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Your House, Your Choice - Joshua 24:14-15

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Follow carefully how one man and one family made a huge difference in a nation that needed direction and a pattern. Upon reviewing the spectacular history of his people, Joshua stakes his claim—not so much on a physical portion of land as much as on a spiritual and relational heritage that would be markedly different from the other nations around them. The choice was concerning his own household. We face a similar challenge—to shape our world or be shaped by our world.

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4/28/2002
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Your House, Your Choice
Joshua 24:14-15
Skip Heitzig
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Follow carefully how one man and one family made a huge difference in a nation that needed direction and a pattern. Upon reviewing the spectacular history of his people, Joshua stakes his claim—not so much on a physical portion of land as much as on a spiritual and relational heritage that would be markedly different from the other nations around them. The choice was concerning his own household. We face a similar challenge—to shape our world or be shaped by our world.
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House That God Builds, The

House That God Builds, The

In today's society, we get a lot of mixed messages when it comes to marriage and the family. Seemingly endless numbers of self-help books line the shelves of every bookstore, but sometimes it's hard to know which sources to trust. We do know that the Bible is the ultimate source for truth. In this two-volume series, Pastor Skip Heitzig explores marriage and family issues through a biblical lens. Discover God's blueprint for building healthy relationships and a godly home.

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  1. Joshua—Chairman of a Nation
    A. His Position
    B. His Priorities
  2. Joshua's Challenge to the People
    A. The Need to Choose
    B. The Need to Separate
  3. Joshua's Choice about His Family
    A. It Was Personal
    B. It Was Communal

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A member of my staff gave me a list of great truths that he passed on to me. These are great truths about life that little children have learned. There are ten of them. You might say this author found the top ten truths that children have learned about life. Number one, no matter how hard you try, you can’t baptize cats. Number two, when your mom is mad at your dad, don’t let her brush your hair. The third fact and truth, if your sister hits you, don’t hit her back, they always catch the second person. Number four, never ask your three-year-old brother to hold a tomato. Number five, you cannot trust dogs to watch your food. Number six, don’t sneeze when somebody is cutting your hair. Number seven, never hold a Dustbuster and a cat at the same time. (laughter) Number eight, you can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk. Number nine on the list is don’t wear polka dotted underwear with white shorts. And number ten, the best place to be when you’re sad is Grandpa’s lap. (I knew you’d say that.) Now there’s a common thread in those simple child-like truths, the common thread is that all of them are woven into the fabric of family life. And that’s what I want to talk to you about tonight and the next several weeks while we’re together, Family Life: God’s Pattern for the Family.

Why? Because the family affects absolutely everything, everyone. Everybody’s got a family, everybody has a launching pad: good, bad, dysfunctional, healthy, whatever. We all have some place we were launched from, we all have our set of baggage that makes us who we are. And it’s important to understand God’s pattern, because as the family goes, so goes the nation, so goes everything. You know the family is the basic unit of human society. Before there was anything else, before there was human government, before there was social clubs, before there was PTAs, before there were gangs; there was the family unit that God established.

If you are married, or you are single, whether you have lots of children and it’s like a tribe at your house, or you are childless; this series will have something in it for you. I hope it will be instructive and inspiring.

Now, as I look around, as I look around on the Internet, as I look around at the bookstores, Christian and non-Christian; there is a sea of information out there. There’s not an information problem, we’re drowning in a sea of information. On marriage and the family, on child-rearing. There are seminars, there are conferences, there are encounters. Some of them are good, some of them are great, some of them are not so good, some of them are worthless. But there’s a lot out there. I just think it’s time once again for Christians and for us who are Christians to revisit and to recommit to God’s pattern for marriage, family, dating, purity, and raising children. (applause) And I don’t know that we all share the same notion of how really important it is to do that. How desperate we are for health, what we would call normal, I know that’s a term that is being questioned and tossed out, families today. How desperate we are.

I found this and I wanted to pass it on. It was written by Katherine Hammond. She researched it and found and said this, “What do you do when you’re a grandparent whose children and grandchildren don’t come to see you any more? If you feel overcome by loneliness and sadness.” Well a Japanese entrepreneur realized that his country had a great number in this situation and he decided to offer a service that would bring relief by fantasy. For the staggering sum of 150,000 yen his company, NKH will provide three trained stand-in family members for a three-hour period. Now does he really get clients? He Certainly does. And he always has a good number on the waiting list. Rent A Family works like this: The hired actors play the roles of children, grandchildren, daughters and sons-in-law, whatever the clients require. Normally they just sit around and talk but often the clients will berate their pretend children for leaving them so alone and sad. Why has this unusual scheme caught on? The founder says (and I can’t pronounce his name, so I’ll spare you the try) he says, “There are lots of old people who feel sad because everyone is chasing money and no one is paying attention to the human spirit.” We hit a nerve, didn’t we? The human spirit. We all have one, we all have that need, that desire to be unconditionally loved. And nothing can quite do it like the family, if it’s done right.

We’re in Joshua 24 tonight for this first installment in this series. And we’re going to look at several verses here and a couple of other passages in the Old Testament tonight. But we’re going to begin by looking at the heart of this message by Joshua. Verse 14 and 15, “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth. And put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the river and in Egypt. Serve the Lord. And if it seems to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the river. Or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Tonight I want to treat three things. Joshua as a person, in fact he is like the chairman of the nation. Then Joshua’s challenge to his nation, what he tells them to do. There’ll be words for us, and then a choice that Joshua himself makes for he and for his family.

First of all, Joshua, he’s the guy that is saying this. I’m going to take away some of the romantic notion of this passage, as I tell you that he was not a young man when he spoke these words. You may have thoughts that he was in his 30s, maybe 40s, he is about 100 when he gives this message to the children of Israel. He is the general of Israel’s united armed forces. He is the spokesperson, the overseer of the nation. In fact, we might even see him as the vice president who became president, he was Moses’ successor. The Lord through Moses picked him to take over. He was selected, drafted really. when he was eighty years old, now he’s a hundred, probably, around that age. And this is his last speech. This is his state of the union address to his country, the people of Israel. And after this, shortly after this, he will die.

According to Josephus, Joshua was born as a slave in Egypt, was taken in that migration through the desert, he was one of the two spies sent out that was to oversee the land. And then he came back and he became this, he took over for Moses and became the great general of this army. Let me just tell you where they are, because it’s important. It’s mentioned in verse 1, I’m just going to give you a quick summary. They’re at Shechem. And for you Bible nerds who do a lot of studying that will ring a bell, because Shechem was the place Abraham made a commitment to God and he built an altar there. Shechem was the place Jacob returned after he was in Padan-aram with his father-in-law and he made a recommitment, burying his idols., recommitting has life to God. It was here at Schechem that Joshua had already met with the children of Israel sometime before this and put up stones and had the Ten Commandments written on them. They’re back, the stones probably are right there as Joshua gives this message to his people. That is who he is, that’s his position.

But he had some priorities that I want you to look at, because when he speaks this to the people of Israel, he’s not really giving this so much as the leader of a nation, though he was that, but really as the leader of his family, the leader of his home. He made a personal decision, he made a corporate decision, it was a family priority. In fact, he says in verse 15, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Buy-ite is the Hebrew word. It can mean a number of things. It can mean a literal house with four walls and a roof. It could mean a place of, a territory of. The Hebrews have the word bate-lechem, Bethlehem, the place of bread because that is where the breadbasket of Israel, that’s where the grain, came from that area. But it often means, and here it means, household family. “As for me and my household, my family, we will serve the Lord.” It is a declaration of a priority that this man makes. And I believe he’s doing that, I believe this is his last speech and he includes himself and his family because he realizes the power of a good example, the power of a godly cohesive family and what that can do for a nation. A marriage, a family, and consequently a nation, since a nation is just made up of lots of families, is always weakened when our priorities aren’t right. I know you’ve heard that a thousand times, straighten out your priorities. Hear it again, when by overwork and overcommitment that translates into less time with the family, the entire nation is weakened, Joshua knew that. Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health studied high-risk inner city neighborhoods and they discovered something. They found that just six percent of children from stable (what they call) safe families became delinquent, only six percent. Whereas ninety percent, same area of the city, ninety percent of kids from unstable one-parent families who lacked supervision became delinquent. They were trying to make a point. The point they were making is crime isn’t the result of race or poverty but misplaced priorities, that’s where it comes from. Chuck Colson, regarding this statistic, he’s the President of Prison Fellowship, he said, “Take away the family and we might as build prison cells right now. That,” he says, “is the problem.”

I followed that up with another article I have here from the Scientific American. It is written by Yuri Brofenbrenner about the challenges that are facing American families and he lists several of them. One of the top on his list he calls the rat race. We know what that is. The rat race. This is what he writes, “The demands of a job that claim meal times, evenings, weekends, as well as days, the trips and the moves necessary to get ahead or simply hold one’s own, the increasing time spent commuting, entertaining, going out, meeting social and community obligations; all of these produce a situation in which a child often spends more time with a passive babysitter than with a participating parent. Now hear Yuri’s words next to Joshua’s words, “As for me and my household (my family) we’re going to serve the Lord.

At the same time, I want to balance that out by thanking the breadwinners, the hard workers who have to work sometimes two or more jobs just to stay intact and pay the bills. We applaud you, moms, dad, for your hard work. My point however is just make sure that your labor, the bulk of the labor of your life is labor work on the people, the relationships, rather than the stuff that we place around those relationships.

Well, that’s Joshua as a person. Let’s look at the challenge that he gives to his people. He says in verse 14, “Now therefore fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth and put away the gods which your father served on the other side of the river and in Egypt. Serve the Lord.

Then he gets narrow, “If it seems evil, (if you think it’s bad, if you think it’s wrong) for you to serve the Lord, then choose for yourselves today, this day, whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the river. Or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.” He challenges them to chose something, to make a choice now, to do it now. Not just think about this, “this is my last speech, I’m a hundred, make a decision now, here’s my choice, what about you? I can’t speak for all of you,” he says, “I can’t speak for every family in Israel (there’s about three million people, that translates into hundreds of thousands of families) but I can make a choice for myself.” We’ll examine that choice in a minute. But he calls them to make a choice. “Choose for yourselves this day.”

Now I want you to go back to get some context, to verse 1, because what he does is something I think is brilliant, he goes over quickly their history. And after telling them their history, he says, “Now you’ve got to do something with that.” It says, “Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and called for the elders of Israel for their heads, for their judges, for their officers. And they presented themselves before God.” All of the representative heads, all of the leadership was there. And Joshua said to all the people, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Your fathers including Terah the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor dwelt on the other side of the river in old times and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the river, led him through all the land of Canaan and multiplied him his descendants and gave him Isaac. To Isaac I have Jacob and Esau. To Esau I gave the mountains of Seer to possess but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. I also sent Moses and Aaron and I plagued Egypt. According to what I did among them afterward, I brought you out. And I brought your fathers out of Egypt and you came to the sea. And the Egyptians pursued your fathers with chariots, horsemen to the Red Sea. So they cried out to the Lord and He put darkness between you and the Egyptians, brought the sea upon them, covered them, and your eyes saw what I did in Egypt. Then you dwelt in the wilderness a long time. And I brought you into the land of Amorite, who dwelt on the other side of the Jordan. And they fought with you but I gave them into your hand that you might possess their land. And I destroyed them from before you. Then Baalak, the son of Zapor, the king of Moab rose to make war against Israel, sent and called Baalim the son of Bahor to curse you. But I would not listen to Baalim, therefore he continued to bless you. So I delivered you out of his hand. Then you went out of the Jordan and came to Jericho and the men of Jericho fought against you. Also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, (the termites (laughter) I threw that in), the Gergashites, the Hivites, the Jebusites; but I delivered them into your hand. I sent the hornet before you which drove them out before you, also the two kings of the Amorites, but not with your sword or with your bow. I have given you a land for which you did not labor. And cities which you did not build. And you dwell in them. You eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.” You see what he is doing/ He is rehearsing all that God has done to and for and through this people called Israel. He talks about the covenant, he talks about the deliverance, he talks about the gift of the land. And Joshua, as if becoming the oracle of God speaks in the first person, as if God himself is speaking. Notice he says, “I took, I gave, I sent, I brought you out, I brought your fathers out, I brought you into the land, I delivered you. So he compares the false gods with the true God, what they didn’t do, what he did. And then he says in verse 14, “Now therefore fear the Lord.” In other words and listen carefully, the commitment Joshua demands from them is the logical response to all that God has done. Look what God has done for you, look at your history. Now, therefore, because of that, fear the Lord, serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve.

Every sermon you and I hear, every message that comes into our ears, and I will say especially the set of messages that we will be hearing in the next few weeks, will demand a choice from us when we hear them. Not, “Well I’ll think about it,” because in effect you’ve made your choice, haven’t you? Every time we study the Bible in the next few weeks, every sermon we hear, we’re going to talk about the family, we’re going to bring the Bible to bear and we’re going to apply it to our hearts; be ready to make a choice. Be ready to make a choice concerning your marriage, concerning your family, concerning sexual purity, concerning dating, singleness, concerning raising children, concerning single parenting. You will make certain choices, you will be called upon to do that. It has been well said that we make our decisions and then our decisions turn around and they make us. Some of us have already done that. Some of us have made good ones, some of us have made bad ones. The good news is you can make new ones, by God’s grace.

Now, what choice are we to make? First of all, he says, “Look, fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and truth.” That’s where the family begins. The home begins with a personal commitment to your Lord, the author and maker of all families. That’s where it begins. It’s saying, “I commit myself to God and God’s pattern for my relationships. I am willing to do that.” That’s part of following God.

I want you to turn Psalm 127 for just a moment. It’s a familiar Psalm, I’ve taught it to you at least twice if not three times. It’s a short five-verse Psalm. It’s about the household, the family. And you’ll see that the home begins with a philosophy, a personal set of commitments. It begins by saying, Solomon by the way is writing this, you know his background, “unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early and to sit up late (it’s a verse for every teenager) to eat the bread of sorrows, for so he gives his beloved sleep.” Now look at that first verse, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” You cannot pull off this assignment alone. The assignment of a marriage, of a family, of any kind of relationship that requires this level of responsibility, you can’t do it alone. You can’t do it by your own rules. You can’t do it with worldly philosophies, therapies, and ideologies. Unless the Lord builds the house, it’s for nothing.

Now look down at verse 3 through 5, “Behold children are a heritage from the Lord.” The fruit of t he womb is his reward. “like arrows in the hands of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has quiver full of them. They shall not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.” There’s there words I want you to notice in those verses. Here’s a man speaking, Solomon is speaking. Notice the word Lord, it’s mentioned three times in this Psalm, it’s implied another two or three. And the word womb, that can only refer to one person, the wife. And then he mentions children a couple of times. So you have God, the man speaking, God, the wife, and the children. There is the core of a family. And here is the definition of a family: it is these core relationships all centering around the Lord who is building the house. That’s a home and that’s a choice, for the Lord to build the house.

We know this to be true but I’m going to say it anyway: If you take everything in your life, all of the accoutrements, all of the status, all of the wealth, all of the things, the stuff; if you boil life down to its irreducible minimum, you have one thing and that is relationships. You have horizontal relationships, relationships with people, friends, family; and you have vertical relationship with God. Relationships is at the core, it’s what life is, that’s the irreducible minimum of life. And yet, those are the things we often fail at. What is the core basis of life? Relationships.

Some years ago I wrote a book called Relationships. And the4 reason I did it, it was based upon a teaching series here at church when I gave a poll to the congregation asking them to just ask questions about whatever and we would take them all and we would answer the questions and do a series called “Answering Your Questions.” And I was surprised, not to find lots of questions on relationships but an enormous pile of questions on relationships. That was by far, ninety-five percent, of all the questions asked. How do I live with this creep I’m married to? How do I raise these children? How do I stay in love? We hit a hot spot. And I discovered in sifting through those questions that there were lots of dating situations, marriage situations, child and parent relationships that did not have God at the center, nor were they governed by God’s principles.

So he calls on them to make a choice. And part of that choice, let’s go back now, is the need to make a separation. Notice that he says to them, “Put away the gods which your fathers served.” Put away the gods which your father served. That’s what the choice is, you’re going to choose these gods, those gods, or this one singular God, the God of Israel. To put all of that into our context of the family, we need to stop emulating the family when it comes to family and marriage relationships. The relationships, the marriages, the families, in the church ought to be vastly different, ought to look vastly different from the world. The sad truth is often they do not. My question to you is, who’s going to shape you? There’s a choice you can make, who’s going to shape you? What will shape or who will shape your ideal, your ideas of what a family is to be, of what a wife is to be, of what a husband is to be.

Over the last four decades, marriage and family in our country, in our nation, in our culture, has changed dramatically. Social scientist James Wilson said we are witnessing a profound worldwide long-term change in the family that is likely to continue for a long time. He talks about the scale of marital breakdown since the 1960s. And what he says is that, it has no historical precedent at all. None, We’re witnessing a first in terms of breakdown in commitment in relationships. In fact, he says as do others, that a lot of scholars are referring to our culture as a post-marriage society. Now think about that, think about you living now in a post-marriage culture. That’s what many scholars are calling it. Of course, we know the reasons why, the rise in the divorce rate, the abortion rate, the out-of-wedlock births, single-parent homes, all of those factors added together contribute to that.

The demographer Kinsley Davis from US in Berkeley said, “At no time in history, with the possible exception of imperial Rome, has the institution of marriage been more problematic that it is today. Now tonight I’m not going to go into all the factors why but I’m going to quote this one to you. This sort of sets the pace of the new thinking. It’s from Time magazine, it’s an article by feminist Barbara Erin Reich, she’s an advocate of the traditional one-size-fits-all family and marriage. She says, “It should be replaced with different and better model. Renewable marriages which get re-evaluated every five to seven years after which they can be revised, recalibrated, or dissolved, with no o fewer hard feelings.” Of course, she doesn’t say how you do that. How do you commit to9 somebody for five to seven years and then break it off with no or few hard feelings. The bottom line is this, in our society the family is up for grabs. It really is. The traditional family is being replaced by gay and lesbian families. Permanent marriage is being replaced by cohabitation. Fewer people are getting married. “Forget it, just live together.” Ozzie and Harriet are being replaced by Ozzie Osborne and family as the number one watched show in that genre.

Now I’m not hear to curse the darkness and say, “it’s all bad, bad, bad.” I’m here to simply ask us tonight whose going to shape us, what’s going to shape our thinking. Who are we going to go with? Are we going to serve t he Lord and go His way, His pattern, His principles? Are we going to let rock stars mold our thinking? Like Melissa Ethridge, David Crosby and that pattern of sexual implantation? Are we going Ozzie Osborne? Are we going to follow the feminist pundits? The popular press? Or, are we going to follow God’s ways?

Listen, if your family is intact, if you have a healthy intact loving, communicating, laughing family, you are the exception. And our tragic culture needs you badly, needs to see that badly.

We end tonight with a choice that Joshua makes. He challenges the people to make their own. And then he says, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” There’s two components to that: me and my house. It’s a personal commitment as well as a corporate commitment. This is what I’m going to do as the leader of my home. And as the leader of my home I’ll speak for all of us, this is what we’re going to do, we’re going to serve the Lord. This husband, this father, stands in front of his nation and makes a commitment, that he’s going to pass on the commitment he has to God to his family. I want you to turn with me to on other passage of scripture before we close and that is Deuteronomy chapter 6, because there is this principle, it’s found not only in Joshua, it’s found in Deuteronomy and I think it’s found in so many other places. Deuteronomy chapter 6, I’ll give you the principle as you’re turning to it. Our spiritual personal commitment should affect every other relationship in life. Let me underscore that again, our personal spiritual commitment should affect every other relationship we have in life. You cannot separate them. There’s not a sacred and a secular, this is how I am on Sunday, but “this is how I really am.” Hudson Taylor said, “If your father, your mother, your sister, your brother, if the very cat and dog in your house are not happier for you being a Christian it’s a question whether you really are. It changes everything.

Now, in Deuteronomy chapter 6, “now this is the commandment, these are statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep His statutes, his commandments which I command you and your son and your grandson all the days of your life that your days may be prolonged. Therefore hear O Israel and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, that you may multiply greatly as the Lord God of your fathers has promised you a land flowing with milk and honey. Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Now that’s the tenant that separated Israel from all of the other nations, one God. Not fifty, not ten thousand, one. Verse 5, look at that, this is how they’re to respond to that truth, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. In other words, you’ve got to make a personal commitment to him. It’s like the therefore, this is what God has done for you, therefore do this.

But then that’s followed up in the next couple of verses by a corporate commitment, to pass it on to the family. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, they shall be as frontlets between your eyes, you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. It shall be when the Lord your God brings you into the land which he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you large beautiful cities which you did not build and houses (etc.,etc.). You shall not (verse 14) go after other gods of the peoples who are all around you.” And he tells them again as the chapter goes on, keep them, love God, and teach them diligently to your children.

Now you have God’s pattern for a family. Be personally committed to God and His principles and His pattern for your relationships. And then pass that on to your children so they’re equipped when they’re adults to replicate that cycle. Give them a good pattern, a good cycle, because they’re going to grow up and they’re going to be like we are. That’s just how it works. So, teach them to your children. Personal and corporate commitment.
Billy Sunday, I’ve always admired his preaching, I’ve read it, haven’t heard it, because he was before I was born. But he said, “The tragedy of my life is that although I’ve led thousands of people to Jesus Christ, my own sons are not saved.” What a heartbreak for any evangelist. Be committed, pass it on. By the way, this world needs the kind of children that only you can produce. Those Christian kids that are surrounded by loving godly parents, what that produces, this world needs to see it, needs to hear it. That’s why when we dedicate babies we pray not only for the baby but for the mom and the dad, for the parents; because you can dedicate your baby but if you’re personally not dedicated to the Lord, what is that? “Well, now that we have children, we need to start going to church, they need it.” Well you need it too. In fact, they need to see that you need it. They need to see your commitment is more than a little sign that hangs over your dinner table that he’s the unseen guest at every meal. More than a family Bible on the coffee table. More than a picture of Jesus. They need to see a life-lived commitment. That will go a long way.

And so, this is a call to fathers, to mothers, to future parents, to lead and to be committed to God and to those relationships. Your surrounding culture has abandoned moral absolutes, don’t you do it. Your surrounding culture has reconfigured and is redefining the family, don’t you do it. Your surrounding culture is drifting aimlessly like a log down a river, be strong, be firm, be committed. That’s what Joshua is doing. By the way, good families don’t just happen, it takes work, it takes that commitment, “I’m committed to Him, to His principles.”

Well that’s the end of our passage but I want you to notice what happened because if you just leave the story with this challenge, you’re going to go home wondering, “Well what did they do, after this moving speech of Joshua’s, this hundred year old guy? Verse 16, look at it, in Joshua 24, “So the people answered and said, ‘Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods.’ Verse 24, “And the people said to Joshua, ‘The Lord our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey.’ So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.”

They did that, can’t we do that? Couldn’t we tonight make a covenant before the Lord by God’s grace and strength? We made a covenant when we said, ‘I’ll marry you. Til death do us part.” Can’t we make a covenant tonight that we’re going to pattern our life and our relationship after God’s ways? I say we can. In fact, I say we stand at this point and stand if you are willing and ready to make that commitment. Of course the pressure is on. In the next several weeks you’re going to hear a message on singleness and on sexual purity and on marriages and on raising children and on the blended family and on divorce. And each study we’re going to be making some kind of commitment, this day, whom we’re going to serve.

As we make this commitment, as you stand with me, as we stand together before the Lord, I’m going to tell you a story, just to bring it home, before we pray. There were two boats that were sailing from Memphis, Tennessee to New Orleans, Louisiana. And they were cargo boats. They launched out into the river and as they launched out, sailors from one boat looked at the other one and yelled at it and said, “You’re so slow, you’re at a snail’s pace, I can beat you any day.” And other words were exchanged back. And they yelled and they shouted. And so the race was on. They decided to race and see who would get their quicker. They were neck and neck as they went through the deep South down the river. As time went on, one of the boats fell behind, further and further and further. You see he had enough coal to make the journey but not enough coal to win the race. So one bright sailor had the idea of taking some of the cargo and putting it into the furnace and found that it burned just as well as the coal did. So he loaded in the cargo that he was sent to deliver and he won the race. But he lost the cargo.

coal to win the race. So one bright sailor had the idea of taking some of the cargo and putting it into the furnace and found that it burned just as well as the coal did. So he loaded in the cargo that he was sent to deliver and he won the race. But he lost the cargo.

You and I have been given cargo on this journey called life. Cargo: wife, husband, children, parents, parents-in-law, and others; that’s our cargo. Are you willing to burn your cargo to win the race personally for yourself? What are you willing to burn to get ahead personally? What’s most important? You’ve stood and you’ve said, “God’s ways are most important.” Let’s pray together for that.

Heavenly Father, we are making a choice this day, a covenant, a covenant as Joshua made with these people of Israel, that we will serve our God, that we will be committed for God to build the house so that we don’t labor in vain. Lord, we know that Satan is out to destroy our family, and he’s doing a very good job in our country. And he is going to destroy the family in our culture if Jesus is not in control. So we begin where we ought to begin by a commitment first of all to you personally, with that vertical relationship, we want that to flourish. And then Father we pray as we learn your love and your forgiveness that we would learn how to love and how to forgive, how to humble ourselves in a relationship, how to communicate, how to make things work. Lord, I pray that this will not be a series of messages that just goes by and the same old patterns are set up that we emulate like the world. Change us, change marriages in this church. Create a breed of men and women who fiercely are committed to one another for life, til death do they part. To raise children by emulating it, by living it, and by teaching it. Lord, help us in those areas that require extra grace and strength, I pray especially for single moms, for single dads, those raiding a child alone. Lord, surround them with people, surround them with Your resources. Enable us, Lord, to be your people, to be different from those who serve other gods. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Additional Messages in this Series

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5/5/2002
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God Plans a Wedding
Genesis 2:18-25
Skip Heitzig
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Today, we unroll the original blueprints for the structure of a good marriage. We will see and hear what the Divine Architect had in mind, as the very first marriage was planned by God, Himself. Let's go back in time—before the days of humanism, feminism, chauvinism, and polygamy. Let's go back to the days before no-fault divorce and prenuptial agreements. What was God's intention for the wedding and marriage that He planned?
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5/12/2002
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The Breakdown of the First Family
Genesis 3:1-24
Skip Heitzig
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Soon after God stated His intentions in the marriage relationship between a man and a woman, there were problems in paradise. The introduction of a third party into this perfect environment challenged the choices of this first couple. The repercussions of their decision is still felt today and replicated in relationships. But woven into the story is a promise of recovery and emancipation. The grace of God is abundant where the failure of man is prevalent.
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5/19/2002
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The Family: A Well-Lubricated Machine
Ephesians 5:18-21
Skip Heitzig
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Some engine noises can be very annoying. But the knocks, clangs, grinds and whirring that come from your car are all symptomatic of some problem deep inside. Mechanics are trained to help identify and repair the trouble. If not attended to in time, there may be bigger problems in the future, even complete failure. Today we look at the elements that contribute to a smooth running marriage. These are foundational and must be understood before individual roles are discussed.
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5/26/2002
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Submission: A Role With a Goal
Ephesians 5:22-24
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God's plan for your life is the best plan for your life. He designed you to live a fulfilling existence that is overflowing with joy. Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). In order to do so, we must function within the parameters of His will for the roles we occupy in life. After discovering last week that being filled with the Spirit and mutual submission is foundational in healthy marriages, today we look at the basic role of a wife.
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6/2/2002
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The Strong Shelter of a Husband's Love
Ephesians 5:25-32
Skip Heitzig
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OK men, it's your turn today. God's blueprint for the husband in a marriage is in view here. You will discover that the kind of love the Bible speaks about a husband having provides a secure shelter for his wife. This kind of love makes it easy for a woman to submit to you. I believe that the husband holds the keys to a successful relationship by the way he initiates and the way he cultivates love within a home. May God raise up more real men!
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6/9/2002
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Weeds of Unfaithfulness In the Garden of Love
Matthew 5:27-30
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A fifteenth century nobleman remarked, "It is with our passions, as it is with fire and water. They are good servants but bad masters." Every married couple needs to tend the garden of their love. That means of course pulling out the weeds that would lead to unfaithful behavior. Many a married couple has been burned by the fire of adultery. The flame of passion must burn only for one's spouse. Let's consider how our marriages can stay adultery-proof.
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6/30/2002
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Building Blocks of Marital Intimacy
Proverbs 5:15-23
Skip Heitzig
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Being intimate with someone involves more than merely a physical relationship. Intimacy is a sense of tender caring and affection in which one can be totally vulnerable without the fear of being hurt or misunderstood. Intimacy is essential if a marriage is going to survive, let alone thrive. How about your marriage? Do these following three elements that foster intimacy exist in your marriage? (Ask your spouse if they feel the same way!)
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7/21/2002
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The Child's Role In a Happy Home
Ephesians 6:1-2
Skip Heitzig
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A young couple, on the way to the hospital to have their second child, heard their six-year-old son give them parting wisdom, "Be sure and get a receipt, so if it's a girl, we can return her!" But we know children are a gift and a heritage from the Lord (see Psalm 127:3). We don't return them. Nor can we exchange our parents for other parents. The ones we have are the ones we must obey and honor. A child contributes to the health and happiness of the home by obedience.
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7/28/2002
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The World's Most Important Job
Ephesians 6:4
Skip Heitzig
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What job would be more important to the world than a parent? A surgeon, lawyer, president, pastor, or economist? No way! Think of a parent's influence: Every word and deed of a parent is a fiber woven into the character of a child that ultimately determines how that child fits into the fabric of society. In fact, a child identifies his parents with God, whether the adults want that role or not. Today, we begin with a few preliminary truths from a very primary text.
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8/4/2002
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How to Fashion a Young Life
Ephesians 6:4
Skip Heitzig
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The tender years of youth are malleable and impressionable like soft clay. Parents assume the role of the artist during those years, shaping and molding the young personalities (though each child has his/her own propensities). This task cannot be done haphazardly; it requires caring involvement. A second pass through Ephesians 6:4 reveals some helpful tools in shaping their lives.
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8/11/2002
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Teach Your Children Well!
Proverbs 1-23
Skip Heitzig
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The kind of curriculum that parents can provide at home for their children is more valuable than any college degree or trade. Parents are to do more than finance their children-they are to bring them up, which as we have already seen, includes involvement and training. A mother and father can provide an ambiance of learning that no other environment on earth can come close to. So what exactly are some of the things that parents should train their children in?
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8/18/2002
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The Single Parent—When Half Must Be the Whole
1 Kings 17:1-24; 2 Timothy 1:1-18
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The family has changed on the American landscape. There's no denying it; there's no way of getting around it. Many factors have led to this change but now we must deal with it. One of the toughest roles in this new society is the role of the single parent. Pressures from life's demands, family members, friends, and even the church make this role more difficult. What do single parents need to know and what can the church do to help?
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8/25/2002
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Living Life Fully While Flying Solo
Matthew 19:1-30; 1 Corinthians 7:1-40
Skip Heitzig
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Is singleness a blessing, a gift, or a curse? Should the top priority of a single person be to find a mate? Why is it that singleness is deemed either as inappropriate and mediocre or seen by some as spiritually superior to marriage? As we consider these queries, the most important matter is that single life be full and enriching, a positive experience. Perhaps you've lost your mate or you are still waiting for "the one" or perhaps you're happy to remain single. Whichever category you fall into, let's consider singleness in light of Scripture.
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9/1/2002
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Finding the Love of Your Life
Genesis 24:1-67; 29:1-35
Skip Heitzig
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Concerning dating, someone quipped, "Some people are unmarried for the same reason that some drivers run out of gas. They pass too many filling stations looking for their favorite brand!" This little tongue-in-cheek quote unfortunately is often true. I'm all for getting the "right ingredients" in a person, but you'd better make sure you're using the right checklist. Let's consider two examples from Scripture to discover the principles for finding the love of your life.
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There are 14 additional messages in this series.