What does it take to turn your heart to putty? At what point do you take stock of your existence and realize that it’s time for an extreme makeover?
1 The LORD gave another message to Jeremiah. He said,
2 “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.”
3 So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel.
4 But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.
Jeremiah 18:1-4 (New Living Translation)
For me, that critical realization of how messed-up the jar of my life had become happened when I was still in my twenties. At the time, I was working full-time at a Christian college and part-time on the staff of a little church. People who knew me would have told you that, as far as God’s jars go, I was pretty well together. Our young family was happy, our marriage was pretty good and we were very devoted to the things that Christians do. Cathy and I had determined that we wouldn’t just teach our kids the Bible, we would live out its truths in our everyday lives. Outwardly, my heart looked kind and stable and caring.
Inwardly? Well, that’s another story.
I could see the cracks in my hardened heart, but I cleverly hid them from others. I could trace the patterns of bad thinking and bad behaviors that seemed insurmountable. Over and over again, I confessed the same ugly sins being played out in my thought life. Over and over, I bemoaned the predictability of returning to those sins. Jesus once spoke of returning to sins as being like a dog returning to its vomit. That was me. I hated the vile taste of those sins in my heart, but I kept going back...
...until one night.
Looking back, it was the night that changed everything. On that particular night, I was fed up. My heart was beginning to turn to putty. I was ready for an extreme makeover. I cried out from the bottom of my soul, “God, I can’t seem to experience victory. It’s that same victory which I tell others is available. I talk about it as if it’s true in my life, but it’s not. I am asking You to do whatever You have to do in order for me to change my heart."
“…whatever You have to do…” Yes, those are the words that open the door for all hell to break loose. Why? Because everything that holds on to the sins of our past must be broken. The clay of life must be crushed into a lump so that the potter can remold it. It’s like heaven’s recycling business, intended to claim that which is of value and send the rest into the fire or the trash heap.
And it hurts!
I forgot my “…whatever you have to do…” prayer for a while. Then, bit by bit, my life started coming apart. I had always be a pretty optimistic guy up until then. As I began to unravel, one of my friends asked, “What happened to Sam? He’s not very happy anymore.” Bit by bit, the outward facade of my life was becoming just as broken as I was inwardly. Bit by bit, I saw myself slipping away and I didn’t take it calmly. The pressure of the problems in my life began to be unbearable. I tried various maneuvers to relieve those pressures, but nothing worked.
Finally, on a Monday morning, I was so down and depressed that I didn’t know how I could go on. I wasn’t suicidal; in fact, death itself was a terror. In my despair, I closed myself in our bedroom and got on my knees. “Jesus!” I cried out. “I can’t do this anymore! I can’t handle the pressure! I don’t know what to do!"
What happened next is hard to explain, but the darkness in my heart suddenly turned to light. Out of that light came a voice, a voice so real that it could have been audible (though it wasn’t). “I know you can’t do it anymore,” He said. “Now, are you willing to let go and let me live My life in you?” I was immediately repenting of my sins because of the love that He was pouring into my heart. In just a moment, I went from the darkness of despair to the light of fellowship with the One who loved me and gave Himself for me. We began to walk together and talk together. Did I stumble sometimes and lose the sense of His presence? Yes! I had to endure seasons of learning when our close fellowship was lost. In fact, I went through months that I doubted the entire experience! Through it all, the unfathomable intimacy with the Holy Spirit and the seasons of drought, I was learning what it means to live the new life God had designed me for.
The apostle Paul wrote...
6 For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
2 Corinthians 4:6-7 (New Living Translation)
When someone decides to follow Jesus, he or she gets “this great treasure,” which is the Holy Spirit living inside. Our problem is that we have been taught to clean up the outside of our lives so that we look congenial and caring to others. At the same time, we don’t realize just how great the treasure is. The result is that we live these outward lives that look good — what Paul called “a form of godliness” — and inner lives that seek relational fulfillment in the things this world makes readily available to us.
You and I were “Designed for Joy.” We won’t find it until our hearts become putty in the hands of the Potter and we ask Him for an extreme makeover. We will talk more about that this weekend at Stone Ridge Church. It’s Part 3 of “Designed for Joy” and you don’t want to miss it! Can’t be there? Catch the podcast!