Sunbeam or Searchlight?

It was 4:30 p.m. and the winter sun, low on the horizon, sent its rays streaming through our living room. Noticing that Mary was sitting in “my” recliner, I waddled over to the sofa. What a different perspective! I was almost shocked to discover the once absolutely pure, clean air was actually alive with activity. Tiny, almost microscopic particles were soaring like a flock of miniature birds, driven by the ceiling fan lazily churning the air above me, circling in preparation to land.

These invaders, whatever they were, remained invisible until they passed through the brilliant sunshine piercing the room. Suddenly appearing as they passed through the sunbeam, they shone like miniature snowflakes or transparent jellyfish floating in the current. Some passed so close that I could hold out my hand to catch them on my palm. Even though I watched them float directly into my hand, their only moment of visibility came as they floated through the sunbeam.

It was a bit disheartening to realize that the perfectly pure air I thought I was breathing was, in reality, not so pure at all. The sunlight had shattered that myth. Without its illumination, I could have remained content and at peace in my ignorance—assuming the air that entered my nose and lungs was absolutely pure and free from contaminants.

I would have never seen the airborne dust.

A little research revealed that these invading particles have a name. They are called “aerosols”—naturally existing phenomena consisting of very small particles of dust or moisture, sometimes resulting from human activity. They have always been there in our house, but I wasn’t aware of them—until they floated in and out of the brilliant sunbeam.

So what’s the point, you ask? Good question. And yes, I do have a spiritual application.

The point is that I can live day in and day out deceiving myself, and justifying myself as a “good man.” I can convince myself that I have a handle on sin. I can even begin to believe that lust, envy, wrong anger and other sins are all “in the past,” and that nothing presently exists requiring confession and cleansing. I have become the man described in 1 John 1:8 who claims to “be without sin.”

Falling into that trap is to call God a liar. A very serious charge, wouldn’t you agree?

Often the Holy Spirit, like that brilliant sunbeam, has exposed my hidden sins through the light of God’s Word. The Bible is more than just a light directing me to stay on the path of righteousness (Psalm 119:105). The Book of Books is also the sunbeam exposing the hidden particles floating around my mind, the living room and the closet of my life.

The Bible can be much more aggressive than a sunbeam. Consider Hebrews 4:12-13: “For the word of God is living an active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing the soul and spirit, joints and morrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

Like that winter sunbeam exposing hidden, almost invisible particles floating in the air I breathe, the Holy Spirit uses Scripture to shock me into the reality of my heart’s condition.  When that happens, I have two choices: I can ignore the evidence, deny the guilt and remain filthy. Or, I can freely admit and confess the sin and claim God’s promise to “forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Don’t you love that word purify? Like an air filter catching and removing all foreign particles from the air God graciously removes my sin and guilt. Even greater, He replaces my guilt with the righteousness of Christ. Can it be any better than that? 

Remember the old children’s song? Open up your heart and let the sunshine in. David said it like this:

Search me, O God, and know my heart!

Try me and know my thoughts!

And see if there be any grievous way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting!

—Psalm 139:23-24