v 9 The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?
That is a pretty devastating judgment about people! However, just recall the number of times you might have whistled with surprise at revelations about the lives of certain well-known characters. Religious leaders as well as politicians and media stars have sometimes appeared on the list of sexual offenders and you raise your eyebrows in amazements saying ‘Wow – even him! Who would have thought it.’ The sad fact is that the human heart, the inner motivations and desires that shape lives, are desperately wicked. No exclusions! Those tendencies are in all of us and it is only by God’s grace that we can rise above it. Things have not really changed in the 2,600 years since Jeremiah penned the words.
Now before you start thinking about other people and how it applies to them, take a moment to reflect on the fact that it is true of you too. That can be a bit uncomfortable can’t it. It is so easy to fool ourselves into thinking that all is well and forget what John writes ‘If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.’ It is not just in what we do but in the inner desires and those parts of our lives that remain hidden from everybody else – except God – that we fall short of God’s standards and even our own aspirations.
Is there an answer to the problem? Praise God, there is! John also reminds us ‘But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.’ To walk in the light is to allow the light of God’s truth to shine into our hearts and reveal the sinful imperfection of it, and then to turn to God in repentance and accept His forgiveness. This is a process that goes on throughout life; God does not, it seems, highlight every sin immediately – but as we live in expectation of growth in holiness then God goes on revealing more and we develop the habit of genuine repentance.