How to Maintain a Clean Heart
"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."
Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)
During this time of the year, some people go through the annual custom of “spring cleaning”. Closets are liberated from their unused and unwanted contents, “dust bunnies” are evicted from their homes under beds and behind refrigerators and walls are adorned in new coats of paint. “Spring cleaning” allows us to de-clutter and start afresh but what an overwhelming project it would be if no everyday maintenance was performed throughout the rest of the year! The same holds true for our spiritual lives. The forty day period of Lent is regarded by some Christians, as the most sacred part of the year but just as, if not more, important are the remaining 325 days of the year. For forty days we go through the ritual of spiritual “spring cleaning”. We search ourselves for the sin that separates us from God and ask Him to forgive us, to grant us clean hearts and to restore unto us the joy of His salvation (Psalm 51:10, 12) but after the ritual, then what? How do we maintain the clean hearts that we so earnestly requested?
First, we must acknowledge that what has been cleaned can become dirty again. Nothing and no one is able to remain clean at all times. Our constant use of detergents, washing machines, vacuum cleaners etc. prove this point. Our hearts, yes, even the hearts of believers, are not exempt. Even after our periods of spiritual purging, our hearts can and will again become marred by the filth of sin. Paul understood this plight all too well. In Romans 7:15-25, he describes his own personal struggle with the sin that continued to live within his heart even after his conversion. In I Corinthians 10:12-13, Paul reminds believers that temptation is common to all people. The great theologian, Oswald Chambers, urges believers to “reconcile ourselves to the fact of sin.” Chambers goes on to warn us against a false sense of security in believing that because we are Christians, sin no longer exists in our lives.
Chambers puts it this way; “The inclination to sin, thank God, is removed but never the possibility…always be aware of an estimate of life which does not recognize the fact that there is sin.” In the Garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus prepared to bear the penalty of our sin, He admonished His disciples to “watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
Once we recognize that the dirt of sin has recurred, it is then vital to seek immediate, thorough cleansing. We should not sweep the dust under the rug or simply cover the stains. Dirt that is allowed to accumulate will become more difficult to clean up with the passage of time. People, who have neglected to properly and regularly clean their teeth, develop plaque which must then be painfully removed by a dentist with a sharp, metal instrument! A spill that is not treated immediately might cause a garment to be permanently stained and unwearable. Sin that is not confessed and not forgiven, on a daily basis, will interrupt our fellowship with God, build up in the arteries of our hearts and lead to a slow, painful spiritual death. The solution: “If we confess our sins (on a consistent basis), He is (present tense) faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (on a consistent basis)” (I John 1:9). Maintaining a clean heart is essential for continued communion with God and possible if we submit to the power of the Holy Spirit. Hallelujah!
Prayer: Dear God, as we endeavor to develop a closer walk with You, during Lent and beyond, give us the courage to honestly examine our lives and, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, clean out the sinful clutter from our hearts so that we may be free to truly worship, praise and serve you.
Written by Sharon Rocke