Years ago, when I was a Christian camp junkie, I remember a youth minister telling this crazy story that has always stuck with me and reminded me of one truth: don’t go back to your old way of life.
Imagine you have a dog that has been in the family for years. You love that dog more than anything. You always come home from school and play fetch. Although Fido’s getting old and can run like he used to, he faithfully trots out to get the ol’ tennis ball and brings it back to you. One day, you come home from school… Fido’s not in the yard. He got run over by a semi (or died of old age, depending on how you tell it). Your family has a funeral for Fido. You violate every city ordinance on the books and bury Fido in the back yard. You cry, because you miss Fido. For the next few days, you do pretty well. You remember the good things about Fido, but also the sad things–he was old and he smelled awful. After a week, however, you really start thinking about Fido and your games of fetch. A thought hits you… a terrible, horrific thought. You decided not to act on it… but a few days later, you do…
You go out back and dig Fido up and try to play fetch with him.
He’s bloated, turning colors, and really smelling bad. You throw the ball. “Go fetch, Fido!” Fido lays there, all dead and putrid. You pick him up and throw him at the ball. And you realize how sick this is. You quickly rebury Fido, go take a 45 minute shower, and try to forget it ever happened.
A few days later, you miss Fido. You get home from school, and go to the shed for the shovel…
How sick is that? Who would ever play with a dead, rotting corpse of a dog? No one! But that’s what we do when we go back to our old way of living–we dig up the “old man” that was “crucified with Christ” as Romans 6 speaks about, and we play with him. We’ve gotta stop playing fetch with the dead dog.
Psalm 85 is all about God restoring the fortunes of Israel. The author asks God to end His “burning anger” that resulted from Israel’s sin, and to restore them. Look then what the authors write in Psalm 85:8,
I will hear what God the Lord will say; for He will speak peace to His people, to His godly ones; but let them not turn back to folly.
Let the dead dog rest in peace.
What parts of our life are leftovers from the old life before we became a Christian? What did we give up, but have allowed to creep back in? What do we need to repent of? What do we need to continue to repent of? The advice of the authors of this Psalm is priceless: Listen to God, and don’t go back to the old way of life.
Let Fido rest in peace.