Monday, February 17, 2014

Takin' Out The Trash

 Because, it's stinking up the house...that's why!

Our weekly chore.
Everybody has to do it. Taking out the trash.
As I read this week's scripture, this is the phrase that came to mind.
Maybe you see the correlation as you read it over...

1 John 1:9

New International Version (NIV)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Recently, we got a new trash company in town.
As I came home on that day I noticed there was a long line of green cans down the street.
We had one too. Seems the new company gave everyone in town a brand new trash can.
And, it's a good can too. Not like my old brown cans with the tiny wheels that I lugging behind me out to the street each Monday. This is a big green cans, with the BIG wheels on the sides.
AHHHH. So nice. So easy to roll up and down the driveway. 

We'll talk more about trash removal in a moment...

Our scripture comes from an apostolic letter.
Many of these letters were written in response to a need or an issue that our church fathers saw going on in the Christian community. Many of Paul's letter were written after he visited a place. Some time later he would write to them about issues or people he encountered while ministering in their city. Ephesus. Galatia. Corinth. 1 & 2 Corinthians being his two longest letters. There were lots of issues there to be discussed in that city and church.

John's epistle, or letter, is no different.
One major issue that is going on in the Christian community that causes John to write his letter is the issues of other "teachers" outside of the apostolic leaders who have entered in to instruct people in what they feel is a "higher understanding" about Christ. Historians have noted that these "teachers" have sited that they were divine. More important to this discussion is what they taught about Jesus and the nature of sin. Concerning sin in themselves, they would tell the people they, themselves, had no sin. I can only try and imagine the firestorm brewing at the end of John's ink pen as he is writing to his fellow Christians about these subjects. He would start off his letter with these words...

1 John 1

New International Version (NIV)

The Incarnation of the Word of Life

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our[a] joy complete.

These people think that they know more and have a "higher understanding" than people who actually walked and talked with Jesus, himself. John jumps right on it. His gospel starts off with similar tones. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John starts his letter opening as he does because, as a follower of Christ, he has first hand knowledge. And, there's nothing that can refute first hand knowledge. No "higher understanding" can trump what someone actually saw for themselves.  ...we have looked at and our hands have touched...we have seen it and testify to it...We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard...
I've many a conversation as to the validity of the gospel. Some want to say it's just a fairytale. Just a story. There are those who know that's something more than that, however. A person who has first hand knowledge.

These "teachers" are the beginning of what will be known in a couple hundred years as Gnosticism.
There is something very mystical and without absolute about these teachings.
I like to describe it as built on a foundation of jello. What was to old saying about jello?
"Watch it wiggle. See it jiggle."
Jesus would talk about building on a solid foundation.

Matthew 7:24-27

English Standard Version (ESV)

Build Your House on the Rock

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

In Gnosticism, nothing gets a truly solid foundation. Everything is left up to a shaky stability of figuring out how to understand God without any absolutes. And, for many a gnostic, the subject of sin is either not explained or not dealt with at all. These "teachers" now present in John's time are saying they don't have any sin at all. Paul would be very blunt about sin in his letter to the Romans.

Romans 3:23

English Standard Version (ESV)
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Nobody gets a free pass here. Everybody has sin to deal with in their lives.
John has to explain the issue here in his epistle also.

1 John 1

New International Version (NIV)

Light and Darkness, Sin and Forgiveness

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[b] sin.
Sin is the spiritual equivalent of trash.
Trash needs to go. If we let it sit around, it starts stinking up the place.
Jesus has something he'd like to do with our sin. Purify us.

John takes the sin issue a bit further as he continues to the verse we ready at the beginning.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
Sin has to go. How far to we go with the subject of it's removal, however?
Is it enough to simply bag it up and take it out to the can in the garage?
Well, the house smells better. But, what's going on in the garage?
Next time you go to get in the car, you'll find out how it smells out there.
The can has to go out to the street. Is it enough for it to just sit out at the street?
Nope. Eventually that odor is going to drift back at the house and when we open the front door...
WHEW! Man, that stuff has to go. And, here comes the trash truck to take our junk away for us.
Sin is very real issue in a human being's life. Jesus is the trash removal expert.

Jesus wants to do two things according to verse 9.
Forgive and purify or cleanse.
It's not enough to have the sin forgiven. Jesus wants to make sure it doesn't come back again either.
There's a story Jesus told back in the gospels about a person who had demons cast out of him.

Matthew 12:43-45

New International Version (NIV)
43 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

It's not enough to simply have our sins forgiven. Jesus wants to purify us also.
The house has been swept and put into order. But, trash can begin to pile up again.
The impure can find its way to our home again. In the case of the impure spirit, it came back and found nobody was living there. We discussed Jesus standing at the door of our hearts when we covered Revelation 3.20 a week or so ago. Is there anybody living in the house of our heart? Or, is it empty? Will the trash begin to pile up again? Or, have we sent it away, never to return?

Jesus is cleansing us from "unrighteousness" John's letter says.
What is that? Righteousness has to do with right living.
Maybe we are more familiar with a term like "self-righteousness".
Who does our world revolve around? Us? Me? Do i determine for myself what is right and wrong?
Or, does someone higher than myself determine that? Where does my righteousness comes from?
Jesus wants to cleanse, purify us from all unrighteousness. Wrong living.

As the 2nd chapter begins in John's letter, he makes his proclamation clear as to the intention of this letter.

1 John 2

New International Version (NIV)
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
He cleanses us from unrighteousness so that we will not sin. That is what he wants. For us to live life without sin in the mix. But, life is not easy to live. And, if anybody has a problem with living out this wish to live with out sin, there is someone who intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father.

Here's Plan A. God wants to live this life forgiven and purified, cleansed of sin.
In anybody is having a problem with living in Plan A, here's Plan B.
Jesus Christ makes forgiveness possible. Come to him and find what you need.
But, Plan B is no place to live. Plan B is simply a means to get us back on track with Plan A.
Plan A is where we are supposed to be. Believe me, I've been back and forth between A and B over the years. I've prayed at the altar on Sunday and felt high on the mountain. OH, but here comes Monday morning and I actually have to wake up and begin to interact with the world around me.

The trash needs to go out. And, not just out to the garage or the curbside. It's needs to go. Out of here.

Is there anything you need, not just forgiven, but cleansed and purified from the mix of your life today?

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