By David Houston
It is amazing to me that people think they can live life the way they want to and still know God. The Bible says in Hebrews 12:14 that “without holiness, no man shall see God.” This does not refer to conjuring up some emotion. The Bible is speaking about allowing our hearts, our minds, and our actions to be purified by the Word of God.
We cannot be casual and expect that God will come meet us. It is impossible for us to come into the presence of God with sin in our lives. Without holiness, we will never meet God; and without an increasing holiness, we will never get close to Him. It is the greatest privilege in the world to know God. It’s also the greatest privilege for God to be shining the spotlight of His Word on our hearts, breaking up the fallow ground.
One thing that will block us from the presence of God is presumptuous sins. In Psalm 19:13, King David said, “Keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me.” Presumption is defined as “blind or headstrong confidence; unreasonable confidence in divine favor. Bold and confident to excess.” King David understood that presumptuous sins can rule over us. In the Psalms we are commanded to hate evil. We cannot be passive about fighting temptation or wicked thoughts in our minds; we have to hate them!
God is putting a spotlight on the sin in our hearts because He loves us. He wants our consciences to be pricked and convicted. God doesn’t want us to have head knowledge only, just knowing we’ve sinned, because that doesn’t change anyone. It does not benefit us just to know in our heads that we have sinned. God wants to let it convict our consciences. He wants our consciences to be hurt, to be remorseful, because we have offended a holy God.
In Psalm 51, David repented to God for his sin. We must keep in mind that an entire year had passed since he committed the sin of adultery against a woman, ordered her husband killed, and ultimately sinned against all of Israel. Yet in verse four he says, “Against You [God] only have I sinned.” His conscience was so pricked because he had sinned against God and offended him – that was so real to him at that time that everything else paled in comparison.
The only way you are going to have the kind of friendship with God that He desires with you is to be pricked in your conscience. It requires a tender conscience which causes you to realize that you have offended a holy God.
Sin separates us from a holy and pure God. It keeps us from being able to love Him. We have dealt too lightly in the past with our sin, and we are too familiar with it. God wants us to develop a hatred of sin. The reason a lot of people never experience God is because they haven’t realized that they have to hate evil and separate themselves from it to walk with a holy God. God is love, but He is also holy.
Joy Dawson, in her book Intimate Friendship With God, explains four distinct levels of attitudes toward sin. Let’s look at these different levels:
- Level One: The person who does not sin because the consequences are too great. This person lusts after someone else in his or her heart but does not commit adultery or fornication because of the consequences being too great. Obviously, there is no hatred of evil and, therefore, no fear of the Lord.
- Level Two: The person who lives by the Golden Rule. He wants peace at any price and cannot understand anyone who is so radical that he would try to change the status quo of his life or anyone else’s. This person can be full of the sins of selfishness and self-righteousness without being aware of it. If you asked him: “How long has it been since you spent more than an hour in prevailing prayer for the lost souls of men? … What is the depth of your commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ for the lost souls of men to be reached by your witnessing to them on a personal basis?”
In all honesty he would have to answer, “Very little or none at all.” There is no fear of the Lord manifest in these sins of selfishness, prayerlessness, self-centeredness, complacency, and self-righteousness. There is no acknowledgment, let alone any hatred, of these sins in the person who lives on this level.
- Level Three: The sincere Christian who earnestly desires to please the Lord Jesus Christ. He does not want to sin and is deeply concerned when besetting sins are in his life. He wishes he could find an answer as to why he is always having to confess over and over again the same sins. Perhaps he commits the sins of criticism and of judging others, the sins of pride … He is deeply concerned and longs for freedom.
- Level Four: The person who has the fear of God upon him. He hates sin; therefore, he seldom sins. If he does, there is a quick awareness of sin, immediate repentance, and a willingness to humble himself before others if directed by the Holy Spirit to do so.
Do you know which level you are demonstrating? Whatever sin you see in your life, God wants you to turn against that sin. We need to get violent at sin trying to rule our lives. We must turn our hearts toward God and let Him illuminate our hearts to see any sin.
I wrote a letter to our church at UCLA recently explaining a practical way God had given me to break up the fallow ground in my heart.
Hosea 10:12 says, “Break up your fallow ground for it is time to seek the Lord until He comes to reign righteousness upon you.” I believe that the Lord has shown me practically how He wants us to go about this, and I will share it with you in this letter.
I’m quoting a great deal of this from a booklet, How To Promote a Revival, by Charles Finney. Finney said that the way to tenderize our hearts and break up the fallow ground is in self-examination: considering our past actions, the motives of our hearts, the thoughts that have been in our minds. Go over your past sins one by one. Write them down in detail and meditate on your sin. Meditate on the coldness and indifference and uncaring attitude of your heart in order to let the Holy Spirit begin to convict you deeply of your sin and your lack of love for God.
Finney lists several topics that I think are helpful and that I have been using in my prayer times in the last few days.
1. Lack of love toward God. Think of the little time that you have given to God. Write it down. Think of the indifference that you have had to God’s feelings and opinions. Think of the lack of affection that is in your heart toward God.
2. Lack of love for the Bible. Write down in detail the lack of desire and fervency in reading the Word of God. Is it simply rote or duty?
3. Neglect of prayer. List your attitude in prayer; your lack of zeal for prayer; the excuses that you make instead of prayer; the lack of listening to God and earnestly desiring to hear His voice. Does not your prayerlessness reveal your self-sufficiency?
4. Worldly-mindedness and carnality. The love for things of the world has crept in. List the desires that you have for your worldly possessions above the love of God. List the amount of time that you give to thinking of worldly things versus the love of God and worship.
5. Pride, Vanity. Detail the manifestations of pride that the Holy Spirit shows you. Is it not sin to care more for external appearance than your eternal soul? Do you have selfish ambition more than zeal for God’s glory?
6. Personal worship. Write down as well as you can remember the last times you had personal, intimate worship time with God. Why does your mind wander so? Why do you find so little time for worship with God? Why do other things take precedence?
7. Hardness of heart. As you are listing these things, list the indifference that is in your heart even now as you acknowledge the sins of lack of love and lack of gratitude toward God.
8. Lack of personal holiness. Detail the compromise: looking at things that you should not, listening to things, even saying things out of your mouth that grieve the Holy Spirit.
9. The thoughts of your mind. Jesus said if you look on a woman to lust after her you have already committed adultery. List how unholy and impure your thoughts have been and how little you have done to take them captive to the obedience of Christ.
10. Disobedience to the written Word of God and to the spoken Word of God. Write down every instance where you have deliberately disobeyed your conscience, the voice of the Holy Spirit. Acknowledge to the Holy Spirit in writing how you have grieved Him and offended Him by not listening, by deliberately ignoring or disobeying His voice.
11. Acknowledge the lack of fruit of the Holy Spirit. Write down the sins of anger, jealousy, envy, backbiting, exaggerating.
Be thorough in your work. In breaking up your fallow ground, you must remove every obstruction. As you go over the catalogue of your sins, decide that you will repent and change. Wherever you see wrong, resolve at once in the strength of God to sin no more in that way.
You need not expect that God will do all the work. Much is up to you. Fasten your attention upon your sin. You cannot look at your sins long and thoroughly and see how bad they are without feeling, and feeling deeply. Let the Holy Spirit bring full conviction and a thorough repentance, as well as the cleansing and refreshing of a clean conscience and a pure heart before God.
Parts of this article were taken from Intimate Fellowship With God, by Joy Dawson, (Old Tappan, NJ: Chosen Book, Fleming H. Revell Co., 1986), pp. 51-55.