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In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.—2 Timothy 2:20,21
Whenever our pastor prays for church members heading out on travel—or off to college—or deployment—he prays for the Lord to keep them “close and clean.”
What does that mean? Close and clean?
Clearly our pastor’s prayer is not just for those venturing away from our church on assignment—it is for all of us.
Desiring purity—maintaining holiness—with our hearts focused on God’s character and His presence in our lives, is certainly our goal as Christians. In this current culture of moral decline, praying for the Lord to keep us close to Him, and clean in our thoughts and actions, is certainly a testimony to our relationship with Jesus Christ.
These Scriptures point us to seek closeness with our Lord, and to desire His cleansing, based on guarding our thoughts and actions—and keeping short accounts by confession of our sins:
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your word. I seek You with all my heart; do not let me stray from Your commands. I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:9-11).
“Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin . . . Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51: 2, 10).
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).
“Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8).
One of my favorite lessons on purity and holiness is from an old Virginia pastor named G. D. Watson (1845-1924), who came to salvation as a Confederate soldier. The writing is entitled, “Others may, but you cannot.” In it his admonition is clear—being close to God and clean in thoughts and actions requires—demands–a humility and obedience to the Holy Spirit which will separate us from others—even other Christians.
“If God has called you to be truly like Jesus in all your spirit, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility. He will put on you such demands of obedience that you will not be allowed to follow other people or measure yourself by other Christians. At times, He will let other people do things which He will not let you do.
Other Christians who seem to be very religious and useful may push themselves, pull wires, and work schemes to carry out their plans, but you cannot. If you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.
Others may boast of themselves, their work, their successes, their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing. If you begin to do so, He will lead you into a deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.
Others may be allowed to succeed in making great sums of money, or may have a legacy left to them, or may have luxuries, but God may supply you only on a day-to-day basis, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence on Him and His unseen treasury.
The Lord may let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hidden in obscurity because He wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory which can only be produced in the shade.
God may let others be great, but keep you small. He will let others do a work for Him and get the credit, but He may make you work and toil without knowing how much you are doing. Then, to make your work still more precious, He will let others get the credit for the work which you have done; this to teach you the message of the Cross, humility, and something of the value of being cloaked with His nature.
The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch on you, and with a jealous love rebuke you for careless words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over.
So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign and has a right to do as He pleases with His own, and that He may not explain to you a thousand things which may puzzle your reason in His dealings with you. But if you absolutely give yourself to be His child, He will wrap you up in a jealous love and let other people say and do many things that you cannot.
Settle it forever; you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit. He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue or chaining your hand or closing your eyes in ways that He does not seem to use with others. However, know this great secret of the Kingdom: When you are so completely possessed with the Living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of heaven, the high calling of God.”
So whether you are traveling today to faraway lands, or taking care of the home front, calling on God to keep you close and clean—and doing your part to stay close and clean—is part of your Christian walk. The Apostle Paul goes on to complete the verses, which are at the beginning of this posting, to write, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful” (2 Timothy 2:22-24).
May the Lord watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore (Psalm 121:8) and may He keep you close and clean as you continue to seek Him and serve Him. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Questions to Share:
1. When you are away from your established routines and guideposts, what temptations do you experience which cause you to forget the closeness of God or the peace of righteous living?
2. Pray for each other, whether by cell/text/email/Skype, to desire to maintain the self-control it takes to live rightly.