Having grown up in a family with a strong work ethic, I learned at an early age to take my housekeeping seriously. My grandmother Engel was the "Queen of clean" and passed this on to my mother. I don't know that I am as thorough as they were, but this past week, I can honestly say they both would have been proud of me.
On my day off from the office, I double scrubbed my tile floors. We had just had a full family get together at our house so sixteen souls all fellowshipped under one roof. Needless to say, the floors can get dirty; so I set to the task of deep cleaning. Using a mop with a brush on one side, I washed the floors and used the brush to scrub out all the grout. It took several hours of hard work to get all the grout lines clean. Then, I followed this up with my steam cleaner on the floor. I was appalled to see that even though I had used all the muscle power I could to clean the surface the first time there was still a good deal of dirt on the floor. Now my floors look and feel very clean once again. However, I bet if I went over them a third time I would have gotten even a little more dirt off of them. This job just never ends!
In many ways, we are just like that floor. The floor may appear to be clean, but even new tile comes with some embedded dirt. We are born into this world with a bent towards sin. Our hearts are inclined to sin prior to any act of sin which we might do. This we inherited from Adam and Eve. Scripture tells us in Psalm 51:5: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." David points out this inclination towards sin that Adam, our first representative before God, passed on to the human race. To quote Dr. R.C. Sproul on this issue, he states: "The doctrine of original sin makes the point that we are not sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners, born with a nature enslaved to sin."
Though we try in our own strength to eradicate this sinful nature through good works, we cannot do it on our own. The prophet Isaiah wrote: "We have all become like one who is unclean and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away" (Isaiah 64:6). To put it simply, we are dirty from the effects of sin and we cannot clean up our own lives. We can scrub and scrub like I did on that floor, but we still cannot remove all the dirt from our hearts. Within the Reformed faith, we know this as total depravity. This is not as complicated as the name implies. Total depravity means that every part of our moral and spiritual nature is corrupted. We are not as bad as we could be in degree, but no part of our lives are left untouched by the sin nature.
For example, if I were to take a drop of arsenic and put it in a glass of water, would you drink it? No one would want to drink it even though the amount of poison was minute. The water has become infected with a deadly substance even though it is 99% water and 1% arsenic. The same is true when it comes to our inability to believe in God or His Word. Paul calls this spiritual death. We are dead to the Lord until that time He changes our heart by His Spirit. When we respond to His call and come to Christ in repentance, He covers us with His righteousness. He does the clean up work in our lives. We are "double scrubbed" by His blood. We have a new heart and are able to hear God's Word and obey.
Now, this is the "Good News" that in Christ we have salvation. However, we still have the old sin nature to contend with. The difference is that we do not have to respond to that nature. We are not slaves to it as before. We can say "no" to sin and temptation in Christ. Just as my floors need to be cleaned up on a regular basis because they get dirty again (I wish someone would invent self-cleaning floors), so we will experience times when we break fellowship with God by sinning. As believers, though, we can turn again to the Lord in sincere repentance and restore our relationship (I John 1:9).
In a few days, I will have the "pleasure" of cleaning my floors again, but this time they will not be as dirty as they were before due to my extra work. The same is true of our hearts. Because of the work of Christ, our lives, though not perfected yet, are free from the bondage of sin and death. We still have to confess when we fall, but we are not dead to God as before. To God be the glory for doing for us what we could not do for ourselves! By His grace, we have been "double scrubbed" and stand in the righteousness of Christ. Selah!