I have a confession to make….there is one household chore that I refuse to do. I try my best to contribute whenever I can, but this one thing falls on my husband… every time. What is this nasty chore that I wholeheartedly hate to do? It’s a little thing called taking out the trash. Perhaps I am being a little dramatic, but the intoxicating smell of rotting old food makes my stomach turn. I am thankful for the new Febreze trash bags, but honestly, they can only mask so much of the odor! Keep in mind, I live in the always sunny, forever warm, Florida – so the trash gets an extra boost during the summer months. You are probably wondering by now though why I am ranting about something that everyone has to do….take out the trash. The reality is we would never dream about letting all of our physical trash remain in our house for weeks or months on end, but I would argue that we do this unknowingly when it comes to our insides. Sure, we put fast food and over processed carbohydrates in our systems, but I am speaking in a matter of the spiritual trash that we allow to rot and fester in our lives. When was the last time you took out your spiritual trash?
Back in the day I was a new, bright-eyed, ambitious youth leader and I had the great idea to test out this ‘theory’ with a bunch of good-hearted teenagers. I proudly announced, “Kids, this week we are going to take out the trash,” (as I carried in make believe trash bags stuffed with pillows). Let me tell you, I was in for quite the surprise. The challenge for all the kids was a week of taking out the trash in their spiritual lives. Every student was given a journal and they had to record everything that they digested that could possibly be poisoning their systems. The lists were long, to say the least, ranging from perverse music, to TV shows, to language that they heard daily and had become immune to at school. Some of the teens journals were pages upon pages for each day of that rather long week. However, I wasn’t there to become their personal conviction – that can only come from the Holy Spirit. Nor, was I there to point the finger, because I too decided to take out the trash in my own life and my list was just as long! It was a harsh wake-up call for us all.
So here’s where the challenge is passed on to you. First let me start by answering some questions that our flesh loves to ask in order to counter our spiritual need for purity:
Is this necessary?
This is vitally important as we honor God. Our bodies are His temple and we must realize that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth does speak. We are all filled with impurities that stop us from living correctly and we must attack these issues head on so that the enemy will not cause us to stumble. After all, who wants their life to smell like trash?
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. “ Romans 12:2
Because of the fallen world we live in, is it possible to do this without becoming a hermit?
I am not going to lie, living life right is difficult and everyone has their own burdens to release at the foot of the cross. Most of the things we intake are not allowing us to be transformed but rather conformed. Yet, nothing is worse than living in denial. Nothing is worse than covering up layers upon layers of sins that rot away at our souls, without ever taking the time to clean up. It’s a clever trick that the enemy loves to play when you feel trapped by all of your sins (the trash in your life) without feeling God’s sovereign love and forgiveness that wants to cleanse you completely. There is freedom in taking out the trash.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
Can I even do this exercise without feeling guilty and constantly falling short?
The reality is that even when we focus on this ‘exercise’ we will be reminded of just how tragic our shortcomings are. This sheds light on all of our fleshly cravings and all of our weak temptations towards sin. Paul was no stranger to this, especially when he spoke about doing the very things he shouldn’t do and not doing the things he knew he should do. In fact, it was a constant battle for him to choose God’s will over his desires and this is the Apostle Paul! So be encouraged, because Paul was constantly coming up short, just like we do, and he was in a constant state of preaching God’s good news.
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26
I encourage you to meditate on God’s word as you clean your life from its hazardous materials. Don’t be afraid to allow other strong Christians to keep you accountable, and remember to ask the Holy Spirit to lead you. There is no shame in admitting that this will be challenging and there is no condemnation when you are striving to honor God. He will honor your efforts and give you the strength you need when your flesh is weak. So, perhaps we should all go do my most dreaded chore. Let’s all go take out the trash knowing that when we do this, we will begin to look a little less like our filthy former selves and a little more like the God we love and serve.