Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.
“Put Away the Other gods!”
I want to start with a funny story. I heard about three Catholic ladies: They boasted of their sons. One lady said, “My son is a priest. When he walks into the room and talks to the people, people call him, ‘Father.”’ The other lady said, “My son is a bishop. When he walks into the room and talks to the people, people say, ‘Your Grace.’” The third lady said, “My son is a broadcaster, six feet and three inches tall, is incredibly good looking and dresses impressively. When he walks in and talks to people, all the ladies say, ‘Oh my God!’”
How proud of your children are you? I wonder if you pray for your children as much as you are proud of them. I met a couple in South Korea. They had two sons. The first son was a troublemaker. Wherever he went, problems always followed him. He didn’t like to study. He always went against his parents and teachers.
On the other hand, their second son was the finest. He always obeyed his parents and teachers. He was the president of the student body at his school. He was in first place in his studies for writing, drawing, singing, and even sports. Wherever he went, the prize always followed him. When we think of the second son, the couple said to me, we feel boastful and arrogant, but when we think of the first son, we feel humble. We do not know what we can do for the first son. We believe that God gave us two different sons not to live in arrogance, but to live humbly and faithfully.”
I know it is not only true for this couple’s case. Perhaps there are similar cases among you. Many parents, who have several children, perhaps have both a good child and a troubled child. As I mentioned some days ago, they are perhaps, your painful fingers. The issues of most troubled children might be that they want to be recognized by their parents, or the people around them as “beloved one.” I often tell you, the best remedy for all is “love and caring.”
However, be careful. I am not saying that you should be an interfering busy body for your children, but I’m saying that you should encourage their dreams and support them with love and care. As you may know, both ways, too much care and indifference may lead them to be troubled people. Remember that your children are God’s loved ones, whether they are good or troubled. The best way you encourage them is to make them know they are loved by you and by God.
Recently, many people excessively love or have too much concern for their children and grandchildren, treating them like “gods” in their consciousness. The way you put others in your first place may lead your life into trouble because you belong to God. What is in first place in your life? Or, who is in first place in your life? Please put away other gods from being first in your life and only put Jesus Christ first as the Lord.
We have many moments where we have to choose a particular thing during our life journey. For example, we have to decide what we will eat for every meal, what kind of dress we will wear, and what we want to do in our Sabbath times. Furthermore, we have to choose a job, school, house, friends, and a spouse in our life journey. According to your choice, your life can go very differently. Among all the moments in life where you had to choose, your best choice was to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and the Lord. It affects all people around you as well as you. We can think of it a simple way: if you live a good Christian life, all people around you might be blessed by you because you are the blessing of God.
Today’s scripture is Joshua’s last sermon to the Israelite. He was 110 years old. He knew he would be gone soon. He asked people to gather in a nearby place. Joshua called for a decision to end up wandering throughout his life. He led the people asking to keep a God-centered mind and entered into the Promised Land. Granted, some of the people had been faithful, and he commended them for that. But Joshua had observed that many had reverted to old, traditional religious patterns. So, he boldly asked them to choose whether to serve God or serve the other gods of the gentiles: “now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living: but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (v.15).
This text calls people to decide for the Lord Christ. Ask them if they have made their choice. Ask them if they are firm in this choice. Unfortunately, we can’t take for granted that everyone in our sanctuary on a given Sunday morning is automatically a real Christian. Represented within our congregations are all types of human experience. The call goes out, “Choose this day the One you will serve for the rest of your life.” Perhaps, there are persons among us or around us who are in the valley of decision ̶ restless, uncertain, and bombarded with a multitude of impulses.
Hundreds of years later, Elijah on Mount Carmel gave a similar challenge. He said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:21). At that time, people were between God and Baal and more than 850 people died on Mount Carmel. On the day of Pentecost, the disciple Peter declared that the One promised by the Old Testament prophets had come ̶ Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. He was crucified, but He rose from the dead with a straightforward invitation to repentance and decision for Jesus Christ. Thousands chose. Lives were changed, and the church was founded (Acts 2:14-42). Many people were, in the words of Christ, “born again.” This experience has continued through the centuries. Some have come gradually to the Lord, while others have had dramatic religious experiences. There is the promise of the assurance of salvation that can be ours if we have met the conditions, admitting that we are sinners, expressing genuine sorrow for our sins, and placing our trust in Jesus Christ as the One who has promised us His forgiveness.
Joshua knew that people caught up in indecision needed to be reminded of the facts if their choice was to be based on responsible data. He urged that they consider the options. They could dust off the other gods left behind by their unconsciousness. It is not much different from us. We live in an uncertain and unstable life journey, especially experiencing the COVID 19 pandemic. We are challenged to put away our idols-husband, wife, child, sweetheart, boss, president, job, car, social media, whatever it is that so mesmerizes us. We are exhorted to let God be God. Joshua was willing to model this. He had done it decades before. He could look back and say, “God has been faithful. I’ve made my decision. What about you?” I also ask you to make your decision firmly for you and for your family members. According to your choice, your life and your family’s life may go differently. If you chose to put Jesus Christ first, please serve Him as the Lord sincerely and speak up, “Jesus Christ is my Lord” as often as you can in public. It is the way to protect and keep your spirit authentic and pure before God. If you have a troubled child like a painful finger, proclaim, “My child belongs to God,” as often as you can because it might be about a spiritual battle. The apostle Paul encouraged people, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). And he said, “for our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic power of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Therefore, let us put away others from our first place and put God back into it. Thanks be to God. Amen!