I actually enjoy cleaning up the kitchen after a meal! My wife loves to cook, which is a good thing because we’d come close to starving if I had to do it. I’d much rather clean up the remains.
One of the things I enjoy doing is scrubbing out the pots and pans with cleanser. They look so clean and shiny when I’m through. And then there’s the sink, which can accumulate quite a scum by the time the clean-up is over. But a good sprinkling of cleanser and some strong elbow grease leave the sink almost as shiny as the kettles.
That reminds me of God’s soul cleanser. You didn’t know God had a soul cleanser? Oh, yes! It’s called “forgiveness.” For example, 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (KJV; emphasis added).
Then there’s Hebrews—a daunting book in the Bible for many people, but the news it contains for Christians is wonderful. “Cleansing” is actually a major theme in Hebrews. For example, the apostle who wrote Hebrews1 said that Jesus’ blood is a cleansing agent: “The blood of Christ . . . [will] cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14; emphasis added).
Jesus’ blood is a metaphor for His death on the cross. Because Jesus died, we can be cleansed of our sins.
We humans have an underlying sense of shame, of guilt. We feel dirty, sinful, evil. For millennia, people of all religious faiths have offered all manner of sacrifices in an effort to atone for their sins: money, produce, animals, time—the list goes on and on. In ancient times, people sacrificed animals, and sometimes even their own children, just so they could feel good about themselves!
Don’t get me wrong; it’s OK to support your favorite church or charity with time and money. These organizations need all the support they can get to carry on their mission of doing good in the world. But if the purpose of our contribution is to rid ourselves of guilt and shame, forget it. Any effect will be only temporary. The author of Hebrews put it succinctly: “It is impossible,” he said, “for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). And it’s also impossible for us to rid ourselves of feelings of guilt and shame by the money and time we donate, regardless of the worthiness of the cause we are serving.
Only Christ’s sacrifice on the cross can cleanse our consciences from the guilt we feel for our sins!
making it work
The question is, How does it work? Is there anything we can do to make Christ’s cleansing real in our lives? The answer is yes. Many people will tell you that all you have to do is to accept Jesus as your Savior. Of course, we must accept Jesus as our Savior! That goes without saying.
But think about this: Our guilt was caused by the wrong things we’ve done. It surely would be strange to accept Jesus as our Savior and then keep on doing the things that made us feel guilty in the first place. The apostle Paul asked, “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” (Romans 6:15). He answered his own question: “By no means!”
I don’t mean that God expects us to overcome all our sins before He will accept and save us. But He does want us to treat sin with the same seriousness that He does. And one of the best ways to do that is to confess our sins.
If a sin we committed was against God, then we need to confess it to Him. If our words or actions harmed another human being, we should confess to that person. If we damaged his or her property in some way, we should make proper restitution. Then we can ask God to forgive us with the full assurance that He will!
I can tell you from personal experience that confession to God and to the people I’ve harmed brings a great sense of freedom from guilt and shame. So if you’re struggling for peace of mind, ask God to forgive you of the specific sins you know you’ve committed. And, where necessary, confess and make restitution to the people you’ve injured.2 Then ask Jesus to come into your heart and do His part in cleansing your conscience from guilt.
It’s also important to make a commitment to overcome your sins. As I said, it wouldn’t make sense to ask God to forgive you, and then you just keep on doing those wrong things without so much as a thought to changing. God doesn’t expect you to overcome your sins all at once before He accepts you. You can’t even begin to overcome them until He does accept you. But He does ask you to put yourself on His side in your conflict with evil. Ask Him to help you, and then put forth your own best effort to overcome. He’ll be glad to help you.
God’s soul cleanser works by forgiving you and helping you to overcome. And it’s amazing how clean and shiny you’ll feel when you put yourself on His side and let His soul cleanser begin to work in your life!
1. Nowhere in the book of Hebrews is there any mention of who wrote it, but tradition says the apostle Paul was the author.
2. If your wrong deed was a violation of the law, you’d be wise to consult an attorney before confessing to other people. This will help you to keep the legal consequences of your confession to a minimum.
Arnold Wheeler is a pseudonym.