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May 18, 2023 by

“Choose this day whom you will serve… As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  

Joshua 24:15 ESV 

We are rapidly approaching the end of the semester, and many of our students can feel it. Final projects and exams are looming over our heads, last-minute plans are being made with friends before summer separation, applications for summer jobs have been submitted, sleep is nowhere in sight, and the pressure of housing selection is knocking on our door. Maybe you are nearing the end of your senior year of high school and are feeling intense senioritis. In short, the opportunities to feel overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious are abundant. 

Whatever state you are in, this powerful message from Gen. Reno is for you. He reminds us of some truths that impact us in every season of life by examining the character and leadership of Joshua. General Reno took us through the last chapter of Joshua 24 near the end of his life and fondly refers to this exhortation as “the old warrior’s message.” He had three main points and then gave us practical application to begin putting these truths into practice.  


Joshua Challenges Israel to Serve the Lord (24:14-15) 

Gen. Reno pointed out that some form of the word ‘serve’ is mentioned 12 times within this passage and ‘gods’ was used six. This signals to us that half of the times the Israelites serve, they are serving false gods. There is division in their worship and their attention is not fully devoted to the Lord. How often do you find yourself straddling the line between Christianity and the world? It is easy to feel like the world is vying for our attention and in the moment. It is more convenient to succumb to its desires rather than crucify our flesh. The issue of idolatry has been a cycle repeating itself since the fall. The only difference is the idols that we worship, which are heavily influenced by the culture we are surrounded by. 

This passage includes some of Joshua’s last words after serving the people of Israel faithfully for decades. He calls them to fear the Lord and to serve Him only. This is where the famous verse that many Christian households have displayed comes in. Joshua is already living out what he is calling the people to do and no matter what they choose, his household will be serving the Almighty God. 

Throughout the book of Joshua, we see the Lord’s deliverance and His leadership in sincerity and truth. Gen. Reno says these two words, sincerity and truth, must go together. If we do not know or believe the truth about the character of God, we cannot worship Him sincerely. Next, just as Joshua encouraged the people to put away all their idols, Gen. Reno encouraged us to put away our idols. These can come in different forms, tangible and intangible, internal and external. For a long time, I was always confused and discouraged by Israel’s continual struggle with idolatry, wondering why they would worship gods made of wood or stone. Then I realized that we do the same thing. It may not be a sculpture of wood; however, we do worship tiny little screens, green paper, and celebrities we have never met. He then said, “young people, that is my message to you, choose this day whom you will serve.” 


Israel Commits to Serve the Lord (24:16-24) 

The Israelites had to choose one or the other. To serve false gods means to forsake the Lord, you cannot to both. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:24 that, “no one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” The Lord desires every piece of our hearts, not just the parts we are okay with giving Him. 

Gen. Reno then went on to say that nothing tests our faithfulness like the day-to-day comforts of life. Cedarville is often called the greenhouse because of the abundance and availability of discipleship resources. It can be easy to settle into coasting our way through life, or others are doggie paddling their way to the end. Either way, we can begin to take for granted the high saturation of Jesus throughout this campus. I want to exhort you, resist the temptation to go through the motions. The Lord calls us to walk with boldness, intentionality, and joy. Do not take for granted the resources He has provided you with and choose to be faithful even in the most mundane moments of life. The Lord deserves all your effort, not just the leftovers. 

Dr. White repeated a simple phrase throughout His message series this year and that was, “God is faithful; we can trust Him.” Our faithfulness begins and depends on our belief in the faithfulness of God. If we do not trust in Him completely, how would we be able to surrender to His will? The only reason we can be faithful to Him is because He is first faithful to us. We can commit to serving Him with no reservations because we know that He is completely trustworthy and will not forsake His promises. He is steadfast and through Christ, we can have complete confidence in our future. 

Lastly, Gen. Reno touched on how we have influence on those around us. Who we serve has a significant impact on our behavior and the way that we treat those around us. We are called to resist the temptation to worship the idols in our culture and to turn to the Lord as the One we live our lives for. May we have a greater impact on our society than it has on us. 1 Peter 2:11-12 says, “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 


Joshua Commemorates Israel’s Commitment to Serve the Lord (24:25-28) 

Joshua affirms the Israelite’s commitment to serve the Lord by establishing a covenant with them. He then wrote all these things in the Book of the Law and then set up a large stone as a signpost of their declaration to serve the Lord. Gen. Reno used this as an opportunity to talk about the importance of reading the Bible every day. He quoted Dr. White again and said, “no Bible, no breakfast.” This is a common phrase we hear on campus that serves as a reminder to start our day with the Lord as our focus and priority. In order to serve the Lord well, we must know Him well. By spending time in the Word daily, and not only reading it but meditating on it, studying it, and praying through it, our understanding of who the Lord is and who He has called us to be will increase significantly. Our lives are changed by the truth of the Word of God through encouragement, conviction, restoration, and discipleship. You can find true rest in Christ through meditating on the Bible and allowing that alone to give you peace. 



To close out his message, Gen. Reno gave us three main points of application. First, we must put away all that offends our holy and jealous God. We see in Scripture, specifically the Old Testament, that the Lord is a jealous God. This means He desires to have us completely, and it pains Him when we turn our backs and decide to serve false idols instead. God created us intentionally and with immense care and has provided us with a way to be in an eternal relationship with Him. We are only able to find purpose, fulfillment, and joy in Christ and yet we continue to pursue temporary pleasures. These pleasures include things that others can see as well as the things that we do in secret. The Lord sees every motive and desire of our hearts, we can hide nothing from Him. I want to encourage you to take time to reflect on your actions and what they say about who you serve. Seek to reflect Christ in all that you do, not only in your outward actions but also with the attitude of your heart. 

Secondly, he called us to lead in a way that challenges and inspires others to serve the Lord. Everything that we do has some impact on the people around us. As servants of the Lord, we should strive to have a kingdom-impact on those around us. Live your life in a way that causes others to desire to know the Lord better. Leadership does not always have to be direct, indirect leadership through your character can be just as powerful.  

Lastly, Gen. Reno called us to “choose you this day to serve the Lord.” He exhorted us to follow through on godly disciplines this summer. As the semester closes, continue to be diligent in your time with the Lord. Pursue spiritual growth and accountability. Pray for opportunities to impact others for the kingdom. Seek to serve the Lord in humility and joy as you go about your summer activities. Give Him praise for the blessings in your life and find your rest in Him. Finally, may you have a blessed break and steward your time off of school well! Have a wonderful summer, friends!

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