Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.
We’re in the midst of a series called “I Love That Verse” where we’re talking about some of our favourite verses and why we love them. As a young teen, Proverbs 26:11 was on my list.
At that time most of my Bible reading was done in the pew on a Sunday morning, using the Word as a diversion from the message or a decoy to make the adults think we were listening to what was happening in the service. I’m embarrassed to say that my friends and I would flip through the Bible, mostly the Old Testament, and look for the most obscure passages we could find and compare them in hushed whispers. It was a game. And as far as games go, a verse with the word vomit in it felt like a gold medal winner.
In my later teens and into adulthood I worked a lot of retail jobs. It seemed as though every day I encountered people who were angry, annoyed, displeased, irate, or just generally having a bad day. Oh, I also met and served lots of amazing people, but sadly it’s the angry ones that tend to stand out in my memory.
It was around this time that I discovered Psalm 25:21-22, “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”
Based on this verse, I felt like God was telling me, “Be as sweet as pie to your critics, because it will just annoy them to no end, and you will have the last laugh at their miserable faces.”
Hmmm… looking back I’m fairly certain this isn’t what the Psalmist had in mind when he wrote these words, but nevertheless it became my favourite verse for a time.
So, why am I telling you this? Is it because I want you to see what a lousy Christian I was? Maybe. I am pretty excited at the work of grace and transformation that the Lord has done in my life over the last 20+ years.
Mainly I just want to say this: I have used Scripture for a lot of things. I used it as a game to amuse myself. I've used it to prove myself right and others wrong; to prove myself righteous and others wanting; to show how much God loves me but hates all the sinners of the world. Every motive was centred on me.
But here's the thing. My favourite verse… my absolute favourite verse in the entire Bible… takes the focus off of me entirely and places it firmly on God and the work of Jesus Christ.
Titus 3:4-5 says this, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”
Check out those beautiful words: Loving kindness. Saved by God. Mercy. Regeneration. Renewal.
I look back now and am ashamed at how I abused God’s Word. What a treasure it is to us, testifying to the heart of the Father, the gift of the Son, and the work of the Holy Spirit. And I missed it for far too long.
If you have a favourite verse (and I hope you do!), make sure it’s firmly centred on God. If reading it makes you feel righteous and puffed up, then read it again. Read the verses around it. What is God saying in the passage about who He is and how He works. Allow Scripture to transform your heart and mind as you dwell on the richness of His Word. You’ll be so glad you did.
And, as the book of Titus ends, “Grace be with you all.”
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