The first step to addressing a problem is identifying it, which is what I did last time but this time is for looking more closely at how to deal with this sin in our lives. This old adage is actually old school now. Garbage in, Garbage out. It is from a time when the church was readily and steadily battling culture. You don’t watch rated “R” movies, do you?!! They would say, and now it is you think homosexuality is a sin?!! So I have to ask, Do we filter what we let in? Do we filter our entertainment, our influences? With Netflix, we have access to endless hours of entertainment. The internet gives us access to endless pornography, so much so that those in the know giggle to themselves that there actually are other people who still pay for it. It is so bad that you no longer need services to find it, but you need services to keep it out.
What we let in has a tendency to put up tent posts.
Classic Christian rock band Petra had a song in the ’80s called Computer Brains. It was dealing with this exact idea.
Everything that you do and see, one more event in your memory
Every bit takes another bite without control over wrong or right
You must screen every entry made, the consequences must be weighed
The only way to security is every thought in captivity
Computer brains, put garbage in
Computer brains, get garbage out
Computer brains, programming you
Computer brains, what can you do?
I was rocking this song as a kid in 84′ to date myself, this was a time before the internet was a dream in Al Gore’s mind, heh. This was before online access could make this vastly more a reality than merely an anecdote from a song. It is not so much that we can completely protect garbage from getting in. Just like life, over time we produce it, it fills the bin, and if not taken out of the house, it will start to reek. If neighbors were to come to visit, the smell would immediately arrest, like a cat box screaming to be dealt with.
If we do not deal with the situation we cross over from a person who must deal with normal waste that is piling up, to a person who has resigned himself to live in filth. We are seeing this with the increasing number of men being outed as perverts and abusers. More names have risen since my last post about this, the dominoes are falling. God is putting his finger on something here. Our sexual behavior, our sexual interests. This is what I am talking about. If we do not clean out the garbage of sin eventually it will define us as people, and one day the truth will find us out. One way to deal with this is to start a crusade of making sure people who are abused can share so that the truth surfaces before more victims are made, this is happening and this is good. But another way would be to address the odor rising in our own apartments today.
This may not always be apparent to an individual who doesn’t walk with the Lord and so the smell is not so offensive. Just as sometimes it takes having company over to realize we need a deep cleaning, so might we listen to what the church has been saying? But as followers of Christ, I pray that our noses are violated when we allow sin to wallow in our presence. The culture is continually chipping away or as the song said so prophetically every bit of information takes a bite out of our moral fabric. Every thought left untested, every image left unopposed, every temptation merely hushed for now will create a future of smut that fills our minds and hearts.
5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10)
If character matters then it should always matter. If integrity matters then it should always matter. If morality matters, then it should always matter. If God matters then we will care about such things. We don’t give passes for people on our side over people on that one as the political game is doing. No, we establish standards, point to them and then live by them or else we will be left cleaning up the inevitable mess. The Song of Solomon reminds us not to awaken love before its time, nor out of its context. Our world is great at making sex available now for everyone with whatever strange options you might want to indulge. We must continually have the message that the church will not condone immorality. This has been a problem in the church in the past and I am sure it is still one today. If the church doesn’t shine as an example of purity, then how can we speak into a culture that hasn’t a clue of what the word means?
It is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks. Listen to the way people talk, listen to the things people will openly talk about. Investigate the kinds of things that we allow access to our eyes our hearts and minds to sit there and ruminate. Listen and realize the things that were once thought of as inappropriate for public consumption and how now simply calling them out, is what is shouted down. I wonder when the word lewd will be struck from our dictionary altogether as it has no practical use anymore. Listen to what sins even the church is excusing or reinterpreting. I keep coming back to Romans 1 whereas we have suppressed the truth, one of the results is that we will worship the creatures rather than the Creator. We will worship flesh.
This is the challenge to us. When Paul was in Athens (Acts 17) and he saw the rampant idolatry that was drowning the society, he was provoked in his spirit, as many of us are today when we look around. He didn’t simply look around and decide to pray for people or get angry and rant on social media. He was moved to action to address the society that didn’t know God. He also addressed the many religious institutions that helped build it. He didn’t hold a church service he went out to the world and proclaimed to them that they needed to repent. This is very much the Gospel message, by the way, so he didn’t switch messages, but his approach became more direct.
I have been wrestling with the message for us in-house versus the message outside. I do not expect the world to live outside their natures, but neither can we ignore the swirling around the drain as we continue to circle the vortex. Eventually, we will go down, let’s not kids ourselves because we can count the many revolutions we have already had. We may not win the day, but we are called to speak into lives, into our culture, into our surroundings that God has placed us. We must do so before our lands become the landfills we are seeing in the news, Hollywood, and Washington. Perhaps a little bit of a house cleaning is in order? It seems that the political game will always be filthy but our hearts don’t have to be.
Start there, in your own heart. Cultivate God-honoring standards and live them, and then move to those with whom you have influence, then move to the community that you dwell, and fight for souls of your cities. We have been playing catch up for too long, the church needs to start leading again. The society will not arrive at repentance on their own. But they are seeing the problem. Repentance and forgiveness are not obvious, if that was true God wouldn’t have sent his Son. We, all of us, need it pointed out to us that we are all under judgment in a fallen world. The good news is good news because the bad news has already set in. Keep reading the next few verses beyond John 3:16, there is a context of the besetting problem. The reality is we are a cesspool of debauchery and little by little it is being exposed one news anchor after one actor after one politician at a time. But remember many church leaders have fallen from this in the past as well. We are not immune, sin is pervasive and worldwide. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another one soon, the hunt is on. This problem is systemic, it is internal and it is mortal.
The more we fill up on sin, excuse it, and particularity sexual sin, the more we will fill out our hearts with it and the more like landfills our lives will become. The more failings we will have. Let’s become those garbage men and women who go to the Lord in prayer seeking forgiveness instead of identifying with it. I am reminded of Shel Silverstein’s poem about Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who would not take the garbage out, she kept putting it off and pretending it wasn’t an issue. The last portion arrests my mind:
And finally Sarah Cynthia Stout said” OK, I’ll take the garbage out!” But then, of course, it was too late… The garbage reached across the state, From New York to the Golden Gate, And there, in the garbage she did hate, Poor Sarah met an awful fate, That I cannot right now relate. Because the hour is much too late. But Children, remember Sarah Stout and always take the garbage out.
The church’s mission is to come alongside a world that is waking up to the idea that perhaps “sin” isn’t such a crazy idea after all. We are to wrap our arms around them and point to the savior who has had a game plan all along. Church, recognize the harvest is plentiful, but where are the workers? Our job as workers is not to simply shout at the harvest to uproot themselves but to go out and carefully cultivate them realizing we were once six feet under ourselves. Many will still reject it of course, but our job is to herald the good news.
What better time to do this when the world is being backed into a corner, not with “fake” news, but news that reflects how dark our hearts and deeds really are? Go out and share the hope of Christ. They probably won’t discover mercy and forgiveness outside in the streets. The world’s solution is to damn people and destroy their careers and then get back to the business of pretending that nothing is actually systematically wrong with everyone. Let’s not whitewash any more garbage, let’s not ignore sin anymore but actually remove it from our lives and come to Jesus the Savior.
Let us not lose this opportunity to point out real hope. Take the garbage out.