Therefore take careful heed to yourselves, that you love the LORD your God. (Joshua 23:11)
I hope you have dug out of this week's snow! I was living in Franklin, N.C. when the Blizzard of ’93 hit. Two feet of snow and high winds shut off the power. Thankfully, we had a wood heater in the basement. In order not to freeze, I would feed that fire every couple of hours. I was intent on not letting the flame die. If we do not keep the fire kindled in our spiritual experience, it will go out. It happened to the church at Ephesus. Jesus confronted them with these chilling words, “you have left your first love.” (Rev.2:4) That is what Joshua is warning the people about as recorded in the twenty-third chapter.
Joshua had come to the end of his service. Death was coming, and heaven was waiting. Knowing this, he issues a final challenge—one that still resonates in our generation.
Joshua was concerned that they would compromise with the pagan world. The fire does not go out all at once. It gradually dies if neglected. They would be tempted to weariness in their warfare against those nations, and declare a truce, that would lead to embracing them and their gods. That would be a spiritual disaster. It is such a sinister and subtle thing--like cancer.
Cancer is a killer. You likely know those who have died from it. Dealt with early, it can often be overcome, but the peril is that it often works so insidiously that one does not realize it is there until it is too late. Compromise is like cancer. It will little by little eat away at your spiritual life.
An evidence that the fire has been diminished is the presence of defeat, where there had been victory. God promised to drive their enemies before them, if they would cling to Him--but if they abandoned Him, the enemy would scourge them, driving the Israelis before their foes. Does not the church today seem impotent before the assault of the ungodly? The world is given over to iniquity because the church has yielded to apostasy. Rather than setting sinners free from sin, we hear of many in the church that are held in the shackles of sin themselves.
The fire does not have to go out! Joshua told them how to keep the fire kindled. He called them to fuel the fire with faithfulness. They were to know, believe, and obey the Word of God. He said, “Therefore be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, lest you turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left…” (v.6). Confessing to believing the Bible must be matched by committing to behave by the Bible. Submission to Scripture must be matched with separation from sin. The people of God were warned not to become intimate with the wicked and adopt their ways. When we watch trash on TV, look at filth on the internet, frequent the beer joints and gambling halls, listen to degrading music, and laugh at filthy comics, then the fire of our love for God will diminish and we will embrace the world in spiritual adultery. One love excludes the other. Tend to the fire of your love for God. Be zealous for Him, and you will not seek the pleasures of sin. “Therefore take careful heed to yourselves, that you love the LORD your God.” (Joshua 23:11)
Yours in Love,
Dennis Thurman, Haywood Baptist AMS