And Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest . . . Now after the death of Jehoiada the princes of Judah came and paid homage to the king. Then the king listened to them. And they abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols. And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this guilt of theirs. – 2 Chronicles 24: 2, 17-18
Writers of children’s Sunday school curricula love to tell the story of Joash the boy king renovating the long-neglected temple. “You can be like Joash,” we tell children. “You can obey God and do great things!” His precocious obedience is supposed to inspire children to do right by the Lord.
But to do right by God, you have to be right with God.
Joash offers an important lesson for us, just not the one you find in a typical Sunday school lesson. In reality, Joash isn’t unlike some people who call themselves Christians today. You ask them how long they’ve been Christians, and they respond, “I’ve been a Christian all my life. I was going to church before I was born.” (And that prompts a word of countrified wisdom: Just because you find it in a henhouse, that doesn’t make it a chicken.)
The problem is that faith doesn’t come by association. Associating yourself with Christians, whether in your family or a church setting, doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car – or hanging out in a henhouse makes you a chicken. Each of us must decide for ourselves what we will do with Jesus. That lone decision sets the course for our lives and determines our eternal destiny.
And if we fail to resolve that question – if we continue merely to draw upon the strength and guidance of godly influences in our lives – we will fall flat on our faces when those influences are removed. We will choose to fill that void with another strong and persuasive influence, godly or otherwise.
You see it in the lives of adult children whose godly parents or grandparents have passed on to glory or have been silenced by louder, more appealing voices. We’ve seen it in pop culture. We’ve seen it in our churches. We’ve seen it in our families. And perhaps you even see it in your own life.
Maybe you’re one person among one group of friends and another among a second group. Maybe you’re one of those who “plays church” – who puts her best church face on, and who says and does all the right things in that hallowed hall every Sunday and Wednesday. But what kind of person are you the rest of the week? Are you truly living to know Christ and to make Him known? Are you seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33)?
How can you know if you’ll be able to stand in a time of trial? It depends on whether you’re standing with Jesus. Joash turned his back on the Lord at great cost to himself and his kingdom.
But the greatest cost is felt at death, when Jesus says to those who go through the motions, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”
Joash, like the rich man of Luke 16 who learned all too late of the uncrossable chasm that separated him from eternity with God, now pleads from the grave: Repent while you can.
We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. – 2 Corinthians 5:20