"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?" Jeremiah 17:9
I've been a Christian for around two and a half decades, give or take a few years. I'm not one of those people who can pinpoint an exact moment when I accepted Christ. I was young; it felt like He had been pursuing me my entire life. There wasn't any big moment of salvation that I can remember; I just remember Him. For me, knowing Christ was a gradual thing.
And I don't think that has changed. Christ is still pursuing me, and I'm still trying to get to know Him. I figure I will be getting to know Him until the imperfect glass is shattered and I can see Him face to face. And recently, I was reminded of how poor of a reflection I really do see....
Even after all this time of being a Christian, I still sometimes get caught in the snare of believing that I have to be perfect before I can be accepted. Some people claim they don't want to become Christians because all of Jesus' supposed followers are hypocrites. And I am definitely guilty of hypocrisy. I'm a sinner. I sin. I sin rebelliously. I sin knowingly. But I don't see any point in hiding my imperfections from people who think Christians are supposed to be perfect. If Christians were perfect, then there would be no need for Christ. That's kind of the point of Christianity. But I forget that sometimes....
Like Eve, who wanted to be like God--who basically wanted to be her own god, I want things my own way, too. And with one sin, one act of rebellion, I feel that separation between myself and the God who I've been gradually getting to know my entire life. It's worse when I find myself repeating the same sin again. And again.
And when enough time passes and I can trick myself into believing that I'm not caught up in that pattern of sin anymore, I start feeling pretty good about myself. Then, when I inevitably mess up again, I feel worthless. I pray for forgiveness, but I don't believe God will listen to me in my sinful state. And I try to make it all right again, wait till more time passes, wait until I feel like a good enough Christian to come fully to God with a clean heart.
But my heart isn't clean. My heart is deceptive. It is desperately sick, as the NASB puts it. I like the NIV (1984) version a little better: It's beyond all cure. That helps me understand the hopelessness of my situation.
The reality of my situation is that I can never be good enough for the mighty, holy God who appeared in a cloud of fire to Moses and the Israelites, causing the very mountains to tremble. The reality of my situation is that I can never be good enough for the God who appeared in human flesh and took the form of a servant, obeying unto death. And my feeble brain can't wrap itself around the fact that this God, the cloud of fire that demanded reverence, came down to earth in the form of a humble human in order to die to atone for my sin, for my rebellion.
I can believe that God is powerful. I can believe that God defeated death and hell. I can believe that God conquered sin.
So why am I foolish enough to think that my sinfulness is stronger than God?
The verses before Jeremiah 17:9 show a contrast. Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends in his own strength (Jeremiah 17:5). That's where I live a lot of the time. I want a clean heart. I want an honest heart. But there's no hope for me when I trust in my own strength. My heart is deceptive, beyond all cure.
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him (Jeremiah 17:7).
There's the hope. There's the only hope.
And when I trust in myself, I miss it.
My heart is indeed deceptive. My heart is desperately, desperately sick.
But the Lord searches it.
There's our hope.
"O LORD, the hope of Israel,
all who forsake you will be put to shame.
Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust
because they have forsaken the LORD,
the spring of living water.
Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed;
save me and I will be saved,
for you are the one I praise." -Jeremiah 17:13-14
It occurred to me recently, this supposedly mature Christian, that God doesn't just want the pretty and nice and orderly stuff in our lives. And that's good, because there's not really that much in me that's pretty and nice and orderly. God doesn't want just the stuff I feel good about, the successes and the victories and the happy times. God wants me. He wants all of me.
Like Eve, I have chosen to rebel. I've tried to make myself into my own personal god and savior. I've sought first my own kingdom and my own righteousness. But all I've done is earned the wages of death, of hopelessness, of a deceitful, desperately sick heart. I wanted everything; I got nothing. And that's exactly what I deserve.
The thing is, Christ died to redeem us to Himself, to restore our relationship with Him. His death and conquering of death makes it possible for me to be His again. He is the Living Water, offered to all who are thirsty. In a manner of speaking, it's not sin that causes people to die and go to hell; it's the rejection of the One who can save them from sin and death.
I'm not saying that sin is to be taken lightly. Christ died to set us free from sin, and sometimes I forget that I'm a new creation. I do desire brokenness for my sin, and I ask for that, because I know I'm not even strong enough to muster up that brokenness in myself.
But my sin, my failure, my victory, my success, none of it ultimately matters. What ultimately matters is the work that Jesus did on the cross for me, for you, for His own Name's sake. And because I've put my trust in Him, I, the rebel, I the sinner, I get something I can't deserve. I get it all. I become a joint heir to the Kingdom I should have been seeking first all along.
It's hard for me to see God as a fiery cloud, as a living and active Spirit, a sharp double-edged sword, that cuts down deep to judge my deceptive heart. It's hard for me to see this same God as a sympathetic High Priest who was tempted in every way, yet without sin. It's hard for me to believe that I can boldly approach the throne of grace without trying to justify myself.
But God isn't just one or the other. God is both the holy, powerful cloud and the suffering servant who can sympathize with my weakness. God is. And just as God wants all of me, He also gives me all of Himself. The same Power that raised Jesus from the dead has given Himself to me. I'm not holy, could never be holy, in my own strength. I'm holy because He's given me His holiness.
And my deceitful heart, which is beyond all cure? When He, for which nothing is impossible, heals me, I am healed. When He saves me, I am saved. Because blessed is the One who trusts in the Lord.
And He is the One I praise.
Who can understand my heart?
The Lord searches it.
He knows me.
And one day, the dark glass will shatter.
I'll see Him, too. All of Him. Face to face.
And I'll know Him fully, just as I am fully known.