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One of my dislikes in life is sitting in the dentist's chair while he fills my mouth with metal probes, mirrors (and anything else he can find on his little table) and then to hear him say, "Hmm. I don't like the look of that!"

I was in that very situation earlier this week as he prepared to replace a filling that had gone missing. Now, I'm very different to my wife when it comes to dentists. Bev won't have anything to do with injections. I would prefer that the dentist didn't even put his little mirror in my mouth without an injection!

When it comes to activities involving needles and potential pain, I was raised a devout coward. I like the way "Hawkeye" (Alan Alda in M.A.S.H.) put it: "Our family emblem was a cringing chicken!!"

Anyway, as it happened, I didn't need an injection but the whole experience got me thinking about the purpose of the injection. It is designed to render the nerves in the immediate area void of feeling so that the pain (or most of it) is neutralized and the dentist can do his job without me kicking and screaming.

Sin has a similar effect in our lives. The anaesthetic brings about a numbness that would allow the dentist, if he so chose, to create havoc in our mouths and we wouldn't know any better. It deadens the nerves that are supposed to alert us to that which is harmful to us.

The really dangerous aspect about sin is that it is in no hurry to de-sensitise those spiritual nerves that are meant to alert me to danger. Instead of crying, "Warning! Warning", they are unaware of the damage that is being done. No warning is given.

My next birthday is the big "Seven 0h" and this year marks the 40th anniversary of my ordination in Pastoral Ministry. So, I've been around awhile and I've seen a lot of people in a wide range of circumstances. There are a few spiritual scenarios that scare me but none as much as this one - the desensitizing of our early warning system. It's what the Apostle Paul referred to in 1 Tim.4/2 (NIV) when, speaking about false teachers, he said,

"Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron."

Although any episode involving a hot iron would have been initially traumatic, the nerves would soon have been deadened. The question becomes, "How sensitive and tender is my conscience? How alert am I to the presence and activity of sin in my life? Are there attitudes and values, beliefs and behaviours in my life  that were once prohibited but now are tolerated, even welcomed?"

Although the deadening process may be slow but sure, one day we wake up and discover that the effects of the anaesthetic have worn off and we cannot believe the damage that has been done. I recall how insensitive King David had become until the day Nathan the Prophet confronted him with the words, "You are that man!" (2 Samuel 12/1-14)

Lord God, please forgive me for those times when I have chosen attitudes and actions that have dulled my spiritual conscience. I ask you to restore those spiritual nerves that were intended by you to be my protection against the creeping damage of sin in my life.


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