Pre-Intro: Good morning church, happy Labor Day weekend! My name is Matt Lubratt and I’m the Youth Pastor here at Renovation Church and I am excited to be with you this morning. Before we jump into our amazing passage, I want to tell you a little more about me.
This is my wife, Marnie. We have been married for 3 and a half years and we are excited to be back in Minnesota. I'm sure the nice summer has deceived us a little bit, but we are super grateful to be up here and to be a part of such an amazing church.
I’m also a part-time student at Dallas Theological Seminary… in Dallas. And I’ve been working on that degree for 3 and a half years and I have about another year and a half to go on that.
But I am super thrilled to be here to help put on Renovation Youth this upcoming year, so if you are a student going into 6th grade, all the way up to 12th grade, then you’re not gonna want to miss our Renovation Youth Fall Kickoff on September 14th!!! That’s my one shameless plug.
Text: Well, if you have a Bible go ahead and grab it and turn to Joshua chapter 24. This morning we are finishing up our summer series on the Book of Joshua. If you are using a Bible like this one, you’ll find Joshua 24 on page 162. I will join you there in a moment…
Image: In 2007, there was a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University named Randy Pausch who delivered a lecture titled, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” Some of you may have seen this, it has 20 million views on YouTube. He was young, seemingly healthy, and he was one of the youngest professors at Carnegie Mellon to ever achieve tenure. But the lecture that he gave at the end of 2007 was a part of a series called, The Last Lecture. The prompt for the series was, “if you had one last lecture to give before you died, what would it be?” And Randy’s lecture literally was his last lecture because a month prior, his doctor had found 10 tumors in his liver and guessed he would have about 3-6 months left of good health before majorly declining.
So, Randy delivers this brilliant lecture on how to achieve your childhood dreams. It was witty and insightful, but most importantly, the audience was glued to every word that came out of Randy’s mouth. They knew that this was his last lecture and that he would only be bringing his absolute best and most important content.
Subject: This morning we are going to read Joshua’s last words to the nation of Israel. Where he brings his absolute best, his most important call for the people of Israel. Last week Pastor David brought us through chapter 23 which was the first part of Joshua’s farewell speech where Joshua is calling them to “hold fast” to the Lord. And Pastor David used the imagery of a Large Rock in a flooded city where everyone else is getting swept away by the current but as Christians we are supposed to “hold fast” to the rock, that is Christ. And this morning we are finishing our summer series through the book of Joshua and looking at part two of Joshua’s last words where he is addressing the whole congregation of Israel and calling for action and commitment down to each individual person.
Preview: This message is titled, “Serve the Lord.” Because we will see that this is the whole point of Joshua’s speech, it is the most important thing to him, so he challenges the people of Israel to put away their idols and Serve. The. Lord.
To start, we are going to see Joshua speak on God’s behalf as he recounts to Israel all that the Lord has done for them over the last 450 years. And this first passage is pretty long, we are going to read the first 13 verses, but while I’m reading I want you to count the number of times you see the word “I” used. Got it? Alright let’s go.
Read Joshua 24:1-13
We overestimate our contribution to our success. (v.1-13)
We will get to the “I’s” in a moment. (Show picture) this is a picture that Pastor Josh showed a couple of weeks ago when working through Joshua chapter 8, and Israel the nation of Israel is present here at Shechem, you have Mount Gerizim on the left and Mount Ebal on the right and a valley in between that had great acoustics for Joshua and the other leaders to speak to the whole congregation of Israel at once.
And we see Joshua start this address to Israel focusing on what God has done for them, and he starts all the way back with the Abrahamic Covenant and tells the amazing story of God’s faithfulness up to that point. And notice that this all happened at Shechem.
Shechem is where God first showed Abram, before he became Abraham, the land that his offspring would inherit in Genesis 12. It’s where this 450-year period started.
In Genesis 35, we see Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, bury idols of foreign gods which was a sign of recommitment to the Lord.
In Joshua 8:33, where Pastor Josh first showed this picture, the nation of Israel built an altar here at Shechem, to praise the Lord and to remember what he had done for them.
And now in Joshua 24, Joshua is gathering the people of Israel to show them that God has kept his promise to Abraham and to the whole nation of Israel. Over 450 years, through different generations, under different leaders, even in slavery and in battle, God was carefully orchestrating and fulfilling his plan to give the promised land to the Israelites, and it is inaugurated at no other place but Shechem, where God had started the process 450 years earlier.
C. And how did it come about? How did it happen? When we read the passage, I told you to count the number of times that the word “I” was used. And the correct answer was 18 times. The Israelites should not be confused as to WHO was responsible for their victory, for their provision, and for their inheritance, it was 100% God’s perfect work on his perfect timing. He was playing 4d chess to demonstrate to the Israelites and to us that there is one true God, and he fights for his people.
D. But the problem that the Israelites had, and we have it too. This is main point #1: is that we generally overestimate our contribution to our success. God, through Joshua, is drilling it into the heads of the Israelites that God is the reason for their past victories. Their blessing is not based on their own merit but based on a gracious God who gave them the land as a free gift.
The Israelites could have been tempted to believe that their strength or their military strategy was what gave them the land and all of the possessions within it. And if the Israelites believed their success was all due to their efforts, it would be so easy to start thinking that they didn’t need God. And why should they bother serving the Lord, when they are able to do everything themselves?
So, God is being very clear here with the number of times “I” is used… it was his power that created their nation, brought their ancestors out of slavery in Egypt. It was his provision that kept them alive in the wilderness, and it was his might that gave them victory over the. God is leaving no room for interpretation about who is responsible here for Israel’s victory.
E. I think it’s easy to look generally at the foolishness of the Israelites in the Old Testament and think, “of course it was God who gave you this victory and success, like how could you guys be so blind and forgetful about what he did!” But the truth is that we do the same thing. We overestimate our contribution to our own success.
So, what are you taking credit for in your life that God deserves credit for? Maybe it's the job you have, I’m sure you knocked your interview out of the park, but who gave you the gifts to do that, who gave you the family or connections that you have? Maybe God was a bigger part of that process than we give him credit for. Maybe he was working more behind the scenes than what we saw? It’s just something for us to remember as we think about our own success and accomplishments, is God getting enough credit for it? Is he getting the due credit for what he has done in our lives and before our lives?
Transition: Let’s look back at the passage and pick up at verse 14 and 15.
Read Joshua 24:14-15
II. A commitment to serving the Lord should impact everyone in your life. (v.14-15)
A. I know we have already counted a lot this morning, but I do want to point something else out that helps us clearly understand the point of this passage. From verse 14 to the end of Joshua 24, there are 14 uses of the word “serve”. So, the first part of this chapter verses 1-13 is all about what God has done which is noted by the number of “I’s” used. And verses 14 through the end of the chapter is about how the Israelites should respond. “Will they recognize everything that he has done for them, and then serve him? Or will they turn away from him and serve other gods. They cannot have it both ways.” This is main point #2: A commitment to serving the Lord should impact everyone in your life.
B. And we see that start to play out here. In verse 14, we see the central point of the passage which is to serve the Lord. It starts with two steps personally, and then it ripples out into all of the relationships in our lives.
The first step is to “fear the Lord”. This isn’t like “horror movie” fear, where we are scared about what God might do to us, but it is a respectful reverence, a “standing in awe” of who God is. He is the all-powerful creator who is infinitely holy. So, for the Israelites, they were to look at what God had done for them, they were to acknowledge the Lord’s mighty hand that took care of them and gave them victory. And that leads to step 2 which is:
“Serve Him”. From the place of reverence and this “standing-in-awe” of what God has done for them, the Israelites are called to serve him. And it’s an obvious choice! God has done amazing miracles and brought you victory against armies that were larger than them and that knew the land better than them. So, Joshua is saying, “remember what he has done for you and now serve him.”
C. The Jews in the Old Testament were saved to serve God so that they could share and demonstrate who God is to the world, and in the same way, we are saved as New Testament believers to serve God and display him to the world. We do not serve to be saved, but we are saved to serve. It is the natural overflow of that salvation that leads us to serve God.
D. I want to bring your attention back to verse 14 quickly. The first word of verse 14 is “Now”. And we just talked about how that word is transitioning the focus from what God has done to what the Israelites will do. Other translations will add the word “therefore” to draw this idea out even more.
If we were to look at ourselves for a moment, what is your “therefore”? What has God done in your life THEREFORE you will serve him? In what way did he MIGHTLY show up in your life that has given you a deep conviction to serve him?
For me, when I was 19, I was walking in my own ways, I was claiming to be a follower of Jesus while living completely contrary to what he commanded me, and he didn’t have to… but in his grace and love he reached down into my life and first showed me my sin, how he saw it. And in the despair that followed from seeing how utterly hopeless I was in the hands of a holy God. He then showed me the beauty of Jesus, the perfect, spotless lamb, on the cross in my place. And he set my paths straight. He has given me new life. So THEREFORE, I will serve the Lord… What is your “therefore”? You should know what God has done in your life, THEREFORE, you serve him.
E. At the end of verse 15, we see the iconic verse that people will put in their houses and on Instagram. “But as for me and my house (Joshua says)… we will serve the Lord.” Joshua is calling the people of Israel to commit to this, to commit to serving the Lord but even if they don’t, Joshua and his family still will. And Joshua’s commitment didn’t just affect his family, at the end of this chapter it says that while he was alive, all of Israel served the Lord, he was an influential leader and his commitment affected his family and the whole nation of Israel.
And what’s amazing about Joshua saying this, is that he didn’t just decide there, he decided many years ago when he was a younger man and he recommitted himself to serving the Lord over and over again. He committed when he was only one of the two spies that believed that God could bring the Israelites victory in Canaan, he committed when God told him to attack Ai again after a humiliating defeat. And he even committed to serving the Lord again here when he is days, if not weeks from his last breath. Joshua committed daily to serving the Lord.
I know that we have some “experienced, retired” folks in this room. And I just want to encourage you for a moment. I want to say that you are not too old to have an impact in the kingdom of God… Most of you are just getting started. So would you commit your later years your last 20 years, your last 5 years, maybe even your last months like Joshua here, would you commit to serving the Lord saying, “As for me and my house…” And would you allow that to ripple through your family’s legacy? Just like the computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, your influence is only growing, your words and your actions carry weight.
Don’t strive for that hole in one, or strive to find the best cruise, which are fun things, and I’m envious… but would your ultimate striving be to hear the Lord say to you, “well done, good and faithful servant.” And if that hasn’t been the #1 thing you’ve been striving for lately, then today is the best day to recommit to serving him, just like Joshua did here.
Transition: Let’s go back to the passage, we are skipping over verses 16-18 which is where the Israelites say, “no Joshua! We will serve the Lord!” And this is Joshua’s response.
Read Joshua 24:19-23
III. Serving God is impossible without God’s help (v.19-23)
A. Joshua says it plain and simple in verse 19, “you are not able to serve the Lord.” Joshua is assuming that the Israelites won’t serve God. He’s saying, “are you sure? I’ve seen how easily and how quickly you’ve turned away from God and disobeyed him.” Joshua knows that they couldn’t and that even we can’t serve God on our own strength. He knew that the will of man is weak, but that God is powerful and faithful to give us the strength needed to serve him.
B. We experience this in our own daily lives as New Testament believers too, Jesus knew that we wouldn’t be able to follow him completely and fully on our own, so he sent the Holy Spirit, the helper and comforter. When you put your trust in Christ, the Holy Spirit starts to dwell within you and he is the one that gives you the strength to obey the commands of God, and say no to sin, to have the courage to spread the gospel. So, with the Spirit indwelling us, we have an advantage that most Old Testament believers didn’t have.
C. So even today, 3000 years after this took place. We still cannot serve God without the help of God through His Spirit. But praise God that he knew that, and so 2000 years ago he sent his son Jesus who took on human flesh, being fully man and fully God and he lived the perfect life that we could not live, he perfectly served his Father, and then he died in our place on the cross to pay for our sins. And then he rose from the dead showing his power over sin and then he gave us his spirit so that we could have that same power in order to serve God and show the world what he is like.
Transition: Let’s look to the end of the chapter and finish the book of Joshua.
Read Joshua 24:29-33
IV. Our Legacy must start with Christ and end with Christ. (v.29-33)
A. So there we have it. The end of the book, the end of Joshua’s story, but not the end of God’s story. God’s servants die but the service of God goes on. Joshua dies here at Shechem, the same place where God made this covenant with Abraham 450 years prior. And he fulfilled that covenant completely on his own.
And Joshua is given an amazing title here in his obituary, he is called “Joshua, the servant of the Lord.” The most important call that he gave to the nation of Israel was something that was already true in his life. What a legacy: that during his life, the whole nation of Israel served the Lord. His service, his trust, and his worship were filled with such a deep conviction that it impacted an entire nation.
B. And for us, this is the call, our last main point: Our legacy must start with Christ and end with Christ. Christian, is that your legacy? Does it start with Christ and end with Christ? Is your life leaving an impact for Christ in the world, however large or small? Is your sphere of influence different because of your commitment to follow Jesus?
Another way to phrase that question is: “How many people will be in heaven because of you?” Who have you impacted or shared the gospel with, that are now followers of Jesus? That because of you, have turned away from their sin and are clinging to Christ. How many…?
I think it’s so easy for us, myself included, to fall into a pattern of, “oh, I’ll pray for that person…” or “If I love them well, they’ll know it's Jesus.” Which is true, and those are both good things to do, but where does that person turn, when they are trying to fill the Jesus-sized hole in their heart, but you never told them where to look? Maybe this morning, you need to recommit to the mission of God, to take the gospel to the ends of the Earth. But before we get to the ends of the Earth. We first need to cross the street, cross the office, cross the hallway. My challenge for you this week is to share the gospel with one person. Explain how Jesus suffered on the cross, in our place, for our sins, so that we wouldn’t have to, and that we can accept eternal life as a free gift by putting our trust in him, and then share your “therefore”... how God changed your life, “therefore” you serve him. Who is that one person? Who God is laying on your heart to talk to this week?
CONCLUSION (Joshua and Jesus - gospel call)
To close, I’m going to call the band to come back up. And I want to make one final connection here at the end of Joshua. If you look at Joshua’s name in Hebrew, its “Yeshua” and if you look his name in the Greek, it’s “Iaysous” (Ἱησους). Joshua and Jesus have the same name in different languages. And the life of Joshua is foreshadowing the life of Jesus to come.
If we look back to Moses, he symbolized the law, and Joshua symbolized grace. Under the law, Moses was unable to enter the promised land, but under Joshua, the land was offered as a free gift. Not because of anything the Israelites did, but because God chose to give it to them.
This is the gospel, that under our own actions, under our own goodness, we cannot gain eternal life. In fact, under our sin, we stand guilty before a holy God and deserve his wrath. But praise God that he sent the second Joshua (Ἱησους), Jesus, his very own son, to die on the cross in our place, so that if we put our trust in him, we have atonement for our sins and are given the gift of eternal life with him.
Some of you need to put your trust in Jesus this morning. And if that’s you, I will be off to the right side of the stage after the service and I would love to talk to you. So don’t hesitate to come talk to me.
Copyright: Matt Lubratt
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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