Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Test for Loving God

If you love Me, keep My commandments.
John 14:15

The New Year is racing on with days flying and politicians talking about change. Maybe they are right. Change can be good. But when it comes to living the Christian life, some of the best habits are old ones. The best habit I ever developed came to me years ago through the ministry of a blue, plastic box and I hope it never changes.

I was at a point in my life when children and trouble finally sanded through my youthful veneer of Christian slogans. With tears and curses I concluded the Christian life was not just difficult; it was impossible. Sins kept sticking to me like globs of black tar. The situation might have proved desperate had it not been for a cheap, blue, plastic radio.

I can still hear them in my head: J. Vernon McGee; Theodore Epp, Billy Graham. They pointed the way to a clean life and I wanted desperately to follow. Although I was hundreds of miles from family, isolated in a farm house and surrounded by the boredom of babies and endless chores, the voices from the blue box offered something I desperately needed: hope.

One principle they taught was the art of daily cleansing. They said every night I should look back over that one day and identify each sin then confess it. The plan sounded easy enough. Sins weren’t hard to find. I was constantly losing my temper, swelling up with self-pity, resenting responsibilities, lying. The list was long and I wanted release but the first night I tried confession, I hit a snag.

There was no place in our tiny home for privacy! At last I settled on the bathroom. It was private, had a lock and if I worked the timing just right, no one missed me in the late afternoons.

One would think that hours of morbid introspection while kneeling by a bathtub would lead to depression and it might have if the voices coming from the radio hadn’t given guidelines that preserved sanity and kept me afloat.

First, they taught confession must be specific. If a sin had no name or I couldn’t give a concrete example of where I had committed it that day, guilt feelings were to be ignored. No floating guilt or general misery allowed.

Second, no sin was to be confessed twice. Once confessed, the subject must be dropped. Even if I had to confess the same sin a dozen times, each new confession must be connected to a new circumstance. No rehashing of past events once they had been placed at the feet of the Savior.

Third, they said I should never get off my knees without saying, “Thank You.” God promised to remove my sins as far as the East is from the West, No matter how I felt about the situation, I should trust Him to be faithful to His word.

At first the exercise was uncomfortable. It was like asking God to take out my daily garbage. But, I desperately wanted to be free so I kept coming back and falling by the edge of the tub.

Radio’s no longer come as large, blue plastic boxes; i-pods and digital broadcasting have changed the world. Still, I keep coming back to the simple system of daily confession and acceptance of forgiveness that I learned so long ago. It’s the only way I know to remain emotionally free. That’s a prize worth having. It’s also the best way to keep one of Jesus’ last directives, “If you love Me, keep my commandments.”

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