“WHAT’S WRONG WITH SERVING GOD?”
1. The message from God’s Word this morning is taken from a verse found in the book of Joshua. Some background on the book of Joshua is in order to establish context.
2. Moses, the servant of the LORD, has died. Joshua, the son of Nun, the long time servant of Moses, has been selected by God to replace Moses and lead the people in the conquest of the Promised Land, which the book of Joshua describes in detail.
3. In chapters 1 through 5 we find a record of the Israelite’s entrance into the land, which included the crossing of the Jordan River, the miraculous victory at Jericho, and the deliverance of Rahab and her family. It also included the terrible sin of Achan, his discovery, and his appropriate execution.
4. After a military foothold was established near Jericho, the Israelites proceeded to sweep over the entire land in a classic divide and conquer strategy that first seized the middle territory, then the south, and finally the north. Those actions and a summary of Joshua’s conquests are found in chapters 6-12.
5. After the land was seized it was then divided among the tribes and clans and families. As well, cities were set aside for the priesthood, the Levites, to inhabit. And cities of refuge were designated. There were six cities of refuge, two on each side of the Jordan River in the north, in the central region, and in the south of the land. This is all covered in Joshua chapters 13-22.
6. The book of Joshua concludes in chapters 23 and 24 with two speeches, sermons if you will, given by Joshua as many as 15 years after the events of chapter 22. Joshua is now very old, upwards of 105+ years old. In chapter 23 he delivers his farewell address to the people he has led for so many years, which includes warnings to them in connection with their incomplete obedience to the LORD, and the tragic consequences that will befall them as a result of their disobedience.
7. Then, in chapter 24, he gathers the people and speaks to them one last time. He is concerned for them. He loves them. But they are becoming lackadaisical and spiritually lethargic. They are getting spiritually lazy and are not taking important things seriously.
8. Therefore, it is against this backdrop of a people’s disobedience in the face of God’s blessings, and the man of God’s love for people who are waffling in their commitment to the God he serves, that our text is given.
9. Our text is Joshua 24.15. When you find it please stand for the reading of God’s Word:
“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
10. There are many likely parallels between the Israelite’s situation and your own, so my exposition this morning will be an exploration of those similarities.
1A. Note, First, THE “EVIL” OF SERVING THE LORD
Our text begins, “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD. . . .”
1B. What did Joshua mean by this word “evil?” Not that the people thought it was immoral to serve the LORD, because they knew beyond doubt that God is holy. Their thoughts were that serving the LORD was inconvenient, was troublesome, wasn’t good for anything.
2B. Not that the people didn’t appreciate the miracles they had seen. Remember, they had eaten manna that God placed on the ground for 40 years! Their clothes and sandals did not wear out for 40 years! They experienced great military victories along the way against superior foes. They crossed the Jordan River during flood season without getting their feet wet, because God had stopped the flow. And they had seen the walls of the impregnable city, Jericho, fall down at a shout.
3B. All of those things, and many more, made them, well, appreciative. Yes, they were thankful. But they were getting really busy with their lives, they had many things to do, many celebrations to enjoy, many family functions to look after. So, it was really inconvenient to serve the LORD.
4B. Look at the word “serve.” It refers to laboring, to being in bondage to something or someone, to rendering service, to being a worshipper. The Israelites didn’t mind doing a bit of this or a little of that. They had no objections to the LORD being their god. They just wanted some time for themselves. They didn’t want to become extremists or anything. That’s what’s meant by “evil.”
2A. Second, Note THE ELECTION ABOUT SERVING THE LORD
“choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell”
1B. What Joshua is proposing is that a choice be made, a decision be arrived at, an election be held to determine who your god is. And that’s an election that should be held every day.
2B. Notice who the candidates are in this election for the office of the god of your life. It’s the LORD, on one side; the God Who created the heavens and the earth, the God Who delivered Israel by a strong right arm from centuries of Egyptian bondage. On the other side are the gods the Israelites used to serve, and the gods of the Amorites, who they displaced to take the land God had given them.
3B. Why is it that there is the LORD standing for election to god on one side of the ballot and so many various gods, you take your pick of which one, on the other side of the ballot? Because those gods are not God, because those gods are forms and figures made with men’s hands, who can neither speak nor see nor hear. Yet men counted them as gods, so they’re placed on Joshua’s ballot.
4B. In our day the gods have different names. They are no longer called Isis and Osiris, or Baal and Ashtaroth. Today the gods are called leisure and pleasure, relaxation and fun. There are also gods whose names are money and power, career and education.
5B. Please recognize that this election that’s held does not determine who is God over all. That is obviously the LORD. But this election is to determine who you will bow down to, who you will pay allegiance to, before whom you will prostrate yourself, and who will order and schedule your time and your life. Who will you vote for? The LORD, or some . . . god?
6B. And don’t say you refuse to cast a ballot. Everyone casts a ballot, even by not casting a ballot.
3A. Note, Third, THE EMERGENCY CONCERNING SERVING THE LORD
“choose you this day whom ye will serve”
1B. What an interesting choice of words by Joshua. “This day” translates a Hebrew word that refers to heat, that relates to the daylight hours of a day, the time the sun beats down on the earth with its heat.
2B. Joshua is telling the gathered Israelites that they need to make a decision before the sun goes down. They need to cast their ballots on election day, not the day after. They need to decide right now!
3B. And so do you need to cast your ballot today. Today is election day, not tomorrow. You decide today who will be your god, not tomorrow. So, who will be your god, my friend?
4B. On Sunday, that’s today, who will you bow down to? Who will you serve? Who will you be bound to pay homage to? Will it be leisure? Will it be convenience? Will it be career or education? Or will it be the LORD? What you do this afternoon and where you end up this evening will show your vote.
5B. Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t educate. And this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t recreate. And this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue a career and work a job to support yourself and your family. But who is your god? Who is your god on Monday? Who is your god on Saturday? And who is your god on Sunday?
6B. You need to make that decision right now! Today! And if you do not decide that the LORD is God, and if you do not decide immediately, then you have cast your ballot for pleasure, or for career, or for money, or for child, or for spouse, or for self. And all of those gods are false gods.
7B. My friend, with regard to the election that is held each and every day to determine who you will own to be your god, it is always a mistake to vote against the God Who casts both body and soul into Hellfire. It’s always a serious error to pass by the One Who sprinkled the stars in the midnight sky. It’s always foolish to vote for anyone other than the One Who created the lake of fire for the devil and his angels, and Who will someday cast all His enemies into that place of eternal torment.
8B. Vote now, my friend. And vote right. Cast your ballot for the king of all glory.
4A. Note, Finally, THE ENCOURAGEMENT CONCERNING SERVING THE LORD
Joshua directs their choice in this matter by an open declaration of his own resolution:
“but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
1B. Here Joshua resolves, first, for himself
1C. As for me, he so much as says, I will serve the LORD. Note that serving God is not beneath the greatest of men. Serving God is the greatest of honors of the greatest of men.
2C. Observe, also, how positive he is. “As for me” I “will serve the LORD.” It is no restriction of personal liberty to bind yourself with a bond to God.
2B. Secondly, Joshua resolves for his house
1C. That is, for his family, for his children, for such as were immediately under his care, his inspection, and his influence.
2C. Joshua was a ruler, a judge in Israel, yet he did not turn his necessary involvement as a public figure into an excuse for the neglect of family religion.
3C. Observe that this was not “my house, without me.” He would not commit them to that which he would not himself do, like some who would have their children do right, but will not do so themselves. Some men would have their families go to heaven, but intend to go to Hell themselves.
4C. Observe, also, that it was not “I, without my house.” The Israelites as a nation might turn their backs on his leadership. But in his house, where his authority was greater and more immediate, his example and his authority would prevail. So, when you cannot bring as many as you would to the service of God you must bring as many as you can.
5C. With Joshua it was “I, and then my house.” This Joshua was a man. This Joshua was a husband. This Joshua was a father. This Joshua was a leader. And this Joshua was a man who served the LORD.
1. If you will lead and rule in other things you should lead and rule first in the service of God.
2. Joshua was resolved to do right whatever other people did. Even if all the families of Israel revolted from God and served idols, Joshua and his family would stay on course and serve the God of Israel.
3. So, if you will serve God you’d better decide right now that being alone won’t bother you much, and that the direction of the crowd won’t affect you much.
4. Those that are bound for heaven must be willing to swim against the stream, and must not do as the most do, but as the best do. So, if you’re serious about getting ready for heaven, choose today who you will serve. For if you don’t you’ll never get converted.
5. Please, now, stand as brother Isenberger comes to lead us as we sing before this morning’s sermon.
1. Technology has advanced over the centuries since Joshua’s time. Changes and discoveries came very slowly at first. There was the discovery of the number zero and algebra, the discovery of the stirrup and iron. And, of course, over the last 100 years technology has developed at an astonishing rate.
2. Changes in technology, which produce alterations in lifestyle, invariably persuade people that they, too, have somehow changed, that they have progressed along with their technology, that they are somehow different.
3. But you see, people haven’t changed at all over the centuries. Mankind is not any different now than he was in Joshua’s time. Man’s nature is the same. And because technology is so very superficial and man’s inner nature is so foundational, the real issues that are faced and that must be dealt with by people living today are the same now as they have always been.
4. What does this mean? It means that Joshua’s comments apply just as much to you and me as they did to those 14th century B. C. Israelites he was speaking to. So, let me rephrase what Joshua said and confront you with his challenge concerning God and your decision today who you will serve.
1A. First, YOU CAN’T HAVE IT ALL
1B. The desire is to have it all. After all, you want it all. And the Israelites were no different than you and I are. There had been Egypt which they left behind and there was the Promised Land that they had come to. And in both places there were attractions, enticements, inducements.
2B. The apostle John described the situation in First John 2:
15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
3B. You want to be able to smoke and drink and snort, and at the same time read your Bible and serve God and go to Church. You’d like to fornicate for fun and then depend upon God to bless your family. But it doesn’t work that way because you can’t have it all.
4B. The Israelites wanted the LORD and the gods of the Amorites, but they couldn’t have the LORD and the gods of the Amorites. Why not? Because the LORD wouldn’t allow it, that’s why not.
5B. Now, you may not want the gods of the Amorites. But you do want the god of kick back Saturday night, or the god of sleep in Sunday morning, of the god of relax in the recliner Sunday evening, or the god of give less than a tithe, or the god of read Popular Mechanics instead of the Bible. But you can’t have it all. Why not? Because the LORD will not stand still for it, that’s why not.
6B. Listen to what God said to the Israelites, in Exodus 20.2-3:
2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
7B. My friend, He is the same God today as He was then. He has not changed. In Malachi 3.6 He said, “For I am the LORD, I change not.” Since He is the same today as He was in centuries past, He still will not allow you to have another other gods before Him. Translation? You cannot have it all.
2A. Second, YOU HAVE CHOICES TO MAKE
1B. Since you cannot have both God and the gods, you have to decide who it will be. You have a make a decision. There are choices to be made, and the most important choice you will ever make is the choice of who your god will be. The LORD, or pleasure? The LORD, or convenience? The LORD, or career? The LORD, or family? The LORD, or education?
2B. Now, what do these choices imply? Recognize that God is not opposed to rest and relaxation. Neither is God opposed to time a father and mother spend with their kids. As well, God is not opposed to securing a good education to serve as a platform from which you will finance your life and ministry to God. Finally, God is not necessarily opposed to your fulfillment as a wife and mother or as a husband and father, or whatever role in life in which you will find your greatest personal fulfillment and effectiveness in serving Him.
3B. But there is no room in God’s economy for education instead of serving God. There is no room in God’s economy for being a husband or a wife instead of serving God. There is no room in God’s economy for being a father or a mother instead of serving God. There is no room in God’s economy for anything displacing God, or relegating Him to playing second fiddle, or assigning to Him equal status with another god.
4B. Now, what does this mean? This means you have choices to make. And if you choose not to make a choice you have chosen already. And the choice you make when you make no choice is the wrong choice.
3A. To Further Clarify, THOSE CHOICES ARE BETWEEN GOD AND THE GODS
1B. People try to argue and quibble about it, but life really boils down to only two things: Choice and implementation. To state it another way, life is all about making one decision and then putting that decision into practice. Or, to couch it in terms appropriate for our text this morning, life is all about choosing who will be your god and then applying your decision in the various areas of daily life.
2B. You want to separate your decision to stay home from Church from your decision to make the LORD your god, but you really can’t. You see, if you had made the LORD your God, then you would implement that decision by attending Church. You want to justify your decision to not participate in your Church’s evangelistic outreach in some way, and disconnect it from any personal stance on your relationship with God. But if you had cast your ballot for the LORD, the way you would put into practice that vote would be by participating in your Church’s evangelistic outreach.
3B. So you see, with wrinkles and variations, with some juggling of personal responsibilities toward God that require certain adjustments to be made (since life is a bit complex), it really does boil down for the most part to those decisions you make being decisions between God and other gods.
4A. Finally, BAD CHOICES RESULT IN DAMAGE AND DESTRUCTION TO PEOPLE’S LIVES
1B. Isn’t it incredible how many people want the freedom to make lousy choices, but still demand that things turn out all right? They want to be able to decide foolishly but fully expect to be rewarded as if they had acted wisely.
2B. Example: If you choose this day to serve the LORD, you will follow up that decision to serve God by selecting a mate for life according to the dictates of God’s Word. God shows in the Bible who to marry and how to find the right person to marry. Yet there fools running around who think they can choose the god of personal pleasure over the LORD, marry who they want to marry, marry when they want to marry, and then they are surprised and greatly disappointed when adultery happens, when divorce happens, when abandonment occurs.
3B. My friend, God is a God of mercy and grace. He is good and kind and tender. But He is also a jealous God and holy, a righteous God and just. So, there is no question about what will happen to someone who makes the wrong choice about who he will serve this day. The only question is when.
1. The real issue that Joshua set before the children of Israel can be framed into a question for your consideration: What’s wrong with serving God?
2. Do you have anything better to do than serve God? Do you have anyone better to serve than God? Is there any task more noble, any goal more lofty, any achievement more beneficial to you or to mankind, than serving God?
3. The Israelites had no qualms about serving God when Pharaoh’s army was chasing them in chariots. They had no qualms about serving God when they were attacked by the Amalekites and needed divine intervention yet again. And then they were defeated at Ai they cried out to God in earnest.
4. But when things were going very well, when the enemies round about had all been defeated and put to flight of subjugated, when they had settled in the land and had begun to live off the fat of the land, they became complacent.
5. You could that their greatest danger came when they saw themselves in no danger. And the same is true of you. Your baby is not sick with meningitis so you feel no compulsion to serve God by participating in our Church’s evangelistic outreach. You, yourself, do not have a lump in your breast or dizzy spells, so you’re not so concerned about the salvation of your eternal and undying soul.
6. Be careful, friend. Be careful. What’s wrong with serving God? That’s the question to ask yourself. What’s wrong with serving God? You’ve got a kid who’s lost and you wonder why he doesn’t get saved, yet you won’t deal with the question, What’s wrong with serving God?
7. What’s wrong with serving God? There is nothing wrong with serving God. That’s why you should serve God when times are good as well as when times are rough, when things are going easy as well as when things are going rough.
8. If you don’t, there will come a time (I guarantee you) when you will ask yourself, Why didn’t I serve God?