. . . you are clean!
Somehow, we instinctively know that sin stains our souls. Something about sin is dirty. So many people find it easy to accuse themselves, to view themselves as unworthy, because of their sin. Young people may see themselves as broken or stained because of choices made in youth. Older people see the accumulation of bad choices and view themselves as tarnished. And there seems to be nothing we can do about it.
I used to have a bar of special soap that made your hands dirtier while you used it. It would lather up, like regular soap, but it left a black stain on your hands. Of course, I used it to illustrate the futility of trying to clean ourselves. When we draw from the world of sin and the perspective of sin to cleanse ourselves of sin, we are doomed to failure. Like washing our hands in mud.
Apart from the pure righteousness of Jesus, there is no way for us to make ourselves clean. But He can cleanse us. There is wonder and mystery in this, but it is effective. Somehow, His righteousness replaces ours. We are clean because He is clean and He is in us and we are in Him.
So when you remember what you did, or what someone did to you—and you feel dirty—consider this: you have been washed and all sin has been carried away from you. No sin clings to you, now or forever.
In a town I know very well there is a wall near a railroad track. It is a college town and a large expanse of blank wall is an invitation for graffiti. But there is no graffiti on that wall, nor have I ever seen graffiti on it in the 25 or so years it has been there. The claim is that the wall is treated with a special chemical which will not allow the paint to stick. If someone does decorate the wall, the rain simply washes the paint away. Nothing sticks to it.
Nothing sticks to you either. It isn’t that you never sin or that people will never sin against you. It is that you will never again be made dirty by sin. Sin simply no longer sticks to you.
This is why we should never refer to a believer according to his or her sins. I cannot point to a believer and say, “That man is an adulterer,” or “She is a liar.” He may be committing adultery and she may lie, but those who belong to Jesus cannot be defined by their sin. We are defined by our relationship with Jesus. Churches and teachers who see only sin when they look at people are ignoring the truth about what happens in the life of the believer. There is a new creation, the old has passed away, and sin no longer defines us.
When Peter wanted to wash Jesus’ feet, in John 13, Jesus told him that it was more important for Jesus to wash Peter’s feet. But then Jesus says that the disciples who have received His word were already clean. They were clean because of their faith in Jesus. (Add to the mix John 15:3) Yet, Jesus makes an important statement:
“…you are clean, but not all of you.”
There is a sadness there. One of the disciples, the one who would betray Jesus, did not believe the word of Jesus and did not have faith. So he had not been washed of his sins. He was not clean.
So two statements are necessary:
First, only Jesus can make us clean.
Second, those who have come to Jesus are completely and forever clean.
That’s why they call it good news!