Stain removal can be a nightmare. What is to be done when the glass of red wine was spilled on the cream-colored carpet? Can you ever wear that best white shirt again after the pen in your pocket leaked ink? Or if you do get the ink out, can you ever remove the underarm sweat stains?

For these and all other stubborn stains, there are all kinds of people offering all kinds of remedies, whether of the latest chemical science or the oldest wives tales. Perhaps for most of these stains there is a solution. But our biggest stain problem is not tomato ketchup spilled on a bridal gown.

The bride really does need some serious stain removal help. What could be worse than a soiled bride's dress on the big day? She will be bombarded with all kinds of well-intentioned suggestions of what to do. But if we're thinking of the most resistant stain that stain resistant fabric can't resist, it's not ketchup but the stain of sin on the Bride of Christ. The familiar cry of every housewife at the sight of another laundry disaster rings out with a more desperate twist: "What can wash away my sin?".

If we know the song, we know the answer: "Nothing but the blood of Jesus". O the foolishness of the Gospel! Blood. One of the most stubborn stains known to man is the only solution for THE most stubborn stain common to man. Of all the suggested remedies, who would have believed that the solution that removes the stain is to pour blood all over it?

Given the absurdity of the gospel, in practice people, even Christians, respond to the bride's cry with the reply "Anything but the blood of Jesus!". Think of the home-made remedies we come up with...

        * Repentance.   Surely repentance is a necessary response to sin, and where it is the work of the Holy Spirit it is a wonderful gift. But there is no atoning power in repentance. Penitential tears cannot wash out a single spot of uncleanness.

        * Reformation.   Turning over a new leaf - where, for example, stealing is replaced by a life of honest work and generosity. Here too we have a wonderful evidence of grace at work in a person. But it has no power to blot out the sins of the past, even if at times it seems to whitewash over those dark stains.

        * Prayer.   Prayer is profoundly significant, but it is not a stain remover. It has many invaluable uses, but cleansing is not one of them - be that our own prayers or the prayers of all the saints in heaven.

        * Suffering.   So many in the world beat themselves in various religious ways in the hope of purifying their souls. Even Christians often feel that their suffering, perhaps as a consequence of their sins, or perhaps as an act of contrition, will remove the spot. It won't.

        * Baptism.   Surely sin can be washed away in baptism? But no: baptism is a symbol of our fellowship with Christ in his death. That begins to point us in the right direction, but the fact remains: millions have been baptized and died in their sins. The baptismal tank is not a spiritual laundromat.

The Bible is clear. "Under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins" (Hebrews 9:22). Blood is the universal cleansing agent - and now we know that not just any blood will do: it has to be the blood of Jesus. Nothing but the blood of Jesus. And nothing of Jesus but his blood - not his holy life, not his perfect example, not his pure teaching, not his second coming. Only his blood.

With all home-made cleansing agents put aside, and with this stain remover kept close to hand, the Bride will be able to make herself ready. She will be spotless. The blood that removes stains then covers us with a stain-resistant film that will last for ever. The miracle stain remover that dissolves the most resistant and deeply ingrained stains.

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