Jer.17: 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
This is a verse that informs us of a fact that all who have been redeemed should know not only because we believe God’s Word, but also we know it by personal experience. If we are honest we can give testimony as to just how wicked our hearts are in the natural. In fact, our hearts are so very wicked that it only elevates the miraculous power of God’s Spirit who changed us and gave us a new heart. And that new heart is not of our own making or by turning over a new leaf. No, it is an eternal miracle which will redound to the glory of God forever!
But without a complete understanding of our sinfulness we can never even approach a rich understanding of our “so great salvation”. Let us be clear here. In the natural we are fallen and there is “no good thing” that dwells within us. That includes any and all our so called good works which when done in the flesh are poisoned by our self righteousness and our fallen motives. This doctrine of our fallen natures is very difficult for many to understand and embrace. We are so given to minimize our sin and elevate our good intentions. It is sometimes difficult to see someone giving to the poor and have it be worthless in God’s sight while someone else can give to the poor and have it glorify God. The difference is in Jesus’ name.
But only the Holy Spirit can reveal to us which is which. I suggest all of us who have been born again have done worthless good works because of mixed motives and yet we have done good works in Jesus’ name and by His Spirit and with humility which redound to His eternal glory. It is not an easy proposition and it requires an awareness of how our flesh seeks to appear religious and force its way into every area of our lives. I am not suggesting it is impossible, but I am suggesting that truly serving Jesus must have a foundation of self denial, self sacrifice, much prayer, and a humility which seeks absolutely no publication or glory for ourselves. The greatest works a believer can do for Jesus are usually unpublished and without one sliver of light shined upon us.
There are three main reasons why people are prone to gloss over this truth. One is because we are colossally ignorant of the holiness of God. In fact just ask the average believer about the definition of holiness and you may well hear all kinds of works definitions. Since we have no holiness of our own we are blind to the essence of holiness. Only the Spirit can illuminate us as to the holiness, and even then much of what we know is accentuated because we realize how much we do not know. What am I saying? I am strongly saying that when the Spirit opens our hearts and minds to God’s holiness not only do we understand much more than we once realized, but we also see just how limited our knowledge is this side of eternity. That is quite a sacred and liberating awakening.
Another reason is that we fail to fully comprehend the depth of what sin actually is. We have imprisoned sin in an earthly box and made it a set of do’s and don’ts. But sin is a profound evil which is far greater in its evil than just a breaking of some moral rule. Sin is the cause of all the evil on earth and it began with one seemingly small act of disobedience. Why would God curse the earth and why would spiritual death be transferred to every human soul just because Adam took a bite of one piece of fruit? Does that not seem a little harsh and extreme? But if we are only satisfied with the surface answer then we have completely missed the point which is that even the “smallest” sin is a monstrous affront to the holiness of God Almighty.
A man robs a bank when he fifty years old and when arrested he wonders why he is being persecuted since for fifty years he did not commit any crimes. A bride is undone because a spot of black ink the size of a quarter was spilled on her wedding dress. You see, even a little sin can ruin an entire life or event. And magnify that a million times over and you may get a small glimpse into how sin affects eternally the relationship between the Creator and us His creation. And since we have no holiness of our own we cannot help but minimize sin because we tend to evaluate it by earthly comparisons. So I am not as bad as Charles Manson because his sin is worse than mine. That is fallen thinking.
And lastly we fail to see accurately our own situation as it pertains to sin. And in that we understand redemption and the price that was paid in a surface and incomplete and human way. What did it take to redeem your own soul? If it was just you would Christ only have to have shed a few drops of blood? Again, that is carnal and even self serving thinking. If you were the only sinner for which Christ died nothing would have changed. The gospel narratives of the death and resurrection of Christ would remain exactly the same. You see, when we are limited in our view of our own redemption through the grace of God we almost always are blind to the profound and diabolical essence of sin and especially our own sin.
It is one thing to have your sin theologically orthodox, but it is quite another to have a divine revelation of your sin completely affect the way you see redemption and the way you see other sinners. It does not mean we condone sin, but it does mean that it tempers the way in which we reach out to lost sinners and also how we approach our Heavenly Father in prayer. God hates pride which seems to be the one constant in almost every sin. But make no mistake, only one of your own sins would have plunged the world into spiritual death. Yes, when you are driving a few miles over the speed limit you are committing a sin that is equal to what Adam committed.
But this teaching is not so we can feel defeated. This is so we can see how great is our God and how majestic is our Redeemer. This business of eternal salvation is much greater than the human mind can comprehend. The cross was not just some example of how someone can die for a cause. No, millions of animals in the Old Testament were sent twitching into a painful and bloody death as a covering for sin. But in Christ that sin was vanquished and paid in full for whosoever would believe. And if we understand just a fraction of how criminal our sin is, then we can understand just a fraction of what Jesus suffered.