“As For Me and My House”

Doormats & WallhangingsJoshua Choose This Day 2

This familiar verse has been placed on many a doormat or wall hanging in Christian homes, usually very sincerely displayed as a true Christian witness. “Choose for yourselves whom you will serve…..but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” It’s worth looking into the context and rich significance of Joshua’s words. Whenever we fix our attention on a verse or verses of the Bible that really attract us, it is important not to neglect a careful look at the context.

The People of God

Joshua said these words before a solemn gathering of the entire nation of Israel (Josh. 23:2). Several times throughout the history of Israel we see the whole nation gathered like this, particularly in the time of Moses and Samuel, and after the people returned from exile under Ezra and Nehemiah. It was possible to gather the majority of the people of God then because they were a nation. Today it would be impossible to gather the whole church on earth to issue a solemn charge like this. The closest thing we have to an international gathering is on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out according to OT promise and the gospel went forth through Peter’s preaching (Acts 2). That was a great day of renown and fame for the gospel, and many were converted and took the gospel back to their homes throughout the empire. We as individuals and families are part of the people of God that is spread over the world, and the lives that we live and the commitments we make for Christ and His work in this generation where we live and worship are even more significant than those which Joshua was calling for in Josh. 24:14-15.

Covenant Renewal

Chapters 23 and 24 of Joshua represent a covenant renewal ceremony in Israel. Joshua is not just giving a pep talk or trying to fire up the people to be “sold out for God.” He is calling them to re-commit to the covenant of grace and the goodness of God in unilaterally coming to save a people for Himself. Life in God’s covenant (then and now) involves the reception of His grace, the remembrance of His great saving acts, righteous living according to the stipulations of the covenant, and constant decision by which we present ourselves to the Lord of the Covenant for His service. This is what Joshua was calling the people to do on this day (Josh. 24:1, 14-28). We live under the New Covenant in Christ’s blood and have been given so much more than they! I believe that Joshua is saying two things in 24:14-15.

Serve the Lord with everything you have or choose another god

Yes, choose another god if you cannot give yourself wholly to the God of the Covenant! God cannot be worshiped in part – part of Him, or part of us. Notice in 24:14 that he charges them to “fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth.” This is a related expression to John 4:24 – “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” God created us (unlike the animal creation) to commune with Him in the depth of our beings. It is implied in John 4:24 that man is spirit, and explicitly stated that God is spirit (Spirit). We worship Him in our spirits (Joshua’s “sincerity”), and most importantly, we are taught, informed, regulated, fueled, by the glorious truths that God reveals to us in His word. So Joshua is calling on the people of God (in all ages) not to be half-hearted, lukewarm (see Rev. 3:16), undecided, or hypocritical (serving two masters……). This is why he charges them in such arresting language – serve the Lord with everything or choose another god! Don’t dishonor His glorious name by duplicity.

Follow me and my house

This is the second thing that Joshua is saying. He is putting himself forward as an example for them. We need examples! Exemplary living for the Lord encourages others to “get with it” spiritually – to live right and righteously for our great, gracious, and glorious God, and not keep one foot in the world and the other in the church and Christian life, just trying to squeeze out a little time for God in our busy lives. Joshua is giving his confession and testimony by what he said to them that day. He was “planting his flag.” He was renouncing the world and proclaiming his course. This is what we need to do. Rom. 12:1-2 puts it in the language of presenting ourselves as living sacrifices. He was also expressing his commitment to the covenant. This kind of confession and commitment is what the covenants of God are designed for. We, in the New Covenant, were graciously chosen to be a people for His name, and thus we desire and determine to say with Joshua “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” And service has two parts to it: worship (adoration, devotions, praise, offering) and work (deeds, ministries, gathering with the people of God in this world). Finally, Joshua is speaking as a man and a leader. Men were created by God to lead. Women complement men in the design of God and godly women are endowed with all kinds of wisdom and abilities that bless others. But men must take the lead, as Joshua was doing. He is an example of leadership, and family leadership. Joshua reminds men and families that one great aim under our overarching purpose in life to glorify God and enjoy Him forever is to serve the purpose of God in this generation in the building of His church, with our families.

What will you do with Joshua 24:14-15?

Click on our Sermon Audio Tab (sidebar) and look for the sermon preached on this text on June 21, 2015.

Pastor John Reuther Or, just click here: http://www.sermonaudio.com/code_sourcefeatured.asp?iframe=TRUE&reversecolor=FALSE&showoverview=FALSE&flashplayer=TRUE&tiny=FALSE&minimal=TRUE&eventtype=EVENTID&speaker=SPEAKERNAME&sermonid=623151938357

Stops on the Road to Idolatry

Paul reveals the six stops on the road to idolatry. They are seen in Romans 1:21-23. This section is part of Paul’s larger exposure of the sin of the Gentiles. In other words, in Romans 1:18-32 Paul is revealing the unrighteousness of the Gentile world. In chapter 2 he will reveal the sin and guilt of the Jews. Then, in Romans 3:1-20 he will establish the universal guilt of all humanity and the need for all people to find their justification through Christ alone.

So Romans 1:21-23 is important because it shows the six steps in the downward spiral toward idolatry. He shows how idolatry begins and where it always ends. The passage, then, is intended to explain how and why things are the way they are in the world. It also serves as a warning to those who are justified by faith in Christ’s grace to beware of the subtle workings of idolatry. Remember how Israel, redeemed from bondage by the Lord Jehovah, so soon reverted to idolatry in the wilderness.

Here are the six stops on the road to idolatry which Paul sketches in the opening of this great epistle.

1. They did not honor God as God – v. 21. Even though they knew God, even though they saw His invisible attributes – His eternal power and divine nature through what has been made (1:20), they failed to honor Him for who He is.

2. They ceased giving thanks for His provision as God – v. 21. God created the world with everything supplied for our maintenance in life. We thank Him for food, clothing, shelter. We thank Him for health and strength, for love and supports which we have in life. As soon as we cease being thankful for life’s basic provisions we must know that we are at the second stop on the way to full-blown idolatry.

3. They lost touch with reality – v. 21. This is what Paul means when he says: “they became futile in their speculations.” Reality is like a fence to our thoughts. As soon as we lose touch with the reality of God and the revelation of God in creation, we begin to speculate and this only leads to futility!

4. They became content with darkness – v. 21. This point comes from the words “their foolish heart was darkened.” It certainly follows that futile speculation leads to darkness. Paul had earlier stated that they suppressed the truth of God (1:18-20). This is one of Paul’s major points in 1:18-32 where he is speaking about the preaching of the gospel of God, the revelation of the wrath of God, the suppression of the truth of God, and the consequences of exchanging the truth of God for a lie (which begins at 1:24 when he says “therefore”).

5. They boasted in the face of God – v. 22. “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” The boasting is seen in the word “professing.” They declared themselves wise before God, and in doing, Paul says, demonstrated their folly. Paul deals further with this in 1 Cor. 1:25, and 1 Cor. 2:7-16.

6. They exchanged the glory of God for corruption, for the lie – v. 23, 25. Here is the “arrival” point if you will. This is where idolatry leads – to the great exchange of truth for lies, glory for corruption, the Creator for the created. Man trades the true God, the Creator, in for lies and created things. And the consequence of this (a whole study in itself) is that “God gave them over.”

We undoubtedly know the importance of Romans for Christian doctrine. We would also understand how this exposure of the inner workings of idolatry in human hearts gives us both an explanation of what we see in our own hearts and in the world, and serves as the ultimate warning against all idolatry – Israelite idolatry, the idolatry of false religion, and our own American idolatry – the subtle temptations that we Christians face in our culture today.

Join us weekly for Pastor John’s expositions of the Book of Romans! And remember that the sermons can be heard or downloaded from the Sermon Audio link on this website. idolatry 1

Christian Ethics in Beautiful Form

In this article I offer an update on the series of studies currently underway at Covenant this 2014. We have called it “Our Moral GPS.” We are engaging in a serious, but popular study of Christian ethics. We began by looking at 5 great ethical texts in the Bible in this order: 1 Cor. 15:33 (“Bad Company”), Micah 6:8 (“He Has Told YouFruit 4“), 2 Chron. 31:20 (“That’s Good), Mark 10:18 (“God Only Good”), and John 1:14 (Ethical Glory in Jesus”). You can follow this series by listening to the messages found on our Sermon Audio site (link found at the bottom of the sidebar).

The main part of our study in Christian ethics, however, is a careful study of the three, great, ethical standards that God has given to us in the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, and the Fruit of the Spirit. These three statements, standards, summaries, present Christian ethics in the most beautiful form.

Is beauty “in the eye of the beholder,” as the saying goes? We admit of some interpretation and a subjective element in the experience of beauty. Yet, beauty stands the test of definition and description. When we see the birds flying in formation we exclaim, how beautiful! We recognize the presence of beauty in a palace, in contrast to a tenement. We speak of a beautiful sunrise or sunset, a beautiful dress or piece of jewelry. Studies on beauty will show that there is commonality in people’s perception of beauty. Our vocabulary admits it also, putting at our disposal words such as beautiful, lovely, pleasing, attractive, satisfying, as well as ugly, homely, and hideous. We seem to know when we are in its presence, but is it possible to analyze it critically.

The earliest definition we have of beauty is found in Gen. 1:31 where God pronounced everything that He had created to be “very good.” The Creator took great pleasure in all that He had made, and when He called it very good, He pronounced it beautiful! Beauty is rooted in the creation, and therefore, those who do not acknowledge the Creator, may not be able to give an accurate definition of beauty. This is ultimately why all men, irrespective of their response to the truth of God and belief in God as Creator, acknowledge beauty in the form of created things like sunrises, sunsets, mountain peaks, rivers and streams, clouds, birds flying, and animals leaping.

Scripture speaks of beautiful trees (Lev. 23:40), Moses as a beautiful child (Ex. 2:2), Rachel as beautiful of form and face (Gen. 29:17), Jerusalem as the perfection of beauty (Ps. 48:2), and wisdom as a crown of beauty (Prov. 4:9). “The Lord called your name, ‘A green olive tree, beautiful in fruit and form’” (Jer. 11:16). Yes, trees are beautiful, and the fruit is especially so. We might say that here are two very important elements in our understanding (and experience) of beauty, the beautiful form which captures our attention and elicits immediate pleasure leading to the exclamation how beautiful! and the enjoyment of the fruit excites our appetites and ultimately brings pleasure. There is fruit in the enjoyment of everything that is truly beautiful in God’s world. True beauty satisfies in the same way as a ripe melon does.

The Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, and the Fruit of the Spirit each have a beautiful form to be sure. And when we see them together, presenting one great ethical mandate and vision for redeemed humanity, the beauty is greater than we ever imagined. Look for our next study when we will begin to admire this beauty more carefully.

Sin is ugly. Immorality is unclean. A Godless life and lifestyle is unworthy of creatures made in God’s image, and offensive to the God who created us. So what are we to do? Follow Christ, the only ethical Leader ever given to the world of men. And if you are so inclined and have the time, follow our sermon series on ethics entitled “Our Moral GPS.”

Pastor John

Our Moral GPS for Christian Ethics

Who would deny that morality is changing faster than we ever expected? Mega-shifts are appearing in the cultural landscape where the fault lines of opposing ethical systems ultimately create moral upheavals and earthquakes. Here at Covenant we wanEthics 8 gpst not only to identify these ethical fault lines, but help Christians navigate the erupting landscape on their journey to the celestial city!

If I were beginning this series of messages in the early 70s I would have called it “Our Moral Compass.” But the GPS has practically replaced the compass in our society, and that is not something to be lamented. Just remember that if you are hiking through the forest the GPS may not do you any good when your batteries run out!

I like the analogy of the GPS for the moral life because the GPS not only tells you your orientation, it gives your position and  direction. And the direction comes from above – from the satellites placed in the heavens. So it is with our moral GPS. It comes from divine revelation. This, of course, is the reason for the moral tectonic plates which come into conflict and cause earthquakes. Christian ethics is fundamentally in opposition to natural, human, ethical systems. This is not to say that righteous ethics are nonexistent among non-Christians. There is a long history of common grace in man’s ethics so that we find good in this world of sin.

How will we approach such a vast subject? There is so much territory to cover on the GPS. We will start with 1 Corinthians 15:33 (Feb. 23), a text which, seems to me, to be a great introductory text: “Do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good morals.” It contains four of the major elements of our study. It identifies “ethics” (translated ‘morals’ in most English Bibles) by the Greek word sounding the same. It speaks of good and bad which are the two main categories of the world of ethical issues. It deals with the reality of corruption or decay in morality and ethics which we see more patently in the society today of course. And finally, since Paul is quoting a saying common in his day from the Greek writer Menander in his work Thais, it shows that even men of the world have an ethical awareness and consciousness.

Come and join us for our Sunday morning studies on Christian ethics for a moral GPS to guide you. And pray that God will bless His people to strengthen and equip them to navigate the moral morass that is out there today so that we can travel on the highway of holiness. You can hear these sermons on our Sermon Audio link as well. Ethics 16

Pastor John


In The Beginning ~ Genesis 1:1

World 2In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” If you own a home, your deed is the legal declaration of your ownership. Genesis 1:1 is God’s deed of ownership. It is also a doctrinal foundation and confession of faith. Finally, it is a short statement of methodology – He created it.

An Introductory Statement

One must look into the sentence construction in order to understand the meaning of Gen. 1:1. Is it a dependent or an independent clause? If it were a dependent clause, it would read: “When God began to create the heaven and the earth, the earth was without form and empty.” Translating it this way would mean that the world existed as described in verse 2 before God created. This would mean that God did not create ex nihiloout of nothing. So we insist on solid exegetical ground that Gen. 1:1 is an independent clause; it stands alone as a grand summary statement introducing the creation account of Genesis 1 and the Bible.

Formless & Empty

Gen. 1:2 is a description of the world as God initially created it. “The earth was formless and empty, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” Gen. 1:3 then begins to describe the activity of God in fashioning and filling the earth on the creation days to receive God’s image bearer – man. Verse 2 is an important description of the initial creation under the care of the Spirit of God.

Basic Creation Theology

Gen. 1:1 teaches us four foundational facts of faith. The first is that everything that we are and have had a beginning. This means that things are temporal and people are mortal. The second is that God had no beginning, He is eternal. The very thought of eternity is staggering. Whether eternity if timelessness or unending time makes little difference. This makes theology the “Queen of the sciences!” Nothing is more important than the study of theology, reading and understanding the Bible. The third is that God brought the heavens and the earth into existence out of nothing. This is the foundational and essential doctrine of creation in the Bible. Christians may discuss and disagree about certain creation issues, but this one is essential, otherwise God is not God. Finally, Gen. 1:1 teaches us that the earth is the exclusive and distinct object of God’s purpose. The earth looks just like any other celestial body from outer space, but the Lord looks down from heaven (Ps. 33:13) and sees all the sons of men.

Living in the Light of Creation 

Since everything had a beginning, then everything has a purpose. Every person must live his life here learning the purpose for every thing, institution, and relationship in human existence. The Creator shows us the purpose of life, of time, man, woman, children, things, work, leisure, marriage, government, worship, and everything else that occupies us in life.

Since everything had a beginning, then everything will have an end. We all know this about ourselves, though men try to suppress it in denial of God. But on a much bigger scale, we must know that the world will end. The Creator tells us so in His word. He will destroy sin and its curse on the creation, and create all things new.

Since God created everything, we are stewards of His creation. Gen. 1:1 is God’s statement of ownership, and the gift of life on this earth is our summons to stewardship. God lets us enjoy and use His world. Since we are created in His image, we re-create, design and develop, and employ ourselves in God’s world. And as stewards we will give an account of our stewardship.

In Christ, we are sons, not just stewards. The Gospel makes me an “heir of God and fellow-heir with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). Christ is the Creator and Owner of the universe (Jn. 1:3); “All things were made through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16); “all things belong to you” (1 Cor. 3:22). We are children of the God who owns the universe. “For God, who said, light be, is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). Creation & Christ – Have you had this new beginning in Christ? This is the only way to live in God’s creation now and be prepared for the end when God makes all things new for HIs glory and those who are His sons and daughters in Christ.

Pastor John

Why do I Feel the Way I do? ~ Proverbs 14:10

Feelings 1Sometimes I ask myself this question. I know how I feel and I don’t like what I feel. I see the need to work on my feelings. You remember that the Psalmist asked himself this question – “Why are you in despair, O my soul, and why have you become disturbed within me?” (Ps. 42:5, 11; 43:5). But I ask myself this question not only when feeling blue, but when I begin to fear, when I have an unsettled sense about things, when something is bothering me, if I begin to think ill of someone, or other things.

Asking the question is the first step to managing our feelings. No one doubts the power of how we feel. With some people, the world turns on how they feel, but this is the ultimate in subjective living. Yet, as Borgman points out: “The emotions play a critical role in each person’s thinking and behavior.”[1] But we cannot be controlled by subjectivity and how we feel, rather, we must bring our feelings and emotions into the realm of objectivity and life’s realities which are explained by God in His word.

The words feel and feeling(s) are only found 23 times in the Bible.[2] But many other passages apply to our feelings, such as Proverbs 14:10. “The heart knows its own bitterness, and a stranger does not share its joy.” Proverbs is our resource for wisdom-living, and yet it does speak about how we feel. Prov. 14:10 is actually a strong affirmation of the broad range of feeling and human emotion which we regularly experience. But the point of 14:10 is that “the full gamut of emotions are known by the concerned person alone.”[3] Two extremes are presented in this verse: bitterness and joy, in parallel: the heart knows and the stranger does not know. Sometimes, no one can know or share how we feel. They may not understand what we feel. Hence, they may not see, or they may see and say nothing. Furthermore, Prov. 14:13 indicates that feelings can be deceptive. One may laugh, but be in pain; one may be living merrily, but be headed for grief. So the ability to deal with our feelings is a great grace which God gives His people.

God alone ultimately knows the human heart. “One’s emotional-intellectual-religious-moral motions are too complex, too inward, and too individualistic to be experienced by others or even to represent them adequately to others (1 Cor. 2:11). The proverb infers the dignity and significance of each individual and, to accept being misunderstood, cautions against evaluating others by outward appearances and to be true to one’s own heart.”[4]

Ask yourself why you feel angry, anxious, envious, jealous, intimidated, discouraged, depressed, hopeless, frustrated, or, proud of yourself, in complete control, to name a few. Then consider what God says and prayerfully ask God to help you with that feeling. Remember that “The manifestations of fallen emotions are nearly limitless. However, like many things in the Bible, not every emotion is either black or white……There are also issues of physiology, personality, and temperament that may not be inherently sinful….[but] allowing our emotions to cloud reality, to restrict what we believe or determine how we respond to truth, are…forms of emotional corruption.”[5]

Sometimes, after I ask myself the question why I feel the way I do, I conclude that I should not feel that way. I shift my focus away from my feeling to the work at hand and take the attention off myself by concentrating on others. Proverbs 3:5b: “Do not lean on your own understanding.” This directly impacts our feelings, and often I find myself saying – Self, you shouldn’t be feeling this way since you claim to trust in God. I tell myself not to base so much on how I feel but on who God is. I remind myself that a life of wisdom in Christ (Col. 3:16; 2 Tim. 3:15) will help me not to be tyrannized by oft-troubling feelings.

Pastor John

[1] Brian S. Borgman, Faith & Feelings: Cultivating Godly Emotions in the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009), 20

[2] NASB.

[3] Bruce K. Waltke, Proverbs 1-15 NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), 590.

[4] Ibid., 590.

[5] Borgman, Faith & Feelings, 53.

Pastor John