One of the most well known statements in the Bible is from Joshua 24:15. Its importance can not be understated. Many of you probably have a sign hanging in your homes with a summary of that verse, “Choose you this day who you will serve, as for me and my house we will serve the Lord”.
No matter how much religious division there is, one thing that most could agree on, is how much better would the world be if more homes were lead by modern day Joshuas.
I am certain that there are many people who are as sincere as you could ever be in their desire to have homes that live according to this statement. Joshua makes it clear that we are never going to have homes that serve God in a pleasing way if we don’t “serve him in sincerity and truth” (24:14) Sincerity is essential to be pleasing to God.
There are few things that are as frustrating as insincerity. When we talk to someone and they give us an insincere compliment it irritates us. When we are a part of a team and someone is dogging it or being insincere we quickly become annoyed. One of the definitions of sincere is “genuine”. We simply will not accept a phony.
We require sincerity from each other so it is no surprise that God requires sincerity from us as well. But is sincerity enough?
If we took another look at Joshua 24:14, we immediately see the answer is no. His instructions to serve God in a pleasing way involved two components. Sincerity is only one side to the coin. The other side is to serve God in Truth.
Thomas B. Warren prepared a famous lesson on the topic of sincerity a few decades ago. It can be viewed by clicking here. But in that lesson he makes the point that there are not any fields that he can think of where we allow sincerity to change something from wrong to right… Except for religion.
If a person gets a job at a grocery store and they have intentions to be a great employee, but can’t count change correctly, their sincerity will not fix the discrepancies at the end of the day. If I was to stand trial for tax fraud, it wouldn’t matter how sincere I was, I am going to be judged by the law of the land. If I am in school and I sincerely believe the capital of Texas is Dallas, I am going to get that question wrong on the test no matter how right I feel. Sincerity doesn’t make a wrong into a right.
These points all illustrate the plain truth that our society sets lower standards in trying to please God than we do for trying to please a boss, the government, and our teachers. This should not be the case. Especially when God makes it clear that he wants sincerity AND truth.
Why is the home in America falling apart? Is it because parents don’t sincerely want to have houses that serve the Lord? Maybe some. But mostly, it’s because parents don’t value the truth of God’s word in their home. They aren’t concerned with their children engaging in sinful activity. No. They think their sincerity and good intentions can compensate for not enforcing God’s standard of righteousness (Rom 1:16-17).
This same coin is required for our eternal salvation. One must have a sincere faith. Romans 10:10 says “from the heart on believes unto righteousness”. But our sincerity doesn’t negate other instructions for salvation. The second half of Romans 10:10 says, “and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation”. This does not exhaust what man is supposed to do for salvation, but it does show us the two sides of the coin. We need to have a pure sincere faith, but we also need to obey the truth (Rom 2:8) by confessing Christ.
This is the biblical definition of the well pleasing faith that saves (Heb 11:6ff). Jesus said it like this, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36).
When Abraham was declared righteous by God (Rom 4:3), it did not come based on a faith with sincerity alone. It came with a faith that included sincerity AND obedience to God’s commands (Gen 12:1, Heb 11:8). God has ALWAYS left the expectation that we should serve him in sincerity AND truth.
Does the truth teach that one needs to be baptized to be saved (Mk 16:16, 1 Pet 3:21); to be made a Christian (Matt 28:19, Acts 11:26); for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38); to be added to the church (Acts 2:47, 1 Cor 12:13); to be born again (Jn 3:5); and to have ones sins washed away (Acts 22:16)? Many of you would sincerely deny all of those statements. But will your sincerity change the truth of what the Bible actually says?
I am sure there are many sincere people who believe that asking Jesus into your heart, and claiming him as your personal Lord and Savior is how you are saved. I don’t question anyones sincerity in believing that. That is not my place. But I do need to question the truthfulness of that belief. The fact of the matter is, you won’t find anyone asking Jesus into their heart, or a command to say a sinners prayer in the Bible. It doesn’t matter how sincere we are, our sincerity doesn’t create truth. God’s Word is the Truth (John 17:17). Not ones sincere feelings.
Sincerity does not remove the need to obey what God says, and it doesn’t allow us to create something that God didn’t say. We must serve Him in sincerity AND truth.