Today a very nice man is sorting out some rust on Sally’s car and some damaged paintwork (already there when I bought the car) on my car. I am confident that he will do a good job, but it is a little unnerving having someone take a sanding disc to your car and start making loud grinding noises on the paintwork. I am sure that at the moment there is more of a mess than there was before he started (he’s only about an hour in) but it’s like the old adage: if you want to make omelettes you have to break some eggs. If you want lovely paintwork on your car you have to get rid of the grot first.
And if you want a healthy relationship with God, you have to be prepared to grind away the grot in your life. It may not be easy, it may not be comfortable but it is worth doing. And God gives us his Spirit to help us:
Paul puts it in drastic language in Colossians 3:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
But there’s a counterbalance. Paul did not just tell us to put to death what belongs to our earthly nature, he has a range of positive things to replace them and the desire to do them:
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility,gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do,whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
I love the practicality of this. Addicts know that stopping addictive behaviour is very difficult. But it is easier to do if you replace that negative addition with a positive attribute, activity or attitude.
Listen to some worship songs (and sing along?) if you are tempted to think or act in a way that is spiritually unhealthy.
Ask for God’s peace instead of angst, perhaps taking time out to go and relax rather than blowing your top.
Remember that you are forgiven if you are tempted to hold a grudge.
Try and do what is loving in any given circumstance.
Whatever you do, do it with an attitude of gratitude to God, and do it all as an act of worship to him.
All of these have the effect of drawing us closer to God, and that has the effect of making us want to get closer still and sin less.
Be blessed, be a blessing.
Dear Insurance Company,
I am writing in response to your request for additional information. In block number three of the accident reporting form, I put “poor planning” as the cause of my accident. You said in your letter that I should explain more and I trust that the following details are sufficient:
I am a bricklayer by trade. On the day of the accident, I was working alone on the roof of a new six-storey building. When I completed my work, I discovered that I had a large pile of bricks left over. Rather than carry the bricks down by hand I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley, which fortunately was attached to the side of the building at the sixth floor.
Securing the rope at the ground level, I went up to the roof, swung the barrel out and loaded the bricks into it. Then I went back to the ground and untied the rope, holding it tightly to insure a slow descent of the 500 pounds of bricks. You will note in block number 11 of the accident reporting form that I weigh 135 pounds. Due to my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded at a rather rapid rate up the side of the building.
In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming down. This explains the fractured skull and broken collarbone. Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulley. Fortunately, by this time I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold tightly to the rope in spite of my pain.
At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground – and the bottom fell out of the barrel. Devoid of the weight of the bricks, the barrel now weighed approximately 50 pounds. I refer you again to my weight in block number 11. As you might imagine, I began a rapid descent down the side of the building.
In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the two fractured ankles and lacerations of my legs and lower body. The encounter with the barrel, slowed me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell onto the pile of bricks and fortunately, only three vertebrae were cracked. I am sorry to report, however, that as I lay there on the bricks in pain, unable to move, and watching the barrel six stories above – I again lost my presence of mind.
I let go of the rope!