Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Friend to Friend
I just got my braces off…again.
I have had braces on my upper teeth three times. Count them. One. Two. Three.
As the orthodontist explained, “Teeth have a memory. They always want to go back to the way they were.”
As soon as he said those words, I felt convicted. I have a tendency to go back to the way I was.
We all do.
Karen (not her real name) admitted to single handedly destroying her marriage with passive aggressive coldness, destructive words, and disrespect of the worst kind. After her husband walked away from the marriage, she had a Holy Spirit moment and completely changed her life. She felt conviction over what she had done, her heart softened, and she vowed never be that woman again. Karen had a beautiful holy glow of a woman who knew she was totally forgiven and completely loved by God. Miraculously, her ex-husband saw the change, and the marriage was restored!
However, after a few years, the destructive behavior began to creep back in.
A word here.
A cold shoulder there.
A retreating into self for weeks at a time.
Ten years after the miraculous restoration, the marriage crashed and burned.
“Teeth have a memory. They always want to go back to the way they were.”
Jesus saw this tendency to fall into old ways when he cleaned out the temple. In the beginning of His ministry, after His first of miracle of turning the water into wine at the wedding of Cana, Jesus traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.
“In the temple courts He found men selling cattle, sheep and doves and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So He made a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle, He scattered the coins of the moneychangers and over turned their tables. To those who sold doves He said, ‘Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!’” (John 2:14-16, NIV)
Three years later, during His last week of life on earth, Jesus came upon the unholy mess again.
“Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ He said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers’” (Matthew 21:12-13, NIV).
How did the corruption happen the second time? I don’t think it happened all at once. After Jesus initially cleared out the temple, I suspect it stayed that way for a time. But one day, a moneychanger set up his table. Then another brought in a few birds, followed by a couple of sheep, and then here came a cow.
The next thing you know, the temple wasn’t any different than it was before Jesus cleared it out and cleaned it up three years earlier. In just three years it had reverted back to an unholy mess.
And God whispers in my ear: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19, NIV) Sometimes I am that messy temple.
Swept-clean sinful behavior, ungodly thoughts, and jump-off-the-cliff emotions are itching to creep back in at all times. It is up to me (and to you) to keep the temple clean.
Perhaps you’ve had a Holy Spirit moment as some point in your life—a moment that caused you to make a major lifestyle change.
But for the moment to maintain momentum, we need to be constantly aware of our tendency to revert…to go back to the way we were.
I am so thankful that Jesus went back to clean out the temple a second time. It lets me know that he will graciously return to my messy self again and again with broom in hand.
Today, think back to a time when you made a decision to change something in your life: a bad habit, an ungodly behavior, a destructive relationship, hurtful words, overeating, the abuse of alcohol, disrespect to your husband, yelling at your children, bitterness toward someone who hurt you, etc.
Have you allowed any old ways or attitudes to creep back in? If so, simply ask Jesus to come and clean out the temple…again. Then cooperate with Holy Spirit to keep your resolve.
I don’t know about you, but I never want to go back to the way I was. If you’re willing to take a few moments and ask God if there is something you’ve allowed to creep back in, join me in praying Psalm 51 in the prayer below. Then leave a comment and say, “I’m doing it today!”
(Did you know that your comments are like super big hugs? It lets us know that we’re in this together and someone’s reading!)
Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your loving kindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, and only You, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and restore a steadfast spirit within me.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Can you think of any behaviors or habits that you have committed to change in the past, but have crept back into your life?
If so, today’s task is simple, but not easy. Renew your commitment to clean out the temple once again. Remember, God’s mercies are new every morning.
More from the Girlfriends
One of the ways I have to keep my temple clean is by not allowing feelings of inferiority, insecurity, and inadequacy to creep back in. The words, “I’m not good enough” come knocking at my door like a relentless salesman. If that happens to be one of your struggles, I’d like to suggest starting the year off with a strategy to reject the devil’s lies that tell you not enough and replace them with God’s truth. Check out my book, I’m Not Good Enough…and Other Lies Women Tell Themselves. It includes a Bible study guide that is perfect for a group or individual study. And…drumroll…the expanded print version of A 14-Day Romance Challenge with over 250 ways to romance your husband is now here!