How Clean is Clean?
Posted on July 9, 2012 - 6:35pm in Weekly Devotionals
"Then I said, 'It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.'” Isaiah 6:5
There’s a story about a pastor who was asked to do a funeral for a notoriously sinful man. The deceased’s brother wanted to give him a decent send off, so he approached the pastor: “Pastor, if you say something nice about my brother at his funeral, I’ll donate $10,000 to your church.” The church was going through some tough times, but the pastor was concerned about being truthful. On the day of the funeral, this is what he said: “Many of you know Jack as a very bad man, but compared to his brother he was a saint!”
How good we are often depends upon who we compare ourselves with. Certain people make us look like saints, and perhaps others make us look like sinners. Isaiah didn’t have that problem because he used an altogether different measuring stick. Standing in the presence of God, the ultimate measure of goodness, Isaiah realized he just didn’t stack up. He didn’t make excuses or try to rationalize. He simply declared his utter helplessness. One translation has Isaiah saying, “I am undone!”
Admitting his sinfulness and helplessness before God is what allowed God to work. The Bible tells us that after Isaiah makes his declaration of sinfulness before God, God instructs an angel to touch Isaiah’s lips with a burning coal. It is the fire of God that cleanses Isaiah, not any work of his own.
This is an important lesson for all of us. All of us sin and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Trying to tweak our image doesn’t help. Trying to make excuses—I’m not as bad as some and better than most—doesn’t work. Trying to hide from the all-seeing God doesn’t work. The only thing that really works is honest confession. That allows God to work in a cleansing fashion in our lives. And when He cleanses, the cleansing is complete.
When we become aware of our short-comings, we often wonder what good we are to do anything. However, when God does the cleansing, we know we are clean. That is why “sin management” on our own is such a poor substitute for God’s cleansing fire. When we are trying to manage sin on our own, there is always the question of how clean is clean? Did we leave a little dirt in the corner of lust? Or forget to dust the shelf of unforgiveness?
Our passage from Isaiah indicates that as soon as the coal touched Isaiah’s lips, he knew he was no longer a man of unclean lips. He was ready to do anything God required because God Himself had cleansed him. That is the freedom that comes from letting God solve the goodness problem in our lives rather than trying to manage it on our own. It all begins with a declaration like Isaiah’s: “I am doomed, for I am a sinful man.”
1. If you were to suddenly find yourself in God’s presence, what do you think your “cleanness rating” would be on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being pretty dirty and 10 being spic and span?
2. Have you ever had the experience of complete cleansing by God? What happened?
Please write your comments, questions, and thoughts below.