“The word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword. It penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4v12
“If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus , His Son, purifies us from all sin.”
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other, so that you may be healed.” James 5v16
The Bible doesn’t tell us to “say sorry” – it tells us to admit, confess, be open about our faults and failings: it is as we do this the Father’s all-revealing light can shine on us and Jesus’ blood cleanse us. Honesty, transparency, accountability and the hidden motives of the heart are SO important to God. Jesus reserved His strongest criticism for those who pretended and covered up their sin: He hated hypocrisy! The whole of Matthew 23 is given over to exposing it in the Pharisees. Lets not forget, with our benefit of hindsight, that they were the highly respected, top religious people of the day. But Jesus makes no attempt to disguise His anger as He publicly humiliates them… no wonder they wanted to kill Him!“You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (v27-28). God always looks at our hearts (I Samuel 16v7) and already knows everything about us: we cannot lie to the Holy Spirit! When we pretend in front of one another out of shame, fear or pride, we are as good as inviting the religious spirit in… its dangerous ground.
So here I am today, wanting to be open and honest, as befits the claim to speak ‘out of the heart’. I have set myself up really, laid out my stall – compromise is not part of the DNA of what I am wanting to express and explore in this on-line space. I dare not take the easy option: the word of the Lord is a sword! And therein lies the problem… when we wield that sword it has a habit of coming back to cut us with its second edge. Owch! ‘The vorpel blade went snicker-snack’ (Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll!) Haman in the book of Esther provides a graphic example of this: he was hanged on the very gallows he had built to execute Mordecai: hoisted on his own petard! (Esther 7v9-10) Its the spiritual law of Matthew 7: “For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” Or as the songwriter Mark Knoffler puts it, “When you point the finger cos your plan fell through, there’ll be three more fingers pointing back at you!”
So…I spent most of last week blogging about the balance between service and rest (Martha and Mary) and sacrifically loving others while also making loving ourselves a priority. The trouble with trying to keep balanced is that we can so easily over-balance – and the trouble with making declarations about it, as any preacher will tell you, is that you then get personally tested on it! Of course I want to sound good, and as if I have it all sorted: I want to zoom ahead with all my brilliant ideas for blog posts, dazzling everyone with my cleverness… But I need to pay attention to the flow of the Spirit as much as anyone else does. When dryness and doubt begin to strike I have to take a step back and ask what He is saying. At the very least I should have taken notice of the numbers, a language God often uses to speak to me in (random but true – see the post 10.10.10). I have written 49 posts since the end of August and this is the 50th. 49=7×7 and in Leviticus 25 is the marker for the year of Jubilee, the Sabbath of sabbaths, the rest and restoration time.
No I have to stop and admit that this week went haywire. I missed it as far as rest is concerned. I have been way too busy and had no space to look after myself or enjoy life as I have driven hundreds of miles and used all my time to serve my family and keep appointments that could not be cancelled, doing good things – that are so often the enemy of the best. Its sad when even the things and meetings with friends that are there to provide refreshment become a burden and lose their enjoyment. The pressure of even more things waiting to be done piles up (including writing the blog!) and with sleep patterns all over the place I feel exhausted. I have been Martha through and through… but its hard to see how I could have done anything differently 😦
OK: confession over. You can all pray for me to be healed now! The Lord is so kind: He knows we are all in the same boat, subject to the same difficulties. He loves us anyway. One of my favourite Gerald Quotes is, “God is never disillusioned with us: He never had any illusions about us in the first place.” But what He doesn’t like is if we cover up in front of Him OR each other.
‘When I kept silent my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” – and You forgave the guilt of my sin’. Psalm 32v3-5. Simple as that – and pre-Jesus too, when God had not even ‘become a Christian yet’ (as my husband says!) David knew a bit about confessing sin: Psalm 51 is the classic. God forgave him things we find difficult to countenance from ‘a man of God’ – because of his relationship with and honour of Him, and his honesty, humility and repentance. What a relief.
This week I saw a pitch on the internet for a film a guy wants to make called ” My religious failures”. Its supposed to be a comedy! He quotes Romans 7 as his starting point: “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing”(v18-19) He bemoans the fact that he is ‘no good’ as a Christian – but then he says, “there only seem to be 2 Christian failures in the world – me… and St Paul”! A rather tongue-in-cheek comment, but it makes its point! How have we given the impression that Christians are so perfect and pious, holier-than-thou? More honesty needed… more humility, more reality.
Of course we all have the Romans 7 battle going on within us – and the only way out is Romans 8! No condemnation and the law of the Spirit and grace can deliver us from sin’s power. Its not about ‘being a good Christian’ but knowing the grace of God and accessing His power to change. As wise brother Hywel put it in his comment on Love Yourself, “Now I ‘know’ all this… now to be this” – and that is the hardest transition to make! But I’m so glad of the freedom to be honest and real and share each others struggles as we fall back into grace again and again.The power to change comes from Him:
‘”Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit”, says the Lord Almighty” Zechariah 4v6