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  • Catherine Black

Fighting the Sticky Sins: When God Sends a Refresher Course


Time to deck the halls, right? Christmas is one of the most exciting, most fun times of year. The decorations, the lights, the hot chocolate. Family traditions. New traditions. Cozy fires. New gifts. Joy all around as we celebrate the indescribable love of God in the birth of our Savior.

This year will be a little different for us. We may not get to deck the halls.

I don’t usually write about myself here, but I think it’s good to share the ways God is at work in our lives. I’m thankful for the authors who have contributed to this blog by sharing pieces of the ways God has taught them or shined light on how they live for the Lord. I should do the same.

We have people in our house as I write this cleaning every surface (and I mean every) with Q-tips. There are two massive machines stacked at our front doors sucking air out of the house (and all the heat). We have sheetrock ripped out in several places. Holes in our walls and floors.

A few weeks ago, we discovered mold in our home. It had set up camp in the air ducts, and if we hadn’t been painting the future baby’s room, we never would have seen it.

We had the mold tested. Praise the Lord, it wasn’t the toxic black mold! But it still had to go.

A few days ago the process began of ridding our home of mold.

If you’ve never dealt with mold, let me just tell you, the stuff gets everywhere. It’s hard to get rid of.

Much like our sin.

Even when my house was clean, it wasn’t clean. It wasn’t free of mold. In fact, it was still jam packed with the stuff.

In the crevices. In the creases. In the hard to reach places.

Mold was growing, behind the scenes and beneath the radar, no matter how often or how much I cleaned. Because it was coming from a place I never thought to look.

Our sin acts like this mold. Growing in places we don’t expect, despite our efforts to stay clean.

We mop up our lives in one area, grateful for the Lord’s help and strength in overcoming a sinful habit or attitude. We move on to the next.

But it’s in those already clean places that we often let sin creep back in.

We don’t look for sin growing in the places we thought we’d changed. The places we’d thought we’d fixed.

This, my friend, is where we are most vulnerable. This is when God kindly sends us a refresher course on dealing with that sin.

The refresher course is one we didn't think we'd need and we're generally not too happy to go through it. At least at first.

The Most Vulnerable Place in Our Hearts

There's one place I thought I'd cleaned up. One sin I thought I had sort of matured past, due to some previous trials the Lord sent our way and His amazing grace as I dealt with those trials and repented. Which sin was that? The sin of wanting worldly treasures.

The Lord has been faithfully trying to teach me a lesson about treasure for years. Six years ago, I thought I’d nailed it. And maybe I had, by the Lord's strength and goodness, for a time. But like mold, sin grows where we don't look for it.

Six years ago, almost to the day we discovered the mold, in mid-November, our house caught fire while we were asleep and we lost everything but the pajamas we had on and our dogs who escaped with us. The cat didn’t make it.

I went from having so much to having nothing. I had nothing to wear to buy new clothes, because my pajamas were old and ugly and I only had house slippers (I didn’t think to grab real shoes). I had no makeup to wear to go buy new makeup. I had no running shoes to run in the race I’d spent months training for. I had no bed. No books. No jewelry. No house to decorate for Christmas.

The day before the house burned, we’d sung “Give Me Jesus” at church. One of the lines says, “You can have all this world, but give me Jesus.” On the way home from church that Sunday, I’d asked my husband if we really meant those words that we sang. We talked about how easy it is to claim things about our faith and another thing entirely when we’re forced to live through what we claim.

The next night, we lost everything.

As we stood outside, in the 20-degree temperatures, watching our old farmhouse, our first home as a married couple, burn with intense, hungry heat, I couldn’t help but sing the lyrics of that song. I felt the Lord stirring that song within me. I had to sing. I wanted to worship. To tremble and admire the fact that the Lord was teaching me what it really meant to say, “You can have all this world.”

A Hard Lesson to Learn

The fire taught me so many things. Things I can’t even explain. But it absolutely showed me what Jesus meant in Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

The things we store up here on earth, the treasures we accumulate, can all burn. They will all burn, even if it’s after our death. They hold no eternal value.

But what a hard lesson to learn! What a hard truth to believe! We are surrounded by things we have, things we want, things we think we need. We have financial goals that will help us get whatever it is we think we must have. Our culture pumps this into us from childhood. Want more. Get more. Have more. Do more.

But what about what Jesus says? He tells us to get more of something, too, but it’s not more house, more clothes, more vacations, or more shoes. It’s treasures in heaven.

What Is Heavenly Treasure?

So, what is treasure in heaven? A big mansion in the sky? A street paved with gold?

Those sound more like treasures we would want here on earth. Riches, fancy things, big houses. That’s all earthly stuff.

The treasure of heaven is Jesus Christ.

This is what He wants us to learn. This is what He wants us to pursue. This is what He wants us to desire. Himself.

Because, as He so aptly pointed out, where our treasure is, there our heart will be also.

He wants our hearts. And the only way He can have them is if He is our greatest treasure.

When God commanded us not to have any other Gods before Him, do you know He said that because He’s the best thing we ever have had or ever will have? God not only deserves our wholehearted worship, but He is the greatest treasure in all of creation. Guarding ourselves against other treasures was His first and greatest commandment for us.

Only when we keep God as our greatest treasure can we truly honor Him as God.

Jesus was reminding us of this by calling out the things we so often treasure instead of Him.

Lessons from God Often Take Time

The Lord took all my treasures in one night. He took some intangible treasures that same year, too, but I don’t have time for that discussion today. This year, He reminded me that all the things I’ve accumulated in the past six years are still earthly things that exist where moth and rust destroy.

I get to keep them this time, but I have to wash each item, pulling through my hands the same things that six years ago I lost in a matter of minutes. I get to be thankful for each shirt, each dress, each pair of pants. I get to see just how much the Lord has restored and granted to me since that fire. I get the difficult yet incredible reminder that Jesus is worth more than all of it. Infinitely more.

I pray I learn the lesson this time. I'm thankful for the refresher course. I'm grateful He's still trying to teach me, not leaving me to let my sin accumulate where I think it won't.

And when the cleanup is over, the sheetrock is repaired, the holes are filled in, and the painting finished, I might get to put up a Christmas tree and put that star on top and remember, with gratitude, that my Savior left the glories of heaven to be born in the humblest of places to purchase my redemption with His blood. Hallelujah, what a Savior! He truly is our greatest treasure.

“You can have all this world, but give me Jesus.” Only by the Lord’s incredible grace can I say I am closer to understanding this lyric. To fully believing it. May He continue to teach me until I learn, and may I not let the desire for worldly treasures creep back in to a place in my heart I thought was safe from that sin.

If you enjoyed this post, consider sharing it on your social media of choice. You might also like this post that reminds us, in the words of one of my high school students, to be consumed by the gospel.

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