I’m afraid I have some devastating news. The Phrase “cleanliness is next to godliness” isn’t in the Bible. I know this would disappoint any number of well-meaning grandmas who use it to exhort unwilling ten-year-old boys to practice cleanliness with a bit more elbow grease, but it simply. Isn’t. There. You can search the Scriptures for that quote, but you just won’t find it, sorry. But, here’s the good news: If you dig a little deeper, you’ll discover some things about cleanliness and Godliness that can apply to ALL of us!
Many people grow up concerned about the sins they have committed and the potential punishment those sins might carry. If that has ever been of concern to YOU, the Bible has good news: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, NIV).
From a theological standpoint, our sin was settled once and for all by Christ’s sacrifice at the cross, and we have been granted righteousness in cosmic court on Judgment Day. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” This means that from a statutory perspective, the law is satisfied. Jesus transferred my sin to himself, and his righteousness to me. Therefore, the cosmic penalty of our sin has been paid.
But Wait, There’s More
From a practical standpoint, though, we still struggle with our cleanliness and we have to deal with the presence of sin. We still live in a fallen world, and possess a carnal (fleshly) nature that is contrary to things of the Spirit. Unlike God’s loving, giving nature, our human nature has earthly appetites and selfish desires. Sometimes, we still make choices that make us feel like godliness is far away… 1 John 1:9 is a well-known verse which confirms that sin doesn’t just magically go away, and is something we need to contend with. I’ve heard it called “the Christian bar of soap” because it presents the practical means for us to practice spiritual cleanliness in a dirty world.
John points out in verses 8 and 10 that all of us will struggle with temptation and sin, and there will be times when we make selfish choices or do something stupid or think something hateful. (Verse 8 says “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”) Even though we are free from the penalty of sin, we still deal with the presence of sin. Until we go the heaven, that’s how it is. But, here on earth, we get dirty. When that happens, John says we should confess.
This confession is not mere assertion, or rote recounting of sin, but part of a heartfelt desire to turn away from sin and to embrace the teachings of Jesus. If confession ever becomes “going through the motions”, then watch out because it may become something less than true confession. But when we truly confess “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We can be cleansed in a dirty world. We can be cleansed from dirty thoughts and dirty choices.
Confess. Cleanse. Repeat. Maybe godliness isn’t as far away as you think. Maybe cleanliness isn’t either.
The Best Kind of Cleanliness
Jesus died for sinners, and he paid the penalty
So we could stand before the Father, clean as we could be.
When we stand before the throne and Jesus claims us for his own,
We won’t stand there all alone, and sin and death will both be gone!
But here on earth, we struggle with the presence of our sin,
And sometimes wonder how we made the mess that we are in.
When that occurs, the Father says, we have the solid hope
Of cleansing if we just apply the “Christian bar of soap”:
Confess your sins, and mean it. Do it every day you live,
And God is faithful, promising to cleanse us and forgive.
Since we wrestle with our sin, it’s really pretty neat
To know God says it’s simple. Just Confess. Be cleansed. Repeat.
To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
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