Psalm 66:18 If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.
English translations of this verse generally put it into past tense – If I had cherished – but the Japanese puts it into the present tense – If I cherish. To me that makes it much more immediate, and less a matter of the Psalmist patting himself on the back. The problem is, we like to deny that we are vulnerable to cherishing sin, but none of us are above it. 1 John is very pointed in this area. From 1 John 1:5 through 2:6 he lays it out, and then in 5:18 he comes back to the same theme. “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.” This is one place the NIV gets the translation right, in contrast to a number of other translations. That little matter of “continue to sin” is the big point, and it comes back to the same thing the Psalmist said. We all stumble, but the question is whether we wallow in our sin or rather recoil from it. If we put it all in the past, as most English translations of Psalm 66:18 do, then we won’t be on our guard for the traps the devil lays for us today. There are countless examples of people who seemed to be upstanding Christians, but wrecked their lives. Such things never happen without warning, but rather come from sins cherished. As Paul said, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12)
This is a continuing battle for me, as I think it is for every honest believer, because we are all human and the devil seeks to destroy us. I must never think for any reason – pedigree, learning, track record, what have you – that I am invulnerable. Actually, on all those points I am a testimony of God’s grace, not my own achievement. I must never take that grace lightly, or forget for a moment that it is grace. If I do, I will be totally ineffective in communicating the Gospel, because it is not a message of achievement but of grace. As such it is the antithesis of pride, and that is a major reason so many people reject it. It is pride that says that this sin, or that sin, isn’t so bad, because “I can handle it.” That is cherishing sin! That is “snake handling” indeed, and we will get bit.
Father, thank You for Your grace. The closer I get to You the more I realize how huge that grace is, and how absolutely essential it is to me. Things I overlooked in the past become obvious, as You seek to purify me. Thank You. Help me walk in full humility and gratitude, allowing You to transform me so that others may see and be drawn to Jesus Christ through me, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!