“I would sooner be holy than happy if the two things could be divorced. Were it possible for a man always to sorrow and yet to be pure, I would choose the sorrow if I might win the purity, for to be free from the power of sin, to be made to love holiness, is true happiness.” Charles H. Spurgeon
The call to be clean and pure and the processes necessary for such is by far the thing I most wish that I had understood and given myself to from the inception of my Christian walk. Unfortunately I was like many of my fellow Christians that were taught that If you confess your known sins when you come to Christ, you are immediately forgiven and immediately and forever fully cleansed of the sin ("If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness"1 John 1:9). What was missing is what every sin does to our inner being and that therefore thorough soul-cleansing is a necessary and continual exercise until we are in heaven with our Lord.
Only by this intentional exercise can we have joy, confidence and spiritual authority in this life because of our inner man being cleansed and pure before our Holy God. It is through allowing the Holy Spirit to purify us in the inner man that true intimacy with the Father develops (Matthew 5:8). It is by refusing to allow our glorious Savior to clean us up on the inside, that disharmony and lack of unity within our marriages, families, churches, etc., develops.
This call to be clean and pure is seen throughout scripture. In Psalm 24:3 King David asks the question, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place?” The answer is in vs. 4, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully.” God has always wanted us to come to Him and enjoy His fellowship. And He has provided a way for us to come to Him daily through the precious, cleansing and healing blood of Jesus.
In reality none of us come to God with clean hands and a pure heart, as the writer of Proverbs says, “Who can say, “I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin?...” Proverbs 20:9,10 The implied answer is No One!!
It is imperative to come to God in any condition that we are in - clean or unclean. We are desperately dependent on Him for far more than we realize. Yet if we want to truly come to know God and to walk with Him in ever increasing intimacy, we must allow Him to clean us up.
Sadly, our congregations are full of believers - both leaders and members - who are unaware of our great need to be routinely cleansed and purified. As King Solomon stated, “There is a kind who is pure in his own eyes, Yet is not washed from his filthiness.” Proverbs 30:12
Let's consider why this may be:
- First is that we have not seen clearly enough that He died for a purified church. Paul states Jesus’s purpose for going to the cross plainly in Ephesians 5:25-27, “…..Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” When Jesus allowed sinful men to nail Him to a criminal’s cross, much of what enabled Him to endure all of that suffering and pain and humiliation is the passion He had to raise up a people who would be pure and clean and holy and blameless on the inside like Him and thus would effectively represent Him to a lost world. Paul stated this truth a bit differently to Titus in Titus 2:14, “who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” Our Lord and Savior is very zealous to purify us so we can become who He has called us to be, and accomplish His will on the earth. Paul also speaks of this to Timothy, "Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work."II Tim. 2:21
- The second reason for why we have not experienced greater levels of cleansing is we have not seen the reality of “defilement”, “corruption”, and “filthiness” still residing in our souls and the damage it is doing/has done. The apostle Paul, after stating in II Cor. 5:17 that “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” goes on to command all believers in II Cor. 7:1, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Being a new creature in Christ does not mean that defilement from years of sinning is all gone. Our sins may have been forgiven and spread as far as the east is from the west and praise God for that! And yes there is some initial cleansing when we are born again. But the root level effects of our sins still resides deep in our souls. The good news is Jesus wants to help us to get clean from all of that. The reality is we must cooperate with Him on a daily basis to see it realized. If that is a bit fuzzy for you then let’s take a look at Galatians 6:7,8. In this passage written to believers, Paul declares and warns, “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.” Every time we sow to the flesh or every time we sin, we reap corruption in our souls. For instance some of us were very promiscuous and sexually active in our youth. Some of us began looking at pornography and watching sexually immoral T.V. shows and movies at a very early age. In some cases this behavior or lifestyle carried on for many years. When a person comes to Christ, He forgives them of any and every variety of sexual sin. But the effects of those sins are still lodged deep within our souls.
One of the biggest demonic strongholds for the duration of earth history is that of men selfishly disregarding, abusing and objectifying women. When allowed to continue, often as a generational pattern in a family or a culture, both men and the women themselves, will believe that women are second class and not made in the image of God and for whom Christ died.
Lying and deception is another example of ingrained family and cultural corruption, that comes from years of sowing to the flesh. If we do not experience the consequences of our lying, it becomes a deeply ingrained pattern and behavior. When we are born-again, we may become somewhat aware of the gravity of lying. This is especially true if we come across verses like, "But for the cowardly and unbelieving .....and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire..." Rev. 21:8 We may ask for forgiveness for the blatant, clearly deceptive lies that we have spoken. But the patterns of exaggeration, embellishing, twisting, hiding, scheming and minimizing do not change. We need to bring these out into the light of Christ and deliberately change the nature of our conversations and duplicity. This may take years of daily evaluating by the Holy Spirit's illumination the nature of our conversations with people.
James ________ says, “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.” James was writing to people already saved, as in being justified by faith. But James knew that the saving work of Christ was meant to be ongoing and ever deeper. That's why later, in chapter 4 vs. 8, he commands the believers to, "Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded."
- A third reason why Christ’s church is still mired in defilement and corruption is because the Western church culture in particular, has not emphasized the reality of sin’s effect on our souls, nor the call to inner purity and ongoing cleansing. Instead we have emphasized all the outward things that help make a church appear “successful” and make people feel validated, such as attendance, programs, tithing, serving, outreach to the lost, and smiling attendees. It has been often shocking to hear of Church leaders and fellowships who self-destruct and implode over secret sins. If the church, "the pillar and support of the truth" (I Tim. 3:15), is not teaching it's people to pursue cleanness and purity of heart, then the members and leaders will stay in a state of corruption.
Whether in the Church or for Christians in the market-place, “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). Both those gifts and callings are solely given by grace, and they operate by grace. Yet they can operate in and through a person whose soul is still full of corruption and defilement. Being used by God is often a dangerous snare of Satan because it so easily causes one to think we are doing fine spiritually. But in fact we may need a major clean up on the inside. This is the same with material or familial blessing. Many mistake their financial and material blessing as a sign of His being pleased with them, when in fact, He is not. "Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked." Revelation 3:18
- A fourth reason is the false sense that comparison to others gives us, when the true standard is Christ Himself. We probably wouldn’t say or are even aware of it, but we often affirm and justify ourselves by comparison to others. Again Proverbs 20:9,10, “Who can say, I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin”? Differing weights and differing measures, Both of them are abominable to the Lord.” Comparison and self-justification greatly hinders our sense of need for the sanctifying cleansing work of Christ in our life. It results in spiritual pride, which God hates, "....Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate." Proverbs 8:13
- The fifth and last reason that I will share here, as to why the Church is not more aware of and acting on the need for continual inner cleansing by the Holy Spirit, is because of incomplete or inaccurate teaching of certain scriptures. For instance, when Jesus said in John 15:3, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” – did He really mean the disciples had no need to be further cleansed? Note verse 2: “…every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” This word “prunes” literally means “cleans” (as the marginal note in my NASB Bible explains). “Prunes” in vs. 2 and “clean” in vs. 3 are translated from the same Greek word (kathairo) which means to “make clean”. Jesus is telling the 11 disciples (excluding Judas) that have experienced His cleansing or pruning work to some degree, that they will continue to experience it as long as they walk with Him. This is so they can bear more and more fruit, and He thus can be more and more glorified.
Other examples of incomplete and misleading teaching is when people say “Jesus sees you as righteous or holy in His sight”, inferring that no other cleansing work needs to be done. Some say to ourselves or to others, “we are covered by the blood” as if that somehow automatically covers anything we might say or do. The blood of Jesus is a wonderful resource, but it has to be daily appropriated by faith, prayer and repentance for us to experience its effects. (I've written more in depth about this here: https://www.kingdomstreams.net/post/does-god-see-every-believer-as-holy)
As many in the Body of Christ are not finishing well because of our lack of learning to pursue daily cleansing in the presence of a Holy God (among other things), how can we expect our children and younger believers to see cleansing as a vital part of the Christian life?
There is abundant grace for us to recognize and repent and receive daily cleansing. Jesus Christ loves His church deeply and fully intends to deal with our every spot and wrinkle before He returns. May the Lord give us His passion for the purity and holiness of His church. And may He give us great grace to do whatever it takes to participate with Him in this great and glorious work of cleansing and purifying of our inner man.
"He came to deliver us from our sinful dispositions, and create in us pure hearts, and when we have Him with us it will not be hard for us. Then the service of Christ will be delightful." Dwight L. Moody
P.S. In the next post we hope to share some of the ways He has helped us in our latter years to get in step with His cleansing and purifying work.