Have You Made Your Decision for Christ? (Joshua 24:14-18)
I have made some horrible decisions in my life. One of my embarrassing decisions happened when I was preaching in Kentucky. A church member passed away, and I was asked to conduct his funeral. It’s customary there for the preacher to lead the funeral procession—I led the way, the hearse was immediately behind me, the family behind it, and so forth. After the graveside service, I made the decision to leave, so I got in my car and put it in gear. Unfortunately, I made the decision not to check what gear my car was in, and I backed my car right into the hearse at the cemetery.
I know I’m the only one in this room who has ever made a foolish decision, right? You’ve never made the decision to send a text without double-checking its recipient and embarrassed yourself. You’ve never made the decision to pay a bill later, forgot about it, and had a utility turned off. You’ve never made the decision to handle a home repair yourself only to spend more money because you finally called a professional after making a complete mess of things. You’ve never made the decision to ignore your children for your own selfish pursuits.
The worst decision you could ever make, however, is to refuse to follow Jesus. Many have decided to reject Jesus. The rich young ruler came to Jesus, but when the Lord told him difficult truths, he went away sorrowfully. Judas decided to follow Jesus, but he allowed greed to get in the way. He could have made the decision to come back to Jesus and follow him all over again, but he decided to kill himself instead. Pilate at times, at least, seemed to believe the deity of Jesus, but he decided to put Caesar over Christ.
Dire consequences await the one who decides to reject Jesus. “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (Matt 7:26-27). “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day” (Jn 12:48).
Joshua urged his hearers to put bad decisions behind them. He reminded the people that their forefathers had made poor decisions and followed idols.
- “Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods” (Josh 24:2).
- “Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD” (Josh 24:14).
This morning, you, like the ancient Israelites need to put bad decisions behind you, for “You need to decide to follow Jesus today.” Let’s see how that truth flows from our text:
Scripture (Joshua 24:14-18)
The word “therefore” ties what Joshua was about to say with what he has already said. In the two paragraphs before this one, Joshua had provided the reason the Israelites needed to serve God; he had just told of God’s mighty acts in redeeming his chosen people from Egypt. It was—in other words—because God had been so very good to his people that they should serve the Lord.
The people needed to fear and serve the LORD in sincerity. The word “fear” means to revere or to honor God. The Hebrew term for “serve” meant to work. The word was used in the Old Testament for Jacob’s working for Laban and for the job of tilling the ground. The idea is that the fear of the LORD would lead to concrete action.
For the people to honor and serve God correctly they had to put away the idols their fathers had served. The people, in other words, needed to repent and to change their lives.
I want you to notice the generational nature of sin; the people were being led astray by the influence of their ancestors. Ancestors have a way of leading future generations into sin. Just take Abraham and Isaac, for example: Abraham lied to Abimelech about Sarah’s being his sister instead of his wife (Gen 20:1ff), and Isaac told the exact same lie to Abimelech about Rebekah (Gen 26:9ff).
If the Israelites didn’t want to serve Yahweh, they could choose which god they would serve. Notice that these folks had not yet made their decision to follow the LORD, yet he had already blessed them so richly—he had redeemed them from Egypt with a mighty hand.
Regardless of what the people decided, Joshua and his family would serve God; Joshua said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh 24:15). Joshua would lead his entire family in following Yahweh. From the time the first man and woman were placed in the Garden, God has expected men to lead their wives and children in the path of righteousness.
The people pledged to do as Joshua had done and serve the LORD; they said, “We also will serve the LORD, for he is our God” (Josh 24:18). Joshua had provided an example for the people, and they followed.
We notice from both Joshua’s address and the people’s response that “You need to decide to follow Jesus today.” Some of you are thinking, “Justin, we’re Christians. We made the decision to follow Jesus long ago.” Excellent! There isn’t a greater decision you could ever make. Some of you might think that you can simply sleep through the rest of the sermon, but there are some important truths even you need to consider.
If you are, in fact, a Christian, what do you need to do because you need to “Decide to serve Jesus today?”
You must DECIDE.
The people in our text made their decision. Joshua said he and his house would serve the LORD. The Israelites gathered before him said that they would serve the LORD.
You need to decide whether or not you will surrender your entire life to Jesus. I’m not talking about having been immersed into Jesus and coming to church and dropping a small check in the collection plate and taking the Lord’s Supper and singing a few songs and listening to some prayers and a sermon. I’m talking about the gut-level service to Jesus that takes priority over everything else.
Many before you made that decision. When Jesus saw Peter, Andrew, James, and John working, he called them, and they left their careers and their families to serve Jesus (Matt 4:18-22). When Saul was steeped in error, he learned the truth and dropped everything to follow Jesus (Acts 9).
You might think this is corny, but I want you to do a couple things this week.
- Pray to God and tell him that you are deciding to offer yourself to him as his servant.
- Take a post-it note or just a piece of paper and write, “I have decided to follow Jesus,” and place it where you will see it every day.
Make that all-important decision to follow Jesus.
You must DESTROY.
The people of Israel needed to take a serious look at the idolatry in their lives. Joshua called on them to put away their idols (v 14), and the people pledged to put away their idols (v 16).
You need to look at your heart and see what idols you need to destroy. On Sunday morning, when you have a family gathering or there’s a good ballgame on TV or the kids have a school activity or it’s a nice day for fishing or the beach, will you worship the God of heaven or the god of this world? When it’s time to write the check for the collection plate, do you serve the God of heaven or the god of covetousness? When the church needs willing workers, do you get busy for the God of heaven or the god of convenience?
Take time this week to examine the depths of your heart to see what idols you need to destroy.
You need to DISCERN.
Joshua and the people discerned just how good God had been in their lives. Joshua had recounted all of God’s gracious acts on behalf of his chosen people. The people themselves discerned God’s mighty blessings in their lives—how God did mighty wonders for them and had preserved them from Egypt to the Promised Land.
You know how good God is. If you sincerely follow Christ, God will supply your every need.
- “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [the necessities of life] will be added to you” (Matt 6:33).
- “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19).
If you’re truly following Jesus, you don’t need to worry about the necessities of life—God will provide.
If you sincerely follow Christ, God will supply you with all spiritual blessings. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:3). God will forgive your every sin, hear your every prayer, give you peace surpassing all understanding, and provide you a glorious entrance into his eternal abode.
This week take time to discern God’s graciousness toward you. How has God blessed your life? There is your reason to serve the God of heaven.
You need to DO.
It’s time to act! As he was on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians, the Lord Jesus called Saul to be an apostle and proclaim the good news to the Gentiles. Later, when he was going by the name Paul, he was imprisoned at Caesarea and said, “O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19).
It is time for you to obey the heavenly message. Are you ready to act right now as we stand and sing?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.