I don’t know why I do it, but I do. I scrub, and I scrub, and I scrub this dingy old heart as if it’s all up to me. I was first dipped in the blood when I was nine years old and I know that my filthy rags condition only gleams because of the crimson red that covers it, but I still try in my own effort because after all the Man who has already done so much for me shouldn’t have to do anymore. It’s an absurd notion really. I know intellectually that I cannot work myself clean, earn myself clean or buy my way clean, but I try it anyway. It’s very difficult to accept this free gift unconditionally. I mean, isn’t there something I can do to repay Him? Will I ever get to the point where I fully understand how much He loves me, and pursues me? This back and forth of trying, trying, trying, and then failing, failing, failing, is a bit much! I was thinking about this back and forth as I was driving to work the other day, and I was reminded of Paul’s similar dilemma.
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
But wait, there’s more!
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
God uses the silliest things to teach me lessons. Lying on the floor in my living room as I was doing some floor exercises, I caught a glimpse of the space between the back of my desk and the wall. The big, heavy, roll-top desk that can’t be moved, stays put when it’s time to clean. I dust it. I clean in front of it. I clean beside it, but I can’t clean behind it. The dusty mess that had accumulated in that tight space where no one goes; taught me a very important lesson in my walk with God. I can clean my house from the baseboards to the ceiling. I can clean over things and under things. I can sanitize everything in sight and make it all sparkle, but there will always be spaces that I just can’t get to. Because of this, one would have to say my house isn’t really perfectly clean. I could bring in a team of experts to cleanse and detoxify. I could have strong men move everything I can’t, and I could clean behind and in those tiny spaces I couldn’t reach before, but as I’m doing that, the dust that my naked eye can’t see is still falling. This house will never be cleansed of every last particle of dirt. It will be there whether I see it or not.
As I let this fact soak in, I thought of my heart and how ridiculous to think my effort to deserve his love meant anything at all. The cleansing blood did the work because there was no other way. This side of heaven, I’m still a sinner saved by grace. My pride can actually trick me into thinking that I’ve scrubbed it all clean because I’m shiny in those parts that I can see, but I am saved by a love that knows that there is dirt in me that I can’t even see. Oh, he reveals it to me bit by bit as I grow in my relationship with him. He doesn’t show it to me all at once, but the closer I get to him the more I realize how truly filthy I really am. The filthier I realize I am, the more amazing his grace becomes.