Happy New Year all! In the last week, I’ve had Keith Green’s song “Create in Me a Clean Heart” playing in my head, singing its way out on trips to and fro work, and even as we have prepared for holiday events. The lyrics, taken almost word for word from [Psalm 51:10-12], go like this:
Create in me a clean heart, O Lord
And renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Your presence, O Lord.
Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me, the joy of Thy salvation
And renew a right spirit within me.
Going into this new year, I have been pondering how the “right spirit” looks like. In my work as a doctor, I see so much mental illness and oppression – anxiety, depression, stress, loneliness, feelings of hopelessness. Listening to a patient share some of these feelings this week, the Lord reminded me of something. If I fill up on Him more, I will have more capacity to listen to these burdens, shine out His love, and yet not ever grow weary in doing this. Also, when people have Jesus, when we have the Spirit of God alive in us, it gives us hope, strengthens us to persevere through trials and gives us an incredible joy. We need Jesus. The world needs Jesus.
The Hebrew word for spirit in Psalm 51 is ר֫וּחַ (ruach). Used as a stand-alone word, it can have definitions including breath, heart, mind and motives. However, its use in the Bible to describes the characteristics of God.
- Ruach Ha-Kodesh = Holy Spirit
- Ruach Elohim = Spirit of God
- Ruach He-Chazon = Spirit of Revelation
- Ruach Ha-Emet = Spirit of Truth
- Ruach Ha-Chokhamah = Spirit of Wisdom
- Ha-Ruach = The Spirit (relating to the Spirit from God)
The spirit in us works in many ways, and here are just some of the ways in which a “right spirit” operates, one which is aligned with the Holy Spirit’s working.
- We have a Spirit of SONSHIP
[Romans 8:15-16] – “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
Loneliness has significant health impacts with research indicating that 59% of adults aged over 52 years old report feelings of loneliness. It also increases mortality by 26%. The spirit God gives us is one of sonship. It tells us we belong to His family, we are His sons and daughters, we are His heirs. The spirit of God replaces loneliness with a sense of true belonging and worth. We are loved and embraced by God the Father.
- We have a Spirit of POWER, LOVE AND SELF-CONTROL
[2 Timothy 1:7] – “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Jesus says to cast all our cares on him, to not be anxious about anything but in everything to pray, to trade in our anxieties for God’s peace. In Timothy, we are reminded that the Spirit God gives us is not one of fear, and not one of timidity. Instead, the Spirit of God enables us to walk in confidence before God, to stand up boldly for what is right, to love even when it is hard, and to be self-controlled so we train our tongue, body, and mind, making them all obedient to God’s will. We are sons, we are heirs, we are workers with Christ and we are equipped with all we need to accomplish the plans God has for us.
- We can cultivate a CONTRITE spirit
[Psalm 51:17] – “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and contrite heart –
These, O God, You will not despise.”
What does it mean to have a contrite spirit? It is humility, and it is submitting ourselves to God. However, it does NOT mean a spirit of self-criticism or low esteem. It is recognising that it is only through God that we can do all things that He is more to be desired than anything in this world. It is laying down ourselves to take up the cross of following Jesus, being unafraid to step forward onto this path. It is willingness to set aside the acclaim offered by the world, to exchange it for the simple joy Christ gives. We cultivate a contrite spirit when we live a life looking always to God, daring to give up earthly pleasures for a taste instead, of the richness of God’s table.
- We can cultivate a spirit of OBEDIENCE
[John 14:15-18] – “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”
We are not orphans. We are not abandoned. We are helped by the spirit, dwelling with God, able to see Him and recognise His voice. We cultivate a spirit of obedience when we choose to obey his call. We have this promise from God – that He will come to us, and that we will see Him. If seeing, we do not see, and hearing we do not hear, what is the point. A spirit of obedience is really a spirit of faith in action. It is the position of our heart manifesting in the workings of our body, and when we build faith, we grow closer to Jesus.
Going into this new year, let us proclaim the kind of spirit God has put in us. We are sons and heirs, humble yet rich in joy, obedient and content in the peace of God Almighty, through whom we have every confidence and hope. Create in us a new heart O Lord, and renew a right spirit within us!