On Grilling and Gunge

June 27, 2023 | Jaci Miller

Nothing excites the senses like summer grilling season. When savory aromas float from backyard to backyard. When puffs of smoke herald a delicious meal and faces flush rosy as they hover over hot grates. Most folks look forward to the range of carnivorous fare the season provides. Even veggies find a home on the grill and sometimes desserts too (grilled peaches—yum!) All dripping succulent juice.

However, no one at the family cookout mentions what came before the feast. The cleaning of the grill. All that juicy goodness from previous meals results in crusty, greasy gunge in the bowels of the beast. And that black goo must be removed through sheer labor with a scraper of some sort before fresh food can be prepared.

I wonder if God views our hearts the same way. Does He want to clean us up too before He will begin a fresh work in us?

I suspect yes. Of course, He can take our messes and bring great things from them. But how much more can He accomplish when we let Him prepare us?

Matthew 23:25-26 shows Jesus talking to the Pharisees, who had plenty of black gunge in their hearts. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”

Judging from Scripture, most of the Pharisees didn’t “clean up.” Fixated on outer behaviors and not the state of their hearts, they missed joining the biggest movement of God to that date — the appearance of the Messiah.

Before his conversion, the apostle Paul (at the time called Saul) possessed so much hate in his heart that he persecuted Christians. Acts 8:3 says he began to destroy the early Church, dragging believers to prison. Acts 9:1 says he breathed out murderous threats against them. To threaten others’ lives implies a seriously clouded heart.

But God had plans for Saul. Big plans that would require a clean heart, unspoiled by hatred. On the road to Damascus, Saul met the living Christ. The encounter shook him, changed the way he thought and lived. In fact, he joined those he had been persecuting and began spreading the truth of the Gospel. The future writer of much of the New Testament could now begin the business of doing God’s work with a heart ready to hear the Lord.

Just like goo can cause flare-ups and blacken the bratwursts, the gunge in our hearts can cause trouble for the work God wants to do in us. No one likes a blackened brat. Tainted ministry is ugly too. So, God pulls on His yellow rubber gloves and sets about cleaning our hearts like we would a grill. Through labor-intensive work that seems unpleasant but later produces a feast.

Hebrews 12:11, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

So, if God wants to do something new through you, are you ready? Have you allowed God to clear the mess out of your heart?