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Pastoral 2017

Serving God


Ye cannot serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:19) – that was exactly what Joshua asserted to the Israelites who had said, “therefore will we also serve the LORD; for he is our God” (v. 18). It must have been a crushing statement to a people who expressed their zeal to serve the LORD. But why such a staggering admonition? Why would Joshua tell them that they cannot serve the LORD?

John Calvin commented that such a harsh mode of rebuke was necessary “in order to rouse a sluggish people, rendered more lethargic by security… Joshua does not deter them from serving God, but only explains how refractory and disobedient they are, in order that they may learn to change their temper.”

Serving God is not what we do when and however we like. It demands absolute surrender to God’s will. At His bidding, we must set out to do all that He says with faithfulness and zeal. We cannot decide when and how we would serve Him, for it is God’s sole prerogative as the Sovereign One.

Serving God begins with an acknowledgment that we are incapable of serving Him on our own. It is what the theologians have called the doctrine of “moral inability”. Our impure hearts and unclean hands are an abomination to the most Holy God. This is what Joshua meant when he said to the people, “Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins” (v. 19). Offering something to God or doing something in the LORD’s name would not be regarded as a service, if those who render them do not repent and put away their sins.

So Joshua warned them earlier, “Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD” (Joshua 24:14). Service demands absolute consecration to God.

If God be served at all, He must be served alone. Nothing and no one should be allowed to take first place in our hearts, except the LORD. No other claimant can be our God. This was also Jesus’ admonition when He said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).

Today, in the church, many come to serve God, but their hearts hanker after the gods of our time – wealth, luxury, carnal pleasure, headknowledge, fame, etc. How can God ever be pleased with their service? Jesus warned, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8-9).

If God be served at all, He must be served in sincerity and truth. God will search through and through every form of service offered to Him, and hence it must be sincere and “clean every whit”, or it will not be acceptable to Him. Every service rendered to God must be born out of obedience to His Word. The service to our holy God must be rendered with humility and resolve of heart (cf. Acts 20:19), with faith and prayer (Hebrews 11:6), with all our strength and might (Ecclesiastes 9:10; Romans 12:11), and with gladness and thanksgiving (Psalm 95:2; 100:2; Colossians 3:23). ■


Testimony of God’s Mercies

Dear Pastor,

I am writing a personal testimony about how God has been gracious and merciful towards me over the past 9 years ever since I was diagnosed with psoriasis. In a nutshell, psoriasis is an auto-immune skin condition whereby the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues, causing inflammation on the skin and potentially on the joints as well. On the inflamed parts of the skin, the skin cells are on an overdrive, reproducing at a much faster rate than normal. Because of this rapid build-up of skin, the top layer of the skin will turn flaky and fall off. Currently, nobody knows the exact cause or has found a definite cure for this skin problem.

Living with psoriasis can be a little inconvenient. Sometimes, the affected area on the skin can get itchy and will bleed easily when scratched. I will sometimes wake up the next morning to find small bloodstains on the bed sheet. If I do not clean the room regularly, the floor will be littered with flaky skin.

I want to praise God for His hand of grace towards me, for helping me to accept my skin condition as it is and to learn how to live with it. At times, I would feel depressed thinking about my skin condition and become more self-conscious about my own appearance. However, the Lord quickly reminds me of His words to the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9 – “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Secondly, I also want to thank God that my skin condition serves as a reminder of the ugliness of sin and the need to always lead a life that is holy in God’s sight. Thirdly, I want to thank God for the brethren in the church who are concerned about me and have offered me advice and supplements to help me improve my skin condition.

Should it be the Lord’s will that I should live with this condition for the rest of my life, I pray for the Lord’s grace to continue to strengthen my faith. I pray also that I will think less about my earthly body which is prone to infirmities and corruption, and look forward to the glory and joy of Christ’s presence in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:52-54).

All glory be to God!

Best regards,
Ernest Lim



Pastoral Exhortation