Unclean Hearts: What Can Wash Away Our Sins?

If you have grown up in church, you were probably absolutely bombarded with the message that Jesus washes away sins. We’ve all heard the lyrics, “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” That’s all good considering that’s the gospel. However, there has been something that I have realized recently that has changed my perspective completely.

What is it that has made us dirty? Any good church-going Sunday school kid would say “sin.” This is where the problem comes in. We cannot believe that what we do is what makes us unclean. Before you start screaming heresy, please continue reading.

It is not our actions that have separated us from Jesus. It is our sinful nature. We are inherently sinful. You may be thinking that there isn’t much a difference between those two things. Everyone sins, so it works the same to say that the sins we commit separate us from Jesus, right? So wrong.

The problem with this thinking is that it leads to shame rather than freedom. If we believe that what we do is what dirties us, then every time we sin, we are going to feel like we have dirtied our holiness. We were never holy. We were born into sin. We were born dirty. We were born unclean and unworthy. Even if we never sinned in our lives, we are still not holy.

I have found that every time I sin, usually the “bigger” ones, I feel like I have somehow spotted my perfection. I feel like I’ve messed up some sort of “I didn’t sin for this long” streak. This is a huge issue because instead of focusing on Jesus in sin, it makes us run from God. When we think that we have somehow failed God by sinning, then we fear God in an unhealthy manner. We run away in shame.

We have to understand these things:

1. God knows that we are going to sin. We aren’t failing him by sinning. He already knows we are going to, and his grace is bigger than any sin.

2. We are not perfect. When we mess up, we don’t suddenly make ourselves unclean. Yes, we should repent and feel conviction, but we must understand that we were never holy to begin with.

3. Although we are striving for perfection and holiness, we aren’t there yet. We are going to sin. We are going to lie to ourselves. We are going to justify the things we do. Sin isn’t always going to be subconscious. We are sinful in our hearts. We are going to blatantly and consciously sin at times. God still forgives that.

The most important thing to realize is that the condition of our hearts is what has separated us from God, not our moral imperfection. Our moral imperfection is what shows us that our hearts are inherently sinful. We are unclean in the very fibers of our being, completely separate from our actions. Our actions and failure to adhere to the moral commands of God are simply to show us that we are not holy and that we need Jesus. That is the purpose of the law: to show us our need for Jesus. It is not to try to live perfectly in order to not spot these perfectly white robes that we seem to think we wear. That leads to legalism, not to Jesus.

Following God should lead to guilt that pushes us to repentance, not to shame that leads us to run from God. We must realize that God’s grace is bigger that ALL of our sin. Our sin does not continue to separate us from God. Once we are made new in him, we can never lose that. God sees us through the lens of his perfect grace. We are to strive to be holy, but at the same time we must realize that we are not there yet, nor have we ever been. We are not in the process of trying to stay holy. We are in the process of trying to become holy.

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4 thoughts on “Unclean Hearts: What Can Wash Away Our Sins?

  1. This reminded me of one of the most moving statements I’ve heard in a hymn (by John Newton):

    True, I’ve been a foolish creature,
    And have sinned against God’s grace,
    But forgiveness is his nature
    Though he justly hides his face:
    Ere he called me, well he knew
    What a heart like mine would do.

    Thanks for this.

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