A man (we’ll call him George) had seven children and loved them all dearly. He had worked as an airline pilot for most of their young lives, but now he was retired, and all of his beloved children had moved out of the home and had begun their own households and families… all except his youngest son, Tommy. Tommy had cerebral palsy. This disability made it necessary for Tommy to live at home with his father and mother, and that was just great—especially great for George! George loved his son Tommy dearly. Wherever George went, Tommy went. They were buddies at the store, buddies working in the yard, buddies sitting on the porch. They did everything together.
One day, several workers came to clean out the sewage tank (that’s where the toilet ﬂush goes) that was buried under the ground at their country home. The workers were on break eating lunch and the tank was still “open-air,” so to speak. Tommy, wandering through the yard, stumbled upon the tank, and then he stumbled in! This was ﬁlthy-gross, but it was far worse than ﬁlthy. This was deadly serious! Tommy was drowning in rotting, human waste—dying in ﬁlth! His father came upon the dire scene. He saw the sewage, he smelled the potent gases wafting from the open tank. And immediately he submerged himself in the waste, placing Tommy on his shoulders to rescue him from drowning in the deadly ﬁlth. Tommy lived, but only because his father died. His father claimed Tommy as his dearest possession by dying for Tommy—dying for him in all that ﬁlth! God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
This isn’t Tommy’s story. This is your story. You don’t get to be grossed out at the thought of that ﬁlthy, rotting waste from the comfort of your chair reading this article. You are in that ﬁlth. That’s the rot and waste of the ﬁlthy things you’ve thought with your mind, said with your mouth, stared at with your eyes, done with your hands. To confess our sinfulness is to “fess up” to just such a “ﬁlthy” status for ourselves. “LORD, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
This story isn’t about George, either. It’s about your Lord, who came to know you—to save you! —in all of your ﬁlth, drowning for you in your nasty sins. In your deadly situation, He doesn’t strike a bargain with you. He doesn’t invite you to meet Him halfway, saying, “Get your head and shoulders above the ﬁlth and I’ll hoist you out from there.” God demonstrates love—bargain-free, gracious, merciful love. While you were nothing but ﬁlth, He sent His Son to submerge himself under the suffocation of your ﬁlthy sins, to replace you in ﬁlthy death. Your heavenly Father claimed you by giving up His Son.
And He didn’t just claim you then. Your Lord claims you now. He claims you even in today’s sin, speaking that Word of forgiveness to you this day through this devotion and again this weekend in the announcement of your ﬁlth forgiven in Jesus your Savior. “In deadly ﬁlth,” your Father says, “you are Mine!”
Prayer: Holy Spirit, convict me daily of my “ﬁlth” and create in me the certainty of faith that says with Paul, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save the ‘ﬁlthy’ of whom I am foremost.” Amen.
How can you know if you are among the ﬁlthy?
Read: Matthew 19:16-26
Based on what the rich young man hears from Jesus, what is the simple measure of “clean” or “ﬁlthy?”
Do you measure up?
How do you know that God doesn’t strike up a bargain with the “ﬁlthy” to make them clean?
Read: Romans 5:6-8
What part of your “rescue from ﬁlth” did the Lord leave to you?
What’s so unlikely about this rescue account? (v. 7)
How does Christian Baptism bring this unlikely, one-sided Gospel rescue home?
Read: 1 Peter 3:18-22
Is baptism better than “a bath to wash the dirt off the body?”
How does Paul say the rescue of this “baptism-clean” is better than a skin cleanser?
How is this “good news” affected if/when baptism is spoken of as “me dedicating my life to God?”
Rev. Kyle Madson
Editor, The Lutheran Sentinel
Norseland Lutheran Church
St. Peter, MN
Norwegian Grove Lutheran Church