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Clean Up Your Act

by Tim O'Hearn

I am a slob. I know it. Although I may not be proud of it, neither am I ashamed. I don’t like rooms where you would be afraid to sit on the furniture. I would rather call my house “lived in.” At work, people wonder what my desktop actually looks like. My younger son once took my lifestyle to the extreme. In his high school years we wouldn’t tell him to clean his room, just to “make a path to your bed before you go to sleep.” My physical surroundings are a mess, and I don’t subscribe to the theory that this makes my mental outlook the same. In reality, though, everyone is spiritually a slob, or at least has been.

Sin makes a huge mess out of our lives. Sometimes we are just comfortable with it and go on about our business until we become like the hoarder who died when a stack of old newspapers fell over on her. Some people collect pet sins like the “old cat lady” who can’t live in her house because of the hundred or so cats living there. We lose all sense of the stench, and begin to think this is a normal life.

Jeremiah dealt with such people as we all have been. He preached to a people who had become accustomed to their sin.

For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the LORD. (Jer 6:13-15; 8:10-13)

Sin makes such a mess of our lives that we consider it normal. We forget to blush when we are caught in a sin, or see it in someone else.

Sometimes we realize how sinful we are, and try to fix it ourselves. After all, I am a basically good person; I don’t need help, just willpower.

When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. (Matt 12:43-45)

This is the condition of the one who can fix himself, by himself. Sin is an addiction. There may be smokers who quit and never started again. Most, however, are like this man with the unclean spirit; they go back to their habit with a vengeance. Unlike smoking, though, nobody has figured out how to quit sinning cold turkey. Even the apostle Paul struggled with it. (Rom 7)

If we can’t get rid of sin, how can we get rid of the mess? Won’t it come back? Jesus is the one who can clean up the mess; and Jesus is the one who can keep it clean. In him “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” (Eph 1:7) Through immersion in water we wash away our sins. (Acts 22:16) Unlike the man with the unclean spirit, though, after he has “swept and garnished” our souls, he does not leave us empty. We receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) to live in us and keep the house clean. We may have been a mess, but Jesus is the “Merry Maid” service for sin. Except, he gives his service without cost to us.