Who rules your heart?
As the people of Israel wandered into the promised land Joshua had this speech. Who would’ve known that 3000 years after making it we would be making it into plaques and bumper stickers and key chains
“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 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 24:14,15
Joshua gives a very clear challenge. Ok guys, you’ve entered a new land. All around you are other countries that serve other gods. You get to pick. You can pick the god of the Canaanites or the god of the Amorites or the god of the Hittites or the god of the Termites. Pick whichever-ite you want to follow. I’m going to serve the Lord. But you get to pick. The people heard this and they gave the right Sunday School answer.
Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! 17 We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.” Joshua 24:16
That’s a good answer. It’s the right answer. They would get a gold star at in Sunday School for that answer. But Joshua knew these people. He had spent a lifetime watching them. He had heard them give the right answer before and had watched them do the opposite.
Sounds like a campfire confession. I was a camp director for seven years and went to camps for over 20 and at the end of every camp there was a campfire. Kids would stand up and say something like this “God has changed me and when I get home things are going to be different.” Then they would rattle off all the things they would never do again.
I’m going to stop smoking
I’m going to quit the party scene
I’m not going to sleep around anymore
I’m going to respect my parents
I’m going to throw away my secret stash
I’m going to go to church every week.
Then there would be crying. Lots of crying. Even if you weren’t sad, you cried. Then they came back the next year, whatever happened, they had to make all the same promises again the next year.
310 years later this was what was true of Israel.
In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 21:25 (NASB)
The nation of Israel had wandered away from God and basically said this
You can’t tell me what to do
You can’t tell me where to go
You can’t tell me what’s right for me
You can’t tell me what to do with my money
You can’t tell me how to do my business
You can’t tell me how I should parent
You can’t tell me what I should eat or drink or wear.
This is part of our fabric as people. Let me give you some examples.
What are areas of your life that you have a hard time with people telling you what to do?
I used to struggle listening to GPS “You can’t tell me where to go.”
My Mother in law was famous for telling me where to go. . We used to call her the GPS. The Grandma Positioning Satellite. When we drove together I wanted to say to her, “You can’t tell me where to go.”
My daughter Daphlie loves to cook, which is amazing. There hasn’t been a woman in my house who loves to cook my entire marriage. The only problem is she cooks from memory. She thinks she can remember all the ingredients from when she lived in Haiti. I’ve had to try some pretty nasty foods over this last year. “Cakes aren’t supposed to be flat honey.” I’ve tried to suggest we look at a recipe but she won’t do it. “You can’t tell me what to do.”
There are limitless examples of this all around us.
I don’t need the instructions to build this bike.
I don’t need you to tell me who I can date
I don’t need your advice about what I should eat
Don’t tell me how much I should work out
I don’t need you to tell me what to do with my money
It’s my life. It’s my body. It’s my money. It’s my house
I don’t need your help. I don’t need your rules. I don’t need your wisdom. I can do what I want, when I want, with whom I want as long as no one gets hurt.
That sounds very arrogant and selfish but if we are honest with ourselves, we all have a little bit of that line of thinking in our minds. Part of it even feels right. I don’t care what you say anymore this is my life. Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone. Okay, who can name the vocalist. That’s right, it’s Billy Joel.
The nation of Israel ran from God and they all got hurt. That’s the way it always works.
If you get involved with an addiction, someone will get hurt. You’re thinking, “It’s my body. I’m the only one I’m hurting.” But you’re wrong. As long as you have people who love you, they will get hurt. When they see how you are hurting, they will hurt.
If you choose to sleep with who you want when you want, the people you leave in the wake of your selfishness will get hurt. All the people who are watching your selfish behavior will get hurt.
If your work becomes the sole focus of you life, your wife might get to drive a better car and your kids may go to a fancy college, but they will hurt for your attention. It will leave a hole in their heart.
You can’t do what you want, when you want, with whom you want and have no one get hurt.
I’m tired of doing what my parents say, I’m going to do what I want
I’m tired of being faithful, I’m going to do what I want
I’m tired of watching what I eat, I’m going to do what I want
I’m tired of being clean, I’m going to drink what I want
You can’t tell me what to do. Here’s the crazy thing about running from responsibility and running from having anyone rule you. You find that you are ruled by that appetite.
Years ago you wanted your freedom and you said, “You can’t tell me what to drink.” Years later that drink has become your ruler. It’s calling the shots. You don’t have control of it anymore
Years ago you said “You can’t tell me who to sleep with.” Now you can’t stay true in a relationship. You’re desire has become stronger than your will.
Years ago you said, “You can’t tell me what I can and can’t look at.” Now you can’t shake off your addiction to pornography. That appetite is calling the shots.
One way or another, you will be ruled. There will be a king on the throne of your heart. Let me give you some wisdom about choosing a ruler. There is only one benevolent ruler. There is only one king who always has your best interests at heart. There is only one who will keep taking you back and loving you no matter what you do.
So this is where we are going to land today. I have a simple question. Who do you want to rule your heart?
Do you want that addiction to stay in power?
Do you want that appetite to rule you?
Do you want your workaholism to drive you?
If you’re tired of all those rulers, I have another one you might be interested. He’s the only benevolent ruler I know. It is our God. He’s your creator. He knows how you were made. He knows how to help you find purpose. He will love you no matter where you’ve been. If you put him in charge he will bring you peace. He will fill you with joy. If you follow him, your fear will not be who gets hurt, but your life will be filled with who gets helped. He will allow you to leave a legacy. And, even if you stumble along the way, he will never give up on you. He will keep sending reminders of himself. He’ll keep sending people your way to help. Because that’s who he is. He’s the king you always wanted.