The Bible Doesn’t Say That: Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness

The Bible Doesn’t Say That: Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness 

Origination Of The Saying:
The saying “cleanliness is next to godliness” does not appear in the Bible. The expression is an archaic proverb found in Babylonian and Hebrew religious tracts. Its debut in the English language, in a modified form, is found in the writings of philosopher and scientist Sir Francis Bacon. In Advancement of Learning (1605) he wrote, “Cleanness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God.” Almost two hundred years later (1791), John Wesley made a reference to the expression in one of his sermons in the form we use it today. Wesley wrote, “Slovenliness is no part of religion. Cleanliness is indeed next to Godliness."

How many of you are going to eat right after church is over? How many of you will be heading to a local restaurant?  So, most of you are eating and most of you are eating out.  Very good.  How many of you are like me and when you eat out you look for one very important document?  It usually hangs very prominently at the front of the restaurant and has a giant red number one it.  That’s right, it is the health code ratings.  I am wondering, how many of you would eat at a place with a rating less than 90?  Most of us would.  How many of you would eat at a place with a rating less than 80?  Yep, most of us wouldn’t.  You see that rating is symbolic of something that we all think is important.  It is symbolic of the cleanliness of that restaurant.  Cleanliness is something that we all value.  It is important to us when we eat. It is important to us when we travel.  

Most of us want a clean room when stay at a hotel.  

We love new cars right because they are clean and possess that new car smell.  

Chances are most of you took a shower before you came to church this morning.  Some of you need to shower more often.  Just kidding.  

Cleanliness may not be next to godliness, but we can all agree that cleanliness is important.  

Cleanliness is IMPORTANT!

Transition Statement:
The Bible actually talks a lot about cleanliness.  Scripture tells us that God is no so concerned with external cleanliness but rather internal…spiritual cleanliness.  That is what we are going to look at today.  How can a person be clean before God?  What makes us stand dirty before the Father? What is God’s reaction to a stained dirty person?  Let’s read together from Luke 15:1-7.  

Luke 15:1-7 NIV
1Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Background of Text:
When reading Luke 15 you need to realize that it is linked to the parables proceeding the chapter.  These parables explain how Jesus associates with sinners.  Remember, being dirty or unclean is often associated with sin and sinning.  The amoral, those who have no values are considered dirty in most any culture.  Jesus is spending time with tax collectors and so called “sinners”.  The religious elite would have never spent time with these sorts of people.  Yet, here was Jesus, surrounded by what most believed were unclean.  He was surrounded by what many would term as “ungodly”.  

The Pharisees looked upon their traditions and their ability to follow the law as the thing that made them clean.  The believed by outward piety and great showings of holiness that they would be seen as clean before God.  The Pharisees were certainly not afraid to let everyone know how special and clean they were.  

You have to also remember who wrote this book.  Luke, a Gentile and a doctor.  Luke included stories like this one to illustrate that Jesus came even for the Gentiles.   A Gentile is anyone who is not a Jew. Again, Pharisees were not just elitists religiously but racially as well.  It was terrible that Jesus would spend time with sinners and tax collectors, but He would also make Himself available to Gentiles.  

The Parable:
Jesus begins this parable with a pastoral scene that would have been familiar in Palestine. A shepherd had a hundred sheep--a count that would indicate he is modestly wealthy, since the average flock ranged from twenty to two hundred head. Such flocks were an economic resource, since they provided wool and mutton. During the count as he gathers the sheep at day's end, the shepherd notices that one is missing. Jesus' original hearers probably assumed that the shepherd asks a neighbor to keep an eye on the ninety-nine so he can search for the missing sheep, though the story does not offer this detail. The sheep needs to be found; otherwise it may be permanently lost or attacked by hungry predators. It is risky to be a lost sheep.

The search proves fruitful: the shepherd finds the sheep and lifts it onto his shoulder to bring it home. Given the possibility that the sheep could have been devoured, the shepherd rejoices at finding it.

The parable pictures God's desire to find sinners and bring them back into the fold. Thus the owner throws a party, asking his neighbors to celebrate with him since the lost sheep is found. In the same way, Jesus says, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. When a sinner turns to God, heaven throws a party. The prospect of such joy keeps Jesus associating with sinners.

Transition Statement

Before we move on, I want you to remember 3 things about being dirty. 

1. Being dirty seems fun.  I can remember as a child I would go to my brother’s baseball games in Troy.  While my brother played ball, I would play on the red clay hills that ran parallel to the field. For the better part of two hours, I would throw dirt, roll down the hills, and just get plain dirty.  It was all fun and games until it was time to go home.  My parents would strip me of all my clothing, sit me in the floor board of the car and spray me off with the hose when I got home.  That was never very much fun. 

2. It is easy to find a crowd to get dirty with.  Ever noticed that it is easy to find a crowd that says, “yep, let’s get dirty together.”  I have.  Ever been to college?  Shoot, ever been to high school? Look at this picture.  This is a picture from 1969 Woodstock.  People just happy to roll in the mud together.  Now, here is a picture from 2008.  Same location.  Again, just happy to be in the mud together.  There seems to be something cathartic about being dirty with a group.  After all, sinning by yourself is not nearly as fun as sinning with others.  

3. The longer things are dirty, the more comfortable we all become.  When I was in college, my roommates did some pretty disgusting things.  I will not share them with you here but let’s just say my mother raised me better.  At first I thought their behavior was just plain nasty.  Over time, I got comfortable with their seemingly superpower of being gross.  By the end of the year, I never thought about it.  I never noticed it.  It just became a part of my living environment.  Friends, we have the ability to grow numb to our uncleanliness.  We can grow numb to our sin.  What’s worse, God will allow us to say no to Him and choose these sorts of lifestyles.  

Romans 1:24 NLT
So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other's bodies.

Transition Statement
So, what can we learn from today’s story?  What do you think that Jesus was trying to teach those hard hearted Pharisees?  What is His message for us today?  

Christ and Cleanliness

I. The Pharisee’s Judgement vs. 1
Luke 15:1 NIV
1Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 

A few years ago, I heard a poem.  I am not sure who wrote it but it always stuck out to me about how I seem to judge others incorrectly.  Listen…

Illustration: No One Expected Me
I dreamed death came the other night
And heaven’s gate swung wide.
With kindly grace an angel fair
Ushered me inside.
And there, to my astonishment
Stood folks I’d known on earth.
Some I’d judged and labeled as
“Unfit”, “Of little worth”.
Indignant words rose to my lips,
But never were set free
For every face showed stunned surprise
No one expected me!

You see, we humans are just not very good judges.  We make our judgements on limited information.  All we have to go on is what we can observe with our 5 senses.  We tend to gather assumptions by what we see and hear.  Yes, we have made assumptions about people by smell.  That is probably the worst.  

You see, the Pharisees made judgements about people according first to their ethnicity.  If they weren’t not Jewish then they were not chosen by God.  They were not part of the plan and there was no need to waste time with them.  

Next, they judged by occupation.  A tax collector was the lowest of the low.  Tax collectors were traitors to their own people.  Next, they judged people’s ability to follow the law and act pious.  If people didn’t put on a good show, then they sinning.  

You are probably sitting there thinking “glad I’m not like those Pharisees.”  Well, don’t break your hand patting yourself on the back just yet because we are exactly like the Pharisees.  Everyone is guilty of judging others and showing favoritism.  I have plenty of stories about church members who have judged me, other church members and yes, even visitors by their looks.  I cannot share those stories because they would embarrass people and that is not my mission.  My mission is to open my eyes, our eyes, as to how incorrect we are when we assume the place of judgement over people.  We say, “their sin is somehow greater than my sin” therefore God loves us more than them or Jesus died more for me than He did for them.  

Jesus certainly didn’t mince words when it came to judging others…especially when dealing with the Pharisees, 

Matthew 7:1-5 ESV
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.”

Luke 6:37 ESV
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;

John 8:7 ESV
And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

To the Pharisees Jesus proclaimed…

Matthew 23:27 NIV
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.”

Now don’t misunderstand me.  When confronted by blatant obvious sin, a Christian is to step forward in love and try to love and reconcile that person to God and to the church.  The point is motivation.  The Pharisees were not interested in reconciliation, rather community appreciation.  They were selfish. They wanted others to see how great they were by casting a light of judgement on everyone else around them.  They were not interested in salvation.  

So, are you a judge?  Have you removed God from HIs rightful seat of judgement and put yourself there?  That brings us to the next point.  Listen up.  

Christ and Cleanliness

I. The Pharisee’s Judgement vs. 1

II. The Pharisees In Jeopardy vs. 2
Luke 15:2 NIV
But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Illustration: A Missed Opportunity
Queen Mary made it her practice to visit Scotland every year. She was so loved by the people there that she often mingled with them freely without a protective escort. 

While walking with some children one afternoon, she went farther than she had planned. Dark clouds came up unexpectedly, so she stopped at a nearby house to borrow an umbrella. 

“If you will lend me one,” she said to the lady who answered the door, “I will send it back to you tomorrow.” 

The woman didn’t recognize the Queen and was reluctant to give this stranger her best umbrella. So she handed her one that she intended to throw away. The fabric was torn in several places and one of the ribs was broken. 

The next day another knock was heard at the door. When the woman opened it, she was greeted by a royal guard, who was holding her old, tattered umbrella. “The Queen sent me,” he said. “She asked me to thank you for loaning her this.” 
For a moment the woman was stunned, then she burst into tears. “Oh, what an opportunity I missed,” she cried. “I didn’t give the Queen my very best!”

Life is full of missed opportunities.  So, what was the missed opportunity for the Pharisees?  The Pharisees, who were so concerned with their Levitical law of cleanliness and godliness missed Christ, they missed God.  They were to busy evaluating everyone’s exterior that they missed God standing right in front of them.  They didn’t hear God speaking to them directly.  How tragic.  

That’s the problem with focusing on exterior cleanliness and outward showings of piety for people to applaud.  We can never get clean enough.  We receive our reward on earth rather than heaven. There is no action, no work nor word that will save us from our sin.  Just one stain is to many.  You see, these Pharisees could never be clean enough to be completely godly.  I’ll prove it to you.  

Turn in your Bibles to Zechariah 3:1-5 ESV

Zechariah 3:1-5 ESV
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” 3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” 5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by.

Here you have a vision by the prophet Zachariah.  Joshua was the high priest of Israel.  Joshua was having a particularly bad day.  One Joshua is in another man’s vision and is not in control and facing judgement.  Second Joshua is showing up to this party poorly dressed.  He is clothed in filthy rags.  These rags symbolize all the good works of Joshua’s life.  The best of Joshua’s life amounted to a bunch of stained soiled rags.  This is the most holy man in all of Israel and his works, his righteousness was nothing to behold.  It reminds me of the the Scripture found in Isaiah 64:6.

Isaiah 64:6 NIV
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

Now fast forward back to Jesus.  You have the Pharisees, the most holy people in all of Israel, casting the tax collector and sinner card down on the table.  In doing so, they miss Jesus and Jesus’ love for all of humanity.  They put their own lives, their own eternity in jeopardy.  They are missing their opportunity.  

James 4:11-12 ESV
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

III. Jesus’ Joy vs. 3-7
Luke 15:3-7 NIV
3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Point: The Trouble With Sheep
Seeing how the Pharisees are judging with incorrect standards of cleanliness, Jesus tells a story.  It is a story of a wayward sheep.  This sheep goes missing and the shepherd notices.  The shepherd leaves the 99 other sheep to find the one missing.  Happily, the shepherd discovers the one missing sheep and throws a party.  The one sheep was was disobedient was celebrated when it was found.  

That is how Jesus views a person who was lost and then saved.  Jesus, in spite of our dirtiness and grossness takes us in and cleans us up.  

So, God sees the cleanliness of a person’s spirit not body.  So then how do we clean our soul?  Simple, follow Jesus’ words.  

1. Repent.  Admit you are wrong and turn.  Repent is fancy theological word that simply means change direction.  Go a different way.  

2. Obey.  Remember poor Zachariah?  There he was standing before God in practically nothing.  God gives Him new clothing but the story does not stop there.  Let’s go back to Zachariah 3.

Zachariah 3:6-7 ESV
6 And the angel of the Lord solemnly assured Joshua, 7 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. 

Did you catch that?  Joshua, now that you are clean, remain clean by walking in my ways and keep my charge.  Joshua, obey me and what I am telling you.  

So, when God calls you to go on that mission trip, better get moving.  

When God calls you to be a part of that discipleship group, better study up. 

When God calls you to share a testimony, better sit down and start thinking about what you should say.  

Repent! Obey! 

Notice there is no where in Scripture where we find ourselves and get ourselves together.  Never.  No where.  It is all God.  

Closing Story: Shrek

Meet Shrek the sheep; he became famous a little while back for hiding out in caves by himself for six years. Because of his isolation, his fleece was never shorn. It grew and grew; by the time he was finally shaved, the amount of fleece that fell away from his body weighed sixty pounds. Most sheep have a fleece weighing under ten pounds; sometimes it's more, but never by much.

For six years, Shrek carried six times the regular weight of his fleece... all because he was away from his shepherd. This is reminiscent of John 10 when Jesus compares Himself to a shepherd, and His followers are His sheep. If you think about it, Shrek the sheep is much like a person who knows Jesus Christ but has wandered. If we avoid Christ’s constant refining of our character, we’re going to accumulate extra weight in this world—a weight we don’t have to bear.

Christ can easily lift the burdens we bear, if only we stop hiding. He can shave off our "fleece," that is, our self-imposed burdens brought about by wandering from our Good Shepherd.  Shrek was a mess for sure.  He couldn’t clean himself up.  He needed help.  

Are you dirty this morning? Lost?  Needing help?  Friend we are hear to help you not to judge you?  Remember Christ’s words.

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

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