Rationalizing Our Sin: Joshua 1

Have you ever tried to rationalize your sin?  Several years ago,  I had a guy come to my officeone day to tell me that he was leaving his wife.  It turns out that he had found someone who fit him and his personality better.  Someone who would fulfill his life and make him happy in a way that his wife could not.  For nearly an hour I listened to this man try to rationalize and explain away his sin.  The truth is that we all do this at times in our lives.  Maybe not as severely as this man did, but in various times and in various ways we all try to rationalize our sin.
Ultimately, rationalizing sin is one of Satan’s greatest tools for keeping us from experiencing the power of the gospel in our lives.  Rationalizing is the opposite of repenting.
Open your Bibles to Judges 1 and let me show you some ways that we sometimes try to rationalize or explain away our sin. 
This morning we begin a series of messages from the book of Judges entitled, “Delighting in Deliverance.” The book of Judges records for us the history of the nation of Israel as it descends spiritually and morally into chaos.  It’s primary purpose was to demonstrate why the monarchy, that is established in 1 and 2 Samuel,  was necessary.
For us the book serves as a tremendous example of why we need to be constantly reminded of our need for the gospel.  Even a casual glance through the book reveals that it deals with the issues of apostasy, backsliding, discipline, and God’s judgement.  It is a book filled with stories of some of the most interesting characters in all of the Bible — people like Samson, Gideon, and Deborah.  Because of this, the book often gets treated as just a set of moral stories about bravery, courage, and faithfulness.  But what often gets overlooked is that this book is primary about the gospel.
 The book begins by showing how we as God’s people can easily get snared by sin and then fall into the trap of trying to rationalize it to make ourselves look better.  
Let’s begin this morning by look at the basic setting of this book (v.1-7)
  • The events recorded in Judges take place just after the death of Joshua.
  • The book records for us the final stages of Israel’s conquest of Canaan.
  • You will notice that the book begins by reminding us of the promise God made concerning the conquest (look at v.1-2)
  • But if you read the text carefully you will notice right away that the people experience a lapse of faith that leads to disobedience. (v.3-7)
    • Judah enlists the help of Simeon
    • God never told them to do this, in fact in the previous verse God had been very clear that HE had already given the Land into their hands.”
    • In other words, the war was already over and the people just needed to go in and take what was theirs.
  • Rather than simply trusting God, Judah thought that they had a better plan.
    • They would get the tribe of Simeon to help them do what God had already promised that He would do.
    • This is a classic example of Proverbs 14:12 which says,  “There is a way that seem right to a man but its end is the way of death.”  
  • The simple truth of the matter is that we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that God needs our help or in subtle ways thinking that He needs help in carrying out His promises.
    • Therefore, we tend to cut corners or enlist the wrong kinds of help.
    • In the case of the Israelites, this initial lapse of faith ends up leading a number of other compromises.
    • Let me show you three ways that the Israelites rationalized their lack of faith in the remainder of this chapter and more importantly I want you to see that we make these same rationalizations:
Three Ways We Rationalize Disobedience
  1. We Overestimate the Strength of Our Enemy (v.16-21)
    • Notice the rationalization in v.19 – “but he could not drive our the inhabitants of the plain because they had chariots of iron.”
    • The Canaanites Had CHARIOTS
      • Earlier when fighting in the hill country chariots were useless
      • But in the plains, chariots were a fierce and seemingly invincible new form of mobile warfare.
      • The Israelites were completely intimidated by them.
    • This was not the first time this issue had come up.
      • Joshua 17:14-18
      • Tribe of Joseph asks for another allotment of land because they are unable to drive the Canaanites out of the plains due to their chariots.
      • Joshua refuses and assures them that they will “drive out the Canaanites, even thought they have chariots of iron…”
    • Instead of trusting in God the Israelite got intimidated by the Canaanite chariots.
      • We hate to admit it but sometimes we get intimidated by the world and those who oppose the things of God.
      • We end up trusting more in politics, boycotts or other forms of protest than in the most powerful weapon at our disposal — the gospel.
    • The truth of the matter is simple — God is stronger and more powerful than any opposition that we will ever face.
      • The battle is real, but the outcome is sure.
      • Jesus WINS!
      • So don’t ever be intimidated by the enemies of the cross.
  2. We underestimate the guidance of God. (v.22-26)
    • God did not tell the Israelites to send a spy into the land, he didn’t tell them to go and make a deal with one of the inhabitants of the city.
      • But instead of simply trusting God and His plan for them, they decided to seek the counsel of the ungodly and it backfired.
      • Notice what happens in v.25-26
      • The man they enlisted to help them overthrow the city ended up rebuilding it in another location and the city of Luz became a constant reminder to the Israelites that they had failed to carry out the conquest.
    • Psalm 1:1-2 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
      • The key to being faithful to God is to trust His guidance and His Word implicitly.
      • We don’t need to seek after the advice of fall counselors, just trust Him.
  3. We allow economics to dictate what we do rather than the command of God (v.27-28)
    • God told the Israelites to drive out all of the Canaanites, but to some this policy didn’t make much sense.
    • The Canaanites could serve a much more practical purpose, so they put them to forced labor — why waste this source of free labor.
    • But again, God had not told them to do this so they compromise simply because it made good economic sense.
    • Sadly, this may be the single greatest problem we face in the church today.  People are willing to compromise on the commands of God simply because it might cost them economically.
    • Pleased with the Dynasty family/the Robinsons.
      • Phil’s language was too coarse but he was correct in what we said.
      • But more important still was. The family’s willingness to say they would walk away rather than compromise their faith.
      • Economics did not determine their obedience. Willing to do what was right even if it cost them financially.
So what we basically have in chapter 1, is view of the conquest from the perspective of the Israelites.  Bascially, they try to spin the story to make them look good.  The way they present the story is that they had conquered most of the land but had good reasons why they allowed some of the Canaanites to gone on living in their midst.
They rationalized their disobedience in order to try to explain their predicament.  Next week we will discover what God thought about all of this but for now I want to talk to you about our tendency to rationalize our sin.
Satan will always try to get us to rationalize away and explain our sin.  This strategy goes all the way back to the garden of Eden.  He showed Eve the forbidden fruit and then helped her to come up with a rationalization about why she should disobey God.  In Eve’s case she saw that the fruit was good for food and that the try could make her wise, so she ate.
Some of you have been rationalizing sin.  You’ve bought into the lie of Satan or you have simply fooled yourself into believing that you have a good reason for why you are being disobedient to God.
But I remind you that Proverbs 14:12 says ” “There is a way that seem right to a man but its end is the way of death.”  
What you are doing may make sense right now, but I assure that disobedience always comes with a price.  Rationalizing sin is one of Satan’s greatest tools for keeping us from experiencing the power of the gospel in our lives.  Rationalizing is the opposite of repenting.
Rationalizing keeps us bound in our sin and prevents us from experiencing the freedom of God’s grace through the gospel.
 My urgent plea to you is to stop rationalizing your sin, repent, and trust God.   


Dealing With The Sunday Roller-Coaster That Every Pastor Rides

The Scenic Railway at Luna Park, Melbourne, is...
The Scenic Railway at Luna Park, Melbourne, is the world’s oldest continually-operating rollercoaster, built in 1912. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For those in the ministry Sunday can be an emotional and spiritual roller-coaster, filled with twists and turns, ups and downs, that combine to make the ride frightening, exhilarating, terrifying and joyous all at the same time.  Any Pastor who has been in the ministry knows exactly what I am talking about.  You get up on Sunday morning excited about what the Lord has in store and fired up to preach the Word that He has given you through the week.  But then the hot water in the shower won’t work, your wife yells at you because you forgot to pick up milk two nights before, and your kids stayed up too late last night and don’t want to get up.  You feel the anointing be drained from your soul but somehow you get yourself together and head for the church.  The parking lot is full and your excitement begins to grow, God is going to do something big.  You retreat to your study where you spend the Sunday School hour praying and preparing to preach.  Before you know it, it is time to head to the sanctuary.  Your feeling good.  The message is welling up in your heart and you just know that God is going to do something huge.  As you walk through the halls the Sunday School director stops you to tell you that a teacher did not show up and that they can’t find anyone to take the class for the next Sunday.  You go a little further and someone stops you to complain about the youth being too loud, or the worship service being too contemporary, or your sermon last week being too long.  Every Pastor reading these words, knows exactly what I am talking about.  Sometimes the walk from your office to the pulpit feels like running a gauntlet.  By the time the band starts playing and the worship begins you are fighting just to regain your joy.  And this is just the morning service— you have a full day of this ahead of you.  Up, down, round and round, spinning you, jostling you, until you are just glad to get home on Sunday night.

The Sunday roller-coaster of emotion that every Pastor goes through is a combination of Satanic attack, congregational ignorance, and our own emotional instability.  From a spiritual standpoint we have to understand that Sunday is a war zone for Pastors.  The one thing that you can count on is that Satan and his minions are going to show up on Sunday morning to attack you.  Your members, leaders, and deacons may take a Sunday off, but Satan never does.  He is going to do everything that he can do to discourage, distract, disorient, and destroy you on Sunday morning.  As a Pastor you have to be aware that the attack is going to come and prepare by equipping yourself with the full armor of God.  In addition, let me recommend that you gather together a handful of your most trusted prayer warriors who will be your own personal spiritual body guards on Sunday by praying for you throughout the day.

Second, you have to realize that the congregation is largely ignorant of what we go through on a Sunday morning.  They don’t realize the intensity of the day and the spiritual struggle that is going on within your own heart as you wage battle against the forces of darkness.  We can help our churches by talking about this more often but no one outside of the ministry will ever fully understand the battle that happens on Sunday morning.  What we can do is to encourage our members to hold off talking to us about problems until after the service or even better yet, to simply make an appointment to come by during the week.  We can also do ourselves a favor by getting some of the spiritual leaders of the church to walk with us through the halls as we travel to the sanctuary.  This way when someone wants to discuss a matter, we can politely hand off the situation to another staff member, elder, or deacon.

Finally, we need to remember that in many ways we are our own worst enemies.  As Pastors we have to admit that we can be emotional basket cases on Sunday morning.  My recommendation to any Pastor who gets upset on a Sunday and feels like blowing up or venting their frustration is to go home, sleep on it, then get up and pray about,  give it a day or two to get some perspective.  Don’t just blow a fuse.  You will feel better right after you blow up, but eventually you look around and realize that you just blew up your own ministry.