John Bunyan believed that a muddy heart is better than a dusty heart.
If you have ever read Pilgrims Progress you may remember that at one point, Christian was led into a parlor that was very dusty and a Sweeper began sweeping. The dust in the room rose into the air and Christian began to cough and splutter under its dominating effects.
The Interpreter helps Christian to understand that the dust is the sin in our hearts. When the sin in our hearts is stirred, it causes great discomfort and is impossible to remove. The Sweeper is the law. The law has no power to remove sin but causes further discomfort as we see the effects of sin and find that we are powerless to remove it. We are tarnished by a dust that will never leave and we cough and splutter because of the impotent discomfort of law.
This is the same idea that we get from Paul in Romans 7:23-24. Paul says, “but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (cough, cough, splutter, splutter). The whole intention of Paul in Romans 7 is to make sure that we know that the law has no transformation power. It stirs up a whole lot of convicting uncomfortable dust making it really difficult to breathe.
Christian then finds relief when a young damsel comes to sprinkle some water in the room. The water has the effect of subduing the dust and allowing the room to be cleaned. This is the effect of the gospel in our lives. While the law stirs up the uncomfortable awareness of sin in our hearts, the gospel is the only way of salvation that overcomes the tragedy of sin.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sweeps the dust of sin as he quotes the law as taught by the Jewish leaders. The disciples have all heard the law preached and have grown in a culture of meticulous law keeping. The dusty hearts of the Jewish leaders were on display in their impotent self-righteousness that only stirred up the dust in others. Jesus wanted the disciples to know that their law keeping does nothing for their hearts of sin. Their actions only prove that law exposes a sinful heart. This is why Jesus focuses on helping his disciples to understand that their inability to perfectly keep the law is nothing compared to the state of their hearts due to original sin. Bottom line, we need the water of the gospel.
The big solution for us all is that Jesus fulfilled all the teaching of the law and took his perfection to the cross where he substituted himself for us. The eternal wrath of God was poured out on Christ so that we might be found righteous through faith in him. This is transforming.
Jesus says that breaking the laws of murder and adultery are only symptoms of our hearts of anger and lust. He sits in front of the disciples as their only solution. In Romans, Paul answers his question about being delivered from our bodies of death. He says, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” And then he starts the next chapter by saying, “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.”
Christians will continue to struggle with sin in this lifetime, but we will also know that Jesus has sprinkled the water of the gospel on the dust of our hearts. He is transforming us into his image and the Spirit is dwelling inside giving us the power to say no in the new life we have been raised to live. We no longer sweep dusty hearts. We live in the transforming sprinkler of the gospel.
If I sound like a broken record, it’s intentional. Our answer is only always Christ.