Judges 2:3 - "So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you."
Were you ever in such a hurry to finish something that you did as little as possible to complete the task and left some of it undone? Maybe it was your chores, homework or a small job you were paid to do. You cut a few corners for "efficiency" or overlooked a few "small" mistakes but under closer examination you had to go back later to do the job right.
Israel had just been brought into the promised land by God under the leadership of Joshua and they had been successful in devoting the various Canaanite nations to destruction. God's command was clear, they were not to leave any alive, they were not to make concessions or treaties with these people! But as the book of Judges begins we read about the various tribes of Israel leaving the job half-way done. They were content to leave pockets of Canaanite communities alive. That is when God stepped in an explained that there were going to be consequences for allowing these pockets of idolatrous people to survive and live in their midst. There were painful consequences for leaving the job halfway done.
The same is true for us as Christians. As we give our hearts and lives to God we are to root out every impure thought and motive and take them captive to Christ. But there is the temptation to take shortcuts to Christian maturity and be content to leave small pockets of selfish idols in our hearts. We think it will be all right to leave some areas of our lives unconquered. "What could it hurt?" we ask. But just like those pockets of idolatrous communities influenced the Israelites, small pockets of selfishness within our hearts will continue to influence us!
We need to learn from Israel's mistakes. Just like God wanted Israel to thoroughly conquer the land, we need to let Him thoroughly conquer us! We should allow him to overcome every fortified stronghold within our hearts and surrender them to his reign. If we don't, these small strongholds of sin will expand over time to influence more and more of our lives. They will become a "thorn" and a "snare" to us, just as the unconquered sections of Canaan were to Israel.
Don't leave the job of rooting out sin and idols from your heart halfway done! There are no short-cuts and no cutting corners in this regard, there is only complete surrender and service to our merciful King. As new areas of resistance are discovered commit them to God. As old areas of temptation reassert themselves, recommit them to God. May we learn from Israel's complacency and allow God to finish what he has started in us until we can honestly say, "It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me."