Tuesday, April 13, 2021

April 13 - Joshua 24, Acts 1

 Key verse: Joshua 24:15

Big idea: Victory is rooted in a choice.

About thirty years before our chapter Moses had given his farewell address to the nation. He had reiterated the covenant that God had made with them at Sinai, and had told them that he was setting before them life and death, calling on them to choose life. Now, Joshua was ready to be gathered to his fathers and to Moses, and it was time to give his own farewell speech. Israel was in a drastically different situation: rather than being nomads east of Jordan, they were now settled in the land which God had promised them. The great battles of their early history were behind them, and they had finally learned what it meant to experience victory. But in another sense, they were in the same position they had been all of those years before. Every generation chooses between life and death, victory and defeat. Indeed, every individual is faced with the same challenge that Moses and Joshua presented: God has shown Himself to be faithful, how will you respond?

Joshua made it clear that the people before him were faced with a choice. Who would they serve? Would they go to the gods of the pagan nations they had displaced? Would they follow the gods that Abram's family had worshipped before God called him out? They might do those things, but he and his family would not. They would serve the LORD, who had rescued them, blessed them, and would continue to do so. 

Like Moses before him, Joshua pled that the people would choose life. In 1 Kings 18:21, Elijah would confront another generation with the same challenge. Matthew 7:24-27 revealed that a life is either built on the foundation of obedience to Jesus or is built on sand and destined to collapse. It is a choice: life or death, faith or rebellion, victory or defeat.

Discussion idea: Why does God arrange the Old Testament so that Moses and Joshua's farewells were so similar? How does this same element of choice apply to our lives? Is the command to "choose this day whom you will serve" a one time choice or a repeated one?

Prayer focus: Lord, help me to choose You. Help me to not be pulled to all of the temptations that compete for my loyalty but give my heart to you alone.

Key verse: Acts 1:1
Big Idea: The church of Jesus continues the ministry of the Son of Man. 

Have you ever accidentally hit the scan button on a CD player (for our younger readers, a CD is a flat circle that stores music)? It is an irritating experience. It plays a few seconds of a song, then jumps to the next one. If you did not mean to turn it on and cannot find the button to turn it off, you are left with the really unfulfilling experience of a lot of beginnings and no resolutions. I like to hear the next part! Today, we get to read the next part in the ongoing story of God’s rescue of humanity. Acts was written by the same Luke who wrote the Gospel According to Luke and they are so closely intertwined that many scholars refer to them as a single book called Luke-Acts.

The beginning of Acts has a phrase in it which is a little bit strange at first glance. Dr. Luke told Theophilus that the gospel of Luke was “about everything Jesus began to do and teach.” This is odd, because Luke went from Jesus’ birth to His ascension to Heaven. How is this about what Jesus began to do and to teach? It only makes sense if the events in Acts are about the things Jesus continues to do and to teach. He is no longer physically in the world but His body, local churches throughout the world, carry on what He started on His behalf. What is usually called “The Acts of the Apostles” might be better understood as “The Acts of the Risen Jesus Through His People.” They continued announcing the gospel which He had inaugurated, transforming lives by His power.

There is something else interesting about the structure of Luke-Acts, which we will see first hand in a few weeks. It has no satisfying end. On the final page, Paul is in Rome and his trial has not been resolved. There is no record of his execution or of the ministries of those that came after him, like Timothy and Titus. Why is that? I think that it is because the story is not over yet. What Jesus started, the apostles continued, and we carry on to this day. Luke leaves the story open-ended because millennia later, it is still ongoing! Your life and mine are what Jesus continues to do and to teach. How seriously are we taking that responsibility?

Discussion Idea: What are some of the specific things Jesus did which we carry on?
Prayer Focus: Thank God for giving us the privilege of carrying on His work and the strength to do it. Ask for forgiveness for trying to live our lives as if they are our own story, apart from His. 

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