Not Merely Unnecessary! It's Not Helpful!
Read Romans 3:10-12; Luke 15:11-24; Titus 3:4-7
Decades ago, I was a live-in baby-sitter and housekeeper. I didn't do all the chores, but there were tasks that were my responsibility. Yet, I have never employed a housekeeper, and there is a good reason. I would want to clean first, before she came to my home, supplies in hand. I have laughed with friends about this propensity of mine, and it seems to be a common quirk. Take the bathroom for example. I would definitely want to clean the toilet and the tub before someone came in to swish and scrub. Why? I think it is because I wouldn't want her to see it dirty. What would she see in my bathroom that she couldn't observe in someone else's restroom? To paraphrase Solomon, "There is nothing new "under the lid". Even so, though it would not be necessary, if I ever had someone come in to clean, I would do at least a cursory job before she entered.
Many folks try to approach God with similar thinking to the kind I would have with a housekeeper. They are trying to "clean up" before coming to Him. The problem with this mindset is that it is not only unnecessary, it is also not helpful. That can be difficult to admit. Surely, a person might think, God will appreciate my efforts to do better and my attempts at discontinuing things that are bad. He might truly believe that it is better to approach the Lord after having really worked hard at being kinder or any number of "improvements" that He could then hold out before God.
However, though that may seem like logical thinking, it doesn't square with what the Bible boldly asserts. Romans 3:10-12 paints a picture that none of us could ever see as flattering. There hasn't been even one person who has cleaned up sufficiently to approach Holy God. If we try to cleanse ourselves by removing bad habits or perfume our lives by adding good ones, we will still not have right standing with Him. Can God not be pleased? Is He like a father who makes demands that are impossible to meet in order to punish the child who falls short? May He be praised, the answer is no. The same Bible that paints such an indicting portrait of all men and women also provides the picture of an Awesome God Who has provided the solution. We merely need to accept the fact that we must come to Him, knowing that we cannot cleanse ourselves.
Oh, the beauty of Luke 15:11-24. Here we see a son who comes with nothing to give to his father. He is penniless, dirty, worn and broken. Yet, he knows something wondrous. He can come. Then there is the father. He has everything the son could ever desire. He has his arms held out and runs to the prodigal, not rejecting him because of his filthy clothes, unwashed body or his poverty. He doesn't tell the broken one to earn his way back into the family.What is the key that unlocks this shower of loving-kindness? The young man comes, knowing he is unworthy with nothing to offer his father but himself, just as he is.
What a picture of Titus 3:4-7. These verses use words like grace, cleansing and regeneration. When we boil it all down, it means that God offers to us what we can't accomplish on our own. He makes us clean, fit to be with Him. He makes us His dwelling place, 1 Corinthians 6:19 if we will come to Him, understanding that we can't make ourselves right before Him.
Why would we not come to the God Who offers this kind of love? Perhaps, my thinking concerning a cleaning lady offers a bit of a clue. We want to have a part in making ourselves look better in someone's eyes. We want a part in the process. That is pride. Each of us fights it on an on-going basis. However, concerning a relationship with the Holy God, there is no room for pride. As the words to the old hymn remind us:
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
Yet, the wondrous news from another old hymn is:
There's Room at the Cross for You,
There's Room at the Cross for You.
Though Millions Have Come,
There's Still Room for One.
Yes, There's Room at the Cross for You.
Lord, Thank You that when our hands hold nothing to bring to You, it is then that Your Arms receive us.