Joshua 24:22. Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.”
Have you ever made a deal with God? Maybe one of those promises you make in a desperate situation. “God if you get me out of this one, I’ll never miss church again.” Or, “I’ll give up drinking.” Or “I’ll be a better person.” Or maybe you’ve walked an aisle at church or thrown a stick in the fire at a summer camp or some other “revival” where you dedicated or re-dedicated or re-re-dedicated some part of your life to God.
But then what happened? If you’re like me that promise fizzled out pretty quickly. The re-dedication of your life to Christ eventually gave way to the same old sins.
The book of Joshua ends on a high note. The Israelites made it into the Promised Land. Joshua has led them to victory after victory. All is peaceful (for now). And so Joshua gathers the people for a covenant renewal ceremony. A re-dedication. God’s been good so let’s re-commit. Let’s walk the aisle and make some promises to God. Let’s clean out the spiritual closet. Let’s burn our AC/DC t-shirts and pour out all our alcohol. Let’s re-start that Bible reading plan and set the alarm to get up for church on Sunday. Here we go! We can do it!
In Joshua 24 the dialogue goes like this:
Joshua: “Choose this day whom you will serve.”
The people: “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods.”
Joshua: “You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.”
The people: “No, but we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua: “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.”
The people: “We are witnesses.”
Sound familiar? Have you ever had this kind of conversation with God? I have. Many times. “I’ll do better, I promise. Please don’t smite me.”
But the big problem with this kind of negotiating with God, is that it can only leave us in one position – as witnesses against ourselves.
Note the pessimism. Against. Not “you will be witnesses FOR yourselves.” Nope, “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” One day soon the Israelites will break the law of God (just keep reading into Judges. It’s a mess). And when they do break God’s law, these words, “we will serve the Lord,” will be used against them.
And the same is true for us. Every promise we’ve made, every re-dedication, every consecration, every song of response, every prayer of contrition, every confession, every aisle walked, every “I’ll never do that again, God,” each is a witnesses against us in God’s courtroom. Each testifying to another broken pledge and our complete inability to fix ourselves. Our total lack of righteousness apart from the gracious work of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the only one who ever said, “I will serve the Lord,” and did it. And on that day of judgment on the cross Jesus’ words were not a witness AGAINST him but FOR him. Why? Because, unlike us, his words of dedication and commitment were backed up by his living and dying. Now, his life is our sanctification. Our holiness comes not by our imperfect commitments, but only by his perfect life.
Christian, you don’t need to make more commitments to Christ. You need Christ! You need to daily transfer your trust away from your own re-dedications and place it fully on Christ’s dedication. His commitment. His finished work.
“To live is Christ” means trusting in Christ’s life alone as our witness. Never our own commitment level or words of promise. These will always testify against us. Only Jesus and his righteousness will bear witness for us on the day of judgment. May he be the only witness we call to the stand today and every day until he calls us home.
What commitments have you made to God lately? Have you kept them?
You in Christ
How does knowing that Christ kept all his commitments now free us up to serve God without “witnessing against ourselves?”
Christ in you
Will you serve today from Christ’s life, or your own commitment? What’s the difference?
Playlist: Christ’s Witness.
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I’m feeling blessed after reading this. Many thanks, Brady.