Can you remember? Can you remember when churches were full, when children could recite Scripture from God’s Word, and they sang songs about our glorious God? Can you remember when one day of the week was set aside as different than all of the others? Can you remember when the name of the LORD was spoken freely and openly with reverence and awe? Can you remember when serving the Lord was an honor, when praising God from whom all blessings flow was as natural as breathing or eating, and when sharing God’s mighty acts were part of the fabric of everyday life? Do you remember?
For those of you who are older and were listening to me go all nostalgic for a few moments, you might remember a day that was quite different from our current situation. Maybe you were thinking of Ozzie and Harriet, Rob and Laura, Ward and June, or Cliff and Claire Huxtable. I wasn’t describing any of those periods in our nation’s history. I wasn’t describing any time during any of our lives. I was referring to a time in Israel’s history, a time that is described in the second chapter of the book of Judges. Turn with me to Judges 2:7-11 and let’s read together.
7 The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel. 8 Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten. 9 And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. 10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. (Judges 2:7-11 NIV)
During Joshua’s lifetime the people served the LORD. The people’s dedication to the Lord lingered for several years after Joshua died, until the death of all of the elders, and then things went south. How does that happen? What was it that caused the people to forget God and begin to do evil in the eyes of the Lord? Was it government over-reach that caused the backsliding among the people of God? Was it social change, some kind of societal moral shift that happened in the halls of academia that spilled out into the town square that caused the people of God to go astray? That’s not what we are told in Judges 2. The verse that has captured my attention for the past couple of weeks is verse 10 where we read, “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.” How did the generation that followed Joshua’s generation grow up and not “know” the Lord and what He had done for the nation of Israel?
For us to “know” we have to be told, we have to be taught. If someone doesn’t take the time to tell us and teach us then there is no way that we can know. God had told His people to both “tell” and “teach” their children, but at some point they got busy and forget to do what was most important for the next generation. It hadn’t always been that way. Let me show you a couple of instances that demonstrate what I’m talking about.
After 400 years of slavery in Egypt and a 40 year journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, God was ready to lead His people across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land. There was only one problem—the Jordan River was impassable. That might have been a problem for the people, but it was no problem for the God who split the Red Sea so His people could cross on dry land. When they got ready to cross over the Jordan, God spoke to His people and said,
5 …”Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, 6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:5-7 NIV)
“These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” No matter what happens in the future, no matter how dire the circumstances may look, look back to the memorial stones and remember who God is and what He has done in times past. Again, in Joshua 4:21-24 we read,
21 He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.” (Joshua 4:21-24 NIV)
The stones were to serve the people for years to come as they were to be used as a tool to teach those who would come after them about the faithfulness of God, about His mighty deeds done on behalf of His people.
This isn’t the only instance where we find God commanding His people to teach their young people about who He is and what He has done for His people. Let me show you another example. Forty years before God told Joshua on the bank of the Jordan River to be sure and tell future generations what the “memorial stones” were all about, God told Moses to instruct the Hebrews to tell their children about another of His mighty acts.
While the Hebrews were still slaves in Egypt, just before the tenth and final plague, God gave Moses and Aaron instructions about what each Hebrew family needed to do to celebrate the very first Passover. After God gave His instructions He gave them one final command. Turn with me to Exodus 12:24-28.
24 “Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. 25 When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. 26 And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ 27 then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.'” Then the people bowed down and worshiped. 28 The Israelites did just what the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron. (Exodus 12:24-28 NIV)
God not only gave instructions to Moses and Aaron to tell future generations, but He even told them what to tell them about the Passover observance. The Passover was not only an opportunity to worship and remember, but it was and still remains to this day an opportunity to tell and teach about God and His mighty acts on the behalf of His people.
Now, remember when this took place. It was at the end of the four hundred years of slavery as the Hebrews were getting ready to set out for the Promised Land. Now let’s fast forward to the end of Moses’ life as the leader of God’s people. In Deuteronomy, Moses taught the people again and again. He taught them history, how they were delivered by God’s faithful hand from the oppression of the Egyptians and how they overcame every enemy that confronted them during their forty year journey from Egypt. He taught them theology, who God is and what God had done. Then, when we come to Deuteronomy 4, Moses urged the people to tell the stories to their children and their children’s children. Tell and teach future generations about the glory, majesty, faithfulness, and love of God so they might know Him. Read along with me from Deuteronomy 4:7-9.
7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today? 9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. (Deuteronomy 4:7-9 NIV)
Did you notice how Moses cautioned the people? He said, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen and let them fade from your heart as long as you live.” Then, seven chapters later in Deuteronomy, in Deuteronomy 11:18-21, Moses reiterates the urgent need to tell and teach each new generation. Listen to this.
18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. (Deuteronomy 11:18-21 NIV)
Tell them. Teach them. Use every opportunity you can to share God’s truth as well as God’s mighty acts, with the next generation. What was true so long ago is still true for us today my friends.
I’ve taken a little break from our study of the Gospel of John because during the past couple of weeks I’ve heard and read so much about changes happening in our society. Some of my friends who are really upset have told me that never before in the history of our nation has such a thing happened as what we are witnessing in our day. God is being shown the door and society is spinning out of control. Social media has gone berserk. I can think of no more descriptive word to describe what is continuing to happen on social media. The word “berserk” is an adjective used to describe a person or animal who is “out of control with anger or excitement; wild or frenzied.” Some folks on social media are out of control with excitement over the Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage, others are out of control with anger. Some folks are out of control with excitement over the State Supreme Court ruling that it is unconstitutional to display the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the State Capital, others are so angry they’re calling for the impeachment of the judges who rendered the decision. “Word bombs” full of mean, nasty, hate-filled rhetoric are being lobbed over the internet and the casualties are mounting. You can invest your time and energy in joining the battle if you like. You can post your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and the list goes on and on and on. You can then repost thoughts that others have written until your fingers bleed. When the fever pitched fervor dies down you will have spent countless hours and will have changed absolutely no one. I’d like to offer you an alternative to what I’ve just described.
What if, instead of spending our time in the public square commenting on every social issue that comes down the pipe, we spend our time learning and sharing God’s Word with those He has placed in our lives? We’ve just read several Scriptures in which God urged His people to tell and teach their children, but let’s be honest; the famine of the Word of God in our land is not exclusive to the young.
I was so blessed last Sunday as I listened to Taylor, Justin, and Drew talk about their desire to grow in their walk with the Lord after they came back from camp. At one point, Taylor said, “I don’t even know the books of the Bible, but I want to learn them.” How many of us adults know the books of the Bible? Let’s be honest. We could all stand to enlist in Bible Boot Camp and get back to the basics couldn’t we? Boy, have I got a deal for you! We offer Bible studies most every day of the week here at Britton Christian Church. All you have to do is carve out the time to go. I promise you that you will learn and by learning God’s Word you will grow. It is God’s Word that we are in desperate need of my friends. When will we wake up and realize that our hope is not in a new President, Governor, Mayor, or Supreme Court Justices, but our hope is in God alone?
God’s Word teaches us very clearly that there are two distinct realities coexisting in our society at the same time: The Church and the world. As the Church, the Body of Christ, or those who have surrendered their lives to Jesus as King of their heart, we live by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), we’ve died to ourselves and have taken up His cross (Luke 9:23), and we live for His glory and not our enjoyment or pleasure. The “world” on the other hand is doing what comes naturally, what seems “right,” and what they want as opposed to what God desires. That’s the way it is, the way it has always been, and the way it will always be for those who do not belong to Jesus. I can totally identify with the world’s way of doing things because I did life like that for a long time. I still battle with what my flesh wants, but the battle is different now that I belong to Jesus. Now the Spirit of God resides within me and I have access to the Word of God to help me win the battles that rage inside of me. In 1 John we read,
4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. (1 John 4:4-5 NIV)
What John had to say still remains true today. Those who do not belong to Jesus “speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.” Our real problem today is not the world, the viewpoint of the world, or the way folks respond to the world’s philosophy and ideology. The real problem we have today is that a growing number of those in the Body of Christ express a viewpoint more aligned with the world than a biblical understanding of life. George Santayana, the 20th century philosopher, once said, “Those who do cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Many of us go to church, go to Kids Across America, and confess our love for Jesus, but we don’t “know” the Lord. We may know about the Lord, but we have failed to learn about God’s character, His attributes, the mighty acts He has done in the past, and His will for our lives.
Young and old alike need to get back to reading, studying, memorizing, and sharing God’s Word. You can’t live and share what you don’t know. You can’t know what you aren’t willing to take the time to read and learn. We all know the truth of that statement because we have experienced it in other areas of our life. I was talking about this very thing to two friends of mine just a couple of weeks ago. One was a soldier who fought for our country in Afghanistan; his wife is a nurse at the VA Hospital. We were talking about getting into God’s Word so we can grow in our understanding of His attributes and will for our lives when I said, “Can you imagine if they would have handed you a gun and said, ‘Do the best you can do?’ Or if they put a nurse’s uniform on you and said, ‘You have a good heart for people so go and care for the sick.’” That would be disastrous! And so is the man, woman, boy, or girl who commits their life to Christ, but fails to spend time learning God’s Word and applying it to everyday life.
You and I are called to go and make disciples. We’ve failed miserably in God’s call to go and make disciples. We talk about everything under the sun with our friends, neighbors, and kids, but how often do we take the risk of sharing God’s Word with them? Each of us has an opportunity every day to pray for someone in need, share a verse of God’s Word with someone to encourage them, or to share our story of how God has worked in our life. We have that opportunity, but we must seize the opportunity.
While I was working on this lesson on Thursday I got a phone call. A friend from our church called and said they just had to share a story with me. My friend mentors a couple of young people here in our church. Things have been pretty rough in these kid’s lives and my friend went to the church this week to meet with them. Things are tough for the kids right now and my friend was trying to encourage them. While my friend was talking with the two kids one of them said, “While I was at tennis camp Pastor Mike shared a verse from the Bible with me that said, ‘God has a plan for my life.’” My friend said, “I’m not too good at memorizing Bible verses, but I know where that one is.” She got a Bible, opened it to Jeremiah 29:11, and read the verse.
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)
She then used that verse to share with her young friend that God does have a plan for her life and she can trust Him to carry out His plan. One verse. Her young friend is clinging to one verse in this tough season of her young life. There is power in God’s Word to impact our lives if we will only take the time to read it, hide it in our hearts, and apply it to our lives.
Before we leave here this morning I want to encourage you to keep your focus. You and I are called to be a light in this dark world. We are called to let His light shine, to go into all the world, the grocery store, the office building, the little league team, the school system, the gym, and every other place in order to let His light shine. The people of the world will continue to seek out everything under the sun to bring them some satisfaction, some pleasure in this life, but they will all fail. When their lives are broken and they are deep in despair we are called to be there to share Jesus’ love with them. I must love them while they are in the midst of doing whatever is right in their own eyes in order to have earned the opportunity to be there when their lives crumble like a house of cards.
There maybe someone here this morning who has been looking for peace and satisfaction in all of the wrong places and you’ve come here empty and searching this morning. I’m so glad you are here. What you’ve been longing for can only be found in a relationship with Jesus. Won’t you cry out to Him this morning and invite Him in?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
July 5, 2015