Let us pray: Dear Savior, all of us carry a lot of accumulated junk around—both in our lives and in our hearts. Those burdens are heavy, help nothing and no one, and are slowly squeezing the life out of us. Today help us throw all that junk away! Open up that eternal dumpster in the sky and help us hurl our sins and the pain they bring into it. And then slam down the lid, haul it away, and seal it forever with Your undying blood. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO HAS CLEANSED OUR HEARTS WITH HIS ETERNAL BLOOD!
TEXT: Ephesians 4: 17-24
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
“Let’s clean the house?” If you’re a married man, those tend to be fateful words—especially if your wife utters them. I know, I know, I’m not supposed to categorize people that way. Some men are neat freaks and some ladies ignore dust bunnies. However, the vast majority of women I know are sticklers for a tidy house, while the men are, dare I say it?—A bit more lax….In this my mother and my wife both agree: “Men just don’t seem to see dirt!”
Housecleaning is really detail oriented. If you vacuum the carpet, but don’t use the wand along the baseboard, yuck! You’ll still have pre-dust bunnies on the edges instead of the middle. If you swipe a wet rag around and never rinse it out, double yuck!! Everything will show gray swirls when sunlight hits it. I remember walking into a spotless Victorian room once where everything shone—except someone forgot to ammonia water the hanging crystal lamp—and immediately your eye zeroed in on it and the “wow” factor was destroyed.
Remember that phrase: Cleanliness is next to Godliness? Well, when it comes to your heart, it certainly is true. Or, to paraphrase St. Paul in our lesson:
HOUSECLEAN YOUR HEART NOW!
Where does dirt come from? Put more to the point, where does filth come from? I’ll tell you.—It comes from life. In early May I stained the floor of the parsonage deck after power-washing it. It was pristine and spotless when I was done. Since then we’ve had a lot of rain. You’d think all that rain would have washed that deck floor over and over again and it would still be spotless.—Wrong! The dirt has literally “washed” out of the air unto it. The same is true in a house that’s shut up for a while. Dust still appears. And then there’s the active stains caused by foot-traffic, sticky kid fingers, and accidents with food. You cook and grease gets in the air and clings to everything. Even the oil of your fingers can eventually stain upholstery. So, dirt and filth come from living, don’t they.
Since you and I are alive, and since such dirt is caused by and also rubs off unto us, we’ve got a problem. We need to get clean. But when that dirt gets internalized, we’ve got an even bigger problem—how do you soap up your heart? Well, Paul addresses all this when he writes: “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”
Since he’s writing to Christians of a gentile background, doesn’t it seem strange to tell them not to live as Gentiles? Well, mystery solved! For here Paul is using that word: gentile to single out unbelieving non-Christians. And what a hard-edged description he uses as to this former way of life. 1. He talks about how empty, futile, and vacuous their thinking is.—I suppose today we’d say: “Don’t be an airhead.” 2. He speaks of how inner evil has darkened their minds, pulling them into total ignorance of Godly truth. This ignorance multiplies as such people harden their hearts against those Christian concepts of: repentance, forgiveness, and not taking revenge on others who slight them. 3. Despite press coverage which trumpets how “sensitive” the modern world is, really they are sensitive only when it comes to indulging in perversions. Name a perversion and you’ll discover a support group for it which glories in that perversion and networks into more and more and more perversions. In this, I’m reminded of the shopaholic who keeps buying and buying and filling and filling their house until someday they’re found dead and buried under a pile of “stuff” they never needed! This pithy description of us may not be ego-boosting, but it is true. And it’s a graphic reminder to: Houseclean Your Heart Now!
Does it feel good living in a dirty, smelly, pizza box, dirty clothes, dog-hair everywhere house? Does it feel good sleeping on grossly-stained sheets and could stand up on their own? Well, it’s not uplifting, is it? And once freed from such filth, why would you ever want to go back? Paul addresses this new-found mindset, the Christian mindset, among these newly believing Ephesians: “You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires (or, all people like to play in the dirt of sin); to be made new in the attitude of your minds—(think of the cleansing nature of your baptism or the newness you feel when your sins are proclaimed forgiven in Christ); created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
This whole section speaks of newness; shiny, squeaky clean sparkling newness of life. It’s the newness the drunk feels when they throw away their bottle. The newness the heroin addict feels when they deep-six their syringe. It’s the newness the hating relative feels when they go and ask the object of their wrath for forgiveness and actually receive it. It’s the newness the adulterous man feels when he comes clean with his wife and she takes him back. You and I have that newness with God Almighty because Jesus Christ was won forgiveness for all sins for us and has applied it to our lives and made it our own through faith. He has made us right with God. He has made us clean and holy—inside and out. Christ is bleach, ammonia, and detergent all rolled into one. Calvary’s cross was all dirt and His blood was the perfect cleanser. Nothing gets by His all-seeing eye and His cleaning. Every day, when we go to Him in humbleness and ask Him to re-clean us—He does! He never gets tired of it. He never goes on vacation. He’s never too busy to help. So, today open your heart to Him. Ask Him to Houseclean Your Heart Now! And you’ll be amazed at how good it feels! Amen