AND TURN FROM THEIR WICKED WAYS
“Who me? Wicked? I’m not Mafia, terrorist or bank robber.” Probably not, but neither were the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. Our problem, like theirs, is that we turn away from Christ who is the light and seek the shadows where we can hide our secret sins, nurse our quiet plans for revenge, fantasize over our hidden lusts and fail to come clean with God. Our problems are usually less in our actions than in our attitudes.
In conversation with my friend, a Salvation Army officer, I asked him, “What would you do if you found one of your soldiers in a pub having a pint or two?” He said, “I would take away his uniform.” I then asked him, “And if you recognized in one of your soldiers great spiritual pride?” “Well,” he responded, “That’s a little harder to take action on. The sins of the flesh are much easier to judge than spiritual sins.” That’s true for us too.
Turning from wicked ways must begin with acknowledgement of sin, repentance and a will to change. A mini Gospel might say it this way, “Turn or burn.” Or, “Turn right and go straight.” Many times, over the years, I have begun a worship service with the words of the prophet, “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found. Call ye upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him,…..and abundantly pardon.”
(Isaiah 55:6-7 King James Version)
Admitting sin is easier than turning from it. But the two must go together if there is to be change; if there is to be a turning from our wicked ways. The General Confession of sin in the Anglican Prayer Book contains these powerful lines, “But thou, O Lord have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou them that confess their faults. Restore thou them that are penitent.” We may cringe at the words, “miserable offenders” but we can really do no better than to pray this way with faults specified and the will agreeing.
Repentance can do two things, restore our fellowship with God and release the Holy Spirit to bring renewal in the individual and revival in the church. The last book in the Old Testament has a portion which reads, “He shall be like a refiner’s fire, a refiner and purifier of silver and shall purify the sons of Levi and purge them as gold and silver and enable them to make offerings in righteousness.” (Malachi 3:2-3) The sons of Levi were the religious ones of the day. This scripture applies to us who may be going through the religious motions but who need solid cleansing and a good heart-warming towards God.
Question: What specific sin is always tripping me up and making me feel discouraged?
Prayer: Gracious Redeemer, cleanse me of ……., grant me grace to abandon it. Amen