Do you ever hear a nugget of truth and it just seems to clear up so much of the frustration and confusion that’s been clouding your view recently?
That happened to me this past Sunday during Pastor Aaron’s sermon (if you weren’t able to be at Grace last weekend, you can listen to it here). There I was, sitting in the pew, jotting down notes, and the Lord used the following words to speak right to my heart,
“The burdens of this world all have one thing in common, they all want to take your eyes down and they want you to stare at yourself, or they want you to stare at things around you and they don’t want you to look up. And that is why the Bible is constantly telling God’s people from beginning to end, “Lift your eyes. Look to Jesus.’”
When that truth Hit my ears so much of the pain and confusion I had been wrestling with just seemed to be knocked down. Those burdens were finally visible for what they really were… distractions from my Savior.
I just finished reading through the book of Joshua this morning, and the way that Old Testament book closes really caught hold of me,
“Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD, the God of Israel.” -Joshua 24:22-23
Joshua is about to die, and before he does, the Lord has him once again remind the Israelites of God’s faithfulness to them since Abraham. But history has taught him that they are a wayward bunch and easily swayed (can you relate? I know I can!). After they’ve committed to obey the Lord with their mouths, he commands them to do two things:
1) “…put away the foreign gods among them.”
2) “…incline their hearts to the Lord.”
Joshua’s first command brings me back to that challenge Pastor Aaron gave us this past Sunday: lift your eyes. Look to Jesus. It’s a continual reminder to realize where my gaze is resting and lift it back up to Jesus if I’ve allowed it to focus on things of this world.
Anything that I worship other than the Lord is an idol in my life. Even if the things or relationships are beautiful or wonderful, if they are taking God’s place in my heart, they are an idol. That’s why being aware of those in my life is so important.
One way I sift through potential idols is to ask myself how I would feel if God took that thing, that position, or that person away. Would it wreck me? Would it take away all my purpose and worth? If I answer yes to any of these questions, then it’s likely that an idol has taken root in my heart.
Joshua goes on to challenge the Israelites to incline their hearts to the Lord. Other versions say “yield” or “turn” your hearts to the Lord.
In the Old Testament times, idols were often depicted as physical structures made of stone, wood, or gold. So, after putting away any foreign gods that were in their midst, Joshua commands them to set their hearts on the Lord. Taking that initiative, not just once, but daily, and moment by moment would prove to encourage them to keep their eyes lifted up to the Lord.
Today we don’t so much have pagan idols littering our homes and towns, but they are just as present. Jobs, children, cars, reputations, desires, belongings, and GPA’s can just as quickly turn our hearts away from the Lord, the Creator of the Universe.
So what does it practically look like to apply the truth of lifting our eyes to Jesus?
As the church body, we have the incredible opportunity to reach out to each other and ask for accountability. We weren’t meant to do this alone. Look over Joshua’s words again. It started with a verbal commitment; the Israelites saying back to Joshua, “We are witnesses” to their commitment to not turn from the Lord. Then Joshua commands them to get rid of idols they are aware of, and then incline their hearts to the Lord.
I’m praying that God is placing another believer on your heart right now that you trust and you know will hold you accountable. Someone you can share the idols that jockey for your worship day in and day out. Someone who will ask you the hard questions and will pray with and for you.
Pastor Aaron told the whole congregation to lift our eyes. Look to Jesus. Joshua told the whole nation of Israel to lift their eyes. Look to the Lord. My prayer is that we allow the Holy Spirit to convict us of the idols demanding our worship and attention, and with God’s power turn from them. My prayer is that together we align our hearts to the Lord and lift our eyes to the One who took the punishment we deserved so we can have a personal relationship with Him.