A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on September 6, 2009 by Pastor Dale Raether Let Me Be Yours Forever Joshua 24:1-18 How many of you’ve heard of Brett Farve? He’s this quarterback, who can’t make up his mind. In fact here’s a 30 second commercial with him in it that was aired just before he signed with the Minnesota Vikings. Show the clip. Are you as afraid of commitment as Brett is? The scary thing about commitment is we can’t see into the future. What if the situation changes and we don’t want to be in it anymore? Or, what if we change and loose interest in whatever it is we’re committed to? On the other hand, if we don’t commit, what if we miss out on some blessing God wants to give? God’s word this morning urges us to not be afraid of commitment, but rather to renew our commitments, first to God and then to one another. May God’s Word lead each of us to pray, Let Me Be Yours Forever! Yet why pray this prayer? Why make this commitment? because God’s love for us never fades, and because Our love need never fade. In our text Joshua was near the end of his life. He was the one, who led the Children of Israel against Jericho and eventually defeated all the Canaanite nations. At this point there were only a few pockets of resistance left. Otherwise the land of Canaan was now the land of Israel. At the age of 110, Joshua’s life work was done, and had just one more thing to do. He would call on all of Israel to renew their commitment to God. Please look to the screen. I would like you to read the part of the narrator, which is printed in bold. And then I will read the part of Joshua from there on. 1Then 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 forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River and worshiped other gods. 3 But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the River 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 sons went down to Egypt. On the screen is a map of UR, where Abraham grew up. This next picture is of the ziggurat or idol temple Abraham would have seen every day. Centuries before Abraham and perhaps not that many centuries after the Flood, people in Ur still worshipped the Lord. In fact here’s a hymn verse that was found in Ur dedicated to the Lord God: Lord of heaven and earth, The earth was not; you created it. The light of day was not, you created it; The morning light you had not yet made. By the time of Abraham not many were still singing this. Instead they were worshipping over 3000 different deities, and many times their worship was nothing more than a glorification of sex and bingeing. Abraham’s family joined in. Apparently the Flood wasn’t enough of a warning. However, rather than turn His back on sinful mankind, God called Abraham from out of that mess and choose to him to be an ancestor of the Savior. And now here was Joshua’s point for the Children of Israel. God’s grace to them wasn’t based on their bloodline, because their bloodline was full of idolatry. God’s grace to them was based on God’s grace. What about your bloodline? Mine’s not that great. On my mother’s side, my grandfather whom I’m named after, was never baptized and he beat my grandmother. On my father’s side, I have a great-grandfather, whom my mother said was such a horrible person, everyone was happy when he finally died. Going back even farther, we all have Adam in our bloodline, and from him we’ve inherited a nature that prefers sin no matter how much God shows His love or threatens His punishment. Nevertheless, just as He planned in eternity how He would use Abraham and his descendents to send a Savior, He also planned how He would give you and me faith in that Savior. Joshua continues on at verse 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 fathers out of Egypt, you came to the sea, and the Egyptians pursued them with chariots and horsemen [b] as far as the Red Sea. [c]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 desert for a long time. In Egypt God caused 70 children of Israel to grow into a nation of over 2 million. Then when the time was right, Moses led them through the waters of the Red Sea, which officially marked their birth as a nation. In the same way, the waters of our Baptism officially mark our birth into God’s family. Now, none of that was our doing, especially if we were little babies. It was all God’s doing, just as the Children of Israel becoming His people was all His doing. Once the Children of Israel were in the desert and on their way to the Promised Land, God took care of them every step of the way. Also when they rebelled, against Him, He forgave them. When they wandered from Him, He patiently, repeatedly shepherded them back Himself. Do you also see how God is doing the same for you in your life, as He leads you to the promised land of heaven? I’m not going to read the next section of Joshua’s speech. Anyway God used him to conquer the heathen nations and settle His people in homes they had not built to harvest crops they had not planted. Again this was all God’s doing; but it was also a fore shadow of how God is preparing eternal home for us in His heavenly paradise. In light of God unfading love for you, can you join in sincerely praying, Let Me Be Yours Forever? Why waffle between God and this world? His love for us isn’t based on our background or even on how well we’ve been doing in our daily life. God’s love for us is based solely on the merits of His Son, Jesus Christ. And so, we can trust that with Him by our side we are always in a good situation, even when things get tough. Therefore do not be afraid to commit. However, while God’s love for us doesn’t fade, will our love for Him can fade. In the case of my grandfather, his father rejected God because of how hard life is. Others may turn from the Lord, not because of bad times, but when times are good – maybe too good. So, that we never turn from the Lord, let’s hear from Joshua what commitment to God really means. As I read this, please count how many times you see the word serve or serving. "Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the 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 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 counted the word serve or serving 7 times. To be committed to God is to serve Him. But this isn’t a grudging service like, “Ah, do I have to go to church today?” Rather, when we’re committed to God, our service to Him is motivated by love and respect, which is what it means to FEAR Him. Incidentally, I fear my wife. No, I’m not afraid of her. But I love and respect her, which makes doing things for her not at all a burden, and all of this is part of being committed to her. You husbands out there, do you also fear your wife? Pray that God ever increase your faith and hope, so that you love doing what He commands, which in your case is that you cherish and serve your wife. Wives, this works both ways, of course. And for all of us, let’s show our commitment to God by keeping our commitment to others, and let’s do this gladly, freely from the heart, for God is committed to you! Another word Joshua uses to describe committed service to God is faithful. Faithful here means complete, sincere, not on again/off again or just going through the motions. Is your service to God faithful? Maybe not always! Instead of doing things out of love and respect for God, some things are done out of guilt. When that happens, how long before we start to burn out? Or, how long before our service becomes half-hearted? If we are to remain faithful in our commitment to God, we need His strength! For this reason I urge spending time with Jesus through His Word. There remember again what attracted you to Him. It was the nail wounds in His hands and feet. It was His victory over death and how He keeps His promises. By spending time with Jesus, that’s how He keeps our love for Him from fading. I believe this is also true for our earthly commitments. For example, you spouses, do you still have the same fondness for each other as when you first met? Wouldn’t faithfulness mean that you always work at keeping that spark going? So, then count your spouse’s good qualities and spend time together, for this is pleasing to God. But what if walls have been built up and there’s nothing you can do to tear them down? Then, as far as the problems you caused, remember that none of them changes God’s commitment to you. In that peace, may you find peace and still strive to rebuild what sin has destroyed!However, this may be easier said than done. On top of that, the world may be pushing on us all kind of bad advice and easy outs. It was that way for the Children of Israel too. They were still surrounded by heathen nations with some living right among them. Joshua knew how tempting it would be for them to go along with their unbelieving neighbors. However, in the long run, going along with sin eats away at a person’s faith and destroys one’s relationship with God. And so, service to God needs to also be exclusive. We need to make clean breaks from whatever sins might be tempting us, and not see how close we can get without giving in. However, is God asking too much that we serve Him with our whole heart exclusively? Well, is it too much for spouses to make a clean break from flirting with old girlfriends or boyfriends? Hardly! When we love and respect our spouse, we don’t want anyone else. When we love and respect Jesus, we’ll take Him and you keep the world. So, are you ready now to re-affirm your commitment to the Lord as well as your earthly commitments? Are you ready to pray, “Let me be yours forever? If so, please look to the screen. This time I’ll read the part of the narrator; and then you continue on with the part of the people printed in bold, and when you’re done reaffirming your commitment to God, let’s together say “amen.” . 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 fathers 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." Amen!

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