My Lord and my God, forgive me. I forgot how good You are. I forgot the depths of Your compassion, understanding, and grace. I got caught in that same-old trap of work and performance. Neglected to be honest with You. Compartmentalized. Clung to my anxieties instead of casting them upon You. Failed to rest in Your arms. And now, I am so tired, Jesus. I need Your help. Turn my heart back to You. I crave the closeness. I miss my mind being continuously consumed with thoughts of my beautiful, incredible, passionate Savior. I am starving for Your word, Your voice, Your guidance. Fill me up to overflowing, again. I’m here, empty, broken, helpless, and desperate. I need You, as much now as in that sweet moment when You saved my sinful, battered soul. You are the fountain that never runs dry. You have the words of eternal life. You are humility personified. You put on a body just like mine to redeem me from darkness. Your precious hands were pierced, Your flesh torn to make me whole… and I haven’t honored Your sacrifice. I keep falling short. Yet, Your faithfulness is unconditional. Your character is constant. Your love is unconditional and continuously redemptive. You wash me clean, every day, reminding me to live a “daily gospel” life. Thank You, Jesus. I repent for looking at people and goals and plans and fears and doubts over You. I repent for turning Your blessings into idols in my heart. I surrender it all at this moment, and I invite You to search my heart and invade every part of my life. Interrupt me, Jesus, let me be open and available to be used by You. On campus, within friendships, in my relationship, in my family… before I am theirs, I am Yours. I love You, Jesus.
In the college atmosphere, we are facing temptations right, left, and center. Last semester, I had a mental image of me at Penn walking down Locust, wearing the armor of God with a target on my back for “the flaming darts of the evil one” that the shield of faith extinguishes (Ephesians 6:16). Yes, I know that sounds a little extreme, but it used to keep me grounded; “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). That being said, I started out this semester a little less intentional about my relationship with Christ on campus, and I struggled a lot with lies of unworthiness and self-righteousness. The girl in that mental picture no longer stood tall, but staggered painfully; some arrows of sin had made it past my shield of faith, I had a chink in my armor. Stained for my neglect of Him and His Word, I was ashamed and aimless on how to return to the Lord. Moreover, I didn’t want to acknowledge that I had failed.
It was only recently that I learned that “The Gospel” is not simply a one-time salvation of our souls, exchanging our sin for Christ’s perfect righteousness. It is also the continual cleansing and sanctification from both our own daily imperfections and the effects of living in a world still bound with sin. This “washing” of the Church, Christ’s bride, is done through the Holy Spirit as we read in the Bible: “having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:26-27).
This washing takes on a whole new meaning when we see Jesus washing the disciples’ feet before the Last Supper:
“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:3-5)
There was a custom, because of the open sandals that people used to wear at that time and the filth that would accumulate on their feet, that the lowest ranking household servant would pour water in a basin and wash the guests’ feet. Imagine the disciples’ reactions when the most honored guest took the role of the least regarded… His humility must have captivated the whole room, everyone staring at their Master in shock.
“He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” (John 13:6-9)
Peter knows just a fraction of Christ’s holiness and is well aware that he is not worthy of what Jesus is doing. John the Baptist had said that he wasn’t worthy to untie the strap on Jesus’ sandal, and now here is their Lord, without His outer garments, wearing a towel and washing and wiping their feet with the very fabric wrapped around His precious body. When He explains that this was necessary for Peter to belong to Jesus, Peter’s attitude flips entirely, desiring every part of him to be cleansed by his Lord.
Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” (John 13:10)
The “bathing” that Jesus is referring to here is believed to be the permanent and complete spiritual cleansing of salvation. At that moment, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell inside of us, and we are a new creation in Christ. Peter had already experienced salvation in this sense and no longer needed to be washed except for his feet. The feet are the only part of the body in constant contact with the world; spiritually, this signifies the stains of sin we experience simply by living in this broken world, which includes sins we have been exposed to without directly partaking in. This is the gospel message. Redemption in every moment, washing off every stain. And the One who cleanses us is our very Lord and Master because He so desires to present you spotless that He comes low to take care of us as we walk. He washed Judas’ feet even though he was about to betray Him; you don’t need to “earn” this washing. But we do need to receive it instead of resisting it.
God uses our stumbling to remind us of our weakness and His strength; He tests to teach us about His nature. However, we must also remember that as we grow in our relationship with the Lord, our accountability increases. Our Father knows that loving us well does not mean letting us slide when we know better, “for the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:6). This accountability doesn’t refer to a perfection of our works so that we never falter and our feet remain spotless, but rather that in the face of our mistakes, we are willing to humbly repent and receive the Lord’s correction. Peter also had to face the reality of needing Jesus and asking Him to perform that transformative work within us; he needed His Lord to wash Him, even though his pride initially fought it.
So we’ve reached this beautiful understanding of Jesus being the humble Servant and loving Father who desires to clean us from even the smallest blemishes only if we turn to Him instead of attempting to rectify ourselves outside of Him. We know that the Word is the way to do this; scripture searches our hearts and exposes the dirt that the Lord seeks to cleanse us of.
How often do we need this washing? Quite simply, every day. Sometimes, however, we fear the valleys and convictions, and rather than talking to God about that through prayer and the Word, we get wrapped up in our own melancholic perspective that is not in alignment with God’s nature… and that’s when guilt and condemnation and hopelessness seeks to paralyze us. In times of suffering or backsliding, you might even feel like you’ve “re-separated” from God after giving your life to Him because, recently, you haven’t taken the Lord seriously; you’ve acted petty instead of lovingly; you don’t “feel” like reading the Bible; the list goes on.
Paul calls out this thought process in Romans 8:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:35-37)
The scripture Paul cites about the sheep and slaughter is from Psalm 44, where the psalmist is lamenting to the Lord about His “absence” or “silence”: “Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?” (Psalm 44:22-24). This sentiment is all too familiar; everyone has faced a circumstance where they feel like God is “sleeping” and they are doomed for destruction. But Paul reminds us of who we are in Christ: we are “more than conquerors,” not because of anything we’ve done, or anything He’s done through us, but simply because of who Christ is, and how powerful His love is for us.
If you’re feeling a spiritual tug-of-war in your heart, one of the biggest lies you’ll be tempted to believe is that God is far from you. Please, please, don’t buy into that. If you truly understand the lengths He has gone to be intimately close to you for the rest of eternity, you will no longer shrink away from His presence in the light of your sin, but run to His presence for a fresh cleansing. He put on an earthy body for us. He wore a towel and washed feet caked with dirt and feces from horses and donkeys on the road. He went so low, and He adored doing it because that’s how great His love is for you. Your issues aren’t scaring Him off. He will never discipline you by leaving you; Jesus was forsaken by the Father on the cross so that, in surrendering our lives to Him, we would never be.
Take a moment to consider your walk–where have you stepped? Where have you sinned? What did you hear or see that hurt your spirit? Lift all of it in earnest prayer to the Lord, asking the Holy Spirit for this washing of water by the word of God.
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:12-16)
In Christ alone my hope is found He is my light, my strength, my song This Cornerstone, this solid Ground Firm through the fiercest drought and storm What heights of love, what depths of peace When fears are stilled, when strivings cease My Comforter, my All in All – “In Christ alone” by Celtic Worship