Archive for category Garbage Day Devos
We should not speak of eternal damnation as something God imposes on us against our will, as if we had no choice in the matter. Jesus has taken our trash upon himself, his offer of forgiveness is always before us and he longs to sink our deepest sin to the bottom of the sea (Micah 7:19). The first Adam regarded equality with God something to be grasped and chased after (Gen 3:5-6; cf. Phil 2:6), but the last Adam has shown us once and for all what the truly human life looks like.
All who insist on continuing to live in their own filthy mess will ultimately find themselves right at home—in the garbage heap of misplaced desires that could never satisfy and misappropriated power that we were never meant to possess. Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Paul’s words describes the sad affair:
What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand. So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out (Rom 1:21-24 MSG).
Paul’s sad commentary on the human condition supports C. S. Lewis’ famous assertion in The Problem of Pain that “the doors of hell are locked on the inside” and the damned ultimately “enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded” (114). God eventually “gives them over” to the wasted life they desired (Rom 1:24-28). God doesn’t drive a person out of his loving presence. Rather, stubborn men and woman spend their entire lives walking away from Him until they finally rid themselves of Him—to their own eternal demise. And like Jesus weeping over a rebellious Jerusalem (Luke 19:41), we can be sure that God weeps over every self-enslaved sinner who walks ever closer to the pigpen.
But there is always hope. Like the prodigal eating with the pigs, we too can come to our senses and return to the Father’s arms (Luke 15:17-24). From rags to riches—it’s the central theme of the gospel. God specializes in turning garbage into glory. Transforming sinners into saints is the name of the gospel game. It’s the theme of God’s redemption song!
***This concludes my 11-part “Garbage Day” Lenten series. Thanks for reading!
What then does Jesus’ graphic allusion to Jerusalem’s garbage dump tell us about the nature of hell?
First, as we have already discovered, each person has been created for the common purpose of bringing glory and praise to the Creator. We were made to be showcases of God’s majesty. We fulfill this role whenever we live in tune with our intended design. We are most human when we are most freely letting our lives be used for purposes that bring honor and glory the architect who made us.
But when we repeatedly refuse to live out our created purpose of being God’s image-bearers and letting our lives bring Him glory we become more and more like a toaster that doesn’t toast, a furnace that doesn’t heat, a light that doesn’t shine, or wheel that doesn’t turn. We become quite literally unfit for life in God’s world. Not irredeemably so; not insignificant or unloved by the creator; but for the moment we are, like a scissors that won’t cut, fit for the trash.
Regardless of what you may have heard, Hell is not some arbitrary spiritual realm underground where “bad people” go merely because they broke some moral code of law. Hell isn’t the invention of man or society to threaten and manipulate people into their proper roles and behavior.
Hell is rather the realm of wasted lives where those who continually refused to live out their created function of showcasing God’s glory finally end up. It’s a place for broken toasters, not cigarette smokers. When God’s cosmic recycling project is completed and all humanity is finally restored to their original purpose of tending the earth and worshiping the Creator (Gen 2:15), there will be no place for those unwilling to live in tune with their created design.
NEXT: “Hell is Locked From the Inside”
Earlier I mentioned the unpopularity of the topic of repentance both inside and outside the church today. An even more hair-raising, gut-wrenching topic, offering a greater challenge to our culture’s sensibilities is the idea that an all-loving, all-merciful God would send people to some hell for all eternity. Shall we pour a cup of coffee and talk about Hell for a moment?
How can a merciful God possible allow people to be tortured indefinitely in the fires of hell? It may be helpful to come at this issue with a greater understanding of the metaphor the New Testament uses to describe the nature of hell.
In the New Testament, the Greek word usually translated “hell” is Gehenna, which itself comes from the Hebrew phrase meaning “the Valley of Hinnom.” In the Old Testament, this valley located just southwest of Jerusalem, was the place where the Canaanites worshiped the gods Baal and Molech by sacrificing their children in a fire that burned continuously. In Jesus’ day the valley of Hinnom was literally the garbage dump of Jerusalem. All of the filth and garbage of the city was thrown into this landfill. Animal carcasses and executed criminals alike were left to be consumed by the fire that constantly burned or eaten by maggots. Hence, it was quite literally a place where “their worm never dies and the fire is never quenched” (Mk 9:48).
When Jesus speaks of the abode of the lost, describing those who reject God’s offer of salvation, he draws from the imagery of this well known garbage dump. Why did Jesus choose this particular image to describe the eternal abode of the damned? What, if anything, does this tell us about the real nature of hell? Stay tuned.
NEXT: “A Scissors That Won’t Cut”
Are we willing to let go of certain things we love in order to gain something of even greater value? This is the whole concept behind a rummage sale, is it not? Clear out the old, unused clutter to make room for newer, better things? The Apostle Paul was faced with the same question, and made his decision abundantly clear:
All the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ (Phil 3:8 MSG).
Paul made a clean sweep of everything hindering his growth in the grace and knowledge of his Lord Jesus — he “dumped it all in the trash.” In his words, “I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself” (Phil 3:10 MSG). Paul, a former religious packrat, finally had a garage sale and sold it all!
We need to first empty our hands of lesser things if we are going to be able to receive God’s greater blessings. We need to rid ourselves of spiritual clutter if we are going to “learn the unforced rhythms of grace” and how to “live freely and lightly” (Matt 11:29-30 MSG). We need to follow Paul, dumping it all in the trash in order to fully embrace Christ and his calling on our life.
So, have a rummage sale of the soul, and begin clearing out those distractions that are hindering you from experiencing God’s fullness in your daily life!
NEXT: “One Hell of a Mess”
If we take a quick glance at the lifestyles of Christians in America today, they are hardly distinguishable from those who don’t know God. We are a church of Marthas, fussing about in our own respective kitchens. But Jesus invites us to clear away the clutter and find time and space to sit at his feet along with Mary (Luke 10:38-42).
Herein lies the key difference between spiritual garbage and spiritual clutter. Sin is widely recognized as a spiritual problem needing to be confronted and addressed. Excessive ‘busyness’, on the other hand, is rarely viewed as a spiritual weakness. In fact, busyness is often admired as a sign of strength, health and importance. How often do we look at another person and remark, “Wow, they are so active and involved!” We applaud the overly stressed, and admire the over-committed. We rarely recognize spiritual clutter as a hostile force impeding spiritual transformation and reducing the forward movement of God’s kingdom on earth. In fact, many (dare I say most?) leaders in the church actually suffer from the debilitating effects of chronic excessive busyness to some degree. I know I fall into this trap. The very place where God’s peace is meant to freely flow to tired and weary souls is itself feeding the problem, generating it’s own type of spiritual clutter and stress. What are we to do?
Jesus said, “Come to me all who are weary and weak, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). The church—Christ’s body here on earth—needs to clean house before it can begin to resemble his clutter-free lifestyle. In the Gospels we often find Jesus clearing a path through his own busyness, setting aside time alone with God. “Jesus himself frequently withdrew to a quiet place to pray” (Luke 5:16). One such night the disciples hunted Jesus down and said, “Everybody’s looking for you.” Rather than buckling under the pressure and bending toward their needs, Jesus kept his focus on the kingdom task at hand, saying, “Let’s go to the rest of the villages so I can preach there also. This is why I’ve come” (Mark 1:35-38).
Jesus was single-mindedly committed to the task at hand. He prioritized his time and simplified his life in order to faithfully fulfill his kingdom mission. Are we willing to follow in his footsteps, even if it means ridding ourselves of some of the distractions—even worthwhile and well-loved distractions?
NEXT: “Rummage Sale of the Soul”
While continuously ridding our lives of sin’s toxic presence is of central importance, there is another type of spiritual waste that needs to be kept at bay. I call it spiritual clutter. If spiritual garbage represents the sin polluting our lives, spiritual clutter represents the numerous distractions that constantly compete for our immediate attention, drawing our focus away from God’s kingdom purposes.
Webster defines clutter as: (1) v. “to fill or cover something (e.g., one’s life) with scattered or disordered things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness;” and (2) n. “interfering echoes visible on a radar screen caused by reflection from objects other than the target.” Let us take each of these in order.
Life often feels like a circus of various attractions. Each day is filled with innumerable tasks and responsibilities that call out to us like hecklers at a game booth. They beg us to pay the buck and toss the ball at the weighted milk bottles. Like a coat of arms, we wear each responsibility on our sleeves with great pride, either boasting or complaining to others of our full plate. The more activities we are involved in, the more respect we expect from others.
We are soccer moms running multiple kids to multiple sports and activities. We are Boy Scout leaders, little league coaches, and small group leaders at church. We hold memberships at the health club, country club and gun club. A typical day involves a hectic commute, several important conference calls, a lunch date with the CEO, an oil change and haircut on the way home followed by an evening Bible study after you grab supper and mow the lawn! Did I mention your wife is sick in bed and unable prepare dinner and drive the kids to their own evening activities?
Into this scattered and disordered life come the lazor-focused, unbending words of Jesus: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and he will provide you with all of these other things” (Matt 6:33). As if this wasn’t challenging enough, he adds a further consideration: “People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these [other] things, but you know both God and how he works” (v. 34). The central point is that kingdom people are called to a single-minded, uninhibited pursuit of the things of God. We are called to faithfully and intentionally reprioritize and simplify our lives. When we do, we should look different than the rest of the world who “fuss over these things.” But do we?
NEXT: “Boasting In Our Busyness”
There was a day when God went dumpster diving. Some 2,000 years ago God so loved the world that he sent his only Son into the dumpster of sin and death, so that everyone who believes in him shall not go to waste but have the eternal kind of life (John 3:16). Jesus came and took out our garbage for us; for we had let it pile up so high that it was now too heavy for any man to carry. As Isaiah said, “We’re all sin-infected, sin-contaminated. Our best efforts are grease-stained rags” (Isa 64:6). But Jesus exchanged our trash for God’s treasure (1 Pet 1:3-5).
The good news, according to Paul, is that “Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). God dove head first into the overflowing dumpster of the world’s sin, covering himself with the grease and grit, mold and mildew, dust and dirt. He pulled us out of the pit (Ps 40:2; 103:4), and wiped us clean (Ezek 36:25; Heb 10:22). He gave us new clothes and covered our smell with expensive perform (Ezek 16:9). He took our brokenness upon him self and made us whole again. We need only accept his gift. We were like cracked cisterns unable to hold water (Jer 2:13), but the Spirit has sealed our cracks and made us vessels capable once again of carrying God’s love and grace to others (2 Cor 4:7).
Still some are unwilling to let go of their precious junk. Boston College professor Peter Kreeft says it in so many words:
All sin is spiritual garbage, and necessarily meets its end in destruction. God can’t let garbage into heaven. Only if the “sinner” won’t let go of his garbage does he get burned with it. God offers to take the garbage off his back, to separate the “sinner” from the sin so that the sinner is not separated from God. Jesus is the garbage man.
Yes, Jesus is the garbage man who hauls all of our sins far away. “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our sins from us” (Ps 103:12). We however still need to make the effort to get it to the curbside. We need to do the dirty work of bringing secret sins into the open, confessing them to God and thereby allowing God’s love and mercy to haul them away. Some refuse this task—and pay the ultimate price. We’ll save that conversation for later date.
NEXT: “Spiritual Clutter”
The Bible says, “Come back to God Almighty and he’ll rebuild your life. Clean house of everything evil” (Job 22:23 MSG). This requires a concrete plan to rid ourselves of sin patterns in our life, to make a clean break of it. Yet, many of us prefer to sweep our sins under the rug or hide them in the back closet. We fail to deal with it completely. When we fail to regularly clean up after ourselves, or handle it completely, the spiritual mess only grows worse, making it harder to clean the next time. Listen to Jesus’ words:
When an unclean spirit goes out of a person, it passes through waterless places looking for rest but does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the home I left.’ When it returns, it finds the house empty, swept clean, and put in order.Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there, so the last state of that person is worse than the first (Matt 12:43-45).
So, pull out the furniture, shampoo the carpets, wash out the cupboards and dust every inch of your soul. Every couch cushion needs to be vacuumed, lest we find sin hiding in the cracks like loose change. But just removing the sin in our lives in a momentary cleaning spree isn’t enough.
In this strange scenario the problem isn’t that the individual neglected to clean house of the evil spirit. It appears that the person took the necessary steps to drive this evil out but didn’t invite the Spirit of God to take up residence in it’s place. We need to invite God’s presence to then fill all the empty spaces. Then the next time Sin comes knocking at our door, he won’t find a vacant building ready for rent, but instead the house of the living God, well lit and filled with the Spirit of holiness!
So, the first thing sin does is stink up our lives. The second thing sin does is it separates us from God. Since God is pure holiness, he doesn’t normally spend his time dumpster diving in sin’s filth. Indeed, the Bible says, “[God’s] eyes are too holy to look at evil, and [He] cannot stand the sight of people doing wrong” (Hab 1:13). God’s reality is free of garbage (Rev 21:27) and a place where nothing goes to waste.
We must therefore daily take account of our sins, confessing them to God and others (Jas 5:16), thereby ridding ourselves of all unrighteousness. The Bible is clear that we all have our own spiritual garbage to reckon with. “There is no one righteous, not even one… For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:10, 23). In John’s words:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing (1 John 1:9).
As we regularly take out the garbage, daily confessing our sins, we will avoid sin’s stench and prevent unhealthy behavior patterns from overflowing and polluting the rest of our lives.
NEXT: “The Day God Went Dumpster Diving”
Garbage is simply that which goes to waste. It has no positive value, serves no meaningful purpose and is therefore good only to be discarded or burned up. When we let our trash overflow with useless waste, the mess only inhibits the freedom and joy the “abundant life” (John 10:10) wants to give us. Waste gets in the way, it smells up the house, and detracts us from the beautiful, rightly ordered life God has made us for.
The first thing sin does as it stinks up the rest of our life. Sin therefore needs to be disposed of before it piles up and fills our whole body with its foul stench. Cut up a cantalope and leave the seeds and peels in the trash for a few days and what happens? The entire house begins to reek terribly. Or try visiting your son’s college apartment where he and six other boys have lived without cleaning for nine months. The bathroom, kitchen and rest are all coated with dirt, grime, grease, crumbs, dust, hair, and soap scum. It’s not a pretty picture, nor an appealing smell. Like rotten eggs or sour milk, sin needs to be reckoned with immediately or it will leave us miserable-gagging and gasping for fresh air.
Back in college seven of us shared a three-bedroom, one bathroom apartment. Since a couple of us valued a clean and sanitary living environment, we decided that we needed to establish some ground rules for keeping our apartment clean. We held an official meeting the first week where we drew up an official House Charter we all agreed to live by. We delineated the cleaning tasks that needed to be regularly performed and set up the rotation schedule we were to follow.
As each person fulfilled their scheduled tasks, we were able to keep the apartment relatively clean, orderly and odor-free. But whenever one of us slacked on our job-say, forgetting to clean our week-old chicken Chow Mein out of the refrigerator or take out the trash-we would all pay the consequences.
Likewise, our sin is social. It not only stinks up our own lives but those around us as well. Luckily, like our House Charter in college, God has provided a plan for us to follow in order to keep our lives clean from the effects of sin. We are told that our own bodies are the new temple of God, where his Holy Spirit has chosen to dwell (1 Cor 3:16). Therefore, we must keep our spiritual house clean and free of spiritual waste. Paul writes to the Corinthian church urging them to
Avoid immorality… Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; he bought you for a price. So use your bodies for God’s glory (1 Cor 6:18-20).
To the extent that we allow Satan to invade our lives with his empty lies and lead us into sin, we bring our entire house into disarray. It could be lustful thoughts, family grudges, paralyzing fears, uncontrolled anger, materialistic attachments, sexual immorality, selfish pride or self-doubt. Whatever the garbage, eventually we all need to do some serious “spring house cleaning of the soul.”
But where then do we start?
NEXT: “Spring House Cleaning of the Soul”
To begin with, we might accurately call God the original Recycler. Long before it was trendy to “Go Green” God made earth and everything in it and declared it “good.” When God’s beautiful creation turned so quickly on it’s Creator, dragging all humankind into the long night of sin and death, paradise was polluted. Original glory became spoiled goods. God’s brand new product was broken seemingly beyond repair. No longer able to function properly, one wonders why God didn’t just toss his broken world into the cosmic wastebasket and start over.
We do it all the time. A chair begins to wobble and loses a leg, so we toss it and replace it. When our television no longer gives a picture we get a new one. Once our furnace fails to heat the house, it is worthless and needs to be replaced. Likewise, if the world was created to declare the majesty of the Creator (Ps 8; 19) but only glorifies itself (Rom 1:18-32)-it is no longer serving its intended purpose. God would be totally justified in finding a replacement. But God, who is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love (Ex 34:6), refused to give up on his shattered masterpiece, and insisted on patiently going about repairing and restoring it. God recycles!
The flood of Noah’s day was God’s first attempt at renewal but Noah and his descendants ultimately failed to make things new. God’s second restorative project through Abraham and his descendants also fell short of undoing the consequences of Adam’s fall-of bringing God’s healing light to a dark and broken world. Yet, “when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth his Son” (Gal 4:4), the new Adam, to successfully launch God’s grand recycling project (Rom 5:14-19). Paul declares, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away-look, what is newhas come (2 Cor 5:17)!
Like a rusty 57 Chevy, with four flat tires and an engine that won’t turn, “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them” (2 Cor 5:19). He is sanding down the rust, repainting our exterior, restoring our interior and replacing our engine. Christ has erased our sins (Rom 6; 1 Pet 2:24), clothed our nakedness (Gal 3:27; Rev 3:18), given us a new heart (Ezek 36:26) and renewed mind (1 Cor 2:16; Eph 4:23; Rom 12:2), and has empowered us with his indwelling Spirit (Luke 1:35; Acts 1:8; Eph 3:16).
Like a proud collector at a classic car show, God wants to showcase his newly restored people before the rest of the world, thereby enlisting others to become employees in God’s international — global! — restoration business. God is passionately committed to his project of universal restoration. But as any collector-or craftsmen of any trade-will admit, these sorts of projects take precious time. Peter reminds us,
The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9).
The Christian life invites us to live in eager expectation of the future day when God’s glorious project will at last reach its climactic fulfillment. The day is coming when God will finally unveil his beautifully restored world-when he will at be “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28). ”The sufferings of this present time,” therefore, “are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18). Like the intense heat that melts used plastic bottles down in order to bring forth newly recycled containers, the birth pangs and inward groans we experience now will in time bring forth God’s newly restored world (v. 22). The day is coming when at last Jesus’ words will be fulfilled, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev 21:5)! So, let the “times of refreshing come” (Acts 3:20).
While the cosmic recycling project in Christ is God’s prerogative, our task here and now in God’s new world-in-the-making is to partner with the Holy Spirit in keeping our own lives cleaned up and in order. So, what exactly is spiritual garbage, and how can we properly dispose of it? Stay tuned…
NEXT: “Ooh, What’s that Smell?”