Before I get started, I have a confession. Over the years, as a result of the work I was doing, I spent a lot of time on airplanes. On occasion, I failed to fully adhere to TSA guidelines for carry-on items (the confession part) and went ahead and packed that big tube of toothpaste or the massive thing of hair gel (don’t judge). In looking back on those times, I remember thinking that maybe I can get away with it and not have to throw these recently purchased items in the trash. I knew the screening systems were sound, but there might be a chance they would miss finding the rule-breaking items in my bag. There were several times it worked. I was able to get the items to their destination and avoid the inconvenience of having to make new purchases. I saved money, and I saved time. Victory!
In reflecting on my TSA smuggling efforts, I was convicted that I often view my sin in the same way. I like to think I can hide it from God by rationalizing that no one else is hurt, or it’s small enough not to matter. After all, isn’t God merciful and forgiving? Won’t God overlook mistakes? One of the most under-emphasized attributes of God in the church today is His wrath. The culture of the church continues to veer further and further away from the God described in the Bible. In Hebrews 10:26 says, “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Later, in verse 31, the writer wraps up the section with, “it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” When was the last time you heard a message on the “terrifying judgment of God?” It’s not a common one. However, as I meditate on His judgment and eternal accountability, I found myself in Psalm 139:23-24 as a way to fact this important characteristic of God.
Psalm 139:23-24, says, “Search me O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” Every follower of Jesus must be open and actively seeking to be searched by God so that we don’t become numb to the pending judgment every one of us will face. This Psalm provides three essential areas that we must give God access to if we want to live under His leadership.
The first area to ask God to search is your heart. What is the condition of your heart? The Bible tells us our hearts are by nature, deceptive and wicked (Jeremiah 17:9); however, when we humble ourselves before God, He can clean our hearts (Psalm 5:10). As you ask God to search your heart, consider a few questions: How is pride showing up in my life right now? How am I living for myself versus others? Where is comparison influencing me in my current circumstances? Allow God a chance to point out the condition of your heart, ask for forgiveness, and search His word for the truth to protect you from a hardened heart.
The second area to allow God to search are your anxious thoughts. What is stressing you out right now and stirring anxiety? We are a few months into the Covid-19 quarantine as I am writing this. People have lost loved ones, many have lost jobs, and the future is uncertain. If you are occupied by worry, confess it to God. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Anxiety has a way of shifting our focus to ourselves and away from the Father. As God reveals your anxious thoughts, ask for His forgiveness, and acknowledge your faith in His ability to deliver you through any circumstance.
The last area to be addressed is allowing God to see if you are hurtful in any way. Are you engaged in sinful behavior? Do you have fractured relationships that need attention? I know in my own life, there are times where my words and my actions are the opposite of gentle and kind. The fruits of the spirit Paul lists in Galatians 5:22-23 serve a resource for reflection. Are you experiencing these fruits in your life today? Take time to quiet your soul with the Lord and invite Him to show you where you are hurtful. Unlike my TSA hidden item trick, nothing is hidden from the Father.
Psalm 139 ends with a great prayer of hope. God is available to lead us in His everlasting way. God’s way of living is a better way, and it is open to all who call Jesus Lord. However, His leading in this way requires we open our hearts to His inspection. Our Heavenly Father is loving and filled with grace, but He is also filled with wrath and judgment. Paul directed the Philippians to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12), and each of us should do the same.