In almost every corner of the globe, the human effort of labouring to be good, pure and righteous in the sight of a divine creator continues. Man’s attempts to purify himself through ritual, tradition, religion and culture has remained the spiritual priority for many.

Whilst some people try to purify themselves by bathing or washing in a certain ritualistic way, others enforce strict dietary laws in the hope that their physical and spiritual nature would not be defiled by certain foods and external impurities. Hundreds and thousands of rules and regulations such as these are observed on a daily basis by millions of people. Some people devote their entire lives to the cause of purify themselves by their own effort.

But why is there such a felt need to be pure?

The Bible cuts through the noise and tells us that man’s conscience either accuses him or excuses him (Romans 2:15). God tells us that we are all contaminated with a sinful nature. The evidence of this is that we commit sin in deed and thought and as a result we subsequently carry the guilt and weight of our sin. However, the sad reality is that most people try by their own effort to please God though a fruitless and futile attempt of washing their own sin away.

In the Bible, Jesus addresses this issue head on. In the seventh chapter of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is confronted by some very devout, traditional and religious men (pharisees) who took cleansing of the outward body very seriously. Jesus’s disciples had eaten food without washing their hands according to the tradition and for this reason these religious men took offence and accused Jesus of breaking the traditions of the elders. Read below what happens next and how Jesus responds with truth over tradition:

    [7:1] Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, [2] they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. [3] (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, [4] and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) [5] And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” [6] And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
[7] in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
[8] You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

[9] And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! [10] For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ [11] But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)—[12] then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, [13] thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

[14] And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: [15] There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” [17] And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. [18] And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, [19] since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) [20] And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. [21] For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, [22] coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. [23] All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:1-23 ESV)

So how can a person be pure in God’s eyes?

The Bible declares that your nature is sinful and that the only way you can be pure before God is when He through His grace regenerates you. Jesus said that you must be born-again to inherit the kingdom of God. This means you need a spiritual rebirth. Read the conversation between Jesus and a devout religious man who believed that self effort could purify him:

[3:1] Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. [2] This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” [3] Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” [4] Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” [5] Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. [6] That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. [7] Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ [8] The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:1-8 ESV)

May your spiritual eyes be open to the truth of Jesus Christ. Call upon Him today: He is faithful and just to forgive you of all your sin.