Sermon for Sunday January 1st, 2012
Cleanse Me by Steve Shepherd
INTRO.- Cleanse me, fill me and use me is a prayer that we should be praying this year. God wants to use us in service but He can’t effectively use us until we are cleansed from sin and filled with His Spirit. The first step in being used by God in service is to be cleansed from sin.
Proverbs 30:11-13 “There are those who curse their fathers and do not bless their mothers; those who are pure in their own eyes and yet are not cleansed of their filth; those whose eyes are ever so haughty, whose glances are so disdainful.”
Pure in their own eyes and yet are not cleansed. There are many people who live like this. There are times when we may be like this! We are often think we are pure, but we may not be and we may not be fully cleansed from our sin! If we don’t bless our parents and we are haughty, prideful, etc. we are not cleansed from our sins!
Romans 3:9-12 “What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
This is a pretty strong indictment, wouldn’t you say? It sounds like we’re all guilty in the eyes of God. Every person’s name is in the phone book of sin.
ILL.- A past news article focused on Newt Gingrich’s rise in the polls as the Republican candidate for President. As his popularity rose, so did the scrutiny and he has a past, a not-so-good just like many people. The article stated: Gingrich’s "baggage has baggage."
Well, we all have a certain amount of baggage and some of us may well have “baggage on baggage.” Gingrich said of the news media: “I fully expect them to dig up everything they can, throw the kitchen sink at me and see if they can stop me.”
We don’t have to worry much about the news media but there is someone we should worry about!!!
Romans 3:23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
ILL.- "What’s wrong with the world?" a newspaper editorial once asked. G.K. Chesterton wrote in reply, "I am." DO YOU GET IT?
What’s wrong with the world is what’s wrong with everyone! It’s called sin whether we want to admit it or not.
Many people don’t recognize themselves as sinners. They may think they occasionally do something wrong but they don’t see it as a sin against God. Of course, if a person doesn’t believe in God then they definitely don’t think they have sinned. They may think they have made a mistake but they have certainly not sinned again anyone.
ILL.- A sign above an unreliable clock read: “Don’t blame my hands, the trouble lies deeper.” When we sin with our hands, we must understand that the trouble is much deeper. Sin is a matter of the heart.
Matthew 12:34 “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”
When we speak bad words, it’s not just a matter of the mouth or our speaking. It’s a matter of the heart. All sin is a matter of the heart. It starts in the heart.
Brothers and sisters, we need to be cleansed from our sins in order to please God and be used by Him. It’s as simple as that and yet it’s a hard task to perform. Overcoming sin is not easy.
PROP.- Several scriptures gives us the lowdown on cleansing.
1- The person of cleansing
2- The process of cleansing
3- The purpose of cleansing
I. THE PERSON OF CLEANSING
Matthew 8:1-3 “When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.”
We all are infected with leprosy; the leprosy of sin. And hopefully, we want to be cleansed of sin. One thing is sure: Jesus is willing and able! Jesus is very willing to make anyone clean!
ILL.- I remember while preaching in a small church in Iowa many years ago that we had two special visitors one Sunday. They were visiting with one of our young ladies who was attending Ozark Christian College and came home one weekend with her. But these two young people, brother and sister, were from Africa. Their names were Mike and Maria. Our church was small but as far as I knew these young people were welcomed quite well.
Later that next week, one of my older members stopped me on the street and wanted to know who those black people were in church last Sunday. Although, back then he didn’t use the term “black people.” I don’t think he meant anything very negative but he wasn’t opened-minded either.
Brothers and sisters, do you realize there are some people in our community that we might not want in our church? We might say that we are not prejudiced in any form, but most of us are. We are not always eager to welcome some people.
But Jesus was not that way. Thank God! If Jesus had been a respecter of persons no lepers would have been healed. No drunkards and adulterers would have been received into the kingdom of God! And we might not either!
Jesus stands head and shoulders over every human being because of His great love for mankind.
I would die for my kids and grandkids, but I don’t think I would die for Bernie Madoff, Charles Manson, Al Capone, Adolf Hitler and a multitude of others, BUT JESUS DID!
ILL.- A man over ninety years of age was asked by his preacher: “My old friend, do you love Jesus?” His deeply-furrowed face lit up with a smile that sixty-seven years of discipleship had imparted, and, grasping the preacher’s hand with both of his, he said: “Oh yes, but I can tell you something better than that.” He asked, “What’s that?” The old man said, “Jesus loves me!”
No matter how much we love the Lord, He loves us more. He loves ALL people more, most of all! Consequently, He went to the cross so we could be forgiven and cleansed of our sins. HE IS THE PERSON OF CLEANSING. He is the one person who can cleanse us from all our sins. No human person can absolve sin. Jesus is the only person who can do that for anyone.
II. THE PROCESS OF CLEANSING
ILL.- A little boy came running into the house after playing outside. His mother stopped him and asked what was on his right hand. He replied, “Oh, just a little mud.”
His mother then asked if he was planning on getting it off his hand. He thought for a moment and said, “Sure, Mom. I’ll just wipe it off with my other hand.” There was only one problem with the plan, one dirty hand plus one clean hand equals two dirty hands.
How do you get rid of the mud of sin from your life? It’s not as easy as some think and it’s not as hard some think. And how we can be cleansed every day for the Lord?
Initially, we are cleansed from our sins when we confess Christ and surrender to Him in faith and obedience.
Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Many people are reluctant to be baptized in water. Why? Often it is because they don’t see themselves as sinners and needing to be cleansed and/or they refuse to repent of their sin. Peter said, “Repent and be baptized.” Both are needed or necessary for cleansing. To repent is more than just to feel sorry for sin.
ILL.- Bernie Madoff is probably quite sorry that he was caught for stealing billions of dollars, but he is not sorry enough to repent and change his life. And that’s what true repentance is. It’s a change of the mind resulting in the change of a person’s life. Genuine repentance means a change is coming.
Now, what if? What if we sin after we confess Christ and are baptized? What do we do then?
I John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Fortunately for us, whenever we recognize that we have sinned we don’t have to be baptized again and again. If did need to be baptized over and over, we’d all just have one big pool party because we sin so often.
The Lord has made it simple for us. We can bow our heads wherever we are, confess our sin and ask for forgiveness.
ILL.- I remember it wasn’t long after I had been baptized into Christ in December of 1964 that I was stocking shelves at Safeway in Joplin, rejoicing in new found salvation and relationship to Christ and suddenly, one of those very large cans of pork and beans (I mean a BIG CAN) fell off the shelf and onto my big toe. And I said I very bad word! No one heard but God but I was quickly convicted of my sin, because I knew that I shouldn’t talk that way or say such words. I look both ways down that aisle and when I saw no one was looking, I bowed my head and prayed and asked for forgiveness and for strength to stop talking that way.
Isn’t it nice that we can do that anywhere, any time and God will hear, answer and forgive?!
Matthew 23:25-26 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”
How are we cleansed from sin? From the inside out!
ILL.- Does this sound familiar?
1999: I will get my weight down below 180.
2000: I will watch my calories until I get below 190.
2001: I will follow my new diet religiously until I get below 200.
2002: I will try to develop a realistic attitude about my weight.
2003: I will work out 5 days a week.
2004: I will work out 3 days a week.
2005: I will try to drive past a gym at least once a week.
2002: I will go to church every Sunday.
2003: I will go to church as often as possible.
2004: I will set aside time each day for prayer and meditation.
2005: I will try to catch the late night sermonette on TV.
During this time of the year, in fact, this day many people make resolutions that they will never keep: lose weight, exercise, eat less food or better food, do something for someone every day. Go visit in a nursing home once a week, demonstrate kindness to strangers as much as possible, etc., on and on. You name it and we promise to do it, but seldom do.
We have all these good intentions that never become good actions. WHY? Because they all deal with the outside aspect of our lives and not the heart! If we don’t get the heart right, we won’t get the actions right. And Jesus is the only person who can change the heart.
III. THE PURPOSE OF CLEANSING
2 Timothy 2:20-21 “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”
ILL.- “Ready, set, go!” Do you remember those words? When we were kids and we wanted to race someone on foot, one of us would say those words: Ready, set, go! You had to get ready. Then you had to get set in the running position. And then you took off when someone said, “Go!”
There is a process of readiness or preparation that we have to go through for everything in life.
ILL.- How do you get ready for work every morning? If you’re a man, more than likely you shave, shower, deodorize, comb your hair, and put on some clean clothes. Of course, I’ve known of some men who simply got out of bed and put on their clothes and headed out of the door. To me, that’s not good readiness. That’s not good preparation. If they didn’t shower or take a bath and put on clean clothes they might not smell too good.
ILL.- I knew of a man in a church who would work his cattle on Sunday morning before church and then go in his house, change clothes and come to church.
What was so bad about that? Well, he often stunk to high heaven and people in the church complained about him. He wouldn’t bathe or shower before he came to church to serve. And the problem wasn’t that he didn’t have a shower, because he did. He just cared more about his livestock than he did the Lord. At least, that’s the appearance and attitude he gave.
ILL.- Several centuries ago, a Japanese emperor commissioned an artist to paint a bird. A number of months passed, then several years, and still no painting was brought to the palace. Finally the emperor became so exasperated that he went to the artist’s home to demand an explanation. Instead of making excuses, the artist placed a blank canvas on the easel. In less than an hour, he completed a painting that was to become a brilliant masterpiece. When the emperor asked the reason for the delay, the artist showed him armloads of drawings of feathers, wings, heads, and feet. Then he explained that all of this research and study had been necessary before he could complete the painting.
THAT’S GOOD PREPARATION FOR DOING GOOD WORK! Can we do less when it comes to serving the Lord? Only our preparation starts with the cleansing process. Before God can ever use anyone we must first be cleansed of our sin. God doesn’t use perfect people because there are none, but He doesn’t use filthy dirty people either!
Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole;
I want Thee forever to live in my soul;
Break down every idol, cast out every foe—
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Do you truly long to be perfectly whole, cleansed from all sin? This is what the Lord desires of us. And it’s only way that He’ll be able to make something of us and use us in His kingdom.
What do you need to do to be cleansed from your sin? Do it today.
Steve Shepherd, Jonesboro Christian Church, AR