Today should be cleaning day. Today should be the day that I clean out my backpack/laptop case. All those papers, files and notes that I have been carrying between the office and home for weeks need a permanent home outside my backpack (I envision a large, overflowing garbage can…). Over vacation I read ten or more journals and magazines and noted which articles need to be saved. Now I only have about a dozen more journals to read (along with 2-3 books over the next two weeks). Then there are those small, nagging projects that need just a half hour left to complete. And then there’s the desk. Well, at least my backpack can be more organized…
It is good to regularly take care of those nagging bits of minutia that perpetually remain incomplete. But if my desk, briefcase, appointment book (and garage) all need cleansing, my heart is in even greater want of purification. Today must be the cleaning day of my heart.
The Old Testament prescribed for the priests an elaborate set of rituals for outward purification that were designed to demonstrate an inward transformation that had also occurred. While the Law was fulfilled by Christ and removed the obligation for the outward act, the commitment to inward purity is still a reality for the follower of Jesus Christ, as Paul notes in 2 Corinthians 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.” (2 Cor 7:1)
Let me make five observations about this new act of purification.
Purity is motivated by a reverent fear of God and by the faithfulness of His promise to be our eternal Father (2 Corinthians 6:16 – 7:1). The more we fear God, the less we will fear men and the more we will be drawn to a holy life, regardless of what men think of us. And the more we contemplate the security and fellowship of our relationship with God as our Father, the more we will labor to live worthy of the new name that is ours.
God’s purpose for the believer is not only eternal redemption, but temporal purity (Titus 2:14). God is passionate not only to have us experience freedom from death eternally (2 Peter 3:9), but to know its reality now. His desire is for us to know today the intimacy of eternity that is founded on pure lives.
The means for purity is the power of the Holy Spirit transforming our dead, empty works to living service of God (Heb. 9:14) through confession (1 John 1:9) and the blood of Christ (Heb. 9:22). Through the combination of the eternal, sovereign actions of the Holy Spirit, the eternally cleansing power of Christ’s sacrificial blood, and the willful submission of our hearts to His obedience, we are made pure.
The object of purification is both our sinful actions and hearts (James 4:8). Right actions without a pure heart do not make a righteous man. A righteous man is one whose life and heart are in conformity to God’s moral decree.
Finally, it is significant to note that God has not called us to an impossible standard of cleanliness. He has called us to His perfect standard and provided us with every spiritual resource that is needed to make the attainment of that standard possible.
Cleanliness may not be next to godliness, but cleanliness of heart will yield godliness of character.