We are starting up our series called Fixer Upper this morning. It is all about how God fixes the brokenness in families. To be honest, no matter who you are and no matter what your family looks – families hurt each other. We are broken people living in a broken world with broken people. We will, and do, and have, hurt each other.
Today we will apply Biblical teaching to the topic of household hurts. Before we do, join me in prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Truth about Household Hurts
We are going to look at a few different Bible sections today, but our base lesson for learning about Household Hurt is from Genesis 16. Because Genesis 16 features a family – it features hurt; it features a family that hurt each other. Take a look:
Sarai, Abram’s wife, had born him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my servant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” (v.1-2)
Briefly: This introduces us to the three main characters in this family. There’s Abram, the husband; Sarai, the wife; and Hagar, the Egyptian maidservant. Briefly – servant or slaves back then would have been a lot different than the violent slavery that we think of in America’s past. Generally, the head of household – in this case – Abram – would have servants who dwelt with his family. They helped fed the sheep, herded the cattle and helped to grow veggies. In exchange, Abram offered protection, food and housing.
He was kind to them. He cared for them.
In essence: they were ‘part of the family.’ Part of the household.
But this family has one key problem: Abram and Sarai, the patriarch and matriarch, didn’t have any children. He had lots of servants. These servants were like sons and daughters to them…but none of them were biological sons and daughters to them.
And if you’ve ever struggled with having children. That’s hard.
But these two had a particular hope. God had promised Abram and Sarai that they would have a child. About 7 years earlier, when Abram was 75 years old (which is already a long time to wait for having a child) God promised Abram that he would have a son. He promised that his son would have children. He promised that from his descendants the Savior of the world would come – namely – Jesus.
That was 11 years ago.
At the time of chapter 16 – Abram is now 86 years old. Was it ever going to happen? Were they ever going to have a child? Would they forever be – that rich couple that can’t have kids?
In verse 2, Sarai has enough. Look at her plan: “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go; sleep with my servant; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Do you sense the desperation? Her idea is simply: “Go; have sex with that attractive employee of ours – then, I can be an adoptive mother of sorts.”
What do you think?
There are a lot of morals lacking in today’s world – but just about everyone – including non-believers and non-church goers would agree that cheating on your spouse is NOT a good idea. It’s morally reprehensible; it hurts trust. It causes all kinds of pain. Even cheating on your boyfriend isn’t good! I was catching a bit of Bachelor in Paradise the other day – not exactly the moral pinnacle of life – and one of the reality stars was upset that the boy she had been dating for 2 days was caught kissing another woman.
That’s after 2 days.
And it’s only a kiss.
How much more pain is there after years of marriage with a lot more than kissing?
To be fair – God was in agreement. Way back at the beginning of the world God said, “For this reason a man will be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) Because this sleeping together is an extremely intimate thing. It’s not like a high five. You high five lots of people. You high five your friends, your coworkers, your boss, even that guy at the local pub who’s cheering for the same team as you.
Sleeping together? That’s much more intimate. God’s plan was for it to only be between one other person.
Yet Sarai suggests that they go against God’s plan.
She suggests that they take it into their own hands.
She suggests that Abram sleep with her employee.
And to be fair – Abram doesn’t stop her.
Abram doesn’t say, “This will drive us apart.”
Abram doesn’t say, “But I am a one-woman kind of guy and you are my one woman.”
Essentially, he says, “Cool.”
And Abram slept with Hagar, and she conceived. (v.4)
Guess how well things turn out.
To start, Hagar starts to feel very special when it comes to Abram.
She views him at the very least as the baby daddy – if not a husband of sorts.
But the reality is, she wasn’t. Sarai was Abram’s wife. Nothing could change that.
And that hurts. Because she had been used.
So, since she can’t be his wife and that hurts, she helps herself feel better by rubbing in her motherhood in the face of Sarai.
“I am so glad that I get to be a mother, aren’t you? Oh…wait…that’s right.”
“Oh, sorry Sarai, I can’t join you for a glass of wine – the baby.”
“Isn’t Abram so nice? He’s big and strong and muscular and…oh, is that making you uncomfortable?”
In response, Sarai comes running to Abram: “You jerk! Abram, you are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me.” Notice she doesn’t blame herself for coming up with and encouraging the idea. She blames Abram – and don’t get me wrong, he is to blame. And yes, in Scripture, it is only one sentence. But I imagine this conversation went on for a while. Sarai yelling at Abram. Abram getting defensive. Sarai saying, “You never listen to me.” Abram saying, “You always do this.”
Until eventually Abram has had enough. And he tells Sarai – “Do whatever you want with her.”
Sarai mistreated her. (v.6a)
At least verbally.
“Oh, there’s that (insert female name for other females that sleep around). Were you off sleeping with the rancher? IS that why you’re late?”
The emotional toll is so great that the result is this: Hagar fled from her. (v.6b)
She fled from her household.
She fled from her friends.
She fled from her family.
Does this sound at all similar to your family story? Maybe not the not having children and sleeping with someone else in order to have a child part, but the circular hurt part?
Because pay attention to the cycle of hurt:
Abram and Sarai are hurt; so, they use Hagar and hurt her.
Hagar is hurt. So, she hurts Sarai.
Sarai is hurt so she hurts Abram.
Abram is hurt so he gives Sarai permission to hurt Hagar. And he hurts her in the process, too.
Hagar is hurt – so she hurts them both and runs away with Abram’s baby in tow.
One gets hurt by another.
One hurts the other.
And the other who gets hurt.
Hurts them back.
TRUTH #1: Hurting others never fixes hurt. It only increases it.
And yet that’s how we act in families!
If I call my sister that name, I feel less hurt.
If I look at this porn, I’ll probably hurt my wife, but I’ll feel less hurt for a moment.
If I text mom that I don’t love her anymore, I’ll feel less hurt.
If I flirt with this coworker, my husband might be hurt, but good – I’ll feel better if he knows what it feels like.
It does not work like that.
That’s be like somebody throwing a kickball in your face from about 3 feet away. It would hurt. And so, in order to stop the hurt, you throw a kickball at their face.
Do you feel better?
Not at all.
Hurting others in your family does not help the hurt in your heart.
It only brings more hurt.
And ultimately? It hurts God.
It hurts God and your relationship with God.
Because now you feel guilt.
Now you feel far apart from God.
Now the devil starts to make you question if you are worthy of God’s love.
And suddenly, the other person isn’t the only one that’s hurt. Because the truth is…
TRUTH #2: Hurting others also hurts you.
II. God Sees Your Hurt
Still… Household hurts hurt.
And you might have been very hurt by your family.
By your spouse.
By your son.
By your daughter.
By your sister.
By your brother.
By your mom.
Or your dad.
You might feel like no one understand.
You might feel like no one cares.
You might feel all alone dealing with this hurt.
That’s how Hagar felt. Sarai hated her. Abram hated her. She was despised by the other servants.
She felt used and abused and totally alone in this hurt.
So, she sneaks out at night.
She puts a few of her belongs into a sack.
She runs as fast as her pregnant legs can carry her outside of the camp.
She heads to the desert.
She hits the grounds.
She wets the dry sand with her tears.
No one loved her.
Everyone used her.
No one cared about her pain.
And as she sat there in the darkness of the early morning hours, she felt a darkness overcome her soul that seems impenetrable.
…she saw the light.
It wasn’t the sun.
It wasn’t the moon.
It wasn’t a flashlight out looking for her.
It was something else, something different, something…divine.
The angel of the Lord found Hagar. (v.7)
And he said, “Where are you coming from and where are you going?” Not that he didn’t already know – but he was already giving something that Hagar needed, an ear to listen.
“I am running away from my mistress!” (v.9) She hates me and Abram hates me. And the others hate me. And no one cares about me and no one cares about my pain. No one!
“Hagar. I care about you. I care about you and I see you. Go back home.”
I. Will. Bless you.
And Hagar got up.
And Hagar’s pain subsided some.
And Hagar went back to her family.
TRUTH: The LORD cares for you.
No matter how alone you think you are.
No matter what other family members have told you.
No matter how icy cold they are to you.
No matter how much they have hurt you.
Here is the reality: The LORD still cares for you.
And you might be saying “Prove it! Prove that God feels my pain.”
God so loved the world (are you in the world? Answer: yes. Meaning God so loved you) that he gave his One and only Son (gave him to earth. Gave him up to death. Gave him up to bitterly painful death on a cross for the pains that you have caused) that whoever believes in Him will not perish (meaning you won’t be forgotten about. You won’t spend eternity alone. You won’t be ignored and left to eternal pain) but have eternal life. (Life without hurt. Life without pain. Life surrounded by the One who loves you most – your Father. Your brother. Your family.)
In fact, if you are still doubting it. If you are still thinking that no one cares about you and God probably doesn’t care about you, well, what about these words right now? They aren’t mine; they are God’s! It is God, your Father, speaking to you: “I love you.” It is Jesus your brother beckoning to you: “Come on home.” It is God the Holy Spirit holding up your adoption papers signed in Jesus’ blood to show you: “Yes, you are a part of this family.”
III. What Now?
1. See the God Who Sees You
Because this truth – that God cares, that God is there, that God sees you and sees your pain and is actively doing things to help with that pain – even as he has already done all that’s necessary (on the cross) to take away that pain eternally – this truth helps with our household hurts right now.
In fact, it helped Hagar so much that she stopped drowning her sorrows in the desert and instead focused on this incredible God who saw her and spoke to her. She called him, “The God who sees me.”
It’s kind of like a kid…late at night. He’s nervous because it’s dark and he heard a mysterious hooting coming from outside his window. And he’s trying to be big and he’s trying to be strong, but he’s still a bit nervous. So, he gets out of bed, sneaks to the stairs, and looks at the living room.
They are still here.
And he is no longer afraid.
It’s the same when we spend time in God’s Word.
We are reminded that we aren’t alone.
We aren’t dealing with family pain alone.
We are dealing with family pain – in the presence of the Head of our Spiritual family.
We are in the presence of God.
So…spend time in God’s Word.
Spend time at worship.
Spend time in study.
If you don’t, it will only be that much harder to deal with hurt, but with that truth – the hurt will subside.
2. See the Pain of Others
Because the reality of Hagar’s story is that she wasn’t the only one hurting.
Abram and Sarai both were, too.
If any of them had been able to look past their own hurt and see the hurt of the others around them, the cycle of hurt would have been stopped.
The hurting would have stopped.
There would have been time for healing.
I know it’s hard, but when you are hurting from a fellow family member – trying to focus less on your pain but more on theirs.
That’s what Jesus did! He looks past his pain – that we had sinned against him countless and rejected him as God – and he went to the cross in order to heal our pain and guilt and win us an endless, pain free existence in heaven!
Let the truth that Jesus selflessly sought to heal your pain; to empower you to selflessly heal the pain of your family.
Because the truth is, what I’ve noticed is that when you start focusing on the pain of others in your family, your pain subsides, too.
It’s silly because when we hurt, we tend to only focus on our hurt – again and again and again.
That’s like the time that I had a splinter – and this is a recent time – and I had this splinter and I just sat there and held my thumb and said, “It hurts. It hurts. It hurts.” Guess what? That didn’t make it feel any better. Not at all!
Focus on the hurt of your family.
Watch your own hurt fade, too.
3. Remember: The One Who Sees, Also Hears
In fact, Scripture says this, “Cast all of your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 That passage is awesome. It’s a command from God in which he says, “Listen to me! I want you to speak to me so that I can listen to you.”
And notice – he wants all of our anxiety.
All of the pain.
Because – Americans are pretty private people. We love to smile politely. Singsong our hellos and say things like, “How are you?” “I’m fine thank you.” – even when things are falling apart at home.
We want to keep our hurt private.
Not with God.
He knows you already.
Share your pain with him.
Tell him about your deepest hurts.
Tell him about how people have hurt you.
Tell him about how the way you have hurt others is hurting you too.
Tell him the things that you don’t feel comfortable telling anyone else.
Cast all your anxiety on him; because he cares for you.
That’s what the man in the Gospel for today did. He had a lot of hurt and a lot of pain.
Physical pain from the incurable leprosy that was eating away at his flesh.
Social pain from being cast away from his friends and family.
Emotional pain from the look of disgust that his own wife gave him as “You’ve gotta get away from me so I don’t get sick.”
He felt alone.
He felt hurt.
He felt like no one cared…until….
“Lord, Jesus have mercy on me?”
And Jesus heard him.
And Jesus saw him.
And Jesus cared for him.
May God begin to heal all of our pain as well. Amen.
Peter took a seat around the fire. It had been a rough couple of months. When he first started following Jesus, things had been pretty awesome. Jesus healed his mother in law. Jesus helped him catch hundreds of fish in just one net cast. Jesus even took him to a wedding and transformed a couple of jugs of water into wine with just the snap of his fingers.
It was fun. He had wanted to be a part of whatever it was they were building!!!
But lately…things weren’t so fun. The other religious leaders were getting angrier. Call it jealousy. Call it pride. They were getting angrier and heckling them as they went about teaching. In fact, the heckling had started to get a bit violent: One of Jesus’ ministry partners – his cousin named John the Baptist – had just been beheaded and there had begun to be rumblings that they wanted to kill Jesus, too.
Peter took sip of wine as he stared into the fire. It was good to get a break. Good to take a moment. Good to contemplate.
What were they really building?
Was it worth it?
Did he, Simon, really want to be a part of it?
And apparently...Jesus was doing the same thing:
Who do people say I am? (v.15)
Peter looked up. So, did the other disciples. Some still had ½ eaten pieces of fish hanging from their mouths.
I’m serious. Who do the people say that I am?
The disciples looked at one another. And then began to talk all at once: Some say, “John the Baptist” – dead, but come back to life. Other says “Elijah” – an even deader prophet come back to life. Jeremiah or Malachi or Zephaniah or some kind of prophet whose name is hard to pronounce. Honestly, Jesus there are all kinds of ideas about you: From nice guy to demon; to good teacher to scoundrel. I mean – those Pharisees look serious about shutting you down.
Jesus shook his head. Then, he looked directly at Peter.
“And what about you? Who do YOU say that I am?” (v.15)
Peter’s eyes darted to avoid the intensity of the question. He looked to John – who shrugged. He looked at James – who shook his head. He looked to the ground. He thought about what he had seen Jesus do. He thought about how Jesus’ hands had made blind people see and how his words had made deaf people hear. He could still picture Jesus stopping the lighting and raising the little dead girl back to life.
He nodded his head.
And he spoke confidently:
“You are the Christ. The Son of the Living God.” (Mt. 16:16)
Jesus didn’t slap him.
He didn’t facepalm.
He didn’t even say, “Good answer, but no…”
Jesus said this: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter – which means “Rock” – and on this rock of a confession I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it!” (v.17-18)
In other words.
Today we will apply Jesus’ own words to what we are doing with that 10,000-square foot building over there. We’re going to learn (1) who we need to build on and (2) what we are really building. Before we do, join me in prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Who to Build On
I think this is a really interesting section of Scripture because it gives you a glimpse into what people who lived and talked with Jesus thought about Jesus. Notice their answers. They name three prophets. Prophets were people who received messages from God and spoke message from God. And Elijah, John the Baptist and Jeremiah were some of the most well-known.
But more than that. They were all dead! Think about it: If I asked who you thought I was and you said, Elvis Presley, that’d be a compliment. If you really believed it, that’d be amazing. It would mean you have a high opinion of me.
Not only did these people think Jesus was a prophet, but they thought he was a dead prophet come back from the dead. They had a high opinion of Jesus.
Just. Not. High. Enough.
To be fair – most people today think highly of Jesus. They think he’s a good moralist. A good teacher. A nice guy.
Kinda like…Mr. Rogers.
Do you know Mr. Rogers?
Do you like Mr. Rogers?
I don’t know anyone that has ever complained about Mr. Rogers. He’s kind. He’s nice. He wears sweaters. He teaches kids to enjoy the land of Make-Believe, how crayons are made, and how to deal with slightly annoying mailmen—kindly.
Sometimes people think of Jesus just like Mr. Roger. Kind. Nice. Good teacher. But that’s about it.
Is that who we are building this school on?
Are we building it on some nice guy?
If so, how is it any different than George Washington University – ok guy, famous president, OR Johns Hopkins University – he had a lot of money and gave it to a hospital OR William Bucknall University – I don’t know even who he is!
We are not building this school in the name of some nice guy.
It’s not in the name of good morals.
It’s not in the name of good education.
It’s not in the name of good athletics.
If you want any of those, you can find those at just about any location down the street.
We are building this school in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Which was Peter’s confession. And it holds two important truths:
(1) Jesus is the Christ!
Really quick – Christ is the Greek word for “the Anointed One.” It matches up with the Hebrew word Messiah which also means “Anointed One.” If you are a fan of literature, it sounds a lot like the “Chosen One” trope that appears throughout it. Like Luke Skywalker being “the One” to bring balance to the Force, or Neo being the “One” to save people from the Matrix, or “Harry Potter” to defeat “he-who-must-not-be-named.”
It’s like that.
Only the literature we are talking about was around over 4000 years before those stories. And it finds very real fulfillment in a guy named Jesus 2000 years later.
He was born in Bethlehem as prophecy said.
He grew up in Nazareth as prophecy said.
He was Jewish as prophecy said.
He did miracles as prophecy said.
He died on a cross as prophecy said.
He rose from the dead as prophecy said.
And all of these visual fulfillments of prophecy – help us to understand some invisible prophecies he fulfilled.
He paid for our sins as prophecy said.
He won us forgiveness as prophecy said.
He defeated the devil as prophecy said.
He gave us eternal life as prophecy said.
He was our Savior as prophecy said.
Our school is about so much more than some nice guy.
It is about the One prophesied to save the world.
It is about the One prophesied to save us.
It is about the One prophesied to save – our kids.
(2) The Son of God
But Peter’s statement is two-fold. He calls Jesus more than just the Messiah. He calls him the “Son of God.”
My sister had a baby about a year ago. Harper Grace. I saw pictures of her and watched videos of her on Facebook. After a couple of months, I finally had the chance to confirm it in person.
My sister had given birth to a human.
From humans come humans.
From dogs come dogs.
From cats come cats.
From African Pigmy Hippopotamuses come African Pigmy Hippopotamuses.
And from God comes God.
Not that it’s quite the same. God is eternal. So, while Jesus is from God, he also always has been. Even you want to learn more about that – join me in Bible study this week to talk mind bending theology.
But for our purposes it is imperative you understand this truth:
Peter’s confession attributes “Godness” to Jesus!
That’s why he stopped storms.
That’s why he made the blind to see.
That’s why he made the deaf to hear and the lame to walk and the sick to be well.
That’s why he made the dead to rise and when he was dead he was able to do what most living people could not do – he brought himself back to life!
Our school is about so much more than some nice guy!
It is about THE Living God of Heaven above.
It is about the True GOD with his Almighty Power.
It is about the One who has always been around.
It is about the One who is always with us.
It is about the One who will never leave us – or our kids.
II. What are We Building
I want you to look out here. It’s just mud and sticks and stones. But I want you to close your eyes and visualize what will be. Close your eyes and visualize the final product. Close your eyes and visualize – what we are building. Close your eyes and visualize – a church!
Ummm…Pastor? Was there a mistake in the blueprints? I thought we were building a school?
Before you go grab the Construction Manager, look at what Jesus said to Peter. He said, “On this rock of a confession I will build my church.” Did you know that’s the first time Jesus uses the word “Church” in the Bible? The word is “ecclesia” and on its own it simply means an “assembly” a “group.”
But notice what Jesus calls it. “My church.”
This means a few things:
Understand this – church is not a building.
Church is not an organization.
Church is people.
People build on Jesus.
It means Jesus has been building onto “his church” for centuries.
He built onto his church when he brought us to faith in his family.
And God willing – he will build onto his “church” through our preschool building.
Every time a teacher tells a Bible story, God is building his church.
Every time a toddler sings the song “Jesus Loves Me,” God is building his church.
Every time an infant baptized, God is building his church.
Every time a parent talks to another parent and they hear about their Savior, God is building his church.
Every time a teacher gets down on her knees, explains that hitting is wrong, and the little child has tears in their eyes, blurts out, “I’m sorry,” and the director doesn’t just say, “It’s ok” she doesn’t say, “Try harder.” She says, “Jesus died for you. That means he forgives and I forgive you,” – God is building his church.
He’s bringing people to faith.
He’s adding to his kingdom.
He’s saving people to heaven.
III. What Now?
1. Be Confident Builders
Which might be a bit intimidating. Because we aren’t talking about simple numbers and letters anymore. The task is a lot bigger. The task is eternal. There will be temptations to fight against it. There will be temptations to fight about it. There will be people who don’t like it. There will be things that cause us to worry, numbers that cause us to fret and problems that cause us to vent.
Why wouldn’t there be problem? The devil will do anything to prevent a building dedicated to the good work of Jesus from happening.
But Look at Jesus’ promise: “I will build my church…and the gates of hell will not overcome it.” (v.17)
In other words – the building will happen.
Maybe not the brick and mortar building – but the building of God’s kingdom will happen.
Nothing can stop it. Nothing can stop us.
Not with God on our side.
Because Groundbreaking isn’t the end. The building isn’t finished yet. Neither the brick and mortar building or the building of God’s kingdom. If we stopped here to give each other high fives and say, “We did it!” We’d be wrong. There’s more building yet to do!
So…get to work.
If you can’t swing a hammer, pray.
If you can’t saw a saw, encourage.
If you don’t have any idea what a 7/8 wrench looks like, share the message of your Savior.
Be a part of this.
Be a part of building God’s kingdom.
And God bless us as we build on Jesus. Amen.
Joshua dabbed at the perspiration on his forehead.
They’re almost all here, Mr. Joshua Sir.
Joshua nodded from his seat behind a tree and took a sip of water. It was an important day. Joshua, the general of the Israelite army, was about to make a speech to tens of thousands of Israelites. They had gathered in Shechem – a place centrally located to the entire land of what – until recently – had been called Canaan.
Now it was known as Israel.
Joshua smiled at the thought. This is exactly what God had said. Over 500 years ago, God had promised this land would be theirs. God had said that he would give it to them. God had promised that he was going to do some awesome things to get them to this point even when they were slaves in Egypt!
And God had.
When they faced a roaring flood stage river and were unable to cross, God was with them…and split the waters in half for them to cross.
When they faced a gigantic 12-foot-thick wall surrounding the city of Jericho, God was with them…and knocked the walls at the sound of a trumpet.
When they were running out of daylight to defeat their enemies, God was with them and held the earth in its place, on its axis, pausing the universe to give them the land he desired to give!
The land was theirs.
It was all thanks to God.
But…recently…people seemed to be forgetting that.
He had overhead some of the soldiers talking about “What a great thing it was that they had done. And how they had won this land for themselves.”
He had seen fliers being passed around for a new group’s weekly meetings: the W.I.A.A.S. We Israelites Are Awesome Society.
He had noticed fewer and fewer people had been attending worship services on a weekly basis.
Even as Joshua watched the people file into the makeshift amphitheater, he could see signs of it.
The “Baal, golden calf god” t-shirts were speckled throughout the arena.
A tattoo could be seen that read “Praise to Asherah! The cool NEW god”
The look of annoyance on the teenager who could clearly be seen mouthing the words, “Why do we have to listen to what the LORD has to say? He isn’t relevant anymore.”
Joshua shook his head
And his eyes got a bit teary eyed.
How could they forget? How could they forget the LORD?
He got the signal from his assistants. The people were ready.
He took a deep breath.
He may have been old. He may not be hip. He may not be cool.
But he knew…EXACTLY what needed to be said:
Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served or the gods of the Amorites in whom you are now living. But…as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (24:15)
Today we look at the final chapter in the book of Joshua. We will unpack this statement from Scripture as we learn (1) why serving two gods doesn’t work (2) which household gods to throw away (3) which God to serve and (4) how to ensure that our households serve that God. Before we do that, a prayer: Strengthen us this morning by the truth, O God. Your word is truth. Open our eyes to see what YOU want us to see. Open our ears to hear what YOU want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what YOU would have us believe. Amen.
I. Is it Possible to Serve Two gods?
Maybe this seems a bit strange to you. Why is God so jealous? Shouldn’t he be content if people worship him sometimes? Think about it:
People have two dogs.
People have two cats.
People have two kids.
People have two Netflix series that they watch at the same time.
Why can’t people have two gods?
The answer lies within the definition of a god. A god is “whomever or whatever you love, fear, and trust the most.” Makes sense. God is who you view as most powerful. God is who you view as most protecting. God is the one to whom you are most thankful for things. God is the one to whom you turn when you are in trouble.
Notice. God is a superlative. He is MOST. If we think back to English class, do you remember what a superlative means? It means there is nothing that holds a higher content of whatever adjectival quality is attributed to it.
The spiciest chili pepper is the ghost pepper. Nothing is spicier.
The tallest mountain in North Carolina is Mt. Mitchell. No mountain is taller.
The best biscuits in Raleigh are at Rise Bakery. No biscuits are better.
When faced with a superlative, the reality is that there can only be one.
I’m a pastor. Pastors should be all things to all people. In other words, I want to enjoy the things people enjoy so that I can serve them with the message of God’s Word. That means I like coffee with the coffee drinkers and tea with the tea drinkers. It means I high five those who like high fives and shake hands with those who like to shake hands. It means I cheer for UNC with UNC fans and the Wolfpack with Wolfpack fans. I am neutral.
At least, in theory.
A couple of years ago the two teams were playing in a football showdown. I thought to myself, “I don’t know who I’m going to cheer for.” But as the game went on, I noticed something. There was definitely a team that was I was cheering for. There was definitely a team that I like better.
Now...I’m not telling which one. I don’t need to get mugged after this. But do you get the point? When pitted against one another, one team becomes more important than the other. You can’t have two superlatives.
And if that’s true for football teams, wouldn’t it be true with “god?”
Jesus said this, “You cannot serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Mt. 6:24)
Because when Jesus says, “Serve me only” and Allah says, “Serve me only.” You can’t serve one without immediately breaking the command of the other.
You can’t serve two gods.
II. Society’s Household Idols
That was the problem that ancient Israel was facing. There were a bunch of different options that were suddenly available to them in their new land. Joshua mentions the “gods of your ancestors and the gods the Amorites.” Those were the ‘false gods’ that were a part of their society. There were a few:
There was Baal – a bronze god that was ½ human and ½ cow.
There was Dagon – a stone gold that was ½ human and ½ fish.
There was Asherah – a formless fertility goddess that you worshipped by having intercourse in front of the statue.
They were new.
They were interesting.
They seemed to allow more “fun.”
The only problem? None of them were real.
Baal was a bronze statue.
Dagon was a stone statue.
Asherah a piece of wood that had etchings, paint, and a bit of glitter tossed on it.
How could any of these things be “most” powerful if they didn’t even come into existence without the artistic hands of the human being?
How could any of them be “most” loving if they couldn’t even have emotions?
How could you put their trust in any of them, if you got into a bit of trouble and, “Oh no, I left my god in my other pair of pants?”
Baal, Dagon and Asherah are not as popular today. (You might not have even heard of them until today.) But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of false gods in our society. Here are a few:
Have you heard of this god before? He’s very popular in our society. Sometimes he’s green with one dead president on it. Sometimes he’s a little piece of metal that fits in your pocket. Sometimes he’s just a bunch of numbers that appear in that frequently used banking app on your phone.
Money is not bad. We need money. But the problem is society tells us to trust money to fix our lives. And when we believe that, we start trusting money more than God.
Yes. I know God is there, but things are going well, because I have money. Thanks be to you, O money.
Things aren’t going well. It’s because I don’t have enough money.
If I want things to be good for my kids and for them to have opportunities, I’d better work more, I’d better make more money, because money will fix us.
Money doesn’t care about you.
Money didn’t create you.
Money was created in some US Government mint machine.
Money will not save you to eternity.
It will just get spent.
Don’t choose it for your household god.
Academics are a big deal in America. There’s all kinds of pressure to teach your kids lots of things and lots of stuff. The goal is so that they have a 5th grade education by the time they are five. We do it because we figure that they’ll get ahead. If they are only smart enough, then they get a job and life will be wonderful for them.
But what happens if we trust Academics as the key to a good life—more so than God?
Yes. Bible study is important, but if my girl gets a 4.0 then she’ll be set for life!
I’m sorry honey, there’s no time for devotion tonight; you need to be working on homework!
Yeah, I know…Sunday School and getting you ready for eternal life, but…this online course? It might get you to Harvard.
Academia is good, but Academia is also not god.
Don’t make it your household god.
I asked a mom what she had going on that weekend. She response that she was taking her kids to soccer in the morning, then get karate, then swim lessons, then chess club, and finally home for piano lessons. In other words – she was working for Uber.
But this is a common thing. The notion is that the only good parents are the ones that get their kids involved in at least seven extra curriculars. (And almost none of them are ever God related. Because God is the one extracurricular that society frowns on, but…I digress.) The point is that there’s this pressure to devote your life and your kids to extracurriculars. Because maybe they’ll be the next Lebron James…and then they’ll be set.
Extracurriculars aren’t bad. But when you start to devote more of your life to them than God then…there’s trouble.
School House Rock songs become more important than God songs.
Swimming lessons become more important than baptism.
Kids Cooking class becomes can’t miss while worship becomes…I suppose, if there’s time.
Extracurriculars are fine. They are also not god.
Don’t make them your household gods.
(4) Your Kids Themselves
That might be a bit strange. You might not label your kid as god, yet – we mentioned earlier a god is whoever you fear, love and trust most in your life.
Do you ever do something solely because you have a fear of not getting your daughter’s approval?
Have you ever not disciplined a kid for sin because you love their visible smile more than God’s invisible one?
Do you find yourself trusting that as long as my kid is happy (even if the happy is artificial flavoring induced) life will work out?
And suddenly we don’t feed God’s Word to our kids because – they really like it and I gotta keep them happy.
Here’s the truth: If you devote yourself to serving your kid’s desires instead of serving them the truth of God (and His Word), then you aren’t serving your kid.
Because happy people still die.
But people with faith in their Savior, live with eternal life.
And if you aren’t serving your kids a steady diet of their Lord, then…
You aren’t telling them about their Savior.
You aren’t telling them about his forgiveness.
You aren’t telling them about the peace he won for us.
You aren’t telling them about the One, the Only One who can get them into the promised Land!
III. The God who Serves You
Because he is the only option for household God – who has served you.
“I did not come to be served, but to serve and to give my life as a ransom payment for many.” (Mt. 20:28)
Think about this. Jesus said that His purpose was not to be served. He didn’t come to earth so that his disciples could kiss his feet, set him up in a hammock, and start waving palm branches at him. He did come to earth because he needed us to sing songs to Him, give money to Him, and say prayers to Him.
He came to serve.
And not just a glass of Coca Cola – or a bowl of Tostitos.
He came to serve with his whole life.
Even giving up his life as a ransom payment.
Because there is probably nothing worse than having a part of your family kidnapped. Can you imagine that? If someone was kidnapped, one of your kids, and there was nothing but one of those notes with only newspaper cutout letters that said, “Bring me $1 million dollars by Wednesday or else, you’ll never see your loved one again,” that would be awful! You’d probably do anything to get that $1 million. Take out a loan. Call al your family and friends. Sell all of your stuff on Amazon. Whatever it takes to get back your family member.
That’s what happened to us.
We followed other gods.
We fell into sin.
We were trapped – ransomed away from God’s family!
Only the ransom payment wasn’t a million dollars.
It wasn’t a bag full of gold.
It wasn’t even a getaway chopper.
It was the death of God.
So that’s what God did.
He gave up his life to save you.
And as we were being released from our sins.
As we were being released from our imprisonment to guilt.
As we were getting ready to mourn our God who gave up his life for us…
…three days later? He rose! He came back to life! He not only set us free but defeated our captors once and for all with his life and death on the cross!
Which means he still serves us.
He serves us peace in His Words.
He serves us forgiveness with His Promise.
He serves us adoption papers with baptism.
He serves us daily – with his promise of protection!
Which leads to this important truth:
God wants us to serve him because then he is truly serving you!
If you don’t serve God – if you reject him – if you want nothing to do with him, all of his gifts mean nothing! You’ve thrown them away.
But when we serve God.
IV. What Now?
(1) Throw Away your False gods
That was what Joshua told the Israelites. Take those false gods. Pick up those stone statues. Take those wooden poles and…toss ‘em. Burn ‘em. Destroy ‘em. Have nothing to do with them ever again.
Today God is calling us to do exactly that. Take those false gods…take that false god love and throw it away. Throw it at the feet of the cross. That’s confession. Jesus will take it to the cross, beat it with a hammer, nail it to a few pieces of wood, then take it down and throw it away into a tomb.
And…here’s a thought. Is there something that is taking up all of your time? Is there something that is getting in the way of you and God? Cut it out. Maybe you think you can’t do that, well, then why not cut it back? Remove the false gods so there’s time for worshipping the real God. Because when you worship the real God – he will be serving you!
(2) Make the LORD Your ONLY Household God
Don’t just do this for you; do it for all of your house. In fact, make the LORD your only household God.
Because contrary to what society tells you today, God is all you need.
When there are family struggles, God is all your need.
When there is sickness, God is all you need.
When there is sadness, God is all you need.
When there is guilt, God is all you need.
When there is death, God is all you need.
That’s what Joshua knew.
It’s what got Joshua to the Promised Land.
It’s what got Joshua to THE Promised Land.
It’s what will get you and your family there as well. Amen.
Things had finally settled down. For the very first time, you could call the Promised Land – Israel. The majority of the land had been conquered. The Israelites had moved in; they had planted their gardens; picked out the right backsplash; they had even set up a few of those little lawn gnomes on the front lawn.
The land was at rest.
What could they possibly have to worry about?
Today we are looking at the second to last chapter in Joshua. It’s essentially the first of two final sermons that Joshua preaches to his people. This one he speaks directly to the leaders of all 12 tribes. Listen as Joshua warns Israel of the danger that lay before them; a danger that we have to watch out for, too. Before we begin, a prayer: Strengthen us this morning by the truth, O God. Your word is truth. Open our eyes to see what YOU want us to see. Open our ears to hear what YOU want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what YOU would have us believe. Amen.
I. Identify Bad Company
Chapter 23 starts by mentioning that Joshua is well advanced in years. He’s older than he was in the last sermon – and that was pretty old. And he summons all the leaders of Israel together to give them one final speech. Check out verse 7 in chapter 23. It’s a key verse in Joshua’s sermon. It says this, “Do not associate with the remaining nations; do not invoke the name of their gods or swear by them…but hold fast to the LORD your God, as you have until now.”
Maybe you get to that part and you wonder, why?
What was wrong with the Canaanite people?
Is God some kind of racist?
First of all, absolutely not.
God made all people.
God made the Canaanite people.
God loved the Canaanites.
But that was the problem. The Canaanites didn’t love God. Rather the Canaanites loved to take pieces of wood, cut them to the appropriate length, sand them down, use their carving knives to make a face, six eyes, a couple of noses -- sprinkle on some glitter and …voila! “This is my new god.” Even though…it didn’t exist until about 5 minutes ago.
And what’s interesting is that these Canaanites still held to their belief in these gods – even after all that had happened over the previous years!
Even when they heard of how the LORD held up the Jordan River.
And how the LORD knocked down the wall of Jericho with a couple of trumpet blasts.
And how the LORD caused the sun to stand in the sky and expand the daylight 24 hours.
And how the LORD had drastically changed the borders and boundaries of their land over the last couple of years.
The Canaanites still held to other gods.
The Canaanites still held to their own “pretend gods.”
And if Israel got too close, they would gladly teach Israel to do the same.
It’s easy to see how that would happen.
It starts with a trip to the local Canaanite Restaurant that everyone was raving about. The food was good and…the decorations were interesting. “Bartender…sir? What are those decorations?” “Those? Those are Asherah poles. They are devoted to the goddess Asherah. She’s pretty awesome. She lets you drink as much as you want and sleep with whomever you want.” (He nodded in the direction of one of the waitresses.) “Does your God let you do that?” “Um...no?”
Then, there was the time little Avram went for a sleep over in Little Philistine. And he came back so excited – “Mom and dad! It was so much fun. They have this god ‘Dagon.’ He’s part man and part fish. I saw his action figure. He has big muscles and karate chop action. PLUS, each package comes with a piece of gum. Can we get Dagonite action figure? Please!?!”
And then, there was the wedding. I don’t know. I like Bob. But? Should we really be entering Baal’s temple for a wedding? I’d feel weird about praying to a golden statue in order to bless them? But…then again. They are nice people. And…I heard there’s gonna be a Chocolate Fountain, so….
And I kinda like it.
And I kinda see where they are coming from.
And I kinda believe this isn’t so bad
And I kinda think that God might not be the only God.
And I kinda think I’m not a God follower anymore…
Scripture says this: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Cor. 15:33) That was the point of what God was saying through Joshua. These Canaanites were bad company. These Canaanites could lead Israel into their own sin. These Canaanites could lead them away from faith in the true God.
One of the first steps in avoiding bad company is identifying bad company.
Because the thing about bad company is that it isn’t always so obvious. In fact, it’s usually not. For instance, you probably aren’t going to have a group of Satanists come to your door dressed in “Satan rules” t-shirts with matching tattoos and an invite card in their hand that says, “Join us for Back to Satan Worship Sunday.” It’s never that obvious. It’s usually much subtler. Here are three modern areas where bad company tends to hideout:
This isn’t just a warning for cyber sexual predators. (Although there is that and please watch out). It’s a warning against cyber spiritual predators.
And they look nice. They become friends with you. You have cheerful dialogue via social media. You comment on their cat pictures and they comment on the photo of your dog.
But then, you notice something different in their social feed. A steady stream of attacks on Jesus, followed by a constant promotion of sinful things. And at first you think – this doesn’t affect me. And at first you give them a LIKE because “They’re my friend.” And then later you give them a LIKE because “They made a good point.” And finally, you give them LIKES left and right because, “They’re right. God is awful.”
Bottom-line: If one of your friend keeps posting stuff from AtheistsAreTheBest.com…Please Be Careful. Bad company corrupts good character.
We all probably know this, but TV executives are not all that interested in helping you lead a holy life. Not even remotely. They want money and sin sells. So, they promote sin.
Please be careful. Because suddenly some of our favorite characters end up being a virtual version of bad company.
Homer Simpson may lead you to believe that drinking beer and hanging out on the couch is a great way to treat your wife.
Anything on HBO might make you think that those filthy words aren’t so big a deal.
Grey’s Anatomy could have you believe that sleeping around with anyone and everyone is just how life is.
Careful. Bad company corrupts good character.
That might sound crazy! Isn’t church supposed to be the place where we go for good company? Absolutely. It is. Yet – the devil works hard at church. And it’s easy for him to watch friendships be made, relationships be strengthened, and then…inject a bit of sin.
I’ll never forget about the time when I was at another church…and some of the older ladies invited me to join them for a Bible group. So, I went. And the Bible study opened like this:
Did you hear about so and so?
Oh I know. She’s terrible.
And did you hear about what that person did?
I know they are the worst.
And can you believe pastor did that?
I can’t and I think he’s pretty terrible.
I was there for about five minutes when I realized…
I wasn’t at a Bible group.
I was at a gossip group.
Bad company can exist even a church. Even when we don’t want it to.
If there’s a group that loves to get together and gossip, politely break it up.
Because this shouldn’t be a place for bad company…
…but sometimes…it can be.
So, we are careful and watch each other’s back because…Bad company corrupts good character (even in church).
II. The Problem with Bad Company
Yet it can be hard to leave bad company.
Oftentimes because bad company has something to offer in return:
Even “they think I’m cool.”
But the reality is that bad company has very little to offer. Listen to Joshua’s reminders:
(1) “Bad company” does not Save
The LORD has driven out before you powerful nations…the LORD your God fights for you...so be careful to love the LORD. (v.10-11)
Because their new Canaanite friends didn’t split the Jordan River.
And their “idol”- didn’t cause the walls of Jericho to come tumbling down.
To put it simply:
It was not some pile of rocks splashed with red paint and glitter that protected you from your enemies! It was the LORD.
Those false gods that the Canaanites promoted would not protect them! Neither will whatever it is that is causing you to want to remain in bad company.
Money won’t save.
Fame won’t save.
A promotion at work won’t save.
“Being cool” won’t save.
None of these things are god and none of them will save.
(2) God is the Opposition
In fact, they lead to big trouble. Joshua said, “If you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you…then you may be sure that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you.”
Because how else would you expect God to react? He brought them out of Egypt, provided for them in the desert, and conquered the Promised Land for them. In return, they hang around a pile of rocks and sing, “How Great is this Pile of Rocks.”
Here’s how God reacts. God doesn’t fight for bad company.
God fights against them.
And if you are a part of that bad company…
God fights against you.
(3) Bad company are Deathtraps
Joshua says it this way, “These nations will become snares and traps for you, whips on your back and thorns in your eyes, until you perish…” (v.13)
Have you ever used a sticky ant trap? It’s especially useful if you have lots of ants in your home. It’s a trap that you place on the ground around the area where they seem to get in. It lets off a really nice and pleasing smell to the ants (I don’t know. Sugar or something.) and the ants follow the smell. They walk onto the trap and…they get stuck. They can’t move. They are trapped. They die.
And that’s exactly what would happen to the Israelites.
These flashy new gods might seem nice.
The beautiful Canaanite fertility dancer might seem beautiful…
The handsome Asherah worshipper might seem like a gentleman…
But it was nothing more than a trap.
It would lead to false belief.
Which would lead to falling way from God.
Which would lead to falling away from salvation.
Which would lead to HELL.
TRUTH: Bad company always leads to death. Even if they aren’t promoting obvious idolatry, if they are promoting sin…sin leads to death. Thus: They are promoting death.
They are a trap.
Get out before it’s too late! Before these traps get ahold of you; get ahold of the LORD.
III. Why God?
These scary warnings drive us back to the true LORD.
They drive us back to Jesus.
And when we hold to Jesus, we need not be afraid. Here’s why:
You yourselves have seen everything the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake; it was the Lord your God who fought for you…The Lord your God himself will push the remaining nations out for your sake. He will drive them out before you, and you will take possession of their land, as the Lord your God promised you. (23:3-5)
1) Look at What God’s Done!
For Israel, He split the Jordan River in half in the middle of flood season. He caused the walls of Jericho to come tumbling down with a few blasts of a trumpet. He stopped the sun in the sky, gave you 24 extra hours of daylight, and led you to victory over five vicious armies. And look down at your feet! He gave you the very land that he promised to give their great, great, great, great, great, great-grandfather 500 years ago!
And since then?
He appeared on this earth. He lived perfectly, completely apart from bad company.
He died innocently, at the hands of bad company.
He rose triumphantly, defeating the bad company of sin, death, and the devil.
God saved you from sin! Nothing bad has ever come from Him.
Hold fast to the LORD.
2) Look at What God Will Do
He would knock out any nations that remained. He would give Israel the final 5% of the land. He would have no problem completing the job.
He will have no problem completing the job for you.
God is not like a credit card. His goodness doesn’t get maxed out…so that you have to put him back in your wallet and pull out a different credit card, because “I’m out of money, but those rhinestone studded slippers are really nice.”
God’s love is infinite.
God’s love is unending.
His resources are unlimited.
He will not fail you.
He will bring you home to heaven.
He will give you eternal rest.
He will give you peace.
IV. What now?
1) Identify Bad Company
That doesn’t mean just avoid people you don’t like.
It doesn’t mean that you avoid people who don’t believe like you do. The Bible says, “Be the light of the world.” In order to be that light…you have to be in the world.
But it does mean be careful. And if the situation warrants, avoid them.
If you struggle with gossip, avoid those who gossip.
If you struggle with alcohol, avoid the bar.
If you struggle with faith, avoid those who are making you question it.
Identify what your bad company is and be careful.
2) Be Good Company
Again, the Bible says, “Be the light of the world.” Be that good company that influences others back towards God!
Whether it’s at work, with friends, at school – be that light.
Even at church! Because (we said this earlier) that’s what God would have us be – an encouragement to one another to keep serving Him and keep sharing His message! We are to be the good company for one another.
3) Hold fast to the LORD
Because the LORD is all Israel ever needed. And the LORD is all you need. And the LORD is all will ever need.
Think about how you can hold fast to the LORD.
Do your own Bible reading.
Join a small group.
Make worship a weekly priority.
Whatever you’re doing – great – do more! Fill yourself with as much God as you fill yourself with social media.
And God will hold fast to you.
In fact, do you remember that earlier phrase? Bad company corrupts good character?
With God, the opposite is true. Because God-company purifies corrupted character.
May God purify us and make us good company for one another. Amen.