Psalm 51:10-12 (NIV)
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
The Daniel Fast began yesterday. How are you doing with it? Did you eat the “right” food and abstain from the no-no’s on the list? Is your flesh unhappy with you today? I encourage you as you continue in pursuing God this New Year to move beyond the menu to the Message of this time of fasting and praying. Our pastor shared his “target list” of spiritual goals for 2016 with us yesterday. It began with this verse and the goal to add “one more conviction to the conviction bag”. I have never heard of anything like that before and it became a revolving thought for the rest of the day, through the night and well here we are today.
Create in me a pure heart. For years, I have jumped around from translation to translation of God’s Word in my quiet time. No real reason other than variety is the spice of life or I really needed God to dumb it down for me a little … or maybe a lot. When I looked up Psalm 51:10, in many translations it uses the word “clean” rather than “pure” but I was drawn to the passages requesting a “pure” heart. What’s the difference? A couple of weeks ago a co-workers child was visiting our office for the day. Usually mid-morning I will have a snack of fruit and peanut butter, so I offered him some as well. When I opened the jar of “organic” peanut butter, it was full of oil that splashed all over my shirt. My favorite tunic from an online boutique not easily replaced so I began to scrub it with dish soap with grease cutter. When I got home I pretreated it with everything I had in the laundry room and under the counter in an effort to save my beloved garment. When I washed it, mission accomplished. All was well and the shirt intact. When I went to grab a camisole a few days later, I noticed that it had a huge grease stain. I only treated the outer garment that everyone could see but failed to pay any attention to the cami that no one sees which bears an unsightly oily spot all across the neckline. Hmm… Could it be that we work hard to be religious forgoing the part of us that God requires for a relationship? Could it be that we work hard to be clean but do not strive to remain pure in heart? There is definitely a difference. Every time I pull out the tunic that I love so much, I am constantly surveying it in the light to be sure no one can see the mark of my error but when I put on the undershirt I don’t really care because no one can see the stain.
The Blood of Jesus has washed me clean. I no longer bear the mark of my transgressions or do I? Have I washed the outside of the cup but not the inside? (Matthew 23:25) We do it all the time when we compare our life and choices to other people rather than the Living God or His Son, Jesus Christ. Sin has no power in our life except what is allowed or freely given. When we allow sin to reside in the recesses of our heart and refuse to accept God’s Commands as a way of life humbly walking with Him, the mark still remains. We must accept godly conviction as it leads to a pure heart and steadfast life living in the Presence of God now and forevermore.
Matthew 5:8 (NIV) Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.
To step over God’s Word and assume more grace is NOT the way of the righteous. It is preached from many pulpits and contained in many doctrines but it will never recant the truth that God requires a pure heart. To assume grace means that one intends to remain in sin. Sin separates us from God every single time. Grace did not change that but is reserved for those who choose to repent from sin, turnaround and walk away not just tread lightly through it. The “pure” in heart will see God. I want to see God. I want to live with Jesus forever including today and tomorrow on my way to eternity. It requires repentance and removal of all sin from my life. His Grace is when I try and fail.
The Lord has empowered me to pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace from a pure heart to find it. Purity means free from anything different, inferior or contaminating kind. God’s Will for my life is a pure heart not just a clean one. Conviction is a fixed or firm belief that leads us to purity of heart and mind that allows us to live a godly life. I need more conviction that comes from His Word lead by His Spirit to achieve the peace and prosperity I am promised by God. Jesus made the Way, I am free to walk in it. “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:19-23)
Psalm 112:6-9 (NIV)
Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes. They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor, their righteousness endures forever; their horn will be lifted high in honor.
Let us hold “unswervingly” to the hope we profess. Renew a steadfast spirit in me. The Word of God is clear that while all things are permissible – not all things are beneficial or constructive in our life. (I Corinthians 10:23) We will always need grace. One sin made its allotment necessary. However, just like the stain on the undershirt left untreated – sin allowed to remain in our heart will always separate us from God’s Perfect Will. It is a compromise that I am not willing to make. I do not want to settle for a so-so substitution when the Lord is offering me God’s Standard of Living if I remain steadfast and true.
To be steadfast is to remain fixed in direction, but oh our fickle hearts. It is to remain firm in purpose or faith even when the whole world things you are crazy or spooky spiritual. Been there, done that and have the scars to prove it. To remain steadfast in unwavering faith means holding on to hope from beginning to end. Never letting go of God’s Promise for you or the dream He placed in you no matter who says you can’t, you won’t or you are not. It’s tough. The world is convincing. The enemy conniving and ruthless in his attack. God’s Love is relentless and reaches those who are steadfast lifting them up in due time, His Time to fulfill His Perfect Will. Those who remain steadfast will have perfect peace. (Isaiah 26:2-4) We must resist the enemy in every way. Holding tight to faith and uncompromising righteousness while God makes good out of every detail of our life for His Glory. (I Peter 5:8-9)
James 4:6-10 (NIV)
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
The Grace of God is a humble acquisition. I did not earn it and I certainly don’t deserve it even when I try my best to serve the Lord. It only took one sin to produce a death sentence in my life and a debt that I could not pay. Humility is essential in this process of prayer and fasting before the Lord. I must come to Him boldly but I have nothing in me worth boasting about other than Jesus. God’s Favor is reserved for those willing to humble themselves before Him. He gives us more grace if we do. I want that in 2016. I do not want to be double-minded. Serving the Lord outwardly but harboring sin inwardly. I must live my life with a pure heart. I want to have a steadfast spirit. I want to live in His Presence and filled with His Spirit every day. To do so, I need more grace.
John 15:10-11 (NIV)
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
My joy is made complete in salvation. Just knowing Jesus Christ is enough to satisfy my soul and prosper it. Prosperity begins in our soul as it begins to permeate our life. It is not representative in the material things of life but a pure heart and steadfast spirit. One of my favorite verses that has become my mission is Micah 6:8. It says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” What about you? What is your spiritual target or goal for 2016? Have you made one? I was reminded of a statement by Zig Ziglar yesterday. He said, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” My dad was a huge Zig Ziglar fan and shared many of his quotes on success with us. We set goals every day. We all have dreams even if we have buried them calling them dead. But God remembers it all – He is the One who created you for that very purpose that you have given up on. If we will simply strive to remain in His Love every single day, forsaking all others choosing the Lord as our refuge and source – we will live as prosperous and satisfied life in the Favor of God. It is not as the world would have it or sees it. They do not understand. Even in submitting our life to fasting and prayer, just like when Jesus fasted and prayed, the enemy shows up ready to open the door of compromise, substitution or advising us to quit. It’s too hard. Too long. Too “religious”. Our only defense is the Word of God accepted by faith and held tightly in hope. Jesus wants to complete our joy today. We must humble not only our way to Him but hand the Lord our heart first.
Hebrews 3:12-14 (NIV)
See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.
Today as our family fasts and prays for 2016, it is with a humble heart that I am asking the Lord to add another conviction to my life as well. Good advice from our Pastor certainly led by the Holy Spirit as we continue our quest in knowing the Lord deeper and more intimately than ever before. I must humble myself before Him allowing Him to point out an offensive thing following His Lead into the everlasting. I must hold to my original conviction and allow the Lord to grow, develop and mature my faith and hope by removing anything and everything contradictory to His Word, Will and Way until my heart is pure. My sacrifice to the Lord today is a broken spirit humbled before Him with a broken and contrite heart in my hands. I cannot go any further or deeper holding on to my sin, my way or my flesh. Such a sacrifice is all that He desires and needs to complete my life. A fast is no good to our spirit unless the Holy Spirit is involved. Prayer can only connect us as close as the sin we forfeit. I want a new conviction this year, Lord. Anything that will bring me closer to You! You name it and I will surrender it to you!
Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me a