One of my favorite types of tv shows are the ones where brave souls go in and clean out other people’s houses. In one show, just one room was to be completely re-done. The host would help the homeowner remove all the items from that room and put them out on their front lawn. There were three piles: Keep, Toss, Sell. I’m a confessed tv “back talker” so I yell at and talk to the tv all the time. What typically happens during these shows is I yell at the homeowner saying, “What on earth do you need that for?” or “That is the ugliest chair I have ever seen! Get rid of it!” I’m always mystified by the amount of junk people pile up in their homes and how difficult it is for them to get rid of it all – even under the threat of eviction or possibly social services removing their children.
Most of us look at a hoarder’s life and recognize how destructive it is. The filth, the squalor, the sheer quantity of stuff is appalling. We sit in judgement thinking, “I would never get to that point in my life.” The truth is a hoarder’s problem isn’t with the “stuff” it’s with their heart. Even on shows such as “Biggest Loser” we find most contestant’s real issues lie within their hearts, it’s just that they have turned to food to fix their pain.
Now doesn’t that sound easy? Just about as easy as a hoarder having to let go of the paper their 40 year old son wrote as a second grader. On day 1 James made it clear we would have trials and tribulations. Some of us have been physically or emotionally abused. Others have been neglected by loved ones. While others have experienced unbearable loss – of a child, a parent, a friend, a job, a home. And there are the multitudes whose dreams and hopes have yet to materialize. And yet none of those gives us license by God to sin, to bring “moral filth” into our lives.
Warren Wiersbe says this about filling our lives with immorality:
“For God to be able to use us as vessels we must be empty, clean, and available. He will take us and use us for His glory. But if we are filled with sin or defiled by disobedience, He will first have to purge us.”
Purge us. That is the death we read about frequently in the Bible. In Matthew 16: 16, Jesus states this, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” We purge the world from our hearts and minds and live a life worthy of being God’s vessel.
Some might think this means we take away freedoms, we remove fun and laughter, we become like monks or nuns. But think back to a hoarder’s house that is now cleaned out. Or even your own house after a good purging and cleaning. We breathe a sigh, put our hands on our hips and declare, this is good, this is real good. We even start imagining being able to invite our friends over for dinner, new uses for that now empty cupboard, or how easy it is to find what you need. We feel a sense of freedom, of joy, of completeness.
Now take that same feeling and apply it to our other actions or decisions. Do you have that same sense? When we are unforgiving, rude, vengeful, deceitful, unfaithful, untrustworthy, does that give you the same feelings of joy?
One of the reasons we might not take a stand against the filth infiltrating our lives is the fear of man. In fact, the disciple Peter was a great example of this. He talked a good talk about being faithful to Jesus and the other disciples. But when it came time to stand firm, he chose to protect himself. He was afraid of what servant girls would think or do to him if he confirmed he was a disciple. And yet, in John 18:15 the story clearly states “another disciple” also stood with Jesus in front of his accuser. That unnamed disciple wasn’t afraid of man. He wasn’t afraid to declare himself a follower of Jesus. What in your life do you know is wrong, is moral filth, and yet you are afraid of the people around you attacking you or judging you should you declare it would no longer be a part of your life?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said about constantly fighting the battle against the moral filth of the world, “When all is said and done the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every weapon against the flesh.” Meaning just like a severely overweight person who needs to battle their demons to help them lose weight, the road to cleaning our hearts and minds is constant and challenging.
Even Nelson Mandela said,
“I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”
So how do we go about this cleansing? We definitely don’t want to be like the Pharisees that Matthew admonishes in 23:25, “You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” Remembering that James is written to people who profess to be Christians, we need a heart and mind change, not just a physical one.
Have a conversation with God: We already know some of the areas of our life that don’t measure up to God’s desires for us. But He may also reveal other areas that we have hidden away, possibly underlying causes for our behavior and actions. Ask Him to shine a light on your “moral filth.” Ask him to take it away. Ask him to strengthen you. Ask Him first thing in the morning to set up your day for success. Ask Him to help you as you encounter your trouble areas, thank Him for His protection.
“In the morning Lord you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”Psalm 5:3
Listen to God: He speaks to us through His Word, the Holy Bible so read it and study it like any other self-help book. Write down passages that speak to your particular issues and needs. He speaks to us through other people. There are probably people in your life already telling you what areas need to be cleansed. Stop being defensive and start being thankful! God whispers to us directly and guides us. If, as you’re walking into the bar you know you shouldn’t and that voice keeps telling you to go home, then go home. Stop ignoring Him.
“I will listen to what God the lord says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants.”Psalm 85:8
Act on His Words: We all know people whose lives are a mess. They’ve heard the message over and over about how to fix their lives. The part that’s missing is just doing it. When we absolutely know we shouldn’t text that person and yet do it anyway we dismiss God’s will. The recognition that God is the most powerful, all seeing, all knowing being must be part of our lives. We can’t hide from God. We can think we are deceiving Him but we aren’t. He is our “over watch,” – He looks ahead and see the enemy’s position and provides us protection. But if we choose to take a different path we put ourselves in danger.
“Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever.”Psalm 37:27
What is distracting you or holding you back from fully following Christ? What rooms in your life need to be purged and left clean? Ask God for his loving spotlight to shine in every recessed area. Listen for His guidance. And walk with faith and strength knowing He is guiding you.
What is an area that you are struggling with the most when it comes to following Christ?