It’s time for Christians to get to work. The time we have to make a difference in our society is growing shorter every day. [** explainer at bottom of article]
We can do two things with that information:
- Ignore it and go on with our lives .. until we can’t
- Use it for the glory of God .. while we can
Let’s choose to ‘use it’ – the time we have – to God’s glory!
[Podcast version available at the end of this post.]
“Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-15
Some Bible teachers try to fit their country (e.g. United States, Canada, France, United Kingdom) into the Old Testament promises God made to Israel. I won’t do that because we are not Israel. However, there are principles in the Old Testament that all Christians would be wise to follow.
The Apostle Paul wrote these words to Pastor Timothy –
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Notice, Paul said “All Scripture.” Paul wrote those words during the 1st century while the New Testament was still being written. The term ‘Scripture’ at that time referred primarily to what we know as the Old Testament. The Book of Joshua is part of the Old Testament. Even as God chose Israel as His covenant people, God chose Christians to be His Church, the Body of Christ.
Paul wrote his words to Timothy in this context –
“But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:10-15
Salvation, living godly in Christ Jesus and suffering persecution is an integral theme of Paul’s letter to Timothy. As Paul wrote, “evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” He wrote that almost two-thousand years ago, but it sounds like something a prophet might say about what’s happening in our culture today.
Paul wrote those words in this context –
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.” 2 Timothy 3:1-9
Last Days List
- men will be lovers of themselves
- lovers of money
- disobedient to parents
- without self-control
- despisers of good
- lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God
- having a form of godliness but denying its power
- those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins
- led away by various lusts
- always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth
- these also resist the truth
- men of corrupt minds
- disapproved concerning the faith
That’s quite a list and it’s representative of what’s happening in our world today — and it’s getting worse every day.
So, back to Joshua .. “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.”
That call to choose is still before God’s people today. What will we choose to do with our time, our energy, our resources? Will we choose to follow God and Him alone or the idols that are constantly on display before us?
The people of Israel answered Joshua this way –
“And the people said to Joshua, ‘The Lord our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey!” Joshua 24:24
Joshua made a covenant with the people that day in Shechem and sent them home. Joshua died as did the elders who served with Joshua and had seen all the great works of the Lord which He had done for Israel.
What happened after Joshua’s generation was gone?
“… another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel. Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals; and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger.” Judges 2:10-12
What did God do in response?
“And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel. So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. Wherever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for calamity, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were greatly distressed.” Judges 2:14-15
So, What Now?
Again, let me emphasize that this is what happened to Israel more than three-thousand years ago. It’s not specifically about the United States in the 21st century. However, God’s people now should be able to learn something from how God views the sinfulness of His people.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
God had a special way of dealing with Israel after Joshua’s death –
“Nevertheless, the Lord raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them.” Judges 2:16
That worked well .. right?
“Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the Lord; they did not do so. And when the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them. And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way.” Judges 2:17-19
Not so much. Judge after judge after judge, Israel continued to disobey God. Then Israel asked for a king and God gave them kings .. lots of them. How did that work out for Israel? Not well at all. Israel suffered defeat after defeat. Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple were destroyed by foreign invaders – twice. It’s only been in the last seventy years or so that Israel became a nation of people again.
If you’ve read the end of the Bible, you know that God will save Israel and that Jesus Christ, the rightful King, will sit on the throne of David and bless His people for ever and ever.
However, that’s not a promise God has made to the United States of America or Canada or Europe or Africa or Australia or Asia or the Middle East. God’s promise for our day is with His Church –
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21
God is currently working through the Church – the Body of Christ. That was the context of what Paul wrote in Ephesians 3 –
“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.” Ephesians 3:1-7
Even as God has an eternal plan for Israel, He has an eternal plan for the Church. What is that plan? Staying in the same context –
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10
God saved us by grace, through faith, not of works, for the purpose of doing ‘good works.’
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
We are God’s workmanship (poiēma) – we are His handiwork! God made us what we are. He took miserable, lost creatures destined for destruction and made something special of our lives. How? He created us in Christ Jesus! ktisthentes – “having been created, formed, shaped.” Why? “for good works” – epi ergois agathois.
The Greek word ergois means “work, task, employment, deed, action.” These “works” God created us to do in Christ Jesus are to be agathois – “intrinsically good, good in nature.”
God shaped us, formed us, created those of us who could not save themselves by works to do works that are good in their very nature. How can anyone do that? How can any of us possibly do something that is intrinsically good when we are not good?
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7
God does it! God does everything! He is the One Who is Good. He is rich in Mercy. It is because of God’s great Love that He loves us, “even when we were dead in trespasses.” God made us alive together with Christ by grace, raised us up together, made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Why? “… that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
So, who are we? “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Back to our question – So, What Now? The answer should be clear – to work the good works God created us to do.
What Can I Do?
Easy. Do what God created you to do. God has given us so much information about spiritual gifts and ministries. We have so many examples of God’s people doing intrinsically good works. We just need to do a couple of things –
- Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength
- Love others as your self
If you have a heart for God and others, everything else will fall into its rightful place.
The first step is often the hardest. Once you take it – once you surrender your heart and life to God’s purpose – the second and third steps are much easier. We’ll look at those in the next part of our new series, There’s Work To Be Done.
[** I’m usually about a year ahead in writing articles for our online blogs. I wrote this article on May 27, 2019, months before we knew anything about the novel Coronavirus and global pandemic. Looking back now on May 22, 2020 at what I wrote a year earlier, I am even more convinced that the time we have to make a difference in our society is short. We don’t know God’s timetable, but we do know He has one and the clock is ticking. May we use whatever time we have left to do the work He has called us to do and may we do it all to His glory and honor.]
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.