When it comes to washing our hands, we might assume that most of us follow obvious standards, but what is obvious to some, might not be obvious to others and not everyone has the same standard. By what scale do we measure ‘clean’? We are so unaware of how filthy things really are all around us; things we come in contact with everyday, like grocery carts (which are rated worse than pubic restrooms), gym equipment, restaurant menus, door knobs, your shower curtain and the list goes on. We either don’t see it and deny its existence, or we know it’s there & we constantly scrub and sanitize to stay clean.
Maybe that’s how we think and respond for our inner cleanliness, as well. Our so-called “goodness”; matters of the heart; good vs. bad. But again, by what scale do we determine ‘good’; how good is good or how bad is bad? Our opinions and cultures can tip the scales greatly and we do what we think is right in our own eyes and judge others according to our personal standard. How can anyone know what is in the heart? Only God can judge the heart of man. (1 Samuel 16:7)
I have a friend, who is a surgeon and I consider him to be a ‘good’ person. We had a conversation about Heaven and how God might determine who He lets in. He asked, “what if you’re a good person your whole life, but do not believe in God? Would He not let you in? And what about God being loving & forgiving?” In the moment, all I could say was “Yes, He is a loving & forgiving God, but He is also a Holy God and we, being unclean, cannot enter into His presence, without first being made clean”. After he left, I thought more about his question and how I could better illustrate this answer. What I came up with, was the following illustration that I think he could easily relate to, as a Doctor. When he goes into surgery, I’m certain, he cannot enter in without first, washing his hands, putting on sterile gloves, scrubs and anything else to assure he was clean, according to hospital standards. If he, instead, just told the patient “I’m a good surgeon”, they’d probably say, “So what?!? You’re not clean!” So it is, with God and man.
We can never be clean enough to stand before a Holy God. We would have to be perfectly clean, spotless and blameless; know anyone? This is GOD’s standard and we all fall short. So, how do we become this clean? Certainly not by our own “self-scrubbing, good deeds”. The difference between external and internal cleanliness is that while we are responsible for the external, only God can clean the internal; the heart. No matter how good we think we are by externally ‘being a good person’. We can never be good enough or clean enough without God. Nor can we deny that we are unclean, by using a self-righteous scale to define ‘good, bad and really bad’, and then saying we are good, by comparison. We say, “I’m a good person, I help others, I don’t lie, steal or cheat..like that guy”. We become like those who cannot see the filth that is all around us and deny its existence. Or we justify ourselves and say “IF God is loving and forgiving, then…” ..then, what?? Going back to my illustration, should we allow the unclean Doctor in the operating room, just to prove we’re loving and forgiving? And if not, can he rightfully blame the one who does not let him in? Of course not! Neither should we blame God for our unclean hearts and our choice to reject Him.
We are not good, nor are we clean, simply by doing good deeds. At the heart level, we are all born into sin, until we choose the saving grace of Jesus. We can defend, deny, justify or downplay it all we want, but we are guilty and there is a penalty that must be paid. Freedom can only come when we admit our guilt and surrender. We are then given freedom. What?!? Admit guilt, surrender and then go free? Yes…the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has paid our debt in full. “For the penalty of sin is death; (a life sentence) but.. the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:23). The gift is our pardon..we are let go..forgiven..made CLEAN. It is a gift that is free to those who receive Him. We remain unclean until we believe & receive Him as our Lord and then we are washed and made eternally clean and ready to enter in to His presence.
Isaiah 1:18 “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow”.
Matt 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you”.
Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end, leads to destruction”.
Matt. 7:13 “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it”.