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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

We Can Be Washed White As Snow

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 like crimson, they shall become like wool. Isaiah 1:18

It's snowing here. Fluffy white flakes are falling past my window on the 22nd floor. When I went to bed last night, the streets and rooftops were black. This morning, they were bright white. There is nothing like fresh snow to make everything feel like new.

I've thought about "white as snow" all week as Cathy Tubbs and I picked our way around the foul smelling litter left from late night Mardi Gras partying. White is one of the colors on the bracelets Cathy Tubbs and I used to share the good news of Jesus with Mardi Gras crowds drinking, puffing, partying, and trying to recover from such things. I thought about "white as snow" again when I used the same bracelets to share the Gospel with my innocent 5 and 7 year old cousins on Saturday afternoon . My tiny cousins already loved Jesus but the fresh snow on the ground brought the story to life as I pointed to the white bead and compared it to the newly fallen sparkling white snow these little people were so mesmerized by. I've learned that the wonder of being made as pure as newly fallen snow is the same for an innocent 5-year-old and an adult hardened by years of decadence.

Like us, many were in New Orleans sharing about Jesus during Mardi Gras. Hundreds were there to share the hope of being made as pure as snow. A few were there to shout threats and insults in a misguided attempt to scare people into turning away from sin. Because our messages were so different, I began thinking of the two groups as "Good News Christians" and "Bad News Christians." The "Good News Christians" far outnumbered the "Bad News Christians" but unfortunately, it was the "Bad News Christians" that many in the crowd associated Christianity with. The message of both groups brought to mind the scripture that says whatever we do to the least of His brothers and sisters, we do to Jesus. The "Good News Christians" reminded me of the man who carried Jesus' cross and the "Bad News Christians" reminded me of those shouting taunts at Jesus and crying for his crucifixion. As indignant as I wanted to be with the "Bad News Christians," I had to remember that Jesus died for the very people who cried for His crucifixion. You can probably make a guess about which approach helped those there to party hearty become pure as new snow.

Cathy and I had 72 people choose to be made as pure as new snow. Mardi Gras attendees love getting beads and they loved getting our "Mardi Gras Love Bead Bracelets." As we tied them on, we started with the gold bead and the hope of heaven. We used the dark bead to demonstrate that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and that the wages of sin is death. The red bed shared the good news that God loved the world so much that He sent his only son Jesus so that all who believed could be saved. When we got to the white bead and gave the good news that the gift of God was eternal life and that all who called on the name of Jesus would be saved and washed white as snow, we often saw the light of hope enter the eyes of the listener. If they chose to invite Jesus into their lives as Lord and Savior, those same eyes lit with what we call the Holy Spirit Glow - where hope became reality. When we pointed to the green bead and explained how to grow closer to the one who had washed them white as snow, they listened.

We were not the only Good News Christians experiencing the joy of being with someone at the moment they were washed white as snow. Many were reporting salvations. I observed 2 college students lead a man to Jesus, hug him, and when the new Christian left, hug each other and jump up and down with glee.

I was particularly touched by Mardi Gras attendee Morgan's beautifully painted Mardi Gras face and haunted eyes. When we met her, she was suffering because the "Bad News Christians" had used their bull horns to mock her, call her nasty names, and tell her she was going to hell. We offered her one of our Mardi Gras love bead bracelets. She took it but when we told her we were Christians, she almost bolted in fear.

"Wait," I begged. "We're the good news Christians. I'm so sorry that just happened to you."

Morgan froze and listened warily as we explained the beads. When I got to the dark bead about sin, she took a step backwards and said, "I've made so many mistakes. I'm trying to make up for them but maybe I can't. It bothers me all the time."

"Please keep listening," I begged. "We've all sinned. Those people who just shouted at you have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We all have." She stayed.

When we reached the hope of the white bead, a perfectly formed teardrop appeared in the corner of one eye. I reached up and gently used my thumb to catch her tear. As I looked at that wet teardrop still fully formed but now on my thumb, I was reminded of Jesus' anguished prayers as his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground. Jesus faced that anguish so people like Morgan and you and me no longer had to carry the burden of sin. Yes, Morgan met Jesus and was washed white as snow. She hugged us and thanked us for telling her the good news of Jesus.

Today, do you know what can wash away your sin? Like the old hymn says, nothing but the blood of Jesus. Do you truly believe that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God? When you see sin, do you believe that enough to identify with the sinner? Instead of feeling superior, do you have hope for the sinner through the white washing blood of Jesus? The wages of sin is death and that is a back breaking burden for the sinner. Do you believe that enough to have compassion for the sinner without trying to add to that burden by judgment, anger, or taunts? Do you believe that the word of God is alive and sharper than a double edged sword? Do you believe that enough to offer the good news of the Gospel scriptures and trust that the word of God will convict hearts? Do you believe that the power of Jesus can wash anyone as white as snow no matter how crimson the stain? Do you believe it enough to sing: What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Oh precious is the flow that makes me white as snow. No other fount I know. Nothing but the blood of Jesus. (From What Can Wash Away My Sin by Robert Lowry)

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