Psalm 51, Day 4

Devotional for Thursday, May 21

Psalm 51:10-12
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence,
    and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and make me willing to obey you.

The Creator didn’t stop creating—the work goes on. Jesus demonstrated this when he used dirt and his own spit to create vision for the man born blind. Our inner life and being, symbolized by the heart, are new creations of the Holy Spirit, who remains at work in the world today.

Loyalty implies alignment with the will of God. The goal of opening ourselves to sanctification is pretty straightforward; we hope to be so aligned with God that sin becomes as unnatural for us as it is for our creator. At that point, we are again fully made in God’s image, a small-but-perfect reflection.

The psalmist was rightly anxious, though. Few experience holy transformation all at once, even as we profess our faith in Christ more and more. We remain mindful of our past sins and our tendency to return to sin. Proverbs 26:11: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.”

We sense the fool still living within, and we seek protection from that part of ourselves as we trust this transformation to continue. Oh, for the day when obedience to God is as natural as breathing!

Lord, we submit ourselves to be guarded and contained, knowing you ultimately will give us boundless freedom and eternal life. Amen.

Bruised Grapes

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Devotional for Tuesday, April 14

Colossians 3:12-17 (NLT)

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

With these words in Colossians, Paul offers us a simple formula for getting along as a church. Forgiveness, rooted in love, is at the core of his message.

Just as we are to love one another, we are to forgive each other. Admittedly, there are times when people living within the body of Christ sin in such a way that they must be removed from the body, for the safety of others. But even then, those who remain must develop forgiveness for the offenders, for their own peace of mind if for no other reason.

Paul, however, seems to be talking about a simpler situation. He’s pointing out that none of us is perfect. We have our flaws. We may get angry, tired or confused. We may fail to diligently focus on God’s word for guidance and make some poor assumptions or conclusions. We may not listen hard enough. We may not breathe deeply enough before giving a reply.

In other words, we are a collection of human beings broken by sin. If we were a cluster of grapes, pretty much all of us would be bruised.

That’s why Jesus Christ had to come and die for us. As we believe in Christ’s work on the cross, the Holy Spirit does go to work inside of us, and over time, as we let the Spirit work, we may find those flaws lessened or even erased. But in the meantime, we’re together in church, flaws and all.

Learning to say to ourselves “I’m going to let that go” helps keep peace in a church, or for that matter, at work or home. We don’t want to become punching bags for bad behavior—for those situations, we have Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 18:15-17—but when we let slide a perceived slight now and then, we strengthen the community as a whole.

Forgiveness also helps people who are working on their flaws to realize they are in a safe place, a community where the grace of God meets them repeatedly. There’s something comforting about that moment when you wince, realizing the wrong words have again popped out of your mouth, and your brother or sister in Christ quickly moves on, ignoring what just happened.

In short, we love each other the way Jesus loves us, no perfection required.

Lord, thank you for the grace we receive and the chance to return that grace to others. Amen.