Friday, November 13, 2015

Whom Do We REALLY Serve?

“...destroy the idols among you, and turn your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” ~Joshua 24:23

…”but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

~Joshua 24:15

Joshua, (Moses’ Successor) was leading the new generation of Israelite's to the Promised Land. They, and their ancestors, wandered and faltered, following their own way, following God, then back to their idols again. For 40 years they’d followed this rocky path. They’d seen the red sea parted and God free them from what could have been a lifetime of slavery. Yet they are still wandering, lost, always turning to the god’s of the culture. These gods seem “easy” to worship, easy to incorporate into daily life, and easily accessible. They don’t require that the Israelite's face God and their own sin, and that they serve God alone. The false gods of the culture don’t care if they profess to serve them but the rest of the time serve themselves. They don’t require that they are the only god worshiped. They don’t care if the heart holds many allegiances and is divided. So many times we are like the Israelite's, wandering around and around after we have accepted Christ! We have the free, abundant living water gushing from the rock, and we live as if we are parched and our hearts barren.  “And so the Lord says, "These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.” Isaiah 29:13 (NLT)

Often we are like the Israelite's. Wandering around and around with divided hearts. We serve God with zeal one day, and the next day we serve the idols of our heart. Our lips state we are a Christian, but hearts are far away, absorbed in ourselves and in the latest and greatest served to us on the culture’s shiny platter. Prejudices, anger, materialism, entertainment, distraction, these can all be ‘idols’ we serve. Do we really serve the Lord and live His way or are we all talk? The proof is in our way of life. Maybe we don’t even know what serving God with our whole hearts looks like, or how it translates from the heart into a lifestyle of surrender. In our culture, serving God while serving the gods or our society often seem to go hand in hand. It is portrayed as normal that one who serves God also looks like the society around us. Have we “banished from our presence” the idols of our ancestors to truly purify our lives for God?

“So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone.” Joshua 24:14

We have to put away forever our idols, and determine that our hearts will serve the Lord alone. We can spend forty years worshiping other gods like the Israelite's did, or make a study of God’s ways. When we take a stand for God, like Joshua did, our families will not look like the culture, and we will be not “fit in.” The cost of fitting in is worshiping false idols, and sacrificing our hearts and lives to a false way. We say with our lips that we want to live in the Promised Land, but we still live as if we are running away back to Egypt.

One of the most popular verses heard in America is “...but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) Most people take this to mean that if they just say they are a Christian that they are serving the Lord wholeheartedly. What we often don’t hear are the scriptures before this verse.  Joshua says “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Behind closed doors, in our hearts and minds, by our actions, by what we spend money on--- we are serving the culture. We are glued to tv “news”, digesting the entertainment thrown at us, running around living a lifestyle of empty busyness, glued to screens, addicted to shopping and pursuing empty dreams. We want accolades and promotions and more money and bonuses, because then culture will define us by our accomplishments. To society we will be successful. Addicted to the false joys of an entertainment focused life, to screens, and to the rush they provide us with--- we are living a lifestyle and it speaks to what we believe. Popularity and fitting into the mainstream, is the god of the heart. Our lifestyle witnesses that we can say we love God and be like everyone else.

When we live for God’s ways, worshiping Him alone, He guides us. We have to be determined to change our lifestyle, one step at a time, as God guides us, and surround ourselves with those God has taught, and be taught by them.  They will stand out because they are no longer stuck in Egypt. They are walking free as new creations in Christ.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

How often do we focus on the fact that we are now NEW? The old self before Christ is gone, the bondage, the lies the enemy made us believe, the draw of the culture should be washed far, far away from our heart. We are free to walk in step with Him, abide in Him, and live as He asks us to live! His finished work on the cross, His rising from the dead, the Holy Spirit---these are His gifts to us to live in freedom, the freedom His blood bought for us.

His freedom is TRUTH. The lies of the enemy are bondage. Are we living as if we are still the old creature but professing Christ at the same time? If so we must pray for a new understanding of the work Christ did for us and ask God to teach us to learn to rest in His truth. Our old life was crucified with Christ. When we rest in the richness of this truth, our hearts cleansed and new, we throw the old filth out of our lives and can truly say “but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Prayer: “Lord, heal my heart and renew it. Show me what to throw out of my life and how to walk in your ways, without fear of what the world thinks. Show me how to abide in you, be taught by you, and serve you alone. Reveal the idols of my heart and dethrone them so that I rest only at your feet. Amen.”

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galations 2:20

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19

“...seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Colossians 3:9-10

“Men know not the gold which lies in the mine of Christ Jesus, or surely they would dig in it night and day. They have not yet discovered the pearl of great price, or they would have sold their all to buy the field wherein it lies.” ~Charles Spurgeon

“Sanctification is the outcome and inseparable consequence of regeneration. He who is born again and made a new creature receives a new nature and a new principle and always lives a new life.” ~JC Ryle

“The true Christian is called to be a soldier and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death. He is not meant to live a life of religious ease, indolence and security. He must never imagine for a moment that he can sleep and doze along the way to heaven, like one traveling in an easy carriage.” ~JC Ryle