In my first study on cleansing posted on March 10th, I sought to establish a couple of important truths. First that our wonderful Savior performed an initial cleansing and washing in each of us when we were born again by the Spirit of God. For instance, in Acts 15:9, Peter testifies of Christ’s saving and cleansing work among the Gentiles, “and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.” Second, that He continues to cleanse and purify His church until we are forever with Him.
Then in my second study posted on April 8th, I sought to establish that we have an active role to play in the ongoing cleansing work of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 7:1, Paul exhorts, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
Many believers have been at least partially blind to this reality – that there is an ongoing need to be cleansed of corruption and defilement. This is true of even those of us who have known the Lord for many years. One major reason for this blindness, is that we have been taught that at conversion: – when we asked God to forgive our sins, God forgave them and forgot them. He “spread our sins as far as the East is from the West” (Psalm 103:12). – And then by faith, we need to “forget what lies behind and reach forward to what lies ahead.” (Philippians 3:13) – We were taught that now that our sins have been washed by the blood of Christ’s atonement, we are to focus on our identity in Christ, and move on.
What our teachers have missed, is that those sins of the past caused a deadening of our spiritual senses. Paul warns us, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
Whether we sinned, or were sinned against, there is a pervasive corruption or defilement of our souls that is entrenched until fully cleansed. Thomas Merton, the great late Catholic scholar, said of this principle, “Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.”
The cleansing by the blood of Jesus from this corruption from sin is what we must consciously take an active role in.
Some of our blindness to this need, is an inadequate definition of sin. Many of the sins we believers have committed, or that have been perpetrated against us in the past, are not sufficiently on our radar screen. Our modern culture, our family patterns and even our church culture have often minimized, trivialized or twisted our sense of sin and evil.
Paul states in Romans 14:23, “…..and whatever is not from faith is sin.” John defines sin two ways . First in I John 3:4, he states, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.” (my emphasis). Later in chapter 5 vs. 17 he states categorically that “All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.” (my emphasis).
The popular definition of sin that we have all heard is “missing the mark”, which is true, but might imply that we have only missed it slightly.
A definition of sin that has helped us is this response of Susannah Wesley to her son, John. When while away at college John asked her about sin. She replied: “Take this rule: Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.”
The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, comes to convict of sin (John 16:8). If you read about revivals from the Bible and history, when the Holy Spirit comes in power, all people – believers and unbelievers – suddenly are wailing and confessing their sins for hours at a time.
Another blind spot that we have in the Church, that hinders our cleansing, is that we wrongly attribute the source of sudden or recurrent memories or sins that we have done or had done to us in the past. Most of the time, we are told that those thoughts are false guilt or accusations from the devil. We are told to memorize another Bible verse, or rebuke the devil. But in revival, the source of those kinds of thoughts and convictions is the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is speaking to His Church to pursue cleansing from corruption.
We want to cooperate with the Holy Spirit all of the time. All memories, patterns of sin, and uneasiness about such, need to be brought out into the light. Staying in the presence of the LORD and asking Him to highlight our hurts and sins, will begin the healing process. The Holy Spirit will speak in a variety of creative ways. Believe that He will do this.
Another part of the blindness to this ongoing need for cleansing is that the doctrine of confession of sins is minimized in the Church. This has weakened all of us from experiencing full and complete cleansing. John says, in the context of being with others, “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another. And the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” I John 1:7-9
Sin thrives on darkness and the devil is highly skilled in helping us rationalize why sin is fine to confess to God alone. Confessing specific sins, memories, and the uneasiness about something done or said, particularly to the one that you sinned against is bringing that sin into the light. If that is not possible, find a trusted person and listen to the Holy Spirit as He guides you to share details that need to be confessed. Then ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse you of that aspect of your pain or sin.
Married couples and families should be honest with one another about their sins. There may be pain in this, but bringing everything into the light and conversation with the Holy Spirit working, is going to bring cleansing to the marriage and family.
Thinking that no one else needs to know is contrary to what Jesus said: “For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” Luke 8:17 We can experience ongoing personal cleansing by making the confession of sins, hurts and memories our practice.
Our intention, Lord willing, is to blog a few more times about cleansing. Your prayers are appreciated. God bless you with abundant grace in these days!