday about this next part of my sermon and he told me to say it and if I had to to step on his toes. So here it goes… you all put on your steel-toed boots!
Throw away the idol of self reliance
God provides for our needs and furthermore provides a community of believers to belong to in order to experience his love. A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12 Feeling like we can make it on our own is a lie that Satan likes to tell us. It has no place in serving God.
Throw away the idol of money
Joel referred to this last week. We are to store up our treasures in heaven. Money will not bring us security. It will control us. Worry about it, collecting it, making decisions solely because of it, having it define who we are, whether rich or poor, makes it an idol.
Throw away the idol of racisim
We are all children of God created in His image. Like the song we sometimes sing, we must start to see in every face we see the face of Jesus. It doesn’t matter how we grew up, what our opinion is, what other people say, what we think other people say, what we assume about a person. Racism and prejudice is wrong. As I was working on this sermon Friday afternoon, I was arguing with God saying that no, I really didn’t need to go here. It is all too touchy. Then I got an email from someone. It contained a link to a statement from Beth Moore.
Beth Moore, well-known Bible teacher, in her blog on Friday states, “I implore you in Jesus’ Name to have zero tolerance for prejudice whether it is regarding party-affiliation, color (whether you are Black, White, or Brown), economics or the like. Disagreement is not sin. Prejudice is. Satan has plotted events and planted attitudes that, should he be successful, will result in havoc. We must not stand for his schemes or cooperate in a single way.”
God is serious about this idol. It has to be thrown away!
Throw away the idol of apathy
It is time to show up and participate. Giving 75% is not what God requires of us. Striving to give 100% in our families, in our work, in our relationships, in our faith and church is what gives honor to God. God wants us to give our best for Him. Letting the attitude of apathy control our reality or take power in our lives gives Satan a way to fill in the gaps and start to control us.
Throw away the idol of gender role expectations
God made male and female and gave us all gifts to use as He chooses. He gave us his Son and gave us a new identity in Him. We are to see ourselves as Christ sees us. It is time to rise up to meet his calling. Women, it is time to claim our identity not just as wives, mothers, sisters, employees, daughters, but to claim our identity in Christ and exercise our gifts and calling. Men, it is time to claim your identity not just as husbands, fathers, bread winners, but to claim your identity in Christ and exercise your gifts and calling. This is not about the women in leadership issue. This is about putting an end to Satan’s hold on men and women and the bondage he creates when we believe we are stuck being anything but what God created us for.
Throw away the idol of heritage
Whether it is Mennonite, Baptist, southern, northern, urban, rural, poor, wealthy, it is time to examine the role our heritage has become in our lives. Does it make you feel superior, does it build walls between you and others, does it keep people out of your life, does it give you an excuse not to change? If so then it has become more important than your identity in Christ. It has become an idol and it is time to throw its stronghold away.
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
2 Corinthians 5:17
I am not saying we cannot appreciate our roots, our life experience, but when it begins to be the supreme value out of which we live or it starts to control our reality, it is an idol.
The list could go on… Throw away the god of sports, food, popularity, committee work, to-do lists, family ties. Okay, my toes are hurting enough. Whatever is becoming supreme in your life, having power in your life that is not coming from the power of Christ… throw it away!
Joshua told the children of Israel to choose for themselves whom they will serve. He also claimed as for him and his household, he was going to serve the Lord. Oh, what a powerful statement for us to make today. On this mission Sunday, can you say it? What would it look like for you to throw away your gods, those gods that are controlling your reality and taking power in your life, and choose to serve God 100%? What would it look like for you to stand in the power of Jesus Christ and claim that all other ground is sinking sand, all other gods are sinking sand? What would it look like to your family? What would it look like to your co-workers? What would it look like to the person you meet on the street?
Let us choose to serve a God who sent his son to die for us. Let us choose to serve a God who raised him on the third day. Let us choose to serve a God who lavishly gives his love and grace to us. Let us choose to serve a jealous God who wants all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Let us choose to serve a God that is calling us to go out in this world and carry out our mission!
Choose this day whom we will serve!