Joshua 23:11 “Therefore take careful heed to yourselves, that you love the LORD your God.”
There are ideas I’ve heard growing up in the church that I simply have taken for granted. Loving God seems to be a no brainer for anyone that has taken the time to read the Bible, but how we love God is another story…
If we say we love God, our words await our actions. It’s easy to make a declaration, it’s difficult to follow up on it. There is a reason that God warns people to use caution in making vows, commitment takes a dedication that few are prepared to uphold.
Deuteronomy 23:21-23 “If you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from vowing, you will not be guilty of sin. You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth.”
If I have committed to loving the Lord my God, I have committed my life to His leadership and unto His glory.
Once I’ve made a commitment to Jesus, I must heed His call in my life. In other words, I must pay close attention to where He is directing me and learn to follow.
Joshua’s farewell address to the people of Israel was both an encouragement and a warning. The encouragement in Joshua 23 was to remain courageous, to remember how the Lord will give them the strength to fight off their enemies, and to continue to walk in righteousness.
The warning not to go back carried a strong reminder of the consequences.
Joshua 23:12-13 “Or else, if indeed you do go back, and cling to the remnant of these nations—these that remain among you—and make marriages with them, and go in to them and they to you, know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations from before you. But they shall be snares and traps to you, and scourges on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land which the Lord your God has given you.”
Today, we too can heed the warning of Joshua. The Lord brings His people out of the poverty of sin, He imparts life and peace, and He is found continually faithful until we breathe our last breath.
How could we ever go back?
Going back on God is going against His glory, His name, and His goodness.
For those who have truly committed their lives to Christ, the journey is not one easily taken but listen to any testimony in church and you might think otherwise.
“Before I was a christian I used to smoke, drink, and chew…I would go to parties and I even tried some pot, I knew what I was doing was wrong but my rebellion led me further down that road of destruction, then one day I found Jesus and praise God I turned my back on that past and have never looked back.”
I’m not not trying to be cavalier about someone’s testimony, this generic form is one I’ve heard a thousand times and when I was a kid they impacted me greatly. I used to wonder why I had so much trouble with sin since I had been a christian all my life but these people seemed to never wrestle with sin since they found Jesus. I always thought something must have been wrong with me, like I needed to experience some great dilemma in my life so that I could have an equally great conversion experience.
I’ve learned since those days that every believer is a sinner and those testimonies were a false representation of what a christian really looked like. Heeding the call isn’t a process of becoming perfect in practice even though christians strive for that goal, but being a christian is to be made perfect through the perfect sacrifice Jesus made upon the cross.
Malachi 3:7 “From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’
Some people (like myself as a young man), become discouraged by their inability to practice their faith in perfection. The wrong understanding of following Jesus can lead some to give up for a time, not for lack of love for Christ but out of defeat from an enemy that is all too quick to remind us of our failure. The process of backsliding is often rooted in this sense of failure. Failure to meet expectations, failure to move on from the past, or just a failure to understand why Jesus love us in the first place.
Galatians 5:7 “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?”
The backslider in heart has a constant dilemma they must face each day….the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The Lord reminds His people when they stray off His path that where they are is not where He desires for them to be. He lovingly corrects, sometimes through a brother or sister, sometimes when reading the Word, or in the midst of prayer for those who have a listening ear. Those who grow wise through their failures will recognize many of their errors started by neglecting the ordinances of God. The Moral Law is the standard by which God’s people walk in righteousness, deviate from that law and people find themselves in darkness before they know it.
If you find yourself in the darkness of sin, be wary of drifting too far, the enemy seeks those he may devour and it is during these times we are most vulnerable to attack.
James 4:8 “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
If backsliders are believers who have stumbled along the way, those who have forsaken God completely never really knew Him in the first place.
Hebrews 10:26-29 “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?”
A person cannot spurn the Son of God unless they first come to a knowledge of God’s truth. There are many who hear the call of God and even taste of His goodness, they might spend years in a church partaking of the blessings that are poured out upon God’s people. There comes a time when the church “club” scene just isn’t enough anymore and they must face the reality of their position.
Heeding the call of God is more than just affiliating with christian teaching, there has to be a full immersion into the presence of God that first starts as a personal decision.
Revelation 3:3 “Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.”
The very personal, intimate unity with God becomes the driving force that draws believers together.
The church isn’t just a collection of like-minded people, it is the unity of the Spirit bringing people together for a purpose and that purpose is to glorify the Son of God. As people glorify Christ in the congregation, they are enriched and strengthened by the work God is doing in others.
When someone stumbles in the congregation, the love of God leads to encouraging one another toward good works.
Galatians 6:1 “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
For those who are in the midst of the congregation but are separate from the body of Christ, their affinity for the light makes their darkness all the more pervasive.
2 Peter 2:20 “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.”
The Works of God
There are many people who want to keep one foot in the world and one foot in the church. The desire to please the flesh is only tempered by their recognition of God’s justice. The attempt to meld these two worlds together makes these people worse off than where they were in the beginning.
Revelation 3:2 “Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.”
Where faith in God and walking in His Spirit is a strength, for those who are double-minded the attempt at fusing two polar opposite worlds together leaves them trying to understand the life of Christ from a worlds perspective. They will never understand the things of God from this position so their lifestyle becomes a weakness.
If you find yourself in the camp of the condemned and your works are those that are about to be burned up in the fire of God’s wrath, if your still breathing there is still hope.
Jeremiah 3:22 “Return, O faithless sons; I will heal your faithlessness.” “Behold, we come to you, for you are the Lord our God.
Let your cry to God be that of a contrite spirit, let your actions be one of repentance. The Lord will hear the cry and will draw near to the ones who humble themselves before His throne.
This world is coming to a close, forsake the world, embrace the cross and be healed….this is heeding the call of God in Christ Jesus.