When I was younger, I attended church with my grandmother. Like the other children, I was involved in Sunday School. I have many fond memories from those days. Most of the memories include trips across Main Street to the Dairy Queen. I loved when we were able to talk our teachers into these little field trips. To me that meant it was a successful Sunday.
Even at such a young age, it was evident that I loved the world and what it had to offer me. However, before you start thinking Dairy Queen was all that took place in Sunday School, I assure you there were many Bible wars, Bible story flash cards, and other Sunday School activities that you would expect.
Nevertheless, my most vivid memory was the Sunday School class in which we were encouraged to pick a verse and memorize it for the following Sunday. I couldn’t have been more than 10 years old when this assignment was given, and just to put this into perspective that was twenty years ago.
After class that day, I remember that I stayed behind and stared at my pretty white Bible that was given to me. I truly wanted to memorize a really good verse because it was my grandmother who had given the assignment. I desperately wanted to please her. The only problem was that I had no idea how to choose a verse. I knew scripture memory was important. I had gotten that much from my time in church. However, the verses were always given to me to memorize. Nonetheless, I concluded that one picks a Bible verse simply by saying, “Lord, show me a verse.” Then, they proceed to close their eyes, open the Bible, and well…point.
Friends, that’s exactly what I did. I took a deep breath. Closed my eyes. Prayed my prayer. Then, lo and behold, I pointed to the verse that I would memorize for the following Sunday. Naturally, the book opened to a Psalm being that it’s in the center of the book. With my eyes shut and my finger pointing I chose a verse. The verse I inadvertently chose was Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
Today, this amazes me. In God’s providence, I chose that verse to memorize. Ironically, but yet without surprise, I was sad that this was the verse that I had to memorize. It was so short. It surely wouldn’t impress my grandmother. I had hoped to memorize a long verse, but since this was clearly from God there was no way I could NOT memorize this verse (slightly tongue in cheek there).
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. In this verse, David cries out to God in complete surrender, complete reliance on God to change him, cleanse him, save him. Of course, my 10 year old self was unimpressed with this verse. However, God was preparing my heart at this young age. This was the first verse I ever memorized, and truth be told, it’s the one verse that I never need to forget and by His grace, I never have.
I wish I could say that I was saved at age 10, but the truth is my past brings me much shame. The choices I would go on to make in the 14 years following the memorization of this verse are a far cry from God glorifying. However, it was throughout those 14 years that a slow process began of God winning me to Himself. God slowly but surely taught me what I refused to understand at age 10.
I am a sinner. Left to myself, I fall so far short of righteousness. I wanted nothing to do with God. Actually, I take that back. I loved to cry out for help when I was embarrassed over what I had done. Asking God to change my circumstances, make people quit talking about me, or give me just one more chance to do this right. I cannot count the number of times I would lie in bed and cry to the ceiling, “Lord, give me one more chance. If you’ll just do this one thing for me, I promise I’ll change.” I had a head knowledge of God from a young age, but I did not have a saving faith. God was a rescue hotline. Someone I only talked to when I was in trouble or when I needed something.
However, God’s word says in 1 John 2:3-6:
And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
My friends, in May 2007, God graciously poured out mercy on me, and revealed to me that which I had denied for so many years. I realized that it was not enough to just know who God was and acknowledge that He existed. It was not enough to know the story of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It was not enough to walk down an aisle and sign a card confessing that I believed in Jesus. It was all meaningless and would not save me from the wrath of God on the final judgment day. It simply was not enough.
Conversely, what is enough is Jesus Christ. He lived the perfect life. The life that I cannot live. He never sinned in thought, deed, or action. He loved everyone and everything perfectly. He never disobeyed his parents. He never swore against God. He never committed sexual immorality. He never lusted after a woman. He never lied. He never stole. He never got drunk. He never sinned in any shape, form, or fashion. He was perfect in every way. He lived the absolute perfect life. Then, he was poured out as a drink offering on my behalf. He was beaten and bruised. He received the punishment that I deserve. He was crucified. Praise God, the story does not end there. Jesus then rose again on the third day. He conquered death. As a result, He stands as a propitiation for our sins before God.
Therefore, in May 2007, I cried out to God, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” I place my faith and trust in Jesus Christ. I relinquished all holds on my life, and I laid it all at his feet. I allowed his blood to rush forth over me. Cleansing me and making me new.
Dear friends, the difference between the previous 16 years and this moment was that I gave my life to Christ. I laid it all at His feet and repented of my sins. I went on to flee from my sins. By God’s grace, I live each day as an instrument of Christ. Each day, I start with the prayer for Him to create in me a clean heart, and to renew the Spirit that is now within me.
Thank you, Lord, for your word. Thank you that you do not leave us to ourselves. It’s amazing to think that this was the verse chosen for me. The verse that would carry me to saving faith in Christ. My friends, I am a sinner saved by grace. This verse is not left back at the point of jusitification, but it is also a verse that carries me through the process of sanctification. This verse comes to mind often, and it is a verse that I cry out to God as my life song.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10