1/16/04, Human Relations Sunday, Ep2A
arrollton has the most efficient trash pickup of anywhere we have lived. In most towns the garbage-pick-up personnel have the attitude that homeowners should feel grateful for the random sorry service that they receive. In Decatur , near Emory, we suspected that the garbage men were stealing our garden tomatoes. Then one day my new jeans disappeared off the drying line, and the next week we spotted a stocky trash man, boldly wearing my jeans. We were afraid to offend them so we gave up the garden and dried our clothes in the Laundromat.
A major part of our wonderful quality of life in Carrollton is that we have an efficient means of trashing trash: the guys are friendly and on time, and they will trash anything left at the curb.
However, there is a trashing model that is even better: It is the very Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the entire world. In our vocabulary, Jesus Christ has a perfect way to trash our sin, to eradicate our past sins. He not only buries our sins where they can not be seen; but, through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, our sins are obliterated as we ask forgiveness.
That may sound too simple for the modern educated sophisticates among us, but when I was a twenty-one year old frat boy I was not capable of grasping any theological formula that was any too complicated. Yet, in my lonely dorm room on a rainy Sunday afternoon, dealing with the frankness of the laity day address that I had just heard from a former rebel who had been converted under my Dad's preaching, I asked for forgiveness from God and He trashed my past sin forever; and an assurance was given me that He had forgiven my sin, even mine and my past sin was forgiven and trashed forever.
However, as with our trash cans at home which we keep refilling with more trash every day, we all sin every day and need to pray for new forgiveness every day. One of my jobs at home is to carry out our trash almost daily. It's amazing how just the two of us can produce so much trash.
We all need to call upon the means of grace for forgiveness daily. Marilyn uses the Oswald Chambers Daily Devotional Guide every morning, My Utmost for His Highest . I bought her a new leather copy a few years ago but she still uses her old worn copy. For the past few years I have begun my personal daily prayers with the plea, “O God be merciful to me a sinner!” I have found that this keeps me from merely making excuses to God for my sins and forces me to state my true position as a sinner who is saved by Grace. I am not excusing myself by saying, “ It's my background, or my personality traits.” Asking for mercy forces true confession and puts the penitent believer into a place where they can receive continuing cleansing. Otherwise, a lot of praying is simply making excuses to God, and He knows better.
Another observation is that some Christian folk seem to not trust the process. What I mean is, they ask God to trash it and then seem to doubt that He has obliterated the sin. People keep asking for the garbage service to pick up last week's trash again. Hey, it's gone for good! Real forgiveness means that we trust The Lamb of God's sacrifice to pay the price for the forgiveness of confessed sin. We are denying God's power and promise whenever we try to hold on to our sin.
A hard part for some newcomers to serious prayer is that they trip over the part of The Lord's Prayer where we repeat, “And forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.” We must forgive others in the same way that God forgives us. It is hard to forgive sometimes: that selfish daughter and deceitful son, the interfering mother-in-law, the nagging wife and bullying husband, and the manipulative boss. How can we forgive those who have done us wrong, tried to destroy our reputation, or cheated us on purpose? The only way is to allow God to quicken our minds to remember where we have stood. The cathartic effect of forgiving evil doers allows room for God to pour out a blessing in our souls. Unless we take the high ground, we are denying ourselves God's mercy.
And the best thing about taking out the heavy trash bags and pulling the over-stuffed giant green can to the curb is that it makes us tend to cut down on our production of trash. This analogy of trash, as somehow being related to the imagery of the Lamb of God, may be thin at this point; but, to carry on, there is something about cleansing that calls for more and more cleansing. What I mean is that it seems to be God's way of re-molding us into the higher image and calling that He has for us, as we are taught to want more of His holiness and as we perpetually allow Him to take away our sin.
Since I have dug a hole already with my “Trash Sermon,” let me illustrate our desire for righteousness and cleansing in one more story. We had to call “Roto-Rooter” one time when we had a septic tank problem. The man and his son who came had a dirty job. However, they had been doing it for a long time and they never got dirty because they very much wanted to stay clean and had learned how to do so. In fact, they both dressed in pure white overalls. Even their septic truck was painted bright white. When I mentioned how clean they were the father pulled out a snapshot of his Cadillac parked next to his son's Mustang, and you guessed it; both were pure white.
“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor