Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part 23: Fighting for Heaven
June 20, 2010
· Genocide material
· Grudem 1143
Scripture reading: Joshua 1:1-7 (Jewel)
Cecil preached on Mother’s Day on the book of Ruth, the Bible’s chick flick he called it. So on Father’s Day I am preaching on the Bible’s action flick – Joshua.
· Marilyn asked if I wanted to watch Toy Story 3 for Father’s Day – A-Team would be more like it.
Q Have you been following the discussion about Monday’s Inscription post?
If not, you missed some interesting stuff. I was talking about our Psalms reading:
NIV Psalm 39:4 “Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. 5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. Selah 6 Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.
I think it is vital that we pray something like this on a regular basis – remind me how fleeting this life is, so that I put my hope in eternity, not this life.
But, I asked, won’t that make us apathetic and distracted form life here on earth, as atheist say? And if you thought I was putting words in their mouth, after reading the post, you will know otherwise.
Q Does our believe in heaven and an afterlife keep us from putting our full effort into his life? Should it?
Yes and no.
Life after high school
Think back to high school. That’s a long time for some of us. Here’s me back then...
Think of this earthly life as being like high school. Some foolish teenagers live only for high school, ignoring that real life starts afterwards and impervious to the consequences.
On the other hand, some foolish teenagers hate high school and don’t benefit from the intellectual and social training it provides.
But the wise teenagers recognize that high school is temporary, so they enjoy it fully and take every opportunity to be prepared for when real life begins, yet are not too attached to it.
Q Do you know people in each category?
Q Which were you in?
Hopefully, you put your full effort in, learned everything you could, and left ready for life after high school.
So to answer the question: It is my hope that everyone of us lives this way – fully present in the now, yet acutely aware of the fact that this is the training ground for real life.
Another analogy: It’s like practice verses the big game.
· BTW: Heaven is eventful, not slothfulness (why would heaven be filled with something God forbids here?). Cf. Luke 19:14
So the real question is how do we keep this eternal perspective? How can we fully live on earth in preparation for our real life in heaven? It is easy to say that, but much harder to do.
· We struggle between being worldly and “too heavenly minded.”
entering the historical books
For this, we turn to Joshua. After almost six months in the Pentateuch, we enter the historical books (Joshua-Esther).
The Pentateuch laid out the foundations of Israel – their beginnings and the laws and covenants that form the very basis of their community.
Through the historical books we watch Israel’s failures and successes in living up to that covenant (mostly failures) and God’s faithfulness in keeping his. Joshua specifically describes God’s faithfulness in giving them the Promised Land.
The majority of Joshua is a series of battle, a war of conquest. God has promised them Canaan, and now they had to take it over from the Canaanites.
· This seems unfair for the Canaanites, but we know they were a were a very wicked people and God was bringing judgment.
A “type” of struggle
And this conquest of the Promised Land is a very powerful analogy of our struggle to fully live, to struggle with all our might, in this world as we prepare for the next.
But it is more than an analogy; it is a description of and type of our life today. By “type” I mean an example of something to come (for instance Isaac is a type of Jesus).
· In some ways book hold more meaning for us than them.
Last time I spoke, I talked about temporal vrs. eternal. The same thing goes here – the land Joshua fought for was temporal, their inheritance something they couldn’t hold after death.
· The real battle is spiritual and the inheritance spiritual.
This is what the book of Hebrews means. First he quotes Ps. 95 saying “they shall never enter my rest.”
Hebrews 4:8-10 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.
In other words, the real rest was not conquering the land, but heaven – being with God, in his glory, finding the deepest desires of our heart filled by his presence.
It is almost as if we are right beside Joshua, having just crossed over the Jordan River into Canaan, and just starting to conquer the land.
· But instead of seeking merely a plot of land to live on, we are looking forward to an eternal inheritance.
From Joshua’s conquest of Canaan, the promise land the God was giving them, I see several lessons, tactics if you will, for fighting this battle on earth as best we can.
1. Don’t forget whose team you are on
Joshua 5:13-14 13 ¶ Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” 14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
Sidebar: Who is this commander? Is he an angel? Usually people bow before angels, they are told to get up, so many scholars think that this is an Jesus, pre-incarnation.
But I love his answer to the first question, “Who’s side are you on?” “Neither.” God is not on our side, we are on his. Joshua got it – he went from “What team?” to worship and obedience.
· We know this, or at least say it, but we tend to slide back to thinking that God is on our side and exists to make us happy.
Q Have you ever prayed for your team to win? (Poker games)
Q Have you ever prayed for little things that are just for your benefit, like catching a green light?
It’s not wrong to pray for these– one of my most meaningful experiences with God came from an answer to such a prayer.
Q How much of your prayer life is devoted to these things?
It is a mark of a weak, nominal Christian that they only pray to get stuff from God.
Q Do you send more time asking for what you want or with asking God to help you be on his team and fulfill his goals?
Seriously reflect for a moment on your recent prayer life, what ratio would you give it? If someone else where to look at your prayers, who’s team would they say you are on?
· An eternal perspective is more concerned with God and his eternal plans than me and my personal goals.
This may mean that even in our “apathy” we may be more present than others, because our focus is off of ourselves.
2. Know your greatest enemy
Q Who is your greatest enemy?
Q Who was Israel’s greatest enemy? Who sent them wandering in the wilderness for 40 years?
They were, or more specifically their fears. Time and time again they refused to believe that God would take care of them. This is why God says to Joshua:
Joshua 1:6-7 6 “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.
Four times in this one chapter that phrase is repeated. God does not want them to be victims of their own fears again.
· Imagine how much better life would have been for them if they would have trusted God in the first place!
Like Israel, we have to choose between believing God or our fears. Are you a child of God or a slave of your fears?
Fear of suffering leads to complacency and a shallow Christian life. Suffering is God’s tool for bringing depth. The goal is not ease in this life, but joy in the next.
· Be strong and courageous – God will bring you through the trials shining like gold.
The eternal perspective knows that even if you die in suffering, it will all still be worth it, no tears will be wasted.
Fear of being unfulfilled leads to compromise – when we don’t think God will take care of us, we try to take care of ourselves, be it in relationships or finances.
· Be strong and courageous – whenever we choose to sin, we are listening to our fears that say God’s ways are not best.
In a moment we will talk about Achan, who disobeyed God by taking something that belonged to God.
Q How could he do that even after seeing God’s awesome power and his judgment against Jericho?
I think he didn’t believe God would take care of him later and that he had to take care of himself.
An eternal perspective knows that we may not always get what we think we want in this life, but in the end God does not take away anything that we really wanted.
Fear of that this is not really true, doubting that God is good or that he even exists. Yes there are times when it is hard to believe, and things don’t make sense.
· Be strong and courageous, he will lead you through these doubts if you cling to him.
I know all the argument and counter arguments, but in the end, I have known Jesus, and that is enough.
The eternal perspective says, “Now we see in a mirror dimly, then we shall see face to face.” (1 Cor. 13:12)
Q So how do we overcome these fears?
Strong in grace
“Be strong and courageous” does not mean “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and get ‘er done.”
· We are weak and should be terrified.
God specifically puts them in places where they cannot win by their own strength and shows them that it is only by his strength that they can will.
· The courage is founded in God, not in ourselves – God will put places that force us to face our fears with him.
The clearest example is that of Jericho. You know, “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho.” God says, you see this city, one the oldest cities in the world, protected by a double wall? You are going to defeat it by marching around it and shouting.
· Israel couldn’t boast that they brought the walls down with really good shouting.
This is a picture of grace – it has never been about what we can do, but about Jesus, who makes us strong and saves us.
The way to overcome the fear of suffering, of not being provided for, of it not being true, and more, is to lean more completely into Jesus:
a. Confess your fears – I am afraid that if I follow you and obey I will....
b. Study God’s word to be assured that God will come through.
c. Pray for the Spirit’s help in trusting.
d. Lean on your community.
Ä All this become very important as we see in the next
3. disobedience brings disaster.
· This lesson is demonstrated poignantly in the story of Achan.
Israel was clearly told that everything in the city was to be destroyed, devoted to God. But Achan saw some loot and decided to take it. The results were disastrous:
Immediately after their victory in Jericho, they are defeated by a much smaller city called Ai. Why? Because God did not help them because of his disobedience.
Joshua 7:10-11 10 ¶ The LORD said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.
Q Let’s get personal here: Are you currently living in blatant disobedience to God?
Let’s be clear: Not the striving to grow, but you know God say to do this or not to do this, but you are disobeying.
Q What is God calling you to do that you are ignoring?
It might be something that the Bible clearly prohibits, or it might be something that is not right or wrong but you know that God has told you what to do.
· It might be in your relationship, in your job, porn, in tithing, in serving in the church.
It is that thing that nags in the back of your mind when you are worshiping, that burning guilt that that makes you reluctant to spend time in prayer.
Or maybe you don’t genuinely have a relationship with God. You might play the part, but deep down you know that you are your own master, you have not surrendered to God and his grace.
Q Regardless: Do you think that God will bless you? Do you think he will be with you?
You can try to make things better, but if you are in blatant disobedience, it’s just arranging chairs on the Titanic.
Q Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be free of it?
· I know that obedience isn’t easy, but it is best.
a. Confess and repent from your disobedience
b. Pray for the Spirit’s help in trusting.
c. Lean on your community.
Your sin will find you out, and in the mean time it is destroying you, and probably others as well – 36 Israelites died because of Achan’s sin.
4. Take all of the land.
Though Joshua is filled with victories, but there’s a hint of a storm brewing – they didn’t take all the land. Work is hard.
This serves as a poignant image of our faith. Some Christians live lukewarm lives: Their entire Christian life is lived on the shores of the Jordan, when God has given them the entire land of Canaan to enjoy.
· They’re saved, but coasting, try getting away with as much as possible; having fun now, knowing God forgives them.
This is a double tragedy. First, sin is that which destroys us, so they may think that they are having fun, but they are actually hurting themselves.
· Because of compromise and misplaced priorities, they miss out the fullness of life God longs to give.
A more blessed heaven
But there is an even deeper tragedy for the nominal Christian: How we live this life, how hard we work here, how we fight this battle, will have a direct impact on the next.
Q Think about that for a minute – Do you really believe that our conduct now impacts our eternity in heaven?
This is not speculation – this is simply what the Bible teaches:
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
The lasting tragedy is that heaven will be filled with folks who will smell like they just ran out of a burning building.
Q Will you be one of them?
You won’t have less joy in God’s presence, but you will “suffer loss.” This is why it is so vital to fully live this life, with your sights set on eternity.
Q Are you striving to take the entire land, living your entire life for things that matter?
Q Where is your treasure? What are you building with?
The main thing I want to leave you with is this:
If you aim at heaven, you will get earth thrown in, if you aim for earth, you will get neither. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt 6:33)
Q Are you fully living this life, in preparation for the future?
Q & A