This morning, as I emptied the dishwasher and reloaded it [don't be impressed, I'm too often not that helpful], I was disappointed by two realities. First, I loathe stacking "clean" dishes in the cabinets only to find that they're not really clean. The wash and rinse cycle cleared most of the food, but the dry cycle only served to baked remaining particles to the ceramic. I go out to the garage and get a chisel from my workbench.
Because of the first irritation, I have a second one: I must rinse each piece of dinnerware [even water glasses, just to be safe] to guarantee that everything will be clean. In the end, I have become the dish washer and the appliance under my counter simply stores plates, bowls and silverware until someone gets around to putting them away.
One of the biggest reasons why we "work" for our salvation is that we don't believe that the cross of Jesus is sufficient to wash away the stain of our sin. Grace sounds too weak. And so we believe that we must pre-rinse our lives in order to present ourselves on the rack to Jesus so that He might finish the cycle of making us clean. My good deeds underestimate the deep power-scrubbing of the cross and overestimate the added benefit that any of us could bring to our own life change.
Truth is, we are saved by grace alone so that "no one can boast" [Ephesians 2:8-9]. In other words, grace makes human effort unnecessary so that saved people end up proudly pointing to the cross instead of their own contribution. We make the mess. But only God can sanitize our souls. We bring nothing. But the cross is powerful enough to make me clean. The old hymn asks and answers the question: "What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus."