Reading: Joshua 24
Throw away your gods! That's right, if you want to serve the Lord, you must throw away your gods. You say, “But I don't have any gods.” That wasn't one of the options. This text assumes you have gods, and tells you where you got them.
"Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 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 24:14-15)
“Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped...the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.” There are two sources for false gods in our lives: the first is our parents (so to my own kids, sorry, but it is true you inherit much of your propensity to sin from me); the second, the world around us. You have gods, false gods, and you must throw them away if you are going to serve the Lord.
Many would say, “Sure, we will throw them away... no problem. We want to serve the Lord.” That is exactly how Israel responded (24:16). Joshua's response is striking: “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God.” (24:19) We often make assumptions regarding what it means to serve God. We think we know what He wants. Joshua makes it clear: God wants everything. He is holy; He is jealous.
We must perform due diligence in our lives to identify the gods of our forefathers, which are in our lives from birth, and the gods of our culture, which seep in gradually and smoothly, leaving us unaware. The Israelites were quick to say, “Yes!” but their history shows they never did the hard work of identifying and rooting out these idols. Every generation must root out these false gods. You can't assume that since your parents rooted theirs out that you don't have them. You must assume you have false gods, and you must look for them, find them, and destroy them.
How do we find idols in our lives? A false god in your life may be defined as something you obey over God; something you offer yourself to. It is what you are serving rather than God.(See Romans 6:16-17.) We must identify what we are serving over God; to what we are enslaved. Here are some questions which may help you identify false gods in your own life:
- What do you talk about with your friends most often?
- What is it you always make sure you have time for? You will rearrange everything else for this (work/school not included), because this is what you want to do.
- What are you most passionate about? When with a group, what topics of conversation cause you to speak faster, more intensely, or louder? What causes you to listen more intently or carefully?
- What consumes an equal or greater portion of your disposable income than God? Look at your bank account, where does the money go? When things are tight (and they often are for most of us), what gets trimmed and what doesn't? If your giving for the kingdom is reduced, but there are unnecessary items which are not reduced (could be movies, games, clothing, eating out, anything that builds the image of yourself that you are trying to create), these very likely will be connected to your false gods.
- What are you most evangelistic about? What new product, idea or activity have you persuaded more people to try or consider than people you have shared Christ with? Consider anything which you have told your friends about because you really like it... compare the number of times you have done this with the number of times you have shared the Lord with others during that same period of time. If it is equal or greater, it may indicate a false god we are serving more passionately than Christ.
- What were the last 3 conflicts you had with others over? What were you wanting that you were not getting? This very often points to something we are serving over God.
This is a good starter list. But, “How do we throw these idols away?” For us, a false god rarely takes on the form of a little statue, so it might seem difficult to discern how we are to throw these things away. We are given an interesting account of the birth of the church in Ephesus. Notice how such a powerful church began.
17When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. 18Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. 19A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. 20In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. (Acts 19:17-20)
A drachma, being worth a day's wages, means they burned about $2,800,000 worth of books (assuming minimum wage times an 8 hour day). So many today would scoff and say, “Think of how much could have been done if they had merely sold those books.” No doubt many of these books would have been very popular in their culture. Since they didn't have the printing press, books were of great value, and required a great sum of money to obtain. Yet they did not hesitate to burn them publicly. They had no shame of their commitment to Christ. As a result, the word of God spread widely and grew in power. What if they had kept their books, simply hidden them away, or sold them to others? Would the Word of God manifest itself with such power? Not a chance. Our God is a jealous God.
I have often heard folks who were saved in the early 70's look back and laugh about how they burned their record albums, or gave up secular music, because now they realize there is nothing evil in an album, per se, or that secular music in itself isn't the problem...and that those albums are now collector's items with great value. I am grieved to hear them laugh. When the people I knew in the 70's were burning record albums or ceasing to listen to secular music, it wasn't because evil existed in the album, it was because those things had controlled their lives. People coming to Christ were “burning their books,” they were turning from idols to serve the Living and True God. It wasn't the music they were burning; it was a complete break with the life they had lived—that man died in Christ.
Another church which was birthed in the midst of persecution and yet had become a powerful model of the Gospel to their region was the church in Thessalonica. Only a few months from their inception it was said that they, “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God...” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). We must turn from idols to serve God. We cannot serve God without turning from idols. We are servants of the one we obey; if we are obeying our idols, we are not serving the living and true God.
You too must choose whom you will serve. Choosing to serve God involves throwing away your idols. You can't simply hide them, you must throw them away. In order to throw them away you must be honest in your evaluation of what they are. Look at what false gods you are prone to worship like your parents; ask which false gods you are worshiping in conformity to the culture around us.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,