But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Daily Readings – Joshua 23-34, Mark 6, Psalm 66

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Joshua 24:15

But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

What a beautiful verse. There is power in a public declaration that your house will serve the Lord. This is a verse that has become one of the most popular verses in modern Christianity. If I had to guess, I bet this single verse can be found hung proudly in more Christian homes than any other verse in the Bible.

When reading the entirety of Joshua 24 today and the surrounding verses, something struck me today. As beautiful as this verse is, and as much we like to profess it as Christians in America on decorations we hang by our doorway, it is also a good example of what we tend to do with the Bible in general in America.

We tend to water it down. We have a tendency to pick isolated verses that give us the warm and fuzzy version of faith we desire and not dig into the rest.

Here are verses 16-22

Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.”

Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”

But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.”

Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.”

“Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.

When Joshua was making this bold proclamation and the Israelites were recommitting themselves to follow the Lord, he did not pull any punches. When we declare that we are turning our life over to God, he expects us to honor that. There are consequences when we don’t.

We are human and will always fall short in moments of human weakness. God knew this and, in his divine wisdom, sent his son to pay the price for our sins so that we could still have a relationship with him and inherit eternal life. We serve an amazing father in Heaven that gives us more grace than we deserve!

Even if we truly turn our lives over to Christ, there will be moments of weakness.

However, what we see throughout the Bible is that there is a difference between momentary human weakness, and turning sin into an idol that we worship.

We see this again in Psalm 66:16-20 today.

Come and hear, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what he has done for me.
I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened;
but God has surely listened
and has heard my prayer.
Praise be to God,
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me!

Our natural tendency is to want to focus on verses like, “Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!” 

It is less exciting to think about the verse immediately before, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”

Again, there is a big difference between, “If I had I sinned…” and “If I had cherished sin in my heart…”

One speaks to momentary weakness; the other speaks to idolatry.

The combination of these verses really stood out to me today, because I think we have a tendency in the American Church to preach a gospel of confession without repentance. We have a tendency to put out there a message of, “Believe in Jesus and your sins are forgiven and you have punched your ticket to heaven!”

In the Bible what we actually read is that even demons believe in God and shudder. What separates Christians is acting upon those beliefs. When we gloss over this portion of the gospel, we do a massive disservice to those we are doing life with. If someone has given over their life to Christ, there is fruit in that person’s life. You can see a change. That is spoken of over and over again throughout the Bible.

These changes are not the reason someone is saved. You cannot do enough good deeds to earn your way into heaven. That is why Jesus came. Life change is not the way into Heaven, but it is the evidence that someone has genuinely given their life over to Jesus and not just simply believed in him.

I love what Joshua did when the Israelites said, “We are in! Sign us up!” He didn’t leave it at that and celebrate. He didn’t treat it as if the sale had been made, his motivational talk had worked, etc. He challenged them. He told them what they were committing to truly meant.

If we profess to be Christians, have we done this for ourselves? Have we looked inwardly and asked God to reveal any strongholds in our hearts? Have we asked him to show us any metaphorical altars we have built in our lives that are taking the place where he is meant to dwell?

I want to have the type of faith that produces fruit. I want to constantly be asking God to refine me. I want my family to truly serve the Lord and not just have the pretty artwork hanging by the front door.

But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Is that something we are willing to declare today? When Joshua goes on to challenge us about what that is going to take, are we willing to reaffirm that statement?

Thought to ponder

What altars have I erected in my heart? What sin do I not only succumb to, but also actually cherish, that may be keeping me from experiencing full life in Christ?

Our Heavenly Father

Daily Readings – Leviticus 21-22, Psalm 36, Romans 10

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

Psalm 36:5-7

These brief verses beautifully summarize the many dimensions of our amazing God.

It is easy from time to time to fall into a very narrow view of God. I catch myself frequently thinking about God primarily through the lens of his love and faithfulness. I have seen repeatedly through my life the truth in what David writes; God’s love truly does reach to the heavens and his faithfulness to the skies. And yet I don’t spend as much time contemplating God’s righteousness and justice.

There are many other Christians that have a tendency to do the opposite. They obsess over God’s righteousness and his justice but forget that they also serve a loving and faithful God!

The truth is, conveniently forgetting either of these fundamental truths about God paints a very one-dimensional picture. We serve a God who is endlessly loving and abundant in his faithfulness, but also, whose righteousness is like the highest mountains and whose justice is like the great deep!

For me personally, I love to meditate upon God’s endless love and faithfulness. I try to walk through life with that as my focus. I think this is how God would want it. I believe he would want us to constantly remember his amazing love.

However, at times it is extremely healthy to recognize that God is just and any ramifications we face for choices we make in our lives are fully deserved. If God chooses to give me a free pass from time to time and I escape any serious repercussions for decisions I make that are out of line with his will in my life, I should be extremely thankful. The problem comes when we come to expect that things will always work out fine when we make repeated bad decisions.

I know that I have fallen into that trap previously in my life where I ask God, “Why would you allow this stress, pain, frustration in my life to happen?”

…conveniently forgetting individual decisions, series of decisions, or lifelong habits, that directly lead to these negative outcomes.

Remembering that God is our perfect heavenly Father always helps me to wrap my mind around the two sides of God. As a Father myself I love my kids like crazy. If I thought they would learn lessons without me having to dole out negative consequences, I would lean towards barely ever punishing anything. (Just ask my wife!) Infinite love and grace is more fun!

Being an amazing parent takes a huge amount of love, but also requires a fair amount of discipline. This can be so challenging! None of us here on earth are perfect parents. God is. He is our perfect heavenly Father that knows exactly what we need.

It can be maddening when my kids are in the middle of doing the exact same wrong thing that we have talked about over and over again. Why don’t they just listen?! Then I think about my own life…I can only imagine God’s reaction in Heaven!

I can’t imagine how mad I would be at my kids all day long if I knew every single thought and saw every single action! I am not sure I would be able to muster “love that reaches to the heavens”!

The truth is that we deserve far more justice and far less love, and yet God does the opposite. He loves us so much that he took on human form and sacrificed himself on our behalf. He forgives us and wants us to simply turn back to him. Sometimes that requires consequences in my life that I might not understand or appreciate in the moment.

There is so much beauty in God’s justice and righteousness, as well as his love and faithfulness.

I know that I personally need him for both!

Thought to ponder

Which side of God do I have a tendency to disregard? How can I get to know and appreciate that aspect of God more fully?

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