Spring Cleaning - Week of February 15th

By Judy Nichols

February 15, 2015

Spring cleaning used to be a ritual in every home. It’s not done so much today, although doing a thorough cleaning of the house at least once a year is still a good practice. But in the days when homes were heated with a wood stove or a coal furnace things got a lot dirtier through the winter months than they do now, and that spring clean-up was an absolute necessity.

Lent begins this week and I like to think of Lent as a spring cleaning for the soul. When the children of Israel were getting ready to leave Egypt, after the ten plagues had finally broken Pharaoh’s spirit (not to mention his land and his people), God gave Moses instructions for the Passover meal – roasted lamb, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread – and told him this day was to be celebrated in perpetuity. It would be a seven-day celebration beginning with removing all leaven not only from their food but also from their homes.

In the Scripture leaven or yeast often represents sin. Jesus warned His disciples to "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees" (Matt. 16:6,12). And Paul warned both the Corinthians and the Galatians against sinful attitudes and actions, saying, "a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough" (1 Cor. 5:6, Gal. 5:9).

In twenty-first century America, we have redefined and watered down the concept of sin to the point where many mistakenly think people are not as dirty as they used to be. Nothing could be further from the truth. The heart of mankind is still indwelt by a sinful nature that entices and empowers us to evil and rebellion against God. The prophet Jeremiah spoke truth from God when he said, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9). Today’s philosophical, psychological, and gender confusion attest to the error of our ways.

To eliminate sin from the public discourse is not only a deception, but it also does a terrible disservice to people. If we explain away our sinful tendencies, crediting them to our poor upbringing or abuse by others, we make ourselves victims who are helpless to change. Only by accepting responsibility for our sins are we empowered to live differently. If my sin is my fault, then I can do something about it. (That is not to justify the improprieties of upbringing or assaults by others, only that how I choose to act in response to them is my responsibility.)

To redefine sin to make it more palatable puts us squarely in God’s displeasure. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 17:15, "He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord." And it’s not just our overt actions that displease God. Our attitudes toward sin make us equally culpable. Isaiah said it well: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who substitute darkness for light, who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" (Isa. 7:20).

The pleasures of sin are meaningless and fleeting. King Solomon pursued and gained everything he could ever want and more, yet proclaimed in the book of Ecclesiastes that it was all vanity. Moses was raised in the royal court of Egypt with all its advantages but chose to be identified with God’s enslaved people (Heb. 11:24-25). The apostle Paul, after recounting all the benefits on his résumé, considered them all as rubbish compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ, not only in the power of His resurrection, but also in the fellowship of His sufferings (Phil. 3:4-11).

Even those who know nothing of God know in their consciences when they have done wrong (Rom. 2:14-15). God created us that way. We cannot escape His witness within. No wonder calling evil good and good evil and substituting bitter for sweet and vise versa messes us up so much. It’s contrary to our nature. And as individuals who make up a whole culture, it’s no surprise, then, that our society has been permeated and we are ripe for judgment.

Spring cleaning is sorely needed in our nation. But the only heart I can clean up is my own. Will you join me in seeking God’s face? Perhaps if enough of us are willing to humble ourselves, seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways, He will have mercy on us and heal our land (see 2 Chron. 7:14).

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