What happens to us?
How is it that a genuine Christian can sin, and so often, sometimes so flagrantly?
In Hebrews 5:2we read of how people are "ignorant and wayward," of how we are all "beset with weakness." One of the first steps to overcoming ignorance, waywardness, and weakness is recognizing it for what it is.
I had a dream the other night that brought this home to me.
We recently celebrated "father's day" here in the US (June 17, 2012), and the dream I had was probably connected to the fact that I didn't feel I had done enough to communicate to my dad how grateful I am for him.
In the dream I was in the office at Southern Seminary where the faculty have mailboxes. I was talking with a student as I poked my head into that office to see if there was any mail in my box. I noticed on top of my box a glass jar full of change that my wife had wanted out of the house, so I took it up to the school. Not wanting it in my office, I had stuck it on top of my box.
Seeing the change now, I thought to myself that I could buy a coke with it.
I stuck my hand in and counted out what I thought were four quarters.
But when I looked at them, I realized what I held in my hand, and my heart smote me.
These were old coins, and valuable. Silver dollars, Susan B. Anthonys, pre-1963 quarters, none of which, now that I realized what they were, I wanted to throw away on a can of coke. These were coins that my father had collected, coins that he had looked for, found, kept, and passed on to me.
Suddenly the old coins I held in my hand—in the dream there was a silver dollar from 1903, there were coins with designs on them that have long since passed out of circulation, coins that clearly came from this country but that were so old they had become exotic—suddenly these coins in my hand were much more than merely pieces of change. They had become mementos. Mementos of my father. Gifts he had given to me.
The gifts evoked memories of my Pappaw, my dad's dad, sitting on the couch, almost lying down really, with a stack of coins on his chest, rubbing the quarters together until their faces were smooth. They reminded me of times when I was the ages my own sons are now, 8, 6, 4, times when my dad and my sister Dayna and I would sit at the table or sprawl on the floor and sort coins. The Gifts I held in my hand made me think of recent days when my dad has done the same thing, sort coins, with my sons, only now he wears reading glasses to see the dates and designs.
Those memories showed themselves to be linked in a vital way to my whole relationship with my dad: all the ground balls and free throws and conversations in the car. All the ways he shaped me and loved me and cared for me. All the time he spent with me, the mound of moments we have enjoyed together.
There I was in my dream, holding those coins in my hand. They had become priceless to me because of what they signified, and I was horrified that I had almost thrown them away on a cola that wouldn't have been good for me anyway.
This is how our ignorant, wayward, and weak hearts find their way to sin. We forget the gifts our God and Father has given us. We become unmindful of what his mercy means to us. We neglect the mementos, the testimonies, the stories and songs of the Scriptures.
And all too often we are prepared to cash in our relationship with the living God for filth, filth that would ruin our lives and destroy everything precious and sacred to us. We are ignorant, wayward, and weak enough to throw away the world to come in exchange for a syrupy mixture of caffeine, sugar, and fizzy water, or worse, far worse: shameful things not to be named. God help us get hearts of wisdom.
"Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones"
James Hamilton serves as associate professor of biblical theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written revelation: the spirit speaks to the churches (Crossway) god's glory in salvation through judgement: a biblical theology (Crossway) and god's indwelling presence: the ministry of the holy spirit in the old and new testaments (B&H). He blogs regularly at for his renown. You can follow Dr. Hamilton on Twitter @drjimhamilton