How To Be Clean Clear Through
Biblical texts are Mark 7:1-23 and 2 Timothy 2:19-22
How much dirt makes you uncomfortable?
Consider several different situations as you answer this question. You and your family or friends are eating out in a public restaurant. What do you inspect when you’re seated? Is it the seat, the table, every utensil, the glasses? What about the food itself? Or you’re staying in a motel or hotel. Do you check the bathroom and the linens, look under the bed, check the dresser drawers, wipe your finger over the top of the mirror? Or you are visiting in someone else’s home. What do you notice regarding their household and their apparent housekeeping practices? Or you are at home with your own family members. How do you feel about cluttered rooms, the toys of children or adults that are not put away, dirty socks on the floor, wet towels left on the floor or tub or shower door in the bathroom, dirty dishes in the sink, papers on the sofa, dust on the furniture, or mud on the carpet or linoleum? Can the basement or the garage be less clean than the living room or kitchen? Must everyone wash thoroughly before they come to the table to eat? What about inspections?
What do you do when you become uncomfortable with the dirt?
If you are at the restaurant, do you ask for another table or another glass or another utensil? I was getting ready to dig my fork into a freshly served plate of beef straganof that was the dinner entre at a big conference center when I noticed a big fly among the ingredients. It was dead, but I still didn't like the idea of eating it with a mouthful of beef, so I pointed it out to the waitress and calmly asked her to bring me another plate, which she did. It was delicious. What if you encounter some dirt at your table in a restaurant, do you complain to the waitress or desk clerk, demand a refund or discount from the owner or manager, or just silently promise yourself that you will never go back there again? If you are in the room at a motel or hotel that is “too dirty”, would you demand another room or leave or just promise yourself that you will never to go to that chain again? What happens when you become uncomfortable with the dirt at home? Would you stop supper until the guilty party has thoroughly washed, declare war on the offender until the “mess” is cleaned up, have a big investigation who was responsible for the “dirt”?
The context and challenging questions for this message
This message follows up on this question that the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus: “Why is it that your disciples do not follow the teaching handed down by our ancestors, but instead eat with ritually unclean hands?” (Mark 7:5)
And these are the challenging questions that we will consider: How hypocritical are we in regard to the sins of others and our own moral purity? Where is our focus in regard to our own morality and cleanliness? Are we ready to be thoroughly cleaned so that we can be used for God’s special purposes?
How hypocritical are we in regard to the sins of others and our own moral purity?
The text in Mark 7:3-13 indicates that Jesus considered these Pharisees and teachers of the law to be hypocrites. He knew that they followed the laws and traditions for ritual cleanliness in regard to how they prepared food, cleaned their cooking and dinner utensiles, and prepared themselves for meals (see Mark 7:3- 4), but he called them “hypocrites” (vs 6) because they negated God’s laws regarding honoring and caring for their parents by saying that the resources they could use for the care of their parents was dedicated to God, even though they didn’t actually have to give it to God or to take it to the temple.
Consider this challenging question for a minute: What sins in others really offends you and upsets your sense of morality? The possibilities may include some of these: violence, including murder, rape, or assaults; robbery; deceit and dishonesty and lying; child abuse; drug abuse and other addictions; swearing and profanity; pornography or immodesty.
And this question: yet how do we feel about our own habits and attitudes? And these could include any of the following: getting angry and loosing our temper; withholding truth when it isn’t convenient or beneficial to be completely honest; smoking or drinking or misusing legal drugs; enjoying lustful thoughts or fantasies; sharing gossip; being prejudical in one's attitudes or behavior; being greedy; being somewhat bitter and unforgiving; being less than faithful in our stewardship or less than generous in our charity; or being casual about Christian worship and service.
And these questions: who would consider us to be hypocritics if they really knew us? And what does Jesus see in us that is hypocritical?
Where is our focus in regard to our own morality and clealiness?
Jesus explains the source of uncleanliness in this passage of Scripture. “Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Noting outside a man can make him “unclean” by going into him, Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him “unclean”.’ After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. ‘Are you so dull?’ he asked. ‘Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him “unclean”? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.’ He went on: ‘What comes out of a man is what makes him “unclean”. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man “unclean”.’” (Mark 7:14–23)
So a person should not be too concerned about the dirt that may get into his or her mouth, because it will be expelled. But we need to be more concerned about the evil, selfish, foolish, immoral, unloving ideas and attitudes, and desires in our hearts. They produce uncleanliness!
How much internal sin, selfishness, unholiness makes you uncomfortable? It is not too hard to maintain a good reputation. All one needs to do is to avoid committing gross sins in public, belong to the right organizations, go to church, be clean and well groomed, don’t be too controversial, be good to your family, be a good citizen, contribute to some charities, and don’t run for public office. We are all good at keeping our cups, plates, and hands clean!
Here is another question that is related to the one above. What is there within you that you are keeping from God’s holy fire? These are not just bad habits and attitudes that pop out and embarrass you once in a while. Consider the prophet Isaiah’s experience, which he describes in this Scripture: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. ‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’” (Isaiah 6:1–11) Isaiah became painfully aware of his own constant sinfullness in the presence of the holy Lord Almighty!
Perhaps these things that you are keeping from God include some secret habits, vices, thoughts, or attitudes that we shield from God’s holiness. The challenge of this internal exam was most personal for me! God had been preaching this message to me for years: Bob, I want all of you! Perhaps you, like me, put up “NO TRESPASSING”, “PRIVATE PROPERTY”, “KEEP OUT” signs for God to preserve our special personal pleasures and possessions. Abraham’s big test came when God challenged him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac (See Genesis 22:1–19). We hide some of these personal pleasures and possessions behind God’s grace and apparent goodness!
Here is an illustration of the dangers of such “secrets”. “Many trees appear to be healthy when we see them in summer. But, in the winter, after their leaves have all fallen off, we sometimes find that hidden underneath the lush green of the summer foliage was a parasitic plant called mistletoe, which had been slowly sucking away some of the tree’s vitality. We as Christians sometimes have hidden sins, which—like the mistletoe—slowly suck away our spiritual vitality. Although not always evident in times of outward spiritual health and fruitfulness, we must always examine ourselves for those small, often unseen, parasites of sinful habits that will sap our vitality. And we must also remember that just because they are not apparent now does not mean that in another season of our life God will not reveal them for all to see.” (“Holiness”, #654, Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, pps.187–188)
Are we ready to be thoroughly cleaned so that we can be used for God’s special purposes?
Consider the teaching of this passage of Scripture: “Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.’ In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:19–22)
According to this teaching, we should “turn away from wickedness” (vs 19). It is important to avoid contaminated food, utensiles, blood, and surgeries. It is also important to turn away from corrupting influences that will infect our spiritual nature. These include the following: violent TV and games, pornography, places of temptation, bad companions, situations that promote foolish arguments and unChristian conduct and attitudes.
Then this text of Scripture gives us this teaching: “If a man cleanses himself from the latter (what is ignoble), he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” (vs 21) Remember God wants to clean us from all unholiness to increase our fruitfullness. (see John 15:2)
We really can’t make ourselves clean, because sanctification is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is the Holy Spirit who is transforming us into the likeness of Jesus, enabling us to grow to the fulness of the stature of Christ.
So we need to follow this teaching: “pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord....” (2 Timothy 2:22) Take down the “NO TRESPASSING”, “PRIVATE PROPERTY”, “KEEP OUT” signs and let God come into and possess even the most personal aspects of our lives. As Isaiah cried out, a creature from God’s throne purged away his guilt and sin (see Isaiah 6:6–7). This Scripture teaches us that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Or we can pray like David when he was confronted by God with his sin: “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin....Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow....Hide your face from my sins and blot all of my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me....grant me a willing spirit....” (Psalms 51:2, 7, 9–10, 12)
In conclusion here is how to be clean clear through
Surrender completely and totally to God and ask his Holy Spirit to come in to cleanse every aspect of your life. “This is the secret of the Holy, Not our holiness but HIM: Jesus! empty us and fill us with Thy fulness to the brim.” (“Fill Us”, #2231, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations, p. 555)
When the teachers of the law and Pharisees were challenged by Jesus with their own sins as they prepared to stone an adulteress to death, they dropped their stones and left, but they didn’t fall on their knees and ask for his forgiveness or cleansing blessing! (See John 8:1–11)
The above Scripture quotations are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society, Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.