What's that I smell?
If you have ever had to cut a whole chicken when it is raw, in order to get it into more manageable pieces so you can put it on the grill, you know just how hard it can be to actually get those pieces apart. They were put together to stay together - so trying to get them into individual sections such as leg, thigh, wing, and breast presents a little bit of a challenge. The first time I did this, I recall the pieces didn't quite resemble some of the meat I saw displayed in the case at the butcher! The task proved to be a little more of a mystery than I thought it would be - for bone got in the way, skin covered the meat underneath, and joints were harder to separate than I had originally suspected. There is a science to this "dissection" process - much like there must be a "science" to getting at the desires and thoughts of our hearts. God doesn't just go about "butchering" our mind, will, and emotions to get at those things which need to be revealed and separated. He has a skill to what he does and how he does it. He isn't going to yank and pull - creating a case of "tug-a-war" within - but he is going to gently "part" what is responsible for keeping those "deep crevices" of our lives hidden and bound up until they are exposed to his careful attention.
What God has said isn’t only alive and active! It is sharper than any double-edged sword. His word can cut through our spirits and souls and through our joints and marrow, until it discovers the desires and thoughts of our hearts. (Hebrews 4:12 CEV)
Can a dead thing resist? Have you ever left something too long in the refrigerator? At the time the cucumber was "hidden" at the back of the crisper drawer that cucumber was firm, crisp, and could easily be moved. The longer it sat without our attention, the less firm it became, yielding to the process of rotting where it sat. In time, it began to develop spots where decay set in, causing it to almost liquefy in the drawer. Try removing that from the drawer and you will find it is more difficult than you might think - it not only has a new form to it, but it leaves a pretty distinctive odor behind which requires even more effort to "separate" from the drawer. The cucumber was beginning to die when it was separated from the vine it grew on - the vine being the life source it counted on. The moment I hid it away in the drawer of the refrigerator, never to be discovered again until it was recognizably "dead", it had the right opportunity and environment for death to continue to do the work which had begun when it was first removed from that which gave it a life source.
Sin yields a type of "decay" in our lives - hidden away in the places we don't think can be easily reached, it is allowed to continue the process of death until it is discovered under the careful attention of our Lord's hand. When do we notice the cucumber in the drawer? Isn't it pretty much when we are on the hunt for something that is creating an odor we cannot identify for sure? We go "on the hunt" for the culprit in the refrigerator creating that putrid smell because there is an offensiveness to the odor "rotting stuff" creates. I don't think sin is much different in our lives. It remains hidden, allowed to continue its work of decaying because sin is really a part of our lives where "separation" has occurred. We are separated from the righteousness of God and in that moment of separation, death begins to occur. The longer that area is allowed to be hidden in the recesses of our hearts and minds, the more it will "rot" where it is hidden.
This is why God uses all the care to get at those recesses of our hearts and minds - so he can help us uncover what is bringing about the "smell of decay" in our lives. It isn't an actual "smell", but a "putrid" kind of "stench" to our character which must be dealt with in order for us to be rid of it. Much like the smell in the refrigerator, there is a period of discovery. Things are moved, opened, "discovered anew" - all the while with great care to get at the reason for our examination - that object of decay. We know something exists which is giving off that odor, but it won't just jump out at us! We have to go after it! Sin isn't just going to "own up" to its hiding place, my friends. We need the tools God provides in order to discover its hiding place and to finally rid ourselves of the putrid decay it has been creating within our inner man.
God's Word is a skilled tool in his hands - making way for the inspection of his hands and his heart. It is important to remember this - God doesn't just "clean house" - he inspects what is there, identifies what doesn't belong, and then sets about to finally and completely remove it. It is done with care - through the revealing power of his Word. I only get to enjoy the chicken for supper because I have learned to separate the meat from the bone. I only get to enjoy the cucumber on my salad because I have learned to pay attention to what is in the crisper drawer on a more frequent basis. God's Word helps us to not only "take inventory" of what is in our lives, it helps us remove what doesn't belong there anymore - those things which will only give off a stench and produce more decay as a result of their presence.
Grace is the healing instrument in the process of God separating that which belongs and that which must be removed from our lives. Through the Word, he exposes. By grace, he begins to replace that which was decaying with that which comes with a new life source and with a fragrance only reproducible because it remains attached to that new life source! It may take some effort to discover what is creating the "malodorous" stench in our lives, but remember this - it is already dead - that which is dead doesn't belong in the place where we want to reproduce life. Just sayin!