When we moved to California for the second time, finding a house to rent became a challenge. We had a price in mind, needed a location close to my hubby’s workplace, and I wanted something reasonably clean. We finally found one that fit the first two, but it needed a lot of elbow grease. After we took possession, I spent many hours scrubbing to bring it to my standard of clean.
God’s goal for His people is that together we are united under Christ and growing into a holy temple. (Ephesians 2:19–21) We are called a temple because the Lord Himself dwells in us, and by His very presence, our lives are changed. Like that house, when He first moves into a human heart He finds lots of work to do. We are defiled by sin, and realize it because His very presence shows how far short we fall from His standard of clean. But we cannot do the cleaning. That is His job.
However, in the process of making His church holy, He does ask our cooperation. The Bible says things like this, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12:1–3)
From those verses, I know that God wants me to think differently so I can determine God’s perfect will. Part of that correct thinking includes dropping my pride because it interferes with faith and godly discernment. It is like dirt, but pride is only one area to be scrubbed.
My life used to be just like that of others who have no faith. I didn’t see myself as a sinful person, but once the Light of the world entered my life, He revealed the dirt in the corners and all over the place. He began to scrub, telling me, “You must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.”
Instead, He told me, “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:17–24)
In other words, “I’ve shown you the dirt — now the goal is to get rid of it!”
But while Christ deals with my sin, I tend to block His cleansing efforts. Just writing that line seems so foolish, but sin is like that. I can want to be holy and clean, but that old way of life does not depart easily. All Christians fight with it, moan over it, lament our inadequacy to ‘clean up’ and struggle to walk by faith. We are declared justified by grace (not anything we do) and told to walk in that truth. Jesus does both the saving and the clean-up, yet we must “hold true to what we have attained” and remember that He has changed who we are and where we live. He says our “citizenship is in heaven” and from heaven “we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:15–20)
He also says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1–4)
All this is tremendous motivation, yet I continually find myself in a war. My spiritual enemy does not want me to cooperate with Jesus. Rather, Satan prefers that I listen to his lies and follow them. This is why I read the word of God daily, and why I join with other Christians often. Each of us fights this battle and when one goes ‘down for the count’ or adds more dirt to their lives, the rest are there to remind and encourage each other about the saving and cleansing power of Jesus — and His desire that we do not stay like we once were, or like those who do not know Him, but become holy just as He is holy. He wants the dwelling place to match the new Owner and Tenant!