Have you ever worked hard and gotten dirty? I mean super dirty. So dirty you can feel the dirt and see it on your skin. So dirty your sweat mixs with the dust and the dirty to form a crust of a second skin. So dirty you are hopeless to do anything about it.
Britton and I were in Africa in 2007 to build a house for Lifeline Malawi. Malawi, Africa is beautiful place, but it is also very dusty. On top of that the bricks we used were made of a redish clay. So between the dust and bricks I got dirty. During those two weeks I was dirtier than I have ever been in my life.
On our first work day I showed up in my clean blue jeans and my clean Army & Navy t-shirt. It didn’t take long for my clothes and every inch of me to get dirty. No matter what I did I got dirty. The dust and dirt mixed with my sweat to become caked on. I didn’t even have to be working in order to get dirty, walking down the road kicked up dust that stuck to me and made my shoes and clothing dirty. After a full day of work I was covered from head to toe with dust and dirt. I was so dirty I didn’t look like myself. I didn’t feel like myself. I can’t stand being dirty and so I felt and looked disgusting.
When we returned to the mission house where we were staying each night I would shower, I was so dirty the soap bar turned brown and when the water hit me it turned brown. I had to scrub and scrub in order to get clean. But when I was done I felt new, fresh, like a totally different person.
The dust and dirt of Africa and how it stuck to me reminds me of sin. When we sin, we become dirty. The more we sin the dirtier we become. No matter what we do the sin sticks to us and unlike dirt there is nothing that you can do on your own to get clean again. No amount of showering or scrubbing will make you clean. We can try to hid our sin, but our sin covers us. Isaiah says, “Your fingers are filthy with sin. Your lips are full of lies, and your mouth spews corruption.” (Isaiah 59:3) And even worse our sin cuts us off from God. Isaiah says, “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.” (Isaiah 59:2)
But God is not content to leave us dirty in our sin and cut off from him (John 3:16-18). When we put our faith in Jesus Christ our sins are washed away. God says “Though your sins are like scarlet they shall be as white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18). Our sins are washed away and we are made clean. Just as the shower made me clean after a hard day of work in Africa, stripping away the dirt and made me feel fresh and new. Faith in Jesus strips away the sin that makes us dirty and doesn’t just make us feel new, it actually makes us new (2 Cor 5:17).
I love that clean feeling after a shower, but even more I love the feeling that comes from knowing that Jesus has washed away my sins and made me clean.