I recall a time in my earlier Christian life when I was hit full in the face with the horrific nature of my sinful heart. I had a situation occur in which I was bitterly disappointed. The Lord used it to reveal my sinful heart. For some background, I worked to extricate myself from a particular situation that was like bondage to me for years. I had made progress in what I considered “the great escape” and had the solution all planned out this time. Part of the problem with my answer was that I was tempted to be temporarily dishonest. When I realized where that was headed, I was in the moment – sorrowful. Nevertheless, the solution meant freedom, and I (wrongly) rationalized and justified that any dishonesty would be only temporary, so I went ahead.

The scenario that I envisioned did not work out the way I wanted it to, and despite my attempts to manipulate God, my expected freedom did not come to pass. Once again, God said, “No.” I did not understand this – not one bit. I had daily prayed about it for years, and God steadfastly refused me the freedom I so desired in my soul. And now, once again, I saw God’s sovereign hand all over the ruination of my grand plan. I was sinfully angry.

Ah, but my gracious God, who is always working and active in refining my heart, used it to show me another area where repentance of sin was needed.  I had made (another) idol in my heart! I wanted freedom from this particular bondage so badly that I was willing to sin to get it and sinned further when I was denied! I became enraged when it did not happen.

There is a moment of near-perfect clarity for me in a moment like this, and perhaps for you too. In His grace, I get a peek through the window of my soul and see a sliver of my heart as God sees it. It is unbelievably gracious of God to only reveal a fraction of my ugliness to me, for He knows I could not bear to see the total depravity of my heart. So he only shows me just enough to remind me of exactly what I am and how far I have to go.

“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV)

In the following verse, God says, “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind….” There was no defense for my sinful decision-making or in my attempts to circumvent the will of God.

God allows and even brings things, people, and desires into our lives to reveal the idols we have set up and worship in place of Him. These idols are insidious, and they lurk in the deepest corners of the heart, demanding to be worshipped. They are exposed by the Light of the world as revealed in His Word, and they are toppled by returning to our first love, Jesus Christ.

I was convicted of my sin by His grace, and I repented of the manipulation, deception, sinful anger, and idolatry that fueled the whole episode (2 Cor. 7:11). Friend, true freedom is not found in relief or release from circumstances! Freedom is found in serving, obeying, and worshiping Christ. We find release as we depose the idols that clamor to be served and work to get our thoughts and desires in sync with His again (Gal. 5:1). We find freedom as we agree with Him that we had sinned and need salvation as much today as when we were first saved. This freedom is free to us but cost Him everything. The knowledge of this freedom leaves me chastened and humbled. But, on the other hand, experiencing this freedom leaves me joyous and hopeful!