“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)
Well, it’s that time of year again when we think about cleaning and/or throwing away. You can tell it by all the storage and organizational products on display in the stores. Time to take stock and do some deep cleaning, not just the regular dusting and straightening of those things on display. Whether or not this is part of your home routine, it might be a good time to think about looking past the outward demeanor of our lives and peering into the dark recesses of our heart. Are you up for a little deep cleaning?
Paul tells us in this verse that “filthiness” is not just skin deep. It can describe either our flesh or our spirit. Anyone who is willing to give the Word of God an honest reading will not find it hard to identify “sins of the flesh,” a term Paul uses in Colossians 2:11. These obviously need to be cleansed. But, unfortunately, spiritual sins are not so easily spotted, and can be passed off as temperament, personality quirks, or acquired traits from childhood. The trouble is, Paul says these inner stains are just as filthy; especially when you realize they’re like a dormant cancer, ready to metastasize throughout the body.
A good picture of this verse in 2 Corinthians is the story of the Prodigal Son. He was a prime example of someone who displays overt sins of the flesh. A typical party-goer, whoremonger, and finally, “skid-row bum.” Anybody could see this boy was filthy! But how about his self-righteous, unforgiving older brother, who whined because his father dared to celebrate his kid brother’s sincere repentance? We can make all the excuses in the world for his rotten attitude (after all, he hadn’t broken his father’s heart), but according to Paul, he was a candidate for a good cleaning, too.
Notice Paul instructs you and me to “cleanse ourselves.” Obviously, we’re not talking about anything that will gain you entrance into Heaven, because that deep of cleansing can only be done by the Spirit of God, utilizing the Blood of Jesus Christ. This makes us fit for Heaven. No, the cleansing Paul is talking about makes us fit to live with here in this life. And this goes way beyond man made, pick and choose standards, to hard-core sins, like bitterness, hatred, lust, envy, lying, cheating, grudging, discontent, and unbelief.
As you well know, cleaning is an ongoing project. The table you dusted two days ago is already dusty again; and I would venture to say, the closet you cleaned a few months ago doesn’t look now the way it did then. Which one will you get to first? The dusty table, right? Partly because it’s easer, but mostly because that’s what people see. And the same is true of our lives. We all want to be known for our “clean living.” If Paul had just not thrown in that part about the “spirit,” when he was talking about filthiness!
“…for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). I guess it all depends on who it is you’re trying to impress… and how deep you’re willing to clean.
“God is not deceived by externals.” C.S. Lewis