Can you imagine showing up for a family celebration dinner, sweaty, dirty, and stinking? It’s just not what’s done, right? No matter how much I loved him, I would not find it a very appetizing meal if I had to sit down with a relative who just came from cleaning out his gutters, covered in the debris of rotting leaves and muck, would you? There is a time and place to get cleaned up and presentable.
God told His people that He desires a change in us, too. In Christ we are washed up, made presentable for service!
Paul describes the sinful lives before Jesus in the past tense: “that is what some of you were. 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.” (1 Corinthians 6:11, NIV) Jesus did not come to tell us that we are just fine as we are. He entered creation to provide a Way to become acceptable to our Father, to get cleaned up.
Selfishness, hate, rage, greed, lust – such things – once dirtied up our lives. Christians talk about being ‘washed in the blood.’ It sounds like a strange phrase without understanding. In fact, it seems almost gross to us until … we grasp that Jesus gave us life, spilled His blood at the cross, so that there is a means for us to leave old habits, things that make us guilty and ashamed, that keep us from enjoying our Father’s table, behind because we are washed.
On this Monday morning, there comes this challenge from the Spirit. “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” (2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1, NIV) Our Father says, “Show me respect. Stop wallowing in the muck of sin. Clean up!”
Let’s take care not to turn this instruction into a kind of rule that makes us self-righteous or hypocritical. This passage is often abused and mis-taught in a way that makes Christians isolated, afraid, and alone- unable to talk about their failures, putting a thin veneer of “spirituality” over an unchanged heart. We are called into the Body of Christ, tied heart to heart by profound love that listens, cares, and restores. We take the stuff that makes us dirty and ashamed to Christ and to trusted brothers and sisters so that together we can find our way to wholeness, to joy, to the freedom from fear that is be a foundation of our faith. In the letter to the Hebrews we are told to ‘encourage one another,’ to speak truthfully and loving in ways that allow those who are struggling to get life right to find hope and a real desire to deal with the broken and sinful places in life.
Our Father invites us to celebrate with Him, and says that because He loves us and we love Him, we will apply faith and make the choices to get ‘cleaned up.’ “Perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” The word, perfecting, is not about being flawless; it is a process of growing into wholeness. What do we pursue in our spiritual growth? We desire to become useful to our God, recognizing that we exist for a higher purpose than our fun, our pleasure. We are part of His family and as our Father He has a plan that we will live a quality life of beauty that turns the attention of others to Him.
Here is that passage from The Message. Make this word from the Word your aim this week. “So leave the corruption and compromise; leave it for good,” says God. “Don’t link up with those who will pollute you. I want you all for myself. I’ll be a Father to you; you’ll be sons and daughters to me.” The Word of the Master, God. With promises like this to pull us on, dear friends, let’s make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without. Let’s make our entire lives fit and holy temples for the worship of God.” (2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1, The Message)
Thank you, Lord, for faithful words
which help us to understand life as it really is,
which keep us from illusions and fantasies and self-delusions and sets us free.
Thank you that you love us and want to see us men and women|
wholesome and whole, free and confident and able to function as we were intended.
Grant to us that we will glory in the fact that we are the temple of the living God,
and that you dwell in us. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
- A prayer from Pastor Ray Stedman