And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” Mark 7:20-23 (Read v. 14-23)
It is not enough to be cleansed on the outside. Cleansing one’s hands before eating will not make a person clean before God. Our real problem is the uncleanness and sinfulness of our hearts.
Jesus explains in Matthew 15:17-20: “Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”
Our sinful nature, inherited from Adam, is the cause of our uncleanness before God and moves us to commit all sorts of sinful acts.
St. Paul, quoting the Old Testament Scriptures, further explains man’s sinfulness in Romans 3:10ff. In Jeremiah 17:9, God’s Word says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Or, as David wrote in Psalm 51, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (v. 5).
That is why we need to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus which was shed on the cross for the sins of the world (cf. Hebrews 9:22). Because of our sin-infected hearts, we cannot be clean of ourselves and we cannot cleanse ourselves. The only way to be counted clean before God is to have our sins washed away in Jesus’ blood.
Again, as God’s Word says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). And why is this so? “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).
As the 1876 hymn of Robert Lowry states in its opening verse, “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus; What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
O dearest Jesus, grant that we not attempt to be clean by our own works but rather acknowledge the sinfulness of our hearts and trust in You and Your shed blood for pardon, forgiveness and cleansing. Amen.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.