Many times the Christian message nowadays have been sugarcoated with what society wants to hear. The Scriptures are being learned and interpreted based on human emotions. What one feels has become more important than the truth--that is the Gospel. Join me as we jump off mediocre faith and skydive into the art and science of interpretation, theology, and discover that the answer to life, the universe, and everything is not 42!
Joshua 24: What Say You?
Joshua's challenge to the new generation of Israel entering the Promised Land is the same we face today. We have to choose whom to serve. We cannot be in between.
by Rambu Ursos, Pastor for Young AdultsExtended edition with minor revisions from the Pastor's Corner of the YAF Newsletter last October 9, 2019.
We've read in the books of Exodus to Deuteronomy the journey of the Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land. In the 13th chapter of the book of Numbers the Israelites were two weeks away by foot to the Promised Land. Knowing that there were people living in the region, Moses sent twelve spies (one from each tribe) to go over the Promised Land to inspect the area.
The twelve spies returned, though all acknowledge it was the land flowing with milk and honey, ten gave fearful reports, two--Joshua and Caleb--gave hopeful and courageous reports. Yet ten spies out of twelve gave horrific descriptions of what they saw--those giant people and all that--the two, on the other hand, saw a larger God. As Caleb declared, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it." (Numbers 13:30).
Yes, God allows us to make decisions that are not in line with God's plans, purpose, and hope. We must be ready, however to face the consequences of the choices we make outside God's wisdom.
Majority rules, doesn't it? Even if the majority may be wrong. This is what happened to the Israelites. They were a few weeks away from the Promised Land. A few weeks! However since they chose fear, choosing to depend on their own human capacity, rather than the God who have shown them wonders beyond human comprehension, it took them 40 years to reach the Promised Land.
It's no brainer! A few weeks compared to 40 years. It's like you're two blocks away to comic con at McCormick Place while you're wearing a Gundam cosplay instead you choose to run around Chinatown like a mask singer on Auto-Tune. A Godzilla cosplay would have been a better choice and declare yourself king of monsters among those dragon dancers. But you missed the entire convention which is nonrefundable and the whole essence of cosplay!
God allowed the Israelites who choose to linger around the desert. Amidst their contempt towards God, God remained faithful. Indeed God's love endures forever and God's mercies never come to an end. Yet their disobedience, cowardice, and lack of faith caused them a lot. Yes, God allows us to make decisions that are not in line with God's plans, purpose, and hope. We must be ready, however to face the consequences of those choices we make outside God's wisdom. Christ's death on the cross took away the punishment of our sins but not the consequences of our actions (remember Newton's Third Law).
Those consequences may be a curse that affects not just the decision maker but affects others. We are all on the same planet aren't we? So if you rant against all the injustices, sufferings, and pain in this world, don't bark on the Tree of Life. Learn the history of humanity's decisions made outside God's Kingdom. To quote DC Comic's V (for Vendetta), How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. *
Thus, the generation that chose to wonder around the desert were not able to see the Promised Land. Only two, Joshua and Caleb, of the first generation were allowed by God to enter the Promised Land. As a new generation started to enter the land God is giving them, Moses, and eventually Joshua challenged them to be bold in their faith and obedience towards God.
God is always leading us to a new land--the land of renewed minds, restored souls, and revived hearts. Shall we go with the Lord? Or linger for 40 years and miss experiencing God's wonders? "Choose today
Well, Christianity is not difficult, it is impossible! For Christianity is no mere religion it is following Jesus Christ - his life and ministry. It demands for us to put the self on the sideline and place Christ in the center of it all.
whom you serve," Joshua declares to the new generation (Joshua 24:15). Choose today whom we will serve! Do we serve mediocrity, complacency, and human preference? Or do we choose to serve the God who gives us power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7)? When it comes to spiritual decisions, neutrality is not an option. Joshua declares, “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:14). We may no longer be choosing the gods beyond the Euphrates River and Egypt but we may be serving the gods of self-serving endeavors. As Christ declared, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?" (Matthew 16:24-26).
If we choose God be prepared for you will be molded to have a bold faith, hope, and love. You will be led to full obedience and surrender to God. The world has conditioned our souls to desire power and control of our lives and God will start to chisel this human condition out of us and it will be painful. For the human condition makes faith in God next to impossible. Well, Christianity is not difficult, it is impossible! For Christianity is no mere religion it is following Jesus Christ--his life and ministry. It demands for us to put the self on the sideline and place Christ in the center of it all--something many of us struggle. We cannot declare ourselves as Christians unless we have decided to fully follow Jesus which requires us to give up power and control over the self. For when we do and fully trust in Jesus Christ alone the Christian life becomes possible. Not by our own strength, power, and control but by the Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6).
Like the caterpillar that will go through metamorphosis to become a butterfly, God will make us go through transformation (change starting from within). As the caterpillar goes through the darkness of the cocoon, we will walk through the valley of the shadow where our old self dies. The promise is God's loving presence will walk with us in God's wisdom, grace, and strength (Psalm 23). For when we choose for God to start the good work in us, to recreate us into the person united with Jesus Christ, God will faithfully complete it (Philippians 1:6). Trust the process of the God who created the universe. We are never alone!
With that, God will command us to be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go! (Joshua 1:9) To reword (without permission and with apology) King Theoden's battle cry in the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003), "Forth, and fear no darkness! Arise! Arise, Riders of the Living God! Fear shall be shaken, doubts shall be splintered! A hope day...a bold day...see our faith rises! Ride now!...Ride now!...Ride! Ride to glory and to new beginnings! Hashem! Hashem! Hashem!**"
*V for Vendetta, 2006
**Hashem - a title used in Judaism to refer to God