"My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me." Psalm 63:8 (NIV)
With the coldness of the winter months fast coming to our part of the country (although nothing like in my home state of Michigan), I am noticing a familiar phenomenon as I open my dryer and remove my clothing, especially in the socks (by the way, I am convinced that the dryer eats one sock and leaves the other!). The socks cling together with static electricity. I can hear the popping sound as I pull them apart.
I came across a verse earlier this year when I was developing the downward spiral of King Saul. I built a whole lesson around this verse in my women's Bible study, Living With Unmet Desires. I believe that it holds a clue as to how we can become so ensnared in carnal behavior as Christ-followers.
"I will set before my eyes
no vile thing.
The deeds of faithless men I hate;
they will not cling to me." Psalm 101:3 (NIV)
I heard a sermon this last summer that I have thought of every time I sit down in my church's sanctuary for worship. The man delivering the message was actually not a pastor, but was an expert on worship and what the Bible has to say about its importance. He gave us such a unique word picture of the verse above. I don't remember word-for-word what he said, but the gist of it was this:
You and I never enter into worship on a Sunday morning without bringing our entire week with us. Some of us wonder why we never hear from God, why church is something we do instead of something we are, why we never feel moved, why we can never change. Let me ask you--is this the first time you have come to worship this week since the last time you sat here seven days ago? You see, that unwholesome conversation we were involved in, the gossip, the inappropriate content we watched through the television or internet, that has all come with us to this place. If we have participated in behaviors which are not glorifying to a holy God, we will leave here wondering where He was today.
Wow! Is my God loving and full of mercy? Yes. One hundred per cent. But does His holiness demand me to strive to be holy? Yes. Absolutely. I can so easily fool myself into thinking I can hide my behaviors all week from Him because I can play the game with everyone around me. I can put on my church face and play the spiritual game of charades that I have become so very good at after thirty-five plus years of giving my life to Jesus.
But I have become tired of the duplicity in my life. I could never realize this on my own power. The pull of sin is too strong. And, frankly, it feeds my base desires. My flesh likes looking where it shouldn't, reading what it shouldn't, and saying what it shouldn't. But I have found that the tradeoff for these fleeting pleasures is barren gravel in my soul. It leads to apathy and a spiritual deadness that is anything but fun. It alienates me and leaves me without comfort, without something to live for in a life full of the mundane. It makes me miss the great adventure that Jesus promised to me in John 10:10:
"I have come that they might have life and have it to the full." (NIV)
Is striving for holiness fun? Hardly. It is what is most difficult for me. But when I do take up the Holy Spirit's offer to strengthen me in a task that would be otherwise impossible, I experience joy that makes me want to come back for more because it is something the pleasure of my sin cannot touch. It is real and is not dependent on my circumstances or anyone else. It is dependent on my God who promises me that in His presence there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore at His right hand (Psalm 16:11). His joy is unlimited and makes me feel fully alive. In fact, the fullness of His joy is so addictive that it has introduced a dilemma to me. I used to default to the flesh every time. Now I am starting, only by His grace and help, to choose to walk away from what this addictive personality could never have walked away from before.
My beloved sisters, we have a choice at the beginning of this week to strive for holiness. Will we be perfect in our attempts? NO! True perfection belongs to eternity with Christ out of these bodies. But our heavenly Father will delight in us for our trying! I can guarantee, on the authority of God's Word, that saying no to those sins that would cling to us is going to give us an opportunity to experience joy like we haven't in a very long time.
Jesus, thank You that You never say, "I'm sorry, Shawn. My Spirit convicted you weeks or years ago about that behavior. My grace is not sufficient for you now." Thank You that the truth is that my heavenly Father comes running to me with open arms each time this prodigal daughter repents and asks for forgiveness through Your shed blood on the cross. Help me to take that first step towards holiness today. Let me cling to You.