Serving and Following God: A Daily Commitment
Serving and Following God: A Daily Commitment (Joshua 24:14-24)
By Atty. Joshua Francisco J. Ablong
Delivered at the Silliman University Church, October 16, 2016
The passage that we read a while ago was taken from the Book of Joshua which is a continuation of the history that is chronicled in the first five books of the Bible, namely Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The book was written at the time when the different tribes of Israel were crossing the Jordan River into the land of Canaan and up to the time they conquered and settled much of it.
It can be recalled that the Israelites were previously enslaved in the land of Egypt and for 400 hundred years suffered under the hands of the pharaohs. Under the leadership of Moses, God led them out of Egypt with a promise that they will be brought back to the land of Canaan, which the people then described as a land that flowed with milk and honey. When the time came for God’s promise to be fulfilled, they entered the land and under Joshua’s leadership conquered much of it.
However, while the land that they settled in offered so much promise and opportunity, it was also full of immorality and idolatry. The Canaanite culture was so decadent, even their religion promoted both female and male prostitution. Their worship consisted of orgies and sexual acts and their prophets and priests murdered little children by offering them as sacrifices.
Now Joshua was well aware of these practices and so as he was already getting old, he assembled the people of Israel for one final time and led them in a ceremony of renewal. In this ceremony, he started by reminding them of God’s faithfulness -how God took them out of the land of Egypt, how God blessed them and how God fulfilled His promises to them. But in the same ceremony, he also challenged them to make a decision and a commitment towards God, by throwing away the idols of their ancestors. He warned them that the God who delivered them from the land of Egypt would be the same God who will destroy them should they disobey and follow the practices of the Canaanites!
So how does this passage apply to us today?
In this day and age were every facet of Christian life is being confronted by various modern-day trends, influences, and practices, the challenge posed in the passage also becomes real to us today. Just as the Israelites were exhorted to stay away from idolatry and other evil practices, we as Christians are also being reminded to do the same. We too have to choose whether to serve and follow God or to serve the idols and other influences of this world.
And so we may ask, how do we serve and follow God in this day and age?
First, to serve God and follow God means to recognize His Lordship over our lives.
We have to acknowledge the fact that we live under His sovereignty and providence. He is our Creator, our Redeemer and our Sustainer. He is our master, and we are his servants. It is therefore imperative that we submit to his authority.
This is consistent with what the Apostle Paul said that as followers of Christ, we are no longer our own. We have been bought with a price, purchased by no less than the blood of Jesus Christ.
This is totally the opposite of what the world is teaching today. The world teaches us that we own our lives, that we are the masters of our own lives and therefore we can do anything we want with it, even if it becomes harmful to ourselves and to others.
Second, to serve God means to align our thoughts with God.
Our actions are determined by the way we think. In Luke 6:45 Jesus said:
“The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.”
In another translation it says:
“A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”
So what does this teach us? It teaches us that what we think influences or directs what we do. In olden times, the heart was regarded as the repository of our thought processes. And so, if we are to align our thoughts with God, we have to change the way we think.
We have to mentally recognize that God’s ways are right and our ways are wrong. In scripture, this is called repentance; and this can only be achieved with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Repentance is a common theme in the Bible, and it calls for the rejection of anything that is sinful and wrong before the eyes of God, beginning with our thought-processes.
In Romans 12:2 for instance, the Apostle Paul says that we should allow God to transform the way we think. In the verse, he said:
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Why did Paul say this? Because again, the way we think dictates the way we do. In our society today, there are many things that influence the way we think, and thus, the way we do, that run counter to what is right before the eyes of God!
Our number one enemy for instance is what we see and hear in the media; and very recently, the social media. Today, it is perhaps the biggest mind-control machinery that we have to contend with.
Now this is not to say that everything that the media projects is detrimental to the Christian faith, but there are those that we should be wary about. If it promotes materialism, promotes the wrong values, or if it diminishes our moral fiber as a society, we should reject those things.
Third, to serve God means to do His will and it includes doing what He commands us to do.
It is not enough that we mentally recognize that there is a God, we must do what God commands us to do. In John 10:27, Jesus said:
“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.”
Serving God means making him real in the things, and in the different ways, we conduct ourselves. While it is true that we are saved by faith and not by works, so that no one can boast, as what the Apostle Paul says, true faith cannot help but translate itself into good action. Because, as what James says in James Chapter 2 verses 14 to 26, “faith without works is dead”. The works being referred to here are “good works”. It refers to how we conduct ourselves, and how we act in relation to others.
It is therefore important that we do not contradict ourselves by saying one thing and yet doing an entirely different thing. Faith must translate into good action. Otherwise it is not faith at all.
So where do we find guidance on how we should conduct ourselves in our day-to-day lives. We can find them in the scriptures. Scripture offers many lessons for Christian living that we can apply in our daily lives today. In 2 Timothy Chapter 3 verse 16, it states that:
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”
As Christians, we are to live righteously, to uphold that which is pleasing and right before God’s sight, and to reject that which is wrong. And this is a commitment that we have to make on a daily basis. This is a decision that we have to make wherever we are and in whatever situation we may find ourselves in.
And so in conclusion:
Just as the Israelites were being challenged by the Prophet Joshua to follow God, we too must challenge ourselves to persevere in the same commitment. Like them, we too must cast away our own idols, those things that distract us from knowing who God really is and what his greater purposes are for our lives. We must uphold God in our homes, in our work places and in every other place we go, and make God visible in everything that we think, say and do. We must make our faith real and put it into action; and we must choose to do so, every day of our lives.
May God bless us all. Amen.