“Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel. And the people said unto Joshua, The LORD our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey.”
    Joshua 24:23, 24

    Joshua was calling God’s people to a renewed commitment to serve and obey the Lord. They responded by pledging to serve God, after which Joshua gave them the charge we find in our text. Joshua challenged them to “incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel.” How often we see in the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, reference made to the importance of our hearts. Our hearts must be inclined toward the Lord, and we have the responsibility to incline our hearts. If we are being alert and sensitive to our spiritual condition, we can sense when our hearts are being inclined toward the Lord or away from the Lord. We have a duty, an obligation, to incline our hearts in a godly direction. How is it that we might do this?

    First of all, Joshua commanded the people to “put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD.” Before they would be able to incline their hearts toward the Lord, they would first have to put away from their lives the objects of idolatry that were present. The same is true for us. We will not be able to incline our hearts toward the Lord when we have things in our lives that naturally incline our hearts in another direction.

    The reason our hearts need to be inclined toward the Lord is because we have allowed our hearts to be drawn toward other things. What is it that we have tolerated in our lives that distracts us from God and His will? Perhaps it is leisure activities, or the pursuit of wealth or worldly success. Maybe it is prideful resistance to some part of God’s will for your life. Could it be selfishness about your time and being unwilling to surrender your all to the Savior? Until these things are removed, the heart will not be inclined toward the Lord as it should be.

    The people then responded by saying, “his voice will we obey.” In order to keep our hearts inclined toward the Lord, we must not only remove the things that distract, but also, we must maintain a sincere commitment to obey the Word of God. If we will turn from besetting sins, and love the things of God, our hearts will be inclined toward Him.



    “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.”
    Luke 6:26

    In Luke’s record of this great teaching of Christ, Jesus addresses one of the common tendencies of mankind. All of us like to be accepted. We want others to think well of us and to speak well of us. However, this desire for acceptance can sometimes lead to serious problems in our lives. Some will do and say things that are not proper, in order that they might gain acceptance. Young people so strongly crave the approval of their peers, they may at times violate their own conscience in order to have that acceptance.

    Preachers can even do the same thing. They may be tempted to compromise the Word of God, avoid certain subjects, or emphasize some things in order to have the approval of others. Jesus makes it clear in these words that it is not necessarily good when everyone agrees with us, or when everyone approves of us. As a matter of fact, He says that having the support of every person is an indication that there is probably something very wrong with our message or our ministry. Christ referred to the ancient Jews in saying that they spoke well of the false prophets.

    Because someone speaks well of us does not necessarily mean we are right. It may mean just the opposite. False prophets say what people want to hear, not what God says. We want to reach as many people as we possibly can for the cause of Christ, but not at the expense of compromising the Word of God or the integrity of the Lord’s work. Ministries that seek to provide programs and a style of worship based on the preferences of the majority are not Biblically based. When we are speaking the truth, there will always be those who contradict.

    Jesus warned His disciples that the world would hate them because it hated Him first. The world has little appetite for the truth. When we speak the truth, even in love, there will always be those who oppose us. Trying to make our message compatible to everyone is not a worthy goal. We are not politicians, and popularity is not to be the measure of our ministries. Our ambition should be to please the Lord and to be true to the Holy Scriptures. None of us like the feeling of rejection or disapproval. But if we are going to follow the steps of our Master, there will be those who will not agree. Having His approval should be our ultimate desire.



    “We have thought of thy lovingkindness, O God, in the midst of thy temple.”
    Psalm 48:9

    If a person could learn to control his thoughts, he would greatly influence much in the other areas of life. For instance, the way we think or the subject of our thoughts will have an impact on our feelings or emotions. Negative thinking produces feelings of hopelessness or depression. Our thinking can also contribute to physical problems. When a person allows himself to dwell on such things as worry or anger, it can have harmful affects. Even our spiritual lives can be influenced by our minds in matters such as guilt or bitterness.

    What are the kinds of things that would be productive for us to think about? In our text, the psalmist says, “We have thought of thy lovingkindness.” This is a great thing for us to consider. We ought to train our thoughts to be conscious of the attributes of God. Our minds should be occupied with thoughts of the goodness of God. “We have thought of thy lovingkindness.” No matter what happens, we know that God loves us. The Lord is good to us. It is profitable to spend time thinking about the untold and undeserved blessings that God has brought to our lives. When we think about how wonderful it is that God cares about us and how blessed we are to know Him, it can only be beneficial.

    We have all heard of people who seem to be ready to criticize God or accuse Him of mistreatment. One of Satan’s more effective weapons is to convince people to question the goodness of God. The devil is a liar and always will be. It is a destructive snare to develop a negative or critical attitude. Life indeed can be difficult, even for the godliest Christian. Still, in the end, we will see that through it all God has been gracious and good.

    In most lives, not enough time is spent just thinking about the kindness and mercy of God. We should make every effort to think of God’s lovingkindness at all times. But notice the specific place that our Scripture mentions thinking of His goodness. The Bible says, “in the midst of thy temple.” What is it that occupies our thoughts at church? How many spiritual blessings are missed at church because our minds are distracted? Public worship is an important part of our spiritual growth and responsibility, and includes remembering and praising God for how good He is.



    “Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.”
    I Corinthians 3:21-23

    The church at Corinth had its share of problems. Paul’s first epistle details many of the issues that plagued this local congregation. Generally speaking, they were not spiritual people. They boasted of their perceived spirituality; but on a practical level, they were extremely carnal. One attitude that revealed their carnality was in their division over personalities and preachers. We sometimes call this a “party spirit.” They were taking sides depending on whom their favorite preacher was.

    Paul mentioned this serious problem a number of times in his letter to this church. “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ” (I Corinthians 1:12). In another place he said, “For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” (I Corinthians 3:4). In our text, he mentions this issue again. Because it is stated several times in this epistle, we can safely assume that this was a very serious issue in this church.

    In looking at this Scripture, we see some helpful advice on relating to one another and to our spiritual leaders. He tells us basically that all of these men were to be respected as gifts from God. God did not give us men of God to divide us, but to minister to us. When people become divisive over the men that God gave to bless them, it is a clear indication that they are acting carnally rather than spiritually. God warns us not to “glory in men.”

    Thank God for the good men that God uses to help us in our spiritual progress, but in reality, they are just men. It is God that deserves the glory, not the men. When men become the object of our praise and devotion, we have sinned. Directing praise to men that is due to God is a form of idolatry. This is not spiritual. This is being carnal. This kind of jealousy and division goes on regularly, but it is grievous to the Spirit of God. We ought to appreciate the way God uses men in our lives, but resist the temptation to make them the object of our praise. The basis of our fellowship should not be about men, but about the Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God. We can appreciate faithful servants of God without idolizing them.



    “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
    Isaiah 55:6, 7

    These verses, like so many others in the Bible, invite us to seek the Lord. He wants us to seek Him, and to seek Him with the whole heart. The greatest need of every man is a meaningful relationship with his Creator. Our text presents this wonderful privilege and opportunity, to seek the Lord.

    However, there is something else revealed in our Scripture about this invitation. There is a window of opportunity to seek Him. We are told to “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found.” The clear implication is that there may come a time when He may not be found. How could it be that there might be a time when it would be too late to seek Him?

    For one thing, the length of our lives is uncertain. We do not know what tomorrow may bring. If we are to seek the Lord, it should be now. Also, there could come a time when the Lord will not deal with us as He deals with us now. The Bible gives illustrations of the Holy Spirit dealing with individuals and groups of peoples, and then ceasing to deal with them because they continued to ignore or reject His invitation. The Bible clearly puts this responsibility to seek the Lord on each of us. We need to take the spiritual initiative to pray and seek His face.

    Our text gives us the manner in which we are to seek Him. Notice the following words: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD.” To seek the Lord, we must be willing to turn from our sin. We must forsake our way and our thoughts, and return to the Lord. This is a Bible description of repentance.

    The reason we need to “return” to the Lord is because we have turned from Him in some way or some area. When we insist on our way, we often reject God’s way. When we vigorously defend our thoughts, we may find ourselves forsaking God’s thoughts. We also see in this passage the reward of earnestly seeking the Lord. The Word of God promises “mercy” and “pardon.” When we have turned away from Him, He is willing to forgive us if we will turn back to Him in repentance.



    “Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?”
    Lamentations 3:39

    Without having their spiritual understanding awakened, the unsaved are unable to assimilate basic Bible truth. The natural man does not understand spiritual reality. For instance, he does not understand the holiness of God, nor God’s righteous demands. He cannot understand the authority or supreme lordship of the Almighty. He does not comprehend the innate rebellion or willful wickedness of man. The consequences of man’s disobedience are not usually considered by the unsaved. This is the condition of most, especially in an environment where there is a very limited exposure to the Bible or the fear of God.

    Outside of the framework of foundational truth, people are left to their own notions or opinions. Thus, they feel like they have been mistreated or neglected when things do not go their way. This lack of understanding gives us, at least in part, an answer for the question: “Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?” Living men complain about the punishment of their sins, when in reality, the very fact that we are alive is evidence of God’s mercy, and much more than we actually deserve.

    As those enlightened by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, we realize that if God gave us what we deserve, we would be banished from the realm of the living and confined to the eternal damnation of hell. We know that we have been in direct rebellion against God and that we had no hope of forgiveness or reconciliation to our holy Creator. We also know that it is only because of the perfect and divine sacrifice of Jesus Christ, as well as the mercy and grace of our loving Father, that we are forgiven and restored to fellowship with God.

    We live today and breathe God’s air because He has been good to us. When we experience chastisement for our sins, we know that it is because God cares for us. We know that it is less than our sins deserve. People complain because they think they deserve better treatment than what they are receiving. This is because their carnal minds cannot comprehend either the holiness of God or the depraved condition of man. On the other hand, we know that anything that we receive other than the just reward of our rebellion is evidence that God is merciful and kind.



    “And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the LORD.”
    Jeremiah 9:3

    The prophet Jeremiah, in declaring the sins of the people, speaks graphically about their damaging words and their indifference toward the truth. The lies of men are seen as lethal weapons. He says, “they bend their tongues like their bow for lies.” We see in the language of the Word of God the manner in which words can be used and also the harm that can be inflicted. The prophet tells us that their tongues were like an instrument of war, a bow, and their arrows are lies.

    This illustration should remind us of the power of words, both for good and for evil. The words of the slanderer and gossip are capable of bringing great destruction. Like the arrows that stalk their prey, their lies can be deadly. It is likewise true of the false teacher whose doctrinal untruths are hurled at the minds of the simple. As with a skilled archer, their arrows are directed toward the victim, often causing great injury. One should not underestimate the influence of lies.

    Jeremiah then describes the people as those that “are not valiant for the truth.” They were more interested in lies than the truth. When a person rejects the truth, in any measure, and in any form, it is not a minor thing. As a matter of fact, when truth is rejected, the only thing left to believe is lies. We, as God’s people, should be great advocates of the truth. We should do everything for the truth and reject all lies. We are to be diligent defenders of the Word of God.

    There are perhaps few, if any, more damaging concerns in our day than this. Multitudes who claim allegiance to Christ are not grounded in the truth. Lying prophets who preach a false gospel, filled with contradictions and half-truths, have corrupted their minds. Without a respect and understanding of the absolute standard of truth, the Word of God, men and women are subject to believe virtually anything. We are to be “valiant for the truth.” We are to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints, for the whole body of truth, and particularly for the only Gospel of salvation found in the Holy Scriptures. We should also be “valiant for the truth” in our human relationships. The children of God should be known for their veracity and integrity.



    “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
    Mark 9:23, 24

    This father was in a desperate strait. His son was demon possessed. The devil was mercilessly tormenting the boy. More than once, his son had tried to take his own life, casting himself into the fire and into the water, as the enemy attempted to destroy him.

    Nothing troubles a parent like seeing his children sick or helpless. The father had brought the son to the disciples, but they were not able to cast the devil out. The father pleaded with Jesus to have compassion on them and help them. The reply of Jesus is recorded in the two Scriptures that are before us. Jesus said, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” Let’s put ourselves in the dad’s place. Since he was a child, this boy had been plagued with this problem. Nothing seemed to help. Even the disciples were not able to cure the boy of his dreadful condition. Now Jesus was telling the father that the deliverance of his son depended on his personal faith.
    This father desperately needed a miracle. “And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” He knew God was able, but He also knew that his faith was not perfect. A few verses later, we find that Jesus cast out the devil and marvelously healed the son.

    There are two lessons in our text that we would do well to consider. We see that God works in our lives as we believe Him and trust Him. There is a direct connection between our faith and God’s intervention in the affairs of our lives. For this reason, it is of supreme importance that we nurture our faith and learn to consistently depend on God. We know that our faith is directly strengthened by the Word of God. We are to live by faith, work by faith, and walk by faith.

    Another thing we learn from our story is that one’s faith must not be perfect in order for God to hear and answer. As a matter of fact, the most important thing in our prayer life is not the purity of our faith, but the object of our faith. It is not a perfect faith that God honors, but a sincere faith in our perfect God and His perfect Word. God is caring and merciful and will show Himself strong as we trust Him.



    “He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honour.”
    Proverbs 21:21

    God’s ways are higher than our ways. For instance, He says to gain life, we must be willing to lose our lives, and to receive, we should first give. His ways also teach us that those who lead are to be the first to serve and that suffering is the prerequisite for reigning. We are also taught in the Scripture that humbling ourselves leads to being exalted, and happiness is found, not in being served, but in serving others. Aren’t God and His ways wonderful? His ways are revealed in the Word of God.

    Another divine and similar principle that deserves our attention is found in our Scripture. It has to do with what we are pursuing and what we will eventually find. As we read the text, we see that one who follows particular things will then find certain things. However, the interesting thing is that what he finds is not necessarily what he has been following. Notice that he follows “righteousness and mercy” and then finds “life, righteousness, and honour.” He is not looking for life and honor, yet he finds it. He finds something different from what he has been looking for. This theme is found in other places of the Bible as well. This idea is in direct contrast to what the ways of the world would recommend. The world tells us to seek life and honor, but the Bible says that we will find honor and life by pursuing other things. Remember that God’s ways are not our ways.

    Here is what the world encourages men to do: “Seek life in its fullest. Make provision to do what you like and squeeze into life all that will bring you pleasure. If you want life, you must pursue it; and if you want honor, labor to acquire it. Promote yourself and put your interests first because you cannot depend on others, etc.” However, with all this self-seeking, these people are not usually finding life and meaning. Many of them are miserable and dishonorable. This is because they are pursuing the wrong things. God says that if we want to find “life, righteousness, and honour,” we need to be following “righteousness and mercy.”

    This is a great lesson for us. God warns us not to always be trying to look for the things we want to find. Many have tried vigorously to find life and have only found frustration. Rather, we are to spend our days doing what is right, caring about others. In the process, we will find life.



    “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!”
    Deuteronomy 5:29

    Moses had just rehearsed the Ten Commandments in the ears of God’s people. When the congregation heard the Words of God, they told Moses that they unconditionally resolved to hear and obey all the things that God ordered. The Lord responded to their promise by saying that their words were well spoken, but there was something they were lacking.
    Our text reveals the thing that God knew about their good intentions. Their heart was not as it should be to fully obey and follow the Lord. “O that there were such an heart in them.” It is one thing to confess allegiance with the tongue, or purpose to be faithful in the mind, and yet another to have the heart to carry out those resolutions.

    We find that the Scripture reminds us often of the importance of our hearts. It is out of the heart that sin emerges, and it is from the heart that obedience originates. For a person to sincerely and consistently obey God, his heart must be in it. First of all, he must be converted. At the moment of salvation, a transformation takes place in the heart of the new Christian. This does not imply that we will never sin or fail, but it does mean that we have been born again by the Spirit of God.

    There are marked, continual, and eternal differences in our inner man. Salvation brings with it a new love for God and for the things of God. The regenerated heart is not only interested in honoring God, it is capable of doing those things that please Him. In addition to the heart being converted, it must also be surrendered. The children of Israel made verbal commitments to obey the laws of God, but when it came time to demonstrate their obedience, they often revealed a stubborn resistance to God’s authority. They were not surrendered to Him and His will. A stubborn and unwilling heart will make cheerful obedience to God an impossibility. God heard the people as they stated their intentions to obey Him, but He knew their hearts would keep them from doing what their minds and mouths said they would do.

    What about your heart today? Is it surrendered to the Savior and His will? Are you willing to do whatever the Lord would have you do? If we do not keep our hearts right, our good intentions will not produce obedience.

Page 1 of 13312345»102030...Last »