Every so often I encounter those who seem to be on a bit of a crusade against using “Christian-ese.” You know, those terms we use in the church that we all know but are foreign to outsiders. Those common phrases, sometimes derided as “pat answers”, which cause some to cringe because they’ve heard them used over and over. And to be honest, I probably have my own small inward crusade against those who crusade against Christian-ese. Why? Because so often what’s demeaned as Christian-ese is really Bible-ese. Biblical language. God inspired terminology. So often that vocabulary which we think is becoming old is because it is. Ancient in fact. From before the foundation of the world.
And what’s sparked my little rant this morning is something I read in Acts. A reminder that one of those “over-worked” church terms which we might regard us mundanely common, has been provided by the Spirit of God to describe the wonder of the dynamic of salvation. A clean heart.
And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as He did to us, and He made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.”
(Acts 15:7-9 ESV)
Context: A council convened in Jerusalem to consider a question. The Question: Is it necessary that Gentile believers be circumcised according to the custom of Moses in order to be saved. Short Answer: No way!
And in considering the question, in presenting the varying arguments, in debating the pro’s and con’s of such an understanding, Peter gives a brief word of testimony. And He describes Gentiles hearing the gospel and believing. And He describes the Spirit descending as authentication that this was the real thing. And He uses some Christian-ese to describe the salvation dynamic. Rather, the Spirit gifts us with some heaven-sent language to describe the salvation experience. God cleansed their hearts.
Those who believe are given a clean heart. Purified by the blood of Christ from dead works (Heb. 9:14). Cleansed by the washing of water with the word (Eph. 5:26). Hearts sprinkled clean with pure water so that we might “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22).
A clean heart. That’s not just some overused Christian expression. In fact, it just might be an under-appreciated Christian reality. Rather than trying to re-work it into something more relatable, maybe we just need to stand in awe as we consider afresh that it so incredible.
God knows the heart–that heart which is “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9). And when He sees faith dawn over that darkness, He cleanses the heart. Because of the finished work of the cross, where our sin was laid upon His Son, God justly removes the guilt and shame of our transgression. And because of the spotless, sinless, nature of His Son, God’s grace is poured out as Christ’s perfection is imputed to us, as His spotless nature is credited to our account.
In Christ, I have a clean heart. And by the on-going sanctifying work of the Spirit within me, that heart is becoming more in reality what is has been declared positionally.
That’s not just some Christian speak. That’s divine reality. And worthy of awe, wonder, and worship.
All by God’s amazing grace. All for God’s everlasting glory.