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The science and procedures involved in providing pure drinking water for our county are amazing. The Water Utility's laboratory uses several chemical and physical processes to greatly reduce or eliminate such contaminants as viruses and bacteria, salts and minerals, industrial waste discharges, pesticides and herbicides, petroleum production by-products and run-offs, and radioactive elements. In one recent year my county's laboratory analyzed the water over 180,000 times to assure purity. (1)

We know clearly that the untreated water of our social environment does not pass the test for healthy Christian consumption, but we may not know how to make things better. We need a specialist. Our heavenly Father has already made the water of life available through the gift of Jesus. We need Him. As we know, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). It is therefore just as much a part of Christian practice to ask for cleansing as it is to ask for forgiveness.

Spiritual Contamination Threatens Us

Think how much of our daily lives is devoted to cleanliness. Our carpets get dirty and need to be cleaned. Our blood vessels accumulate cholesterol and we need to exercise more and change our diet. Our air becomes filled with impurities, so our factories and vehicles are re-engineered to reduce harmful emissions. There's even acid in the rain.

Despite our best intentions, our inner selves are continually subject to contamination too. Were it not for the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, our carnal nature would take the upper hand and bring spiritual corruption and disease upon us.

The human body is host to certain viruses lying dormant, waiting for the opportunity to cause disease. The herpes simplex virus, type 1, is an example. It causes cold sores (fever blisters). Once a person is infected, usually in childhood, the virus remains dormant until the body's disease defenses are weak. Then it breaks out and cold sores appear. (2)

Should we be surprised to learn that the same thing happens in our spiritual bodies? In the Bible we hear urgent calls by sinners like us for God to rid them of spiritual contamination. The Scriptures teach us about becoming "pure in heart" (Matt. 5:8). They reveal that having a clean heart (Ps. 51:10) is a joint endeavor of the Lord and His child.

The Lord Works to Cleanse Us

Here are scriptures that describe the Lord's work in cleansing us:

Titus 2:14: He "gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds."

Ezekiel 36:25: "I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you."

Psalm 51:2, 7: "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin." "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."

Psalm 139:23, 24: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

Isaiah 1:22, 25: "Your silver has become dross. . . . 'I will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy."

We Work to Cleanse Ourselves

Here are scriptures that describe our work in cleansing ourselves:

James 1:27: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."

Jeremiah 4:14: "O Jerusalem, wash your heart clean of wickedness so that you may be saved. How long shall your evil schemes lodge within you?"

James 4:8: "Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded."

2 Corinthians 7:1: "Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and of spirit, making holiness perfect in the fear of God."

1 John 3:2, 3: "Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure."

1 Peter 1:22: "Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart."

Identifying Harmful Impurities

The Lord has made ample provision for His people to call for His help in identifying their defilements and to cry to Him to cleanse them of their self-serving ways and un-Christlike attitudes.

What are some of the impurities that contaminate the heart of a child of God? They are thoughts and attitudes contrary to the ideals found in Christ's Beatitudes: "poor in spirit," "humble," "merciful," and "peacemakers." They are mixed motives that are half selfless and half selfish. They are purposes and plans that are not in harmony with the Scriptures. They are images of sinful behavior, pressing in upon us from magazines and TV. They are secret wishes for ungodly pleasure. Contamination is present in our hearts and minds whenever we cling to what is contrary to the will of God.

Many feel little desire to give purity an important place in their Christian lives. They haven't actually formed the words in their minds, but they live from day to day as though the words were there: "I'm doing well enough. Jesus will make up the difference." Like the patient with high blood pressure, they feel comfortable not making any effort to reduce their risk. They will never be all they could be if they harbor excuses about impurities in their souls.

Why Should We Respond to This Call?

An important reason to respond to God's desire for a pure people is this: As the hidden recesses of our inmost self are swept clean, we become more useful to God. It may seem that what's hidden within is a matter only between us and God. Not so. Just as a highly creative computer programer is an excellent recommendation for the training she received, so a cleansed and pure believer is an excellent recommendation for Christianity before a corrupt generation. What may seem to be hidden from sight still affects the daily life and may be seen by others. As James warned us: "Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? . . . No more can salt water yield fresh" (chap. 3:11, 12).

What better example of this principle can we find than Daniel: "So the presidents and the satraps tried to find grounds for complaint against Daniel in connection with the kingdom. But they could find no grounds for complaint or any corruption, because he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption could be found in him" (Dan. 6:4).

Why Do We Avoid Cleansing?

Childish we are, like the little boy next door. Over the fence we hear a frustrated Mom giving pointed instructions about how her reluctant son is to get from the puddle in the back yard into the bathroom without tracking mud everywhere.

"I'm not dirty, Mommy," he insists.

We sinners don't stand in line to take spiritual baths. It's too much trouble. We neglect to scrub. The water's too hot. Do we think that the loss of the dirt and grime is going to make us ugly, deformed? Are we afraid of being teased because we're spick and span? If we don't or won't address the matter of personal purity, who will?

Like all aspects of the Christian life, the continuing process of purification is a cooperative work with the Lord. When we discover rot or mold or damage within, we may call upon Him to repair, to cleanse.

Clean in the Arms of Jesus

We are not to be distressed or discouraged as we continue to find ugly spots deep within. No. We eagerly consecrate ourselves to God each day and ask Him to cut out those malignant spots of self. All the while, we are safe in the confidence that Jesus' blood is cleansing the inner recesses of our hearts.

"Daddy, I'm ready to get out of the tub now!" the little boy calls.

"OK. I'll be right there."

Daddy strides into the bathroom carrying a soft white bath towel. He shampoos his hair, helps him out of the tub, and rubs him dry. Then, with teasing and giggles, the nearly dry child and the getting-damp Daddy embrace.

"You're clean," says Daddy. "Mommy will be proud of you!" And off the two go, the little boy wrapped in the white robe of his Daddy's approval.