Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. – John 7:14
I recently have taken up running. I’m past middle age and have been accumulating a spare tire around my waist. Something had to be done. I’m a novice runner but happy to say it didn’t take me long to see some progress in my endurance. I’ve gone from jogging just under a mile, to over a mile, then just under two miles, then over two miles, then three and a half miles and most recently I ran four miles! I don’t know where this will end. I’m enjoying the natural endorphins this ole’ body releases during my runs. Yes, the human body is fearfully and wonderfully made. And I combine spiritual edification by praying and listening to audiobooks during the run. I’m enjoying a new season in my life.
But running can get you into trouble. I’m not talking about what happens when you run with your head down and plow into a tree or oncoming traffic. I’m also not talking about allowing exercise to become an obsession to the neglect of the loved ones and eternally important things in life. No, I’m talking about trouble that comes by where you run. I was recently at our church Summer Family Retreat in Pennsylvania. I wanted to keep the regimen of my running in place. So I went for a run. There was a large open grassy field that caught my eye. So I set my phone AP that measures my distance and speed while running and took off. It was a beautiful sunny and hot day. It felt good to breath deep and sweat. It was a real blessing to run in the scenic country side. What a blessing; until I got back to my room. Then when I looked down I was covered in grass and dirt. I forgot that the day before the field had been freshly mowed. I was covered and I had tracked the dirt all the way into our room. What a mess. It didn’t go over too well with my bride either. I needed a thorough cleaning. So did the room. But it was nothing a good hot cleansing shower for me, a tumble of my dirty clothes in the washing machine on the “super clean” cycle, and some vacuuming couldn’t cure.
That’s an object lesson in life. We travel through the fields and streets of life and along the way unbeknownst to us we pick up and accumulate dirt and filth. The dirt could be sinful attitudes, off color humor, or immoral images. It could be residual sin-dirt that comes from giving into temptations like being less than honest, greedy, flirting, or more serious immoralities. It could be accumulated anger or condescending pride. The dirt we pick up from daily life is varied and easily accumulated. Before you know it we look at our heart and see all the particles of sin-stuff that need cleansing!
Regular cleansing of the heart and mind are extremely important in our spiritual lives. In the context of the gospel of John chapter seven we see an important principle about cleansing. “Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught” (John 7:14). In this verse Jesus is going up to Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles. You can’t understand John seven and eight without understanding this Feast and the rituals that took place during the feast. But that is for another teaching. For in this passage we see the importance of historical context. It’s so important to study God’s word in its context. It’s so important to study God’s word as a whole; Genesis to Revelation. Then we study Testaments and sections of Testaments as a whole. Then we should study books as a whole and sections of books as a whole. The Bible is connected to its various parts of the 66 books it contains. Like concentric circles of a wave created by dropping a stone into a pool, it is all related. It all speaks of Jesus (Hebrews 10:7).
The context of the Gospel shows this is the second time Jesus goes to Jerusalem in the gospel of John. The first time Jesus went to Jerusalem He cleansed the Temple (John 2:13-16). This time He taught in the temple. Here is a principle. Cleansing of heart and mind must always precede and prepare us for Jesus’ teaching. The money changers and that which polluted the temple needed to be cleared out, then Jesus could teach the Word.
We need to always prepare for the teaching of God’s word with personal cleansing. We need to approach God’s word by first prayerfully asking God to search our mind and heart for sin. Then we need to confess that sin to Him and be forgiven and cleansed of it. Only then are we ready to receive from God’s word (e.g. Psalm 139).
From what do we need to be cleansed? Through the prophet Ezekiel God spoke of the need to be cleansed from the filthiness of sin, in particular idolatry (Ezekiel 36:25). God spoke again through Ezekiel saying we need to be cleansed from all “iniquities” (Ezekiel 36:33). The word “iniquities” (Heb. Aw-vone ) refers to moral evils, perversity, depravity, faults and sin. It is a word that speaks of the stain of sin.
The Bible states Satan has blinded people to their need for salvation and an eternal relationship with God (2 Cor. 4:4). It’s as though Satan has spit in or smeared the mud of sin in the eyes of the sinner. Nothing short of a spiritual birth can help the sinner see the way they should see (John 3). It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to receive God’s revelation (1 Cor. 2:9-14). We need the “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).
In Hebrews while speaking of the superior effect of Jesus as compared to ritual it states, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:14). A consequence of sin is a guilty conscience. Sin scars the psyche. We need to be cleansed from sin and its varied effects. Part of Satan’s spiritual blinding involves the lie that we can clean up our guilty conscience with good works. Satan deflects the sinner to focus on human efforts to be righteous. But any effort to make ourselves acceptable to God or work our way to heaven is classified as “dead works.”
Our works muddy the cleansing flow God desires to pour on us. It’s a dead endeavor to try and compensate for our sins by doing what we perceive is good compensation. God’s standard of compensation is perfection (Mat. 5:48). No one but the One Jesus can fulfill that compensation for sin. And Jesus does that for us as a gift of His grace offered in love (Rom. 5:8; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Thess. 5:9-10). All we have to do is turn from our sins and trust in Jesus as our Savior and Sanctifier. “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). “For by one offering [on the cross] He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). The cleansing we need comes from Jesus. We need to go to Jesus for cleansing.
Why should we seek cleansing? Jesus taught, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mat. 5:8). It is the pure hearted person, the one cleansed from sin and guilt that is able to see God and hear from Him. Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). Sin is repulsive to God (Habakkuk 1:13).Sin is filthy. Therefore we should seek to be and live out holy lives unto God. Without holiness we won’t be able to see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). Sin leaves us condemned and guilty before Holy God (cf. Romans 3). If you want to make a connection with God, be cleansed!
We can’t expect to hear from the Lord if we regard or allow sin in our heart (Psalm 66:18). God loves us too much to allow us to wallow in sinful muddy waters that cause us and others pain. Like dirt, sin infects. The infection of sin left unattended leads to painful abscesses. The dirty earwax of sin prevents us from hearing God. If your prayers seem to be going nowhere and you’ve lost your taste for God’s word you likely need a thorough cleansing from the Lord.
How can we be cleansed from sin? If you need to hose off the dirt, if you need scrubbing, if you need a spiritual oxy-cleaning, here’s how.
First, understand God is the Cleanser. Jesus said to Peter, “What God has cleansed you must not call common” (Acts 10:15). God is the one who cleanses us from sin and its pollutants. If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse away sin in our life (1 John 1:9).
Second, therefore go to God for cleansing. When David’s sins of adultery and murder were discovered, he cried out to God, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). If you have been convicted of your sin by the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-11), if there is sin in your heart and the scars of sin in your mind, call out to God for cleansing and renewal.
Third, understand that cleansing is something we receive “by faith.” The Bible speaks of “purifying their hearts by faith (Acts 15:9), and being “sanctified [cleansed] by faith” (Acts 26:18). God has promised to cleanse us from our sin. To be cleansed we must take Him at His word.
Fourth, understand that cleansing from sin comes through faith in Jesus. Jesus told Paul his mission to people was, “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:18). The word “sanctified” (Greek hagiadzo) means purified, cleansed, made clean, made holy. We aren’t cleansed from sin by faith in faith. We are cleansed from sin through faith in Jesus! Jesus alone has the living water required for our cleansing (John 7:37-39).
Fifth, understand we are cleansed from sin through faith in Jesus because it is the atoning blood of Jesus that cleanses away our sins. The apostle John was inspired to write, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). We are cleansed from all our sins by the precious redemptive sanctifying sin-cleansing blood of Jesus!
Sixth, The Holy Spirit uses His word to cleanse us from sin. The first time we come to Jesus for cleansing we are cleansed from all the sins accumulated in our life to that point. But then we need to deal with the ongoing accumulation of the filth of sin in daily life. Jesus atoning death provides cleansing for that too; for all sin past, present and future; one cleansing sacrifice.
But there is a brush in which the cleansing blood of Jesus is poured and that we use for our cleansing. That brush is the Bible. In His word God speaks of “the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26). James is inspired to exhort, “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). Through Peter God states, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren love one another fervently with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22). The Holy Spirit works in the believer to make them holy. And the prime instrument the Spirit uses to cleanse from sin is the word of God. The Holy Spirit uses God’s word to scrub us clean from sin and its effects.
Seventh, it is our responsibility to seek God and surrender fully to Him for this cleansing. To the carnal self-centered Corinthians the Lord inspired Paul to write, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1). We need to be reverent before God who is Holy. And we need to seek Him for His cleansing from sin.
Have you been running around in the world only to get home, look down and see you’ve accumulated grass clippings, dirt, and filth of sin in various forms? Do you need cleansing? Come on, bring His Bible-brush and apply the cleanser of Jesus’ blood. Come to Jesus and He will make you clean.