Showers are great. No matter how dirty we are, what filth we’ve gotten ourselves into, or how long it’s been since the last bath, we can get completely clean. A little shampoo for the hair, some cleansing cream for the face, a good bar of soap for the rest, and ta da! We’re clean again — as clean as we ever were.
We aren’t obsessed with how dirty we once were. We don’t rush from mirror to mirror, making sure the cleansing succeeded. We know we are clean.
We can be clean spiritually, too.
God promises to make us completely clean on the inside. Psalm 51:7 (KJV) says,
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”
We can ask God to make us clean and He does. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done, how despicable we’ve been, or how many we’ve hurt, God’s cleansing is thorough.
We don’t always feel clean, though, do we? We remember what we’ve done and we’re ashamed. That shame and the guilt that goes with it keep us from believing the sins are gone. We can’t accept God’s forgiveness. We become obsessed by how dirty we once were on the inside.
Everything in the natural can be cleaned, but it sometimes takes a special process to get there. An oil stain in the driveway takes a combination of chemicals to get clean. Clothing might need bleach. A wall might need repainting. And some stains can never be cleaned no matter how hard you scrub.
That’s the kind of cleaning we’re used to, and we can’t help but wonder what else we could do to get right again after sin. Surely bigger sins require some sort of penance. Somewhere there must be a list of things we need to do to pre-treat our stains before we dare come before the sinless Almighty for forgiveness.
But God’s cleansing is thorough. 1 John 1:9 (KJV) says,
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
“All” is what it says. It doesn’t say “some.” It doesn’t say “certain sins.” It doesn’t say “except for the below-mentioned actions.”
Even if others haven’t forgiven us, even if we haven’t forgiven ourselves, even if we are still living with the consequences of what we’ve done, God’s forgiveness is thorough. Jesus Christ and His death on the cross paid the whole price for our sin. Because of Him, we can be as completely clean on the inside as we are on the outside.
All we need to do is tell God we’re sorry for what we’ve done and ask Him to forgive us. He is waiting to make us clean again.
It’s as easy as this: “Heavenly Father, I’m sorry for my sins. I’m buried under this guilt that I deserve. But please forgive me and make me right again with You. I want to be clean again on the inside. Thank You. I know You’ve forgiven me because Your word says so. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
No Longer Unloved
When I was in high school, I watched romantic movies and woefully cried out to God, “Please give me a boyfriend!”
I believe we all crave love and affection. It’s a God-given desire that’s been around for ages.
Just go back to the book of beginnings — Genesis — and you’ll find many love stories. Consider Leah and her popular sister, Rachel. Leah was the older sister (who wants to be introduced as old?) whose eyes were weak and delicate. This signified her sight was weak or that her eyes lacked luster and beauty.
She was the opposite of her younger sister Rachel who was “beautiful of form and appearance” (Genesis 29:17, NKJV). She would have been the girl on Instagram with the perfect figure. Talk about cause for sibling rivalry!
Perhaps you’re familiar with the ironic twist on Jacob’s wedding day. Jacob wanted to marry the gorgeous Rachel, so he worked for seven years to earn her hand in marriage. But on his wedding night, he was not given Rachel. He was given Leah, and amid the dark (and possibly drunken) chaos of the wedding celebration, he had no idea until morning that he married the “wrong” sister.
The explanation? Laban, the girls’ father, had given Leah in marriage because it was the custom for the older girl to marry first. Jacob could have Rachel if he worked for Laban another seven years.
We often pity Jacob who got duped into working an extra seven years, but what about Leah? Can you imagine waking up after your wedding night to discover sheer disappointment in your new husband’s eyes when he sees it’s you, not your beautiful, younger sister? That must have been so humiliating and devastating.
Genesis 29:30 tells us Jacob’s love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. Yet when the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He enabled her to conceive while Rachel remained childless. With every son, Leah thought her husband’s heart would turn toward her.
With her first son, Reuben, which means “Look, a son,” Leah said, “Surely my husband will love me now” (Genesis 29:32b, NIV).
With her second son, Simeon, which means “Heard,” she declared, “Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too” (Genesis 29:33b, NIV).
With her third son, Levi, which means “Attached,” she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me” (Genesis 29:34b, NIV).
Do you hear her continued pain at being Jacob’s less-loved wife? The joy of motherhood was shadowed by grief from unreciprocated love and loyalty.
Finally, something changed with her fourth child, Judah, which means “Praise.” When she gave birth, instead of longing for her husband’s love, she said, “This time I will praise the LORD” (Genesis 29:35b, NIV).
This time I will praise the Lord.
In all our striving and longing for love, may we stop and declare with Leah, “This time I will praise the LORD.” When we praise God first, we find all the love in the world at our disposal.
Out of the tribe of Judah came the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Sure, Jacob had 12 sons, but which one does Scripture mention in Jesus’ lineage? Only Leah’s son, Judah: “Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers …” (Matthew 1:2, NIV).
From the lineage of an unloved woman, second best and the object of her sister’s scorn came the Messiah. God saw Leah … and loved her. May we, too, stop nurturing our feelings of rejection and instead, turn in praise to the God who can fix it all.
Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me and always seeing me. I’m so grateful I am not invisible to You. You call me the apple of Your eye, the crown of creation, friend and beloved. I will echo Leah and declare that, “I will praise the LORD.” You are worthy of all praise, blessing, honor and glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. – Jeremiah 7:3 NKJV
God was not pleased with His people. They had violated His laws, yet claimed to have changed. Should He believe them? He knew that they had made similar promises before and failed to keep them. How were they to demonstrate that they really had changed? By the things that they did.
They were to do the right thing and avoid oppressing others. They were not to “walk after other gods” (v. 6) or “steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely” (v. 8). God’s most serious complaint was that they dared to stand before Him and say, “[By the discharge of this religious formality] we are set free! – only to go on with this wickedness and these abominations” (v. 10 AMPC). But religious formality wasn’t adequate. They needed to abandon their wicked ways.
They might have justified their actions, but He reminded them that His Word still was the only standard that mattered. He promised blessings if they made real changes, but their own actions had convicted them.
Ultimately, this measure applies to us as well. Do we take His Word seriously? Do we want His blessings? The Bible confirms that He is ready to bless us. He looks deep into our hearts to examine our true motives. But He also looks at our lives. What messages are we sending by our words and actions? Ask God to help you live according to His principles. Seek to be a faithful witness.
Streams in the Desert – December 2
Perfect through suffering (Hebrews 2:10).
Steel is iron plus fire. Soil is rock, plus heat, or glacier crushing. Linen is flax plus the bath that cleans, the comb that separates, and the flail that pounds, and the shuttle that weaves. Human character must have a plus attached to it. The world does not forget great characters. But great characters are not made of luxuries, they are made by suffering.
I heard of a mother who brought into her home as a companion to her own son, a crippled boy who was also a hunchback. She had warned her boy to be very careful in his relations to him, and not to touch the sensitive part of his life but go right on playing with him as if he were an ordinary boy. She listened to her son as they were playing; and after a few minutes he said to his companion: “Do you know what you have got on your back?” The little hunchback was embarrassed, and he hesitated a moment. The boy said: “It is the box in which your wings are; and some day God is going to cut it open, and then you will fly away and be an angel.”
Some day, God is going to reveal the fact to every Christian, that the very principles they now rebel against, have been the instruments which He used in perfecting their characters and moulding them into perfection, polished stones for His great building yonder.
Suffering is a wonderful fertilizer to the roots of character. The great object of this life is character. This is the only thing we can carry with us into eternity… To gain the most of it and the best of it is the object of probation.
“By the thorn road and no other is the mount of vision won.”