While serving in ministry to people who have suffered immensely at the hands of others, I've come to see a pattern in the lives of many. I've observed that they are not clean because deep inside they see themselves as garbage. This belief causes them to dress themselves with clothing that one might find in the garbage can. They aren't bothered in the least when their clothing has holes, wrinkles or stains. Their personal space, such as their bedroom, apartment or vehicle typically looks like a giant garbage bin. Furniture may be broken, sofas may have giant tears and stains, and yet they don't see their surroundings as unpleasant or dissatisfactory. They may appear unkempt and possess odors because they don't enjoy grooming themselves, washing their clothing or cleaning their surroundings. It all has to do with how they see themselves.
They came to believe a lie that began in their childhood years because they were treated as having little, to no value. This belief about themselves may have been birthed when they were sexually abused by their grandfather or neglected by their mother. Perhaps they were called names like "loser" and "idiot" by their father or maybe they were brought up in the foster care system. It became easy to agree with the lie that the devil fed them. "You are trash...You are a filthy rag...You are good for nothing...You shouldn't even have been born." This inward identity manifests outwardly. While ministering to these valuable ones, I have been filled with the desire to help them to see themselves and their daily habits differently, knowing that in practical terms, it would only help them to better succeed in this life. I have witnessed repeatedly how their appearance, unclean and disorganized behaviors have impacted every area of their lives in a negative way, including how people are repelled by them.
I have sought God's Word to learn what He says about being clean vs. unclean, and desired to take what I learned and share it with the ones whom I serve in ministry. The word clean is found 318 times in the Bible and it is evident that being clean was important to God. The words "clean" and "unclean" are used synonymously with holy and unholy. As I continued my study, I determined that "clean" is a godly term and "unclean" is an ungodly term. The word unclean in the Bible is always referred to in a negative way. In the Old Testament, being unclean in the natural was undesirable to God, such as is stated in the book of Deuteronomy. "If there is among you any man who is unclean...then he must go outside the camp...he shall bathe himself with water, and at sundown he may reenter the camp."¹ In the New Testament, the word unclean is frequently referred to as a wicked spirit, in which we observe that Jesus and the disciples cast out unclean spirits from people. We see an example of this in Luke chapter 4, where it states, "In the synagogue there was a man possessed by the spirit of an unclean demon...For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits and they come out."²
Unclean people and places most often have a bad odor. I wondered what God thought about this. Throughout the Bible, pleasant smells are desirable and unpleasant smells or odors are undesirable. In the book of Second Corinthians, Paul states, "But thanks be to God, who...through us spreads and makes evident everywhere the sweet fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are the sweet fragrance of Christ [which ascends] to God, [discernible both] among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the latter one an aroma from death to death [a fatal, offensive odor], but to the other an aroma from life to life [a vital fragrance, living and fresh]."³ In this verse we see fragrances as good and odors as bad. Fragrances such as a garden filled with flowers, perfume, or fresh cut grass are considered pleasant. In the book of Song of Solomon, we have the analogy of the love of Bridegroom Jesus for the Church, His Bride. In this book, both the bride and the groom speak of one another with descriptions of pleasant fragrances. She says to him, "Your oils have a pleasing fragrance,"⁴ and speaks these words about him, "My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms."⁵ You also find these lovers spending time in a garden where there is beauty and fragrant bouquets of flowers and freshly grown spices, such as cinnamon and myrrh.
Odors are undesirable, such as the odor of dead fish on a shore, a dead body, dirty diapers or sweaty armpits. In the book of Luke, we read about the undesirable circumstance of the prodigal son who was living a life that was worse than the pigs.6 Pig pens are dirty and stinky because they are filled with old, rotten, and dead food−that of dead animals and vegetation; food that people threw away. Jesus used this analogy to show us that this circumstance was not what God the Father wants for His children. We see what God does desire in the following verse, "But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, slaughter it, and let’s eat and celebrate."⁷ The Father chose to give his son fresh meat! Not old, rotten meat. He desired to dress his son with things that were valuable, so to show him how much He valued him.
I believe that it is God's will that His children have a clean and tidy appearance and carry a pleasant fragrance so that we would attract others to His Kingdom family. It is the devil's will that we repel others and isolate ourselves because then God can’t use us to reach others with the Gospel. Let me give you a depiction to help explain my point. You may be someone who is searching the housing market for a new home. One day your realtor brings you to a house that is exquisite in its architecture and design, and surrounded by rolling green hills and mature flower gardens, but then you walk in the door and your senses are violently assaulted by a putrid smell. You take a few steps and see dog feces all over the floor and there is garbage strewn about the living room. As you enter the kitchen, you see spills on the floor and mouse droppings on the counter. I would guess that you would do a quick about-face and run for the door. This house would be of little value and undesirable to buyers, not because of its structure and design, but because of the way that it was cared for or treated, or lack-thereof. If you, however, walked in through the door of the same house and smelled a fresh-baked apple pie, and saw shiny, clean floors and freshly painted walls, you would be drawn to explore more of the home.
Throughout the Bible, we see stories of how God takes people who lack value in the eyes of culture and people who are filthy in the spiritual sense (because of their sin), and He washes away their dirt and then dresses them and treats them like royalty. In Ezekiel 16 we read about the sinful Israelite people and what God desired to do to them. "So I spread My garment over you and covered your nakedness...“Then I bathed you with water, washed off your blood from you, and anointed you with oil. I also clothed you with colorfully woven cloth and put sandals of fine leather on your feet; and I wrapped you with fine linen and covered you with silk. I adorned you with jewelry, put bracelets on your wrists, and a necklace around your neck. I also put a ring in your nose, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head. So you were adorned with gold and silver, and your dress was of fine linen, silk, and colorfully woven cloth. You ate fine flour, honey, and oil; so you were exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. Then your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of My splendor which I bestowed on you,” declares the Lord God."⁸
The story of Esther also portrays God's heart toward His children, including how He loves to transform us from "rags to riches." In the book of Esther, we see the story of a Jewish orphan girl, whose status was of little consequence. However, we see God orchestrate things behind the scenes and she ends up in the palace of the king. The first thing that she needed to do, was become prepared to meet the king in hopes that he would choose her as his wife. We read what the preparations entailed for the women in the king's harem in chapter 2, "For the days of their beauty treatment were completed as follows: six months with oil of myrrh and six months with balsam oil and the cosmetics for women."9 Esther was transformed because of the excellent care that was given her and she was so beautiful and desirable, that the king chose her as his wife. He was drawn to her and not repelled by her. God took Esther, an inconsequential orphan girl, and made her into a queen; a woman of dignity and prominence in her nation. This is God's desire for every one of His children that comes into His family.
When we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are no longer orphans, but adopted into His royal family. Psalm 27:10 says, "Even though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me." The problem that I see often is that many of those who come into God's family do not realize that they are believing lies about their identity and self-worth. After 27 years of being a Christ-follower, I heard a message at a conference about sonship and I thought to myself, "Yeah, yeah, I know this already." I learned that day that it was only head knowledge. God revealed to me that deep inside my heart, I felt that I had no value and this was because I was abused and neglected as a child. That day God set me free from a lie that I had believed my whole life up to that point−that I was unwanted and had no value on this earth. I walked away from the conference with a spring in my step and my head held higher than when I walked in...sort of like a queen.
The person with the mentality of an orphan hangs out in the mud with the pigs, eating the rotten, stinky food that the pigs eat. The person with the mentality of an adopted son or daughter eats at the Father's table and has more than enough to eat. They are fed foods that are tasty and have a pleasing fragrance such as cake, steak, freshly grown fruits, and even bacon! It is my desire to help others to see their true spiritual identity as adopted sons and daughters of the Most High God. It is the reason why I am writing this piece. Please share it with others whom you think will benefit from it.
My Prayer For You
Lord, I pray that those who read this will seek You and ask You what they really think of themselves, deep inside their hearts. I pray that if they are believing a lie, like I had, that You will reveal the truth to them. I pray that they would come to see themselves the way that You see them, and not their earthly fathers and mothers who may have been unable to love them the way that You intended. Please take from them the spirit of an orphan and give to them the spirit of an adopted son or daughter; a spirit that cries out, "Abba (Daddy)."¹º
"For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons and daughters of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons and daughters by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also." Romans 8:14-17
1. Deuteronomy 23:10-11
2. Luke 4:33, 36
3. 2 Corinthians 2:14-16AMP
4. Song of Solomon 1:3
5. Song of Solomon 1:14
6. Luke 15:15-16
7. Luke 15:22
8. Ezekiel 16:18-14
9. Esther 2:12
10. Romans 8:15 *Note: the word Abba is an intimate, endearing term for Father, such as the word Daddy.
* All scripture is from the New American Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.
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