Posts Tagged ‘renewing of the mind’

Joshua 24:1-28

The Lord’s Covenant Renewed

It’s kind of comparable to that sugar rush you get from eating something sweet and then comes the sugar crash. That’s how we are spiritually often! Sunday mornings are our candy sugar high and then we crash during the week.

You remember the church services that you go to and wow it is like this emotional, spiritual mountaintop experience. The music, the sermon, going out to lunch with fellow worshippers and discussing what just happened at church. It was a wow experience! On the ride home, you and your spouse talk about what was said and talk about how we as a family need to follow what the preacher said. We get home. Maybe a Sunday nap. May napping in and out while the Sunday football game is on. Still got good vibrations from Sunday morning worship. But then comes calling the kids in from play. The struggle to get homework done on Sunday night. The laundry that needs to be done for the school and work week. Dinner has got to be cooked. Chores out in the yard need to be done. Take out the trash. Getting the kids bathed and in the bed. And not long after that, it’s time for you and your spouse to hit the sack. Although the fever from the Sunday service is there, it is less intense now.

 

Then Monday comes. It’s back to school and work. It’s soccer, football and whatever other sports your kids are into. It’s getting them to practice. It’s sitting with other parents during practice talking about Donald Trump’s latest blunder with the press, about college football, about the latest recipe on pinterest. Then it is onto the next thing. Getting home. Getting some form of dinner fixed – must be healthy, with no MSG, no GMOs, and whatever the latest healthy food trend is. Getting homework done. Where is my husband? Working late again. Damn! Husbands wondering what they will find when they get home after a grueling day at the office where the boss ripped you a new one. Getting home to find the chaos of getting homework done, dinner being cooked, frayed nerves, too much to do and not enough of us to go around, kids whining about homework cause practice ran long and they are tired. Dinner is cooked. Everybody grabs their plate and goes to their separate places. Some at the table. Some in front of the TV. Some in their room. Did you make the mortgage payment for this 5 bedroom 2 ½ bath house? Did you get the oil changed in the BMW and the Volvo. Do we have enough money left over to pay the landscaper. Did we pay the HOA fees. Where’s are the kids’ ballgames this week. Well, you will have to take Suzy and Jasmine to their games and I will have to take Hunter and Brent to their games. Don’t forget I have that thing with the guys after work on Thursday. Don’t forget I have girls night out on Friday night. We can’t make small group Sunday night because we have that party at your boss’ house. It is all a maddening cycle of repetition and working things in, of managing the chaos, of too much to do and too little time to do it, to overcommitting ourselves.

 

No wonder by Saturday night, you reflect back on last Sunday’s great feeling and your willingness to do things God’s way. But six days later and you go to bed and get ready to go to church the next morning. You forgot what had you on such a spiritual high after church last Sunday. That seems so far away. You hope that you can rekindle it at church this Sunday. You need your weekly pick me up. You love Sunday morning at church cause for one thing, it is the one 3 hour stretch in your week that you and your family don’t really have to do anything but sit and listen, and the kids don’t get graded for what they do. Sunday morning church is your down time (provided there is not a softball or soccer or cheerleading tournament in a location six hours away or an away game for your favorite college team or you get the chance to go to the lake with friends). But you are there most Sundays. It really is a time for decompression isn’t it. It’s quiet time. A cup of joe from the coffee bar. A sweet Danish. Man, that air conditioning feels good. Man, these theatre seats sure are comfortable. Then the music starts. These guys are good. I heard that song on my Christian channel on Pandora this week. Love it. Love it. Love it! Oh this is the worship band’s new song. I think it like it. I really do. Oh here comes the giving talk. Divert attention by talking to wife or husband about where to go to lunch. Feel guilty about why I don’t have enough money to give to the church. Then, the pastor really knocks a home run with his sermon. Man, he really gets me. Man, he is really challenging me this week. I will do better. I promise. Rinse and Repeat.

 

Is this your week? Is this your spiritual life? Do you have peaks and valleys? Would you love to have the faith that Joe Super Christian has or that the pastor has but you just can’t fit it in? Well, that is what I thought of when I read this passage this morning, Joshua 24:1-28. The Israelites have their Sunday morning spiritual high here near the end of Joshua, but the one thing that stuck in my mind and was that last verse. Then Joshua concluded the ceremony and sent the people on their way. Knowing generally what happens next in Israel’s history in Judges, things didn’t go as planned in Judges. It reminded me of how we get our spiritual highs on Sunday morning and then by the following Saturday night life has taken its toll and nothing has changed in us. Many of us find ourselves there. Let’s read through this passage with that motif in mind:

24 Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God.

 

2 Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your ancestors, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods. 3 But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the Euphrates and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants. I gave him Isaac, 4 and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. I assigned the hill country of Seir to Esau, but Jacob and his family went down to Egypt.

 

5 “‘Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I afflicted the Egyptians by what I did there, and I brought you out. 6 When I brought your people out of Egypt, you came to the sea, and the Egyptians pursued them with chariots and horsemen[a] as far as the Red Sea.[b] 7 But they cried to the Lord for help, and he put darkness between you and the Egyptians; he brought the sea over them and covered them. You saw with your own eyes what I did to the Egyptians. Then you lived in the wilderness for a long time.

 

8 “‘I brought you to the land of the Amorites who lived east of the Jordan. They fought against you, but I gave them into your hands. I destroyed them from before you, and you took possession of their land. 9 When Balak son of Zippor, the king of Moab, prepared to fight against Israel, he sent for Balaam son of Beor to put a curse on you. 10 But I would not listen to Balaam, so he blessed you again and again, and I delivered you out of his hand.

 

11 “‘Then you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. The citizens of Jericho fought against you, as did also the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, but I gave them into your hands. 12 I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove them out before you—also the two Amorite kings. You did not do it with your own sword and bow. 13 So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.’

 

14 “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. 15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

 

16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! 17 It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. 18 And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.”

 

19 Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”

 

21 But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.”

 

22 Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.”

 

“Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.

 

23 “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.”

 

24 And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.”

 

25 On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he reaffirmed for them decrees and laws. 26 And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the Lord.

 

27 “See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the Lord has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.”

 

28 Then Joshua dismissed the people, each to their own inheritance.

 

In this passage, we see that the covenant between Israel and God was that the people would worship and obey God alone. Their purpose was to become a holy nation that would influence the rest of the world for God. The conquest of Canaan was a means to achieve this purpose, but Israel became preoccupied with the land and lost sight of God. The same can happen in our lives. We can start off with the greatest of intentions but somewhere along the way we forget to glorify God. It is easy to slip into quiet rebellion against the Lord and then one day we realize that we have wandered away from God. We may commit to follow God’s Word and be all fired up on Sunday but by Monday afternoon we are back to our normal selves when we do not really change, seek God in prayer, meditate upon His Word, and seek fellowship with other believers.

 

Why is it that we find it hard to stay on that spiritual high that we find ourselves in (like the Israelites here in this passage). We want to stay in that cocoon moment of emotional spirit that we often have on Sunday morning. We want to bottle that and take it with us. But it never works out that way. We fall back into our normal ways of thinking and doing. Our normal ways of what’s important in our lives. We wonder why we can maintain that spiritual feeling that we get on Sunday morning. Meanwhile, kids activities take number one spot every night. Job requirements take precedence. Our favorite hobbies take precedence. Our beautiful house, our beautiful wife, our beautiful clothes, our boat, our friends, our hobbies, our sports teams, our internet, our live stream, our Saturday filled with football games from College Game Day til you go to bed at 1am Sunday morning, its our family at separate ends of the house, its our video games, its our downloads, its our earbuds, its our checking social media and texting each other when we are the same room. When’s the last time, we prayed alone or even as a family? When’s the last time we studied God’s Word. When’s the last time we had to buy a new Bible because our old one wore out? When’s the last time we set aside time to study God’s Word alone as well as a family?

 

The Israelites fell into idolatry and turned away from God because they did not practice honoring God. They did not practice putting God first in their lives. We cannot ride our Sunday spiritual highs during the week without there being real change in our lives. We must take time and carve out time to be in God’s Word daily. We must carve out time to pray. I mean really pray. Not just calling intermittently talking to God throughout the day (though we should do that too) but really taking time out of our day to get quiet with the Lord and really pray. Just like losing weight requires lifestyle changes and when we don’t change our lifestyle we wonder why we are not losing weight so it is with our relationship with God. If we want to be closer to God, we gotta put Him first. God should not be a squeeze-in a few hours on a Sunday morning God. He should be the central core of our life. Everything should take a back seat to Him in everything. When we crowd him out with our gods – and we have them — our stuff, our activities, our children even, our spouse even, anything that we put in front of God. When we have a squeeze-in God, we ride a spiritual rollercoaster. We need to make God front row and center in our lives and we will find that our mind has been renewed. No longer on the rollercoaster. We study God’s Word. We pray. We talk about God daily. We make Him part of everything. We prioritize God first and our family activities second. When we put God first daily, you know, our kids begin to see that and begin to follow suit. It is up to us as fathers and mothers and husbands and wives to say, stop the madness and put God first. When we do (and it takes time to get our priorities in order), we will find blessing and peace and a constancy to our faith. It is not something we squeeze in any longer. It is who our family is – God first, everything else in its proper order after that.

 

Let us not be like Israel who has its spiritual high here but goes its own way after that. Let us not be rollercoaster, spiritual high thrill seekers. Let us be about placing God as our top priority everyday.

 

Amen and Amen.

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Matthew 7:21-23
True and False Disciples

Have you ever had someone just get up in your face and tell you the truth? Often, it is the truth that you do not want to hear? When other people either won’t tell you the truth because they fear it will hurt your feelings or they just want to avoid the conflict. But, there is that one friend. You know! The one who really cares about you and is willing to risk your friendship to set you straight. Jesus is being that friend in this passage. He is in our face. He is telling us the truth. He is willing to risk our friendship with Him to set us straight.

As we draw to the close of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gets more and more direct and to the point with his commentary. No parables. Just straight up, in your face words of spiritual reality. Words of authority and his place as judge. In this passage, Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus says,

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me: you evildoers!’

What is Jesus saying to us here? Let’s bottom line this thing. I think Jesus is saying one central thing…only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter God’s Kingdom on judgment day. This passage is all about obedience to God, the master of the universe. As Matthew Henry says in his textbook series, “Commentary on the Scriptures”, when speaking of this passage, “He shows, by a plain remonstrance, that an outward profession of religion, however remarkable, will not bring us to heaven”…

Henry goes on to say, “He is an excellent Christian on the Sabbath. As soon as the sun shines upon the earth on the first day of the week, all his religion is awake, but, alas, he is a very queer Christian on a Monday, and a remarkably bad Christian on Saturday nights. Many people keep their piety folded up and put away with their best clothes, and they only give it an airing on the Sabbath. Their Bible is to be seen under their arm on Sunday, but on a Monday, where is that Bible? Well, not at the man’s right hand, as a perpetual companion. Where are the precepts of Scripture? Are they in the shop? Are they in the house? Alas the golden rule has been left in church to lie dusty in the pews until next Sunday. Religion is not wanted by some people on a weekday, it might be inconvenient. Many there be who sing psalms of praise to God but confine their praises to the congregation; as to praising Him in their heart at home, it never occurs to them. Their whole religion lies inside the meeting house walls, or comes up at certain times and seasons during the day, when the family is called in to prayer.”

Wow, can’t put it any plainer than that. After reading Matthew Henry’s Commentary it is very clear that Jesus is saying that we have to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Jesus is saying that only the only who does the will of my Father will enter into heaven. There is no list here of things you have to do in life. No need for flashy public displays of your “love of Jesus”. Do the will of the Father. That’s it. Plain and simple. Without that, you are not in the Heaven club!

How do we do the will of the Father? What is the will of the Father? I think that we must answer the second question first and answer it this way. The will of the Father is different from our own human fleshly will. Thus, to do the Father’s will is to give up our own will. To give up our own will, our own control over our lives, is an act of obedience led by faith. Just as a child obeys his parents out of his faith that his parents will not let them come to harm so is giving up our will to that of God. The will of the Father is to love Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love others more than we love ourselves. We are to do more for others than we do for ourselves, love without expectation of return, loving the unloveable, being selfless instead of selfish, serving others without expecting a reward for it, never being ashamed of placing God at the kingship of our lives, being willing to die for our belief in God. These are the things of God’s will. These are the things of a full-on commitment to God. These are the hard things.

Charles Spurgeon, the great theologian, wrote this on the subject, “Do believers ever always do God’s will? Sadly the answer is no. We are not yet glorified. We still possess the fallen flesh. Clearly, genuine believers from time to time choose their will over God’s will, but when they do, as disobedient children of God, they subject themselves to the disciplining hand of their Father. In contrast, those individuals that Jesus is describing in this passage continually, habitually and as their “normal” pattern of life choose their will over God’s will. In short, what Jesus is describing is not “perfection” but “direction” of one’s life as evidenced by one’s daily thoughts, words and deeds – believers while not perfect (perfection) in this life are headed toward heaven (direction), although from time to time they do live like they are headed in the opposite direction!”

Taking Spurgeon’s thought a little further, if we are from fallen flesh, then what hope do we have to continually do the Father’s will. As Paul says in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, then we are hopelessly unable to complete a life of doing the Father’s will. Going back to Romans, Paul goes on to say in Romans 3:24, “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Thus, as our parents punished us for living outside their will, we suffer the results of our own living out of alignment with their will. We suffer the results of our sin. However, through the redemptive love of Jesus who died for our sins, we can be reconciled to God. Just as our parent’s wipe our slate clean and reinstate us to their favor, so does the redemptive grace of Jesus.

So, what does all this mean? To me, it means intentionality. It is choices. It is a mindset change. We must intentionally seek to do the will of God. To intentionally seek to do the will of God, we must give up our will. Willful children suffer when they purposely live their lives outside the will of their parents. So, we as God’s children must give guidance of our lives up to God. We must willingly seek His favor and His will. It is only when we see how lucky we are to be given good standing with God through Jesus’ redemption that we willingly take our own will off the table. We want to do God’s will. We live our life in that direction. Our actions of compassion, love and forgiveness and mind choices that demonstrate that direction. Any child no matter how angry and willful ultimately wants their parent’s approval and will glory in it when they get it. So, are we as God’s children! We willingly submit to his leadership of our lives. We want to represent him in the world. We want the world to know that through the covering of His Son that we have new life. We are so happy in that we want to do more, we want to be more for God. So happy in the new lease on life we have been given – taking us away from the life of selfishness and the pit that it dropped us in. Just as the Prodigal Son found himself in a pit with pigs (willing to eat the husks that people had rejected) realized that he could return to his Father. When he returned to his father, he was willing to be a lowly servant to just be in his dad’s house. His father rather gave him his place back in the house as his son. Although the Bible does not go on with the Prodigal story, but can you imagine the immense joy felt by the son who days before was in the pit. That’s how we feel as a true Christ follower, yes, father I want to do your will … anything you ask I will do … whatever you say I will follow it … I know from my life experience that you know best for me.

Those who say, “Lord, Lord” but yet live in a different direction are deluding themselves. We may think that going to church at the coolest church in town is enough. We may think that listening to and singing along with the most modern music with concert quality sound systems is enough. We may think that listening to a message by the hippest pastor around is all we need. However, if there is no salvation, there is nothing. If there is no life change, there is nothing. There is an old saying that goes, “They praise heaven on Sunday and live like hell the rest of the week.” Just sitting in church on Sunday at the “in church” in town without life change, without salvation, without living a submitted lifestyle is just saying “Lord, Lord” and Christ will say He never knew us. Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” How do we do this? We must truly accept Christ as our Savior and He will send the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. Nothing can replace or imitate salvation. The Holy Spirit then puts on His work gloves and begins to work in us daily. We must begin daily, hourly, minute by minute, make the mental choices to listen to the Holy Spirit. We must renew our mind. We must make choices that are consistent with God’s will as expressed in His Holy Word. It is hard work, this renewing of the mind thing. Sometimes, our flesh cries out against the Holy Spirit and it is a real struggle to do what the Holy Spirit says. Sometimes, what the Holy Spirits says for us to do is so very much in contrast to our nature and our culture! It is a choice to follow the Holy Spirit. It is a renewing of the mind. It is submitting our will to the will of God. How hard it is to let go of our will! There is no list or prescribed checklist here. Our faith is not about doing all the right things and not doing all the wrong things. That is legalism. That is meaningless in God’s eyes. What God wants is our heart, our allegiance, our undying devotion to Him, our willingness to give Him glory and not ourselves. What God wants is all of us. He wants us leave our will at the door and follow Him, trust Him, believe in Him, and allow Him to change us from the inside out.

Sometimes a hard dose of reality is what we need. That is what Jesus gives us in this passage. It is not hard to figure out. It is not a story that we must figure out the meaning. Jesus could not have put it any plainer. Even a child could figure out what Jesus is saying to us here. Direct language. Plain and simple, Jesus is direct. He says it straight out…do the will of my Father in Heaven and you will be there when your time comes! Do the will of the Father. Doing the will of the Father will show through our Prodigal son-like thankfulness for having been saved from the pit. Doing the will of the Father, Jesus says, is more than public displays to be seen by other men…it is actually living a life that is actively seeking to do the things that the Father wants us to do…really wanting to. As they say on American Idol, we need “to be in it to win it.” In it to win it…all in…thankfully joyfully seeking our Father’s favor by doing his will… His will not ours…Plain and simple.