14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 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.” 16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods, 17 for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. Joshua 24:14-17
As I stand in this pulpit, I understand full well whose position and place I stand in. I highly respect and honour this man who has been called by God to do His work. We are gathered in this manner today because of his ministry and what God has done through him. In his absence, I honour and respect him and the God he obeys. I am just a messenger boy who can be sent and who eagerly carries the message because it is an honour.
We are here to be built up and become a nation that fears and worships God, although we live among the godless whose morals have been corrupted and whose people have been destroyed. Moral restoration is a term we often hear in our country. The youth need to be built up and their morals restored, but unless we start at the proper place, the restoration of the inner man, everything else is in vain. Unless we start with God, young people, everything else is in vain. The Bible says that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and this is where we ought to start. Wisdom without God is useless. Man may explore space, land people on the moon and accomplish brilliant scientific feats but if we deny God, as some so-called smart people do today, we are fools. God must be placed in His rightful position. God should be put first, otherwise we are building without a foundation.
The conference theme is “Choose today whom you will serve”. South Africa recently held a national election where the government was elected by the choice of its citizens. We are faced with the same idea of choice in this conference.
Reverend Stegen, the director of KwaSizabantu Mission, once said, “You may win people in their numbers, gather them from the east and west and tell them of the wonder and beauty of our Lord Jesus Christ, but there is one thing which we dare not lose sight of, and that is our relationship and our fellowship with the Lord God. You must watch over, nurture and guard your personal relationship with your Lord and Saviour.” It is so easy for a person to lose that which is absolutely vital – his faith in God and his relationship with the Lord. It is therefore of no surprise where the Lord Jesus says in Matthew that many will come and say ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Matthew 7:22 All of that is of no avail, “…but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20 The Bible says that people will come from the east and the west but the children of the Kingdom will be cast out. Those who were supposed to be the heirs of heaven will be the ones to whom Jesus will say, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:23 These are difficult and painful words that cut to the quick. You can possibly count all the things you have done for the Lord over the years, thousands of things, but the Lord Jesus says because you have not kept that relationship, depart from Me. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. We need to walk in fear and trembling before God and serve God in fear and in trembling. It could be a small thing such as the failure to humble yourself and submit that causes God to say these words: “You wicked servant, I never knew you, depart from Me. Who are you working for, what are you working for?”
Do not be proud of what you have achieved for God in the past. What is it like between you and God right now? What is the current situation? How does God see you at this moment? If you say I have known God all these years, I have walked with Him and served Him, let it be evident in the present time that God is working through you. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. He has carried us and nurtured us but if He should drop us, our fall will be terrible. Young and old, everyone hearing these words, where are you right now spiritually? We need to fear God and tremble before Him lest He should let go of us.
Joshua was deeply troubled about his people so he assembled the leaders, together with all the people. He reminded them of God and what He had done for them in the past. It is easy to forget that which we ought not to. It is easy to lose the treasure of the Gospel, this precious gold that has been entrusted to us. I do not know how it happens, whether it is a person’s eyes, or heart or feelings that get stolen and then he lets go of this treasure and loses it. Joshua had walked with God, he was a valiant solider and at the end of his life, as an old man, he said these words which we need to take note of. He said that they needed to keep their eyes on God, serve Him faithfully and make sure that their hearts were not drawn away from God. He reminds them of what God had done for them, how He had taken care of them, provided for them and been patient with them. He reminded them of their faith, of the gospel, and warned them lest their hearts were drawn away to serve other gods and not God who had been faithful to them for so many years. “Do not forget. Make this decision to serve God. Whether I am alive or dead; whether I am there or not; continue to serve Him.” They needed to obey and serve the living God, who is a jealous God and make sure that they did not serve other gods.
You too have possibly forgotten, there is possibly a lot of this treasure that has slipped through your fingers. You used to have but you no longer have. The Israelites were copy cats. They looked at the neighbouring nations and saw the way in which they served and worshipped and they were attracted to copy it and leave what God had taught them. Do we still remember what God has taught us, what He has taught you and me? Do you still remember how God taught you to serve, obey and worship Him or are you influenced by others and the ways in which others do things and now you do it that way? Many young people forget what God has done for them and taught them and they fall into grievous sin and they drag their parents with them into their sin.
God used Joshua to put the people before a choice and remind them of what He had done for them; from their deliverance out of Egypt through Moses. The Red Sea was an insurmountable obstacle in front of them and God drew a curtain between them and the armies of Egypt. God kept the enemy at bay while He made a way for them through the sea. They crossed over safely and the Egyptian army was destroyed in the sea. They entered the Promised Land where they ate the fruit of the Amorites. God allowed them to enjoy of the fruit they had never worked for. Joshua reminded them of all the miracles that God had done for them and their forefathers. Joshua then puts them before this choice: one thing will help you and that is that you serve this God wholeheartedly. Young people of South Africa, one thing will help our country and our continent – that we return to God with all our hearts and serve Him because we see His works before us. It does not help to serve other gods. It is of no use to be disobedient to God. We have seen the outcome of this. We have seen our beloved who have departed from us. Why? The root cause is disobedience to God.
At a recent SA AIDS Conference, it was clear that the government has tried various ways in which to tackle the AIDS problem, such as increasing condom distribution in toilets and now in schools. All these campaigns have not solved the problem. We are an AIDS nations, an AIDS generation, where young people have a supply of condoms wherever they go. What kind of generation is this? Some wives are in a terrible predicament when their husbands leave home on a work trip. They make sure they put a packet of condoms into their husband’s luggage in order to safeguard themselves. They do not know where their husband will sleep and with whom. Today is Father’s Day. What kind of father are you if you cannot be trusted by your wife when you go somewhere? You have possibly even infected your own wife with AIDS. We are told that we have to love and accept everyone. They are our brothers and our sisters. Yes, we have to love and accept everyone but the best way to do this is to make sure that people are not infected by the virus. You do not go to school to learn how to be married. This is the age of technology and information, but with this technology in their hands the lusts of young people are sharpened – even though adults try to protect them.
At this conference they had to admit, that in spite of all their efforts, they have not been able to bring down the rate of infection but instead, it is climbing. The international community is at their wits end. They are donating money and giving so much to fight this scourge in Africa, who is foremost in this epidemic. Why are people’s lusts so sharp? We do not have to go too far to find the answer. Ask the young people. Everyone is on a social network that feeds them with dirt and filth. They search for pornography, they sleep, eat and drink it. This is what they live for. Pornography drives them insane. It is worse than the worst drug there is. This is not the way God has taught us to serve Him. He has taught us to serve Him in a pure way. There is a life of purity and cleanliness that God has taught young people. They should not be in a hurry to get older and learn about things pertaining to adults. This is the reason why you cannot study and why your Maths and Physical Sciences marks are as they are.
Joshua reminds the people of all that God has done for them. Do you remember what God has done for you? Is that still precious to you or have other things become more precious? Are there other things that have taken the place of God? Those of us who live at KwaSizabantu should remind ourselves of all that God has done for us through the gospel and the revival. Do we still do this? God has taught us how to serve and worship Him but maybe you have started serving other gods and your heart has been drawn away. You are serving God as you see others serving Him. You hear it said that confession of sin is so oppressive (maybe even from someone from the mission). What has happened to you? Have you got an evil eye? Confession is life to us. Have you turned blind and deaf? Have you become blunt and forgotten?
What do you choose today? In an election some people vote for things they do not even know. They vote for something where they do not know what the beginning is or what the end will be. Joshua got to the point where he said, “Choose this day”. Choose for yourselves whom you will serve, whether the God of your forefathers or the gods of the Amorites. Which way do you choose? The way we know so well, the well-founded way or a new way? The way which separates you from sin, the way of holiness or a more convenient, easier way? The way of God will never go where you think it should go, according to your own will or your way of thinking. That is not God’s way. God’s way cuts across your way, you need to die to self, you need choose God’s way even if it means that you die to your own way.
Listen carefully, if you choose God’s way as a young person, it ought to be seen from the crown of your head to the sole of your feet that you are His child. There ought to be a clear distinction between those who have chosen right and those who have chosen wrong. There should be a clear distinction between those who follow God and those who follow the world. There should be no confusion. Are you walking that way or your own way? Are you going God’s way or the way that you or your family likes? Joshua challenged the people to choose whom they would serve. You need to choose and your choice must be clear.
In Ecclesiastes we read about young people who had to choose. Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgement. Ecclesiastes 11:9 Young people have the freedom of choice but the result thereof is in God’s hands. God will have the last say, the outcome of your choice will come from God. Look at what you want but in the end God will have the last say about what you have done. You are put before this choice. Joshua said, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua was God’s spokesperson, he brought them the word of God and showed them the way to go. After all that he said, it should have dawned on their hearts and minds, they ought to have remembered God and said He is the one whom we need to serve, He is the One we need to cling to and not let go, He is the most holy One and we need to fear Him. We cannot be compared to Him. He says, “Be holy for I am holy.” Here is the One who has called us to a rock higher than what we are. If we want to serve Him we must ascend to where He is.
The lukewarm person needs to get up today and say, “Oh God, I repent. Forgive me, I have not served you as I ought to.” Brethren, it is lukewarmness that is the curse of the congregation. It causes us to turn from the decision we have made in the past. Things from the outside secretly, slowly and slyly creep in. Our love for the service of God comes to an end and we go our own way. Did you serve God like this in the past? Why do you slander and gossip as much as you do? Because there is a lot of unconfessed sin in your life. Reverend Stegen says that people find fault with him because he preaches about sin but he says if people stop sinning then he will stop preaching about sin. He says that if people criticise him for preaching about sin then why are they tolerating sin in their lives?
The big question – do you remember what God has done for you? There is a chorus that we sing: “When I remember what the Lord has done, I’ll never turn back anymore.” Do you remember? What has happened to your love? What is going on in your life? What has corrupted your mind and your heart? Why have you become an enemy of the work of God? Why do you poison the church instead of bringing health and life to it?
May we, by the mercies of God, not be like the churches we read about in Revelation where they started well but God said that He had things against them. Of one church, He said you started so well, you did not tolerate any wickedness or evil in your midst but that has changed, you have forsaken your first love. God forbid that this should happen to us. I remind you of what God has done for us. For what reason should you forsake this? Do you now follow your child who has gone off the rails and turned away from the faith? You choose that child above the faith and God’s people – get off your rotten eggs and repent. Do not lower the standard of revival that God has taught us. If this should happen you will be spewed out.
Choose today the way you want to go. Choose today which God you will serve, the gods of the Amorites or God. When you live amongst people who gossip you become like them, if you keep company with those who are lukewarm, you will become lukewarm because that is the environment in which you live. Their influence overpowers you. You ought to cry, “Oh Lord, save me,” so that you will be different and stand out.
Some find fault with the preacher and say he judges and condemns us. He shouts. He makes a big noise. Choose today which God you will serve, the gods which your forefathers served across the river? Have you become ashamed and embarrassed of your Lord and Saviour and you have become influenced by interfaith? You ought to be ashamed, you whom Jesus has saved and forgiven from your sin but today you find yourself wallowing in the mud of sin again. You ought to cry out, “Oh Lord, I have experienced so much that You have done for me, have mercy on me, I repent.” At the end of this service I would be happy if you have chosen whom you will serve. Who is in your life right now? Who are you serving now? Who will rescue and deliver you from the things that trouble you – pornography, naked women and men that you cannot sleep without first looking at?
So Joshua, having put the people before a choice, tells the people his own choice: as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. God never forces anybody. He does not choose on your behalf, but in the end God will have the last say. He will have the last word – for judgement is in God’s hands. He threshes the wheat with His winnowing fork where He separates the wheat from the chaff. We do not know what you are, wheat or chaff, but the future will show us. Come out into the open so that it will be clear whom you serve, the Living God or these other gods?
You possibly used to serve God but now you serve the ancestral spirits. That religion requires you to slaughter cattle and goats. It requires you to drink medicines given by witchdoctors but all of that will not help you. Come and serve the One who does not ask you for a cent.
Conclusion Ernie Engelbrecht
Your choices today will determine your life tomorrow. It is good if you choose in accordance with what the Bible says. You will never regret it if you choose the way that leads to heaven. You need to choose today, not tomorrow.