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We all heard it growing up from our mothers: “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” Come to think of it, I’m not sure that ever properly motivated me to actually clean my room as a kid. (Sorry, mom!)

Thanks to sin, none of us – like petulant children before bedtime – really want to be clean on our own. But thanks to God, we can be.

The notion of cleanliness pervades Scripture, specifically the realization that none of us are clean enough by God’s standards. That’s why a tree-lined bend along the Jordan River is so meaningful. It’s the place recognized as where John baptized his cousin, Jesus.

Jesus’ baptism marked the beginning of His public ministry. On the one hand, it seems strange that Jesus – literally, the Son of God, the Incarnate Word, the Messiah – “needed” to be baptized. But that even He was points to our own need.

Let’s be clear: Baptism isn’t about physical cleanliness, but rather the state of our heart. Just as a dirty room cannot clean itself (another mom-based truism), neither can our dirty hearts. Making our spiritual lives “clean” takes an act of God, as expressed outwardly through baptism.

John Adams once wrote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” So if we want to clean up government, let’s pray for a cleansing revival of the people.

In a self-governing republic, we cannot bemoan corruption in government and hope someone else will do something about it. It’s up to us, and sometimes we have to start doing the work alone, where we are.

A dirty room won’t clean itself, and neither will a dirty government.