A Pool of Putrid Filth and Other Helpful Remedies

ImageI’m not a bath guy. Even writing about baths is making me want to take a shower. I don’t know if I heard this from a comedian at some point in my life or if it’s original to me, but I’ve always regarded a bath as the act of soaking in a pool of one’s own putrid filth. We have a garden tub in our house, complete with a water jet system. My wife, who never uses the jets, is fond of reading or just relaxing in the bath for… well, we won’t talk about how long. This is really the only time that she can rest from her duties as mother of four, so I don’t begrudge her time in the tub. Still, I can’t fathom the motivation. If she is tired, she should use that time to sleep, right? Or if she wants to read a book, she should sit in a chair, with a light, sans raisin fingers.

So, I’m not a big fan. But I took a bath last week. This was my first bath in this house which we bought in July of last year. The reason for the bath was simple, I had decided to show my son’s baseball team what hustle looked like. I apparently also showed them what incapacitation looked like. My back was so sore I could barely walk. As such, I decided to take a nice hot bath. I would, of course, follow this with a shower to actually get clean.

I noticed, however, some benefits of this bath. By the end of the bath, my fingernails were as clean as I had seen them in quite some time. I usually have to clean them with an appropriate device, but in this case the dirt seemingly surrendered without resistance (and entered the water in which I was “cleaning myself”, but I digress). My skin, in general, also seemed pretty happy, to the degree to which I can assess skin happiness. It was as though it had become tired of the monotony of interacting with air and was happy for the change of state. The evidence of this happiness was observed primarily in a tingling sensation upon my emergence; a sort of welcome back to the world of air with a renewed appreciation. Finally, the muscles in my back had relaxed a bit due to the extreme heat and sheer velocity of water massaging them into their proper positions once again.

Even with these benefits, I’m not a bath guy. Who has time for a bath? And, who wants to actually see the dirt that could otherwise escape quickly down a shower drain?

You’re wondering how I’m going to go spiritual on you with this, aren’t you?

I believe that I have too often showered in the word of God, content to knock off obvious areas of sin but unwilling to let His word saturate deep within, convicting in ways that bring my most putrid thoughts and desires floating to the surface. I know that God has forgiven me because of Jesus’ faithfulness and his enabling of my trust in him. As such, there is no need for me to heap condemnation on myself for sin that I have already confessed. But the truth is that I deceive myself on a regular basis in two ways: pretending to understand the holiness of God and pretending to have confessed all of my sin.

This first deceit has to do with my view of God. It is a matter of time or, better, priority. Because I tend to prioritize so many things above my time in God’s word and prayer, I carry a shallow, experiential version of God informed by sparse knowledge of Scripture and subjective feelings about the goodness or badness of certain thoughts, actions or emotions. As such, God’s grace seems relatively cheap because I don’t ponder how repulsive even the most innocent of sins is to God. The fact that I even maintain a category called “the most innocent of sins” demonstrates the degree to which I do not yet perceive the fullness of God’s holiness and faithfulness.

 I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.I will ponder all your work,and meditate on your mighty deeds.Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples.You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

(Psalm 77:11-15, ESV)

In order to truly understand the sacrifice of Jesus and the severity of my slightest sin, I must meditate and stare upon the holiness of God as revealed in His word. Truly, when I have better understood the holiness and faithfulness of God, then my self-reliance will fall victim to His brilliance.

The second deceit has to do with God’s view of me. As a Christian, I enjoy certain positional truths with regard to my status in Christ. I am a son and an heir. There is no condemnation for me because Christ has set me free (Romans 8). But if I take these truths for granted, then I am a glutton of grace – taking all that I can get as fast as I can get it without any real appreciation for its cost or flavor. Instead, a thankful soul will be in perpetual inspection of his own heart, looking for that rebellion that hides deep within the crevices. Even more, the thankful soul will petition God for examination. Listen to the passion of the psalmist:

 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

(Psalm 139:23-24, ESV)

I, too often, am content to confess only my most obvious of sins in order to return quickly to the peace of God. Such was the pattern of the church in Laodicea, who was so blessed with comfort that they were unwilling to repent of their wretched, pitiable sin (Revelation 3). Comfort in the assurance of grace was, or is, actually the barrier to right relationship with God.

In order to see this deep, grievous sin, we must be willing to wait on God to reveal it. We must not simply toss out a simple confession as we dispense another claim to grace. Instead, we must wait for God to break our sinful desires before claiming peace with God. John Owen speaks to this in The Mortification of Sin:

 “If the Word of the Lord does good to your soul, He is the one who speaks it. If it humbles you and cleanses you, it is fulfilling the purpose for which it was given to you, namely to endear, to cleanse, to melt and bind to obedience, and to self-emptiness, and so on.

Without a right consideration of this, sin will have a great advantage, and tend to the hardening of the heart!”

I am called to soak in God’s word, waiting for the deepest strongholds of self-sufficiency to soften and release. My soul must, from time to time, seek retreat from the perpetual temptation of this world in order to re-enter the work field with renewed vitality. The Spirit must penetrate deep into the seized tissue of my rebellion and free this body to honor God. If I wait on the Lord, He will renew my strength.

A few questions to challenge you as I have been challenged:

  1. When is the last time that you spent extended time in prayer and meditation on God’s word?
  2. How might you adjust your schedule or responsibilities this week to make time to do so?
  3. Do you know someone who might be struggling in this area? If so, please share this post.