Sorry for the long time off. Blame Holidays and Ice storms…
The great theologian John Mellencamp once said.
“You gotta stand right up for something, or your gonna fall for anything.”
In an antireligious anthem the group Rush sings:
“If you choose not to decide…You still have made a choice”
And before that one of our countries greatest poets, Bob Dylan once said, “It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna serve somebody.”
Pastor, why do you keep quoting all of these singers from the radio; last week Stevie Wonder, now John Mellecamp, Rush, and Bob Dylan?
OK, here is a quote from the Bible:
Paul tells us in
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Jesus Tells us
John 8:32 “…you will know the truth and the truth will set you free”
If it is true is it is God’s truth there is not grey area.
Well here is the truth –
You’re gonna choose something or something will choose you.
If you choose not to choose then the choice you have made is to let someone else chose. – Thank You Geddy Lee
You are going to serve somebody.
Who will it be?
When we think about the people of God (Yahweh) you might begin thinking of organized religion with the Exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt. These people had come to Egypt to find food during a famine. Warned by God in a dream, one of their own named Joseph found a way for the land of Egypt to be prepared for the famine. Because of changes in the royal family and the insecurity of the people of Egypt, over the next 200 years the Jewish people move from guests of the Pharaoh to slaves.
Today we have a tendency to think of this as the time when the Jewish people chose God. But if we go back and read about those days we see that this is pretty far from the truth. Instead what the people chose was to follow a man who followed God and he insisted that they follow God. They found religion.
For the years that followed walking through the desert the people of Israel (a people, not a place) walked behind a man and proved again and again that they had little faith in the man or in his God.
Exodus 14: We could have died in Egypt. Why did you bring us out here to be killed by Egyptians?
Exodus 16: We could have died in Egypt. Why did you bring us out here to be starved? The Egyptians fed us.
Exodus 17: We could have died in Egypt. Why did you bring us out here to die? The Egyptians watered us.
Exodus 32: We could have died in Egypt. We can’t find this fella Moses. Aaron, make us a really cool golden god. The Egyptians had really cool god’s at their parties. We need one.
Again and again Moses appeals to the people and appeals to God to forgive them. But the faith of these people is in the man Joseph, the man Moses, the man Aaron, and the superstition of the magic done when these men perform the incantations and ceremonies that they believe bring miracles of food, water, and comfort.
Don’t get me wrong; there are obviously those who believe and who know God. But the people as a whole believe in religion.
During the time of Moses there came 2 men who are an example of one who seems to have something deeper. They seemed to think that no matter who was with them or against them they would be the winner.
17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees on it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.”
26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”
30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
1 That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! 3 Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
5 Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. 6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”
10 But the whole assembly talked about stoning them.
When we think of the exodus of Israel from Egypt and the settling of the land of Cannon by God’s people we always think of Moses. But the fact is that it was the faith of Joshua and Caleb that said standup and move forward because we serve a mighty God.
The reaction of the people: “stone them”
It was Joshua who led the escaped people of Egypt in to the promised land of Israel.
In the Book of Numbers they are standing at the edge of the land they have been promised by God. But to cross over into it they must walk into a land of large powerful people (descendants of Anak were giant) who have everything they do not: food, horses, weapons, roofs over their heads. They were going to stand up and take this land that God had promised them. Moses was not going to wave his magic wand and make it happen. Religion was no longer the answer.
You see your religion will only take you so far. The people of Israel had been taken as far as their religion and there religious leaders could take them.
At some point someone had to stand up and say:
“…the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid”
That is called faith. Not religion.
When you are backed up against a wall and all else had failed you the thing you follow is the thing you have faith in.
What you follow then is what or who you have chosen to serve.
If you choose to return to your Egypt you are returning to follow the Egyptians.
Even if you choose to sit down and not move you are following your fear and your human instinct. You are following you.
If you choose to follow science you are still relying on a faith system. According to Professor Andrew Watson from the University of East Anglia the chances of human existence is %0.01. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7351428.stm) If the planet earth wasn’t in the perfect spot, if it didn’t have just the right amount of water, if it didn’t have the right combination of elements, the right amount of gravity, etc. etc. etc. ; We would not exist. The chance that all of that came together based on the laws of nature alone and created man are infinitesimal.
This is not to say it could not happen. This not to say that science is wrong. This is not to say the evolution does not occur. The Bible doesn’t cover the how of God’s creation. It is to say that even science requires faith. You believe that a planet called Saturn exists, that it has pretty rings, and moons that circle around it. But you have not seen it. The people of Israel had heard the voice of God, yet they still followed the religion of their stomachs.
You will have faith in something. You will follow someone. You will choose.
Faith shows us Joshua and Caleb, men who have reached their limit with a people who have spent 40 years in the desert because they wanted a guarantee of safety and a belly full of food. This people who had been spared by God, blessed by God, and saved again and again; still insisted on standing the same place they had always been (EVEN AT THE COST OF SLAVERY).
“If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! 3 Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
NO, Joshua and Caleb cry out
“The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”
But we choose again and again to stay on this side of the promised land.
Joshua had been a warrior for God He had led his people and had conquered the peoples and the land that God had given over to him. At the end of the book of Joshua he is about to die. But he wants to be sure these people understand the ledge they stand on. They have been given this land and the freewill to govern it. But they must daily make a choice.
Joshua 24:14-24 (The Message)
14 “So now: Fear God. Worship him in total commitment. Get rid of the gods your ancestors worshiped on the far side of The River (the Euphrates) and in Egypt. You, worship God.
15 “If you decide that it’s a bad thing to worship God, then choose a god you’d rather serve—and do it today. Choose one of the gods your ancestors worshiped from the country beyond The River, or one of the gods of the Amorites, on whose land you’re now living. As for me and my family, we’ll worship God.”
16 The people answered, “We’d never forsake God! Never! We’d never leave God to worship other gods.
17-18 “God is our God! He brought up our ancestors from Egypt and from slave conditions. He did all those great signs while we watched. He has kept his eye on us all along the roads we’ve traveled and among the nations we’ve passed through. Just for us he drove out all the nations, Amorites and all, who lived in the land.
“Count us in: We too are going to worship God. He’s our God.”
19-20 Then Joshua told the people: “You can’t do it; you’re not able to worship God. He is a holy God. He is a jealous God. He won’t put up with your fooling around and sinning. When you leave God and take up the worship of foreign gods, he’ll turn right around and come down on you hard. He’ll put an end to you—and after all the good he has done for you!”
21 But the people told Joshua: “No! No! We worship God!”
22 And so Joshua addressed the people: “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen God for yourselves—to worship him.”
And they said, “We are witnesses.”
23 Joshua said, “Now get rid of all the foreign gods you have with you. Say an unqualified Yes to God, the God of Israel.”
24 The people answered Joshua, “We will worship God. What he says, we’ll do.”
Joshua has said again, You are going to serve somebody.
Who will it be?
On the basis of remembering their story, Joshua calls these people to cross the line of faith, reject other gods, and give themselves without reservation to Yahweh.
Or decide that they want to go another way.
Notice I did not say choose The Crossing or Choose Pastor Todd.
Joshua did not say chose me. No, he was about to die. He said, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve”
We have a story like these people. It’s a story that we rehearse every time we gather for worship. A story of what God has done out of His great love for us. It’s a story that’s beautifully summarized in our confession of faith that we sometimes recite together, the Apostles’ Creed. But there is a sense in which you can believe everything in the creed and still go to hell. It’s more than agreeing in your mind that there is a God or even that Jesus really did die and rise again. What is called for here is a commitment of your heart, mind, soul, and body. What is called for here is a definite response to what God has already done for you.
To Quote Mr. Miyagi from the Movie the Karate Kid, “Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later” [makes squish gesture]
Choose this day who you will serve.
As Moses stood with his people and was watching them leave him for the land the Lord had promised them he had these words. I pray the same for you.
17 “Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared: 18 ‘The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.
Choose this day who you will serve….
As for me and my house we will serve the Lord