As calendars change from 2020 to 2021, you need to ask yourself if your mindset and your heart has also moved into the New Year. There is only a moment between 31 December 2020 and 01 January 2021. Our gadgets automatically change as the date changes but the question remains. Have you changed anything in your heart? There needs to be a change that shows that you understand the new beginning. Otherwise the new year will merely be a continuation of the last and you will remain the same person. Jesus once mentioned that people are so careful to clean the outside of the cup, yet the inside remains dirty (Matthew 24:25-26), meaning that your outward countenance may show some changes, but your inner self remains unchanging. The aspects of your character such as gossip, malice or anger need more than just an outward change, but a complete transformation of the heart. Some people mark a new year by making a list of things they desire to change, then physically cross out points on the list to signify it. A change of calendar does is not equal a change of character unless you make intentional steps to do so. The renewal of your mind will allow you to identify missed opportunities so that you can truly be ready for this year.
Joshua 24:14-16, 19-24
In this scripture, Joshua starts by narrating everything that God had done for the Israelites. He then gave them an ultimatum to decide whether to continue to serve other “gods” or to serve the Lord? However in verse 19, Joshua tells the people that although they can verbally choose to serve God, they may not be able to do so in reality. Based on all that we know of God, it can be difficult to understand why Joshua would have implied this. But later we see how Joshua explains how God is a jealous God. You see the people still had the spirit of double mindedness. For them to serve God, they would have to rid themselves of all other thoughts, sins and “gods” and their past record did them no favours. Joshua had borne witness of their unfaithfulness towards God during their journey to the Promised Land. Without full understanding of their God, they often turned away from Him by worshipping other gods. It was necessary for them to serve God without things within themselves, as well as within their possession, that was contrary to what God had commanded. The Israelites had prior instruction to pledge loyalty to God in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, yet as can be seen in Joshua, they still battled with this.
In context, we learn the importance of declaring to serve God ALONE. Nothing should rival Him. Nowadays, it is easy to start worshipping other gods without realising it. How? By allowing other things to have greater value and priority over God. The bible in Deuteronomy is very clear about idol worship. God requires loyalty and our undivided attention. As Christians we fail to see the benefits of worshipping God because we do so in a half-hearted manner. We expect to receive more, yet we only give God a fraction of our attention. According to Luke 6:38, one can only expect to receive as they have given. So if you only give God a half measure in effort, you can only expect to receive the same.
We might be able to give testimonies of ways that God is intervening in our lives, but leave His house in ruins. This shows our inability to translate our gratitude towards God. Is it not God that has given you the health and ability to work? Is He not the very creator of life? Surely He deserves our undivided attention. That declaration to serve God should not just be lip service. Many people say they are christian. Perhaps they present themselves at church occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. But do not show any devotion. Serving God must be an actual commitment put into action. Ultimately, God only expects us to serve and love Him “with all our heart, our soul and our mind” (Matthew 22:37). In the morning, firstly take the time to pray before you watch the news, or Facebook or check your Twitter. Before you rush to work don’t forget the one who has woken you up. Anything that takes precedence in your life becomes a “god” to you. So although your work, or news or daily activities are important, do not allow these to consume you.
Coming back to our scripture, we know Joshua to be the man that previously had stopped the sun and moon through prayer. Yet in this case, he was prohibited by God to pray for the Israelites. Because they had turned from God, they were now destined for disaster. God is a Holy God, and His holiness requires living according to His will. Therefore take heed, God can turn against us as He did the Israelites. Isaiah 59:2 mentions that our sin can make God turn away from us. Sin prevents us from being conducive environments for God to dwell in. At times, we choose to focus on only God’s attributes that are favourable to us and neglect His decrees. Indeed, Jesus did come to save us, but He also taught to be vessels worthy of God to dwell in.(John 14:23). Our bodies are the Lord’s temples and we need to ensure that they are inviting of the Holy Spirit. Misuse of God’s temple is unacceptable. That is why in John 2:13-16, Jesus threw out merchants that were now trading in the temple instead of it’s intended purpose.
It is time to reflect on those barriers preventing you from fully devoting yourself to God. Gratitude goes a long way, and it is important that you do not forget to thank God for what he has allowed you to achieve. Rid yourself of the spirit of entitlement. If you feel entitled to live you negate the understanding that life is a gift and can therefore not appreciate it. Rid yourself of all negativity but live a life of love as Christ did. Without love it is difficult to achieve anything Godly. Remember, Joshua needed to work on his determination so that God could work in him. In the same way, work on your weaknesses and change your perception of what it truly means to serve God. Otherwise you may continue on the same vain that you have always done, with no positive change to your relationship with God or life.