Saturday, 20 November 2010

Create in me a clean heart

Some notes from breakfast this morning: 8 of us gathered round my table in the conservatory:

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." Psalm 51:10 (ESV)

A blog entry by Karen Ehman over at Proverbs 31 entitled Getting Cleaned Up  (5 Nov 2010), talks about our urge to ‘clean up’ before we have visitors: the expectant mother who cleaned her house just BEFORE her mother arrived to help her clean it ready for the baby’s imminent arrival; those of us who cut our toenails BEFORE we go for a pedicure; clean our teeth better than they have been for months BEFORE we visit the dentist.  She says it’s not just a matter of ‘house-cleaning and hygiene’ – we do it on a grander scale. 

An innate urge asserts we must somehow "clean up our act" before we can come to Jesus. We feel it when we meet Him for the first time. Our bulky baggage of sin burdens us down. So we try to "clean up our act" so we can then come to Him.’

But as David said: "Create in me a clean heart O God."

Yes, we do the pleading.  He does the cleaning.
Even those of us who have walked with Him for years sometimes surmise, when wading in the swamp of our sin, that we too must surface-clean the tarnish so very hard before He will ever want to use us again.
So yes, we can remember anew that Jesus doesn’t want to wait for us to clean ourselves up before we come to him, because we can’t.  We have to approach him ‘warts and all’ as Oliver Cromwell said when he was to have his portrait painted: we can’t just polish up our attitudes, refurbish our good deeds, and brush our misdemeanours out of sight. We have to come to him honestly, just as we are:

Just as I am without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - though toss'd about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Brian Doerksen has a beautiful rendition of this lovely old hymn.

Just as confession – which I like to think of as honesty before God – is private, I think there’s a public face to this mindset as well. There is great healing and refreshment in not ‘putting on a clean face’ to others, whether these are friends, neighbours or colleagues. The world sets great store by appearance; we can offer a reality that does not paper over cracks, so that we don’t pretend to be something we are not. Often, people who perceive us as ‘religious’ because we ‘go to church’ also put us in the ‘good’ box. We’re not ‘good’ – we’re human.  I think it’s really important to be clear, transparent about our faults and failings. Or is this too dangerous, if we are to survive in the world of work and difficult neighbours?!

Some questions:
How best to keep ‘honest’ with God?
What are the ‘dangers’ of being ‘honest’? With God, with others – especially at work.
Do we admit to faults and failings, mistakes, things we forget to do…?

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