This is a message from pastor and teacher Bill Serjak from the Joshua series “New Beginnings”
Completing the Conquest
Joshua 11:1 – 24
One of the difficulties in preaching through books of the Bible is that you can’t pick and choose to avoid the difficult passages. If I could choose, I probably would have not have picked this passage to preach on. Given a superficial reading, this passage would make it seem as though Christians should find everyone who is not a believer in Jesus Christ and kill him. That would be a way for Christians to win in the battle for the world. However, we always need to remember there is a difference between the way God related to the world in Old Testament and the New Testament. It is not that the Old Testament is wrong and the New Testament is the better model, but everything changed following the cross of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit.
The Old Testament began with God’s forming Adam from the dust of the earth. It is centered in the things of the earth. It is about laws and nations. Everything was based on God’s nation, the Jews, living for Him and influencing the world around them as much as they could. Once in a while, the Spirit of God would come on a prophet and that prophet would give a message as to how God’s people were supposed to live. God would show His ways to the world through the Jews. It was as though God was living in a different world. God’s presence in the world was not direct and He did little, if any, direct action to change people. He mainly gave instruction. There was no redemption for evil; so, the only way to get rid of evil was to destroy what was evil. That is a hard way to live. But things changed with the coming of Christ.
Since the coming of Christ and the Holy Spirit, we are living in a different era. The power of the Holy Spirit has been poured out on everyone. Work is not done just in a horizontal manner among men and women, but the Spirit of God can now directly work on all people. Once the death and resurrection of Christ happened, everything changed. Redemption is now possible for anyone and the Holy Spirit is directly involved in the salvation of each person. The battle is no longer one nation against all other nations to try to defeat evil. Now, the evil in each person can be redeemed through Christ’s death and the working of the Holy Spirit.
Anyone who is born again through the power of the Holy Spirit enters into the Kingdom of God. Before the coming of the Holy Spirit, the way to build up the Kingdom of God was to give birth to more Israelites. God’s influence in the world came by giving birth to more children. As the nation of Israel grew, then God’s presence in the world grew. God and His prophets then had only to get the Israelites to act more in accordance to God’s ways so they could witness to the world. The witness of God was done exclusively through the people of God. At that time, His Spirit had not been poured out on all mankind.
In the New Testament, the growth of God’s Kingdom does not come by physical birth. The Kingdom of God now grows through the spreading of the Word of God and people responding to that Word, and by the power of the Holy Spirit. They are then born anew into God’s Kingdom. It is by people from all nations being born again and thereby being brought into God’s Kingdom that God’s Kingdom grows. God’s Kingdom no longer involves the nations of this world, whether it is Israel or any other nation. God’s Kingdom is now defined as those of all nations who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is no longer at work in just one nation, but works on the people of all nations. The old way has passed away. In the old way, Jewish families were supposed to give birth to as many children as possible; in the new way, the Holy Spirit needs to bring as many people as possible to Christ. In the old way, the nation of Israel defeated evil by conquering the nations that were without God; in the new way, evil is conquered by bringing individuals to faith in Christ and helping them to be born into a new Kingdom. Jesus said that we must be born again. We must be born of both water and Spirit. In the new way, the people of God are not conquering evil by putting to death those who are without God and therefore evil. In the new way, all people are seen as already dead and are brought to life only by the working of the Holy Spirit. They come alive as they are born again by coming into faith in Christ. Since the death and resurrection of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit, God is now working on the people of all nations seeking to bring them into relationship to Christ.
We must be careful not to follow the ways of the old kingdom when we are working in the new Kingdom. We are not seeking by force to conquer all the nations of the world. We are seeking by conversion to bring everyone into relationship to Jesus Christ. Ultimately, that is the way we will all be related to one another. We will no longer think of ourselves as member of a particular earthly family—like the Serjaks, or citizens of a particular nation—like Americans. We will increasingly think of ourselves as children of God because we have been born again into His family.
Sandy and I have a daughter who, along with her children, is visiting with us for a few days. She is a wonderful daughter, but my relationship with her is less and less father and daughter and more and more brother and sister in Christ. We are moving toward the ultimate relationship that each of us will have, which is being related to each other as God’s children. That is the way it will work in the new Kingdom, the Kingdom of God that began with the coming of Jesus Christ. That is completely a completely new way of life and we must be careful not to fall back into old ways when we are living in a new Kingdom. We are not seeking to conquer the world by physical conquest or by propaganda. We are to proclaim the Word of God and through conversion done by the power of the Holy Spirit, people from all nations can become new. As Jesus ascended into heaven, He told His disciples to wait upon the coming of the Holy Spirit and then to preach the Gospel to the people of all nations. The job of the Church of Jesus Christ is to preach the Gospel, and to depend on the power of the Holy Spirit to bring conversion to the people of every nation. We are not to conquer people or physically defeat them but to bring them into relationship to Jesus Christ.
Too often the Church has gone back to the old ways and attempted to conquer people rather than just preaching the gospel to them. During the Crusades and to varying degrees at other times, we attempted to conquer the world. Today, we attempt to use the propaganda techniques of this world in order to conquer the world politically rather than seeking true conversion through the power of the Holy Spirit. Since the coming of Jesus Christ, the way of enlarging God’s Kingdom is to tell people about Jesus Christ and to look to the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about the conversion of the world.
A friend of mine was surprised when I told him that I am a fundamentalist. He thinks fundamentalists are people who are trying to politically conquer our country and he knows that I am not very politically active. I told him that I am a Francis Schaeffer fundamentalist. I hold strongly to the fundamental beliefs taught in the Bible but I don’t seek to spread them by physical or political conquest. In the middle of the twentieth century, Francis Schaeffer had his major influence on the Church. He believed the Bible was completely true and had come from God. He sought to convince people that the best way to live and the best philosophy of life was to follow Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the Bible. In that way, he would definitely define himself as a fundamentalist.
The fundamentalists of the early part of the twentieth century were not politically active. They were separatists and sought separation from the world, much as the Amish do. They just wanted to live God’s way of life apart from the world. Francis Schaeffer started as a separatist but later became someone who wanted to convince people that following Jesus was the best way to live. He sought to spread the gospel by proclaiming it through the arts and philosophy and in that way change individuals through conversion by the power of the Holy Spirit. Those people would then live for Christ and influence the culture. I live out my faith in that style. We are not to conquer the world but to call all people to Jesus Christ, and to depend on the power of the Holy Spirit to change people and the world.
There are several things we can take from this Joshua passage that can be used in the new Kingdom. One thing is that we must always depend on God in the middle of all that we are doing. We don’t ultimately depend on our power or our abilities. Joshua had to learn that lesson over and over again. It was through God’s power that he was able to win any battle.
When today’s battle was won, God told Joshua to hamstring the horses and destroy the chariots. That sounds strange and cruel to us. The most modern weapons of warfare at the time were horses and chariots. God was simply telling Joshua not to take up the modern weapons of warfare. The modern weapons would tempt the people even more to depend on their strength and their weapons rather than on God. Joshua was told not to put that temptation in front of him; he was not to use the new weapons of warfare. God’s people always need to be careful that we don’t ultimately depend on the world’s weapons to win people to Christ. The spreading of the Gospel of Christ will always be done by one person telling another person about Jesus Christ. People will only be convinced of the Gospel when the Holy Spirit works in their hearts and minds. Sophisticated weapons of technology are not needed to accomplish that task. It is simply a matter of sharing the Gospel by whatever means is available. We always need to depend on the working of the Holy Spirit for any godly results. We are no different from Joshua in that matter. We can use modern technology but only the Holy Spirit does the conversion. If we are overly depended on technology, then all we may do is win people over to technology rather than Christ.
I was struck by that when I recently worshiped with Pat Patten during a recent visit him and his family in Brunswick. Their church uses a lot of modern technology during the worship service. I had trouble worshiping there. Part of the problem was probably because I am old, the rest was the use of the technology itself. They had multiple pictures flashing on screens in front of the church and many different instruments were playing the music. I began to become caught up in all the pictures and soon had sensory overload. I found it difficult to consecrate on God with all those sensory distractions. I found myself connecting more with the media presentation than with God. Strangely enough, I had to close my eyes so that my heart and soul could concentrate on God. If we use the modern techniques of this world during worship, we need to make sure that we don’t leave behind what is basic, which is each person being able to connect to God. We need only the Holy Spirit for that to happen.
Another thing we can learn from this passage is that God’s people will always be battling against overwhelming odds. By simply looking at the army of Israel and the armies they were opposing, it would seem as though the Israelites had no chance. All the nations with their modern weapons of warfare were gathered against the Jews. It did not seem as though they had any chance of winning. Yet, God said that He would deliver their enemies into their hands. The Church of Jesus Christ will always be bringing our message against overwhelming odds. We would not have a chance, except for God. I like to keep a statue of a tiny lamb on my desk. It reminds me that the fourth chapter of Revelation pictures the battle between evil and good of the world as a battle between a gigantic beast and a wounded baby lamb. It looks like it will be a slaughter and it is: the lamb wins. That is the basic message of the book of Revelation. Christians will always look weak until Jesus returns. When Christians have looked the most powerful, we have done the worst. We are not called to use this world’s power to show the strength of God. We will always look weak in order to show God’s power. The odds will always be overwhelmingly against us, but the lamb wins.