Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear. (Isaiah 59:1-2)
How easy it is for a believer to be immersed in the Lord one moment, and in the next off-course by even the slightest degree. Life has a tendency to throw all kinds of things at us, and the major trials or obstacles are easy to spot. They loom, they tower and they demand attention. There is simply no way to avoid or ignore them, and so their danger to our faith and fellowship with God is obvious. While they may be immense in their scope and dynamic, they are not the subtle seductions we really need to be on alert for. It’s the little things that present the greatest danger, simply because they’re so easy to overlook.
The danger with the little things is that they accumulate. Lives are busy and stressful, and we have demanding schedules that direct our attention to meeting deadlines or accomplishing the necessary, leaving little time for ‘spiritual housekeeping.’ At the end of a long and exhausting day, it’s so easy to snatch a moment to give thanks for strength and capacity to make it through, to achieve the goals, to complete the work. But how often do we stop to consider all the ‘little foxes’ that have crept in during the course of day and which remain unresolved.
As I pondered this human tendency to let the little things slide unnoticed, and how this impacts on our relationship with Christ and with our Father, the image of a bridge came so clearly to mind. I realised just how important our bridge is. Christ Himself has, of course, through the cross, provided the bridge that spans the separation between between God and man. We now, in Him, have the access to the Father that we would not be able to create ourselves.
The problem, however, is that bridges require constant maintenance. They are subject to the effects of wear and weather. A small chip in the wood can be start of a large hole. A scrape in the paint can set off rust. A broken slat will eventually give way completely. It is often a slow, almost unnoticable process that, once begun, is twice as difficult to repair. Once the rot has set in, a major refurbishment is usually necessary. We, of course, have the abundant gift of grace, but grace only works when we take hold of it and apply it.
Our sins are often the little things that start the process of decay. In our minds they may be small, but our spirits recognise that, in God’s eyes, sin is sin. Dealing with our sin daily is our way to escape condemnation. In Him, we have no condemnation, but forgiveness and release only applies with repentance. Grace does not cover unconfessed sin. Rather, it points us to repentance and enables us to receive forgiveness. Of course, we cannot say that unconfessed sins steal our salvation, but they do have the tragic result of creating distance from God.
But the Bible says that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Surely this is contradictory then? The truth is that His love, His grace, His mercy and His forgiveness are always there for us. Today’s verse makes it very clear that the problem is not on God’s side. He is utterly faithful, willing and able to forgive and restore us to the place of no condemnation. He has not changed, and never will. Every single promise and covenant He has ever made remains steadfast and eternal.
The problem is that our sin gets in the way. To illustrate, back to the bridge. Unconfessed sins weaken our bridge. If not attended to, the damage increases. We may not even notice it, but perhaps our times of fellowship are shortened, or less frequent, or possibly even less fervent. This is because our spirits are aware of our sin, and so, when we come to God, it isn’t in an attitude of entire honesty. Most of the time, it’s unintentional, but the result is the same.
If we use our bridge every day, and as many times we can during the day, as we build a relationship of constant fellowship, we will notice the damage and stop to repair it. We recognise what the Spirit points out to us, confess, and move on without condemnation. Our bridge to the Father is spiritual, and so does not wear more with constant use. It’s strengthened with constant use. We keep it clear and strong by using it over and over and over.
Consider, for a moment, the implications of damaged bridges during war time. How many advances of the allies were hindered and delayed due to bridges having to be rebuilt? The truth is that there will be times where our bridge is critical. Those are the times of crisis and tragedy, where access to God and His saving power and grace are the only thing we can rely on. How often we hear His people lament that God seems absent in their time of greatest need. How often we hear them weep because they seem separated from Him, that He does not hear their prayer, or that He simply is not there. The old adage about ‘God hasn’t moved, we have’ is tragically true.
It is our sins – both of commission and omission – that create the sense of separation. The accumulation of ‘sin clutter’ gets in the way. It erodes our fellowship, our faith and our access. We feel that He is not there, when in actual fact the truth is that we really feel we cannot reach Him. We have to first rebuild our bridge and find our way back to Him, and the sad truth is that ‘refurbishment’ often takes far longer than daily maintenance.
Nothing can separate us from God. The access is always there. But it’s up to us how we maintain it, and daily attention is the only way to prevent the rot setting in. Above all else, the bridge Jesus has built with His wounds, His suffering and His blood should be our first priority. To keep it sound, we must use it, and using it means allowing Him, by His grace and through His Spirit, to prompt us to the things we have overlooked and to enable us to effect the spiritual repairs we need. We cannot do it alone, but constant fellowship is the key to releasing His power to work on our behalf.
How wonderful it is to know that our God has provided the way to reach Him at all times. And how wonderful to live in the assurance that He is there, ready to hear us, and to work with us through the empowering of His Spirit, to keep that way open and strong. Our every need has already been answered, and for the humble, contrite heart, yielded to His voice, we need not fear that the sense of separation will ever become fact. His Word and His Spirit are all we will ever need to lead us to Him.
Your grace is immeasurable, Lord, and Your love unfathomable. Thank You for building the bridge that brings us into Your presence, and for the assurance that You are faithful and will never leave us or forsake us. Help us to remain in Your Word and led by Your Spirit. Search our hearts and show us the things that erode the bridge to You. Help us to come in humility to Your throne of grace, to deal with the things that hinder and walk in Your forgiveness. Help us to live in Your righteousness and in Your presence.