Sermon – July 30, 2017
Christians often run to one of two wrong conclusions. The first is that if there is indeed grace, and we can do nothing to earn our salvation, that obedience is obsolete, a remnant of a by-gone time of sacrifices that we must shun. The second is that obedience is still necessary to gain salvation, that grace is somehow a help, but not itself sufficient to secure us before the Lord. Today, we see that the narrative of Joshua will help us balance both grace and obedience, and help us to see how the two work together to make us God’s people, holy and blameless
1. The wrong question
In Joshua 5:13-15, Joshua has a strange meeting with the “Commander of the armies of the Lord.” Joshua asks what appears to be a straight-forward question, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” The man answers that he is neither, implying that the real question is whether or not Joshua is for him. Joshua’s question is indeed the wrong one. Are the Israelites for God? The narrative demonstrates that it goes well for Israel when they listen to God’s voice, and poorly when they do not:
- The good: the destruction of Jericho (Joshua 6)
- The bad: the sin of Achan (Joshua 7)
- The good: the destruction of Ai (Joshua 8)
- The bad: the deception of the Gibeonites (Joshua 9)
- The good: the destruction of the 5 Kings (Joshua 10)
2. The wrong assumptions
Joshua’s question made a faulty assumption: that God, because of his promise to be with his people, would always grant them favor. We, today, likewise make poor assumptions as to why God might be with us and grant us favor. Often we think that he is for us because he is generally with all people, or that people are mostly good, or even because we have once confessed Jesus’ name. None of these assumptions match what Scripture reveals to us. God is with us only as we are in Christ.
3. The wrong outcomes
The salvation afforded to us in Christ calls for balance and tension. On the one hand, it is all by grace, and outside of any consideration of our own past and present sin. On the other, it calls for a response of repentance and growth in holiness. If we lose holiness, and think that God is always with us, we are in just as precarious a state as thinking that we must prove our righteousness to him. Both are condemned, for each denies the work of Christ
God is emphatically for us, made clear through his provision of his Son, Jesus Christ who died for our sin, and was risen for our justification. Therefore, we must be radically for him, listening to his voice and worshipping him alone. For it is only in our being in Christ that we are more than conquerors. Trust in him alone!