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Comment-Paw-prints

June 2005

After many years of careful observation, I am no longer in any doubt. Cats are irresistibly attracted to wet concrete! Lay a fresh concrete surface and the following morning it will be decorated by a set of beautifully preserved paw-prints, impossible to erase. It is quite literally ‘set in concrete’.

The cat-and-concrete illustration came to mind in the context of Joshua 7 – Achan’s sin that deeply compromised Israel’s conquest of the promised land. The events recorded – victory at Jericho followed by rout at Ai – picture our all-too-common descent from victorious Christian living into humiliating spiritual defeat.

But what exactly was Achan’s sin? Most people would say ‘covetousness’ but the root lay deeper – in a contempt for God’s Word. The point is this: Does the Word of God make indelible impressions on our hearts and lives, or are its effects fleeting and transitory?

Obedience deficit

God had strictly forbidden spoils from Jericho (Joshua 6:18-19). So explicit was this command that God calls it a ‘covenant’ (7:11). But Achan treated that word with contempt. How? By simply ignoring it. And that, unfortunately, is where we come in.

The Lord Jesus complained, ‘Why do you call me “Lord, Lord” and do not do the things which I say?’ (Luke 6:46). James warns us not to deceive ourselves by being hearers but not doers of the word (James 1:22).

God alerted Ezekiel: ‘they sit before you as my people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love but their hearts pursue their own gain’ (Ezekiel 33:31).

Many Christians today suffer from obedience deficit. The Word of God leaves no paw-prints on our lives. We hear and approve the commandments of Christ but when it comes to practical living we ignore them. In doing so we are building on sand, not rock -(Matthew 7:26).

Priorities

This obedience deficit reveals itself in many ways. One common example is the Christian who puts his natural home and family before his spiritual home and family.

We oughtto provide comfortable and caring homes for our families – for ‘if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever’ (1 Timothy 5:8).

But if that is so, how much more should we bestow our ‘home-making’ skills and affectionate concern upon the family of God – the local church and the body of Christ? If we lavish time and money on our own homes while God’s house lies neglected, can we claim to be seeking first the kingdom of God? (Read Haggai 1:2-11).

Other professing Christians ignore the clear commandments of Christ concerning such things as sexual impurity, drunkenness and revelling – in short, lifestyles copied from the world rather than the Word.

Paul exhorts, ‘Be followers of God, as dear children, and walk in love as Christ also has loved us and given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints’ (Ephesians 5:1-7).

The commandment here is not only to renounce the mindset and morals of the world, but positively to live as Christ lived – lovingly and sacrificially. Real love, whether towards God or our fellow men, involves sacrifice. It is a rare commodity.

Permanent impressions

What has ‘cat and concrete’ to do with all this? Simply, that if our hearts are tender and receptive to the Word of God, that Word will make an indelible impression upon them! We may not see the Holy Spirit at work but we shall see the permanentresults in the lives of those who hear and heed the Word.

In Isaiah 66:2 God makes a promise: ‘On this one will I look [with favour]: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at my word’.

If we really trembled at the Word of God we would live obediently and sacrificially. The love of Christ would constrain us to live no longer for ourselves but for him who died for us and rose again -(2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

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