There are two things that the natural heart of every man, woman, and child wants. Our natural hearts want to be autonomous and clean. They want to be completely independent, and they want to be forgiven. One of these desires is insane, but in any case, these are mutually exclusive desires for sinful people.
Complete independence for a creature is impossible. Creatures are utterly dependent on their Creator. So the desire for autonomy is insane. You cannot stand on a skyscraper and then banish the sky scraper and pretend to be able to fly. You cannot disregard God’s law and summon up your own law out of thin air, as if that would help anything. And meanwhile, every act of defiance against God gnaws at the human heart to be made clean.
And so here we are: same song, umpteenth verse. And both of these desires are at work all around us. I remember the good old days when you used to be able to go to a fast food joint without getting a Sunday School lecture before ordering a cheeseburger. My family was at Yellowstone recently, and the visitor’s guide included these helpful instructions: no pushing or shoving.
We are fast approaching a situation where every non (self-consciously) Christian establishment has turned into an altar to false gods. You must post slogans, don masks (regardless of health or age), stand here and cross yourself three times and do your penance as you come through the door in great shows of false piety. But do not miss what they are promising: they are promising autonomy and cleansing. Of course, they do not say autonomy, they say “freedom,” but it is quickly becoming apparent that by “freedom” what they actually mean is slavery. And by “clean” they mean more guilt.
The gospel comes to this world with the same bracing good news it has always brought. And that is the good news that you are not God. You did not make yourself. You are a creature, a fallen, rebellious creature. There is no way to get clean apart from the blood of Jesus Christ. And you cannot come to the blood unless you bow your neck. But the good news is that there is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins, and all who plunge beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Those who bow their necks really do get clean, and those who are made clean, really are set free.