COLUMN: God's the eternal trash remover

Sunday, July 11, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

My dad was a great man who did many dirty jobs that no one else wanted to do.

He was a construction worker who laid concrete for more than 40 years. I recall him coming home from work being totally covered in mud and muck; it was one big, dirty mess. I would take his boots off and clean them. His clothes were another story — they needed to be taken outside, because the dirt was just so thick.

Performing this daily task was a test against my faith. I would say, "Why me, why do I have to do this?" My father would simply say, "Someone has to do it, why not you?"

Just think — if Jesus said to God the Father, "Why do I have to die for the world?" Well, we know Christ gave up His life freely, even though the world rejected him. "He was in the world, the world was there through him, and yet the world didn't even notice. He came to his own people, but they didn't want him," says The Message Bible in John1:11. It is possible to live in this world without allowing the trash or junk to control our actions and our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Dad Mathews had a way of putting the fear of God in us by reinforcing the need to keep the unhealthy and unproductive litter that could live in our lives such as drugs, sex and alcohol out of our lives. I remember him saying, "Garbage in, garbage out. God in, God out. What goes in will come out." He was talking about not putting the stuff in our body and minds that causes us to fall short of God's glory. In keeping the trash out of our lives, we must admit to ourselves and God that we can be sinful, self-centered and full of bits and pieces of the world.

This is the type of trash my Dad was talking about, and I think if this rubbish piles up in us, we will be no earthly good, and God would be unable to use us for his purpose. Here's a passage from I John 1:8-10 of The Message Bible that might be helpful. "If we claim that we're free of sin, we're only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won't let us down; he'll be true to himself. He'll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we've never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God — make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God."

We all have sinned in one way or another, but we serve a God who forgives and forgets the trash of our past. You see, he remembers our sins no more. Now that's something we all can take comfort in. I would like to think that God is like the trash man who has the spiritual power take out the stuff that causes us to sin.

Let's accept Christ and not reject him like some of the New Testament folks did. "I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me." John 13:20 (NIV). We have the approval and the favor of the Lord. So accept the things you cannot change in the name of Jesus Christ. Remember the story that teaches us that he who is without sin casts the first stone.

Jesus restored the light of salvation by taking on all the filth, junk and garbage that were dumped on him, so that we might have opportunity to accept salvation. "If we claim that we experienced a shared life with him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we're obviously lying through our teeth — we're not living what we claim. But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God's Son, purges all our sin. I John 1:6-7.

I am glad we do not have to live in dirty darkness of the world because he took on our trash. Jesus was not thinking only of himself, but he was thinking of the world — of you — of me. I think this a great lesson when we feel like people are dumping and discarding their trash and their negative attitudes or ungodly ways on us.

You may heave heard of the Hefty trash bags that suggest they are the strongest garbage bags around. Well, when it comes to the garbage we carry around with us, God through Jesus, came to the world to save us from sin. Christ came to take on our burdens and to take out the garbage. Now, the Hefty trash bags are good for natural garbage, but not for spiritual garbage. Christ is the one who can take our shortcomings in an effort to save us from all the junk that this world has to offer us. Our Lord is waiting to empty out our sinful garbage and replace it with an eternal bag that overflows with fruity, sweet smelling and Christly characteristics that can stand the test of time. All we have to do is ask him to do so.

"For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:16 (NASB). God knew that the world's garbage would end up crucifying his son, Jesus, on the cross, but that still did not discourage God from offering him up. Now, that's the type of love we need today, so we must all look to God to take out the trash in our lives, so he can utilize us to help others understand how to get rid of their trash.

Major K. Kendall Mathews is the regional coordinator for The Salvation Army.


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