"Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from off the altar. And he laid it upon my mouth and said, 'Lo, this has touched thy lips, and thine iniquity is taken away and thy sin purged.'" Is. 6:6-7
Key to the working of salvation is the purging from without. By "without," I do not mean a mere outward or surface cleansing, like a bath. Rather, what I mean is that this cleansing, this purging, is not wrought by us. It is not a product of any act or acts on our part. It is wholly without, i.e., coming from outside of our selves and abilities. Our only action is to acknowledge our need of cleansing and receive it; the cleansing itself is not our doing, for how could it be? Mankind is many things, but one thing it most certainly is not is its own salvation. We have erected many institutions and enacted many initiatives to save ourselves, to purge ourselves of what ills us, but it is no use. The ill lies lower than our reach, to the very fabric of our making. In short, our ill is ourselves, and therein lies our despair: the very apparatus of our activity is what's poisoning us.
If we are to taste of true salvation then we must face the truth: Cursed is the man that trusts in man, for the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it? The Lord searches the heart and tries the innermost being. Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed. Save me, and I shall be saved. In Thee, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed. Deliver me in Thy righteousness, for there is no other name under heaven given to us whereby we must be saved. Herein is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Scarcely for a righteous man will anyone die. Perhaps for a good man some would dare to die. But God demonstrated His love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, by whom we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand. For by grace we are saved through faith. It is not of ourselves: it is the gift of God (Jer. 17:5-14; Ps. 31:1; Acts 4:12; I John 4:10; Rom. 5:1-8; Eph. 2:5-9).
We can we say to these things? We are not our own salvation. The purging touch is from without. The cleansing is from another hand, a mighty hand, the hand of the Mighty Maker. Only He can undo the damage done in our very being. Only He can unpoison the well. There is but one move on the board left to us: to take the coal or refuse it. Whichever way we go is our choice, but the coal is not ours. We did not make it, nor can we offer it to ourselves. We cannot claim ownership or cite precedent. We can only recognize our poverty and desperation, and from that position reach out to receive so great a salvation with trembling, grateful hands.
-Jon Vowell (c) 2012