The wonderful joy of being truly clean

“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin…. Purify me with hyssop and I shall be clean” (Psalm 51:1,7).

“The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:9).

David remembered being clean and he missed it so badly.

Know that feeling?

On the farm, we would bale hay.  The baler was the type that ran off the belt driven by the tractor engine.  We would park the tractor and baler by a pile of hay, unhitch it all, turn the tractor around and hook up the belt and turn it all on.  Then, someone feeds the hay into the baler, then throws the block in to separate the bales, and I go to work.  I’m on the ground underneath all of this, hay (and dust and debris) falling all over me.  I feed two baling wires into the block as it moves through the system, then wait for the person on the other side to return those ends back to me through the next block.  I pull the wires through and tie off the bale.  The machine spits it out as we continue feeding hay into the baler and work with the next set of blocks coming our way.  Eventually, we moved on to the next pile of hay.

It was a dirty business. At noon, we shut it all down and walked to the farmhouse for lunch.  But not yet.  No way is mom going to let this dirty bunch into the house. So we rigged up an outside shower.  One at a time, we each get under it, dry off and put on clean clothes. Only then are we allowed to sit in the dining room and partake of  the amazing array of country vegetables mom and our sisters have been working on all morning.

It’s a great memory.

I didn’t mind getting covered with the dust and grime of the farm so long as I knew I’d get a bath that evening.

I sure did enjoy being clean.

I still laugh at the memory of something that happened with I was maybe 12.  I’d gone to stay a week with older cousin Alan Sherer. Alan’s mother Dolly was one of my mom’s older sisters.  Uncle Jack was a housebuilder, while Aunt Dolly managed a family clothing store in downtown Jasper, Alabama.  They were wonderful, generous people.

That day, I’d not been at their house more than an hour or two when I decided I wanted a bath.  (Our farmhouse had running water, but no inside bath, so this was a treat.) Whether I asked for permission or not, I cannot say. That was a long time ago. Their house was small and had one bathroom.  So, I ran the tub full of water and was soaking in it.

“Joe,” Aunt Dolly called through the bathroom door, “Jack needs the bathtub.  He has a meeting in town and you need to get out.”

I said, “But I’m not through yet.”  And I kept bathing.

A few minutes later, Dolly was back, urging me to get out.  Same response from me.

Then, Uncle Jack came.  He was not as patient.  I suppose I got out then–not sure of the time frame on this; it was a long time ago–but only reluctantly.

What, you have to wonder, was I doing that was taking so long?  These days, I can take a shower or a tub bath in two or three minutes.  So, why not then?  Answer: I don’t have a clue.

All I know is I loved to take a bath and reveled in being clean.

At 18, when I went off to college, I was assigned to work on the campus crew. Sometimes we were mowing lawns, sometimes cutting underbrush or digging up dead tree stumps. It was hot, dirty work.  And because the college didn’t care how many baths you took–smile, please–I would often start my day with a shower, take one after I came in from work, and then at night might take a third one to cool off.  (No a/c in those dorms.)

I loved being clean then. And still do.

“Clean” is one of the expressions God’s word uses to describe the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and lives of each person He enters bringing salvation.  They become clean.

Their sins are washed away.  They are underneath the blood.  The charges are nailed to the cross.  There is no condemnation.  God has forgotten the sins which He has forgiven.  My sins are separated from me as far as the east is from the west.  They are buried in the deepest part of the ocean.  (The scriptures referenced here are I John 1:9; Colossians 2:14; Romans 8:1; Hebrews 10:17; Psalm 103:12; Micah 7:19.)

PART TWO

Those who would serve the Living God must be clean.

So many scriptures point this out.

The priests, upon arriving at the tabernacle (and later the temple), went immediately to the laver and washed their hands and their feet before commencing the service of the Lord (Exodus 30:17-21).  When they began their priesthood, they received a ceremonial washing, head to toe, symbolic of salvation (Leviticus 8).  Thereafter, they never received this again, but each time they came to serve, they walked immediately to the bronze laver and washed themselves.  The symbolism is perfect.

“Touch nothing unclean…purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of the Lord” (Isaiah 52:11). (See Leviticus 22 for more on the importance of this.)

In Second Timothy 2, Paul says a large house will have all kinds of vessels, some “to honor and some to dishonor.”  A house might have pots and pans for cooking as well as plates and bowls for eating, but somewhere in the rooms you would a chamberpot and a garbage receptacle. Paul says, “if a man cleanses himself from ‘these things,’ he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (2:20-21).

We’ve all heard of emergency surgeries being performed at sea when the necessary implements were unavailable.  The surgeon may have used a kitchen knife and ordinary needle and thread.  But whether the instruments were ideal or not, there is one absolute requirement:  cleanliness.

“Wash me, Lord.  Make me clean and whole and pure.  Make me right and upright and righteous.  That I may serve Thee and be used of Thee.”

We are cleansed through the Blood of Jesus, a theme throughout Scripture.

Here is what the writer of Hebrews said on the matter. “For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:13-14).  That is a keeper, well worth memorizing and quoting to your rebellious spirit often.

“According to the law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).

In his heavenly vision, John saw a great multitude clothed in white, worshiping the Lamb.  Who are they? “These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb….” (Revelation 7:9-18).

John’s Revelation ends with this: “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city” (22:14).

We were about to dedicate the new worship center.  The governor was arriving shortly.  It was a great day.  As I parked in the rear of the newly finished sanctuary, I spotted a red stain on the sidewalk leading into the building.  I called a custodian over.  “Can you wash this down?”  He said, “Preacher, that stain is in the concrete.  They should have washed it before they sealed it.  But now that red stain is in there as long as the sidewalk lasts.”

For the first time it occurred to me that Scripture never, to my knowledge, refers to sin as “black.” Rather, it’s red.  Isaiah said, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.  Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).  And what is God’s remedy for removing such stains? The blood of Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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