Stop trying to earn your salvation. Stop viewing others as more desperately in need of grace than you. Stop pretending as though your success makes you worthy of eternal life. Stop seeking a king in his palace from whom you might purchase favor. Stop working to supplement Christ's finished work on the cross. STOP.
My first (recent) encounter with this message occurred on Friday morning as I worked through the homework for my Ladies' Bible study. Beth Moore spent the better part of one whole day's lesson elaborating on the concept that the Gospel is the great equalizer of the rich and poor. In either case, what they need is the Gospel. In the very same sentence, James encourages the poor to boast in their exaltation in Christ and the rich to boast in their humiliation, realizing that their wealth is temporary and brings them no advantage before God. The overarching truth which permeates both ends of the spectrum of wealth is that nothing of this world really matters. Those who are poor should look forward to their reward in heaven. Those who are rich should realize that nothing of this world compares to the reward they await in heaven. The rich supplementing God's grace with earthly riches is no more helpful than the poor lacking earthly riches to offer.
In either event, they are to just wash.
Shortly after this encounter, I read about Naaman in Tim Keller's Counterfeit Gods. Naaman possessed power and riches and most every earthly comfort and even luxury one could hope for in his time. He lacked nothing money could buy or power could achieve. However, Naaman had leprosy. One of his servants (who loved him and forgave him despite a long list of reasons to harbor anger and bitterness toward him) felt pity on him and suggested he visit Elisha in order to seek healing. Naaman (sort of) followed through on her suggestion except that he fully expected to purchase his healing from the king of Israel rather than receive it freely from the Lord. He had no framework for understanding the free gift of grace (and healing). In his experience, one must either earn or purchase all good things, so he offered wagons full of wealth to the king of Israel in exchange for healing. Of course, the king of Israel was no more fit to heal Naaman's leprosy than our president is capable of forgiving our sins, so he ripped his clothing in distress over the impossible request. When Elisha heard of the king's trouble, he sent for Naaman and instructed him to wash in the river. Just wash and be healed. But Naaman simply could not understand these instructions. Surely there would be some massive display of power offered to him in exchange for the wealth he carried with him.
No. Just wash.
Naaman became so angry. He just couldn't understand. But finally. . .
He washed. And he was healed. Such is the power of God.
Sunday morning Jared shared a story about a cab driver he encountered while in Washington, D.C. on Friday. The man expressed that he was a non-practicing Muslim, but he enjoyed discussing theology. He knew who Jesus was and even made the connection between Jesus serving as our substitute just as God provided a substitute for Isaac's life in the Old Testament. What he couldn't grasp, though, is how God might be able to forgive *his* sins. In his estimation, it was impossible to believe that forgiveness could be freely given to him.
He couldn't believe "just wash" would be enough. (But we are praying for him.)
Later on Sunday morning, I helped Mrs. Connie in children's church. To be clear, as "helper" I simply showed up ready to love on kids and act as another set of eyes and hands for the teacher. I had no previous exposure to the lesson plan. I just showed up to help. So imagine my surprise (and delight) when. . . Y'all ready for this? The lesson was Naaman. WHAT?!? My first thought here is to give a huge shout out to Sally Lloyd Jones for including so much more than Noah and Joseph and Daniel in The Jesus Storybook Bible (which is quite possibly the best children's book in the entire world). But aside from that-- You think maybe God is trying to teach me something? Maybe even wanting me to share something?
Why are we so resistant to this message? Why is it so difficult to receive free grace?
Just wash. Christ has already provided everything else. Your hopelessness and helplessness and utter need are all he wants.
Just wash. The blood of Christ, which is the only thing with the power to cleanse you of your sin, has already been shed.
Just wash. Nothing else you try will bring healing.