When I was living in Asia, I remember being caught off guard – and honestly, kind of grossed out – by the clean up methods in the “back street” restaurants. They had delicious food, but the table was always a mess when people were finished, primarily because it is perfectly acceptable in those establishments to flick the bones, peppers, or anything else you don’t like out of your bowl and onto the table while you’re eating. After the guests leave, the waitress simply wipes everything off the table into a big bowl. It was colorful, but completely and totally unappealing.
In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul calls Christians “jars of clay,” describing us as very common vessels that contain a “treasure” – the message of the Gospel. But that year in Asia, God was graciously showing me a lot of sin in my life that I didn’t know was there (I really thought I was a pretty good person).
I came to see myself as a vessel that was still carrying the refuse from the end of the meal instead of allowing God’s Spirit to transform me into a vessel that carried something beautiful, like lilies or daffodils or daisies. That was one of the images that began to make me want to love my neighbor as I loved myself (because I certainly loved myself!!). I was living an incredibly shallow life, but thought I was living deeply.
These days, even though God is faithfully at work in me and has changed me a ton, it can still be easy to fall back into my old habits and ways – living out of pride, fear, and a nameless but haunting guilt. I realized today that I’ve come back to the place of being a dirty dish. Not so full of refuse as before because of the Holy Spirit’s work in me, but more like a crusty casserole dish. Instead of being defined by Christ, I find myself living in the shallow lands of feeling guilty for not living up to some law (I have no idea what law), and it makes my heart slow to see and believe God. It’s time for a long soak in the cleansing waters of the Gospel of Grace. And those waters only come from the Fountain of Living Water, Jesus.
So, like that wise woman Mary (Luke 10:38-42), I’m taking the next few weeks simply to sit at the feet of Jesus. I need to soak my mind, my heart, my spirit in the truth of the Gospel. Yes, I was guilty. Yes, I still sin. But Christ has clothed me in His righteousness and cleansed me by His blood. God’s love for me is unending, unfailing, and steadfast. I no longer need to live in fear, guilt, or shame. In fact, God’s perfect love casts out those things! I have been set free by the blood of the Lamb of God!
Jesus said that if anyone is thirsty and comes to Him to drink, then rivers of living water will flow from within that person (John 7:37-39). I imagine that rivers of living water would deal pretty quickly with the crusty remains of the previous meal, the old self. That’s the kind of depth I want. That’s the kind of life I want.