|"Search ME O God...see if there be any wicked way in ME."|
On the surface, America’s soul searching appears to be driven by political and ideological motivations, and maneuverings. However, many Christ-followers are viewing this season as a call to pray that something deeper, more fundamental, and lasting may be possible. Is it possible that America is beginning to realize the heavy price it has to pay for having rejected God’s moral absolutes? Will America realize that her foundation has been strong because she has respected the Judeo-Christian moral code that includes loving God above all else and loving our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10: 27)? These laws were given by a loving God to promote abundant life and blessing, not boredom and pain. God has been lovingly saying to us through His Word, “thou shall not, because I love you; and if you do, you and others will be hurt! If you lie, hate, gossip, steal, commit adultery, and covet, it will separate you from my love, and my Life. I have given you a choice: life and blessedness, or death and dispair.”
How should Christ-followers respond to the daily news of the “toppling” of statues and the improprieties of personalities representing in many cases people that we held in high esteem? Many Christ-followers have been praying that God would bring healing of the great political, moral, ethnic, and socioeconomic divisions in America. Yet this morning, I am struck by the need for the light of God’s truth to be directed into my own heart, first and foremost. What is being played out in Hollywood, Washington, and in cities across America is not foreign to my own life experience. I too have sinned. I sin daily--sometimes in my private thought life, and sometimes outwardly though ill chosen words or actions toward my wife or others. I am not who I think I am. I am who God knows me to be. And, when I open God’s Word, the Bible, I can see as in a mirror the man that I really am.
The Apostle Paul explains in Romans 7: 7, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “Thou shall not covet.” He goes on to say that, once he realized the Law against coveting, it produced in me coveting of every kind (v. 8). Paul admits that nothing good dwells in me because I do the very thing I do not wish to do (Romans 7: 18, 20).” I can so clearly relate to Paul’s dilemma. Can’t you?
We all share the same “flesh” because we are biological and spiritual descendents of fallen Adam (Genesis 3). But, Romans 8 explains that
Christ came in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8: 3-4).
Based on this truth, it follows that when we “die to the flesh” (i.e. give up on our own attempts to be righteous before God) and accept the offering of Christ’s perfect life, death, and resurrection, that we can be “born again” to walk in newness of life. Then, as spiritual reborn individuals, we have the power of God’s Spirit within us to direct us along the morally right path in life and to convict us when we tend to go astray in thought or action (2 Timothy 3: 16).
How should I respond to the apparent “open season” on moral transgressors in America? I must remember that as far as I am concerned, God’s first love and concern is not about Roy Moore or Kevin Spacey, or even about a spiritual reawakening in America. Rather, God is concerned about my sensitivity to sin and my willingness to confess and turn from my wicked ways.
Gordon T. Smith, in The Voice of Jesus, Discernment, Prayer, and the Witness of the Spirit, explains that we must “avoid the temptation to look at others rather than yourself. We cannot know how God is convicting another; we can only know our own hearts.” We must first examine our own life. The Spirit of Christ within us calls us to pray with the psalmist David as he prayed (Psalm 139: 23-24),
Search me of God Search me, O God,
and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.
As we search our hearts in light of God’s Word (Hebrews 4: 12), we realize that, as Smith further notes,
Sin is not merely bad deeds.
Rather we are wise to be attentive to…how the Spirit might be convicting us with respect to our speech, the attitude of our hearts, our mental propensities as well as what we have actually done [or]…what we have neglected to do… But the bottom line remains: “Lord, where are you calling me to turn—not the person next to me in the pew on Sunday, not my colleagues at the office or family members, not anyone else but me?” We seek the grace to know the convicting ministry of the Spirit that calls us from death to life; that empowers us to embrace the life of God.
Yes, we are in an “open season” of disclosure of the sins of celebrities and political leaders, and of toppling of historical statues. But, sadly many don’t know the next step. We can see “the spot” of individual or national sin. And, like Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, we are beginning to cry, “Out, damn spot!” But we don’t realize that only by turning to God can the spots be removed through repentance and confession of our sin. It’s not Bill Clinton or Roy Moore, “It’s me first, Lord! Open season on my heart! I must open my heart to your loving search for what is not life and peace, but sin and death. May I humbly confess and turn from that which dishonors you and separates me from walking with You. With David (Psalm 51: 12-13) I will pray,
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will be converted to You.
Me first! Then, what next? Maybe God will bring another “Great Awakening.”