You Cannot Serve the Lord!

But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.” Joshua 24:15 (ESV)

This has been referred to by scholars as “the most shocking statement in all of Scripture!” Why would Joshua, in his final speech before his death, urge Israel to follow the Lord only to answer their promise to follow the Lord with, “You can’t!”  In order to better understand this, you have to listen to their “commitment.”

Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods, for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. And the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.” (Joshua 24:16-18)

Notice their motivation for following God. They are following God for what he has done for them!  If the only reason you’re following God is for good health, a good job, a great retirement, as soon as the trial comes you’ll be done with following God. When he doesn’t give you the spouse you thought you should’ve had, when someone fails you, you’ll blame God. Joshua knew this. He called them to task.

So what is Joshua’s motivation? God is holy. God is jealous. God is not a capricious killjoy. Neither is he a pushover. He is the holy creator of the universe. I’m convinced that music can bring us to places of seeing who God is when nothing else can. After all, the largest book of the Bible is a book of songs.

So again, in this blog, is a song. Take a few minutes to worship God for who he is. Pay close attention to these words. Do you still want to follow that God?

Who Do You Think Made All This?

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4 ESV)

Yesterday I read these words from Brennan Manning, author of Ragamuffin Gospel. I can’t improve on them. Listen in…

As they contemplate the order of the earth, the solar system, and the stellar universe, scientists and scholars have concluded that the Master Planner left nothing to chance.

The slant of the earth, for example, tilted at an angle of 23 degrees, produces our seasons. Scientists tell us that if the earth had not been tilted exactly as it is, vapors from the oceans would move both north and south, piling up continents of ice.

If the moon were only 50,000 miles away from earth instead of 200,000, the tides might be so enormous that all continents would be submerged in water–even the mountains would be eroded.

If the crust of the earth had been only ten feet thicker, there would be no oxygen, and without it all animal life would die. Had the oceans been a few feet deeper, carbon dioxide and oxygen would have been absorbed and no vegetable life would exist.

The earth’s weight has been estimated at six sextillion tons (that a six with 21 zeros). Yet is is perfectly balanced and turns easily on it axis. It revolves daily at the rate of more than 1,000 miles per hour or 25,000 miles each day. This adds up to nine million miles a year. Considering the tremendous weight of six sextillion tons rolling at this fantastic speed around an invisible axis, held in place by unseen bands of gravitation, the words of Job 26:7 take on unparalleled significance: “He poised the earth on nothingness.”

The earth revolves in its own orbit around the sun, making the long elliptical circuit of six hundred million miles each year–which means we are traveling in orbit at 19 miles per second or 1,140 miles per hour.

Consider the sun. Every square yard of the sun’s surface is emitting constantly an energy level of 130,000 horsepower (that is, approximately 450 eight-cylinder automobile engines), in flames that are being produced by an energy source much more powerful than coal. Still the sun is only one minor star in the 100 billion orbs which comprise our Milky Way galaxy. If you were to hold out a dime at arm’s length, the coin would block out 15 million stars from your view, if your eyes could see with that power.

No wonder Isaiah, in the darkness of the night sky, saw the greatness of God:

Look at the night skies: Who do you think made all this? Who marches this army of stars out each night, counts them off, calls each by name – so magnificent! so powerful! – and never overlooks a single one? (Isaiah 40:26, The Message)

 

By the Glory of the Father

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:1-4 ESV)

Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. 

God’s glory is difficult to define. Glory is an ambiguous term. Let me try to illustrate it. Let’s say Lebron James goes to play for the Chicago Bulls. He walks into the United Center as a Chicago Bull and demands to wear jersey #23. What would happen? The place would go crazy, the fans erupt! Why? The number 23 has great significance in Chicago…it belongs to Michael Jordan and no one else will ever wear it as a Bulls player–no one. As good as Lebron James is, to insist on wearing #23 would insult Jordan and steal his glory.

God’s glory is what distinguishes him from all of creation. He stands alone as God. You can say that, when Jesus died on the cross, his jersey was retired. No one has ever done nor ever will do what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross. But that wasn’t enough. When Jesus went into the tomb, God’s glory was on the line. Would he raise? Would he live again? If he didn’t, God’s reputation, His distinctiveness, would be marred forever. What kind of Father leaves his Son in a borrowed tomb. Three days later, God defended his glory by raising His Son. God defended His honor by making good on his promise. The dead Christ would come to life again! Nothing, not even death, would steal God’s glory.

Here’s the catch. Romans 6 asserts that, when God saved you, He put his glory on the line. He is committed to getting you home and with joy in the journey. Your holiness is His project. Your sanctification is His aim. Your righteous living is His objective. His glory is on the line. The result is this: just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Your new life is a display, not of your own dogged determination to get it right, but of God’s ability to get it right. His glory is on the line.

Just as death had no power over Jesus in the tomb, sin has no power over you. As a new believer you get to live a new life. And God will see that you do–He will raise you by His glory.