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.” - Joshua 24:15
I can still remember the feeling of conviction that came over me at the age of 19 when our congregation was led in worship to a song called “Today” by Brian Doerksen. The song says, “Today, I choose to follow you, Today I choose to give my “yes” to you, Today, I choose to hear your voice and live… As for me and my house, we will serve you.”
During that year of my life, I had encountered God in amazing ways and had been convinced and convicted of my need for Christ. As I stood in the church throughout that year I remember being especially tender to the words in this song. It put steel in me. It gave me the opportunity to say “yes” to the LORD and take my stand as a man of God. More importantly, it helped me prepare to think like a husband and a father, realizing that my choice to follow Christ would effect my future wife and children.
These words of course were not Brian Derksen’s words but they were the words of God spoken by Joshua thousands of year ago. Without a doubt, Joshua’s words are as relevant today as when he spoke the words so long ago. Our churches and our homes need to recover this. We need more men and women in the church (men especially) to take the Joshua Challenge to serve the LORD as a family. To make their home a home for God.
God calls us as Christian fathers and mothers to serve Him by removing generational and cultural idols from our homes and by making a commitment to worship him, standing as the protective spiritual leaders of our families.
Looking at the verses above, we notice first that as a precursor to his final charge to “Serve the LORD”, Joshua makes clear that serving the LORD will require a rejection of two kinds of idols: 1) Idols of the past and 2) idols of the culture.
IDOLS OF THE PAST
“Put away the gods your fathers served beyond the river and in Egypt” (Joshua 24:14). Perhaps one of your biggest challenges as a Christian parent is that your own parents did not leave you a godly legacy to imitate. Maybe your father served the gods of alcohol, apathy, sex, power or worldly success. Maybe your mother served the idols of control, self-indulgence, addiction or pride. As a result, it is difficult to envision what it looks like to serve God faithfully in your home. Joshua’s challenge to us who struggle with gods of the past is so helpful because it is so clear… “Put them away”. This doesn’t mean to hide them in the closet but rather to “forsake them” and to “put them behind you”. It means“…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:13-14). Don’t allow the idols of your household growing up or your parents upbringing to make you their slave. You are captive only to Jesus Christ and all other idols can be shown the door. Generational sin can have it’s end with you and your family if you give those things to the LORD and are filled with the Spirit of Christ.
IDOLS OF THE CULTURE
“The gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell” (Joshua 24:15). If we are honest, the cultural idols of our day present the greatest challenge to our faith in Christ. They did for Israel as well. After entering the Promised Land, Joshua’s generation died and the people of Israel entered a time of prosperity. Yet, they forgot about the God who had blessed them with it all. Their bellies grew full, their hearts grew cold, their eyes grew greedy and their worship shrunk to bow down to a statue. And shrunken worship leads to dark actions. For generations, Israel “did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6) and more and more families set-up “household gods” (Judges 17:5) and the result was all the horrors of wickedness and sin you can imagine. Just read the book of Judges!
As Christian parents, we must seek to repeatedly and diligently identify the idols in our culture and resist allowing those gods a place in our home. This doesn’t mean we ban television or disengage with culture in order to create our own safe Christian communes. But it does mean that we refuse to give anything other than God the central place in our household. Idolatry is not something that is just outside of us, we and our children will all have idols of the heart that we must keep in check. But this becomes much more difficult when we allow those idols a place at the table, down in the “man-cave” or the living room. Joshua’s commitment was that his home would be built around Yahweh. So the question is not, “do you use media as a family?” but rather, “has media become a god in your family life?” If so, Joshua’s call to us is “Choose whom you will serve.” We must decide. There can be no wavering between opinions or living in two worlds. Thankfully the Lord gives us so much opportunity to take this stand each day.
SERVE THE LORD
“But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15). It is not enough to simply “put away” idols in our homes, however. Joshua’s call to us is to “Serve the LORD”. This is a positive command. As Christian parents we must first ask ourselves whether we sincerely love Christ and want to give our all to him? Do we see the beauty of His love for us on the cross and in His faithful acts of mercy? Do we see him as more beautiful, worthy and attractive than the things of the world? If so, then we will serve him because all other false gods don’t compare to his awesomeness!
Secondly, if we love Christ then we will further commit ourselves as parents to lead our families to serve him as well. It is not brain-washing to teach your children to serve God. It is not faithfulness to allow your children to figure out what they choose to believe in. If you as a parent know Jesus, you are called share Him with your kids in a loving, gracious and consistent fashion. Everyone indoctrinates their children with something. You have the privilege of indoctrinating them with the precious Truth of the Gospel.
Of course, this is easier preached than done. But there are many ways that you can lead your family practically to live for Jesus. Here are a few:
Practice Family Worship – This means hosting a daily time for reading God’s Word, praying and even singing together as a family. (Right now I am experimenting with a 5 minute devotional after dinner and 10 minutes of Bible reading and prayer at story time). Family worship does not always go smooth (especially with young kids) but it is a clear indicator to your children that God comes first in your home.
Go to church – Too many families allow the gods of sports, extracurriculars or even job schedules to basically eliminate their Sunday morning gathering with other believers. Consistent skipping of church attendance is a sure-fire way to communicate the unimportance of faith to your kids. Church should be a non-negotiable if you want your kids to truly know Jesus.
Serve others – Sometimes we are on target with our family devotions and church attendance and yet the tenor of our lives is self-focused and insular. Find ways to help your kids live for others and not just for themselves by hanging out in your neighbourhood, inviting people for dinner, doing service projects or joining a club or team. Look for ways to serve others in all that you do as a family as alive in your community.
Rest and wonder – Remind your kids weekly and daily of God’s grace by finding times to rest and play in God’s big world. Take them on adventures so that they marvel and wonder at God’s creation. Do restful activities together so your kids can find, feel, and experience the grace of their God who says, “Come to me… and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28)
These daily and weekly disciplines do not earn you bonus points with God. But they help you build your house on the Rock that is Christ and remind you and your children of his wonderful grace each day.
May your house be a house for God and may you live long in the land!