Wednesday, September 17, 2014

the trailing edge of faith

The Word for today:
Joshua 24
There's a well-known verse in today's reading, the kind of verse that ends up painted or embroidered, then framed and hung on the wall:
"As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15)
Embroidered and hung on the wall like that, out of context and cut in half, the verse sounds like a commitment to "God" (whoever that might be).
But here's the complete verse, within its context:
"Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth. Put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.
"If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:14-15)
What Joshua is saying, in his final speech to the nation, is that there are many so-called "gods." You can take your pick from a vast array of false gods, he tells them--the false gods of Egypt, the false gods of the Amorites (and the false gods of the Americans, too.)
But he and his family will reject those idols and choose the LORD. ("LORD," when spelled with all capitals, is the covenant name of Yahweh/Jesus--the Savior who is revealed in Scripture.)
So the passage, when understood in its fullness, is as much about rejecting the false as it is about serving the true.
The New Testament says the same thing this way:
You turned away from idols to serve the true and living God. (1 Thessalonians 1:9)
As we turn to Jesus Christ, we are turning away from a false god or "idol" of some kind or another. (An idol can be anything we put first, ahead of God.)
The "turning to" is called faith. The "turning from" is called repentance. They are two sides of the same coin.
This can be literally demonstrated by reaching into your pocket for a dime. When you stand it on edge and turn the leading edge toward something, the trailing edge simultaneously turns--putting what used to be first behind.
Faith and repentance are so much a part of each other that faith unaccompanied by repentance is barely worth a nickel.

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