“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Joshua 1:8 (ESV)
Believers for the most part tend to be New Testament people. That’s where we spend the bulk of our time. But there is so much meat in the Older Testament. Joshua 1:8 is one of those “choice” verses that you would miss if you steer clear of the O.T.
I want to be successful, don’t you? But success from God’s perspective looks different than success from the world’s perspective. Success according to the Scripture looks like this: Finding out what it is that God wants you to do, and then doing it! So success may or may not mean making a lot of money. It may or may not include being prominent. It may or may not mean living the “American dream.”
This verse gives us a few clues as to how to be successful in God’s eyes:
1) Reading and intentionally thinking about God’s Word needs to be a priority. This is what “meditating” is. It is not a far eastern Hindu type practice while sitting in the lotus position. It is being INTENTIONAL to ponder God’s Word. Ponder it quietly before the Lord and then ponder it out loud with other people. Think about it and talk about it – whenever you get a chance to.
2) But success is more than thinking about God’s Word – it is INTENTIONALLY putting God’s Word into practice. Doing what it says! Joshua 1:8 echoes what James says in the N.T. “Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves; do what it says.” (James 1:22).
Hearing the Word of God and then doing it… this is God’s formula for a successful and prosperous life.
Why this BRICK is foundational: Jesus says it better than me…
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27
Jesus had been asked a question by an expert in the Law: “Teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?” As He often does, Jesus answered the question with a question: “What does the Bible say about this?” Luke 10:27 is the response He got and that He applauded. There is a lot going on here in this conversation that the text does not tell us.
1) The expert is quoting from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. The Deuteronomy passage is part of what is known as The Shema. The Shema is a series of 3 passages in the Torah (1st 5 books of the Bible) that Jews began memorizing when they were about 5 years old and that they repeated every day of their lives twice a day. For Jews it was the most important text in the Bible.
2) Why did they repeat it so often? Because it was a declaration of their allegiance to God. It was an intentional way of reminding themselves of who God was and what He expected of His people.
This expert in the Law knew the textbook answer to Jesus’ question but living the answer was another matter. The Pharisees had become so consumed with matters of the Law that they had forgotten the Law of Love. Jesus made things simple – Love God! Love people! Love God with every fiber of your being and the rest will take care of itself. A great reminder to us as well.
Why this brick is foundational: If EVERYTHING that we do is motivated by love for God and love for people then we are well on our way to being disciples of Jesus. Knowing all the textbook answers isn’t nearly as important as practicing the Law of Love!
“If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
Our God is a relational God. Our faith is a relational faith. It is not about a bunch of do’s and don’ts. This verse highlights the fact that relationship is at the center of our faith.
Relationships are bruised and torn apart when people betray one another through deceitfulness and broken promises. This is equally true in our relationship with God. When we sin we break our relationship with God. The good news is that once we are made sons and daughters of God we will always be sons and daughters of God. But that doesn’t mean that the relationship with God isn’t hurt by sin.
God’s promise to us is this: because of his faithfulness and because He is a just God He will always forgive us when we seek reconciliation through an admission of our sin. Confession is agreeing with God that sin is sin. We have a tendency to try to sweep sin under the rug and ignore it. God cannot and will not do this. But he will forgive us when we come to Him and deal with it through confession and repentance. Saying “I’m sorry” is hard for all of us. But it is the gateway to reconciliation.
Why this brick is foundational: God takes sin seriously. We should too. I’ve heard it said, “If you don’t feel close to God, guess who moved.” Confession of sin is the best way to start moving back to a close relationship with God.
“From that time Jesus began to preach and to say: Repent , for the kingdom of God is at hand,” Matthew 4:17
Note that the admonition here is to “Repent” not to rededicate. You do not find anywhere in the New Testament a command to rededicate your life to Christ. And yet at many of the invitations you will hear given by preachers, in addition to a plea to give your life to Christ you will often hear a plea to rededicate your life to Christ as well. It is NOT a biblical mandate. Rededication seems to be a more palatable plea to those who have gone astray. It is as if you can tell yourself that I just need to get back on track with God. I need to commit myself again. I need to just do a little better this next time. NO! NO! NO! Rededication is a sure plan for failure – and you will just find yourself doing it again and again and again because you will NEVER do enough to be enough in God’s sight.
The biblical mandate is to “Repent.” To turn away from sin completely; to change your mindset concerning sin and recognize that sin will NEVER satisfy the longings of your heart. It is to have the same sentiment that David had regarding sin when he was confronted with the heinousness of his own transgressions:
“Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation… Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation.” Psalm 51:10-14
David was pleading with God to cleanse him and to make him right again. Repentance is about what God does in a heart that yearns to be right with God. Rededication is about what we do when we start to feel a little guilty – it is about feeling better about ourselves and not being made right with God.
Why this Brick is foundational: Jesus does not call us to feel good about ourselves. He calls us to be in right relationship with Him. Repentance is a gospel centered word. Rededication is a self centered word. Repentance is about what God does in us. Rededication is about what we do for ourselves.
And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (ESV)
One of the things that we must get into our thick heads is that salvation is a God thing from beginning to end.
Justification is entirely a God thing. God is the One who took the initiative and did the work (at the cross) to make us righteous in His sight. We could do nothing because we were dead in our sins. God did it all. He is the One who made us alive again in Him. He is the One who brought us out of darkness and into the light. He is the One who redeemed us from slavery to sin. He is the One who rescued from the enemy camp and made us sons of the King. Justification is entirely a God thing.
Sanctification is entirely a God thing. God is the One who even now is at work in our lives conforming us more and more into the likeness of His Son. We can do nothing to make ourselves more holy. It is absolutely a work of the Holy Spirit. It is His Spirit who transforms us from sinners to saints. It is His Spirit who transforms us into God-fearing worshipers. It is His Spirit who teaches us to delight in obedience. It is His Spirit who fills us and fuels us for the work God wants us to do. It is His Spirit who produces in us the kind of character that glorifies our Father. Sanctification is entirely a God thing.
Glorification is entirely a God thing. It is only God that can change these earthly bodies into bodies that will be fit for eternity. It is only God that can create a new heaven and a new earth that will absolutely stagger the imagination. It is only God that can eradicate sin once and for all and liberate His faithful followers forever. It is only God that can manifest His glory to His people in a way that produces ultimate joy. Glorification is entirely a God thing.
Why this BRICK is foundational: Christianity is distinguished from every other “religion” because God is the one who invites us into and establishes the relationship. We cannot earn our way into heaven or into His good favor by anything that we do. Which is great news because nothing we could ever do would be good enough to please a holy and most glorious God. It is all His doing. Yes , we work out our salvation everyday but God is the One who worked in us so that we can work it out.
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)
This is a great promise but it also has a great context. For instance, the previous verse says – “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he is standing firm take heed lest he fall.” The idea here is that sin will sneak up on us and entangle us and take us down if we are not on our guard. But if we are on our guard there is NO temptation that can overtake us because of God’s faithfulness to us. It is our faithlessness, not God’s faithfulness that gets us in a heap of trouble.
The context of this passage also suggests several things in particular that we need to be aware of:
1) Idolatry and cultural adaptation (verse 7) – It was true 2000 years ago and it is true today. We allow the culture to change us rather than us being cultural change agents. When we let our guard down we too often find ourselves mired in the things of this world. If we are not very careful then cultural things like TV, music, books, internet, etc will not only effect us but infect us.
2) Sexual immorality (verse 8) – We tend to think that our society is a very sexualized society but the truth is that EVERY society has been that way. It goes all the way back to Genesis 1:31 when God created the two sexes and said “This is very good.” The enemy has been on the attack ever since, taking something that was very good and trying to make a mess of it. And he has had a lot of success because we have not been on guard like we should be.
Verse 9 talks about testing the Lord. We often put ourselves in places and with people that create temptation. This is like playing with fire. And the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13 does not apply when we do this. Instead of trying to see how much we can get away with before God reacts, we should be investing our time and energy in the things that we know are pleasing to God. This does not mean becoming a hermit – but it does mean changing our mindset when it comes to the things of this world.
Why is this BRICK foundational? We live in a fallen world. We WILL be tempted. But if we are proactive about keeping our guard up and being intentionally dependent upon the faithfulness of God then there will always be a way of escape and we can be a courageous testimony to the glory of God.
“Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3
When the Lord made this promise to His people they were getting ready to go through the darkest days in their history. Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians were on the verge of sacking the city of Jerusalem and carting it’s people into captivity.The Lord is going to allow devastation and misery in order to capture again the hearts of His people. Their hearts were far from God.
It is often in the darkest days of our lives that we learn some things that God could not teach us any other way. We learn that…
when life is out of our control, God is still in control
we are helpless and must be helplessly dependent upon God
even when we are far away from God, He longs to draw us near
our sin is often the cause of our troubles, but that God is gracious and willing to forgive
the Lord delights in hearts that hunger to know Him and not in people who just want His blessings
It is in the midst of the darkness that we learn to call upon Him. And then as we do so, it is the midst of the darkness that we see how magnificent is the light of the glory of God as He answers and reveals Himself to us in ways that we have never seen before.
Why this BRICK is foundational: God is longing for His people to call upon Him. But we have sought blessings more from this world than from Him. He will do whatever it takes to win back our hearts. So when you find yourself going through dark times, never forget that the Lord even then is at work in your life.
“Do not be drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:18
A better way to translate this verse from the original language would be “always be being filled with the Holy Spirit.” There are 2 questions I will address here: 1) How do you go about being filled with the Spirit? and 2) How do you know if you are filled with the Spirit?
How do you go about being filled with the Spirit? – Books have been written on this but I will give the short version. It starts with confession and repentance and a desire to allow God to be in control of your life. The issue here is “who/what is in control?” It also involves a daily surrendering of yourself to the Lord who has saved you (see Romans 12:1-2, Galatians 2:20). And then it takes disciplined intentionality to set your heart on things above and set your mind on the things of the Spirit – instead of setting them intentionally on the things of this world and the lures of the evil one.
How do you know if you are filled with the Spirit? – The 3 verses following verse 18 give some clues here. 1) There will be a song in your heart (v. 19). In other words you will notice a change on the inside. You will begin to experience a palpable joy. 2) You will find yourself becoming more grateful (v.20). You will recognize the goodness of God in everything and express this to Him. 3) Your relationships with people will be different. You will develop an others-first mentality rather than a me-first mentality.
Why this BRICK is foundational: Here is what Romans 8:13-14 has to say about it – “If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” It seems to be a matter of life and death. ‘Nuf said!
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Ask – Many people know that one of my favorite verses is James 4:2, “You do not have because you do not ask.” I have embarrassed my family more times than they can count because at restaurants I ask for free desserts or free hats. But if the truth be known, I have received a bunch of free desserts and free hats simply because I asked. I would not have them had I not asked. Often when I ask the answer is “No”, but sometimes the answer is “Yes.” I wonder how many more “Yes’s we would have from God if we were just willing to ask.
Seek -We often try to hide from God (see Genesis 3) but God does not try to hide from us. His promise is that “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) If we want to know God He will make Himself known. He created us that we might know Him. It is our sinfulness that keeps us from seeing Him or even seeking after Him and it is our sin that we often try to hide from Him. But He is more than willing to be found.
Knock – Knocking is an act of faith. It is a way of saying “I want to meet whoever is on the other side of the door.” It is not enough to stand on the porch and hope that the door will open by itself. If you want to meet Jesus you have to demonstrate your faith via an intentional act of knocking. Often that act will take the form of a prayer. It might go something like this: “Lord, I’m knocking. I want to know You and be known by You. I want what You have to give me.”
Why this BRICK is foundational: Faith is more than cognitive assent – it involves intentional action. When we ask, seek, and knock we are demonstrating to God that He is the One that can satisfy the desires of our heart and the longings of our soul.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6
This “brick” helps us understand a little about the predicament that we are in – not because of what we have done but because of who we are. We are like sheep. Here’s a few things about sheep that you or may not already know…
Sheep are stupid – They can’t be trained to do anything. Not like a dog or an elephant or a monkey. You don’t have to listen to people very long to figure out that we are dumb – especially when it comes to conversing intelligently about important stuff. Mundane stuff we are good with. But not so much with things that are a matter of life and death – like redemption and sanctification and heaven and hell. We spend lots of time thinking about sports and cooking and our jobs but not much time thinking about God and the Scriptures.
Sheep have a terrible sense of direction – Like so many people who go through life without direction or purpose or goals. We follow our fancy rather than following our Father and as a result we find ourselves in a world of hurt and despair. Many people are content to just exist instead of experiencing the adventure that God has designed them for.
Sheep can’t take care of themselves – They have no built in defense mechanism like other animals (for example skunks or porcupines or rhinos); They are virtually defenseless and helpless creatures. People can’t save themselves. Throughout the ages they have tried and failed miserably. They need a rescuer. They need a leader.