After three years of driving an SUV that I loved, I am now back to being a minivan mom. Last week our family sold our beloved Kia Sorento and made the leap to a Kia Sedona. It was perfect timing all around, and we got an amazing deal on this 2019 demo model with only 14,000 km so I am feeling very thankful. The kids are enjoying the change even more. They love the extra room and the sliding doors. It will be wonderful on road trips, but I have to say I will miss the all wheel drive and the powerful pep of our old car.
So with this new-to-us van, I’ve been thinking about newness lately. Lots of words come to mind when I think of “new.” Sometimes it sounds exciting and full of pleasant surprises and discoveries to be made. Sometimes something new can be a lot of work, can cost us something and require significant sacrifice. It can be uncomfortable and awkward as we adjust to something new.
A few weeks ago as I was reading Psalm 51, David’s famous prayer of confession after being confronted by the prophet Nathan about his sinful involvement with Bathsheba, verse 10 in Hebrew meant something new to me. I’ve read it in English countless times, but not until I saw the word “create” in Hebrew (ברא) did I realize the full extent of David’s request. That’s the same word used in Genesis 1:1 where it says “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Our God creates things out of nothing! In fact, He created everything out of nothing. David isn’t asking for a makeover here. He’s not just asking for God to transform his old heart. He’s asking God to CREATE a pure heart in him.
This thought is echoed in the next line where he asks for a renewed spirit. In Hebrew it literally reads “and spirit right new inside me”. That Hebrew word חדש was another one that jumped out at me. It means NEW! David isn’t just asking God to iron out the wrinkles in his spirit; he’s asking God to give him a NEW spirit. These are the pleas of a man who knows himself, who knows his sin, who knows his own heart. He also knows this kind of work is beyond the scope of his own willpower and self discipline. This is radical work for Creator God!
In our Morning Time Bible lessons this week we’ve been reading about Samuel anointing Saul as Israel’s first king. I couldn’t help but notice what Samuel said would happen when God’s Spirit came upon Saul. He said Saul would be turned into another man (I Samuel 10:6). Sure enough, when Samuel turned to leave (and all the things he had said would happen were about to take place), it says God gave Saul another heart (לב אחר). If only Saul could have continued to cooperate with this work of God’s Spirit in him!
We sometimes see God’s Spirit coming upon certain individuals in the Old Testament stories, empowering them to accomplish great things. It certainly wasn’t something every member of Israel’s covenant community experienced though. Far from it! That’s what’s so amazing about what Christ’s death and resurrection and ascension have made possible for believers today. We have the gift of God’s presence through His Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts, promising to never leave us or forsake us. Do we have any idea how incredible that is?!
It’s the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that makes a new heart possible for us. J. Paterson Smyth says in his commentary on Mark and Acts that “A new power came into life—to be the gift of every disciple of Christ for ever, if he would but reach out for it and use it. No one now need be conquered by evil…Other teachers could tell men to try to do right. Christ gives men power to do it…you need not be beaten in the fight with sin unless you choose.” He uses the story of a man overcome by robbers. There is an army waiting to come to his aid if he would just call out for them. Help is near, but it does him no good if he doesn’t know it or won’t believe it.
When I look at what a few disciples overcame and accomplished in the first century after Pentecost, I can’t help but think they made good use of the power of the Holy Spirit God gifted to them! Peter, who had been afraid of a young servant girl just a few weeks before, got up and preached a powerful sermon, not showing any trace of fear about what the priests and religious leaders would do to him, and thousands of people responded in repentance and faith! In 100 years the message of Jesus had spread throughout the entire Roman Empire. No small feat in the first century, long before our day of instant global communication.
Today I’m feeling like David. I’m looking into my own heart and realizing that I don’t always have the power to un-love the things I shouldn’t and love the things I should. No wonder David begs God not to take His Spirit from him in the very next verse! This is an impossible endeavour without the power of the Holy Spirit. I don’t want a low budget DIY project that’s doomed to fail. If necessary, I want the Master Builder to “tear me down to renovate” as Christa Wells sings. I’m keenly aware of my need for God’s presence, but unlike David, I’m not panicking that He might leave me. Thanks to Jesus I have an assurance, a constant comforter, a powerful presence that wasn’t always this freely available to God’s people. Let me not take that gift for granted!
Lord, I’m asking today for the good gift of Your Spirit. Like David, I know I don’t have a hope for a new heart without more of YOU! Give me a new heart. Put a new spirit in me. Even if the renovation is radical, and You need to tear me down, I trust You to rebuild beautifully and joyfully. You are the only One Who can create something out of nothing so I come to You empty-handed, empty-hearted. Fill me. Change me. Create in me a heart like Yours!