As for Me and My House: Winning the Battle for Your Family

Joshua 24:15

 As a place to begin, let’s consider these words by Chuck Swindoll:
Whatever else may be said about the home, it is the bottom line of life, the anvil upon which attitudes and convictions are hammered out. It is the place where life’s bills come due, the single most influential force in our earthly existence.
We live in a world that downplays the value of the home. We don’t realize the kind of world our children face each day, and how things have changed.
Kids in the ’30s grew up during the Depression when times were hard, everybody had to work, and a dollar was a lot of money.
Kids in the ’40s grew up with World War II, Frank Sinatra, and Bogie and Bacall.
Kids in the ’50s grew up with black and white television, “I Like Ike,” hula hoops, and a kid from Tupelo, Mississippi named Elvis Presley.
Kids in the ’60s grew up with the Beatles, LSD, assassinations, the summer of love, Vietnam, and violence in the streets.
Kids in the ’70s grew up with Charlie’s Angels, disco, Happy Days, MASH, Saturday Night Fever, and the Doobie Brothers.
Happy Days and the Doobie Brothers
Kids in the ’80s grew up with crack cocaine, AIDS, MTV, PeeWee Herman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Nintendo, and Nightmare on Elm Street.
Kids in the ’90s grew up with the Simpsons, Friends, Seinfeld, Michael Jordan, Monica Lewinsky, rap music, and Nirvana.
Kids in the Oughts grew up with 9/11, the War on Terror, American Idol, Harry Potter, South Park, MySpace, and Hannah Montana.
 Kids in the Teens are growing up with Lady Gaga, Drake, iPhones, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, sexting, and gay marriage.
Our kids see more, they know more, they experience more, and they grow up so much faster. Sex talk is nothing to them because they hear it every day. Against that reality, these words of Dr. James Dobson strike home: “We must make the salvation of our children our number one priority. Nothing else is more important.” He’s right.
Joshua certainly understood the power of parents. As he came to the end of his life, he called the leaders of Israel together for one final message. Knowing he is only one step from death, he sounds a call to renewal that begins with a recital of God’s blessings in the past (Joshua 24:1-13). Then he challenges the people to be faithful to God (Joshua 24:14-27). In the middle of his message we find those stirring words that have been quoted and memorized for over 3000 years, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (v. 15). In those words, and in the verses leading up to them, I find five decisions we must make if we want our families to serve the Lord with us.

Decision # 1: Build a Grace-Based Family.

As Joshua recounts the story of the conquest of the Promised Land, he reminds them of what the Lord had done for them:
“And you went over the Jordan
            and came to Jericho,
and the leaders of Jericho fought against you,
            and also the Amorites, the Perizzites,
the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites,
            the Hivites, and the Jebusites.
And I gave them into your hand.
And I sent the hornet before you,
            which drove them out before you,
the two kings of the Amorites;
it was not by your sword or by your bow.
I gave you a land on which you had not labored|
            and cities that you had not built,
and you dwell in them.
You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards
            that you did not plant(vv. 11-13).
Joshua wants the people never to forget they owed everything to God. After all, the Israelite army had won battle after battle, often routing the enemy from the field. It would be natural to start thinking, “We’re something special.” But that thought is always deadly. Joshua knew that once the people took credit for their victories, they would soon turn away from the Lord altogether.
Has God blessed you? Talk about it often.
We ought to do with our families what Joshua does with the people of Israel. It’s a good thing to review past blessings and to make a written record of God’s faithfulness. We need to say to our children, “Sweetheart, do you remember when you were so sick, we prayed to God, and you got better?” “Do you remember when Dad lost his job and we were afraid, so we prayed, and God gave him a new job?” “Do you remember when we prayed for Joe and Cheryl to be saved, and six months later they accepted Christ?” A good memory of God’s blessings is a bulwark against backsliding.
Has God blessed you? Write it down. Think often about it. Tell it to your children, your family, your friends. Pass it along so that succeeding generations can tell the story after you are gone to heaven.

Decision # 2: Teach My Family to Worship God.

‘‘Now fear the Lord” (Joshua 24:14a). When we think about the fear of the Lord, many people get the idea of cringing in terror. The biblical concept is much broader than that. Fearing the Lord means having such a deep respect for God that we want to please him in all we do. One writer says it refers to the “inner devotion” that causes us to honor God.
How do we share this “inner devotion” with our families? It’s more an atmosphere than a program. When the parents truly fear God, their children will learn to fear him too. When they love the Lord, it will be natural for the children to love him too. When they sing hymns, their children will learn the words. When they pray, their children will quietly pray with them.
Family religion is better caught than taught
Men bear a heavy responsibility in this area. I am speaking to dads, husbands, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, and uncles. I am also speaking to young men, high school boys, college men, young single men, and older single men. Men of every age, it starts with you. For too many years we have delegated spiritual leadership to the women while we went out into the world to make a living. We have laid a burden on the women God never intended them to bear all alone. God meant spiritual leadership to be a shared burden, but the men must take the initiative if we truly want God’s blessing.
Recently I saw a famous painting by Norman Rockwell that appeared on the cover of Saturday Evening Post in 1959. It shows a suburban family going off to church, led by the oldest sister followed by mom who is followed by the younger sister. All three women are dressed for church. Following them is a young boy who appears to be going with some reluctance. What’s the problem? At the center of the painting is dear old dad slumped in a chair, in his pajamas, reading the paper with a cigarette in his hand. As junior walks by, he casts a longing eye at his father. He’s going to church, but he’d rather be with his dad.
Men, when will we learn that our actions speak louder than our words?

Decision # 3: Become a Student of Obedience.

Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord (v. 14b).
The word “serve” is used in various forms six times in two verses. This is obviously the burden on Joshua’s heart. He wants the people to willingly choose to serve the Lord. He specifies what that means when he adds “in all faithfulness.” Every area of life must be surrendered to the Lordship of Christ. “All faithfulness” means there can be no “hidden rooms” that we reserve for ourselves. It means putting aside the false gods worshipped by the pagans. Matthew Henry calls them “dunghill deities” because they have no power to save, only the power to corrupt.
Get rid of your Dunghill Deities!
I received a letter from a prisoner who had received one of my books. In the letter he shared this testimony of God’s grace in his life:
I am a new creation in Christ Jesus. I used to have all sorts of magazines like Penthouse, Easy Rider, American Rodder, Playboy, and Hot Rod. But today as I look around, none of those exist—only Bibles and good reading. I enjoy spending time reading the Bible. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I have tried to get what I saw others had from that book but never did. But one of my brothers here told me to pray for understanding. Just like that, reading became joyful. My Lord has changed my life, I never could have. I praise God for saving my life by sending me to a place where he could slow me down and take me from Satan. Thank you, Jesus.
I believe this man’s conversion is genuine because when he came to Christ, he got rid of the gods from “beyond the River.” The old literature went out with his old life and was replaced by the Word of God and good Christian material. That’s a sign of the genuine work of God’s Spirit in his heart. It’s also a sign he is becoming a student of obedience.

Decision # 4: Remember Your Spiritual Heritage.

 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” (v. 15).
These verses tripped me up when I first read them. Then I understood that Joshua was appealing to the democratic sense of his hearers. He offers them a series of choices. First, the true God. Then the gods beyond the River (meaning the River Euphrates), referring to the gods of Ur of the Chaldees. Those would be the gods of ancient tradition—the moon god and the sun god. Then the gods of Egypt, meaning the gods of sun, rain, darkness, and natural disasters. Then the gods of the Amorites, meaning the gods of fertility and sexual pleasure.
We can't force people to serve the Lord
Make your choice. If you don’t want to choose the living and true God, then go back to the false gods you used to worship. Go all the way back to Ur if you like. Some people prefer the gods of this world to the one true God of the Bible. Their eyes are so blinded by sin and their heart so given to fleshly indulgence that they would rather drink from the cesspool of sin than to drink from the Water of Life.
Here we see the genius of biblical religion. We need not try to coerce people into serving the Lord. If they prefer some other way, then so be it. It’s almost always a mistake to crowd people too closely when we attempt to win them to Christ. “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” We have nothing to fear and everything to gain by presenting the options and giving people the right to make up their own minds.

Decision # 5: Choose Daily to Serve the Lord

“But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15b). This is one of the most famous statements in the Old Testament, and rightly so because it expresses the heart of a great spiritual leader at the end of his life. In these simple words we find the will of God expressly stated. We are to serve the Lord, and we are to do everything in our power to see that our family follows our example.
Matthew Henry said that serving the Lord involves “serious godliness.” That phrase captures the spirit of Joshua’s words. If we are going to do what he did and say what he said, it will mean “serious godliness” for all of us.
We need a generation of Joshuas!
Note several implications. First, each of us must personally decide to serve the Lord. I can’t choose for you nor you for me. We need a generation of Joshuas who will make this choice for themselves. Second, parents have a special obligation to set the right example in this area. We can hardly expect our children to serve Christ when we take our duties lightly. Third, fathers have the highest obligation. When our three sons were growing up, people often said they remind them of me. There is a heavy burden implied in those words. If it’s true that the apple never falls far from the tree, then I better make sure the tree is healthy, or else what will the fruit be like?
Let me add an application I wouldn’t have used ten years ago. Grandparents have a huge role to play. Last year we flew to Missoula, Montana to spend a few days with Mark and Vanessa and their four children. Their third child, Zoe, is exactly what her name implies. She is full of life! Although she is only four, she wakes up every day as if to say, “Look out, world! Here I come!” She motors through life full throttle from morning till night. Vanessa told us this story after we had returned home. It seems Zoe was trying to pull something too heavy for her. As she strained to pull it to her room, Vanessa said she thought it was too heavy. Zoe replied, “No! Grandpa told me I was strong.” Here’s the best part of the story. I don’t even remember saying that to her, but I’m sure I did. Let me urge all the grandparents to invest heavily in your grandchildren. You have more influence than you know.

A Time to Choose

I am struck by Joshua’s boldness:
1. This is a public statement: But as for me.” He means, “I don’t care what the rest of you do. I’m going to serve the Lord.” Even though he was the leader of the nation, he was willing to part with his own people over this fundamental issue. We all have to say that sooner or later. It happens to us whether we are office workers, executives, business leaders, teachers, students, blue collar workers, or simply dealing with our friends, family members, and neighbors. If you follow Christ, there will come a time when you must say, “Do what you want, and whatever you do, I will still be your friend, but I’m going to serve the Lord.”
Choosing the Lord doesn't happen by accident
2. This is a personal decision: “But as for me.” In the end it comes down to this. You must choose to serve the Lord. It won’t happen by accident, and it can’t be inherited from your parents. They can give you the heritage, but at some point you must make it your own.
3. This is a persuasive declaration: “But as for me and my house.” This may be the most amazing thing of all. Here Joshua speaks as the God-appointed leader of his family. He claims the right to speak for his wife, his children, his grandchildren, his great-grandchildren, and even for his servants. “As the leader of this clan, I hold their proxy in my hand. I declare that my entire household will serve the true and living God.” Every Christian man ought to make a similar statement about the family God has given him.
4. This is a positive statement: “We will serve the Lord.” This is more than a statement about forsaking other gods, though that is implied. It means Joshua’s family will orient itself around worshiping the God of Israel. His law will be their law, his commandments will be their delight, his worship their highest goal, and his glory their ultimate aim.
Joshua had taught his family well for many years
Joshua does not say, “My house without me,” which would be like that famous Norman Rockwell painting. Nor does he say, “Me without my house,” which would be a different kind of hypocrisy. Both are joined together as God intended. “I will serve the Lord, and my family joins me in this pledge.”
How can a man be so certain about his family? Joshua could speak like this because he had taught them well for many years. And he knew of their own personal commitment to the God he worshiped. Let no man read these words and think he may live carelessly and at the end of his life ask God to save his family. To live that way and then to pray desperately at the end is to presume on the grace of God.

You Gotta Serve Somebody

Let me ask the question this way. Can I guarantee that my children and grandchildren will follow in my steps and serve the same Lord I worship? The answer is no because God has given each of us the ability to make our own choices. We all know of sad cases where godly parents produced offspring who did not serve Christ. What, then, does this text mean? Godly parents can tip the scales in the right direction. We cannot guarantee what our children will do, but we can provide an atmosphere of “serious godliness” plus heartfelt joy that makes it easier to choose Christ than to choose the way of the world.
We need serious godliness plus heartfelt joy
Is your mind made up? Are you ready to serve the Lord? Do you know where you stand with God? The application could not be clearer: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” In the words of Bob Dylan,
“You're gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.”
No one gets a free ride, and no one can straddle the fence forever.
There is no room for neutrality. Every person needs a God, and every person must serve the God they choose. If you choose not to choose, you’ve already made your choice. You can’t choose the true God by default or by inheritance.
Make your choice. Cast your vote. Choose your God. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

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Ray Pritchard

RAY PRITCHARD

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