Early on a Saturday morning a young girl is told by her mother to dust the house. She dutifully goes about her chore, dusting the tables, the shelves, the mantelpieces, and all the other surfaces. Later in the day her mother inspects the work and expresses some concern. “Look at all the dust,” she says, while running her finger over a side table. The daughter immediately realizes what has happened and offers an explanation: “I dusted in the morning when the day was dim, but now the afternoon sun is shining and it has revealed all the dust I could not see before.”
An old author uses an illustration like this to tell how we, as Christians, see more and greater evidence of our sin as our days pass by. When we are young in the faith, we know we are sinners, but see only the most obvious evidence of it. We become immediately aware of our biggest sins, our baddest sins, our worst sins, and dutifully repent of them. Yet we have only scant spiritual light and do not see the true extent of our sin with any great clarity. We may see the fruit, but not the root. It is only later, when we have received much more significant light, that we are enabled to see more, to see how deep our sin goes, to see how tightly it clings, to see how much remains.
Thus, it’s as we mature in the faith that we begin to understand just how much our sinful actions spring from our sinful desires, just how much our sinful desires stem from our depraved hearts. It is as the Spirit continually illumines the Word in brighter and purer fashion that we begin to understand the true ugliness of our sin, the true horror of our depravity. It is as we advance that we truly realize the fiercest enemy each of us must face is our own selves—for while Satan may tempt only we can succumb, while world may allure only we can indulge, while the flesh may offer illicit pleasures, only we can embrace their charms. As the light within grows brighter, our hearts appear ever darker.
Yet there is also hope that comes with such spiritual advancement for as we learn more about our darkened hearts, we concurrently learn more about God’s tender heart, since the same light that illumines our hearts also illumines his. In the past we knew of his willingness to forgive the sins we committed in ignorance of his law, but now we also see his willingness to forgive the sins we committed in defiance of it. In the past we saw his eagerness to forgive us for the sins we committed when we were strangers, but now we also see his eagerness to forgive the sins we committed as his friends. We come to know him as a God who has forgiven, who does forgive, and who always will forgive, a God of patience, of mercy, of never-failing love.
As God’s light shines ever-brighter within, we learn that while our hearts are tugged in many directions, sometimes toward what is wrong and sometimes toward what is right, his heart toward us is only ever inclined toward what is best—toward mercy and forgiveness. We learn that while we sin against our better judgment, God forgives in a way that is only ever consistent with his perfect judgment. We come to realize that his desire to forgive us our sins is far greater than the desire of our hearts to commit those sins. We come to know that the light has come and the darkness can never overwhelm it.