The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Friday, March 29, 2013

Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God?

Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
Psalm 51:1 & 2 

You might as well clap the irons on me now, and shut me away for good!

Listening to Keith Green's 'Create in Me a Clean Heart' this morning, which is based on Psalm 51, verses 10-12, I was moved to ask, as I have often in the recent past; 'is it fitting for a Christian to recite ( sing, pray ) those words, and other like Psalms and prayers?'

Okay, you may want to throw away the key, too!

Don't get me wrong; I love David's Psalms, and the way that Keith Green put this one ( or a small part of it anyway ) to music, although much could probably be written as to why his song only covers that short passage in the Psalm. But seriously; hasn't God already cleansed our hearts? Hasn't He already forgiven our sins? Hasn't He already renewed a right Spirit within us? Are we not a new creature, like Paul said ( I Corinthians 5:17 )? With the way that we Christians act sometimes; you might pause to wonder! Have we really been perfected, like we read in Hebrews 10:14? Are we really all that glorious, as Paul wrote in Romans 8::29? Again, it seems very doubtful, much of the time!

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us ( our } sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 
If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. 
I John 1:8-10

This being somewhat familiar territory for me, and probably for my readers, I will not say too much here, except that we have been taught, as Christians, to repeat this 'mantra' on a daily basis, or at least in corporate worship every Sonday. Here again, though, we seem to run into similar problems! Has not God already cleansed us from all unrighteousness? Did He not once for all forgive our sins? Did not Christ on the cross, say 'it is finished'? ( One might ask here, for clarification; 'what was finished'? )

It's almost too clear that men, even, and maybe especially Christians still sin; it seems to be pretty obvious that 'they' have not been cleansed from all unrighteousness! One would even be hard-pressed to say that some Christians have a right Spirit within them! So how can we, as believers in fulfilled eschatology, say that all the words of God in this matter have been fulfilled, that we have a completed salvation?

In the 'formula' above, John says pretty clearly that if we claim that we don't sin anymore, we not only deceive ourselves, but we make God out to be a liar, right? Well, yes, of course; we still transgress the commandments of God, usually on a daily basis, and if we do not acknowledge that we have sinned, and repent of those transgressions, we have deceived ourselves and called God a liar! 

Focusing on verse 9; I believe that a very good case can be made, especially since this letter was not written to us ( audience relevance, remember? ), that this admonition was written, not so much for our sakes, as to bolster those in the first century who were striving to make the transition from Judaism or even heathenism to Christianity. This is not to say, as I hinted earlier, that these words are not for our instruction; they are!We must be careful though, to realize that, with our completed salvation came complete forgiveness, complete cleansing, and complete renewal of Spirit! 'Why', you might say, 'don't we act like it?'

Good question; 'Why DON'T we act like it?'

While many different reasons and answers might be given for this dilemma, when it comes right down to it, most Christians would have to say that it is because our salvation is not yet complete. Because Jesus has not come back, these Christians would say, and not having conquered sin and death by destroying him who has the power of both ( 'Satan' ); sin and death are still rampant in the world, which is not ruled by Him, but by the prince of the power of the air ( again, 'Satan' )! 

What a bunch of 'horse-hockey' ( nice way of saying 'bullshit' )!

Besides a faulty view of eschatology; I believe the blame for much of this false dilemma can be laid at the feet of 'individualism', the emotion that 'Jesus died for MY sins!', 'He paid the penalty for ME!', or even the famous 'Jesus loves YOU!' ( got those chains handy? ) Before I get mauled here; yes, Jesus DOES love you, yes, Jesus DID pay the penalty for my sins, and yes, He did die for my sin, but let's look at what the Gospel according to Matthew says about what He came to do. The last part of verse 21 of chapter 1 reads, 'He will save His people from their sins'. Sure, as individuals are part of His people ( now known as the Body of Christ ); Jesus did save individual people, but most importantly, He came to save US, His Bride, HIS people!

Again I ask; 'is it fitting for us as Christians, and especially as believers in fulfilled eschatology, to recite/pray the words of Psalm 51, I John 1:9, etc.? I believe that it is very fitting for us to ask our heavenly Father to 'Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties' ( Psalm 139:23 ), or to pray 'Cleanse me from secret [ faults ]', because, as expressed, that is something that needs to be done on a daily, even hourly basis, but it is not that we may be forgiven, or even may continue to be forgiven; it is because we HAVE BEEN forgiven!

We ARE individuals, and one might say this is where the 'heart of the matter' lies; because we are individuals, we each have a choice, every day, every hour, every minute, whether to do what we know is right, or whether to do what we know is wrong. In this world, especially from those who are outside the gates, there is much pressure, often, to do what we know is wrong, and when we 'cave in' to that pressure, which does happen, like it or not, as loving children of a Loving Father, we KNOW, as well, that we can 'go to Him' with the assurance that we ARE forgiven, and confess that trespass to Him, and accept ( realize ) His forgiveness!

Those nasty 'isms'!

This CANNOT be pointed out too much, though it sure seems like it; Jesus died for the sins of HIS PEOPLE! He came to save HIS PEOPLE from their sins! He accomplished that Purpose, once for all, when on the Cross, He uttered, in finality, 'it is finished'; He had done what He came for! Though in actuality, His ( first-century ) people had yet to be freed completely of the chains of sin and death ( Old Covenant Judaism - Revelation 21:6 ), in Reality, it was finished, the redemption was accomplished, His people WERE saved from the effects of the sin and the death of Adam, their first covenant ( federal ) head!

The Body of Christ, not those individuals within, is what has been perfected and glorified! Though we as individuals, being members of that Body, are thus partakers in that Perfection & Glorification, we ourselves, as is proven on a daily basis, are often seen as for from being either perfect or glorious! Not that we shouldn't live our lives, as far as is possible, in perfection and glory; we rest in the fact  that it is in Him that we ARE perfected and glorious, in His Body!

Individualism, as many other isms, is an idol, and one that needs to be cut down and removed, cast into the fire, so to speak! 

Because of this idea, we have fostered the belief, especially in American Christianity, can attain perfection. As human beings, we never will! There has only EVER been One perfect human, and He was that because He was also God! The thing we MUST understand, or we will never be able to live our lives, free from the chains of individualism, is that WE, as the Body of Christ ARE free of those 'chains', those 'chains' were never upon us! Through many well-intentioned means ( 'the road to 'hell' is paved with good intentions'? ), the American Christian has been convinced that he ( or she ) MUST attain that perfection, as an individual, or he ( or she ) cannot claim that Perfection that comes in Christ alone!

One of my beloved brethren puts it this way; 'we have been perfected in our imperfection': this is probably one of the most, if not THE most succinct statements regarding this matter! We ARE perfect in our imperfections, not as individuals, although some may beg to differ, but as members of the community of divinity, the Body of Christ!

As the Body of Christ, then, having been made 'perfect in our imperfections', let us strive, not for perfection, but to shine forth the Perfection that we have been given, that through our shining example, the children of God spread abroad may realize as well, and awake to the fact that they to, have been Called to Perfection!

Glorying in our Perfection,
Charles Haddon Shank

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