(Part 8 of the Cleansing of the Sanctuary Series)
Ask anyone what the human temple needs to be cleansed of and the likely answer would be? – sin. It is useful in this discussion to understand what sin is. Knowing what we need to be cleansed from will help us to know what cleansing agent(s) we need. An important question is “what constitutes the ‘dirt?'”
We have heard the terms “dirty mind” or “filthy mind.” It wasn’t too many generations after creation before mankind reached a very sorry state:
“And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen 6:5)
That could be describing a dirty mind. With such a state of mind, the tendency is to partake in much sin:
“How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?” (Job 15:16)
The Three Levels of Sin
Sin, can be thought of as existing on three levels:
- Sinful acts
- Sinful flesh
- Sinful attitude
Let’s briefly look at each of these.
Sinful acts – these (lying, stealing etc) are what naturally come to mind first; they are what we tend to focus on as the problem. We might think of God as keeping an account of sins. When people confess to God, generally they are confessing their sinful acts: “Please forgive me for …”
Sinful flesh – the flesh is really a reference to the mind. Most people think that they are a good person but the Bible says otherwise:
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9)
“O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (Matt 12:34)
The problem in our hearts (minds) leads to our sinful acts/words. That is obvious from scripture. And the problem starts very early; in fact, from conception:
“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psa 51:5)
“The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” (Psa 58:3)
“What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?” (Job 15:14)
Those verses speak of the general tendency towards sin which even has a genetic component (more about that in a later part of this series). Of course, a baby is not, at birth, guilty of having committed any sins.
So, we tend to get dirty very early in life. Among other evils, there is selfishness. Is there anything more selfish than a very young child? And there is a strong tendency for this to continue throughout life.
“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Rom 8:7)
The carnal mind cannot keep the law of God but – take heart – law keeping is possible by first changing the heart. This was, finally, the state of David’s heart:
“For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.” (1 Kings 11:4)
Sinful Attitude – we have an attitude about something or someone.
“manner, disposition, feeling, position, etc., with regard to a person or thing; tendency or orientation, especially of the mind: a negative attitude; group attitudes.” (www.dictionary.com)
Attitudes are often expressed as positive or negative; regarding people, we could use trust or distrust. Our attitude towards someone (trust or distrust) is formed from our concept (good/worthy or bad/unworthy) and the concept is formed from the information we have about the person.
That is where the cleansing first needs to happen – in our hearts, really our minds. If our misconceptions about God could be cleansed we could trust Him, even learn to love Him.
Sin Began in the Sanctuary of the Mind
Really that was Eve’s initial problem. She accepted misinformation about God which led to distrust of the word of God in preference to the lies of Satan. When that is cleansed and we have a clear and accurate understanding of Who God is and what He is really like, our sanctuary will be ready for Him to come in and begin the next stage of cleansing. This first stage involves, it could fairly be said, our judgment of Him – is He good? Is He worthy? Does He really love me?
So it is a wrong concept of God that messes up our thinking which then leaves us susceptible to sin. Thus, it would be better to categorize sin in this order:
- sinful attitude (distrust towards God)
- sinful flesh (fallen human nature)
- sinful acts
There will be more about this (and Eve’s experience) coming in part 14. That more-correct order is the order in which sin entered the human family and is reflected in this verse speaking of the Day of Atonement:
“For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD.” (Lev 16:30)
Notice the order clearly laid out in that verse:
- “make an atonement for you” (so that you may be in a state of oneness “at-one” with God)
- (in order) “to cleanse you” (the habits etc of the mind)
- (so) “that ye may be clean from all your sins” (stop sinning)
That shows the order in which the cleansing needs to happen. The work of atonement is done by someone else for you so that another work can be done – your cleansing – also by the action of someone else but with your permission.
You Can’t Clean Yourself Up
That the cleansing is not our own work is supported by a number of verses:
“Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure (H2891) from my sin?” (Pro 20:9)
Who can say “I am pure” (condition) as a result of what I have done (“I have made”)? This is a rhetorical question the answer to which is: no one can.
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” (Titus 3:5)
“How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb 9:14)
It is not you who purges your conscience but it is the work of Christ, specifically the effect of “the blood of Christ,” the blood representing the life (Lev 17:11).
Atonement is the First Step
Atonement is describing reconciliation, the state of being at-one. (See the definition/word study of atonement. That is a choice we make – to have a positive attitude about God. Then we are willing to look at God with more of a realization that He is indeed good in every way. An appreciation of that will change us (really our mind) so that we will have the motivation to change our thinking and do right and therefore sin in our lives will be curbed.
Often people will express that they love God, that they believe He is good but this is often done with incomplete information. They have been taught or conditioned to see God as good but have not formed that opinion based on their own reasoning and correct data. Therefore it does not have the effect on the level of trust that it could. If a person professes that God is love, that they love God and also hold the belief that if they reject Him, He will burn them forever, they have not thought it through very carefully.
Would it make sense for God to, however He does it, get people to the point of not sinning anymore including rewiring their minds so there is no more habitual tendency to fall into sin if, at that point, they still did not trust Him and really appreciate His goodness? What kind of relationship would that be?
Wouldn’t we, as parents, prefer to have our young children love and trust us even if they occasionally make mistakes rather than be perfectly obedient but fear and distrust us?
While we can and should do all we can to cleanse and maintain our physical body, there are limits to how far we can go with that. Not until the Second Coming will we receive our immortal bodies. We should also refrain from sin and follow God’s ways the best we can with His help. But even there we are handicapped by our fallen flesh, the habits we have and many other factors. Paul himself found that as he related the struggles he had with his flesh (Romans 7).
It is in our attitude towards God (really, do we trust in Him or not) where we can have the most success (because we can control that) at first and that will then aid our attempts in overcoming sinful thoughts and acts.
The sin (attitude) of unbelief = not trusting
“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” (John 3:18-20)
Consider that verse. Does it say “he that believeth not is condemned already, because he committed a sin”? No. Does it say “he that believeth not is condemned already, because he forgot to confess and repent of a sin”? No. It is because he hath not believed.”
This is Part 8 of the Cleansing of the Sanctuary Series
Return to Daniel 8:14 (the master page of the series) to continue