Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Descaling our lives

Most evenings my wife and I enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, and sometimes my wife will fix a drink with honey and cinnamon.  Our daughter gave us a Keurig as gift which we use for these single serving drinks.  It works great until it needs to be descaled.  Calcium deposits from the water build up inside the machine which prevents the water from flowing properly.  Even though I use filtered water, these calcium deposits still develop over time.  As I was preparing myself a cup of coffee yesterday evening only a few drops of coffee came through and the machine started flashing a warning saying that it needed to be descaled.  This morning I began the process of descaling so we should be good for our evening cups tonight.

As I was working on the Keurig I thought of how often we need to be descaled ourselves.  Even when we try to live our lives according to the Scriptures, outside influences can begin to build up inside us.  We may find that we begin to carry resentment towards some person or group.  Time demands begin to impact the time we give to our devotional life.  Our thoughts begin to wander into dangerous territories.  We become critical of others.  Ministry becomes a burden rather than a blessing.  The list can go on and on, but as these things begin to build up inside us it reduces our ability to live our lives in way that is pleasing to God and to those around us.  Even we can reach the place where we don't like what we are becoming.

In Psalm 139: 23-24 David prays, "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."  David understood that we can become blind to the little things that can build up inside a person so he asked God to search his heart and shine a light on those things that were an offense to his life and spiritual development.

Of course, this is a dangerous prayer because it is one that God is likely to answer, and we may not always like the answer.  When God does reveal something to us we then become responsible to address it.  What we are most tempted to do is to repent and move on without really dealing with the underlying causes of the sin.

As I was reflecting on this need for us to descale I begin my devotional reading which is currently Tim Keller's book Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God.  In today's reading I came across this paragraph.

It is possible to merely assent that something is a sin without getting the new perspective on it and experiencing the new inward aversion to it that gives you the power and freedom to change.  Put another way, there is a false kind of repentance that is really self-pity.  You may admit your sin, but you are really not sorry for the sin itself.  You are sorry about the painful consequences to you.  You want that pain to stop, so you end the behavior.  It may be, however, that there hasn't been any real inward alteration of the false beliefs and hopes, the inordinate desires, and the mistaken self-perceptions that caused the sin.

Keller goes on and shows through some of the writings of John Owen how we should approach repentance in a way that will help us see how our sin grieves God.  Such repentance makes the sin more hateful in our sight and weakens its hold on us.  This brings about transformation in our lives and deepens our walk with God.

Descaling isn't just for coffee makers.  It's for Christians as well.  Just as it enables the coffee maker to fulfill the purpose for which it was built, it will enable us to better fulfill the purposes God has for each of us.

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