Picture your bathroom. Now picture your toilet. Now, you know that space behind the toilet, the disgusting place where nobody goes? The place that, if you should happen to drop your toothbrush, it means that you’ll just have to buy a new one? Okay, that place is like your heart. Or at least the sinful parts of your heart. All kinds of junk lives back there: lying, back-biting, lust, pride, bitterness, anxiety, envy.
Sanctification is our effort by God’s grace to clean behind the toilet, to remove the muck and the mire that still inhabit the dark recesses of our hearts. But sanctification can go wrong in all kinds of ways. Legalism is attempting to clean behind the toilet without any disinfectant; all you do is rearrange the gunk, smearing it all over tarnation. Licentiousness is embracing the gunk, going back there looking for a snack. (I realize that image is disgusting, but that’s what sin is: disgusting).
But we don’t want legalism or licentiousness. We want gospel-driven sanctification. We want to take the disinfectant of the gospel and use it to make the-place-behind-the-toilet sparkle. But even gospel-driven sanctification can misfire. Instead of actually applying the gospel to the sin in our hearts, we just wave the disinfectant at the gunk, acting as though the mere presence of the gospel will have some magic effect. We can’t just wield the gospel like a mantra that is supposed to spontaneously transform the filth into fullness and fruit.
What’s needed instead is for us to roll up our sleeves and move into the corner behind the toilet, armed with the grace of God and a heavy-duty scrub brush. Practically speaking, this means both growing in our awareness of the gospel in all of its manifold glories as well as deepening in our knowledge of our own hearts — our temptations, our weaknesses, our particular brokenness, and our besetting sins. As we grow in both types of knowledge, we pray that the Holy Spirit makes the link and applies the right dimension of the gospel to the right manifestation of sin. This kind of dynamic, Spirit-empowered, grace-saturated effort is what John Piper calls “acting the miracle.”
Which brings me back to envy. If we’re to scrub envy with the steel wool of Scriptural promises and gospel truth, if we’re to assault the strongholds of covetous comparison with the sword of the Spirit, then we need to know the enemy and its schemes, plots, and plans. And the first thing we should note is that envy, like all sins, hunts in a pack.
[Read the rest of the article at Desiring God.]