Tomorrow is spring cleaning day at our church. Every year, I’m learning, we have a cleaning ‘bee’ to get the church building and grounds looking spiffy, taking off the winter’s grime and beautifying the property for another season. The more volunteers we get to take on various jobs, the faster and easier is the work. Hopefully, we’ll have a good crowd pitching in!
It’s interesting, though, that if you look at the church building, it doesn’t really give the appearance of needing much work. On closer examination on Saturday, we’ll find that there is quite a good bit of work needed to be done! But it takes close examination for us to see it. Just by coming and going on Sunday, we don’t notice anything significant. This Saturday, we’ll see it.
Life is like that, isn’t it? We can move along through life and find little, if anything, needing ‘cleaning up’ at a cursory glance. But if we take time to stop and examine ourselves carefully, we begin to see the ‘stuff’ that we carry.
Under a certain kind of light, we are able to see germs on our bodies. Even after we wash our hands, in many cases, there are bacteria and other germs that cover us. For the most part, the same is true of the sin in our lives; it is uncovered by the Light of the World. When we invite the Lord Jesus to flood his light over us, we are sometimes surprised to see the sin that so easily separates us from God. It’s why the Psalmist prayed, “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, NIV).
When we profess our faith in Christ and join a church, we are often asked a question such as, “Do you renounce sin and the power of evil in your life and in the world?” This is a question not to be taken lightly. When we renounce sin, we say, publicly, that we’re not interested in following that way anymore. When we renounce the power of evil, we are saying that we no longer fall under its cloak, that we are following a new and different way.
This is an intentional decision, and not an easy one. When we say we’re going to renounce sin – and replace it with Jesus – that begins a new life that involves more-than-annual ‘spring cleaning’ in our lives. It begins a daily walk that, with the promised guidance and illumination of the Holy Spirit, helps us stop to examine the crud that holds us back from a full relationship with the Lord. That’s what sin does: it keeps us from experiencing God in a fuller way.
The self-examination can reveal some surprising things: how we respond to others, how others see us, even the organizations and groups with which we choose to affiliate. Do these things make us more like Christ or not?
We don’t want to see those things that make us less like the Lord. We don’t even want to examine ourselves! But as the Psalmist said, it’s the Lord who does the searching through our hearts. When we examine ourselves as his faithful people, he reveals stuff to us that we couldn’t stand to find in ourselves.
And then he washes it all away, by the blood of the Lamb, by grace.
Isn’t God wonderful?
Yes. Even at spring cleaning time.