“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15 ESV
America has moved far beyond a Christian consensus shaping our national morality to become a neopagan nation. We are looking more and more like the Canaanites and the Amorites left in the land that Joshua warned about. I attended a NFL game last Sunday and I couldn’t help think that NFL stadiums are the new cathedrals of worship in a culture given to idol worship. Not only were there the usual drunken fans but Fan Dual, the online fantasy football gambling company, had several bars/stations in the end zone sections to heighten the revelry. At one point in the second half I walked by to go to the restroom and a little brawl broke out between a couple guys in their private area. Their girlfriends were in on it as well. Big surprise. It was reported that Fan Dual spent over $13 million in advertising in week one of the NFL season. I wonder what kind of money they are making to sustain an advertising budget like that. Professional sports, gambling, and alcohol are huge idols in our culture. Maybe you don’t relate to these idols. Maybe your idol is work, leisure, adrenaline, lust, or your body image. Kyle Idleman, in his book “gods at war” summed up these gods as “the god of me.” In other words, the god of my pleasure, my power, my stuff, my ego.
Our Locking Arms huddle has been reading and discussing the book of Joshua. It is a powerful story of Israel’s conquest of The Promised Land. It is a man’s book with lots of leadership application. After years of warfare and countless battles where the Lord fights for Israel Joshua calls the nation to renew their covenant commitment to Yahweh just before Joshua’s death. It is an eerily similar scene to Moses’ call to rededication in the desert many years before. Then, a much younger Joshua had received God’s anointing to succeed Moses. Joshua, like Moses, begins by reminding them of God’s great faithfulness to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He recalled Israel’s deliverance from Egypt by God’s mighty hand and now all his good promises fulfilled in giving to them The Promised Land. Israel’s victories and His provision were a picture of grace. Joshua led them courageously and Israel fought diligently but, “…it was not by sword or bow. I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built…You eat the fruit of the vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.”
Joshua, like Moses before him, was mindful of the seduction of the gods of the pagan nations that remained in the land. He called Israel to live counter-culture, putting the worship of God as their highest purpose, serving Him with a whole heart. His charge to them comes to a high point in chapter 24:15 quoted above. I am going to paraphrase it with a contemporary twist.
If it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord as the secularists are telling you, calling good evil and evil good; then choose this day whom you will serve…The gods of lust, materialism, revelry, or the god of Me. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
Many Christians quote only the last sentence. The whole context of what Joshua was calling Israel to renew in their covenant commitment to God was to love and obey Him passionately and to be at war against the false gods of the pagans. We have been duped to believe the only deadly war is being waged against ISIS and terrorism while we are losing our children, our marriages, our churches, and our collective male leadership to “the god of me.” We are no longer called as Christ followers to physically be at war against God’s enemies unless of course we are professional soldiers.
We are called in the first commandment, however, to worship the Lord our God and have no false gods before him. We must wage war against them. They will not die in our hearts without a great fight. One hour a week in church won’t weaken them. The evil is not only “out there.” It is “in here”, in our hearts. We are being summoned to the battle but our physical strength will fail us. “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” We will need the Spirit’s power in the gospel to live in victory (Zechariah 4:6, Romans 1:16, Galatians 5:16). Bob Dylan had a song many years ago during a period of his life when he professed Christ as Lord. It was entitled, “You’re Gonna have to Serve Somebody.” The chorus was, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody. It may be the devil or it may be the Lord but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” Who are you serving? The god of Me? Or the Lord Christ?
We may indeed know Jesus in faith but like Israel during much of her history, we need to repent from our idols. To repent from our idols, we must call them by name, and turn to Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. We will need to return with a whole heart and cherish the word of God as Joshua did (Joshua 1:8). And finally, as Joshua had Caleb, we will need some great brothers to join us in the battle against evil (Romans 12:9-10).
Author: Leo Wisniewski is the Director of Locking Arms Men, a Pittsburgh based non-denominational ministry for men. See our website: www.lockingarmsmen.org for more information. Email Leo: firstname.lastname@example.org