November 21, 2008

Create in Me a Clean Heart

Recently, the topic of indulging in God has been central to my studies and devotions. We are so bombarded by the things of this world--physical pleasures, materialistic attraction, and intellectual autonomy--that we easily neglect our commitment to the Lord. Our hearts, wicked as they are, tend toward sin. We are called to live in a way that imitates God, walking with a consistent attitude of sacrificial love for others--an attitude of self-denial. But the battle persists.

This battle began in Eden, which translated means delight or pleasure. Eden was a place where God provided all that the Creation would need. Food, shelter, companionship, fellowship with God--they lacked for nothing. Yet Eve, confronted by the Serpent (Gen 3:1-6), was deceived into believing that eating of the tree "in the midst of the Garden" would be a good idea.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6)

This wouldn't be the last time we see this form of temptation in scripture. As Eve was tempted by physical pleasure ("good for food"), materialistic attraction ("delight to the eyes") and intellectual autonomy ("make one wise"), Jesus also was confronted with these temptations, in a location neither pleasurable or delightful, but in the wilderness. (Luke 4:1-13)

The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." (4:3) (physical pleasure)

And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, "To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. (4:5.6) (materialistic attraction)

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, "for it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,'" and 'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'" (4:9-11) (intellectual autonomy)

Jesus conquered sin and death with the work of the Cross, but we still live in a world where we face choices and challenges due to the condition of our own heart. As Jeremiah teaches that the heart is deceitful, the Psalmist prays "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." (Psalm 51:10) We can join in that prayer.

As the Holy Spirit continues His work within each of us, we continue to pursue God by indulging in holy, obedient living, glorifying Him in self-sacrifice instead of self-indulgence. No doubt the battle is real, but the power to walk by the Spirit is greater.

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