Years ago, a young pastor shared that he dropped off his sons at school every morning. But before the boys hopped out of the car, he told them, “Remember who you belong to.” In saying that, his children knew their actions during the day represented their father’s household. Any misdeeds on their part would bring attention to their family and possibly shame their Father’s name.
I remembered this the other day; I felt a black cloud hovering over my head. I couldn’t pinpoint its origins nor could I find an answer for my blues. As the day went by, I did less and less, while my “To Do” list grew. I sulked remembering that I shared with others I would get certain things done, but it didn’t happen.
I looked back at my prayer journal and realized I was falling back on old habits from decades ago. “Really? What is your problem?” I asked myself. I went to God and confessed my sins, agreeing with Him that I am a sinner and without Him, only a wicked heart would reside in my soul.
As I prayed, two Bible verses raced to the front of my thoughts: “Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11, NASB) and in Second Peter 2:22, the Apostle Peter adds to that verse, “…and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” (NASB) Both are graphic thoughts indeed, but no less potent and relevant.
Some people will say, “What’s the big deal? Do what you want; God will forgive you.” The big deal is not God’s merciful forgiveness, but His reputation. Romans 8:12-14 says, “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh…but to the Spirit, to put to death the deeds of the body… For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (paraphrased)
Putting off sinful habits is not only a change of heart; it’s an act of the mind, which must choose God over self. It is then that obedience can deliver a deathblow to our will, and aim our focus back on a Holy God who watches our every move, hears our thoughts, and mourns when we stumble.
Like the pastor who asked his boys to remember their father, we are God’s children and need to remember who purchased us with His blood, and adopted us as sons. As a child grows to adulthood and eventually leaves the teaching of their parent, so we should continue to bow to the instruction of the Spirit until Christ calls us home.
As theologian R.C. Sproul once said, “The pursuit of God is not a part-time, weekend exercise. If it is, chances are you will experience a part-time, weekend freedom. Abiding requires a kind of staying power. The pursuit is relentless. It hungers and thirsts. It pants as the deer after the mountain brook. It takes the kingdom by storm. The pursuit of God is a pursuit of passion. Indifference will not do. To abide in the Word is to hang on tenaciously. A weak grip will soon slip away. Discipleship requires staying power. We sign up for the duration. We do not graduate until heaven.”
I learned from that day, that black clouds surround me when I live for myself, and take my focus off God. Likewise, leaning on my comfortable acts is like the dog who goes back to its vomit. If that thought repulses me, I can only imagine what watching my habitual sin does to a Holy God.