(February 20, 1991)
It won’t be long until spring cleaning. Out come mops for dirt and garbage cans for disposables. It feels good to sort out and clean up, even if it takes courage to tackle a long-neglected attic or basement storage room.
One time I volunteered to help a girl clean up her dirty room — without first seeing the room. Never again. It was an hour before the two of us uncovered the floor. The whole project took three days and yielded a truckload of dirty clothes and an enormous pile of trash. Any sense of accomplishment was nearly lost in our exhaustion. Even though the job was necessary, it would have been a lot easier if she had done a little each day, or even once a week, and not allowed the mess to get so out of hand.
For Christians, spiritual cleaning is necessary too. While it is best to keep our hearts continually clean, that is, confess sins daily, sometimes that doesn’t happen. We don’t hear God telling us about the dirty places, or we hear but don’t listen. The dirt begins to pile up in the corners.
But, whatever the sin, and whatever the reasons we refuse to deal with it, even if WE allow a backlog, GOD will not. Because He loves us and determines to deliver us from it, He will expose the covered, unconfessed sin, sometimes quite dramatically, and force us to do something about it.
In other words, sometimes God opens up some closets, spiritually speaking. When He does, the about-to-be-purged Christian discovers some skeletons and maybe even a few rotting corpses. Not a pleasant discovery. In fact, most of us would just as soon close the doors on the putrid mess and “move out” rather than allow Him to clean it up. However, when such a thing happens His grace prevails and there is nothing to do but give the mess to Him and see what He is will do to clean it up.
One note, this may never have happened to you (yet) but watch out for a smug, “I never did anything so bad as that person did” attitude. None of us can boast. I have clutched and concealed collections that didn’t please God and know rot is rot in His sight, whatever the degree of stench it discharges. Even if someone's cluttered closets offend me more than my “less” odious messes, both are equally offensive to the nostrils of God.
Nonetheless, like that girl’s room, the first sight of previously concealed filth, can be overwhelming to someone who lets it pile for a long time. Ten or twenty years of trash seems to need a bomb, not a broom. However, God’s cleaning program isn’t quite like ours. We see a big mess and want to either run away or reluctantly roll up our sleeves, but all He wants is us to get down on our knees with a contrite heart. He will do the cleaning. The promise is found in I John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
In severe cases, it takes some while for all to be confessed. The offenders who allow the pile to accumulate agonize over each piece of junk, some of which has been hidden for years and years. But with each admission, the grace of God fulfills the promise. The cleansing happens. The closet begins to sparkle. In fact, sometimes the difference is so incredible it seems that there never had been any junk in there in the first place. All that is left are fading memories of the horror of first opening the door.
Not every closet is the same, but God’s promise covers your closets and mine; those that are nearly bare and those that have purposely been closed and accumulating far too long. From us, He wants honesty only, and the closet door (our hearts and lives) thrown open to His light. From there, He takes the blood of Christ and applies it to whatever garbage has been hidden in storage, washing it away and giving us a new start. What a wonder!
Certainly it takes courage to look at a big mess, either one from the present or one from the past. And it takes courage to pull out each rotten item and lay at His feet... but He is a capable Cleanser. His grace is sufficient to purge our hearts and change our lives. Not only that, He can keep them that way.