Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sermon 8-26-07--NO Excuses!

I've been hesitant to post this week's sermon because in actuality, I didn't preach it. I woke up Sunday morning with the Preacher's worst feeling--"I'm not supposed to preach this message this morning" So for the next few hours, I was trying to figure out what exactly I was supposed to do in it's place, all the while still finishing the powerpoint for this one. Part of it was stubbornness, part of it was fear b/c I don't like preaching without some kind of notes, usually a manuscript. I had all kinds of excuses as to why I intended to just do the one I had prepared. Sadly, the sermon deals a lot with Excuses or Rationalization of our sin. It was a life lesson for me. Am I going to follow the leading of God or am I going to give a good reason why I won't .

I realized later that there are some things I appreciate very small children for, like my daughter Moriah who is almost 3. Largely b/c she does not have the vocabulary and the maturity yet to give excuses or reasons, she confidently expresses her opinion to something by saying, "I don't want to". At least she's honest. Later, as she grows, she'll naturally learn to say something else, to give a reason, an excuse to avoid doing what I or Vicky have told her to do. We adults usually don't even think about our excuses anymore, they just come out when in reality, we're really feeling, "I don't want to."

So anyway, the service was going along, and I knew I was supposed to do something different, I still didn't know what. Then, thanks to a powerful testimony and special music by Angie Bailey, I finally heard what I was supposed to do. It was a slightly different take, angle and main point to the message and passage I had already developed. Points needed to be swapped around and some left out, but it was basically there. I was still however, flying off the cuff, but I really had no excuses considering the testimony of the Word and of Angie.

The basic change was that our excuses keep us living in defeat when our obedience can keep us living in Victory--coming from the account of Achan and his sin just after the Battle of Jericho.

Well, all that to say, here is the sermon I was going preach that God told me to change. If you want to hear the "Live" version, I'm sure it will be up on the church's website soon.


Here it goes.

The past couple of months, we’ve been looking at the life of Joshua and how God was moving him and the people of Israel to Victory. Last week, looking at the battle for the city of Jericho, we looked at how in many ways it was a great rescue mission for the prostitute Rahab. The victory at Jericho set her free.

But it didn’t take long for the Victory to be dealt a setback. And the defeat’s cause could be summed up in one word—Rationalization.

All parents have heard all kinds of excuses for bad behavior. When I was a kid, I had what I thought were good ones. “They did it first”, “I didn’t know it was wrong”, “Mark’s parents said it was OK”, “everybody was doing it”. What are some of your favorites? Does anyone else have an example?

Unfortunately, giving excuses doesn’t really stop when we become adults. Some that I’ve been hearing even more in our society lately are: “it’s OK so long as I don’t get caught”, or “this is a Victimless Crime—it’s not hurting anyone else”, “we’re consenting adults and it’s in our homes, it’s nobody else’s business” or, “It makes me happy, how can it be wrong?”. It’s amazing all the ways we try to excuse and justify our bad behavior. We can be fully convinced in our own minds—we call that Rationalization.

When it comes to the sin in our lives, we play this game all the time. Except we’re not trying to fool just our parents, our friends, family, our spouse— we’re expecting an all-knowing, all-seeing, holy, perfect and righteous God to buy and believe our excuses.

If they seem pretty weak and lame to us, imagine how they sound to the ears of God!

One of the main reasons we are so quick to rationalize our bad behavior is b/c we have a tendency to not take sin very seriously. Joshua was reminded just how serious sin can be shortly after God’s victory over Jericho. In order for us to see victory in our lives, in our church—to see walls come down around us—we must be careful because sin can easily put up another wall—another impediment to victory. All our best excuses and rationalizations are hollow.

But it wasn’t even sin in Joshua’s own life that was the big problem, it was in someone else’s.

Turn to Joshua 6 & 7.

During the Victory over Jericho, Joshua and the Israelites had received a

Command to Devote


Joshua was commanded to devote everything from Jericho to the LORD as First Fruits of the Victory and Inheritance of the Promise of God. Everything was supposed to be devoted to God, the silver, gold, bronze, iron, even people and animals were to be given over to God. Nothing was to be taken as plunder by the Israelites.

We are called to devote our lives to Him—all that we are belongs to Him. Does God need our money or our resources or our efforts? No,

but the way in which we deny those things when He asks them of us is an indication of our overall dedication & faithfulness to Him. If we hold back, God is going to seek a way to draw us closer.

Being fully dedicated to God is a sign of spiritual maturity. Joshua did his best to see that all the people understood and followed through with this, because Joshua knew there would be consequences.

V. 18 also held a warning—“Keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction…[and the whole] camp of Israel [would be] liable to destruction.” The whole people of Israel would be troubled if even one person failed to devote everything to God. Joshua tried to make sure everyone knew the Command to Devote and the Consequences. But not everyone followed Joshua’s instructions. And so trouble was brought upon the people.

Rationalization Leads to Defeat—7:1-6

First, Achan acted unfaithfully—he took some things that were supposed to be devoted to God. We see Achan’s mind in 7:21—“when I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver (about 5 lbs.) and a wedge of gold weighing 50 shekels (not quite 1.5 lbs.), I coveted them and took them.”

Standing there looking at these things, he knew the command, but like all of us are prone to do—he was able to think of a reason why he was exempt. He rationalized an excuse why it would be OK. Can you think of one for Achan? “it’s not much, no one will notice”

“You know all about the corruption of leadership—Joshua is probably going to horde it for himself.” “What does it matter, it’s not like God really needs the money anyway.”

Achan was not the only one rationalizing that day.

Joshua was so confident after the tremendous victory at Jericho that he forgot the very first lesson he learned in the Bible. He forgot that the Battle Belongs to the Lord. He rationalized that things were going so well, there’s no need to bother God with a town like Ai.

He neglected to seek God’s guidance when they began approaching the fort of Ai; a much smaller and less intimidating challenge than Jericho one before. He trusted in his men and his tactics. He was thinking more of their R&R than of God and His support. not all the people will have to go” he was told, “do not weary all the people” he was told. In other words, this was going to be a cakewalk, let’s not get too worked up over this, we’ll just go in, defeat the enemy and be back home by lunch.

Aren’t we still like this? We experience a breakthrough with God and begin to get over confident in our abilities, then immediately fall back on our faces. Self-confidence can easily lead us to think that we don’t need God. Don’t bother God with that, don’t bother to pray about this, it’s no big deal. But so often, the smaller matter, the insignificant enemy or sin can trip up even the greatest man or woman of God, can derail Victory for an entire church.

If Joshua had sought God’s guidance, he would have known there was a problem within Israel. God would have told him He was angry because someone had acted unfaithfully toward the devoted things.

One person who was unfaithful to the covenant of God made the whole people guilty, made God angry at them all. The sin of one man caused Israel to be defeated by a much inferior foe.

I don’t know about you, but this account bothers my sense of American individualism. I’m bothered that God would deal with a large group by the behavior and actions of only one person.

How many of you are glad that we don’t live under that standard? That God blesses or disciplines this church, thus each of us, can be influenced by the actions of only one member.

A better question is…are you sure that we don’t live under that standard? Does God believe and practice American Individualism? They are God’s chosen people (Plural) not just God’s chosen persons.

We are a community that has united in our own devotion to God. The health of our church is dependent on the health of every member.

Sin leads to defeat, not just for yourself, but your whole family or whole people, whole church. No one lives in a vacuum. No one’s life, good or bad, fails to impact others around them.

I do not believe if you don’t get caught, it’s not wrong. Something is wrong, whether or not you get caught.

I do not believe in so-called Victimless Crimes like home drug use, prostitution, or gambling.

One person’s sins will affect others around them. There are so many accounts of wives who have great, loving and caring husbands so long as they are sober.

There are so many accounts of the sins of one drunk driver forever changing a family of 6 while he himself walks away virtually unhurt.

An adulterous spouse brings home suffering to the one who has been faithful all the years of their marriage.

A family goes without food because an irresponsible parent spends most of the paycheck on booze, on cigarettes, gambling or lottery tickets.

Look again how it started in Achan’s life in 7:20-21. He followed the classic pattern from Genesis 3:6.

· First he saw with his eyes. The eyes are the window into the soul. And many of our temptations in life come and start with what we see.

· Then Achan desired and coveted in his heart. What he saw translated to his thoughts and passions. He fantasized about what he did not have.

· Then he put those desires into action and took things he knew he should not, things he even knew the consequences for.

· Lastly, Achan tried to hide and deceive what he had done, even under his own family’s noses.

Tell me, how many affairs do you think start exactly the same way. How many addictions start this way. How many robberies, how many murders, how many lies. Insert any sinful situation in life, and you could trace it back to this pattern.

What you see, you think about, then you act upon, then you try to hide. That’s what makes pornography so dangerous—what makes looking at the advertisements in the paper even dangerous, or the frosted brownies on the counter. Sin doesn’t have to be a “big deal” to be a big deal.

Eve went through the same process when the serpent tempted her with the fruit.

Gen. 3:6—“when the woman SAW that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband who was with her.”

James said much the same in James 1:14-15—“but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death.”

Sin is also knowing the good we should be doing and not doing it. Husbands, you know to love your wives and not ignore them—are you rationalizing reasons to avoid them? Children, you know to obey your parents is it easy to come up with reasons not to?

Are we too busy to pray, are we too overcommitted that we won’t read or study our Bible?

Knowing the pattern of sin is not enough, because we all will fall—“all have sinned and fallen -ert of the glory of God”. We’ve got to have:

Courage to Discover our sin.

This is the hard part. When you experience defeat in life, you’d better be willing to take a spiritual inventory.

To examine the parts of your life to determine whether any of them have contributed to a failure to hear God’s Voice. And when you discover that thing, you must get rid of it, you must destroy it.

One of the pictures that the men’s study, Downpour, uses is that of going to the doctor. When you’re sick you don’t want a doctor to downplay and sugar coat his diagnosis. Find the problem—propose a treatment. For example, if you are diagnosed with cancer and the treatment calls for surgical removal—I hope you want a doctor who intends to all he can and not be content with getting most of it.

Jesus said something radical to teach how seriously we are to take sin—that if our eye causes us to sin, we should pluck it out. Or if our right hand causes us to sin, we should be willing to cut it off and live life maimed rather than risk our eternity.

Joshua had to be willing to lead the people to discover the sin in their midst. V. 6 tells us that Joshua tore his robes and lay facedown before the Ark of the Covenant as did the elders of Israel. They knew defeat would not come without reason.

Defeat should Drive us to God

Seeking Him again—and they weren’t in for just a quick fix—Joshua remained there until evening.

Then he listed off the Common Complaints—vs. 7-9—today we should never have tried this—we should just be content with what we’ve always done and what we’ve always had—we should not have gotten our hopes up.

Joshua Confronted all Israel with her sin and cause of their defeat—v. 10-12. Now that they knew what the sin was, the only question remaining was WHO. In the following verses, God, in His sovereignty, begins to narrow it down.

Israel was to consecrate themselves and present themselves before God Tribe by Tribe, then clan by clan, family by family, man by man. After they went through this process, God singled out the one responsible, He commands in v. 15—“he who is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the LORD and has done a disgraceful thing in Israel!”

He and his whole family and all he possessed was destroyed because of a robe and some money. What he rationalized would make his life better, what he was willing to violate the covenant with God over, what he was willing to sell out his integrity for cost him his life and everything that was really important to him.

You’ve got to have the courage to discover the sin in your life, then confess it—not just because you’ve been caught, like Achan, but because your relationship with your spouse, your children, and most importantly with Christ has been damaged. Only when you have destroyed the sin in your life can you truly experience Victory again.

Joshua led the people to cleanse the sin from among them and as a result, the small little town of Ai was defeated.

The point of God confronting Joshua and the people with sin is so that they will not remain separated from Him in a state of defeat—they physical defeat was symptomatic of spiritual defeat.

God wanted to move them from defeat and back into victory. When God confronts you and me with our sin—He wants us to Turn away from it—to remove it from our lives so we may similarly leave a state of defeat and reenter usefulness in His Victory for the Kingdom. The seriousness we take the call to repentance is the key to resuming Victory.

We as Christians have been called to devote our entire lives to God and not hold anything back. That means we are to devote our Jobs, our marriages, our homes, our salaries, our children—all of it must be devoted.

Yet we see things in the world around us and we covet those things more than our relationship with God. We store up treasures on earth that will be destroyed.

We take them for momentary pleasure, momentary gain and hurt the most important relationship we have; our relationship with God who loves us, who is waiting to give us the blessing of Victory. He is waiting to forgive sin, He is waiting to heal your marriage, He is waiting to bless us with Victory.

God restores relationship in order to continue the victory. Joshua 8:1—

We as a church need to have our lives confronted and dealt with otherwise we won’t have Victory either. If you have unconfessed, unrepentant sin in your life, so does our church. All of us are at least indirectly affected. That’s what 1 John 1:9 is all about—“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”God demonstrates His care for us by calling us back to Victory. If He didn’t care, He wouldn’t discipline.

1 comment:

DT Boy said...

The sermon you actually did preach is up along with Angie's Testimony. You can find them at www.ubcfellowship.com/sermons.html