I enjoy garbage day in our neighbourhood. I really do. I really enjoy it. I get some sort of satisfaction from the thought of garbage that was once cluttering my house being thrown into a truck and taken away from me forever! Occasionally, albeit rarely, I get the opportunity to actually watch the workers throw my garbage onto the truck. It gives me a feeling of, “Ah! It's gone!” Tossed into that bottomless-pit-on-wheels that rumbles through my neighbourhood consuming everything people can throw at it, never to trouble us again!
Why is that such a thrill? I think it’s because there’s an innate desire in most people to be rid of garbage that's in our lives. And there’s a deep satisfaction felt when we get rid of it, completely and forever.
The foulest garbage that clutters my life is sin. Nothing else in my life is uglier and fouler smelling than sin. The Bible likens sin to filth: "Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." (James 1:21, NIV).
The Good News is that we don’t have to do this by our own efforts. God made a way for us to be rid of that sinful filthy garbage of sin in our lives when Christ gave Himself up for the Church "to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Ephesians 5:26-27). When we turn from sin and turn to God, God takes away our sinful heart and gives us a new heart, leaving us clean – a new creation before Him. When this happens, there is no limit to the amount of garbage Jesus will collect from any individual. And He takes it all away forever!
Unfortunately, we tend to collect new garbage. It can feel extremely difficult to remain experientially clean in this sin-polluted world. But it’s God’s Word that helps us to keep garbage from accumulating in our God-given hearts. When James advised believers to get rid of moral filth and to humbly receive the word planted in them (James 1:21), he was calling on those who had already accepted God's word to humbly yield to it in the way they lived their lives. James explained what he means in the following verse: "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (James 1:22).
So he’s saying we can remain experientially clean by simply living right? Well, duh! Anybody knows that. But that's not too helpful for those of us who can’t manage to steer clear of a sinful act or attitude for even our first hour out of bed. That’s why I don’t think James was implying that receiving God’s word was the same as never experiencing the filth of sin in our lives again. Rather, I think James was focusing on our posture as believers. Are we postured to yield to God’s word or are we more inclined toward the garbage that tempts us in life? Do we prefer our ways or God’s ways? Are we more prone to willful pride or humble submission? When faced with a choice of sin or righteousness, James encourages us to humbly “accept the word planted in you.” In other words, cooperate with God’s truth – prefer it – and its roots will then go even deeper into our lives, making it easier and easier to live according to it. And if we blow it, we can be encouraged that every day is Garbage Day! We can confess our blunders to our merciful God and enjoy watching Him carry them away! What a cheerful chore Garbage Day can be!
The truth is though, my sense of satisfaction comes from more than just having my filthy sin taken away. It also comes from what I'm left with. Such as a conviction of who I am in Christ as a son who is totally loved and accepted by my heavenly Father. And God's Holy Spirit of truth living inside me, keeping me alert to new garbage in my heart while also helping me to create less garbage as he gradually makes me more like Jesus. And a spiritual family who helps me walk in the light and challenge me to walk in ways that are pleasing to God.
In the brief moment it takes for us to confess our sin to God and to those around us, our lives are cleansed of the garbage of sin and we have true fellowship with God and with one another! And in the simplicity of receiving and believing God's word of grace and truth, the cluttered rooms of our heart are swept clean!
© 2015 by Ken Peters
© 2015 by Ken Peters