Sunday, December 11, 2016

Fight the Good Fight of the Faith: Living by Faith

In the previous post, we talked about calling in the Christian life and how God has called the vast majority of Christians to ordinary but faithful lives that glorify Him and bring them joy. In today's sermon, we are going to look at Jos. 23, which addresses a similar topic: living this Christian life by faith. Really, this has been the topic of this whole series: fighting the good fight of the faith, but in this chapter, Joshua sums up living by faith for us really, really well.

Have you ever thought about what you want your final words to be? We probably don’t think about that often, if at all, because that means thinking about our death, which we don’t like to do. But, in order to die well, perhaps we should. The Puritan, Edmund Barker, summed up the Christian life by saying, “Every Christian hath two great works to do in the world: to live well and to die well.” Our last words in this world before we cross over the Jordan River Jesus has parted for us are our greatest and final opportunity to glorify God by impressing upon those around us what’s most important in this life. Moses’ final words, for example, encouraged God’s people in His promises, “Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, the shield of your help, and the sword of your triumph! Your enemies shall come fawning to you, and you shall tread upon their backs.” Right before he died, Moses reminded the Israelites that they had been redeemed by God and God would fight for them as they entered the Promised Land.

In our passage, we have Joshua’s final words to the leadership in Israel. They’re not technically his final words before he died, for in ch. 24, he will lead the whole nation in renewing the covenant with God, but they are his final exhortations to the leadership that will succeed him—his last opportunity to impress upon them what’s most important. In fact, this passage is very similar to Paul’s final words to the Ephesian elders before he left for Jerusalem or the book of 2 Timothy—his final words to Timothy before he died. Just as Paul told the elders in Ephesus and Timothy what’s most important in leading the church, so Joshua here tells the elders, heads, judges, and officers of Israel what’s most important in finishing the settling of the Promised Land and establishing the Kingdom of Israel. And, what’s so amazing about Joshua’s final words (as well as Paul’s), is that they aren’t what we might expect at all.

Joshua was a military general who’d been leading God’s people in the conquest of the land of Canaan for years, and yet his final words weren’t about military strategy or leadership skills, as we might expect. They’re about remaining faithful to God and warnings of temptation. So also, Paul was the greatest church-planter of all time, but his final words to the Ephesian elders or Timothy weren’t about church-growth strategies or theories of church leadership, as we might expect. They too were about remaining faithful to God and warnings of temptation. This, I think, should surprise us, yet it should also show us what’s truly most important for God’s people, whether they’re trying to finish settling the Promised Land by faith—like the Israelites—or simply to live faithfully in everyday life in a hostile culture like all of us. For the Israelites, the most important thing wasn’t military strategy, and for us, the most important thing isn’t appeal in the eyes of the world or culture. It’s maintaining a healthy relationship with the Lord—living by faith in God.

If you want to hear more, you can listen to the sermon here or read the transcript here.

I pray that God will use it to magnify His glory in your heart and fortify you for the battles of this Christian life.

By His Grace,

No comments: