by Barbara Early
And no, I’m not talking about the University of Alabama.
Years ago, I knew a woman who…well, let’s just say she was a tad obsessed with her house. I don’t mean to be uncharitable; I don’t think she had a lot growing up, and it must have been a joy to her to build a home and fill it with pretty things.
But after she decorated her living room with Oriental carpeting, a lovely grandfather clock and custom furniture, she needed a way to keep it all fresh and clean and pristine. So she put plastic all over it and nobody was allowed to use the room. Ever.
The rest of the house was used sparingly. One day, she had a few people over for ice cream sundaes. After they left, a spot was found on the kitchen carpet. (Yes, her kitchen was carpeted.) So she got down on her hands and knees and picked at the stain--tasting it to try to determine what the offending substance was--so she could choose the right cleaner for the job.
I’m not nearly as obsessed with cleanliness. (If you could see my house, that is painfully obvious.) But I’ve often contemplated her example when considering the ideas of holiness and cleansing.
The Bible word translated “holy” means “to separate” or “to cut.” When we say God is holy, we imply that he is separate from sin. Habakkuk 1: 13a says of God: Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity:
While I’m not implying that God is obsessive, His reaction to sin is similar to this woman’s reaction to an offending stain. She doesn’t want to see it--and if it’s there, she wants it gone. Obliterated. Not a comforting thought when I realize that I am, by nature and by choice, a sinner.
Some might say--No problem. See, that holiness is over-rated. And it’s soooo Old Testament. Our God is a loving God, and He loves us with all of our flaws.
And it is true God loves us. Abundantly true. Amazingly true. But it’s not our flaws that separate us from God, that offend His holiness. It’s sin. And just because God is love doesn’t mean He’s going to open wide the doors of His kingdom for a bunch of sinners to muck up, any more than the woman of my example would open her house to a herd of muddy pigs.
Not happening. Not unless they’re clean first.
And to get clean, we need the right kind of cleaner.
What can wash away my sin?
If you grew up in Sunday school, the answer probably comes automatically in song: Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Those of us not raised in such an environment struggle to find the right answer. We try ceremony, ritual, good works, turning over a new leaf, hoping the good will somehow outweigh the bad. Or that our sincerity will count for something. Some even resort to inflicting physical pain upon themselves. Martin Luther was one such person, known to whip himself and lay prostrate and naked in the snow. Until one day he realized the answer didn’t lie in himself--not in his works or in his sufferings-- but totally and completely in the grace of God.
Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times. --Martin Luther
Blood? Grace? Faith? How does that all work?
When we have faith (believing) in the grace (God’s unmerited favor) that we receive through the blood of Jesus, shed at the cross, we can be cleansed.
It’s by faith, believing, trusting--and not by any works or ritual.
It’s through grace, God’s unmerited favor--and not by any merit we can deserve or earn.
It’s by the blood, and nothing else. For Hebrews 9:22 says that without the shedding of blood, there is no remission.
I love hymns for their ability to convey spiritual truth so beautifully.
Dark is the stain that we cannot hide. What can avail to wash it away? Look! There is flowing a crimson tide, Brighter than snow you may be today.
Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, Freely bestowed on all who believe! You that are longing to see His face, Will you this moment His grace receive?--from Grace Greater than our Sin
Question: Has God recently used a psalm, hymn, or spiritual song to communicate truth to your heart?