Wash Before Using
by Pastor Steve Schantz
Rom 6:1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (NIV)
1 John 3:19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (NIV)
Residents of the Southeast know that the annual spring strawberry season is upon us. At a time when new infectious diseases give the general public pause, we pay more attention to those warning labels on food products with renewed interest. Glued to the clear plastic wrap surrounding an absolutely beautiful box of strawberries was the label informing me to “Wash Before Using”. Because these containers were designed for distribution across the Canadian border, the instruction was also scribed in French with use of the infinitive tense of the verb “to wash” – Laver Avant Usage. We do this to our hands as well in a lavatory hoping to remove the visible and especially any invisible bacterial threat. Somewhere my high school French teacher is smiling.
When we got them home, these well ripened giants out of Watsonville, Georgia actually tasted as good as they looked! Of course we washed them first, delicately but thoroughly, and with stained red fingers we smiled in two languages.
The human conscience seems unlimited in its ability to feel and retain the stain of guilt. Author C.S. Lewis addresses this proclivity in his pinnacle collection of truths presented decades ago within the chapters of Mere Christianity. Other pastors and theologians agree that our sense of guilt is one evidence that we were made to relate at the conscious level to a good creator, but long ago we messed with the model and now struggle as damaged goods. When God reveals Himself to any of us there is something that happens in our conscience which begins dealing with our problem. The Spirit who is God works on our human conscience to unveil who and what our loving Father is like, through His Son, and by His Spirit.
Rom 8:16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
The condemning conscience is just one tool in the toolbox of our thought processes, intended to serve us, but not intended to be our norm. With this consciousness comes the perception of our tenacious bent for self-destructive thinking and acting, but more importantly, the creator God who has always loved us comes running out to meet us in our need. He grants us repentance – a change of heart and mind toward who He is and what we are here for. Then He washes us up for use. Actually, the washing part took place a long time ago in the baptism of Jesus. Paul reminds us in Romans chapter 6 that we werebaptized into Christ, and His fulfillment in the cleansing of spiritual dirt remains a personally applicable cleansing revealed to us and fulfilled in us by the Spirit. The person of Jesus, the 2nd Adam, now lifts us up into His life with the Father and through the Spirit. What was very good in the early chapters of Genesis now becomes permanently good through the life, death, and resurrection of the only one who is truly God and truly human.
God loves you. He loves and participates in and with His creation- you and I. God is not an anti-matter being in the sky, aloof, distant, and anxious to put your guilty conscience into an eternal state of suffering. He is like the Father of the prodigal son Jesus presents to us in Luke 15 who runs out to meet his wandering prodigy in spite of this son’s failure. (Read that chapter again and see how this son discovers what his Dad is really like. He doesn’t quite know what to expect when He returns home!) The only begotten and beloved son became God with us to help us understand and receive the Father’s love.
Like the Father of the prodigal, our Heavenly Father also beckons us to a well-prepared feast. (Of course He washes us up first, doing something for us that we could never do because we are the creation, not the creator.) Then He invites us to share life with him – unending! He enjoys living in and with His people. This is not a God made with human hands, but He is the God who donned a pair of hands, opposing thumb and all. Enjoy a good bowl of strawberries this spring – wash them first- then share them with someone you love!