Posted by: lepages | February 15, 2011

Commitment….

To start our year at Rutland Road Church we’re doing a series of teaching based in the book of Joshua in the Old Testament – a book which touches on all sorts of themes as it explores God’s interaction with Joshua as the new leader of God’s people, and the joys and heartaches of leading God’s people.

You can listen to the series of teaching here. I’ll post my notes from my preaches here on my blog. So my first preach of the year 2011…..

Commitment
Joshua 1

Introduction

I want to propose to you that in our society today, there is a word that is not very popular, it’s a word people shy away from, it’s something that people hold back from, it’s a word which for those of you who have already picked up the word will have some of us squirming in our seats at the prospect of what’s coming and will have that effect for some as the word comes up on the screen now.

“Commitment”

We see this fear of commitment in the way in which people choose to set up home together rather than get married…. because then it’s easy to separate if things don’t work out – I’m not sure I’d want to commit my life to this other person – but we’ll move in together and if it doesn’t work out we can move on.

We see this fear whenever there’s an appeal for volunteers for just about anything – people generally aren’t keen to volunteer for things of their own backs.

Last week Trevor set the scene for our new series through the first period of this year, as Moses handed leadership of God’s people over to Joshua – if like me you weren’t here last Sunday it’s worth going online and listening to the preach, or getting a CD if that’s easier for you. Through this series we are going to look at all sorts of themes that will serve to strengthen us, to challenge us, to encourage us in our Christian faith.

We had a great time in our cell on Thursday reflecting on the themes that came from Joshua stepping up to take on responsibility, and taking time to pray for one another in our various responsibilities in all sorts of spheres of life. If you really want to get the most from this series can I encourage you to be a part of a cell group if you’re not already so – it will be a blessing to your life.

So, this little word ‘commitment’.

It doesn’t appear in our reading for today, but it runs through the heart of it.

Turn with me if you would to Joshua 1

As we read the passage reflect on all the different levels of commitment which are contained in it, and then afterwards we’ll spend a little time unpacking some of them and thinking about what they mean for us.

In my time with God on Thursday morning I read this verse from Romans 15:4

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scripture we might have hope.”

My prayer this morning is that as we reflect on this passage it will instil hope in you.

READ Joshua 1

The incredible thing about the Judaeo/Christian faith is that it all begins and ends with God!
It’s not so much about us.
In every other religion, as far as I’m aware, it’s based on humans reaching out to God.
In the Judaeo/Christian faith it begins with God reaching out to us and it ends with God fulfilling his purposes in us and through us and drawing us to himself.

As we look at this passage and think about the theme of ‘commitment’ we find that ‘commitment’ begins with the commitment of God to his people

Commitment of God to us v1-9

I don’t know whether you’ve ever thought about God being committed to you? But he is!!

In v1-9 God speaks to Joshua about his commitment to him and to his people – and those words of promise and of commitment are echoed throughout scripture to God’s people – that means you and it means me, if we have surrendered our lives to God and accepted him as Lord.

Scan down the verses with me and see the commitments that God made to Joshua and his people…

v2 “….get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give them”
they had to go and take possession of it – but God gave it to them
v3 “I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.”

Then he tells Joshua of all the territory that he is going to give to his people.

Then v5
“As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you or forsake you.”

Isn’t that an incredible commitment of God to Joshua and his people??!!

And he repeats it to affirm it to Joshua, because he knows what we are like as human beings, he knows what Joshua is like – how easily we can become fearful in our circumstances, how easily we can be discouraged when everything doesn’t span out exactly as we expected it, and he knew what was to lie ahead for Joshua and his people, so the Lord says in the second half of v9
“Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Isn’t this an incredible commitment of God to his people – I will do this for you, I will be with you.

Some of us here this morning need to know that!
We’ve put our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus, but somehow we still face doubts, fears, struggles, we can’t get our head around the fact that the Lord is with us always, he is with us in all our circumstances, he is working for us, bringing his purposes about for us in ways we may not know.

Jesus said before he returned to heaven, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
For those of us who need to know that in our hearts, because we have doubts about it in our spirits, even though we know what the Lord has spoken, I want to pray for you before we conclude this morning, that the Lord will manifest his presence afresh in your life by his Spirit and that he will shed abroad his love in your hearts by that same Spirit.

The commitment of God to us is not a one sided commitment though – it’s like a marriage – and through the New Testament the relationship of God’s people, the church with Jesus, is often paralleled with that of a marriage.

And so whilst the passage begins with God’s commitment to his people it calls for Joshua and God’s people to make a

Commitment to God & his Kingdom v1-9

The idea that the Christian faith is just about believing some facts about God, about Jesus, about sin and his salvation through his death and resurrection is foreign to the Bible.

Jesus saves his people, but then he calls them to be about the extension of his Kingdom.
He saves his people, he promises to be with them always, but he calls them to make a commitment to go and make disciples of all nations.

So here, to Joshua and his people, God spells out his commitment to them, but he calls for a commitment from them, so v2 he says:-
“Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River..”

v3
“I will give you every place where you set your foot…”

v6
“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people….”

God has a call on your life as a Christian, not to go and possess a physical land (though I still believe that just a 100 yards or so away is some land for us to possess as a church) but to go and to extend his kingdom.

Jesus when asked to teach his disciples to pray taught them to pray “your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” and he sent them out to proclaim that kingdom, to demonstrate it – and he did it because he wants to see people from every tribe and every language and every people and every nation as part of that Kingdom.

So, what about it?
In view of God’s commitment to you, will you commit yourself to living for him and for his Kingdom? Commit yourself to seeing his kingdom extended, seeing others added in to his family, the church?

Just as I want to give opportunity for those who need to have God’s commitment to their lives affirmed for them, so, before we end, I want to give us opportunity to confirm our commitment to God and his Kingdom.

If we are going to be committed to God and his Kingdom, then this passage suggests to me there are other things we need to be committed to if we are to fulfil that commitment.

The first one is this:-

Commitment to God’s Word v7,8

v7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.”

We can’t be careful to be obedient to God unless we know what he asks of us.
For the Jews all they had was the Law of Moses, but for us as Christians we have the Holy Spirit and the whole of the Word of God, the Bible.
Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would remind us of everything he has said to us – but to be reminded we need first to know – and the way we know is through reading the Word of God.

V8 says:-
“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

Reading God’s Word is a delight, not a duty.
But you are called to commit to reading it.
God asks you to read his Word.
That’s why we’re promoting E-100 to help us get into reading God’s Word for ourselves.
If you’ve already signed up for it, make sure you collect your copy of the guide to help you read through and reflect on 100 key sections of Scripture.
If you haven’t signed up, I’m sure we can get further copies if needed – speak to me after the service.

Why read God’s Word?
I said that it is a delight not a duty, but it does demand a commitment – it means you taking time out of each day, to deliberately spend time with God – but it will be bless you.
True sometimes you’ll find it seems like a gourmet feast as what you read relates directly to the things you are currently facing in life, and at other times, at other times it will just seem like a regular sandwich and not particularly memorable, but your reading will bring a blessing in your life.
It will help you live the life God wants you to live, to fulfil your commitment to God and his Kingdom and the result will be that your life will be blessed!

The Lord said to Joshua:-
“do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go… meditate on it day and night…then you will be prosperous and successful….”

Do you want to be successful in your life?
Then fill yourself with God’s Word, let his Word shape you and mould you so that you can be the best person you can be.

I am convinced that by God’s grace I am who I am today (and I know the Lord still has a long way to go in my life!) as a result of being encouraged to immerse myself in God’s Word from a young age.

If you want to be successful and prosper in whatever you are called to do and to be in this life, immerse yourself in God’s Word.

Commitment to God and his Kingdom means a commitment to God’s Word, it also means a commitment to one another as God’s people, members of God’s Kingdom

Commitment to one another v10-15

In verses 10-15 Joshua shares with God’s people what God had spoken to him and what he had been entrusted in leading God’s people to do, but the reality was that different folk were at different stages.

Some of the people had already possessed their land and it would be easy for them to sit back and think they’d arrived! But Joshua commanded them to send forth those who were fit and able to fight to work with the others to see the ground taken for the rest of the people.

Commitment means not just doing what’s necessary for ourselves so that we are blessed in our relationship with God and seeing his purposes worked out in our lives personally, but being prepared to commit to work for the benefit of others.

Some are not able to give their all and are not called to commit to this v14,15
“Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land…. but all your fighting men, fully armed, must cross over ahead of your brothers. You are to help your brothers until the Lord gives them rest…”

If people were fit to take on the task they were called to commit to it.

Today, not everyone can commit to everything – some have responsibility of children, some are elderly or infirm and we need to look out for their needs.

Jesus’ command to his disciples and therefore to you and me if we’re a follower, a student of Jesus, a Christian, was this
“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)

In the early church, they appointed deacons to provide practical and spiritual service to the widows in the church. We need to heed the call to love one another and to be prepared to commit to laying down our lives for one another, as Jesus laid down his life for us.

There’s one further model of commitment which I see in this chapter.
It’s the one which I find it most difficult to speak about.
V16,17
Then the people answered Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the LORD your God be with you as he was with Moses.”


Commitment to God’s leaders v16-18

The people recognised that God had appointed and raised up Joshua to lead them as a people.

In the New Testament we read of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers being raised up as God’s gift to the church to equip and enable them to be the people of God that he wanted them to be.

We read of elders being given the responsibilities of caring for and overseeing the people of God, ensuring that they are well fed spiritually and cared for and well taught.

We read of deacons being appointed to serve the church, the people of God and care for them.

This is difficult for me, but from this passage of scripture I would say that part of our calling to commit to God and his Kingdom means being prepared to commit to trusting and following those whom God has raised up as leaders. Committing to following where they lead under God, just as the people here committed to following and being obedient to Joshua – so can I call you all today to recognise those whom God has raised to lead this body of his people and be prepared to submit to and follow their leadership under God?

Think I’d hold back on calling you to identify with the words of the people in v18 though!!

Conclusion

So, commitment, not a popular word or concept in our society, and yet commitment summarises how God approaches your life and my life – he is committed to you – he will never leave you or forsake you if you are a child of God, you’ve surrendered your life to him – and doing that means commitment too – it means committing your life to him and he calls you to commit to him and the extension of his kingdom. To aid you in that he calls you to commit to his word, he calls you to commit to his people and to commit to the leaders whom he raises up.

So I want to give you opportunity to respond.

Let’s pray. Please close your eyes.
If you are one of those who has difficulty knowing in your heart that God is committed to you I’d like to ask you to stand where you are – if standing is difficult please just raise a hand until I see you – and then I’m going to pray for the Holy Spirit to come and shed God’s love abroad in your heart and reveal how the Father is committed to you.

Response
Prayer

Please take your seats if you’re able, but lets stay in an attitude of prayer.

If you know that God has been speaking to you about your commitment to him and to his Kingdom, about what that means in terms of commitment to reading his word, to loving and serving his people, to recognising and supporting the leadership which God has raised up to lead his people, then I’d ask you to stand with me as an act of commitment – as a way of saying to God yes, I want to commit to you and your Kingdom and maybe commit to some aspect of it in a particular way. I will then lead us in prayer and would encourage you to repeat the prayer out loud as your commitment to God.

After that I’ll hand the service back to Trevor and Margaret to continue to lead us in response and worship.

Prayer.

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