“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.” (James 4:8–9, AV)
When I worked in the area of field service for a company that manufactured printing equipment, I would often have to go out of town to take care of machinery problems. I would usually arrive in the city late at night and stay in a hotel room. The next morning, I would shower, get dressed and go to the printing facility. I would dive into the problem and before you know it, I would have grease and ink on my hands and clothing. It was impossible to stay clean for as careful as I might be, a little of the grime would get on me. So, before I left the plant at the end of the day, I would wash my hands and change my clothing before getting into the car to drive back to the hotel.
In the previous devotion, I mentioned that to draw near to God, one had to be saved by faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. He shed His blood on the cross so that we could be cleansed from the defilement of our sin, the sin that separated us from God (Heb 9:22; 1 John 1:7).
However, while we have been cleansed from sin, our struggle with sin has not gone away. We still live in a sin fallen world and come in contact with it every day. It pounds on us from those with whom we associate. It works on our minds with what we see and hear from the media. There are constant temptations that come upon us. And, yes, we do fail on occasion and sin. Moreover, this sin can adversely affect our ability to draw near to God.
Jesus alluded to such a problem in an encounter with Peter, when He washed the disciples’ feet at what we call “The Last Supper” (John 13:1-19). You might remember that when Jesus came to Peter, he refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet. To this, Jesus replied, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me” (John 13:8, AV). Then Peter asks Jesus to bathe his head, hands and feet. But Jesus then indicates that once a person has had a bath, he only needs his or her feet washed. The practical reason for this was that at a meal like the Passover the guests would ensure they were bathed, but their feet would become soiled after the bath as they walked to the feast. This is a picture of how the sinful world can affect believers.
Even though we as believers have been cleansed from sin when we trusted in Christ for our salvation, the sinful world in which we live can still rub off on us a bit. Yet, here is the good news. Jesus provides us, not just with cleansing from sin in the past, but also the sin we occasionally do in the present. In His death on the cross, He has dealt with our sin problem past, present and future.
To this end, John wrote to believers that when we sin, there is a remedy for cleansing. The remedy is confession. See the words of John. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, AV). While sin does not characterize the life of a believer, we will on occasion sin even as believers. When this happens, we have the ability to confess this sin to God and a promise of complete cleansing from it. Thus, Christ has made it possible for all of us to draw near to God with our hands cleansed and our hearts purified, even when we stumble in our Christian walk.