Joshua 24:15 \\ And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond 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.”
New Years Day in many ways is just another day.
On one hand, there is nothing significant about throwing out one calendar and putting up a new one.
There is nothing distinctively Spiritual about a New Years day.
However, Psalm 65.11 says God crowns the year with his goodness.
God not only blesses the year but he also numbers our days and in Ephesians 5 tells us to make the best use of time- to redeem or time- because the days are evil and I believe he uses the calendar for reminders and as a call back to him.
Nothing would be more fitting than for us to take this New Years Day as a call to walk with God in 2006.
Our passage this morning is about Covenant Renewal.
And there is no better time to see our need for renewal in God’s Covenant than with a new year.
Let’s give you the context of our passage - Joshua 24 records the Israelites Covenant Renewal at Shechem.
This of course is near the end of the book of Joshua and near the end of Joshua’s life.
Joshua’s life was marked by leaving Egypt at a young age, and with Caleb being the only two who would live to enter the Promised Land.
He followed Moses as Israel’s leader and book of Joshua recounts the conquest of the Canaan, the struggle with not assimilating with the pagan people and the need to stay faithful to the true God.
Joshua’s final address to Israel (Josh.
24) took place at Shechem.
It was a formal renewal of the covenant that God had made with Israel through Moses.
Joshua 24 records a covenant renewal ceremony and it follows the same format as that used for treaties in the ancient world and for the book of Deuteronomy.
Joshua 24 is in fact a treaty.
But Joshua also picked Shechem as the location for the renewal because it was at Shechem that God first made covenant with Abraham first promised him blessings, and it would be at Shechem that Joseph’s bones brought from Egypt would be buried.
And so the people would know and feel the significance of the location that Joshua brought them.
You know the feeling when you walk some historic streets such as at Williamsburg in Virginia or the Freedom Trail in Boston.
You are encompassed with the history around you, and the Israelites at Shechem would know and feel the history of God’s covenant as they would see around them the place where God called their father Abraham and said, “I will be your God and you will be my people.”
And here at Shechem would be where Joshua would challenge the Israelites to serve God alone and not go back to the bondage of false gods.
The Covenant Renewal has both a corporate and an individual response, Joshua asked the people as a whole to commit to serving God and rejecting idols and then as individual families he challenged them as well, and he responded but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.
This morning you need to know that as a corporate body at Village Seven the leadership is committed that in 2006 we will grow in our faith and faithfulness – that we will trust God- that we will be a people of prayer- that we will be a people of conviction by growth in God’s word and that we will a people of ministry – that we will not shrink back ministry during the interim but that it will actually increase.
We desire that our Worship will continue to be God-centered and God glorifying, that our Teaching take us to love and apply God’s Word, that through our Communities and other ministries we increase our nurturing care for each other and that we look to find a real home for everyone who comes to Village Seven.
Finally, we desire to challenge each of us to reach out to this hurting world through ministries of word and mercy.
But this morning I want to focus on your individual walk with God in 2006.
What are your hopes and dreams for the year ahead?
There are always a lot of hopes in a new year, some are hoping for a new start in different phases of life, some hope for a new job, some hope for discipline to stick to a new diet after the holidays, some hope for reconciliation in some relationship, and I for one hope for a new Senior Pastor here at Village Seven.
The year ahead has many unknowns, but as past years have shown the trials of life will be experienced by all here in this congregation – many here this morning will be sick – some seriously so, some will die.
Some of you will also face other struggles – financial, relational, and emotional that you did not bring on yourself.
And still all of us will determine in some other ways what we will bring on ourselves.
We will choose whom we are going to serve, and our choice will have a dramatic impact on who will be sitting here a year from now and in what shape we will be sitting here.
For many here today 2006 will be a year of growth in the Lord as you will learn (and in some cases be forced) into new areas of service in the Church.
Many will grow in faith in trust in the Lord as when trials hit, you will rest in and find comfort in God.
Many here will grow in their love of God’s word and to help you in that we have a free Bible reading schedule available at the Welcome center.
Do you realize that if you will read just 3 chapters a day starting today, you will read through the Bible this year?
Many also will grow in their commitment and love for their church and they will look back on 2006 as the beginning of God’s blessing through the church.
But, if my experience, in 15 years of ministry, is any indication, we will also see self-inflicted heartache, self-induced guilt and guilt passing, and self-fulfilled prophecies of emptiness and loneliness and isolation.
Joshua 24:14-15 \\ “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.
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.”
And many of us a year from now - at the end of 2006 will have chosen self-inflicted misery.
No, none of us would chose it if it was labeled like that, but non-unlike the Christmas gift that just quite didn’t live up to the web-page description, we will pursue things that will bring us misery and leave us empty.
So what are the labels we do follow?
Under the label of – if only my wife would understand- men here today will hide behind the computer screen and lust after pornographic images.
And they will think that a little click on the mouse wouldn’t hurt anyone, because no one else could see, right?
I deserve a break, she doesn’t know me.
It started to control them.
Under the label of- it’s only a TV show- women will begin to question their marriage vows, and look at disdain at their husbands and look with intrigue at that other guy.
And while they first thought it seemed so fun on Desperate Housewives, and then a second thought was its ok to let my imagination have some fun, isn’t it?
I disserve more, he really doesn’t know the real me, its ok to talk to my soul mate.
Soon the fantasy started to control them.
Under the label of – its got a great tune.
Some here will listen to things that takes their minds to places they should not go.
We begin to doubt the things we were so certain not so long ago.
Soon the music will guide our hearts and it will control.
Under the label of-
Under the label of a lot of great tasting things is poison.
And it’s a poison that controls and destroys.
And we know it.
If I were to ask each of you individually – do you think looking at that, or watching that, or listening to that will help you grow closer to God?
You would say, “No.”
If I were to ask you do you think those same things will help you grow closer to your spouse, you know what the answer is.
Yet, in 2006, men here in our congregation will jump headfirst into destroying the trust and intimacy in their marriage and be defeated spiritually.
This year here in this church women will be enamored by a fantasy of life with another man, and they will run to destroy their marriage and their family because this poison seemingly tastes so good.
It’s not that God’s grace is not strong enough to keep us from destroying our lives; it’s that we don’t look to God during these thoughts.
God can grow your marriage even through the toughest time, God can renew your mind even during the most depressing times, God is present even when we try to alienate ourselves, and the question is do we look to him or do we serve other gods?
If Joshua was challenging us to covenant renewal today he may put it like this- Choose for yourself whom you will serve, the gods of this culture- or the Faithful God who has pursued you and I in spite of our unfaithfulness.
If it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, then serve the world with all your heart, but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.
There are three elements of Covenant Renewal that we need to grasp as we start 2006.
These are not new but they are essential to a good foundation in the New Year.
1) Covenant Renewal is what we desperately need- our hearts yearn for fulfillment that can only be met in God.
We were born as spiritual beings, our hearts yearn for eternity, and there is a part of us that desires to be God’s children and to call him Abba.
Yet our hearts are twisted, we are idol factories, and we search for fulfillment in a world that ultimately will leave us empty.
Like the eating of Turkish Delight in Narnia we keep needing more and more and it satisfies less and less.
To the weary who are tired of trying to find ultimate fulfillment in self, in work, in sex, in money, in relationships and in toys,- Jesus says, “come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
* *For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Come walk in Covenant with God find peace with the God who created you and loves you and who will lead you to know him better.
That is good news.
2) Covenant Renewal is impossible for us to keep and to do – on our own.
Doesn’t it seem odd to you that Joshua seems almost to be talking the Israelites out of renewing this covenant?
You see for the first 13 verses of our chapter God is recounting everything he has done for his people.
And then as one commentator put it, Joshua uses irony to make his point.
If the thought of serving God is undesirable to you- after all he has done- then serve something else as your God!
Why would Joshua do that?
He does that because he wants the Israelites to renew the Covenant with God in all the right ways.
He wants them to know – it’s not about them.
He wants them to know that they can’t do it on their own.
And it’s not about you.
It’s about God.
We all try to renew a covenant in all the wrong ways.
We try to get back right with God by earning it.
I know I do.
John Calvin said-
Thus they build without a foundation.