Are you clinging, loving, trusting, and fearing the Lord? There are four verses in Joshua 23 and 24 that I have been praying over for myself and for all of us at The Bible Church.
Clinging: Joshua exhorted the people of Israel to cling to the Lord in their new promised land (Joshua 23:8). The word for cling there is the same word used in Genesis 2:24 in reference to a husband and wife. They are to leave their parents at marriage and cling to one another. In the context of Joshua 23:8 the people of Israel’s “clinging” would be evidenced by their not associating with other nations and their idolatrous worship. So what about us? Positively speaking, to cling to the Lord today as a Christian means to have and pursue a deeper relationship with Him. Negatively speaking, to cling to the Lord implies a continual “forsaking” of others. Just like the new husband leaves his parents to cling to his wife, so the Christian has and must continually cling to God through Christ which excludes pursuing any other love or priority above God.
Loving: A few verses later the Israelites are exhorted to “take diligent heed” to “love the LORD your God” (Joshua 23:11). One of the major problems with our culture’s view of love is that we are constantly being fed the lie that love happens automatically without any effort and is not something that you can necessarily pursue: It just “is” and then “may go.” Though true love ought to involve right affections, true love always involves the choice of selfless giving for the good of another. It is tragic if we apply our culture’s wrong view of love to our walk with Christ. Our love for God in response to His love for us does involve disciplined choices; it is not essentially a feeling. There is no doubt that we love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). While we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). We love because we have been loved. However, we are to grow in the “grace and knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) which takes Spirit-dependent Christ-centered effort propelled by faith in God’s gracious promises contained in the gospel. Jude puts it this way: “Keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 1:21). By that the Scripture means that though we are in the love of God through Christ and can never be separated from that love, we do in fact either live in the enjoyment of that love or we live as though poor when we are truly rich in Christ. We continually experience the love of God in Christ as we express our love to Him through various disciplines of the Christian life. In Jude those disciplines are (1) Building yourself up in the faith, (2) Prayer, and (3) Looking for Christ’s return. These three ways to keep experiencing God’s love for us in Christ are inseparably attached to basic Christian disciples (e.g. saturating yourself in the Bible and prayer through private and corporate worship, prioritizing your formal relationship with a local body of believers). All true believers love God, but we are to grow in that love. And growing in the love of God involves a life of taking “diligent heed to yourself to love the LORD your God” (Joshua 23:11).
Trusting: Joshua 23:14 is a statement of great comfort and truth for God’s children of all ages. Joshua compelled the children of Israel to consider all the promises that God had made to them and then to acknowledge that all His promises were kept faithfully. Not one of those promises were reneged on by the Lord. Often we do not experientially rejoice in statements like this because we have not been closely meditating on and by faith seeing God carry out His promises. We are often much more focused on our hardships and ease, our defeats and our victories. But the reality is that God has proven Himself faithful to all His promises. As we recognize that all of God’s promises are “yes” in Christ, we start to grow in living a life that is consistently declaring “Amen to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Fearing: To rightly fear God is to rightly serve Him. And to rightly serve Him is to do so in sincerity and truth (Joshua 24:14). When we find little motivation to serve God in our church, community, work, and family we are not fearing Him. To recognize who He is necessarily means reverencing Him. And if by His grace we recognize who He is, we will be full of gratitude for what He has done for us in Christ. Suddenly, our service to Him is done from the heart for His glory and not our own. Peter gives this kind of logic in 1 Peter 1:17-18: If you claim to know God as Father (the impartial Judge that is evaluating all that you do) then fear Him because you were redeemed with the blood of Christ. There is a Christ glorifying fear of God that should mark our lives and which produces God glorifying service.
So are you clinging, loving, trusting and fearing? If you are it is all because of grace, and if you are to grow in these areas it will all be because of grace. May the Lord help us to “discipline [ourselves] for the purpose of godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7) as we pursue clinging, loving, trusting and fearing Him this week.