Last week, my parents closed on a house that needs quite a bit of renovation. They saw the potential in the property and have begun the process of making the possibilities a reality. Over the weekend, David and I got to see the house for the first time and spent a few hours helping complete some of the pressing projects.
I was tasked with cleaning the windows – inside and outside. This may not seem like a big deal, but the large windows had been plastered with tape and stickers making them an eyesore rather than a focal point. As I scraped and scrubbed, I noticed myself obsessing over tiny pieces of residue that would’ve gone unnoticed before the initial splash of Windex. The cleaner the windows got, the more aware I was of each remaining speck of dirt.
Our Christian lives are a lot like those windows. Apart from Christ, we are a disaster. We are dirty, yet incapable of cleaning ourselves. When God saves us, though, He forgives and cleanses us (1 John 1:9). He begins the process of making us like Jesus – a process that will be complete in Heaven.
Initially, the changes may seem pretty drastic, like wiping a Windex-soaked rag over a dirt-laden window. Over time, however, we tend to become increasingly aware of the ways in which we still fall short, and it sometimes feels like we’re getting worse. In reality, though, our sin is contrasting with the cleansing work of God in our lives, becoming more and more out of place, thus more conspicuous.
Part of Christian maturity means that the more God works in our lives, the more aware we will be of the sin that lingers. Rather than causing despair, the presence of sin should point us to our Savior. Like Paul wrote near the end of his life, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15). As Paul grew in his relationship with God, he became more aware of his sin which caused an increased realization of his need for grace.
When I cleaned the windows on Friday, I had to alternate sides frequently because the greater cleanliness of one side exposed the remaining dirt on the other, and vice versa. I would have been foolish to think that the windows weren’t getting any cleaner just because the process was time consuming. In the same way, sanctification – the lifelong process of God, through His Word and His Spirit, making His people more like Jesus – is lengthy and grueling.
Even though we are dangerously prone to be more aware of what’s left to do than what God’s already done, we can be convinced that He is indeed at work. In those moments when our sin feels all too apparent, grace becomes more than a theological truism; it is our functional hope. When we’re at our ugliest, grace is at its most beautiful.
The greatness of salvation is appreciated deepest by those who are most aware of the gravity of their sin. In the famous words of John Newton, author of the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace”, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior.”