We were washing down the truck after a long day on the Kawama roads. Fine, misty rain. Instant rinse.
“You sure that’s worth the effort?,” asked a visiting friend. He was joining our faculty for ten days at the college and knew about our rainy-season mud holes. “I’d say you guys are fighting a losing battle!”
But our car-wash team was not to be dissuaded, blasting water on the wheel wells and pushing the soapy sponge into the rims. I assured our friend that you just have to keep on top of the mud. Otherwise, your vehicle changes colour in the course of a week, from white to reddish-brown — a very popular colour these days!
“Besides,” I said, “it’s always nice to start the day clean. The vehicle runs better, you feel better — it’s only right! The deeper the filth, the more frequent the washes! It’s like sanctification!”
Later, I thought our muddy analogy was pretty good! Sanctification in the modern world? This is it exactly! “The deeper the filth, the more frequent the washes!” Who would deny that our 21st Century filth must be deeper than ever? As British author Stephen Bayley puts it, “If you were born in Britain after World War II, you see a continuous atmosphere of decline — moral and economic and political.” Radio host Erwin Lutzer says of America, “Our culture is now dominated by television and movies whose profanity and lewdness tramp God’s honor into the mud every single day, inculcating non-Christian values from infancy.” And, alas, such decline is another “benefit” of globalization.
No wonder a daily moral wash is a must. When you move up and down in a world like ours, you might even need “The Deluxe Wash” — complete with soap, wax and rust inhibitors! Much-read theologian Wayne Grudem puts it thus: “Christians have a daily personal role in sanctification. We need to ‘strive for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord’ (Heb 12:14).” He notes the call to “abstain from immorality” and so obey the will of God: “Those who hope to be like Christ when he appears will ‘purify themselves as he is pure’ (I John 3:3).” “Shun immorality,” says Paul to the Corinthians, “and do not to partner with unbelievers…”. “Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit and make holiness perfect in the fear of God” (II Cor 6-7). “Make every effort to grow in godliness,” says the apostle Peter (II Peter 1:5). In The Message paraphrase James calls upon us, to “throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage” (1:21). And all of this, says Grudem, is “the regular process of sanctification and maturity, producing ‘faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil’ (Heb 5:14).
Keeping a clean car, keeping a clean life — it seems there are no short-cuts. Sunday morning wash-downs will not do. We just need to turn aside daily to the old-fashioned, time-honoured means of Bible reading and mediation, “cleansed by the washing with water through the word” (Ephesians 5:19). Add to that prayer, worship, witnessing, fellowship, self-discipline — these are the regular Christian wash cycles that keep life clean.
Oh, it takes a bit of effort, washing off the grunge. But the results are well worth it. In fact, Grudem concludes his discussion on sanctification with how good it feels! “The more we grow in likeness to Christ, the more we will personally experience joy and peace… the closer we get to our life in heaven… It’s all about ‘righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’… As we grow in holiness, more and more of the beauty of Christ’s character is seen in our lives. This is the goal of maximized living!”
As for my Isuzu, it just runs better clean! Wheel-wells sprayed down, tires clear of caked-on mud, the hood and intake screen blasted free of dirt, steering mechanism unclogged — the truck takes off with a roar of gratitude! “Thank you, I needed that!” It’s like it’s youthful energy and vitality have been restored! It’s bright white identity is resplendent again! All that gross rusty-red, all that splashed-up filth over the license plate and grill and hood — all gone, cleansed and washed away!
“You are washed! You are sanctified!,” exults the apostle Paul to his young believers. “You are justified!” (I Cor 6:11) It reads like a celebration of a power wash! It’s a recovered identity! You are now recognizable as squeaky clean, authentically you! And that is the best feeling on earth.
So let us never think that we somehow function better under camouflage. That we fit in better dirty. That we can forego the daily cleanse. That we’re fighting a losing battle against filth. That we can just let the mud pile up.
Take it from our college road: you are much better clean.