I recently had the chance to help a sister in our church with the latter parts of a move she was making from a home that she had lived in for years. In this case, “latter parts” means “dump run.” That part of the move where everything that’s gonna be transferred to the new place has been, and all that’s left is the junk to be gathered up and tossed away.
When we got there, the organizer of “dump run day” showed us all that had to go and then directed us to what he called a particularly “nasty” job. A pile of wooden slats that had been left outside for I don’t know how long. Though covered with a tarp, the tarp only served to provide a rain free environment for the city of termites that infested the wood pile. Our job (should we decide to accept it . . . too late!), was to pull the pile apart, cut it to length so it could fit in the bed of a pickup truck, and haul it off to the dump. We could glove up, but there was no way to avoid getting down and getting dirty and getting to know our termite friends.
We knew the job was dirty. But went at ‘er. Cleaned it up. Mission accomplished.
That recent encounter of the messy of kind comes to mind this morning as I read in the book of Acts and am reminded of another dirty job.
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 15:8-9 ESV)
Context: the Jerusalem Council. The founding church being gathered together to seek wisdom on how to view the expanding church. Died in the wool Jews, who had come to Christ, dealing with the growing reality of Gentiles who were coming to Christ. The question they wrestled with? How Jewish did these non-Jews need to become? Some said it was necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses (15:5). Paul and Barnabas disagreed . . . strongly! Thus, Paul and Barnabas met with the apostles, and the elders and church at Jerusalem, to work through the matter.
After much debate (15:7), Peter speaks. And in addressing the issue, and pointing out the Jews inability themselves to bear the yoke of being Jewish (15:10), Peter gives this insight as to the dynamic of salvation. God knows the heart. God cleanses the heart.
God sees the pile of junk we accumulate through lives lived according to the flesh. He is fully aware of the infestation that can take place under the darkness of a cover. Isn’t repelled by the rotting material. Isn’t surprised by the smell. ‘Cause a God who knows everything, knows the heart.
But our God is also willing, when invited in by faith, to dig in and cleanse the heart. The “heavy lifting” already accomplished through the finished work of the cross of Christ. The sin-cleansing blood of the spotless Lamb of God shed as the once for all fulfillment of the law under which “almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22).
God not unaware of the mess. God not shying away from, or seeking to avoid, the mess. But God providing a way for the mess to be dealt with. The mess hauled off to the dump, as it were, and cleaned up forever. For “as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12).
He knows the heart. He cleanses the heart.
No job too dirty. No junk pile too big. No infestation too nasty. For Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners and deal with the mess. Even the chief of sinners, even the worst of messes (1Tim. 1:15).
All through His abundant and all-sufficient grace. All for His pleasure and everlasting glory.