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As for Me and My House
The Home that God Builds
As for Me and My House
Joshua 24:14-15
 
As I’ve done several times in the past, I want us to spend the weeks from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day thinking about God’s design and plan and function for the home.  I know I don’t’ have to remind you that America’s homes and in fact, the very moral fiber of our society is under attack.
 
I know most of us understand that.  But if we aren’t careful we can neglect our homes to the point of destruction and Satan likes nothing better than to cause the influence and testimony of a faithful Christian to disintegrate before those who are watching. Therefore our homes are one of his chief targets and must be protected and guarded.
 
So to that end I pledge to come these weeks with fresh, relevant material to be of help to you in your home.  The issues before us are too important for me to waste your time with needless facts and impractical solutions.  But I also ask that you respect the time and effort that goes into preparing for these studies.
 
Be here, if at all possible.  Come with a mind and heart that is ready and anxious to hear and respond to God’s instruction and expect that He will bless that commitment. 
 
Now, I’ve tried to organize my thoughts around the theme “The Home that God Builds”.  After all, the home is the basic building block of society.
 
It doesn’t matter if we are successful at everything else in life, if our homes fail, then our lives are never what God had in mind for us.  Listen to what Chuck Swindoll says in one of his books:  
 
“Whatever else may be said about the home, it is the bottom line of life, the anvil upon which attitudes and convictions are hammered out. It is the place where life’s bills come due, the single most influential force in our earthly existence.”
 
I’m sure you’ve heard it said that home is where life makes up its mind. Sometimes parents forget how powerful even very small actions can be.
 
Maybe you’ve seen or read this little reading called “When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking.”
 
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator, and I wanted to paint another one.
 
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you feed a stray cat, and I thought it was good to be kind to animals.
 
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make my favorite cake for me, and I knew that little things are special things.
 
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I heard you say a prayer, and I believed there is a God that I could always talk to.
 
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I felt you kiss me goodnight, and I felt loved.
 
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw tears come from your eyes, and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but it’s all right to cry.
 
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw that you cared and I wanted to be everything that I could be.
 
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I looked … and wanted to say thanks for all the things I saw … When you thought I wasn’t looking.
 
Parents have a much bigger influence than they realize. According to survey done by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), teens are much less likely to drink if their parents tell them underage drinking is completely unacceptable.
 
The online survey of 663 U.S. high school students found only 8 percent of teens who said their parents thought underage drinking was unacceptable were drinkers themselves. In contrast, 42 percent of teens who said their parents believed underage drinking was somewhat unacceptable, or completely acceptable, were drinkers.
 
Teens whose parents told them underage drinking is completely unacceptable are 80 percent less likely to drink, compared with those whose parents give their teens’ other messages about drinking, the survey found.
 
And what we teach about drinking is not the only influencing factor when it comes to kids alcohol use.
 
 
Another study done by KidsHealth, shows that stressful situations at home, such as divorce, financial difficulties or other family problems can influence a teenager's decision to turn to alcohol.
 
Teenagers with low self-esteem, or those who feel distant or unloved from their parents, are also more inclined to drink alcohol as a form of comfort.  Teenagers can frequently turn to alcohol as an escape if there is abuse or conflict occurring in the home.
 
Bottom line:  Where the home is strong and stable, children are much less likely to drink.  In fact, they have a better chance at growing up healthy and well-rounded and well-adjusted in every area of life when there is a positive, healthy relationship with parents The results shouldn’t surprise us because God’s plan for the home works.  God understands the power and influence of parents.  That’s why he gave kids to them!  It is their responsibility to raise the kids.  That’s God’s design.
 
Joshua understood the power of parents. As he came to the end of his life, he called the leaders of Israel together for one final message. Knowing that he is only one step from death, he sounds a call to renewal that begins with a recital of God’s blessings in the past (Joshua 24:1-13).
 
Then he challenges the people to be faithful to God (24:14-27). And in the middle of his message we find those stirring words that have been quoted and memorized for over 3000 years.  You may have them on a plaque in your home or engraved on a key chain or paper weight.
 
Listen as I read them:
 
Joshua 24:14-15
 
In those words, and in the verses leading up to them, I find five decisions we must make if we want our families to serve the Lord with us.  Let me share them with you.
 
Decision # 1: Build Your Home on Grace
 
As Joshua reminds the people of how their ancestors conquered the Promised Land, notice what he includes in
 
Verses 11-13
 
He doesn’t want the people to forget that they owed everything to God. It’s easy to see how that might happen. After all, the Israelite army had won battle after battle, often routing the enemy from the field. It would be natural to start thinking, “We’re something special.” But that thought is always deadly. Joshua knew that once the people took credit for their victories, they would soon turn away from the Lord altogether.
 
And I think it important to do with our families what Joshua does with the people of Israel. It’s a good thing to review past blessings and to make sure we don’t forget God’s faithfulness. We need to be able to say to our children, “Do you remember when you were so sick and we prayed to God and you got better?” “Do you remember when Dad lost his job and we were afraid so we prayed and God gave him a new job?”
“Do you remember when we prayed for Jim and Sue to be saved and six months later they accepted Christ?” Listen, a good memory of God’s blessings is the gest defense you have against backsliding.
 
Has God blessed you? Those are the reminders of God’s grace in your life.  You didn’t earn it!  He gave it to you!  Thank Him for it!  Count your blessings! Write it down. Think often about it. Don’t forget it!  Don’t take it for granted!  Tell it to your children, your family and your friends. Pass it along so that those who come after you can still be telling the story even after you are long gone to heaven!
 
Another way to build your home on grace is to practice generous giving. When we give liberally, we teach our children to do the same. They learn that we give because we have received and that God never stops giving to his children.
 
It’s unfortunate that in far too many homes children learn to juggle the bills and stress about money and why daddy’s got to have two jobs but they never hear anything about trusting God with the tithe or giving out of our need to being obedient stewards of what God has graced us with. 
 
And build your home on grace by being quick to forgive and slow to take offense. Love covers a multitude of sins.  There is enough bitterness and hurt feelings and ego in our homes to sink a ship and unfortunately many homes are about to go down because we’ve forgotten how to love one another unconditionally.  But a grace-based home will be a home that has the mind of Christ when it comes to forgiveness.
 
Decision # 2: Teach Your Family to Worship God.
 
Joshua 24:14a
 
When we think about the fear of the Lord, many people get the idea of cringing in terror and that is not wrong.  It’s just incomplete. The biblical concept is much broader than that. Fearing the Lord certainly includes understanding His power and justice and being fearful of what that can produce.
 
But it also means having such a deep respect for God that we want to please him in all we do. He wants us to know that His anger can be pacified.  He is not prone to holding grudges or giving people what they deserve.  He is kind an gracious and forgiving and a part of fearing the Lord is holding those things in balance.  One writer says it refers to the “inner devotion” that causes us to honor God.
 
So how do we share this “inner devotion” with our families? I don’t think it necessarily means you have a seminary class in your home with formal lessons and instruction.  I see it more as an atmosphere than a program. When the parents truly fear God, their children will learn to fear him too. When they love the Lord, it will be natural for the children to learn to love him too. When they sing hymns, their children will learn the words. When they pray, their children will quietly pray with them.
 
Unfortunately, down through the years men have left that responsibility to the women, but it is given by God to the men. It is to start with the dads and grandfathers and male spiritual influencers.
For too many years we have delegated spiritual leadership to the women while we went out into the world to make a living. We have placed a burden on the women that God never intended them to bear all alone. God meant spiritual leadership to be a shared burden, but the men must take the initiative if we truly want God’s blessing.
 
One of my favorite artists is Norman Rockwell.  Back in 1959, the cover painting he did for Saturday Evening Post showed a family going off to church, led by the oldest sister followed by Mom who is followed by the younger sister. All three women are dressed for church. Following them is a young boy who appears to be going with some reluctance.
 
Why the problem? At the center of the painting is dear old Dad slumped in a chair, in his pajamas, reading the paper with a cigarette in his hand. As junior walks by he casts a longing eye at his father. He’s going to church but clearly he’d rather be with his father.  Men, when will we learn that our actions speak louder than our words?
 
Some of the most foolish things I’ve ever heard men say were in regard to going to church or rather not going and making their kids attend.
 
I’ve had men say, “I’ll just sent my kids to church”.  That’ assumes there is nothing there for you.  But what you will discover is some of the greatest and most lasting relationships you will ever encounter will be with the friends you develop at church.
 
 
 
Besides that, if the Sunday School teacher and preacher are doing their job, you are going to be instructed from God’s Word on how be successful at you job, in your home, in your relationships, how to get along with your wife, how to handle your finances; everything a man needs to do life is found in the Bible.
 
I’ve had men say, “I’m just going to let my kids make up their own mind about going to church.”  Sir, you’ve just taken their choice away.  If they are never taught and encouraged and exposed to the things of God how in the world will they ever get a chance to choose for themselves?
 
Besides that, you wouldn’t say that about anything else in life. “We’re just letting little Junior chose for himself about whether he’ll wear clothes out in public.  You know we’ve thought about it and decided he should just make up his own mind about getting shots and going to the doctor.”
 
“He hasn’t decided if he wants to do homework or not.  Hopefully he’ll figure out what he wants to do soon.  That silly child.  He decided he didn’t want to brush his teeth.  It’s been three years now I think since he last had a toothbrush in his mouth.  Maybe one of these days he’ll come to his senses!”
 
And yet you’re going to be foolish enough to say in regard to the single most important decision a child will ever make, that will determine whether he spends eternity in heaven or hell, you’re just going to let him make up his own mind?”
 
Teach your family to worship God and set the example before them!  
Decision # 3: Faithfully Serve and Obey God
 
Joshua 24:14b
 
The word “serve” is used in various forms six times in two verses. This is obviously the burden on Joshua’s heart. Nothing mattered but this, that the people should willingly choose to serve the Lord. He specifies exactly what that means when he adds “in all faithfulness.”
 
Every area of life must be surrendered to the Lordship of Christ. “All faithfulness” means there can be no “hidden rooms” that we reserve for ourselves. In particular it means putting aside the false gods worshipped by the pagans. Matthew Henry calls them “dunghill deities” because they have no power to save, only the power to corrupt.
 
Unfortunately, too many believers think they can serve God and whatever the world has to offer.  You’ll hear them say things like, “We’ll we’ve got a life outside the church.  God doesn’t expect us to just forget about everything else.”
 
I guess Jesus didn’t know what He was talking about when He said things like, “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me” or “Nobody who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of heaven”.  He’s the One Who said, “Deny father and mother and sister and brother and forsake all and follow Me”.
 
Now He either meant it or He didn’t.  But the implication is there is to be nothing in competition for the first place in our lives.  It is reserved solely for God.
We are to serve and obey Him without argument, without hesitation, without reservation.  And that means we have to get rid of all the distractions and false deities that vie for our time and attention.
 
Whatever you had on “the other side or the river” is to be left behind as we unreservedly serve and faithfully live in obedience to God.
 
Now that means they had to make a choice.  In fact, that’s exactly what Joshua said in
 
verse 15
 
Joshua was offers his hearers a series of options.  First on the list was the true God, followed by the gods their fathers served on “the other side of the River.  That most likely is talking about the Euphrates River, which means he was referring to the gods of Ur of the Chaldees. Those would be the gods of ancient tradition, the moon god and the sun god.
 
Then he talks about the gods of the Amorites which were the gods of the sun, rain, darkness, and natural disasters and the gods of fertility and sexual pleasure.
 
Make your choice, he says. If you don’t want to choose the living and true God, then go back to the false gods you used to worship. Go all the way back to Ur if you like. Strange as it may seem, some people actually prefer the gods of this world to the one true God of the Bible. Their eyes are so blinded by sin and their heart so given to fleshly indulgence that they prefer to drink from the cesspool of sin than to drink from the Water of Life.
It’s up to you.  You can choose for yourself.  I talked a man just this week who made that very statement.  He said not going to church was his choice.  It was fine for others, but not him.  That’s what Joshua said.  You can choose for yourself.  And whatever you choose, you must live with the consequences.
 
And then Joshua makes that famous declaration:
 
Joshua 24:15b
 
In these simple words we find the will of God expressly stated. We are to serve the Lord and we are to do everything in our power to see that our family follows our example.
 
Over 300 years ago Matthew Henry said that serving the Lord involves “serious godliness.” I like that phrase because it captures the spirit of Joshua’s words. If we are going to do what he did and say what he said, it will mean “serious godliness” for all of us.
 
So let me wrap this up with several implications and chances are you’ve already thought of them.  But just in case you haven’t, think about this:
 
First, each of us must personally decide to serve the Lord.
 
I can’t choose for you nor you for me. We need a generation of Joshuas who will make this choice for themselves.
 
Second, parents have a special obligation to set the right example in this area.
We can hardly expect our children to serve Christ when we take our obligations lightly.
 
Third, fathers have the highest obligation.
 
It’s not uncommon for someone to say from time to time that one of the boys reminds them of me.  Usually that’s said in regard to their charm, good looks, quick wit and intelligence!
 
There is a heavy burden implied in those words. If it’s true that the apple never falls far from the tree, then I had better make sure the tree is healthy, or else what will the fruit be like?
 
In closing, I am struck by Joshua’s boldness:
 
This is a public choice. “But as for me.” He means, “I don’t care what the rest of you do. I’m going to serve the Lord.” Even though he was the leader of the nation, he was willing to part with his own people over this fundamental issue. I think we all have to say that sooner or later.
 
It doesn’t matter if we are office workers, executives, business leaders, teachers, students, blue collar workers, or simply dealing with our friends, family members, and neighbors. If you follow Christ, there will come a time when you must say, “Do what you want, and whatever you do I will still be your friend, but I’m going to serve the Lord.”
 
Not only is it a public choice, it is a personal decision. “But as for me.” In the end it comes down to this. You must choose to serve the Lord.
It won’t happen by accident and it can’t be inherited from your parents. They can give you the heritage, but at some point you must make it your own.
 
And this is a persuasive declaration. “But as for me and my house.” This may be the most amazing thing of all. Here Joshua speaks as the God-appointed leader of his family. He claims the right to speak for his wife, his children, his grandchildren, his great-grandchildren, and even for his servants. “As the leader of this clan, I hold their proxy in my hand. I hereby declare that my entire household will serve the true and living God.” Every Christian man ought to make a similar statement about the family God has given him.
 
Finally, this is a positive statement. “We will serve the Lord.” This is more than a statement about forsaking other gods, though that is implied. It means that Joshua’s family will orient itself around the worship of the God of Israel. His law will be their law, his commandments will be their delight, his worship their highest goal, and his glory their ultimate aim.
 
I find it interesting that Joshua does not say, “My house, without me, will serve the Lord”.  That would be like that famous Norman Rockwell painting. Nor does he say “I, without my house, will serve the Lord.” That would be a different kind of dynamic.
 
Instead, both are joined together as God intended. “I will serve the Lord and my family joins me in this pledge.”
 
 
 
How can a man be so certain about his family? I think Joshua could speak like this because he had taught them well for many years. And he knew of their own personal commitment to the same God he worshipped. And he had provided a good example for his family to follow.
 
There is a not-so-subtle warning in that for men.  We needn’t think we can live a careless life and at the end of his life ask God to save our family. To live that way and then to pray desperately at the end is to presume on the grace of God.
 
So as a father, can I guarantee that my sons will follow in my steps and serve the same Lord I worship? Unfortunately the answer is no because God has given to each of us the ability to make our own choices. And we all know of sad cases where godly parents produced offspring who did not serve Christ.
 
So what does this text mean? I think it teaches us that godly parents can tip the scales in the right direction. We cannot guarantee what our children will do but we can provide an atmosphere of “serious godliness” that makes it easier to choose Christ than to choose the way of the world.
 
I realize that I am preaching about the family but in reality I am speaking to individuals. No matter where we are or what is our family status, the pressing need is for us to serve the Lord.  So in the end the decision is intensely personal.
 
Is your mind made up? Are you ready to serve the Lord? Do you know where you stand with God?
The application is very simple:  “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” In the words of Bob Dylan, “You gotta serve somebody.” No one gets a free ride and no one can straddle the fence forever.  There is no room for neutrality.
 
Every person needs a God and every person must serve the God they choose. If you choose not to choose, you’ve already made your choice. You can’t choose the true God by default or by inheritance.
 
Make your choice. Cast your vote. Choose your God. I pray you will make the right choice. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
 
Let’s pray.
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