Today we celebrate twenty three new members at River Park Church. We have just seen and celebrated the new individuals and families who have professed their faith in God, received God’s covenant promises, and joined our church family.
Today we also celebrate that God continues to bless our obedient steps as we follow God in the vision he has for us. And we also continue to celebrate that, as diverse people come together, we gain a wider view of God! In this series, we are celebrating that all of us have a window or perspective into the character of God. None of us see God completely or fully. But all of us see and know some part of God. Thus, if we want to know God more, we need two things: (1) we need to pursue him ourselves. (2) We need to pursue him alongside people who are different from us: people from different ethnic groups, different genders, different generations, socio-economic groups, different abilities. And, of course, we need people with different perspectives.
As Canada becomes more diverse (and as the church becomes more diverse), differences can feel like a threat. We are tempted to wonder, “why don’t other people behave as I do?” and “Why don’t other people care about the same things that I care about?” Over this series, Pastor Harrison and I are interviewing diverse members of our congregation, asking three questions:
1. Which person of the Trinity do you feel closest to?
2. What characteristics of God are most important to you?
3. Can you share the story of the Gospel in a few sentences?
For those who are interviewed, we’re not even going to be able to share everything you say. There’s just too much good stuff even in those three questions. But to those of you who are listening—know that you may not see things the same way. But that is the point. So ask yourself, “what does this person see about God that I do not? How can I learn from her or him? How can I appreciate them?
This morning, I’m overjoyed to share a small part of my conversation with Dut Dut. He had shared with me that these verses in Joshua are important to him. So before we watch Dut’s comments, I want to read our text this morning. The story begins after God has faithfully led his people to conquer all of their enemies and to claim the “Promised Land” for themselves. God keeps his promises to his people—and then Joshua speaks to them and instructs them.
14 “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. 15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! 17 It was the Lordour God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. 18 And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.”Joshua 24:14-18
So far our reading of God’s Word. Now I want to share with you some of Dut’s answers and some of his view into the character of God and the good news for God’s family!
Today I want to simply focus on two things. First, Dut shared about the love of Jesus—and the picture he used was this:
“someone who can leave almost everything. He left from a safe country and went to a worse country to spread the Word! He went there to help people who are starving, hungry. Some people do not have hope, but Christians are always there … to teach people about the love of Christianity; to try to help them with their situations.”
Who does something like that? Who gives up almost everything? Who leaves a safe country and goes to a worse country? Who devotes their life to feeding the starving, to teaching anyone about love, and to helping individuals in various difficult situations? If we look inside of ourselves, we might see that we intend to do that—or even to do some part of it—but when we look at our lives and our actions in the past, we can see that we do not love that fully. We get tired. We focus on our own needs first before considering the needs of others. In fact, we can see from our own experiences and from scripture that only one person can love so perfectly and fully: Jesus Christ. In other word, Jesus is our only perfect example to follow.
The love of Jesus is perfect and all-encompassing. It is global and beyond our imagination. Yet at the same time it is personal and self-sacrificial. It fills our spirits and moves us to response. The love of Jesus is so powerful, that if Jesus’ disciples could even share a fraction of his love, the world would be transformed.
Joshua is another living example of the love of Jesus. We see in Joshua’s story that he isn’t perfect, but God still used him powerfully! In the first part of Joshua 24, God reminds his people of all the ways he provided for them. All the ways he loved them. Then, in our text for today, Joshua reminds God’s people of the importance of a response. Whenever we encounter the love of God and the provision of God, we will always be compelled to respond. And we will always have a choice! As Joshua said to the Israelites—we can choose to look elsewhere. We can choose to ignore God, to forsake him, and to serve someone else (or even ourselves). But we can also choose to serve God. This was not just a theoretical decision for Joshua. Pastor Harrison shared a powerful insight with me into this verse. He said,
“When I read this verse, ‘But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.’ I can see how much Joshua loved God. He gave up everything he could take. He was a great leader for the Israelites like Moses. He was ordained by God; he defeated all the enemies and conquered the land for his nation. So, he could be in a high position with great authority, power, money, and almost everything he might want. He could be like a king of kings. Joshua was a leader during a most difficult time and now peace came. As a result, he could enjoy a totally different life after the long war. The Israelites would support him without any complaints if he wanted. But his heart was still only on the Lord and he gave up everything he could have had. No one would do that if we were in a Joshua’s position.Pastor Harrison Cho
Congregation who are “Professing Members” at River Park Church, do you remember your profession of faith? We do not stand and publicly profess our faith, then carry on with our lives and our plans and our priorities as if nothing changed. If we choose to serve God, then our whole lives will be affected. Our priorities will be changed by him. We will submit our families and our finances to him. If we choose to serve God, nothing in our lives will remain untouched by his direction. When others look at your life, what do they see? Do they see a decision you made once? Or do they see how much God has blessed you and how much you have given up to serve him?
And likewise, those of us who have not yet (or never) made a promise to serve God, have you caught a glimpse of what it means to serve God—both when you see and hear these people up front today, but especially when you hear Joshua’s story? And our hearts are stirred too! God moves closer to us as we ponder whether we too might give ourselves to someone and something bigger than just “me”.
This leads us to the second point of the sermon this morning. Jesus is our perfect example to follow; but we all need a human, living, even imperfect example to follow too. This is why public Profession of Faith is important—it reminds us of our calling as Christians to follow Jesus and it points us to the examples of others. Dut shared about his response to Jesus’ love. It is beautiful to me that, even if unintentionally, Dut’s heart overflowed into expressing almost the same words as Joshua.
Joshua says to the Israelites: choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve: whether the gods of your ancestors or the gods of this land. “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Josh 24:15). As Dut and I talked, we spoke of the gods of other religions. We spoke of how, in the western world, we think we are free from God and don’t need anyone or anything else. He talked about how others have worked to help the church become a close-knit family. He shared about enjoying River Park Church so far and his thankfulness for our vision. Then he said,
“I will continue that—especially for me and my wife and my daughter and son. And I wish that I can serve more in this church. Whenever the church needs some member to come serve or do some service, I will be there! Because I really want to do more.”
In other words, “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
To serve the Lord is an awe-inspiring and wonderful thing. It is an invitation and a calling TO each of us—yet it not only FOR us as individuals. God calls us to follow him and to serve him by serving his body, his church, his people! So when we are serving the Lord, we are always serving others as well! Jesus says to his followers, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
The perfect life and perfect example of Jesus began a snowball effect of love. The perfect love of Jesus transforming the lives of eleven ordinary people. Then the love of Jesus in them, imperfect as they were, transforming the lives of others whom they served. They traveled the world and served others. And those people traveled the world and served others. And on and on and on until today. We may go great distances or we may never leave the neighbourhood we grew up in; but God calls us to show his perfect love to others by serving him every day of our lives. Congregation, you witnessed these people stood in front of you this morning; but they are looking at you! As people who have newly professed their faith and as those who were baptized—they are looking at your, congregation, to see a living example of Jesus in your life! Of course you are not perfect, but when new members look at you, will they see a great love for Jesus? As these young children grow up in the church and look to you for guidance and wisdom, will they see your great love for Jesus? We can speak of serving God today, but our lives will demonstrate how we love and serve him—and our lives of self-sacrifice will inspire others to love and serve God—just as Jesus’ life and perfect sacrifice still inspires us today.
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