Joshua 24:15 “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua assembled the Israelites at Shechem and renewed the covenant between God and His people. Joshua concluded the assembly by giving free choice to the people as to whom they could serve. As any great leader Joshua lead by example. As any great leader Joshua’s example was clear and consistent in all areas of his life.
Our lives are guided by the examples we choose to follow. We may not like to admit it but if we don’t follow good examples we follow bad ones. Look at the vast industry of advertising and the huge sums of money that goes into this activity. What makes advertising work? The power of example! The choices we make with our money and resources are the examples we give to those around us and our children. The choices we make show the world the god(s) or God we serve. Albert Schweitzer said; “Example is not the main thing in life it is the only thing!”
A few weeks ago I was at a healing workshop at a local evangelical church. The workshop leaders made the observation that in our society there are many broken hurting people who are desperate for the Gospel message about God’s kingdom but often these people don’t see the church as a group that will help bring them safely into that kingdom. Sadly we in the church can be poor examples of Jesus’ love for those who are struggling.
What an observation! It brings to mind Jesus’ damning indictment of the Pharisees; “. . . what sorrow also awaits you experts in religious law! For you crush people with unbearable religious demands, and you never lift a finger to ease the burden.” (Luke 11:46) How can we help break the chains of bondage that people struggle with when we add more chains by way of self-righteous judgements and hypocritical requirements for people to be just like us rather than being the compassionate face of Jesus in their lives? Compassion doesn’t mean compromise. Compassion is based on honesty; “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7)
The example we set for our children has been passed down to us through our parents. My wife often says we’re like goldfish in a bowl, our children are always watching us. The example our parents set for us was passed to them through their parents. The Bible tells us about good examples and bad examples that were often found in the same person. Abraham had a problem with lying that his son Isaac followed in (Gen 20:2, 26:7). However, Isaac also followed his father’s example in being faithful to God and was blessed because of it.
The people in the Bible lived lives of mixed blessings because they were not perfect. We live lives of mixed blessings because we are not perfect. I have shared occasions when I was a poor example for my children. And I have shared the times that by His Grace, I got it right! Yet, through all of our failings God is faithful to bless us and our families in the areas that we strive to follow Him; “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) He doesn’t abandon us when we are less than perfect. He didn’t abandon me!
How do you break generational chains of bondage? The first step is to take a stand like Joshua did. For some there is so much wreckage in their lives that their house only goes as far as their skin. They have a lot of territory to recover. Broken relationships, burned bridges and lifelong resentments have left them bereft and without hope. The Gospel message tells us that when we believe there is no hope we believe a lie. The Gospel message is hope and it is never too late to take a stand and start the process of breaking chains of bondage and walking to freedom!
Answer His call; “I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” (Isaiah 42:6,7) A heart cry to the Lord is all it takes to begin the journey out of the prison of our present and past. His Word will break those chains; “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
Someone has to be the first. Someone has to be the example for those around them. Someone has to find enough desperate courage to cry out, ‘as for me, I will serve the Lord’. Someone must bring the example of freedom to their family, to their community and to their neighbours.
Let that person be you!