Read: 2 Corinthians 5:17; John 9
Now that we are into the second week of October, the outdoor work is beginning to wane; however, I remember another fall day when the job that needed to be done turned out to be much more challenging than my husband and I first thought it would be. It was the kind of task that, after it was completed required a total cleansing rather than a quick wiping off. May I explain?
It was probably three years ago. It was time to replace the strawberry plants because we had noticed that they were producing fewer berries than had previously been the case. In addition to that, the berries we were getting were smaller and not as flavorful as before. I was certain we could make quick work of the job; so my husband dampened the raised bed and we went to work uprooting the plants; however there was an obstacle. It would not be an understatement to say that the roots we discovered were thick and long. As thick as good-sized pencils. No, these were not the roots from our strawberry plants. They were roots that had made their way into the bed from the cottonwood tree! What to do? To make it as easy as possible, my husband heavily flooded the bed, and we yanked and pulled. Dirt truly went flying everywhere on me. I was filthy when we finally completed the job. I needed a good washing not a quick dabbing here and there with a wash cloth.
As I think about that little incident, I am reminded of the Bible's offers of cleansing from sin, 1 John 1:7; Isaiah 1:18. When we come to Him in repentance, knowing the filthiness of our sin, He makes us new, 2 Corinthians 5:17. He never tells us to pick up a cloth and try to wipe off our dirty areas before we approach Him. This wonderful miracle, as it is true with any miracle is His work alone, Titus 3:5-6. This is the huge difference between religion and what it offers and the relationship God provides for us. All religions hand us the "wash cloth" of good works. We are told to hold that self-effort out to God.
In contrast, Jesus holds out His nail-scarred hands and offers us His righteousness in exchange for our sins, 2 Corinthians 5:21. Since this is a miracle of sight and the opening of eyes as described in 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, let's look into a miracle where Jesus gave sight to a man who was born blind. Let's see why this giving of sight mirrors the beauty of receiving the miracle of new birth, John 3:3.
In John 9, we meet a man with a limitation that had always been a part of his life. He had never seen anything. Not the light of the sun or the faces of his parents. He had never enjoyed color or even the blackness of night. Enter Jesus. His life was about to do a 180. This unnamed man in an instant was going to have his life turned upside down. We don't know what he thought when Jesus made mud with his saliva and the dirt on the ground and placed it on his eyes. We don't know what he thought when Jesus told him to wash in the pool of Siloam. Surely what he experienced when he opened his eyes was amazing. Wouldn't it have been fun to hear his first words? What did he say when he first saw his surroundings? We don't know, but we know something he didn't say. He never said that He wished Jesus had simply given him a bit of light perception. He never said that he wished that objects might merely be blurry and not clear. No one would want a partial miracle. No one would be happy to live with a modicum of improvement when he could have perfect vision. How foolish.
Yet, that is what religion offers. A little self-improvement here and a bit there. Just enough to make a person acceptable and a bit nicer; however, that self-effort doesn't please God. If there is anything that we can boast about that we have done, God won't receive us. The only act of cleansing we can boast in was accomplished on the cross, Galatians 6:14. The only provision for sin comes not from anything we can offer God but the cleansing and righteousness Jesus freely provided, Philippians 3:3-9.
Jesus made it clear that He is the way and that no one can come to the Father except through Him and the work He accomplished through His death and resurrection, John 14:6; John 19:30.
As the hymn NOTHING BUT THE BLOOD so eloquently says:
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Next week, Lord willing, we will look into how we walk in step with the Holy Spirit after we have been cleansed and how God's Word wipes away the world's dust from our lives.