Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness Isn’t In the Bible, Is It?

The Phrase “Cleanliness is Next to Godliness” isn’t in the Bible. I know this would disappoint any number of Grandmas who have used it to exhort unwilling 10-year-old boys to practice cleanliness in a stronger way, but it’s just not there; you can look fro that quote in Scripture and you won’t find it (sorry). But if you dig a little deeper, you might find something about cleanliness and Godliness that could 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 penalty of our sin has been paid.

But Wait, There’s More

See, from a practical standpoint, 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. 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.

cleanliness

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. Even though we are free from the penalty of sin, until we go to glory we will still deal with the presence of sin. 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.

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
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Consider This: The Best Arguments Have Nothing to Do With Words…

“For consider him [Jesus] that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” (Hebrews 12:3 KJV) The uniqueness of Jesus is often overlooked, believe it or not. His parables and teachings have a timeless quality, and have been woven into the common wisdom of many of the world’s cultures. Most people credit him with being a prophet or a great teacher, apparently without knowing anything else about him; but when you truly consider what he said and taught about God’s love, he is unique among all the rabbis, teachers, and wise men who ever lived. The writer of Hebrews touches upon it here.

Only two Groups

Two things about him stand out in this verse. First, there are only two groups mentioned here: 1) sinners; and 2) Jesus. He is not listed with the sinners, but he is in a different category, listed as the one who endured their contradictions against himself. He stands apart from sin, the man who broke no law. Consider our leadership today and even those who lived in all past generations. Can you think of another public figure from history that meets this criteria? Who even comes close? It’s not just the author of Hebrews who makes this assertion; Jesus’ best friend, John, makes it too! So did Peter, Matthew, Mark and Luke. So did a Jewish zealot named Saul. The fact that everyone close to Jesus claimed that he was sinless is pretty unique, and sets Jesus apart from, well… everyone.

consider leaders

A Ludicrous Claim?

Would my wife or any of my close friends claim I was sinless? (Quit laughing!) How about yours? Would they say YOU are sinless? (Ha! Who’s laughing now?) And yet men who were around Jesus every day for years comment upon his behavior in ways that haven’t applied to any other man or woman. In fact, they COULDN’T apply. But consider this: In 1 Peter 2:22 Peter says of Jesus, “He committed no sin”.

John says  “In him [Jesus] was no sin.” (1 John 3:5)

Paul, who originally persecuted followers of Jesus as heretics, says this about him in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “He knew no sin.”

Even the man who sentenced him to death (Pontius Pilate) said, “I find no fault in Him”. The fact that eyewitnesses, friends and even enemies claim he was sinless make Jesus very unique indeed.

consider Christ

Consider This

Second, there is power in his being an example. The writer of Hebrews says, “Consider him.” The motivational power of a good example is huge in life, and it’s natural that we think about Jesus’ life and find encouragement when times are tough, “lest we be wearied and faint in our minds”. Are you stressed? Can the world be rude and uncaring at times? Don’t you hate driving with all of those careless, distracted, selfish people on the road? Then, “Consider him”.

Consider the man who blessed the children, healed the sick and caused the lame to walk. Think about him, who spoke wisdom and taught us that we should love one another. Consider him who bore the cross to Calvary, “lest you be wearied and faint in your mind”. Does anybody dispute that if you meditate and reflect upon the example and teachings of Jesus Christ, it will make you a better person? Who in this world can disparage his life and teachings, or the example that he set? After all, he gave his very life so that we might live.

Follow His Example; BE an Example

But don’t forget that being an example creates a legacy and a standard for followers to live up to. Jesus said, “As I have loved you, you should also love one another.” He used himself as an example of how to love! And then he told us to do it ourselves! Not only did he present himself as our example, he challenged us to BE one as well. So here’s the question: What are you doing that’s exemplary? And who might be watching you, encouraged by your persistence, your habits, and your attitude? Consider them, too.

Consider Him

The greatest sermon ever heard
Had no alliteration;
You didn’t hear a single word
Of grand pontification.
There weren’t three points, a poem, a prayer–
Perhaps some teaching here and there,
But this: a life of love to share,
A cross that He alone could bear,
A servant’s heart beyond compare
Who counted the cost, who saved the lost,
Who stills the storms for the tempest-tossed,
And lived without a sin or vice to be a perfect sacrifice;
He gave himself so we could be secured:
Consider Christ, and all that He endured…

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

If You Like Betting, Here’s a Tip About Sins: They Always Pay Off

Truth and Consequences

Sins are something we hear about from the time we are little. Sure, it starts out as “Make good decisions”, but eventually we know what they are really talking about. There are actions that are forbidden. Some of those actions are big and obvious, and some of them are smaller and don’t seem to mean as much. The truth is, though, everybody commits sins as if there are no consequences.

Perhaps every now and then we should remind ourselves that sins have a price, and they have to be accounted for. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land…” Isaiah 1:18-19

So, Define Sin

The Bible seems to make a big deal about sin, but the whole idea of sin is not a real popular topic in our culture. If you call something sin, then you are defining what people should or shouldn’t do, and we should all be able to decide that for ourselves, right? If you call me a sinner, then perhaps you are being biased or judgmental. Who are you to judge what is wrong or right?

Sin suggests personal failure and individual accountability, but when people do something wrong in our society there are suddenly a vast array of excuses and explanations about why it’s suddenly ok to break the law or disobey authority. Somebody else did something wrong, so it’s ok for me to do something wrong in return. (Whatever happened to “two wrongs don’t make a right”?)

A Definition that Hits the Bulls-eye

The New Testament uses the Greek word amartano for sin. It means “I miss the mark”. It was a term also used in archery to describe any shot that didn’t hit the bulls-eye. The whole notion of sins is not so much connected to every individual act, but rather the impact of falling short, of failing to achieve perfection. If you miss the mark, then you have sinned. Perfection equals sinless-ness. Anything less than perfection equals sin.

In Romans 3:23, Paul says that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Since nobody is perfect, then everybody is a sinner. Them. Me. You. We are all subject to sin, and yes, we all lie, cheat, disobey, disrespect, demand our own way, and do wrong. Here’s what Paul says about that in the first part of Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death.”

sins wages

So, what’s the big deal about sin? The presence of sin provides a certain payday, and its ultimate reward is always death. Isaiah uses graphic terms to describe it. He says your sins “are like scarlet”, and “red as crimson”. If you have ever killed a deer or butchered an animal, then these descriptions make sense. The blood price of sin is death, and Isaiah reminds us that sin is an ugly, messy, despicable business. When sin entered our world, death came with it as an inescapable consequence. (See “Adam and Eve”)

sins pay off

Don’t Take Away My Fun!

Isn’t it interesting that Satan, who wants us all to die, markets sin as fun, when ultimately it’s really just the opposite? He told Eve she could be like God. He tells us today that the Lord is like a cosmic kill-joy who wants to take away all our fun, but if you drill down into the logical extension of sin, perhaps there is a larger picture. They say that the most common last words in Texas are “Hold my beer and watch this!” That’s probably not true, but consider:

Getting a nice warm buzz on cold beer helps us to party, but when you find yourself crossing out of your lane into that semi, or dying in a hospital bed from cirrhosis of the liver, then sin is not really so fun anymore… Recreational drugs can get you high and provide escape, but when you are fighting addiction and can’t shake it, then sin suddenly stops being fun anymore. The heat of passion might be exciting, but when you find yourself in a broken relationship, or sitting in a clinic about to have an abortion, then sin is really not so fun anymore… Satan’s marketing plan is to sell sin as fun in order to sow tragedy.

The Real Reason God hates Sin

God doesn’t hate sin because it’s fun. He hates sin because it’s deadly. God created us in his image, blessed with His love and possibilities, offering us all the trees in the garden and eternal life in return for obedience—and instead we chose self-will, fun and death. Be grateful today that our Father understands the impact of sin, and provided the answer.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For He made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Jesus Christ offered himself in our place as a sinless substitute to pay our sinful death penalty.

Isaiah says that our scarlet sins will be made white as snow, and our crimson stain will be as white as wool. When you read ALL of Romans 6:23, Isaiah’s words make sense: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If you have ever sinned, be glad. If you have ever sinned, be grateful.

The Wages of Sin

Every man or woman who has ever drawn a breath
Will someday learn that wages of the sin they did are death.
Adam and Eve discovered that when Paradise was Lost,
And made their own decisions without reckoning the cost.
And so it is with all of us. The courtroom we are in
Demands we pay the deadly, scarlet penalty for sin.
But God allowed His Son to pay our penalty in full:
Though our sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as wool!
Though Satan calls for us to join his deadly, angry horde,
The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

He Was Rich and Became Poor. Seems Easy Until You Think About it

Super Heroes

Super heroes are all the rage today, and they are making somebody rich with the millions of dollars they rake in. But whether they come from Marvel Avengers or Hollywood, they are a poor substitute for the REAL hero who performed the most heroic act of all time. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9, NIV)

The complexity of this verse boggles the mind. What sort of riches did Christ possess in his position at the right hand of God? Surely the Lord of Lords and King of Kings had access to wealth we cannot begin to comprehend. According to Colossians 1:17, the entire cosmos is under his authority, and held together by His power, so it stands to reason that there are aspects of his riches we can’t begin to know.

How Powerful? How Rich?

We do know from John’s remarkable exposition on the Word that Jesus Christ existed in the beginning and was the creative force of God’s personality as the Word who spoke all things into existence. John also said that “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) How glorious was that glory? How rich were his riches?

rich but poor

Just try to imagine what sort of splendor the Son left behind to become a mere man…We tend to measure wealth in terms of precious stones or metals, and we are impressed by opulence and ornate works of art. But consider the wealth that the Son of Man left behind for your sake:

1) He was rich in power. Jesus was seated at the right hand of God as the King of Kings and Lord of lords. Yet he left the most powerful position in the universe to be a vulnerable man; and not even a king or ruler, but a tiny, frail, and helpless infant. Instead of taking royal office, he became a servant, and humbled himself to become flesh in every way, even partaking of death on the cross…

2) He was rich in righteousness. Jesus was the Holy One of God, the one who went 40 days toe to toe with the tempter but committed no sin; he alone was worthy to be presented without offense in the Father’s chamber of justice as the only one who could stand before the Father in purity and absorb the penalty for our sin. He didn’t have to, but he did it.

3) Jesus was rich in life. He was the guy people invited to weddings, the teacher everybody gathered to hear, the one who said, “I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly“… He was the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, who created all things and spoke the world into existence. Jesus was there when time began, when all things were formed and sprang forth from his creative Word. He certainly understood what eternal life meant and how awesome it was, and yet He was willing to give up that life and taste death on our behalf. Through his poverty we became rich. It is amazing to consider how Jesus became poor for our sakes.

Was It Really So Easy?

We tend to think, “Well it was just for a short time, he knew he’d go back to all of that heavenly glory and reign on high”, but I will always maintain that since it had never been done before, the outcome held some manner of risk for the Son… what if the whole universe had unraveled when the Word left His throne and gave up His eternal riches and glory? Whatever the odds, we do know this: he left his perfection in eternity past to enter a world full of sin and death. It’s an amazing sacrifice when you consider what Christ left behind.

A Backward Lens

To me, it becomes even more amazing when you turn the lens around and look at that the other way, from our poverty:
1) We were selfish and grasping at control, and yet we were served by the Lord of lords.

2) We were sinful and condemned, and yet we were made righteous by Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice.

3) We were dead in our sins, deceitful and carnal, and yet we were shown the way, the truth, and were given eternal life. Consider 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” It’s not just about what Jesus gave UP, but it’s also about what he gave US. He traded his riches for poverty, so that we could leave our poverty for his riches.

The King’s Foolish Trade

There was talk among the angels, all about the king of Kings;
They heard that he was going down to earth, with all that brings…
“Surely he will not give up his place upon the throne!
Surely he will not go down to Satan’s lair, alone!”
Then they watched the Son of God submit to life on earth;
They took the word to Mary, and they watched the virgin birth!
As Jesus grew, they watched him, and the angels held their breath
While the Christ fulfilled his mission in a world of sin and death!
The angels shuddered inwardly to see him leave his glory,
Amazed at what he sacrificed to change creation’s story.
Jesus came to earth to pay our ransom, after which
He took our poverty upon Himself–and made us rich.
Savior, King of Glory, Risen Lord and Great “I AM”!
Who in heaven knew you’d be the sacrificial lamb?
Angels wondered why you left–they knew you could have stayed–
You who took our poverty for your riches in a trade,
Make us ever mindful of the sacrifice you made.

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