“Keep it clean,” says the microwave oven book. “This appliance will not function effectively unless the inside is kept clean. Any unremoved spills will impair timing and effectiveness.”
My microwave sits in full view on the kitchen counter. I’d never want any visible spatters all over the outside. However, the front panel is constructed in such a way that even when the light is on, it is not easy to see the inside. It would be less work to leave the hidden spills, at least for a while. After all, no one can see them. But the instructions were given by those who made and know their oven. They affirm that it will be less effective if it isn’t clean.
“Keep it clean,” says my Bible. Keep your heart clean, that is . . . “for out of it flow the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Jesus told the disciples that it is not the things that are put into a person that make them unclean, it is what is already there, in the heart: “And out of the heart comes every evil thing” from gossip to murder, from stealing to adultery (Matthew 14). The prophet Jeremiah said that the heart of man is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, and who can know it?”
I Samuel 16:7 reveals the answer to that question . . . “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.” God knows our hearts. We can shine and polish the outside appearance of our lives, but what can we do with the inside?
The things that are there are perhaps open to no one but God, but in the long run, isn’t He the One to whom we must give account?
I polished the outside of my microwave this week, and then peeked inside and saw that it needed some cleaning there too. But my life seems to demand the reverse order in cleaning. The inside needs to be checked first. Like my oven, my timing and effectiveness are soon impaired if the inside, my heart, is not kept clean. If it is, then the outside will be in good order.
The word of God is the standard that we are to measure “clean” by, and we must apply that standard to the inside first. Reading the Bible reveals hidden thoughts and attitudes that soon find expression in words and deeds, if not taken care of with a cleaning. Sometimes we can curb their expression. After all, we don’t want anyone to see our dirt, but I find that I really cannot change my heart. It needs the touch of God. My part is to confess its condition before Him, and He is faithful to do His part. He forgives me on the basis of the sacrifice of His Son on the cross, who died for me, and He cleanses me by the power of the blood shed in that sacrifice, and by the Word, even as I read it.
Every time I look into my microwave oven, I am glad that God has given me a desire to be a conscientious housekeeper, and that my oven is clean and works efficiently. I am glad too that the Lord is a conscientious heart-keeper and that I can entrust the cleansing of my inner life to Him.