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December 5, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. ‘Are you so dull?’ he asked. ‘Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.’ (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) He went on: ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.’”—Mark 7:16–23 (NIV)
What does it mean to be clean? In most cases, being clean has to do with the external and physical, except as it pertains to spiritual cleanness.
In today’s passage, Jesus explains to His disciples why no food we put into our physical bodies can make us spiritually unclean. No food we consume has the power to defile our soul because “it doesn’t go into their heart.” Now, when Jesus says “heart,” He isn’t talking about the physical heart, but our spirit.
Essentially, the things we put into our body don’t cause us to become spiritually unclean. Instead, it’s what is within us that shows our spiritual uncleanness. You see, we’re not sinners because we sin, we sin because we’re sinners. Within our sinful nature exists “sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.” Sometimes, these external things reveal the sinfulness within us. Other times, they become the object of our sinful desires, but they are never the cause of our sin.
What am I saying here? Well, it’s the sinful nature in us that produces the desire to consume that which is bad for us (Romans 7:8, 11). It’s the sinful nature in us that causes us to fall into such things as drugs, alcohol, or a porn addiction.
And here’s the thing: The law of God never claimed eating certain animals would make us unclean. Technically, it was saying that certain foods were unclean in the physical sense, so eating certain animals had the potential to make us sick. For example, carnivores are prey animals that help control populations by picking off the old and sick members of a herd. Therefore, they could transmit disease to other animals—even humans.
Basically, these laws were put in place for the Jewish people almost 1,500 years before Jesus uttered these words for the same reason there are laws for restaurants prohibiting them from serving undercooked chicken. It was God’s way of setting His people apart and keeping them healthy. It was never about spiritual uncleanness, but the religious elitists made it a spiritual thing and enforced this belief upon the people.
Friends, nothing you eat, drink, put into your body, do, or say can make you spiritually unclean–our sinful nature is what makes us spiritually unclean. However, there is something that can make us clean: when we repent of our sins, receive Jesus into our hearts, surrender our lives to follow Him, believe in Him, and trust Him as our Savior and Lord. When we receive Him, He makes us clean by forgiving our sins and dwelling in us. And from that point on, nothing can ever make us spiritually unclean because He, the Lord, has cleansed us with His blood and Spirit.
Pause: What makes a person unclean? Why was the truth of this concept distorted?
Practice: Examine your life and consider your habits. Do any of them point to a sin struggle happening within? If so, ask the Lord to help you work in that area so you can overcome that struggle.
Pray: Father, thank You for making me clean through Your Son Jesus! I pray that the good work You have begun in me would continue until the day of Christ Jesus; that You would daily work and change me from the inside out so my life would match my faith in You. Amen.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.