Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Challenged

My Life Group lesson for Jan. 15, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway and bits from John McClendon, John MacArthur and Adrian Rogers.

FIRST THOUGHTS

Inauguration Day is this Friday. Donald Trump will be sworn in as president, and Barack Obama will scoot out of office, but not before giving a final talk to the nation last week.

If you were asked to give a speech to define your legacy, what key points would you want to make?

At the end of the Book of Joshua, we find Joshua making his last public address to the Israelites.

Joshua would soon die, and he challenged the Israelites to follow the Lord faithfully into the days ahead.

Having personally witnessed many occurrences, he knew the Hebrews could be unfaithful to the Lord.

He remembered many of them dying in the wilderness because of their unfaithfulness (see Num. 14:26-34).

Joshua undoubtedly knew that faithfulness grows through reflection, evaluation, and renewed commitment to God.

Faithful living can help us become the people God wants us to be.

Joshua challenged the people to move ahead in a dynamic relationship with God in light of all He had done for them.

Today, God still uses the faithfulness of His committed followers to challenge and influence others.

He expects His followers to be fully devoted to Him, with no divided allegiances.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

JOSHUA 23:1–24:33

*** We are coming to the end of our study of the book of Joshua.

*** After 40 years of wandering, Joshua led the Israelites from the eastern side of the Jordan River, through it, over Jericho and throughout all of Canaan. Seven years of war and twenty-three years of settling into the land have taken place.

*** Now at approximately 110 years of age and about to pass on to his heavenly reward, Joshua gathers all Israel and their leaders at Shechem for his final words to them.

THE EXAMPLE SET, A SOMBER WARNING (JOSH. 24:14-15; 19-20)

14 “Therefore, fear the LORD and worship Him in sincerity and truth. Get rid of the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and worship Yahweh. 15 But if it doesn’t please you to worship Yahweh, choose for yourselves today the one you will worship: the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. As for me and my family, we will worship Yahweh.” … 19 But Joshua told the people, “You will not be able to worship Yahweh, because He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not remove your transgressions and sins. 20 If you abandon the LORD and worship foreign gods, He will turn against you, harm you, and completely destroy you, after He has been good to you.”

*** “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.” (Lou Gehrig)

--- New York Yankees legend Lou Gehrig played in 2,130 consecutive games, a seemingly unbreakable record until Cap Ripken broke it in the 90s. In 1939 he was diagnosed with ALS, and he benched himself to end the streak, then retired. And yet, in a speech that summer he said “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.”

--- We’re coming to the end of Joshua’s farewell address, vowing that his family will set a good example, and an important warning if the people don’t keep their faith.

--- Joshua was offering the people choices.

--- First, he challenged them to “fear the Lord.”

--- If your relationship with God is one of awe, you won’t need to fear His judgment.

--- Second, he told the people to “worship in in sincerity and truth.”

--- Third, he challenged the people to “get rid of the gods” to which they still clung.”

--- It’s hard to believe that after all the Israelites had seen that they clung to false gods that their ancestors worshiped before Abraham, or Egyptian gods they adopted in slavery.

--- Believers today can also forget God’s great works in their own lives.

--- We can also place idols in place of our worship of God. (Examples: materialism, sports, recreation, pleasure, comfort, success, careers)

*** Question - Who has verse 15, “As for me and my family, we will worship the Lord,” displayed in your home? What does it mean to you that you want people to see that?

*** Say what you mean, Joshua.

--- In verses 19 and 20, Joshua doesn’t hold back. He says that remaining faithful to God is next to impossible for these guys.

--- God is a “holy God” who is separate from His creation and from our sin.

--- God is a “jealous God” who insists on absolute allegiance from His people.

--- Joshua isn’t literally saying that the Lord won’t forgive them, but that they should talk their walk with Him very seriously.

--- Sometimes people think all they need to do is make a profession of faith and all will be well.

--- But God cares a lot about our daily walk with Him.

--- Like the Israelites, we shouldn’t take our commitment to Him lightly.

--- Our relationship with Him doesn’t only make life better – our relationship with God is life itself.

A PUBLIC DECLARATION (JOSH. 24:21-28)

21 “No!” the people answered Joshua. “We will worship the LORD.” 22 Joshua then told the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you yourselves have chosen to worship Yahweh.” “We are witnesses,” they said. 23 “Then get rid of the foreign gods that are among you and offer your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” 24 So the people said to Joshua, “We will worship the LORD our God and obey Him.” 25 On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people at Shechem and established a statute and ordinance for them. 26 Joshua recorded these things in the book of the law of God; he also took a large stone and set it up there under the oak next to the sanctuary of the LORD. 27 And Joshua said to all the people, “You see this stone—it will be a witness against us, for it has heard all the words the LORD said to us, and it will be a witness against you, so that you will not deny your God.” 28 Then Joshua sent the people away, each to his own inheritance.

*** Be prepared.

--- When the reality show “Survivor” premiered, I was hooked for the first few years. Take these people of different backgrounds, throw them into a tough situation and make them compete against each other. It seems like even after the first few seasons, contestants still acted like they didn’t know what they were getting into. They act surprised about the hunger, the rain, and the gamesmanship.

--- God’s people in chapter 24 certainly replied by saying the right things.

--- They promised to worship the Lord and not worship other gods.

--- Joshua gives them one of those “Are you sure you know what you’re getting into?” statements.

--- For the third time in this speech he asks them to make a public commitment.

--- This could reminds us of Jesus giving bold advice about what it takes to join Him:

Luke 14:26-27 – “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”

--- Living a life for Christ isn’t just whistling Dixie.

*** Renewing the covenant.

--- In verse 25 Joshua takes the next step in their commitment by making a covenant for the people with God.

--- There’s no halfway doing this. The Scriptures challenge us to offer our hearts completely to the Lord:

Romans 12:1-2 – “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”).

--- Once everyone agreed what had to be done, Joshua put it in writing and marked the occasion with a memorial.

--- We sing it all the time: “I have decided to follow Jesus ... though I may wonder, I still will follow … though none go with me, still I will follow … No turning back.”

--- Today’s culture presents believers with many opportunities to compromise their faith, and many lesser things try to take God’s place in our lives.

--- Don’t turn back. Keep your commitment to God.

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

If you ever talk with nurses or hospital chaplains who talk with patients who are on their deathbed, they’ll tell you that what sick and dying people talk most about are their families.

They talk about the love they gave, the love they received, and regrets for the love they did not give or receive. We believe that God is love, and we learn about God when we love. The first and usually the last example of that is how we treated and are treated by family.

If we post a plaque that says “As for me and my family, we will worship the Lord” and follow it, we should be able to speak well at the end of our journey.

*** (1) Joshua didn’t say, “if you will, then I will follow the Lord.” He drew a line in the sand and said “choose.” He was determined to follow God, even if he and his family were the only ones who would make this commitment.

*** (2) Just as we have been called to share the gospel, we are also telling others about the work of God in our lives. Our testimony can help others to see the redemptive power of God and the forgiveness that He offers.

*** (3) As we reflect upon God’s goodness in the milestones of life, our focus should be on seeing God’s call for devotion and choosing to serve Him daily. We are to serve God alone. He is worthy of all our worship.

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