Joshua once said, what many of us have declared for our families, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15b But Joshua had something completely different in mind than most Christians do when they use the phrase “serve the Lord.”
Have you ever thought what Joshua and the average Israelite actually did in the course of their week to serve the Lord? In Joshua’s day there was no synagogue worship on the Sabbath, so no Sunday school classes to teach, no parking lot attendance, or choir practice or missions committee meeting to attend. There were no para-church ministries to volunteer for, or give money to and yet they served the Lord.
How did they do that and what are we missing? To serve the Lord biblically has always meant two primary things:
1. Love God above all 2. Obey God in everything
That’s why Moses ended his long discourse on the law of God by saying, “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you—they are your life.”Deuteronomy 32:46a-47b
I’m particularly struck with this sentence “They are not just idle words for you – they are your life.” Because living out the will of God as commanded in scripture is the purpose of our life! It is the very reason for our existence. God through Moses, in this passage made it clear that to love God and serve God was to obey him!
But this wasn’t just an Old Testament teaching meant for Israel. Jesus repeated that many times over in the gospels.
“In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands.” 1 John 5:3a
“Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.” John 14:21a
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21
The “New Serving” Most Christians think they’re serving God by volunteering in church or other ministries and in one sense we are, because we’re obeying Jesus’ command to “serve one another.” And, it’s true, the early church served the poor and cared for widows. But, here’s my concern. And I’ll make it personal. Way too many times over the last 35 years that I’ve been trying to follow Jesus, I’ve let my personal holiness and my personal obedience to God’s commands slide, but made myself feel better because I was “serving the Lord” with all my public ministry activities.
The reason I call this new serving, “extra-biblical” is because that type of serving is rarely found in scripture. Serving God was almost always obeying God directly and individually. Where Israel got in trouble was in putting man designed religious rules and activities, in the place of personal devotion and serving God by obeying him faithfully in every aspect of life.
As I said in The 10 Second Rule, “I think we Christians who were once on fire for God often slowly and unconsciously drift toward religious activities, even good ones, because they’re relatively convenient and culturally acceptable forms of obedience. It’s a form of faith we can schedule into our busy lives worship at 10:00am, drop our offerings in the plate, Bible Study on Tuesday morning and volunteer on Wednesday evenings in the children’s program. It’s a form of serving we can measure ourselves and others by that still leave 95% of our waking hours for ourselves.”
The Question How about you? Have you also found easier to be active serving publically, than attending to the personal holiness issues in your own life? Is it easier for you to volunteer for a few hours a week in AWANA or Young Life than it is to spend several hours in prayer and meditation? Is it easier for you to attend a conference about God, than it is to spend 48 hours alone with only God?
My answer to these questions is often “yes.” That’s why I take a day or two at the beginning of every new year alone with God, and examine my life. I almost always find I’m way too busy doing activities and not busy enough just living out a simple faith obeying God as he directs me daily, hourly or even in the next 10 seconds!
How following Jesus works in real life.
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