Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Hardening of the Arteries

When I was in fourth grade, much of our seatwork was done from the board. After noticing a gradual decline in my seatwork grades, my teacher became aware that I was squinting toward the blackboard. Concerned about my eyesight, she contacted my mom. We went to the eye doctor, who was astounded at how poor my eyesight had become. "I don't know how she can even walk around like this," he said. I was fitted for my first pair of glasses.

I'll never forget that day. When the optometrist placed the glasses on my face, I couldn't believe my eyes. Everything was so clear! All the way home I exclaimed what I could now see. Every brick on that building! Every leaf on that tree! My life had dramatically changed. I had no idea just how blind I had become.

When a change is gradual, like a slow descent into blindness, we are often not conscious that it is even happening. Hebrews 3:13 warns about this: "Encourage one another daily... so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." Sin has a hardening effect. When a sin remains unconfessed and unconfronted, it dulls our spiritual senses. Hearing the voice of God grows increasingly difficult. Blindness has come, in part. The irony is we most often are not even aware of its increasingly detrimental effects.

After a year of thinking he had gotten away with grievous sin, David's well-kept secret was finally exposed. God sent the prophet Nathan to bring David's adultery, lies, and murder out into the open. At that confrontation, David suddenly became aware of his loss of spiritual sensitivity. In Psalm 51, he wrote, "Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice... restore to me the joy of your salvation." The sin had come at a price: David grieved the lost joy of intimate communion with God.

When our hearts are hardened by the presence of sin, we lose far more than we realize. Our sense of God's presence in our lives is dulled. We completely miss the many ways He reveals Himself in our daily routine. Peace evaporates as we endeavor to live out life on our own. He is no longer our highest priority. We are living for ourselves, which is a sad and unfulfilling goal, since self is never satisfied. Bitterness eventually ensues. What started out to appease the flesh ends in torture.

The effectiveness of our prayer life is equally disrupted. Richard Foster writes on this in his book, Prayer: "Sin, by its very nature, separates us from God, rupturing the intimate fellowship and dulling our spiritual sensitivities. We become nearsighted and develop thickened eardrums, if you will. The result is an inability to discern the heart of God and an asking that is askew...Therefore, our prayers are hindered."

Like plaque that slowly and silently collects in the arteries, eventually creating a blockage that endangers the life of its host, sin is a foothold for Satan to use in the pursuit of his goal to destroy us. We nurse anger until it becomes bitterness. We justify selfish decisions to ourselves. We continue in our lack of integrity and rationalize it doesn't appear to hurt anyone. Sin and the father of lies himself have deceived us. And soon our hearts are hardened.

God will not allow us to drift off indefinitely. "God disciplines us for our good... it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:10-11) He loves us too much to allow our own self-destruction. So He gets our attention, most often by introducing hardship into our lives. As we begin to feel need, we seek Him out once again. And in the light of His presence, our sin is exposed for what it is.

Yet we do not need to wait for the discipline and its painful effects. We can confront the problem right now. Ask God to reveal the sin that has hardened your heart towards Him. It has already been paid for and forgiven through the precious blood of Jesus Christ. But it is hurting you, robbing you of well-being. As you come face to face with the sin, be honest with yourself and with God. Acknowledge it for what it is. Let Him know you understand you cannot overcome the problem without Him.

Jesus told His disciples, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10) Don't allow sin to replace the abundant life He has given you with spiritual insensitivity. Live your life in the light, as it is meant to be lived.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24

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