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"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" - Jeremiah 17:9
"I know You are here, catching, carrying this beautiful mess." - Matt Slocum, Sixpence None the Richer (1)

If you were a painter, how would you paint deceit? Would it be a canvas covered with black paint, picturing an unending sea of darkness? Or would it be a swirl of dark colors: red, green, blue, and gray combined in an indistinguishable and frightening collision? Or would it be a portrait of rain gushing out of a cloudless sky, chilling the hearts of all who looked upon this terrible sight?

Furthermore, if a portrait of deceit alarmed you, how much more would a portrait of your sinful heart strike fear into your soul? The prophet Jeremiah tells us that our hearts are filled with a wickedness so great that man cannot comprehend it. How would you paint that? How could you paint that?

When we think of our hearts in this way we can see how desperately we need the grace of God. In our fallen state we must struggle with right and wrong while relying upon our own strength. Although we may go to great lengths to conquer sin by ourselves, it is soon clear that it is impossible to accomplish any good without the help of God, and so we flee to His arms, heeding His call. After He has taken us into His fold, we are no longer on our own but have God's help in battling the evil one. No longer are we weak and fragile men, but we have the strength of Christ that enables us to do all things.

Yet, our hearts are no less sinful or sin-loving. Though we now have Jesus' righteousness representing us before God instead of our sins, we are far from being righteous ourselves. At this point we embark upon a journey called sanctification, the lifelong process of being made holy. God is working in us, restoring our hearts for the state He intended them to be in. For us this is a painful process because there are many sins and problems to deal with on a daily basis. It is easy to be discouraged because we continue to sin even though we now claim the name of Christ, for His righteousness’ sake.

As Matt Slocum wrote, God is “catching, carrying this beautiful mess” of our hearts. A change has occurred in them; they have a new master, one Jesus Christ. Yet the clutter of our fleshly desires still fills our hearts, and God is the only one who can order our cluttered hearts. And He does order them. Wrenching sin from our hearts, God shows us where we have failed. We repent and vow not to make those mistakes again. The next day, however, we make the same mistakes; again, we repent of them. Sometimes we struggle with a particular sin for months, and we become discouraged, wondering why this struggle never ends.

The struggle is never in vain, however, for God is working in us, though we cannot always see it since sanctification is a lifelong process. But when we fully comprehend that sanctification is a lifelong process, we welcome great comfort because we can rest in the assurance that God is controlling our every thought, word, and action. How can we worry while in the hands of a great and gracious God who has not only saved us but is making us complete and holy, as man was created to be?

O God, we do pray that you would take the beautiful mess of our hearts, beautiful only because of your Spirit, and cleanse them, making them pure and lovely so that we may serve You. Amen.

Omnia Gloria Deo.

1. Matt Slocum, “Within a Room Somewhere,” This Beautiful Mess (1995)
Jason Ewert
January 2002
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