Last time, we mentioned that the process of our spiritual lives getting "clogged up" and messy is a gradual one. Sometimes it is even imperceptible....we don't see it. In fact, other peeps might see it before we do!
A wise old man named Solomon observed this, and here is what he said:
So, a lack of caring will result in decay. Not paying attention to the things that need daily work can cause major problems. It's not just true in the agricultural world..... it doesn't only have to do with vineyards! It's also true in our spiritual lives. A field doesn't fill up with weeds overnight (although I could swear that the flower borders in my yard can do just that!). A stone wall doesn't suddenly fall over and spill rocks everywhere. Decay is gradual.
Here's the recipe: all it takes is time, combined with a bit of neglect, a spoonful of complacency, and a cupful of I'm-too-busy-to-deal-with-that. Then, before we realize it, our spiritual life is full of the thorns that Solomon saw.... and our fellowship with God is not what it used to be. Oh, but the real danger is that by the time we awake, we may not care as much anymore.
Are we sensing that this is starting to happen in our lives? It may have been going on for a while. Ah, but there is good news! This process of decay, of debris building up and clogging up the effective relationship with God, is reversible! By His grace and power, we can change. How? With some spiritual spring cleaning: stopping to examine the quality of our walk with Him, and listening to His Word, then responding in obedience to what He says needs to change.....
Yes, we can! We can clean out the muck and mire, so that our fellowship with God and with other believers will be free and unobstructed -- we can enjoy the abundant life that Christ intends for us.
The first step in spring cleaning a home is to gather up the tools, right? Dust cloths, sprays, cleaners, mops, and brooms.... what tools do we need for a spiritual spring cleaning? I believe the three most important tools are the Holy Spirit, other believers, and prayer.
Let me explain: God has given us the Holy Spirit for this very purpose -- to teach us, to enlighten us, and if necessary, to convict us of our sin. The Spirit can open our eyes to the debris in our lives; He can shine a light on the dust bunnies of sins and bad attitudes, so that we can see what needs cleaning.
Hey, that's not something we routinely have on our prayer request list, is it? (Grin) Asking God to reveal our sin is a little scary, no? "Please shine a light on any gunk and garbage in my life, Lord." That's a wee bit intimidating!
Facing our sin is something our natural self wants to avoid.... we don't intentionally seek it out. Maybe that is a major part of our problem!
We mentioned that other believers can be another spring cleaning tool.... Oy vey. When God sends someone to speak to us about our sin (whether it's a parent, a spouse, a friend, or a pastor) what is our response? Do we clap our hands over our ears and hum the tune to Jeopardy?
Do we refuse to listen to the correction, no matter how tactfully and gently it is offered? Oh, we can change the subject; we can get defensive; we can flail at the messenger. If none of those work, we can deny the sin. Or rationalize it.
Finally, if we are still unable to repent, we can rename the sin so that it seems less sinful. Let's call it something pleasant, OK? Greed can be called "thriftiness." Gossip can be called "just sharing my concerns." Gluttony can be renamed "a healthy appetite." How about pride? Oh, that's a "good self-esteem." And what we are doing when we rename all these, which is lying, can be renamed "stretching the truth," or "white lies."
Follow me? (And don't think that my toes are immune from this....I'm learning as we go, too!)
Here's the point: we have to be willing for God to show us our sin. Whether it's the Holy Spirit convicting us when we read the Word, or whether it's a believer that points out our need for cleansing, we need to be ready to respond with repentance and prayer.
I think something that truly helps with this is the knowledge that God is a gentle, compassionate Father. He won't give us more than we can bear. He won't load us down with so much conviction that it crushes us.....He won't reveal so much ugliness that we are overwhelmed. Instead, He lovingly shows us enough that we repent -- not too much, lest we despair.
(John 16:12-13)Jesus knew that if He dumped everything on His disciples at once, they might be overwhelmed and filled with despair. He gave them as much as they could comprehend.....and He does the same with us. Little by little, He reveals our sin and our need for repentance -- but with compassion, He only shows us as much as He knows we can deal with.
We'll finish our study tomorrow. Hope our toes have not been mashed too badly, and we'll all be here!