Before the end of Joshua’s ministry, in Jos 24:14-18, he challenged the people of Israel to choose whom they would serve. He said, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” He made a conscious choice to serve the Lord. The people were adamant in their reply, “God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods.” And then they recounted the wonderful and powerful things God had done to bring them out of Egypt and into the promised land. Their answer was this, “Therefore will we also serve the Lord; for he is our God.” That one little word “also” was as revealing as anything else they said in their reply. And Joshua picked up on it. He said, in verses 19-20, “Ye cannot serve the Lord… If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods.”
We’re going to see that it is impossible to “also” serve the Lord. You either serve him fully or you don’t. There is no way in this world to serve anything or anyone and “also” serve the Lord. It cannot be done. And if you think that you are going to chart new territory and be the first to accomplish this impossible feat, you attempt your objective in vain. You will fail just like these people failed.
You cannot serve other gods and also serve the Lord. Jos 24:19-24 – these people didn’t put away the strange gods in Jos 24, even though Joshua commanded them to do so, v.23. They did, however, covenant to serve the Lord, v.21, 24-25. And so, by Jud 2:11-13, look what they had done. They forsook the Lord. You see, if you try to worship a strange god and the Lord at the same time, you will end up forsaking the Lord and worshipping the false god. This is the trouble with dedicated Catholics. They say that they serve the Lord, but, in reality they worship Mary. Frankly, you cannot serve Mary and “also” serve the Lord.
Look at Ruth and Orpah in Ruth 1:15-17. Orpah went back to her gods. Ruth said, “thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” Orpah made a clean break with the Lord and Ruth made a clean break with her gods. She didn’t try to serve her gods and the Lord God. She couldn’t. In 2 Ki 17:27-36, the Jews in Samaria served their false gods and, thus, did not fear the Lord, though they tried to do both.
You cannot serve the king and also serve the Lord – 1 Sam 8:5-7 – when Israel demanded a king, the Lord told Samuel, “they have rejected me.” Here’s the only condition under which their new king and country could continue to serve the Lord. In 1 Sam 12:14, Samuel said, “if ye will fear the Lord, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then shall both ye and also the king that reigneth over you continue following the Lord your God.” Look how Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego handled the problem of serving the Lord under a king that wanted them to serve him and his image, Dan 3:16-18. You serve one or the other; you cannot serve them both. They rightly chose to serve the Lord.
You cannot serve men and also serve the Lord – Gal 1:10 – Paul said, “if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” In Eph 6:5-8, servants are to be obedient in singleness of heart as unto the Lord, as the servants of Christ doing service as to the Lord, and not unto men. You obey your employer; but you serve the Lord. And when men pass laws absolutely contrary to the laws of God, then you should, like Peter, say “we ought to obey God rather than men,” Acts 5:29. Don’t cower. Preachers, for instance, who are inclined to preach only what they think their people want to hear, are not serving the Lord; they are serving men. They will profess otherwise, but the truth is that they cannot serve both men and the Lord.
You cannot serve money and also serve the Lord – Matt 6:24 – “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Mammon is riches, wealth, or the god of riches (Dan 5:4). No man can serve two masters. He’ll hate the one, and love the other. You have to forsake one in order to only serve the other. If you choose to serve money, which many rich Christians have chosen to do, then be sure that you are not also serving the Lord. You have to forsake your love of money, and then you can serve the Lord.
You cannot serve sin and also serve the Lord – Rom 6:14-22 – You either serve sin or you serve God. You serve one or the other. You cannot serve them both. If you are hanging on to a pet sin, thinking that you can serve that sin in private, and publicly serve the Lord, you are sadly mistaken. You must forsake that sin if you want to truly serve the Lord.
You cannot serve your own belly and also serve the Lord – Rom 16:17-18, Phil 3:18-19. They who serve their belly do not serve the Lord; they are enemies of the cross. You cannot serve both your own desires and the Lord’s desires. You cannot do your will and “also” serve the Lord. You’ll either be doing God’s will or you’ll be doing your will under the guise of doing God’s will. God is not fooled; and you now know better.
Conclusion: like Joshua said to Israel in Jos 24, you need to choose this day whom you will serve. If the Lord has pointed out an area of your life where you are trying to serve something or someone and “also” serve the Lord, you now know that you cannot do it. You must choose. Our prayer is that you will choose to serve the Lord and that you will forsake that other thing you serve.