Serve God in sincerity and in truth

This is what Joshua said in his final address to the people. This was not something to be said before he had done anything; before he had built a reputation as a good leader of people. Rather, at the end of his life when he had led his people and demonstrated his ability, his humility, and his faithfulness in serving God. This was a man, one hundred and ten years old, giving a farewell address to his people and giving them instructions on how to continue to live in the presence of God.

Now, therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:14-15)

You may easily ask yourself, “Does this have anything to do with me today?” After all, that was the Old Testament and we live in the New Testament where we have the fullness of the love of God to support us. The real answer is yes! This is as relevant today as it was to the Israelites when Joshua spoke to them in Shechem.

It would, I guess, help if we take a quick look at the place where this happened. Shechem was a very important place spiritually to Israel:

  • The first place Abram arrived at when God told him to get out of his country (Genesis 12:6);
  • The place where God promised the land to Abram (Genesis 12:7);
  • The place where Joseph wanted his bones to rest (Genesis 50:25);
  • The place where Moses commanded an altar to be built and the words of the law were written out so that they would be remembered. (Deuteronomy 27:4-6);
  • The place where Moses commanded the blessings and the curses to be spoken aloud (Deuteronomy 27:14);
  • The place where Joshua took the people to hear the reading of the law when he began to lead them. (Joshua 8:33-35)
  • This is generally believed to be the place where Jesus met the woman of Samaria at Jacob’s well and He told her, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)

It was to this place, to which he brought them back so that they could hear his farewell address. A place which is heavy with spiritual significance for them. Such was the gravity of the final message he had for them that no other place would have sufficed. This is still the same level of gravity that his message has to us today if you are willing to receive it.

In the prophetic word for 2011, God is calling His people to stand up this year and be counted; to stand firm on His word and to exercise their faith.  You cannot exercise your faith if your faith is misguided. If your faith is misguided, it is little more than wishful thinking; faith is significantly more than just that.

Our faith is misguided when we start to think that we can serve God our way; when we begin to believe that we can serve God in our timing. It doesn’t work that way! Scripture gives us a very clear understanding of what faith is. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1) However, this often causes us a problem because we seem to find it very difficult to understand what this means.

In a way I believe that Jesus tried to describe this when He said to his disciples, “Whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” (Matthew 21:22) You see, simply asking is not enough, you have to believe from deep within your heart that what you are asking for has already been done for you by God. There is no point asking for something in the hope that it will come about because when you do that, you are not believing.

That is exactly what the scripture means when it says that faith is the ‘substance’ of things hoped for. If your faith has no substance, it isn’t faith at all; it is simply wishful thinking that has no basis upon which to stand. If you have faith for something, it is your faith itself that is evidence that things exist.

Millions of people across the whole world every week have what they would call faith that they are going to win the lottery. But in truth, they all know that the likelihood of their winning falls far short from what they are hoping for. Their faith here is, indeed, misguided; in truth, it is no more than wishful thinking and it fails to materialise for all but a few of them and to them, it falls by chance alone.

This is not what God is asking for in His people. He is looking for people who will serve Him in sincerity and truth. There is no sincerity in wishful thinking! True sincerity is when you decide in your heart that exactly what He has said is the complete, total and utter truth and it cannot be changed. Sincerity is when you are prepared to stand upon that word in the certainty that not even a firing squad could alter your mind.

We can’t serve him in truth when we are prepared to debate His word and find a place of compromise, no matter how small it is. The only time we can serve Him in truth is when we realise that the word of God is the truth and in that there can be no change.

The only way that we can serve God in sincerity and truth is to faithfully keep His commands. Nothing else matters; nothing else will make the grade and nothing else will do what He can do. Remember that what He can do is exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20)

When we serve Him in sincerity and truth we are demonstrating to the whole world that we love God. This is what Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” There is a real cost in serving God; our pride has to die when we serve Him. There is no place where pride can remain if we serve Him in sincerity and truth. But, Oh! What benefits there are for us when we do! Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)

This is the love that God has for us, and He loves us in sincerity and in truth in all that He does for us.

Just when you start to feel good about the love that God has for you, it is worth remembering that Joshua concluded his address to the people with the following words: “You cannot serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.” (Joshua 24:19-20)

Joshua had lived with these people all his life; he had fought battles with them; he had shared in their ups and their downs. In truth, he knew these people full well; he knew their good sides as well as their bad sides. Even though the people had said, "We also will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:18), Joshua knew that there was not the sincerity and truth that was needed in that statement. He understood that their hearts would fail them because even though they were willing to talk the talk, they were not willing to walk the walk.

There was only one thing that made them different from you and me. A helper, the Holy Spirit! Jesus said, "He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things." (John 14:26) They had not been given the Holy Spirit, as we have, to act as a counsellor and as a guide in their lives. What was needed from them was a change of both heart and of lifestyle. What is needed from you and me is the willingness to be led by the Holy Spirit so that we can change. In truth, without that change in us, we face the same as they did.

The good news is that we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Romans 8:37) There is nothing here that is beyond us if we will allow the Holy Spirit to lead us; no pressure too great for the support He will give us, but everything to gain.

Are you ready to make that change?