“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, 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 (NIV)
After the great military campaign that brought the Israelites to the promised land, Joshua called a meeting of all the people. He reminded them of the amazing things that God had done, both recently and throughout history to bring them to the land He had promised them. He implored them, in the glow of the promise fulfilled, to serve the Lord only and to set aside once and for all, all idols past and present. The people rallied around Joshua’s cry and collectively promised to always serve the Lord and to never worship idols again. So what followed was an extended period of singular devotion to God and prosperity for the people, right?
The people fell away. When we’re not careful, we fall away too. Choosing this day whom you will serve is not a quick and easy decision but a series of important choices made in concert with the truth. Let’s start building a strong tower of ‘choosing this day’ that will better stand the test of time.
Choose this day the true definition of ‘idol’
We most often associate idols with the carved statues that people of old worshipped. We might conclude that keeping our homes free of Buddha statues, lucky rabbit’s feet, pentagrams, and other non-Christian symbols, that we have sufficiently removed the idols. But idols are more than just figurines. An idol at its core is anything that has a higher priority in our life than our relationship with God. Anything. Idols don’t exist on our mantle, they exist in our hearts. If they are swept off our mantle, but not driven from our hearts, they’ve not been removed at all. Money, prestige, power, gambling. Alcohol, drugs, lust, gossip—these are common idols. There are many others. Their allure is strong. And when we pursue them contrary to God’s will for us, they’re idols. Choosing a too-narrow definition of idol, leaves us susceptible to having slews of idols without even knowing it.
Choose this day to beware of the culture that underlies all idols.
Idols cannot exist on their own. No one would devise a false god or place a statue of it on their mantle if there was no cultural pressure to do so. Idols grow from collective human desire. God chose to place His people in the Promised Land so that they could build a culture that reflected His nature, not the nature of the world around them. It was to be a distinctly different culture that rejected false gods and served only the one true God. We are called to do the same. But if we do not consciously and intentionally push away from the cultural pressures that would draw us to the world’s idols, we will be quickly absorbed into the culture of the world. So does that mean we must be reclusive and separate ourselves from everyone else? No! Jesus taught very specifically that we needed to be in the world in order to be witnesses for His Kingdom (John 17:18). Jesus modeled this by coming into direct contact with the culture of the world and teaching about its depravity (Matthew 9:9-13). So, instead of running away from the idolatrous culture of the world we must. . .
Choose this day the appropriate social activity for our situations.
For Christians, there are two types of social activity, fellowship and witness. When we are in contact with other people we are doing one or the other. When we are around other Christians who also love God and are constantly seeking a stronger relationship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ, then fellowship is a blessed time of togetherness and relationship that God intends for us to enjoy. Many misinterpret Jesus’ willingness to ‘sit with the sinners’ as fellowship. Operating under this misconception causes us to fall into the trap of engaging the culture of the world in an attitude of fellowship which causes the world’s culture to seep into us, oftentimes without us even knowing it is happening. No, Jesus engaged those of the world around Him in the mode of witness. His single intention was to teach them about the downfall that awaited those of the world and the eternal blessing of God’s grace that was imparted to those not of the world, those of His Kingdom. Because He loved them and did not want them to meet the fate that awaited them, He witnessed!
So when we find ourselves among those who are of the culture of the world, we should likewise deliver loving witness. Or leave. Witnessing to the world draws a firm line around us, protects us from the world’s influence, and causes the culture of God’s Kingdom to seep into the world’s culture and change it! We must always be the ‘seeper’ because if we’re not, we will be the ‘seepee.’ Now granted, there are some situations where simply leaving is the best witness. There are far fewer of these situations than we might think, but nonetheless every situation is not conducive to delivering testimony. So we should leave. Remember, remaining in such a situation without actively witnessing, is fellowshipping. Each day will bring a whole new set of situations to deal with, so we must…
Keep choosing this day
We need to do as Joshua directed and ‘choose this day.’ Once one day passes and a new day comes, the day on which you chose is now ‘that day.’ The new day is now ‘this day.’ It is important that we consciously and intentionally renew our vow to serve the Lord each and every day. Otherwise, our guard will slowly come down, our enthusiasm for witness will fade and we will allow the idols and the culture that supports them to seep back into us.
That’s the truth.
Choose this day whom you will serve. Choose this day to sweep all of the world’s idols out of your heart. Choose this day to beware of the culture of the world, and to protect your heart from it. Choose this day to enjoy fellowship with those of His Kingdom and to witness to those of the world. Choose to renew your commitment each and every day that for ‘you and your house, you will serve the Lord.’
Which part of choosing this day is the hardest for you?
How do overcome the challenges to choose to serve Him?
Copyright 2008, 2010 Dan Buckhout
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version
Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by Internatonal Bible Society.
Used by permission of International Bible Society.