“If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”
Psalm 66:18, NIV
When I think about the word ‘cherish’, I immediately have a picture in my mind of showing love to someone I care about and love very much. It is one of those warm, affectionate words, the very sound of which almost speaks for itself! It came as something of a shock, therefore, to read our Scripture for today and discover this much loved word linked not with affectionate love, but something we are meant to hate – sin and its consequences. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised what an appropriate word it is to use to describe the idea of choosing to think about sin in our minds and dwell on it affectionately in our hearts. Every single thing we do originates first as a thought, before we choose to act. And in our thinking we can imagine a great deal as we contemplate what we could do with the ideas we have.
There is nothing wrong with creative thinking. For example, every single invention that has blessed mankind throughout history was thought about before it ever saw the light of day. But we can think about both good and bad things and when we dwell on the bad things and cherish them in our hearts we have crossed a line into ungodliness. Even Christians can use their thought life as an opportunity to ‘do’ things in their minds which they would never even contemplate doing in the flesh, and certainly wouldn’t want to share with their own friends and loved ones.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews realised this all too well when he made it clear that as far as God is concerned, the things we choose to dwell on in our minds can be as dangerous before God as the things we actually do. For, he said, God judges the “thoughts and attitudes of our hearts.” (Hebrews 4:12). And we cannot overlook the words of Jesus when he said that looking on a woman to lust after her (dwelling on unclean things in your mind) is seen by God as adultery and will be judged accordingly (Matthew 5:28).
I realise these are extremely challenging ideas, but we cannot ignore bits of the Bible because we find them difficult! We need to seek God’s help to be overcomers, not people who capitulate under pressure from the enemy to think ungodly things. For one thing is absolutely certain – Satan listens very carefully to our ungodly thinking and it is not surprising, therefore, that so many people report that after thinking about something wrong, they suddenly find themselves with the opportunity to put that ungodly thing into practice. The thought can open the door for the action.
Cherishing sinful things – dwelling on them in our minds because we love them – is clearly not something that blesses God. And when this is the message that travels from our hearts to the heart of God then, the Psalmist said, He will not listen. As John said, in his amazing prophetic book, in Heaven there is no unclean thing! (Revelation 21:7). So when the message God is receiving from our heart is saying one thing (cherishing sin), but the message to God from our lips in our praying is saying something else, God won’t be listening to those prayers, because He has already turned His ear away from the message that is going heavenwards from our hearts!
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for challenging me with these truths from Your Word. Forgive me, Lord, for times when I have cherished ungodly things in my heart. I pray that you will forgive and cleanse my thoughts and that you will hear the prayers of my lips when I come to you with a pure heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.