That’s right my friends! You and I must choose today whom we will serve! Doesn’t sound Protestant Reformed, you say? We don’t believe people must choose, you object? We believe in sovereign predestination from before the foundations of the world, which means God makes the decisive choice of whom we will serve. We also believe that all are totally depraved, inclined to all evil, and wholly incapable of any good so that all men will inevitably choose to serve sin unless God intervenes by His grace and Holy Spirit. Yes, that is our faith and that is the unmistakable truth of the Scriptures. In fact, to deny that would be to cut the heart out of the gospel! At the same time, however, we and all men everywhere must make a choice—either for or against God! Sovereign predestination does not preclude human responsibility!
We find this all through the Bible. Moses, for example, when nearing the end of his life and work as Prophet and Leader of Israel places the alternatives life and death, blessing and cursing before Israel and commands them: “Now therefore choose life. . . .” (Deut. 30:19). And Joshua issues the challenge from which the title of this article is taken: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” (Joshua 24:15).
Everyone must make a choice, and everyone will make a choice, because man is a choosing creature. That is the way God created man. He made man with a mind and a will, so that man thinks and determines. Not does man do this in the sense that he can freely choose whatever he desires completely independent of God. That is the old error of Pelagianism, which says that we are born neutral, neither for nor against God, and have the power of will to choose either for or against God. The most prevalent form of the old Pelagianism is Arminianism (our fathers did not hesitate to call this “the old Pelagian heresy out of hell!”) which arose in the 16th century in the Netherlands and against which our Canons of Dordt were formulated. Arminianism insists, too, that man has a free will and has the ability to make a choice either for or against God. Thus Arminian preachers today urge their hearers to accept the Christ offered in the gospel. Man’s choice is always determined by God’s sovereign choice. Still more, man, by virtue of Adam’s fall into sin is totally depraved and incapable of choosing for God, and will, apart from grace, always choose for sin. Nevertheless man is still responsible to God (answerable). Every man must give answer to God for the choice he makes. And man will always choose; he chooses at every turn of his life’s way; with every thought, word, desire, and act he is making his choice.
And the alternatives are always the same. There are not, you understand, many alternatives or many options open to man. There are only two; and these are: God or idolatry. Joshua, with a bit of holy irony (Perhaps satire), tells Israel that if it seems evil to them to choose Jehovah then they must choose either the idols their fathers served on the other side of the flood or the gods of the Amorites in whose land they were living. What the man of God was saying is; if you do not want to serve God, then you must choose which idols you want—either those of your fathers or those of the Amorites. The point is, of course, that it didn’t make any difference: if Israel does not choose God they must choose idols.
These are the only two possibilities now, too. Today, just as really as in Joshua’s day we have only two alternatives: God or idolatry. The idols of today may not be of wood or stone, but they are just as real as those of the Amorites! To mention just a very few: there are idols of pleasure, money, sports, science. God or idols—that is the choice. Put in New Testament terms, the alternatives are: light or darkness, righteousness or sin, Christ or Belial, the narrow way or the broad, God or the devil, the treasures of the world or affliction for a season with the people of God, the world or the Kingdom of Heaven, life or death, heaven or hell, God or mammon.
Again, that is the choice we face. Only we should understand God does not place these alternatives before us and give us our pick. God does not say “here are the alternatives, now take one.” When Moses placed the alternatives: life or death, blessing or cursing before Israel he said, “choose life” and he did not say “choose life or death.” (Deut. 30:19). That same applies today. The Lord is saying to us in effect; “it’s idols or Jehovah, but you MUST choose Jehovah.” And those who do not choose Jehovah are justly punished with the torments of hell.
Joshua made the right choice: “but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua is an old man at this time and about to be delivered through death to glory. He had lived to see all the wonders God had done in redeeming Israel from Egypt and bringing her to Canaan. As a young man he witnessed the ten terrible plagues by which God brought Egypt to its knees so that they released the captives. He was there at the Red Sea when God made the dry path for Israel and brought the waters back again to drown Pharaoh and his army. All through the wilderness he witnessed the Lord’s preserving of His children. And he was privileged to lead the Lord’s people into Canaan. Now, he reminds Israel of all this history; he holds before them all that God had done. And the conclusion is obvious: “now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth . . .” (Josh. 24:14). But, continues the man of God, if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve . . . but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” (Josh. 24:15)
That must also be your and my choice! Jehovah we will serve. He is God. He is not a God among other gods; nor is He the chief of gods. He is the ONE, TRUE God! He is the Creator of all things. All things that He has made are upheld and ruled by Him so that they all serve His glorious purpose, Him we will serve! Jehovah, Who is the God of infinite perfections and matchless glory is our God! Jehovah, Who is revealed in Jesus Christ as the unchanging, always faithful, covenant God of His people we will serve.
We will serve Him. That term to serve means to labour for someone. What Joshua is saying, then, is that we will be in God’s employ. We will deny ourselves and give ourselves totally to His service.
From a practical point of view that we by grace make this choice certainly implies that we will be faithful in attendance at the worship services of the church. How can we serve the Lord otherwise? By the Holy Spirit through the means of the preaching of the gospel, grace is communicated to us, enabling us to labor in our daily living in the service of the Lord. Through the preaching the will of God is made known to us and applied to our everyday life in this world. Through that means we receive the warning, the encouragement, the comfort, the instruction we need to serve the Lord. We cannot be serving the Lord by neglecting the preaching of the Word. To neglect that is to cut ourselves off from the power supply for Godly living. And there is no substitute for that preaching—nothing else will do. We simply must hear the voice of Christ in order to follow Him in the Lord’s service. (cf. John 10, Romans 10,I Cor. 1)
That this is our choice implies, too, that we live close to the Word of God, that we meditate upon and study and search the Bible daily. We will not limit ourselves then to a bit of hasty Bible reading at mealtimes. We will pray too. As we sing we will “speak oft with our Lord and feed on His Word.”
This choice implies, too, that we will seek the fellowship of our fellow saints. In the Words ofHebrews 10 we will not; “Neglect the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is.” Rather, we will “exhort one another”; and, we will do that “so much the more as we see the day approaching.” In other words we will attend and contribute to our Young People’s Society meetings. We will not let pass that wonderful opportunity to fellowship with those who are of like mind in the faith. Sometimes we say these meetings are dead, boring, a drag. We won’t say that if our choice is “we will serve the Lord!” We will find that the Word is exactly what God says it is in the last verse of I Peter 1, “living and abiding.” If the Word of God is boring to us, there is something radically wrong, not with that word, but with us. This choice is uncompromising and unequivocal. That we will serve the Lord means we will serve ONLY the Lord and no one else. We will not foolishly attempt to serve the Lord part time and sin the rest of the time. Serving the Lord means we reject all that is of sin and contrary to His good and holy will. This has a multitude of implications. It means we will not be listening to the world’s sensuous music and serving the Lord. We cannot be serving the Lord and enjoying the world’s entertainment. We will be serving the Lord with all our being and always. In our recreation, our school work, our work, our pleasure seeking, our home life—in all of these and in every area of life we will be serving the Lord! In our dating, too. Because our choice is: “we will serve the Lord? we will be very cautious about whom we date. Not just a pretty or handsome face will do. We need a young man or a young woman who is committed to the same Lord as we! That young person we will prayerfully seek so that we may establish a covenant home in obedience to God and say; “but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”
How do you, youthful friend, respond now? What is your choice? Jehovah or idols? Whether you care to or not, you and I have to respond and we will respond—one way or the other. There is no sidestepping this choice! What do you say?
Perhaps you answer, I want to. That is the way I’ve been brought up and I agree with my parents, but I find it so difficult, even impossible because of my sin. If that is your response you are speaking the language of a covenant young person, a child of God. There is wonderful encouragement for you.
Go back to Joshua 24 and read the entire chapter. What does God say through Joshua there? He says to His chosen Israel: “I have called Abraham, redeemed you from Egypt, given you a land for which you did not labor, and you live in cities which you did not build, and you eat and drink from olive yards and vineyards which you did not plant.” What the Lord is saying is: “By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” (Eph. 2:8). That is the Word of God, indeed! “You love me because I first loved you” God declares. Because God has chosen us in Christ Jesus, redeemed us at His cross, given us His Spirit to lead us in the truth, we make the choice expressed in Joshua’s confession: “We will serve the Lord.”