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Whom Will You Serve?
Brett Anderson ©2004

In Joshua 24:14-15 it says, '"Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped beyond the river and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then CHOOSE FOR YOURSELVES THIS DAY WHOM YOU WILL SERVE, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."'

I think most of us know the story of the Israelites. Led by Moses out of Egypt, miraculously walk across the Red Sea after God parts the water, drink water that God sends from a rock, eat food that God drops in every night from the sky. They witness miracle after miracle and when things are good they serve God and then when things get a little hard or they forget what God has done, they start to serve other gods.

And I think eventually Joshua (and I'm sure God too) tires of this whole bouncing around between serving God and serving the local or previous gods, and he issues an ultimatum. Guys, you're being ridiculous - enuff now - Make a choice!!!

Jump to Matthew 6:24, middle of the Bible, and it's Jesus talking, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God or money."

Jesus talking specifically about money in this account, yet the principle is valid to all other areas of life as well.

Then, let's jump to the end of the Bible to make sure this is a valid message that is repeated a lot throughout Scripture and in Revelation 3:15-16 it says, and this is God talking to one of His churches, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other. So, because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold - I am about to spit you out of my mouth."

Wow! That's pretty hectic. Can you think of worse imagery than God spitting you out of His mouth? It expresses exactly His intention and feeling towards the lukewarmness.

So those are just three examples in the Bible (and this theme echoes through virtually every story you can think of in Scripture) where God sets out the choices. It's not even that He just says, 'Guys you must follow me.' - but every time He puts the choices on the table:

# Follow the gods of Egypt or the gods of the Amorites or Me

# Serve Me or money

# Be cold or hot

The bottom line of what God is saying and I believe what He has been trying to say prophetically to His church down the ages (this is NOT a new message) is MAKE A CHOICE!!!

If you look at the Revelation example it even says that He would rather you chose to be cold than lukewarm. Lukewarm is useless - it misses out on being cold and hot and so sits lamely in the middle. Lukewarm gets spat out!

CHOOSE THIS DAY WHOM YOU WILL SERVE!

It is important that you realise that this statement is not trying to distinguish between being a good Christian and a great Christian. The choice that is plainly set out before you is about being a Christian or not being a Christian.

So to clarify, it is not about me telling you how to become a better Christian... but more trying to help you maybe understand a bit more about what you 'signed up for' when you chose to become a Christian.

What helps me understand it a little better is the story Jesus tells in Matthew 13:44-46

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."

There are two things I pick up from this story and they sound a little bit the same, but with different emphasis:

Firstly, what they discovered was worth EVERYTHING! Absolute surrender. Giving everything else up, because in each case they had found something more valuable than all they owned.

Matthew 16:24 expresses this well: 'Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me."'

Being a Christian is about absolute surrender. Too many of us didn't hear the cost explained when we decided to join in and often when we are suddenly faced with it, it comes as a shock surprise. But Jesus stated it clearly - if you want to follow Me you must deny yourself (your dreams/plans/ideas about relationships/selfishness/pride) and take up your cross (live as if you are going to die, as if your life means nothing in a sense) and follow Me.

So that is quite a hectic ask but it is displayed in the story of the fields. In each case, it required giving up EVERYTHING.

Secondly, what they discovered was WORTH everything. It was so good that it was an easy swop to make because they realised that the treasure or the pearl was worth so much more than everything they already owned.

Paul talked about longing to know nothing except Christ crucified. [1 Corinthians 2:2]

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stand in front of the fiery furnace and say 'even if He doesn't save us, we will not bow down to your statue.' [Daniel 3:18]

Job gets to a point of saying, 'Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.' [Job 13:15]

These guys in the Bible, and countless others through history, came to the conclusion that following God and serving Jesus as Lord and Saviour, was even worth more than being alive. So it was an easy commitment to make, because they knew they were getting the better deal.

The problem with too many of us is that we like to live with the stuff we enjoy about Christianity (the intimate worship sessions, the fellowship of friends and the family vibe the church may give, the power of God, the warm fuzzy feelings we get sometimes when God is near) but yet we like to live with the stuff we enjoy about the world (the selfishness - looking after myself first, the pride of needing people to know who I am and treat me better, promiscuous relationships where all that matters is how I feel and that I'm getting my kicks, money, possessions, the latest labels) and so too many of us tend to try and straddle both...

Be wary of the sound of God clearing His throat in the background of your life. He could be getting ready to do some spitting.

Maybe you think I'm being a bit too harsh. Let's conduct a little test and answer each question how you honestly feel before moving on to the next one.

Let's just say that I have a girlfriend...

# If I have a girlfriend, is it okay for me to look at other girls?

[I know that will start a little buzz already, because there will be different answers on that one - 'yeah just looking is okay' - 'what kind of looking do you mean?' - that kind of thing]

So let's move on...

# If I have a girlfriend, is it okay for me to spend time with other girls?

[the buzz picks up slightly, because again I'm suspecting this is a context issue and 'how much time are you spending with her?' and 'is it just you and her?' are the kinds of questions being asked]

Take it up a notch:

# If I have a girlfriend, it is okay for me to buy presents for other girls? And we're not talking like my cousin or something - other nice-looking attractive girls?

[yeah that buzz! although now I'm guessing we have people arguing both sides and maybe a shift towards 'no?' - 'are we talking like a chocolate here or a 3000 buck diamond necklace?' Dissent is starting to show.]

Okay, well let's finish this then and remember to answer this honestly for yourself before reading on - have your opinion ready...

# If I have a girlfriend, is it okay for me to sleep with other women?

[And the buzz has gone... replaced by a loud din of opinions flying here and there and loud negative shouts going on and I bet you some strong opinions surfacing from people who have been cheated on and this suddenly brings all that to the surface... So, what IS your response to the question, and how does it make you feel that I even asked it, 'If I have a girlfriend, is it okay that I sleep with other women?']

THEN HOW COME YOU DO IT TO GOD?

In Hosea 1:2 it says, 'When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, "Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord."'

God gets one of His prophets to marry a prostitute to symbolise the relationship of Israel with other gods, having time and time again turned it's back on God and gone in search of something else...

We say that we love the Lord our God with all our heart and all our soul and all our strength and all our mind... we loudly and triumphantly sing the worship songs claiming that we give him all of our heart and all of our souls...

...and yet we prostitute ourselves with other stuff, by lusting after the things of the world and filling our lives with them and in essence turning our backs on God.

God is just worth SO much more and I stand side by side with you sometimes in doing the very same thing, so don't take this as a message from someone who gets it right all the time. But, having said that, my only real aim in life is to serve God with all my heart and mind and soul and strength... because I, like Joshua and Paul and others, have chosen this day (well a while ago actually) Whom I will serve. And at the end of the day, that is the ONLY thing that matters to me. What about you? CHOOSE THIS DAY WHOM YOU WILL SERVE!

I just want to share with you what the rest of that 'hot or cold' passage has to say,'You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired great wealth and do not need a thing. But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me.. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." [Revelation 3:17-21]

So there you have it. Everything you need is available in God. He is the One you should turn to to supply all your needs.

That 'Here I am' part of the verse is often quoted out of context as a verse to non-Christians to get them saved. Yet it is stuck in this passage where God is speaking to the church. And one of the saddest things is the imagery of Jesus being on the outside... but this is a Christian, this is the church, how can Jesus be on the outside? When we haven't chosen Him and have allowed other stuff and people to take His place.

BUT then comes one of the most amazing things of this whole passage, because Jesus is knocking. He is wanting to come inside. He deeply desires to be in absolute intimate relationship with us. And ALL we have to do is open the door and He will come inside.

How do we know when we've made this choice? I think when we can pray these two prayers with confidence, and this is the challenge I leave you with this week:

# God, I will GO ANYWHERE You want me to go...

# God, I will DO ANYTHING You want me to do...

Can you pray those prayers with absolute conviction and meaning?

Choose this day (don't put it off) who you will serve. As for me and my household (when I have one of those) we will serve the Lord.

God bless you and know that that is the ONLY way to live... it's worth EVERYTHING and it's definitely WORTH everything. This could be the best decision of your life.