Joshua 23:1-16 (Part 1) – Recognize, Repent, Retool, Rework, Rejoice!

Posted: July 16, 2017 in 06-Joshua
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Joshua 23:1-16 (Part 1 of 2)

Joshua’s Final Words to Israel

Over the past few years since I began my quest toward making God’s calling on my life a reality, I have had to prepare my testimony (my journey to the cross and beyond) in short form, long form, you name it. Virtually every job application, every school application, in the church world, you have to lay out your spiritual journey for them. Church jobs require it. Graduate school admission applications require it. So, you gotta get to know your journey to the cross and what has happened since that time. It’s just part of the deal.


Since the summer of 2011 when I began the admissions process for my Master of Christian Ministry (MCM) degree, I have had to hone and develop my faith journey’s story. Then with job applications after getting my degree in May 2014 and with applications to the various doctoral programs to which I have applied since then, I have really been able to flesh out my testimony into a full-fledged autobiographical sketch of myself from first memories of my existence to where I am today. And it is from this process that I have identified some common themes of my life and what my single greatest sin weak spot is. That weakness is seeking approval from others rather than from God. I think it stems from growing up as a preacher’s kid in a Methodist preacher’s home. Moving every couple of years as I did growing developed this need for acceptance but yet always feeling like an outsider. It is something that troubles me to this day. I am a loner of sorts but one who yearns to be accepted by the crowd. That was the dominating theme of my life growing up. It would lead me to throw my socially awkward brother (he’s pretty cool now but was the classic geek growing up) under the bus to fit in with the crowd. It led me to be a certain kind of personality in one place we lived and a different one in the next place to which we moved depending on the kind of community in which we lived. I was a social chameleon – taking on the color of my surroundings so as to survive and thrive.


As an adult, when you no longer that society of school (including college) where we have to impress or be oppressed, you settle into your life’s work and it seems the scale of life reduces to simply the relationships you have in life – the ones in your personal life and the ones at work. No longer do you have that defined society of school where you know the boundaries of the kingdom and your place in it. In the real world, it is this massive place that is ill-defined and has no real boundaries. Real life is this amorphous blob kind of like the universe itself – a thing that goes on and on forever. To make sense of it all, you simply make your world smaller by defining through the people that you know. We make our individual universes small enough to manage. Without school, these relationships of the people that we know become extremely important. For me, I defined my world by the acceptance of and approval from whomever was the woman in my life. My life up to the cross was defined by that and the first two marriages, my need for approval and validation came from these two women. Approval came through validating myself through sex. When we were active with one another, I felt I had their approval. Thus, she who holds the keys then becomes a god. I made each wife my God and I let myself become controlled by the amount of access I had to their feminine charms. I let it become my god. Suffice it to say, and I do not blame either one of them now for why this happened, but I let go of my place as the leader of the home just to maintain approval. The greatest fear I had was being disapproved and alone and without access.


Many people think that salvation will change everything and everything is perfect after that. They are so wrong. Salvation is just the beginning of the journey. And for me, the longest hardest thing that the Holy Spirit had to work on me about was seeking approval from others, specifically the women in my life. In other words, my idol worship was a hard thing for me to give up even after my salvation in December 2001. We are perfected by the Holy Spirit over a course of a lifetime. They are sins we commit that we are slower to open our eyes to than others, but the Holy Spirit does eventually open our eyes to it and expose it to us and that is the time that we must deal with it and put that behavior behind us. It takes time on our particularly stubborn sins that we cling to.


My need for approval, particularly from the women in my life, even after two failed marriages continued on even after salvation. I rationalized away my lifestyle of encounters and pursuit of encounters as OK for me and that it was not sin – not for me. If I ignored the sin, it is not sin, right. Idol worship of women and sexual relationships outside of wedlock was OK – for me. That rule of God applies to someone else, not me. God just wants me to be happy, right? God let me have this one sin or couple of sins to myself and I will obey you otherwise, OK? Deal?


My own past of idol worship and turning away from God’s plan for my life is what I thought of when I read through this passage for the first time of two times this morning. Let us read through it and see how this all ties together after we read the passage:

23 After a long time had passed and the Lord had given Israel rest from all their enemies around them, Joshua, by then a very old man, 2 summoned all Israel—their elders, leaders, judges and officials—and said to them: “I am very old. 3 You yourselves have seen everything the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake; it was the Lord your God who fought for you. 4 Remember how I have allotted as an inheritance for your tribes all the land of the nations that remain—the nations I conquered—between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 5 The Lord your God himself will push them out for your sake. He will drive them out before you, and you will take possession of their land, as the Lord your God promised you.


6 “Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. 7 Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. 8 But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now.


9 “The Lord has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. 10 One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised. 11 So be very careful to love the Lord your God.


12 “But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, 13 then you may be sure that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you.


14 “Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed. 15 But just as all the good things the Lord your God has promised you have come to you, so he will bring on you all the evil things he has threatened, until the Lord your God has destroyed you from this good land he has given you. 16 If you violate the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you.”


In this passage, we see that Joshua knew nation’s weak spots. Before dying, he called the people together and gave commands to them where they would most likely slip – the temptations right in their own backyard: falling into idol worship with the remaining pagans in the land, and intermarrying with pagans. Our associations and relationships can be temptations to us as well. It is wise to identify our weak spots before we break down. Then, we can develop strategies to overcome these temptations instead of being overcome by them.


It was not until I met Elena who DID NOT want to have a relationship with me of any kind at first that the idol worship of women and what I needed to keep access to that I began to relinquish my idol worship. It was through this relationship that I learned what real unconditional love was and what real belonging means. For the first time in my life (over the last decade since I met her), I have not had to jump through hoops (whether self-imposed or imposed by others) to maintain approval. We have been married for seven years now and this is the longest stretch of my life where I feel secure. I don’t feel like I have to jump through hoops to gain her approval. The stupid things that I did in the past to maintain a woman’s approval are now just stupid things of the past.


It is through the Holy Spirit and the circumstances of life that bring you to your knees and through God speaking through other people that we recognize where our sin weak spots are. Sometimes, it takes a while for us to see it clearly. It usually takes some events that come crashing down on us to see it but God opens our eyes through the Holy Spirit. One day we realize that we have been disobedient to Him and worse yet we have justified it as OK. We protect our sin weak spot until it destroys us. Only then are we willing to listen to God about the truth of our sins and how they condemn us in front of Him without repentance on our part and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.


What is your sin weak spot? What is that you are holding onto as an OK sin for you? What are you lying to yourself about as being OK since it is your sin? Are you justifying it? Are you blind to God’s Word about the pet sin you want to keep? God’s Word is true for all and God’s Word is true eternally not just in the past. What is the sin that you need to confess? What is the sin that is sin no matter how you slice it that you must repent from? Are you still blind that is OK for you even if it is a sin because you can handle it? Are you ignoring God’s Word on your pet sin?


Think about it. Examine it. Write down your life story and see the common pet sin that you fall back on all the time. Repent of it. Come to the Lord and ask forgiveness. Ask His help in making your path straight. He will bring people into your life that will help you get beyond your pet sin. The Holy Spirit will help you once you are honest about that pet sin that you are clinging to. Recognize. Repent. Retool. Rework. Rejoice!


Amen and Amen.

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