Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss says your decisions can have serious consequences.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: If you choose to forsake the Lord, if you choose to make attachments with the world that are not godly ones, you will reap consequences. It’s true not just in marriage but in every area of life. If you’re going to flirt with the world, then you need to be prepared to live with the world and to forfeit the blessing of God in your life.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, November 7, 2014.

You probably aren’t tempted to bow down to a god of stone or wood, so how do you apply the Old Testament command to refuse false gods? Find out why this principle is still important as Nancy picks up the series "Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 12): Leaving Legacy."

Nancy: When I was in my twenties, the founder and director of our ministry, Del Fehsenfeld, Jr., commented to some on our team (and most of us were young) on the fact that there were a number of older Christian leaders who were passing off the scene.

He said to us, “The time is coming when it will be our turn to be Christian leaders, and we need to be picking up the baton and thinking about what our responsibility is to the next generation.”

Several years later, our founder became terminally ill. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and he actually did die at the age of forty-three, back in 1989.

But before he went home to heaven, Del met with our whole ministry team for the better part of a day, as I recall. I remember we sat in a room and videotaped this so we would have it, and we still show it to our staff from time to time.

He videotaped a series of sessions on our ministry’s Cutting-Edge Commitments. Some companies call them core values; we call them cutting-edge commitments.

There was a list of twelve that the leadership team had come up with together. He went one by one through each of the twelve and said, “These are the things you must remember.”

Now, we didn’t know at that time whether God was going to spare his life or take him. It turned out that the Lord did take him within just a few months of this session. But he said, “These are the distinctives of this ministry, and if these things cease to be true, this ministry will cease to have its cutting edge.”

There were things like living under the authority of Scripture and the lordship of Jesus Christ, the message of the cross, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the importance of prayer, the message of revival. These are the distinctives of our ministry.

He prepared us for the day when he would not be there. He didn’t know it was a farewell speech, but it turned out to be pretty close to the end, and it became something we took with us and have taken with us.

We now have many staff, years later, who never met or knew Del Fehsenfeld. But we have tried to pass along those principles, those concepts and others that are core to the heart of our ministry, to the next generation, to our younger staff coming along.

It reminds me of what the apostle Peter said late in his life. In 2 Peter 1:13–15 he says,

I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

Peter had the same heart that the founder of our ministry had. “When I’m not here, however long or short a time that is, I want to be sure that you can remember these things. I know that you know them. I know these are not new to you. But I want to remind you of the things you already know, with the hope that you will always, always remember them, as long as you live.”

In that same passage, Peter goes on to point his listeners to the Word of God. He says, “The Word of God is what will prove the foundation for your lives in times to come” (see vv. 19–21).

I heard a CD not too long ago of a friend of mine who for many years was a pastor. He has now been diagnosed with a terminal illness and has had to resign from his pulpit. I heard the last message he preached to his congregation, a large congregation in the north. It was on this text from 2 Peter 1.

This pastor, knowing that he would not be able to continue shepherding that flock, pointed them to the Word of God. He said, “Be people of the Word. Don’t drift with other winds of doctrine coming along, with other things people are saying to entice even believers into unbiblical philosophies.”

He told them, “I want you to keep your hearts grounded in the Word.” That’s good counsel, whether you’re a pastor or a parent, because the time will come when you will not be there for your children and grandchildren or those that you’re discipling. You want to get them attached not to you but to the Word of God.

You say, “What does that have to do with Joshua?” The last two chapters of the book of Joshua are a grand, fitting tribute to the life of this great man of God.

Joshua is now an old man. He knows he’s not going to live much longer. He has been faithful and true to Jehovah through all of his life up until the very end.

Apart from the treaty that they established with the Gibeonites, where Joshua failed to seek the Lord, Scripture does not record any other lapse of faith or obedience on Joshua’s part. That’s quite something to say for as many years as he lived and served the Lord. He had a consistent walk with God from his youth to his old age.

I suppose that’s one of the things that has drawn me to his life, because that’s what I would like to have. I want to be faithful to the Lord not only as a young person but in my middle years and in my older years.

You may be thinking, Well, I blew that a long time ago. Thank God for grace, and know that from this point on, you can be faithful by God’s grace.

Let’s pick up in Joshua 23:1–2 and see the message he wants to leave with those who are going to be following after him.

A long time afterward [ten or more years after the conquest and the distribution of the land], when the Lord had given rest to Israel from all their surrounding enemies, and Joshua was old and well advanced in years, Joshua summoned all Israel, its elders and heads, its judges and officers, and said to them, "I am now old and well advanced in years.”

Then skip down to verse 14; he says something similar to what Peter said in 2 Peter 1. He says, “Now I am about to go the way of all the earth.” What is he saying? “I’m going to die soon. I’m not going to be around much longer.”

So what is Joshua going to say to these leaders who will continue leading the people after he’s gone? What is uppermost in his heart? What is it he wants to leave with these people he has led all these years? What does he want them to remember when he's not there any longer?

In this chapter and the next (chapters 23 and 24, which is the end of the book of Joshua), there are two different occasions where Joshua gives a sort of farewell message: “This is what we stand for. This is who we are. This is what you must remember.”

There are two different messages, two different occasions, two different locations; but what he says in both is similar. I want to draw some lessons from both of these messages over the next couple of sessions and give you an overview of both these messages.

First, he encourages them. He encourages them in two ways:

  • First by rehearsing their past—reminding them of God’s faithfulness in the past.
  • Then by giving them a vision for their future. He assures them that the One who has kept every promise He has made in the past is not going to fail them in the days ahead.

So he encourages them by rehearsing their past and by giving them a vision for their future. Then he challenges them in relation to the present—he exhorts them to stay faithful to the Lord and to serve and obey Him all of their lives. Finally he warns them of the consequences they are sure to experience if they fail to obey God.

That’s an overview. Now let’s break that down. I want to walk through each of those sections of these messages.

First, he rehearses their past, and this is meant to encourage them. I know it encourages me when I reflect back on what God has done and how He has been faithful and how He has carried me through past circumstances and situations. That encourages me to be faithful to the Lord in the present.

Joshua says, “You have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake, for it is the Lord your God who has fought for you” (Joshua 23:3).

Now, though Joshua is the one who has fought and won many battles, even at the end of his life, he never takes credit for what God has done. “It is the Lord who has fought for you.” I love that humble spirit of Joshua, and I hope at this season of my life and at the end of my life to emulate that.

When people say, “Thank you for your ministry; thank you for your books; thank you for this radio ministry,” I want to say from my heart, “I am so grateful that the Lord has blessed you through these truths He is using to set you free.”

It’s God’s work. It’s God who fights the battles. So Joshua gives the Lord the credit for what has happened in the past.

Verse 9, again rehearsing their past, he says,

The Lord has driven out before you great and strong nations. And as for you, no man has been able to stand before you to this day.

Then look at verse 14.

Now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.

As he rehearses the past, he says, “God has kept His promises. God has kept His Word. God is a covenant-keeping God.”

Then as we go into his message in chapter 24 (I won’t take time to read this, but I hope that you will), in verses 2–13 God is speaking in the first person, and He says, “I have called you out. I have blessed you. I have led you. I have delivered you from slavery.”

God says, “I gave you victory over your enemies. I protected you. I gave you a good land.” If you’ll count, I think it’s eighteen times that you see the word “I” in that passage. God is saying, “I am the One who has done this for you.”

So Joshua points the people to God’s hand in their history. It’s the Lord who did this.

This wasn’t chance. This wasn’t your efforts. This wasn’t your strength. This wasn’t your goodness deserving this redemption. God is the One who has done this. See His hand in your history.

He encourages them to remember the past faithfulness of God, to rehearse it, to recount it. God fulfills His promises.

The implication is, God could be trusted then, which means God can be trusted now. He rehearses their past.

I think that’s an important thing for us to do. It’s one valuable reason for keeping a journal. As you jot down what God has done, then you can go back later in your life or with your children and rehearse, “Here’s what God has done.”

As we think about Revive Our Hearts, we're not a  baby anymore. So we have to go back and rehearse, "Here's what God done in birthing this ministry. Here are some of the markers along the way of things that God has done." That gives us courage and faith and confidence to face the future and to live in the present.

Now, having rehearsed their past, Joshua gives them a vision for their future. Look at Joshua 23:4–5. He says,

Behold, I have allotted to you as an inheritance for your tribes those nations that remain, along with all the nations that I have already cut off, from the Jordan to the Great Sea in the west. The Lord your God will push them back before you and drive them out of your sight. And you shall possess their land, just as the Lord your God promised you.

He’s saying, “When you remember what God has done in the past, it gives you confidence to trust Him for the future. Here are some promises for the future. Here’s what God is going to do.”

Now, I think what’s most important about these messages is the “so what?” This is what God has done in the past, this is what God is going to do in the future, but how does that a ffect what I do today? How is that to affect me now?

So he challenges them to live this moment in light of the past and in light of the future. Look at verse 6:

Therefore [since God has done these things], be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left.

The first “so what?” is, be people of the Book. Get your lives grounded in the Word of God.

This is a characteristic of Joshua’s life and ministry. His ministry started out, in Joshua chapter 1 as you remember, with God giving him a challenge to meditate on the Word of God day and night. God said, “If you do that, you will be successful in everything you do.”

Now Joshua has seen that that’s true. He has meditated on God’s Word. He has experienced success in everything he’s done.

So how does he end his ministry? By passing that same challenge on to the next generation.

I think he is also saying, "Methods may change. Times may change. Culture may change. But one thing never change—and that is God's Word." It is absolute; it applies to every generation. It's truths are unchanging. This is the plumbline—"Not only for me when I was a young man, but that I'm an old man and after I'm long gone. And when you are old, it will still be the standard for your lives." So he call them to be people of the Book.

Therefore be strong to do what’s written in the book of the law, don’t turn from it, “that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them, but you shall cling to the Lord your God just as you have done this day” (vv. 7–8).

Look at verse 11: “Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God.”

I’m just picking out certain verses here. I hope that you’ll go back and read them carefully and study them and meditate on them. 

You see in these messages of Joshua that he ties together love and obedience. The New Testament does the same thing. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” Jesus says (John 14:15). Love and obedience are inseparably linked.

Love for God is not a sentimental or emotional feeling. Love for God is wholehearted devotion, attachment, and surrender to the One who has redeemed us. He’s blessed us. He’s protected, guided, and provided for us.

Love for God is saying, “Yes, Lord.” That’s how we demonstrate our love for Him.

Now look at Joshua 24:14, another illustration here of the “so what?” Because of what God has done in the past, because of His promises for the future,

Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.

It reminds me of another speech that a major leader gave to the people of Israel. You’ll find it in 1 Samuel 7.

I won’t ask you to turn there, but listen to what Samuel said to the house of Israel. He said,

If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only (v. 3).

That’s the call of these great men. Put away the foreign gods; cling to Jehovah, the one true God.

Joshua is saying to these people, “Don’t get entangled with unbelievers. Don’t adopt their practices. Don’t marry them. Don’t serve their gods. But do cling to the Lord; cleave, hold fast to the Lord. Do fear Him, love Him, obey Him, serve Him. He is the one true God.”

Then he says, “Don’t forsake the Lord.” Don’t forsake Jehovah, and do put away foreign gods.

You’ll see that theme all through both of these chapters. I think his point is that love for God must be exclusive. It requires putting away anything and everything that might compete with Him in our lives.

The fact is, you can’t cling to the Lord and at the same time cling to anything that would threaten His place in your life. You can’t cling to Jehovah, hold fast to Him, serve Him, while at the same time holding onto things that you know are displeasing to Him. You can’t have both.

Don’t serve these foreign gods. Do serve the Lord. Don’t forsake the Lord. Do put away these foreign gods.

Now, last in both these messages, he issues a warning. He warns them what will happen if they don’t obey. They can expect divine chastisement and discipline.

Let me give you a couple of examples of this. Joshua 23:12, “For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them . . .”

By the way, this is such an important point. God’s children must not marry unbelievers.

I say that so earnestly because I get emails regularly from our listeners who made foolish choices in matters of the heart and are now paying consequences they cannot easily get out of— maybe can’t get out of at all.

Do not marry an unbeliever. How can two walk together except they be agreed (see Amos 3:3). So he says,

If you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the Lord your God has given you (vv. 12–13).

There are women in this room who can testify that that’s true. "I married out of emotions. I married out of rebellion. I married out of wanting it my way instead of God's way, and that has become a curse in my life. It has reaped consequences in my life that have caused me to not any longer experience what I could have in terms of the good land God wanted to give me.”

Now, let me say, thank God for grace. Even in a very difficult or unbiblical marriage, you can still walk in repentance and faith and humility before God and can once again experience God’s blessing in your life.

But Joshua is saying that if you choose to forsake the Lord, if you choose to make attachments with the world that are not godly ones, you will reap consequences.

It’s true not just in marriage but in every area of life. If you’re going to flirt with the world, then you need to be prepared to live with the world and to forfeit the blessing of God in your life.

Look at verse 15 of chapter 23,

Just as all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the Lord will bring upon you all the evil things, until he has destroyed you off this good land the Lord has given you, if you transgress the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them.

Joshua 24:20,

If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.

I realize that we’re not living under the form of government and in the situation today that Israel did then. So there are some ways that these passages cannot be applied exactly the same way to us.

But I think there’s a universal, eternal principle here.

  • If you obey God, you serve the Lord, you fear Him, you put away other gods, then you’ll reap blessing.
  • If you choose instead to align yourself with the things and gods and philosophies and pleasures of this world—if you forsake the Lord and choose the world—then you will experience consequences.

I get many, many heartbreaking letters and emails from listeners who are experiencing exactly what these warnings said they would. Now it’s like Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall, and they’re trying to put all the pieces back together again.

That’s why Joshua, knowing this, urges these people, “Fear the Lord. Don’t forsake Him. Don’t go after these other gods. Don't forget.”

You can image the people saying, "We've heard this before. How many times do we need to hear this?" We need to keep hearing it. You and I need to hear it. You may have followed the Lord for all these years of your life, but you can still come to the place late in life where you forget the Lord, or you forsake the Lord, or you follow after other gods.

So he rehearses their past, he gives them a vision for their future, he challenges them in relation to the present to stay faithful to the Lord, and he warns them of the consequences they will experience if they don’t obey God.

You see, Joshua realized that the greatest threat to the nation of Israel was not the Canaanites. It was not a military threat. It wasn’t all the chariots of the enemy.

He realized that their greatest threat was a spiritual one. It was a heart issue. It was that they would forget and forsake the Lord.

That’s the greatest threat to the United States of America. It’s not a military threat. Now, there are military threats. There are worldwide and international threats. There are terrorist threats. But the greatest threat, the greatest potential to this nation is a spiritual one. It’s a heart issue. It’s that we would forsake the Lord, who has been so good to us and blessed us and given us a land of plenty, that we would forget where it came from and would serve other gods, as we are doing in widespread ways today.

The same is true in our churches, our homes, and our own lives. Don’t forget the Lord. Follow Him. Pursue Him. Love Him. Cling to Him. Serve Him, and He will bless you.

It doesn’t mean your life will be problem or trouble free. It won’t be, because we grow through problems and pressures and adversity.

But you can be sure that if you choose the world’s way, if you choose to tolerate competitors for God in your life, there will be consequences.

Joshua is saying, “I want to spare you from that. So remember the Lord. Be faithful. Cling to Him. Hold to Him. Hold tightly. Put away the foreign gods from among you, and cling to the Lord your God.”

Leslie: As a leader or a parent, the number one concept you can pass on to those following is, put God first. Worship Him above every god. It’s as true now as it was when Joshua was instructing the nation of Israel.

That teaching from Nancy Leigh DeMoss is from the series "Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 12): Leaving a Legacy." You’re able to hear deep, practical bible teaching for women like this thanks to listeners who support Revive Our Hearts financially.

To say thanks for your gift this month, we’d like to send you the new CD from Nancy. It’s called, Come Adore. You’ll be pulled in a lot of directions this holiday season. This piano CD from Nancy will help you keep your perspective on Christ and remind you that nothing is more important than worshiping Him.

When you visit ReviveOurHearts.com and make a donation of any size, you’ll see where to indicate you’d like the CD. We’re able to send one CD per household for your gift here in November. Again, the web address is ReviveOurHearts.com, or ask for Come Adore when you call 1–800–569–5959. 

“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.” You may have sung that gospel song many times, but do you realize what you’re really saying? We’ll explore what it really means to follow, next time on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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