1 Corinthians 6:11 (ESV) – And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
I’ve always been rather fastidious when it comes to personal hygiene. If it wasn’t for the cost and waste, I’d probably take a shower at least twice a day if not three times a day. I do not like baths, because I feel like I’m sitting in my own filth after about 30 seconds. I like smelling clean, looking clean, and most importantly feeling clean… I’ve been like that since I was a child. According to my Mom, I would go outside and play in the mud and immediately need to get a bath when I came in… I hated that feeling of dirt sitting on my skin. I only like the beach when I have a place to get a REAL shower right off the sand.
In the above passage from 1 Corinthians, Paul has been talking about the fact that no manner of sinner will enter the kingdom of God. He gets pretty detailed about it too: no drunks, no cheats, no thieves, no greedy people, no sexually immoral, no idolaters… And then he says, “and such were some of you…” Now in reality, we all have fallen into one of those categories. At the very least we make for ourselves idols of career, education, relationships. We live in a culture that is so money-obsessed many live by the words of Gordon Gekko who said, “greed is good.” Jesus defined adultery in very broad terms such that even looking at a man or woman with a level of lust falls into that category.
We all have the dirt of sin caking our skin and clogging our spiritual pores. Yet, the good news is that because of Jesus Christ we can be washed, made holy, and declared not guilty. Because of Jesus’ death the penalty of sin is satisfied, and through the Holy Spirit, the power of sin to control us is broken and the shame of sin does not stick.
The difficult thing is to live into that reality. We are far more likely to remember our moral failures and our guilt than we are to remember the freedom and forgiveness God gives us. That’s because Satan the accuser continues to try and throw mud on us, and even though it doesn’t stick he tries to make us obsessive-compulsive about it. We try to clean our consciences through more and more charitable activity. We try to wash our souls with self-help books and seminars. But none of it will do what Jesus does. That’s why we are given the power of the Holy Spirit and the gift of Scripture to remind us that God is “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love“. He has cleansed us and made us whole, and we do not need to carry the dirt of our past mistakes around anymore.
One of my favorite reminders of this comes from the classic song Nothing But the Blood. I sing this to myself when my guilt seeks to take hold of me, and in this song I am reminded it is not me but Jesus.