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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Going Beyond the Minimum

                Going the 2nd mile … what does that mean? One of the things that I’ve noticed about people is that they will normally do only what they want to do. Even in Christian circles we see this characteristic on display. In fact, whenever we obey God we will only do what is required, nothing more. But it is the Christian that is willing to go beyond the minimum requirements that is used in a greater way and blessed to a greater capacity.
This is what I see in Josiah, the 16th king of Judah. He was a young man that began to seek God at an early age (2 Chronicles 34:3). Not only does the Bible tell us that he was a seeker of God, his life SHOWED us! He set out to purge Judah of the high places, groves, and idols that had littered his land. But Josiah was not content with just cleansing Judah. He also went into the land that the Northern Kingdom of Israel had once occupied and purged it too!
(2 Chronicles 34:3-7)
“For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father: and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images. And they brake down the altars of Baalim in his presence; and the images, that were on high above them, he cut down; and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images, he brake in pieces, and made dust of them, and strowed it upon the graves of them that had sacrificed unto them. And he burnt the bones of the priests upon their altars, and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem. And so did he in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali, with their mattocks round about. And when he had broken down the altars and the groves, and had beaten the graven images into powder, and cut down all the idols throughout all the land of Israel, he returned to Jerusalem.”

            The areas of Manasseh, Ephraim, Simeon, and Naphtali are all part of the Northern Kingdom. The north had been destroyed and taken captive into Assyria eighty years before Josiah came to power. This land was not his responsibility, but he was not content with doing just the minimum! He even destroys the altar at Bethel where Jeroboam had set up one of the golden calves 350 years prior.
            My thought centers around the desire of God’s people to do “just enough” to satisfy their conscience. This is a behavior trait that has stood the test of time. Many Christians are content with living close to the border of good and evil. But when they abide close to the boundary, they are just a step away from being where they shouldn’t be. Let me remind you of 2 people that suffered because of this; Lot and the Prodigal son. Lot started out by pitching his tent towards Sodom and it wasn’t long until he was living in Sodom! The Prodigal son didn’t live in that far country, but his heart did … and it wasn’t long before his feet followed his heart.
            Josiah had some admirable character traits that set him apart. These character traits are things that God wants to see in all his children.
            Why didn’t Josiah stop the purging of idols at the border of his kingdom? Perhaps he thought that if the idols and groves were an abomination in Judah, wouldn’t they still be an abomination in ALL of Israel? Maybe he destroyed the last image in Judah and could still see another in the distance. Whatever he did or did not see, Josiah was determined to do right and he would go the extra mile in his service for God.
            We must all ask ourselves, “Why should I be satisfied with only doing the minimum?” God will not be angry with us for going the extra mile! “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. (Eccl 9:10)
            The prophet Isaiah lived during inconsistent days. He served while the good kings Uzziah and Jotham sat on the throne, but he also served during the wicked reign of Ahaz. After Ahaz, another good king named Hezekiah came to power, only to be followed by Manasseh who provoked God to anger.
            The people of Judah were inconsistent at best during Isaiah’s lifetime, yet Isaiah remained zealous. He made a statement in Isaiah 62:1, “For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.” Isaiah would not be silent, nor would he rest until the righteousness of his people shone forth brightly. Oh, that every Christian would have that kind of zeal! Our service MUST be without rest or compromise.
            When Josiah cleansed the land to the north it was not for the purpose of conquest. Nowhere in the Bible does it even hint at this. He was just doing what was right and it resulted in removing temptation far from his land.
            There is a certain percentage of Christians that live as close to the world and sin as they possibly can. They always have the old life in plain view and the old nature is always within arm’s length. It is no wonder that these are the same people that live inconsistent Christian lives.
            If there is something that is a temptation for you and you can remove it from your life … REMOVE IT! If you can put up a barrier between you and your sin, put it up! This might mean that you have to find new friends. It might mean that you’ll have to make some radical changes in your life. But your spiritual safety is far more important than anything your worldly friends can give. If you’ll take the time to read 2 Timothy 2:22, 1 Corinthians 6:18, and 1 Corinthians 10:14, you’ll quickly notice that they all tell us to FLEE from sin.
            The character that Josiah displayed was the character of a mature and spiritual man … but he was only 16 years old when he began to seek God. If a 16 year old man can have this much spiritual success, there is nothing preventing each of us from becoming a spiritual and mature Christian. Josiah was a great man because he did great things for God. If we are to be great Christians we must possess the characteristics a great Christian possesses.

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