Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD God of Israel. – Joshua 24:23
One of the core truths of the Word of God that is important to understand is that the heart of man is not inclined to serve the one true God. People may be inclined to be religious, but to serve the God of Israel proper, they are not.
The world has a difficult time understanding this. For them, religion is kind of jumbled together. They can’t see the difference between a person who truly walks with God and a religious devotee. Part of the reason they can’t is due to the exact reason I propose to talk about in this blog. Many who do walk with God do so in a fractured manner. We don’t walk with God with the consistency that we ought to. Why is that? It’s because our hearts aren’t inclined to it.
The entire Bible testifies of this truth. All throughout scripture we see God’s own people rejecting Him. They didn’t reject religion in general, just true religion. They may have acknowledged God in word, or jumbled Him together with other gods, but they found it hard to serve Him in the way that He had prescribed.
Notice how God comments on His people:
“They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.” – Hebrews 3:10 & Psalm 95:10
“These people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me,” -Isaiah 29:13
“Has a nation changed its gods, which are not gods? But My people have changed their Glory for what does not profit.” – Jeremiah 2:11
While reading the Bible, I’ve often scoffed at how quickly and often God’s people rejected Him. The people of Israel, when they came out of Egypt, almost immediately rejected God. It was only about a month and a half of being out of Egpyt before they began to cry and complain, saying things like: “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt!” They heard the voice of God thundering down the 10 Commandments from the mountain, yet they still made a golden calf and worshiped it. How is it that, after seeing the great miracles that they did, could they so quickly forsake the God of heaven?
But the longer I have lived, the more I’ve realized that I’m just the same. God has done AMAZING things in my life, yet in times of difficulty, I tend to forget. When things aren’t going my way, it’s easy to forget the miraculous workings of God from days gone by.
Why is this? It’s just the way we are naturally. We’re like a boat on a river– unless we purposely work against the current, we naturally float with it. We naturally take the easy path. Grumbling and complaining about the present situation is a lot easier than taking the time to remind ourselves of the good things God has done. We aren’t naturally inclined to do such a thing.
But this is a good thing in disguise, really. If every good and wholesome thing came easy, we’d be a weak, spoiled people. Resistance brings strength; hard work builds character. If God were to just give us everything, He’d destroy us. He’s doing what every good father should do: teaching us, preparing us, truly loving us.
Now, this isn’t to say that we work for our salvation. No, salvation is a free gift. But after we are saved, we are commanded to ‘work heartily, as unto the Lord,’ to ‘resist the devil,’ to ‘fight the good fight of faith,’ to ‘exercise self-control in all things,’ to ‘always abound in the work of the Lord.’ These are a whole bunch of things that we aren’t naturally inclined to–things that we must incline ourselves unto.
I must admit that I’m not naturally inclined to pray. Most days, prayer starts out with difficulty. Some days, I fail to have any kind of meaningful prayer. My flesh just doesn’t like to do it. However, I know it’s something that I should do; I know it’s something that will ultimately benefit me and others, so I do it. And this is what I’ve found: If I give myself to it, if I put my heart into it and am consistent, I begin to become inclined to it. I must say that I’m not as inclined to it as I’d like to be, yet, but the more I do it, the more I’m inclined to it.
We see the same thing with healthy eating and exercise. The person who is not used to exercise despises it, but the person who has made a habit of it begins to enjoy it, to look forward to it, even! And to the person who has unhealthy eating habits, salad is abhorrent, but to the one whose inclined themselves to it, a good salad is a delight!
The foreign gods that Israel ultimately served were like junk food. They tasted good but ultimately became their undoing. If they had only acted in faith and trained themselves to be worshippers of God, God would have become their delight. I know this because God has become such a delight to me. He wasn’t always, but He sure is now. And I know that many others would testify to the same.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! – Psalm 34:8
Today you may be thinking, “Serving God is hard.” And it may be, but if you set your heart to do it, give yourself to it, and keep at it, you’ll become inclined to it. Soon, that which was hard will become your delight.
Everything tends to disorder. Everything begins to wear out. When we are first saved there is a freshness, a spiritual high, just like when you first begin to date. But time always wears things down, including our relationship with God. We must incline ourselves to keep it up, to keep it fresh. If we don’t, we, just like the Israelites, will go looking for other gods to get a quick, easy high. Our gods may look a little different, but the essence is the same.
The early church faced the same problem. Their hearts, once aflame, began to succumb to the currents of this world. Jesus rebuked them for it and commanded them to make things right. Look at the remedy He gives:
I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works…” -Jesus, Revelation 2:4-5
REMEMBER the good things the Lord has done. DO the first works. Only this will rekindle the flame.
We need to be a people who incline our hearts to the Lord. In these last days, many are going to walk away from God. Only those who purpose to remain faithful will endure. Incline your heart to God; nothing is more important than that.
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