Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
Winter snow reminds me of Jesus’ precious gospel, announced 700 years ahead of His first coming by Isaiah, Christ’s prophet, in the Scripture above.
Isaiah reminds us that Jesus powerfully cleanses us by His life, death, resurrection, and ongoing ministry to us. Christ really does take away sin’s penalty and power from His followers, no matter how much bad we have done against God and against other people. Folks have a hard time believing that, so I tell counselees the sad but true story of Karla Faye Tucker (1959–1998).
Karla was convicted of murder and put to death in 1998, the first woman executed in Texas since 1863. Karla killed two people with a pickaxe and was so twisted in her thinking that she laughed while she committed this crime. On death row Karla came to saving faith in Christ and counselors asserted, “We don’t doubt the legitimacy of her conversion.” As Karla lay strapped on a gurney awaiting execution by lethal injection she said, “Lord, I am so, so sorry. Please forgive me. I’m going to be face to face with Jesus now. I love all of you very much and want to see you when you get to Heaven.” As the lethal chemicals were administered Karla was praising Christ her Lord and Savior.
I tell this story to remind us that no matter how morally dirty we are in our sin, Jesus’ blood washes us and makes us white as freshly fallen snow, clean as bleached wool. Christ does this at the beginning of our Christian life and everyday along the way when we return to Him. No matter how horribly we offend God. No matter how inhumane, cruel, or unkind we are to others in outward action or inner hatred, unforgiveness, bitterness, and resentment. The Lord makes us new people from inside out and He improves us constantly through this life until He takes us home to Heaven. Praise Him! Jesus also helps us to give total forgiveness to people who sin against us, no matter how badly they wound us. “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”1
Everything we think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood….We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on Christ the iniquity of us all.2
In the Bible, King David was a true believer who clearly knew God’s requirements. Yet he still coveted and stole another man’s wife, committed adultery with her, made her pregnant, had her husband killed, involved others in the crime, and lied to cover it up. Wasn’t he as bad as Karla Tucker? Yes! But David got honest about his wrong, confessed it to the Lord, turned from it, and begged for mercy. He prayed: O God, wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight….Cleanse me and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.3
David then received God’s assurance of pardon and acceptance: “The LORD has taken away your sin.”4 David was a man after God’s own heart5 who fell very badly, yet was reclaimed and restored by the Lord. That means there’s hope for you and me! God shows us His extreme cases of salvaging David in the Bible and like Karla Tucker in recent history so that all of us may call upon Jesus to get our souls washed daily, hourly, moment by moment.
Pride keeps Christians from admitting our sin and from accepting God’s forgiveness when we fall. We need to tell ourselves the truth about who we really are—simultaneously saints and sinners. Don’t let pride keep us from renewing and enjoying our relationship with Christ. Don’t pretend we are now past the need for Jesus’ ongoing grace, mercy, and peace in our lives. We are never above or beyond that need. Never.
Author Jerry Bridges recommends preaching the gospel to ourselves daily so we keep on experiencing the joy and power of walking with Christ. We don’t just need Jesus to save us at the beginning, then shift to human-centered self reliance. We never stop needing Christ’s cleansing. His mercy is our life and our lifeline to God in this world and even in the world to come.
Bridges asserts: When you seriously pursue holiness, you realize what an awful sinner you still are. Unless you are firmly rooted in Christ’s gospel of grace and learn to preach it to yourself every day, you will become discouraged and will slack off in following Jesus. Many Christians slip into that sad state. How about us? And if we keep experiencing God’s forgiving grace ourselves, the Holy Spirit also makes us more forgiving of other people, more gracious, more compassionate. The Spirit helps us practice Christ-like kindness, remembering that everyone we meet is fighting a hard battle.6
John the Apostle writes the following to Christ’s committed disciples:
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world….If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.7
John urges us to run Jesus again and again, even if we first began to follow Him years ago. John reminds us that Christ has saved us (past tense), is saving us (present tense), and will finally save us (future tense) when He returns in glory. So we must keep on trusting and obeying Jesus constantly.
This is Christ’s precious gospel that Isaiah announces, beloved! It’s good news and it’s true! May God help us to embrace it, to preach it to ourselves, to tell it to others, and to live in peace!
Notes: 1 Lewis B. Smedes. 2 Gen 8:21; Isaiah 53:6. 3 Psalm 51:1-7. 4 2 Sam 12:13. 5 Acts 13:22. 6 Adapted from Rev. John Watson. 7 1 John 2:1-2; 1:9.