Summary: We need defining moments in which we must decide for ourselves who our god is. It may require a true friend to push us. But when such a life-decision is made, it will be rock-solid.
How well do you stand up under tough, aggressive questioning? If somebody gets in your face and will not let you go until they get the answers they want, how do you feel? What do you do?
I can tell you what I do. I look for the back door. I look for a way out. I want to avoid the questions. I don’t like it when somebody keeps on pushing and pushing their questions, trying to break me down. That gets too close to me.
I remember, back in seminary days, that I decided to drop a course. There were really two reasons to drop the course: first, I had taken on too many semester hours, trying to keep a part-time job going, and struggling to understand this thing called marriage. I felt I had taken on too much, and decided to drop a course. But the second reason: why this particular course and not some other? Well, frankly, after about two weeks of it, I knew I did not like this professor. This guy was rough, he was caustic, he was a smart-alec; he thought nothing of embarrassing students in the class. I did not like him. I dropped his course because I was not going to sit there and take that stuff any more. But, of course, to drop a course a student had to get the signature of the professor teaching it. In to his office I went, hoping he would just scribble his name and let me go, no questions asked. It was not to be. "Why are you dropping my course?" I went through the routine about too many hours, part-time job, new marriage, and so on. But was he satisfied with that? Did he let me off the hook? Not on your life! With those beady, penetrating eyes; with that air of a prosecuting attorney, he began to push. "Is there any other reason?" "Are you not comfortable in my class?" "Is there something about my teaching?"
Deacons, do you think a seminary student can be forgiven for lying to a professor? I just mumbled incoherent responses to all of his questions until I finally got that coveted signature and flew out of there. I don’t like to be pushed with questions! I don’t stand up well under tough, aggressive questioning. Do you?
But did you know that most of us are under intense scrutiny all the time? Did you know that somebody out there is watching us, testing us, every day? Oh, they may not be asking the high pressure questions, in your face, but they are watching us to see how we live; they are probing us to find out what we really believe; and they are tempting us to see if we are really any better than the next fellow who doesn’t even pretend to be a Christian. You and I are, every day, subject to the probes of a prosecuting public. How do we stand up to that aggressive questioning? How do we stand up to the probing testing of who we are?
Here is what I believe the Scripture will teach us this morning: that once we -- we, for ourselves -- decide who we are and where our loyalty is, we will have a testimony the prosecutor cannot shake. Once we, for ourselves, on our own, make a decision as to who we are, and whose we are, we will find an unshakable certainty, we will have a confidence that no assault can destroy.
What each of us needs, to get to that point, is a defining moment. Do you know that phrase, a defining moment? Each of us needs a crisis point, a moment in which we confront ourselves and find out we must make a choice. James Russell Lowell said it, "Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, in the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side." A defining moment, when we decide who we are, whose we are, and gain a testimony the prosecutors of this world cannot shake.
In the passage of Scripture I read, did you notice that Joshua sounds like a prosecuting attorney? He pushes the people of Israel pretty hard. For one thing, he insists that they make a critical choice: either they will serve the gods of their ancestors or they will serve the God of Israel. You have to make a choice. And then, even when Joshua gets the answer he wants; even when the people tell him that they will serve the Lord, Joshua keeps on pushing. "You cannot serve the Lord; the Lord is a jealous God, the Lord will turn and do you harm if you forsake Him." Push, push, push, like a prosecuting attorney.
But there is a reason for all of this. There is method in his madness. For, again, you see, we need defining moments, we need crisis moments, to make us decide who we are and whose we are. And it’s only when we, for ourselves, very clearly, make a decision, that we will get a certainty, a testimony that the prosecutor cannot shake.