“Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth…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)
This weekend we were blessed to once again attend the Family Life Weekend to Remember. It’s all about helping and healing marriages and we recommend it. We were especially blessed by the break-out sessions for pastors and their spouses…One of the speakers told an amusing story about motivation—best I can remember it, here’s what he said:
“A pastor’s church was within walking distance from his home if he strolled through the graveyard. One night on his return home it was raining and very dark, but he decided to walk through the unlit graveyard anyway because he always followed the same route—he knew the way. About halfway through, he fell into a newly dug grave. The grave was deep and the dirt sides were slick from the rain. After repeated attempts to climb out he simply sat down—he was wearing a rain hat and rain slicker anyway and soon went to sleep. An hour later a drunk walked through the graveyard and fell into the same open grave. He attempted to climb out several times and failed, which woke up the pastor…who said in a calm voice: ‘I tried—you can’t get out.’ But the pastor was wrong—it all depends on your motivation.”
The drunk was literally frightened so much by the voice from the grave that he did the impossible, climbing out of a place that was both too high too slippery for him. Suddenly his motivation exceeded his limitations. He no longer was frustrated by what he could not do—He simply produced the adrenalin necessary and did it.
As we have explored the Lord and our future in these sermons over the past few weeks, heaven is a real place that can be found and entered by people like you and me. It is not attainable by our efforts because it is too high and too holy for all. God is there and He is like the sun, which warms us from a distance, but up close it would destroy us. God is pure, holy, completely without sin, innocent like we cannot imagine, and yet He is also full of love. From a distance we are warmed by His love but up close we could not endure Him—He is holy—we would die.
I like to compare going to heaven with jumping to Catalina Island. We live near the beach and Catalina Island can usually be seen because it’s only about 26 miles across the water from our city—Long Beach, California. Like the island, heaven is a place but exactly where it is and how to get there is a problem. Getting to Catalina is relatively easy—we DO know where it is and how to get there—Money is paid to hire an airplane or a boat, after which we either fly or sail to Catalina. But we could all go down to the beach, get a running start and try to JUMP to Catalina Island. Some will jump further than others, but all fall short—it’s just too far! The correct way to do it is pay the fare and be carried to the destination. Heaven is like that—the fare must be paid and we must be carried there. There is no other way…It’s not something we do on our own, no matter how capable we might think we are. The fare is costly and we can’t get there by ourselves.
We lack the skill and we don’t have the ability. Even if our lives are filled with sincerity and we produce endless adrenalin…it isn’t enough. Let’s consider our Scripture for today: “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth…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).
In the story of the pastor, the graveyard and the drunk, an interesting possibility is inferred: If the inebriated man and the pastor had worked together, one of them might have been able to help the other one to the top, who could, at the very least…go and get help. But the man’s motive was based in terror only…he panicked and then escaped…But only from the grave—not the graveyard. This world can be compared to such a place. We not only walk through it, we live IN it, falling into one open pit after another. We lose a friend, a loved one and fall into a pit of depression. We fall into shame, guilt, remorse and fear to an extent that we lose sight of others who have fallen also. We all need help, and not just from each other. We need the Lord.
Joshua, who looked closely at the life of Moses for forty years, saw the Lord through this man of God that he had served. He learned to “fear the Lord,” which means we are to reverence, worship and honor God. Our lives are meant to “serve Him in sincerity and in truth.” If you don’t like it, if you don’t want Him, if it somehow “seems evil to you to serve the Lord,” then it’s time to “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” You can look to the things of this world and trust in them, or you can be like Joshua, who called out to humanity—“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15).
The church needs people or it would not be a church. The church building is just a place for the men and women of God to meet—it’s a people, not a physical structure. Secretly, down deep inside, we all know we are something like the drunk or the pastor…we have fallen and we can’t get up. The inebriated man suddenly had the motivation and the adrenalin to get out of that pit, but you can be assured that he very quickly fell into another one. We live in the graveyard of this life and there is an endless supply of open pits that all tend to fall into.
A counselor, a pastor, a friend…someone close can help us through a difficult situation. But it doesn’t get us out of the graveyard...which is why the Father sent the Son. We can be motivated to be better and that’s good, we can help each other and it’s even better, but only Jesus Christ can get us out of the graveyard. And it isn’t just about leaving this life. We need help right now. It’s more than a change of location—it’s a change of—everything! We need to choose the Lord!
Joshua, like his predecessor Moses, understood that help is needed. He saw the parable of sacrificed innocent animals that died for the sins of the people. He didn’t have all the information that we do—he just trusted in the Lord—which is what we have to do, too.
Consider Ephesians 2…”You He made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins… 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” (Ephesians 2:1,4-6). Do you see it? Yes, heaven is a place and we can go there by God’s grace, but we are already there through faith. We are “IN the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
The graveyard of this world is real, but by God’s grace through faith, it’s also temporary. If you are motivated to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, God will see your intention and lift you up and out of the pit—“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” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
You can’t jump to Catalina Island unless you buy a ticket and ride there. You can’t produce enough adrenalin to get out of the grave. But Jesus died for you. He paid the price in His own blood and bought you a ticket, lifting you out of the graveyard and into the heavenly places. Do you have the motivation? Are you willing to let Him help you? You only have to believe.
I believe, Lord. I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God…I confess my sins to You and trust in You now. Thank You, Lord, for rescuing me. In Jesus Name. Amen.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is wonderfully outside of the universe we have known all our lives. When He appeared to us two millennia ago, He came as a baby. If He came to us as He really is, we might run away in fear instead of coming to Him in love. He created the universe and if you don’t believe it, read what the Bible says in John 1:3—“All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
And we can examine Hebrews, a book that was especially written to early Jewish believers. In Hebrews 1:10-12, which speaks of God the Son—“You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands; they will perish, but You remain; and they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will fold them up, and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not fail.” The writer quoted Psalm 102:25-27, which concludes, “Your years will have no end.”
He is from outside everything we think we know...He is Heaven’s emissary, sent to grant us who believe—citizenship in a new and better place! We have become like explorers who have left a familiar setting and are sailing to a new land, a new world. It is true that we do not personally know the place we journey to, but our Captain has been there and we can trust in Him.
His identity as our Creator is established in Hebrews 1, and then the context continues to Hebrews 3:4, where we find that “He who built all things is God.” The Son appeared to us as a baby in a manger, but He is not merely within time and space as we know it. He is from God and He IS God. He took an additional identity becoming part of the human race but He is not limited at all. When you speak to Him—He hears. If I speak to Him at the same time you do, He hears both of us more clearly than we hear ourselves, because He is God! He can and does listen to and respond to the needs of billions of people...all at the same time.
Jesus Christ, the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the world did not need to come to this earth and die for our sins. Instead He came out of OUR need and because He cares. He who came to us truly loves you and me. As a human race, it’s like we fell into a psychological, emotional and mental—sewer! If you don’t think so, reflect on the subject matter of humanity’s television shows including the news. Consider our books and magazines. Our very thoughts have become unclean and must be washed in the blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. We may reject Him, but we can never be clean without Him.
We know we are dying and reasonably enough we are concerned about death. It doesn’t matter what we have, who we influence or become…we will die at some point and lose it all. We might be remembered for awhile, but that will pass, too. That’s how it is for the author of the Book of Hebrews. His words came from God and they are remembered but he (or she) is not. The author of Hebrews knew about death and its losses and said about us, about Christ and the enemy of mankind—“Inasmuch as the children have partaken of flesh and blood (that’s us), He Himself (Jesus Christ) likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15). Christ saves us and makes us free.
A great problem is this—at some level, everyone knows that as a race of beings we are already dead unless we place our trust in the Lord. Paul the Apostle recognized that without Christ we are something like the zombies portrayed in so many horror movies—They are animated, focused, determined, but also—dead! And Paul also saw that we are made alive in only one way—through Jesus Christ who died for you and me. He said: “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:8-11). We are made truly alive and also set free from the power of sin.
The atheist knows all this, too, but like the alcoholic and the compulsive gambler, he or she is in denial and will not accept the reality of our Risen Lord. I know that is true because I was an atheist as a young adult and would not have faith in the Lord at that time because of stubborn pride.
Who is Jesus to you? He physically embarked from this earth, returning to the place of God, traveling upward from His shocked disciples and away from them once more. He was no longer a human baby…then a man who taught, healed and comforted. He returned to His true home. His mission was complete and He left for a place where He is of enormous benefit to you right now—He is “at the right hand of God (the Father and He) makes intercession for us” (Romans 8:34). He is praying for you and His prayers are always answered.
Many have wondered, often while grieving great loss—“What’s the point of life?” And the answer?—HE is the point of life! He couldn’t have been more clear when He said…”I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). We need a lot, but nothing is as critical as life itself—and He gives life to those who trust in Him.
All right, who IS this Jesus we need so desperately? What is He like? John the Apostle, a man who walked with Him for years, glimpsed Him in His ascended glory and here’s what he said—“His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters” (Revelation 1:14-15). That statement is one man’s struggle to grasp Who and what he saw and to adequately describe Him. John looked at the One that many want to see—the Son of God. I say “many” because not all want Him. As I found in my own life, the atheist does not see and the agnostic does not know because they do not want the Lord, for fear He will change their lives just as years ago He changed me.
John the Apostle did something reasonable when He saw the Risen Christ in all His glory. He reported—“When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.” This now elderly man fainted and fell down. Yes he might have broken a hip, but he did not, and his experience has been a blessing to us in the centuries since that time. Note John’s next words: “But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives and was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” (Revelation 1:17-18). The One who holds the keys of hell and death is the One who loves you. He is always there on your behalf as in today’s Scripture—Have you ever looked at fresh snow on a sunny day? It’s so bright, so reflective of the sun that you have to look away. He is holy… fresh and pure like the wool of a lamb or new fallen snow. Are you weary? Look at His eyes—They’re “like a flame of fire,” warming you through the cold days and nights of this world. Do you hope for justice? His feet are “burnished bronze,” treading on the sins of this world. Are you soothed by the sound of a waterfall or the waves on a shore? His voice is like that. Strong but beautiful, whispering to your heart that He loves you (Revelation 1:14-15). Pray with me:
Father, I am in need of Jesus. You sent Him to this world. Now send Him to me—I want to trust in You, Lord Jesus…and I do. Forgive me for rejecting you before. I place my faith in You now. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and give me Your peace. In Jesus Name. Amen.
Ron Beckham, Pastor - Ron@Friday Study.org
Friday Study Ministries - www.FridayStudy.org
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