Can God really use me? Have you ever wondered that? We’re going to find an answer to that question in John 15:3.
Already you are clean because of the Word I have spoken to you.
Last week NBA great Paul Pierce explained a mystery from his playing days with the Boston Celtics. In a 2008 finals game against the Lakers, he was wheeled out mid-game without any explanation. The reason? A bathroom emergency.
I know what you’re thinking. Pastor. This is church. Nobody came here to hear the preacher talk about bodily fluids. I know. Stay with me.
In my experience, many of us walk into church on a Sunday morning a lot like Paul Pierce went into the locker room 11 years ago. Maybe not physically, but emotionally and spiritually. We’re embarrassed about some things in our lives and we walk in always keeping a certain side of us out of view. I just need to sneak in and out without anybody noticing.
The problem is, you can’t live a fruitful life like that. You can’t live a joyful or honest life like that. But there’s good news; you don’t have to live your life like that.
Last week Daniel explained the warning found in verse 2. There are some in church who feel content in their proximity to Christianity. They’ve grown up in church, they’ve put in their time and their dime and are good to go. The problem is proximity to Christ does not equal an identity in Christ. It is entirely possible to spend your life in church and never have an authentic experience of faith in Christ. A person in this position will someday hear the terrifying words from the mouth of Jesus, “away from me, I never knew you.” It is this person Jesus is trying to shake out of their false contentment in verse 2.
In verse 3, Jesus turns to a different kind of person in church. He is speaking now to those who have no contentment in their relationship with Christ. They are discontent with their spiritual maturity, they are discontent with their fruitfulness. This person often fears that their ongoing weaknesses and stumbles into sin reveal that they are not authentic. This is the person who walks into church with a sense of shame, fighting to conceal the stain of their guilt.
This person needs to hear three things in verse 3.
1. You are clean.
This is a powerful, powerful statement. The Scriptures teach us that the greatest problem we have in life is the record of sin before a holy God. We face many problems in life – unemployment, crippling debt, relationship heartache. But none of them compare to the problem of sin. Let’s take a walk through the Scriptures to see how God deals with that problem.
“The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron; with a point of diamond it is engraved on the tablet of their heart, and on the horns of their altars,
The stain of our sins are engraved on the tablet of our hearts. And what’s worse, we don’t have the resources to fix the problem ourselves.
Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord GOD.
The good news is that God does have the resources to cleanse the stain of sin. There is a liquid that can clean a soul from the stain of guilt.
and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
1 John 1:7
Who can benefit from that blood of Jesus? Anyone who confesses their need for that blood and their faith in its power.
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
When we make that confession of faith, we experience a cleansing that gives us a new identity and allows us to draw near to God, without shame.
let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
As far as God is concerned those in Christ are clean forever, just as if nothing ever happened.
“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.
“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
Those who trust in Christ are clean. You are clean. Not only that, John 15:3 tells us
2. You are clean now.
Already you are clean.
There is a tension here that you have to understand before you can really grasp this reality. That tension is captured perfectly in Hebrews 10:14.
For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
The word sanctified in this verse means to make holy, or to make perfect. So another way you can translate verse 14 is:
“For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being made perfect?”
How does that work?
Hebrews recognizes the reality that in one sense we have been perfected forever. We have a new nature, clean and pure and incorruptible.
even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him
In the eternal sight of God we are now holy and blameless.
But that isn’t necessarily our day to day experience, is it? We still must learn to live in accordance with our new identity. We have to relearn our habits and become who we are – it’s a process.
But by nature, fundamentally and essentially, we are clean.
Already you are clean!
But I haven’t gotten on top of my addiction.
Already you are clean!
But I haven’t yet gotten my language cleaned up.
Already you are clean!
But I feel unclean, LORD.
Child, are you listening? ALREADY YOU ARE CLEAN!
In Christ, you are clean. You are clean now. And finally,
3. You are clean now, because of the Word Christ has spoken.
Why are we clean in Christ? Is it because of our good works, is it because of our efforts to reform ourselves and grow in holiness?
The answer is that we are clean, not because of anything we have done, but because of what Jesus has done. With a word from His mouth, Jesus can change everything. He can cleanse a soul. We see that in Ephesians 5.
Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
An even better picture of the power of Christ’s Words is in the gospel of Matthew. In chapter 8, Jesus encounters a man who practically carries the word ‘unclean’ branded on his forehead. A leper in Jesus’ time was a danger to society because of their uncleanness. It was contagious. A leper had to shout the word “unclean” when others were nearby to warn them away, to allow others to stay far away. What did Jesus do when the leper came to him?
When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
Jesus reached out to touch the man who could not remember what human touch felt like. And with a word, he transformed the man’s nature. Because of that Word, the man was now clean.
Friends, in Christ you have been touched by that power. Those words have been spoken to and over you. I am willing, be clean.
Our job now is to stay close to those words. Our circumstances build up and confuse our sense of identity, but each time we return to the Word of Christ we wash away the outer accumulation to remember who we are. Clean.
Are you close to the Word? Are you opening the Word on a regular basis?
You cannot live a fruitful life without that regular abiding in the Word of Christ.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown