Slippery Slopes

[reprinted from January 21, 2011]

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.”      Matthew 5:8 (The Message)

The KJV and many versions state this verse as “blessed are the pure in heart.” Jesus is exhorting us to cleanse our hearts so that we are not “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27); clean on the outside and stinking on the inside. It is living on that slippery slope of trying to look like something different than I really am.

A friend and teacher, Dr. Alden Thompson, was the first one to introduce me to the concept of a “slippery slope.” One of the examples that he gave was when you hold your religious beliefs so tightly and in such a tiny “box” that when God acts outside the box, our faith takes a severe blow and we are in crisis.

One night (maybe a dozen years ago) during a sharing time at a Sunday evening worship, a young man stood up and spoke straight in my heart. He told us his story of how God had brought him out of alcohol and his life was changed. He read the Bible and prayed. He was happy. He thought he had “arrived.” And so he missed a Bible study or worship time when he had to work late the night before. No big deal. Then it was 2-3 misses. Then a month. He said it seemed like “no time at all” and he was back drinking more than he ever had before. He almost died. He told us he had reached a “spiritual plateau” where he thought he couldn’t fall. He was wrong. With tears, he said he felt he now had a glimpse of how precious was his relationship with God. If his body and mind needed daily “exercise” to stay healthy and grow then so did his spirit. I have never forgotten Teddy’s words.

Each of us have potential slippery slopes in our lives. We have areas that temptation finds weakness to plant its sly, insidious fungus that will infect and destroy. Alcohol is a weakness for me. I have no spiritual (Biblical) problem with drinking in moderation. If wine was good enough for Jesus, then drinking wine (or whatever alcohol) with dinner, in moderation, is not a sin. (Drunkenness is. Romans 13, Galatians 5, 1 Peter 4) One drink is for me, however. The day after my divorce was final I heard God’s voice speak to me as clearly as any human voice. “Jody, you do not need to drink alcohol. It is a slippery slope for you.” Now I have always been a independent and stubborn all my life. (Ask my older brother!) But since I had drank a six-pack of beer the day before when I came home from court, I decided maybe God had some wisdom! I don’t drink just one drink. So I will listen to God and not drink alcohol.

What is your slippery slope? What is it in your life you know God is trying to cleanse out of your heart and mind? Is it gossip or a critical tongue? Is it the literature you read or the movies you watch? And hear me clearly: Let me pay attention to God speaking about cleaning me and not try to place this ‘word’ on others in a critical, judgmental way! Didn’t Jesus say something about the plank in my eye vs. the sawdust in someone else’s (Luke 6:41)?

I want to be pure in heart and mind. I want to stay away from the edges of slippery cliffs. I want to see God. I need to see God. I want my life to be like “Windex glass.” Crystal clear. No shadowy, smokey glass. Clear eyes being the lamp that gives light in my cleansed mind and spirit (Matthew 6:22-23). Help me, LORD!

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10 (KJV)

Put Your Hand in the Hand written by Gene MacLellan & sung by Ocean

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