Summary: Choose the Lord and choose life -- Sanctity of Life sermon.
Choosing to Serve
Sanctity of Life Sunday
Rev. Brian Bill
I’ve always been fascinated by what people say right before they die. These last words are often indelibly etched on people’s minds.
Bing Crosby: “That was a great game of golf, fellas.”
Alexander Graham Bell: “No.”
P.T. Barnum: “How were the circus receipts in Madison Square Garden?”
Harry Houdini: “I’m tired of fighting! I guess this thing is going to get me.” (Houdini would often tighten his stomach muscles and invite strong men to punch him. One day he was punched before he could brace himself and his gut ruptured and he died).
Mother Theresa: “Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you.”
Michael Faraday: “I shall be with Christ, and that is enough.”
When Joshua came to the end of his life, he preached a very poignant and practical sermon. Today we’ll finish our overview study of this key book and next week we’ll take a look at the Book of Judges. Two weeks ago we learned that if we want to see God do His work in our life, we must take the first step. Last week we were challenged with this truth: The walls fall only when our will falls.
In chapter 24, Joshua assembled all the people together, along with all the leaders, and he preached to them as they “presented themselves before God.” In the first 10 verses, he summarizes the nation’s history and then in verses 11-12 he recounts what had taken place in the years since they crossed the Jordan River. Joshua’s concerns at the end of his life are the same ones he had for the people after they crossed the Jordan River. It’s obvious that he’s not focused on himself but on others. It’s a characteristic of an older godly person to be focused on the future. This is actually the fourth call to covenant renewal in the Book of Joshua, showing that we need multiple opportunities and regular challenges to make sure we are living out what we know to be true.
Joshua longs for his people to be faithful and so he lays out a challenge for them in verses 14-15: “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. But 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 living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua knows the human heart and how hard it is for us to surrender our wills to the Lord. He knows that we get complacent, we’re prone to compromise and some of us procrastinate in order to avoid commitment. Let’s look at his challenge.
1. Fear the Lord devotedly. The word “now” means in light of all that God has done, we must tremble before Him and see him as holy. Proverbs 15:33: “The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom.” Proverbs 19:23: “The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” And this is not just an Old Testament concept for Hebrews 12:29 says that “our God is a consuming fire.” A.W. Tozer once said, “What comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you.”
2. Serve the Lord exclusively. Joshua is calling his people to serve the Lord with all they have. The word “serve” in Hebrew comes from the same root as “worship.” Worship must lead to our working. Three times the people respond by saying that they will “serve the Lord” (18, 21, 24).
Here’s the rub. You’re going to serve somebody. In fact, you do serve somebody right now. It’s either self, Satan or the Savior. And by not serving God you are choosing to serve self and Satan. To not decide is to decide by default for the dark side. Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
3. Throw away idols totally. It’s amazing how many times God’s people were tripped up because they wouldn’t throw away their idols. The phrase, “throw away” literally means “to turn off.” The idea is that we throw them so far away that their power over us is extinguished. The problem for many of us is that we don’t throw them away; instead we keep them close by. In fact, we can infer from this verse that God’s people still had some idols with them. Look at verse 23: “Throw away the foreign gods that are among you…” This was a huge problem throughout their history. It’s as if they wanted a spiritual security blanket; something they could fall back on if God didn’t work out.