Summary: We live in an over-stimulated society. Too many things compete for our allegiance. For God’s sake and yours, make a decision: choose to love Him!
The Bottom-Line: Love Him with All your Mind
(Third in the series The Greatest Commandment)
Introduction: We live in an over-stimulated society. Too many things compete for our allegiance. Value systems have shifted; old answers are not easily accepted. The church as an institution no longer commands respect without earning it. But as Solomon wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun.” During Joshua’s final years, spiritual restlessness characterized people’s lives.
Proposition: Choosing to love is so much better than falling in love. For God’s sake, make a decision!
Joshua challenges us to put away our idols! Now, we have a TV show called American Idol, but let me show you some real idols. These were given to my mother by Art & Ruth Morris, founders of South India Church of Christ Mission. What you are looking at are Hindu pocket gods. Hindus have many gods, the sum of which makes up the absolute God.
• Need rain for your crops? Pray to the rain god.
• Need more children? Pray to the goddess of fertility.
I don’t know the purposes of these particular gods you are examining today. I’m sure each of us could make up our own stories! Be sure of this: what you are holding are items carved by people to meet their wants and desires.
Likewise, anything we work for to meet our wants and desires can become our personal pocket gods!
In Joshua 24, Joshua has been presenting the facts of the one true God. Against this backdrop of the God who acts in people’s lives, Joshua challenges us to make a choice.
Five ingredients are required to make a firm decision.
1. Quit straddling the fence
There is something convenient about being a fence-straddler.
We think we can have the best of both worlds.
But in order to make a real commitment to Jesus Christ, we have to weigh our options.
Anyone who has ever struggled with their faith will come out stronger. One of my biggest personal battles occurred during my freshman year at Johnson Bible College. During an evening chapel service, the students were in earnest prayer. I sat there, eyes wide open, looking at the ceiling. “Are you really there, God, or are these words just bouncing off the ceiling?”
Two weeks later, I could not sleep. I dressed and trudged up the hill in the frosty air to “Old Main.” I ascended the steps to the third floor and approached the attic staircase to the building’s cupola. At the top I entered the musty prayer room. How many other JBC students had been in this place, turning to God in anguish or joy? How many hours had Ashley Johnson, founder of the college, spent here?
The room was dimly lit and sparsely furnished; it contained a student desk and chair original to the college, some old framed prints depicting the life of Christ, a couple of bibles, and some notebooks containing the written prayers of many students.
I sat there in silence. I read some of the prayers written by others. I could not help but feel their sense of worship, petition, or distress. I was moved by the tear stains on so many of the pages. My own eyes started becoming moist. A lump built up in my throat. Finally, I spoke out loud. “God, you are here. Forgive me for doubting. Use me.”
I cannot tell you how much longer I was in that prayer room, but by the time I descended the steps and walked back to the dorm, I sensed the presence of an old friend. I was not alone. Returning to my room, I quietly undressed and returned to bed.
From the opposite wall, my roommate spoke. “You’ve been with God tonight, haven’t you, Tom?” he asked. “How did you know?” I replied. “I sensed it as soon as you walked in. It shows on your face,” he answered.
I responded, “Yes Dan, I’ve been with God.” With that, I turned off the light. Since that time, I have failed God; I have not trusted God; I have made wrong decisions. But I have never doubted his love, His presence, or His mercy in my life.
Some people never get off the fence. Change is tough. Repentance hurts. Fence straddling is a habit that needs to be broken. It sets us free to serve the Lord who paid the penalty for our sins.
Quit straddling the fence!
2. Don’t bend to the world’s pressure
How much money and time do people spend trying to stay with the current fashion? My dad laughed when wide bright ties came back into style in the 1970’s. “Should have kept my old ones from the 50’s, he chuckled.
Trying to stay with the current style usually is not harmful, as long as we do not compromise our religious views to fit society’s. God has revealed certain absolutes to us. When Joshua led the people into the Promised Land, they picked up some of society’s religious fashion and mingled it with God’s laws given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. The results were disastrous.