Clean Forever

river-scene-2-1413837-mHow often do you take a shower? Hopefully more than once in a lifetime.

How often do you cleanse yourself from sin? How do you do that anyway?

There are some pretty scary verses in the Bible that demand that we be cleansed from sin. According to 2 Corinthians 6:17 and 7:1, unless we are cleansed from sin, we cannot take full advantage of God’s awesome promises. In 2 Corinthians 6:16,18 Paul spells out several of God’s promises, enough to us really excited:

I will live among them

I will walk among them

I will be their God

They will be my people

I will welcome you

I will be your Father

You will be my sons and daughters

Sounds great right? Until you turn the page and find the caveat at the beginning of chapter seven: “Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.”

It’s that little word cleanse that scares me. I know that God is holy; how can I ever be pure enough, clean enough, pure and virtuous enough to lay hold of those awesome promises? I want to know God as Father, to be welcomed by Him and to walk and talk with Him. But even if I’m good and clean enough for one day, what about tomorrow when I mess up again?

I wonder if ancient Israel dealt with such fears and guilt under the sacrificial system. After all, the priest constantly offered sacrifices and burnt offerings. Every Israelite knew they would break God’s law again, but they also knew there would always be one more lamb slaughtered for their sins. Day after day, week after week, year after year, they could walk away from the temple confident that they had cleansed themselves from sin in the blood of a lamb. God washed away their filth in an animal’s blood and once again they walked in God’s favor. All of God’s promises for protection, deliverance, health and provision were theirs.

So what about now? How do we cleanse ourselves? How can we be comforted in knowing that today’s sin and tomorrow’s sin is washed away as completely as yesterday’s sin, so that we can claim the sweet and precious promises of God?

As a whole, in the modern church, we act as if we are cleansed at salvation—that glorious, single moment when we prayed and accepted Christ’s payment for our sins. But then, we must keep ourselves clean. We stand from our knees determined to be better, purer, more God-honoring, cleaner people with set-apart lives. But uh-oh, merely 30 seconds later, or maybe it’s 30 minutes or 30 days—but sooner or later we feel filthy, tarnished and unfit all over again. For us, there’s no behavior, no lamb or other sacrifice or ritual we can perform to make us feel clean again. Are we doomed?

The word cleanse in 2 Corinthians 7:1 is katharizo. It means “to clean, cure, free from sin and guilt; to purify.” It is actually used over and over again throughout the Bible and many times in the Gospels.

The interesting thing about the use of the word katharizo in the Gospels is that it nearly always refers to something Jesus did. Specifically, this is the word used when Jesus healed lepers. Cleansing is an action performed by Jesus Christ. 

So how then can we “cleanse ourselves” as 2 Corinthians instructs, since we are obviously hopeless to keep ourselves clean? We cleanse ourselves from earthly things and sins, just as the ancient Hebrews did: we come again with the Lamb to the Father’s throne. No, Jesus doesn’t die again, His sacrifice was once for all, supremely more powerful than the blood of bulls and goats. (Hebrews 10:1-10)

When we come to the throne with Christ, the once-for-all sacrifice, the Father again—and over and over again for all our past, present and future failures—sees Christ’s sacrifice and deems us clean. The only way we do this, when we fail, is to anchor ourselves again in the knowledge that we ARE clean, because of Jesus.

We cleanse ourselves not by working to “stay clean” but by repeatedly coming, grateful and humble to the cleaner.

Below are several more verses that bear this out. I encourage you to look them up, dig The Word yourself and discover your ever-compete cleanliness.

Revelation 7:14, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Hebrews 9:12-14, Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 5:26,

Titus 2:14, Hebrews 9:14, 1 John 1:7, 9

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Dirty Little Lives

If anyone was defiled by Jewish standards, it was Jesus. And He did it on purpose! He touched dead people, he touched spit, he touched lepers. Jesus spoke with Samaritans and mocked the self-righteous, “spot-less” Pharisees. It wasn’t hard to find law-dirt on Jesus.

The Mosaic law commanded that the Israelites avoid many kinds of foods, contaminations and unclean objects. And then Jesus came along.

“And he said, ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles him.’” Mark 7:20 What a paradigm shift! So much for avoiding all the bad stuff, the bad stuff is in me!

A quick look at the Greek word for “unclean,” as used in Romans 14:14, reveals that it is the same word as is translated “defiled” in other contexts such as, Mark 7:14-22. This dirty little word: is from the root word, koinos. In English, this means to “be stripped of specialness, made common.”

Jesus said in Mark 7:14-22, that what defiles a man, or strips him of his specialness and reduces him to the common, is what comes from inside. In this case, the inside or heart, refers to the “capacity of moral preference, mind, character, inner-self, will, the intention.”

So what is the cure? What is the solution? How do I survive my own toxic emissions? There are a several verses that give a clear answer.

First: Romans 10:9
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

And then, if you believe in Jesus: 1 John 5:20
“And we know that The Son of God has come and he has given us a mind to know The True One and to be in The True One- in his Son, Jesus The Messiah. This One is The True God and The Life Eternal.”

And finally, if we have been given a mind to know Jesus then: Titus 3:3-7

“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

The solution to living in a common or defiled life is to let Jesus live His life through you. By believing in Jesus, we are given a new mind and heart and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is then Christ in us, that regenerates us and renews us and makes us anything but common.

“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…” 1 Peter 2:9.

A Terribly Good God

The dichotomous nature of my One Christ.

I fuss to absorb Him in one small life.

To love an enemy, die to live.

But God is Love?

Who sends sinners to hell?

Saved by grace, but saved for works?

Justice and mercy so juxtaposed.

Confusion, angst, frustration grows.

King in a feed trough.

Revolutionary fishermen.

Surrender and stand firm.

Sing in suffering?

The only way this equation works,

Imbalanced as it is on any given day.

My momentary whim, or colored lense.

The only way to reconcile the polar jealous vengeance of my sweet Savior.

Subtract myself.

Excise my views and reputation,

My desires and interpretation.

Remove my notions,

Seal my questions.

It is solely Him, I am souly His.

I don’t matter. That they see Jesus –

instead of – not beside me.

I don’t wield the gavel or weigh the merit of goodness.

I don’t have in view earth’s timeline, stretched through eternity.

I don’t weigh my pain against my joy.

I don’t balance the scales of faith and works.

I am not, but that He Is…is enough.

Shared at Gooseberry Garden

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Perhaps one of the reasons that Jesus is so offensive to the world is that He is so counter-intuitive. He is exactly like we don’t expect Him to be. But we fail to realize that HE is exactly what we need Him to be.

As we wrap up this week of reviewing Michael Card’s book, Luke, The Gospel of Amazement, we are at a perfect chapter. Luke chapter 5, is a microcosm of what Card has been highlighting all along – amazement. There are a series of events in this chapter that will either send us running from Jesus screaming, “Mad-man! He has a demon!” or, “Jesus, my Lord and my God.” C.S. Lewis said it well in Mere Christianity,

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”

In this chapter Jesus calls his disciples. Matthew, Card teaches us, was not simply a tax collector. That was his profession, but in his world that made him equal to robbers and murderers. The “tax farmer” was a Jew who collaborated with the Romans to collect taxes. But, in this capacity they often swindled their fellow Jews by collecting beyond what was due and pocketing the surplus.

I have always read this chapter quickly, and acknowledged that it was an unusual thing for Jesus to choose a tax collector as His disciple. But, Card asks us to imagine the dynamics of this band of 12 Christ-followers. Matthew had been collecting taxes and lining his pockets at the expense of men just like Peter and John. Perhaps he had even cheated Peter himself! Jesus not only won 12 men to Himself, but He worked forgiveness, acceptance, mercy and repentance in their hearts.

There is a parable in Luke 5 that has seemed so strange to me that I always read over it quickly. I’ve been embarrassed to say that I have no idea what Jesus was getting at.

“And they said to Him, ‘The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.’ And He was also telling them a parable: ‘No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says,`The old is good enough.'”

Ummm…so?  We use glass for wine now, so is this important?

Jesus is explaining the insufficiency of the Law for salvation. He, Himself is the new wine, the new garment. We cannot apply Jesus to, or fit Him in with, juxtapose along side or in any way entertain both Jesus and our personal efforts to earn salvation. The truth of salvation by faith in Jesus rends the old and burst the former.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17

“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” Romans 3:20-22a

The Pharisees were upset that Jesus and his disciples were not adhering to the Law.  This is the the bridge that Card mentioned before: Luke as a bridge between the old (looking in faith toward Jesus) and the new (following Jesus as Savior). The Pharisees clung desperately the “old ways.” The only way they knew to relate to Yahweh was through sacrifice, ritual washing, fasting and scheduled prayers.

Here Jesus tells them that HE is counter to what they have believed and superior to their most earnest efforts – they cannot combine the old way and the new way. There is no hope for good deeds, the Law cannot save. But Jesus has made all things new.

Alright – hit the keyboard! You only have a matter of hours to make your comments and be given the chance to win a copy of, Luke, The Gospel of Amazement.