Just once I’d like to prove myself wrong. I have this theory that housecleaning is always a humbling and usually disgusting experience. And I have yet to disprove that by my own experiences. With five children and two dogs, my house certainly won’t pass any white glove inspections. I steam-mopped the house this weekend, and even though I had done so the previous week, I went through multiple mop pads in the process this time, and every one of them was black afterwards. The stuff I swept up beforehand was nothing to sneeze at, either. And my baby crawls on this every day? Disgusting! I could clean my bathrooms three times a day and they’d still have toothpaste on the counters and who-knows-what on the floor. No matter how I try to keep a counter clear of clutter, it seems like I turn around and there’s a mound of stuff. Sigh. Just once, can’t I prove myself wrong?
As I groused about all this today, I realized something. The same principle applies to my own life. No matter how many times I repent, I always return to the same old sins. No matter how many times I am washed clean by God’s forgiveness, somehow I always manage to get dirty again. And it doesn’t take very long, either. I could confess my sins three times a day and still carry with me the stench of sin. It’s discouraging, isn’t it?
The apostle Paul wrote of this struggle in Romans 7. After his discourse on “I do not do the good I want to do” in verses 15-20, he concludes in verses 21-25 like this:
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
What an apt picture of the life of a Christian. With our minds we serve the law of God, but with our bodies, the law of sin. That is the constant tension for a believer. We may strive all we want to rid ourselves of sin, but we will never achieve this. And that’s good in one sense. It stops us from relying on ourselves. Paul asks longingly, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” And the answer, of course, is Jesus.
No, we can’t stop sinning. Like my newly mopped floor that gets dirty within minutes, so it is with us. We confess our sins and then turn right around and yell at our spouse or kids. But take heart. In God’s eyes, you are already clean. 1 John 1:7b tells us that “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” And that’s one washing that will stay clean. Forever.