Behold the uninvited bat! Allow me to tell the story.
My wife and I holidayed in Devon recently. The cottage was cute, quiet and cut off. Perfect for a restful retreat.
However. On the fourth night Penny was in bed reading as I watched a World Cup match on the TV across the room. “Why did you throw that at me?”, she said, thinking I’d lobbed a tissue at her as a joke.
It was not a tissue. A bat was zig-zagging between beam and ceiling. Fortunately we have some bat-handling experience, so with the aid of a fish-slice and oven gloves we bagged the blighter and ejected him into the outside air.
We collared the cottage owners in the morning. Sure, they knew bats were up in the roof space, but they thought all gaps had been plugged that would give them access to the inside. Clearly they were mistaken!
Isn’t this sometimes a little like the way sins pay us an unexpected visit? When we’ve forgotten to plug the gaps? We’re aware of the “big” things (murder, adultery, bat-eating – see Deut 14.12-18!), but what about the “smaller” things like greed, gossip and gurning (just kidding on the last one!). May I suggest three simple steps to plugging the smaller sin-gaps. They can be used as a structure for a prayer time.
- Grace. “I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.” (Psalms 116:1–2 NIV11). The man or woman who starts by thanking God for His grace is going to be somewhat more sensitive to sins – especially the more subtle ones. Once we have the mercy of God in our hearts and minds, we have more of His heart and mind. Grace is a good sin-plug.
- Acceptance. It’s sounds counter-intuitive, but accepting God’s mercy makes us more sensitive to sin, not less. Think about it. If we doubt God’s forgiveness, or hold on to the feeling that a state of guilt is somehow more “holy”, then we are focussed on our sin in a way that God is not – “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalms 103:11–12 NIV11). Sin sensitivity is heightened when we’re in a state of experiencing God’s forgiveness. Accepting God’s acceptance draws us close to Him, and that intimacy is something, once experienced, that we hate to lose – thus making sin more repellent.
- Promises. Recalling God’s promises gives us the strength to resist sin. God’s promises are connected to ours. When we decide to trust God’s promises, we live in a way that is consistent with those promises, “You are my portion, LORD; I have promised to obey your words. I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.” (Psalms 119:57–58 NIV).