“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” 1 John 3:2-3
We, on our own, cannot purify ourselves. But what the verse above is teaching us is that we do need to take the steps necessary to put ourselves in a place where we can be purified. The driving force for a Christian to be purified is the continual realization that when we stand ourselves next to the perfection of Christ we are so muddy and disgusting that we are shameful of our internal heart appearance.
Our first natural reaction to seeing ourselves as dirty as we are, is to use our own hands and start scrubbing off all of the filth. The problem with just scrubbing through is that no matter how long and how hard you scrub, you will not get all the dirt off by scrubbing alone. To get totally clean you instead need to put yourself in a situation where you remove all of your coverings and allow water and soap to do the actual work of removing the dirt and washing it away. Only then can you really be clean.
Getting physically clean requires us to be submissive to the work of the soap and the water, just as getting spiritually clean requires us to be submissive to the work of Jesus Christ. On our own we can scrub and scrub, but all we are going to get is raw skin with the dirt ground into it. On the other hand, adding just a bit of soap and water not only takes all of the dirt away, the process also conserves our energy and does not do damage to our skin.
Spiritually we need to approach the cleansing process in the same manner. We cannot cleanse ourselves no matter how hard we try. We are only going to end up raw, irritated, and worn out from all of our efforts. Instead we need to submit to the work Jesus did on the cross and to allow the grace, forgiveness, and mercy of the Lord to renew us, cleanse us, and regenerate us. The key to the process is uncovering your heart and allowing God to reveal how dirty you are in comparison to Jesus and then letting that shame to push you into letting Him wash you as you cannot wash yourself.
Being purified by Christ is not a one-time thing. Every day we are muddied by the sin in our lives and therefore we need to keep our hearts bare before the Lord so we are never deceived that we are clean enough. Each time we then see the dirt we again need to go through the cleansing process. Keeping clean has to be task we are passionate about. If we are not passionate, we find ourselves responding like the little child that says, “But I don’t want to take a bath.” But, if we set the gold standard on the perfectly cleansed Son of God then all the more we can be motivated to putting ourselves back in the bath so God can work His cleansing processes on us.