Sunday, June 3, 2012

How Clean are You?

"Its time to eat, kids, did you wash your hands?" Mom asked. "Yep!" said the children. "Did you use soap?" Mom asked again, knowing full well, they did not. "No" they replied. Sound familiar? When it comes to washing our hands, we might assume that most of us follow obvious standards to get them clean, but what is obvious to some, might not be obvious to others and not everyone has the same standard. You'd think common sense is all you need, but is it? If not everyone has the same standard, how do we know what's clean and what isn't?  And by what scale do we measure 'clean'? We are so unaware of how filthy things really are all around us; things that we come in contact with everyday, like grocery carts (which are rated worse than pubic restrooms), gym equipment, restaurant menus, door knobs, your shower curtain and the list goes on.  We either don't see it and deny its existence, or we know it's there and think that by constantly scrubbing and sanitizing with anti-bacterial gels, that we can stay clean.
There are public places that post signs and reminders on the wall, but many ignore them. We can't force people to wash how we think they should. Everyone is individually responsible for themselves. Maybe that's why we tend to think that we are responsible for our inner cleanliness, as well. Matters of the heart; good vs. bad. But again, by what scale do we determine 'good'; how good is good or how bad is bad? Our opinions and cultures can tip the scales greatly and we do what we think is right and judge others according to our personal standard. How can anyone know what is in the heart? Only God can judge the heart of man. (1 Samuel 16:7)
I have a friend, who is a surgeon and I consider him to be a 'good' person. We had a conversation about Heaven and how God might determine who He lets in. He asked, "what if you're a good person your whole life, but do not believe in God? Would He not let you in? And what about God being loving & forgiving?"  In the moment, all I could say was "Yes, He is a loving & forgiving God, but He is also a Holy God and we, being unclean, cannot enter into His presence, without first being made clean". After he left, I thought more about his question and how I could better illustrate this answer. What I came up with, was the following illustration that I think he could easily relate to, as a Doctor. When he goes into surgery, I'm certain, he cannot enter in without first, washing his hands, putting on sterile gloves, scrubs and anything else to assure he was clean, according to hospital standards. If he, instead, just told the patient "I'm a good person", they'd probably say, "So what?!? You're not clean!"  So it is, with God and man.
We can never be clean enough to stand before a Holy God. We would have to be perfectly clean, spotless and blameless; know anyone? This is GOD's standard and we all fall short. So, how do we become this clean?  Certainly not by our own ability. The difference between external and internal cleanliness is that while we are responsible for the external, only God can clean the internal; the heart.  No matter how good we think we are, or try to be, we can never be good enough or clean enough without Him. We would then be like the one who constantly scrubs, over and over, all in vain. Nor can we deny that we are unclean, by using a self-righteous scale to define 'good, bad and really bad', and then say we are good, by comparison. We say, "I'm a good person, I help others, I don't lie, steal or that guy". We become like those who cannot see the filth that is all around us, deny its existence or justify it and then say "IF God is loving and forgiving, then…" ..then, what??  Going back to my illustration, should we allow the unclean Doctor in the operating room, just to prove we're loving and forgiving? And if not, can he rightfully blame the one who does not let him in? Of course not! Neither should we blame God for our unclean hearts.
We are not good, nor are we clean. We are sinners. We can defend, deny, justify or downplay it all we want, but we are guilty and there is a penalty that must be paid. Freedom can only come when we admit our guilt and surrender. We are then given freedom. What?!? Admit guilt, surrender and then go free? Yes…the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has paid our debt. "For the penalty of sin is death; (a life sentence) but.. the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord"  (Romans 5:23). The gift is our pardon..we are let go..forgiven..made CLEAN. It is a gift that is free to those who ask. We remain unclean until we are washed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 1:18 "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow".
Matt 7:7 "Ask, and it will be given; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you".
Proverbs 14:12 "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end, leads to destruction".
Matt. 7:13 "Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it".

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