Thursday, December 8, 2011

Scanning Our Hearts

One of my email accounts was hacked last week. It was an unsettling experience as it reminded me of my vulnerabilities. It also triggered off feelings of guilt that I had not taken adequate protective measures. I installed a new antiviral software and scanned my computer for any worm virus but did not find any.

This experience drew my attention to the reality of evil and spiritual warfare and the critical need for self examination and the discipline of confession. The act of confession is not just to reflect on the things I have done or not done. It is an exercise of “scanning my heart” for the “sin virus” which keeps me from loving the Lord with all my heart and being a child of God. The sin virus drives me to be a G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) in the things I am doing to fulfill my ego needs.

The Word of God teaches us to search our hearts so that we can stand firm against the infection of sin. The truth is that all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:10) The prophet Jeremiah warns us of our tendency to turn away from God when we seek to fulfill our selfish human desires:

“This is what the Lord says: I am planning disaster for you instead of good. So turn from your evil ways, each of you, and do what is right.”

Such words sound harsh and contrary to our image of God as our loving Heavenly Father. However, we must be careful that our response to such warnings is not like the Jews in the time of Jeremiah:

“Don’t waste your breath. We will continue to live as we want to, stubbornly following our own evil desires.” (Jeremiah 18:11-12 NLT)

Our egocentric desires tend to draw us towards evil and we will then have to face God’s judgment against evil. When we turn away from God, the spiritual darkness will blind us to the evil in the good that we do. In the past, the teaching on the seven deadly sins - pride, anger, lust, greed, gluttony, sloth and envy was taken seriously. But modern society has trivialized these sins. It is therefore not surprising that we are facing doom and gloom in the coming years. The words of the apostle Paul to the Romans still hold true in our times:

“Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn't worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. Instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.

So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie.“ (Romans 1:21-25)

In Greek mythology, there is the story of Orpheus who overcame the lure of the beauty and seductive voices of the “sirens” who would draw experienced sailors to their deaths by sailing into the dangerous waters and rocks. Orpheus sang more beautifully to drown out the seductive voices of the “sirens.” Drawing a lesson from this story, Alex Tylee made the point that to overcome our bondage to sin and our evil desires, we need to seek God even more strongly. For “if we sing God’s song, then even the most beautiful song of the world will pale into insignificance.”

In this season of Advent, let us practice the discipline of confession so that we can make room in our hearts for God’s song of Love. Self examination and confession is not to feel sorry for our sins to win God's blessings - it is to free our souls from guilt so that we can sing God's song of Love in our lives. Instead of singing, "I did it my way," let us sing, "All The Way My Saviour Leads Me."

The act of confession is to scan our hearts for the sin virus, especially pride, so as to clear our hearts of the virus through God's forgiveness. We will then be empowered to forgive others. Jesus told Simon the Pharisee that those who have been forgiven little show only little love. But those who have experienced forgiveness of their many sins will have greater love in their hearts. (Luke 7:36-50) The good news which Paul shared in his letter to the Romans is that as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. (Romans 5:20)

The reality is that as we seek to love God more we will experience more temptations to keep us from experiencing God's love in deeper ways. But we can use such temptations and tribulations to see that we are spiritually out of shape and to ask God to reshape us. The good news is that God is the Potter and we are only the clay. All we need to do is to turn our eyes upon Jesus so that we will be able to see more clearly how God is transforming the suffering and evil in our lives for His glory.

Let us remember that we have a song to be sung to the nations – a song of love that will lift the hearts of the people to the Lord, a song that will conquer evil and shatter the spear and sword. The good news of Christmas is that God is with us. The challenge before us is to live out this wonderful truth in our moments, days and years so that we can truly sing:

“Joy to the world, the Lord has come!”

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