Pastoral Perspectives

Spiritual Spring Cleaning

  In recent time, we’ve seen in various media news about top officials, secular or Christian falling prey to money and sex. More recent is the outcry regarding the repealing of section 377A in Singapore. My take is not to be trapped by the lobbyist, Christian or otherwise. The NCCS website gives a good summary statement of our stand Our world is getting so complex that Sigmund Freud’s theory of Id, Ego and Superego takes center stage in the drama of life – “I want, therefore I am.” Bottom-line to all that is played out in our society is the issue of our attitude.

            As the Lunar New year draws near, we have a tradition of spring-cleaning. Today, many of us have been so busy that we have chosen to outsource this tradition to some spring-cleaning companies or individuals. You may ask what exactly is the purpose of spring-cleaning? Maybe those of us who do not live in cold countries would not appreciate or understand the needs of spring-cleaning. The ritual of Spring Cleaning dates way back and is more significant in the parts of the world where the winters are long and dark. When the summer season is on its way, you need to shake the gloom of winter off, and prepare for the brighter season. It has both a physical and psychological bearing. In a health perspective you need to clear out the dust and dirt to avoid sicknesses, such as asthma and allergies.Psychologically the winter gloom represents stagnated energy and things undone. Springtime is the time for new beginnings; physically you let go of useless stuff, clean, and open up the house for the air and the light; psychologically you make room for new ideas and projects.

            Like the Chinese proverb says: Make your whole year’s plans in the spring, and your day’s plans early in the morning. Generally, this is what we do: start with going through the house and getting rid of useless things such as clothing, magazines, papers, books and broken stuff. Put the remaining things in their right spot. Wash curtains and furniture, clean the oven, fridge and freezer, wash walls and windows, de-clutter and clean junk drawers, closets, pantry etc.

            Spring-cleaning, while is worth the effort, will only last for a season, but spiritual cleansing could have an eternal influence. So don’t just dust behind those book shelves. Dust off that favorite Bible and get ready for a spiritual spring cleaning. Spring-cleaning can be more than just a chore, however.  It can actually be exciting if you use the time to start cleaning up something far greater than your house: your soul.  The closer you get to Jesus – the Light of the world – and the more you invite the Holy Spirit to blow the fresh air of His love into your life, the more you become aware of how messy your soul has become.  Thankfully, there’s no sin too messy for God to clean up when you follow His divine cleaning plan of confession, repentance, and reconciliation.

            Maybe many of us like Elijah had run till you are exhausted. Flat on his face under a broom tree Elijah asked God to end his life. “I’ve had enough Lord,” he said! The problem was that he was running on empty. Have you ever found yourself like Elijah? God always meets his tired servants when they’ve run out. He cooks them breakfast – just as He did for Elijah. He knows how to replenish our soul.

            Many of us are starving spiritually. We come to church every Sunday morning and then try to coast on that hour and a half of worship and preaching for the rest of the week. We spend all week getting beaten down by the world, the flesh and the devil and then we drag ourselves into church the next Sunday hoping to fill our spiritual tanks to get us through the next week. What is going on in the deep place where nobody goes – in your heart?

            In my many years in the pastorate, my heart sank whenever I hear the phrase from believers “I’m not being fed.” I try to discern what people are really saying. The complaint “I’m not being fed” is usually a code phrase for some other frustration that lurks below the surface. It is strange when I hear two extreme comments of the same sermon preached by the same preacher in the same worship service. One was so blessed and was brought to tears and the other “I’m not being fed.” In my opinion, “I’m not being fed” was really a cover for some other issues. Of course, there will always be room for growth and improvement in our pulpit, but when people complain about under-nourishing sermons there is often another issue or a complex set of issues behind.

            Think of Bible reading as the road map of life, and prayer as the oil in the engine.  The car represents life and the front passenger seat as the place for the Holy Spirit.  However, God designed much more into the function and purpose of our spiritual lives. Much of the church operates on the assumption that church is like an all-you-can eat buffet restaurant, and the minster is chief cook, bottle washer and waiter. Then all church members need do is pay for the cost of entry and feed at the trough. We all need the balance of the work of the Holy Spirit in community to make sure we have the fuel to make the trip.  The Bible is the road map, but without the fuel of one another love, instruction, discipline, encouragement, bearing of burdens and accountability, we often end up sidelined, confident in our correctness but ineffective in our walk. A life without the strength of one another – weekly church attendance, small group relationships, discipleship partners fellowship and ministry involvement – is like starting out on a 1000 mile trip with a quarter of a tank of petrol and the next petrol station is 200 miles away. Running on empty is not just a bad idea; it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Cleaning ourselves spiritually begins and ends with our attitude. If our attitudes are strong, then we will be able to commit ourselves to the preparation and work involved in the process. We can choose now whether or not we will continue living in our pasts of sin and regret or push forward to a better future in Christ. Like Paul, we can put our pasts behind us and reach for the upward calling of Jesus’ grace. We just have to take a moment and clean ourselves spiritually. If we even have one day to live, there is good work we can do. We just have to continue pressing forward.

Blessed Chinese New Year!

Pastor Cheng Huat

February 3, 2013