Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
SHARING THE DUTIES OF CHRISTIAN HOUSE CLEANING
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
28 February 1988
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verse: (James 3:6)
And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.
The sermon for today is titled "SHARING THE DUTIES OF CHRISTIAN HOUSE CLEANING."
And even though it is not yet spring, I thought it would be a good day to start talking about house cleaning.
I realize that most of us don't even like the idea of thinking about house cleaning. We like even less the thought of actually starting it.
So, I also thought it would be a good thing if we would share the duties of cleaning with each other.
Am I sensing that some of you disagree with me?
Is it that while most of us don't like the idea of doing all that cleaning, we may be more concerned about having someone else do it with us?
It appears to be that we are more afraid of having others see the mess and dirt in our homes, than we are about doing the cleaning by ourselves.
Why is this?
Perhaps it's because of the kind of dirt we have around, or the places in which the dirt will be found.
Perhaps it’s because we are afraid that the other person will tell someone else about us and the dirt in our homes.
So what do we do?
Maybe the best thing to do first is to identify the kind of dirt we want to start cleaning out. Next we should decide the place we should start our cleaning.
What kind of dirt do we want to start cleaning out?
I figured you would choose the correct answer. It's sin.
Maybe you guessed the correct answer because we're in church, and it's the
Lenten season; and the fact that you listened to our Old and New Testament
readings for this morning.
And now that you've figured out the answer to the first part of the question, perhaps you will also do just as well on the second part.
Where do we start cleaning out this sin?
Well, I was wrong; I don't think you did as well on this part of the question, for I heard two answers. I heard some of you say, "In myself." I also heard some of you say, "In that person:” And I also think some of you just didn't want to answer this part of the question.
Why do you suppose that we think this way?
More than likely it is because we all have sin in our lives and don’t like talking about it.
Also, it's much easier to point out the sin in someone else's life; for if we see it, then we also figure that others will see it in them. And thus it will make others take their eyes off us.
We think that it’s easier to sweep things under the carpet, where they are out of sight, than it is to do a thorough house cleaning, which completely removes the dirt and sin from our lives.
This is also why we don't want others too close to the place where we swept our dirt; for when we invite others inside, they will more than likely see the bumps in the carpet.
But, so what if they see the dirt under our carpet; they're our friend aren't they?
Yes, they are; but unfortunately, in most cases they also will let their other friends know about the dirt hidden away in our secret places.
This is one of the biggest causes of our churches not functioning as Jesus Christ intended them to function.
If we really and truly love a member of our family, we will do everything in our power to protect them. We will even sweep their dirt under our own carpet. And we will do anything we can to keep it hidden until we have an opportunity to dispose of it properly.
Unfortunately, even within our own families we don't always keep these loved ones protected. We may not set out to let others know about this dirt, but in the spirit of fellowship and one-up-man-ship we let it slip out.
Therefore, most of us end up getting the reputation of not being completely trustworthy.
Our church is a family, or at least that is what the Lord intended it to be.
Our church should be the place we come to get the help and comfort to grow in the light of Jesus Christ.
Our church should be the place we come to clean out the sin in our secret places with the prayerful help of the other members of our family.
But unfortunately, in far too many instances the church has not fulfilled its role in this area and, in fact, has done harm to those who were seeking comfort.
Let's take a closer look at this problem in our churches and lives, and see what we can do about it.
Do you remember last week we discussed James 1:15 as part of our sermon on recognizing the sin in our lives and partaking of the Bread of Life?
Let's look at it again:
15. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
If someone were sick and dying, and you had an abundance of the cure that would heal them completely, would you withhold it from them?
The plain fact is that each and every one of us has the cure for everyone who is caught in the illness described in James 1:15. It’s the Gospel. It’s the truth of the saving power of Jesus Christ that can bring everlasting life. It’s that He shed His blood to cover the sins of all who accept His gift and repent.
But we don't usually exercise our option to share this message with others.
There are probably many answers, ranging from embarrassment to lack of understanding ourselves.
There is another reason we should look at, too. It is that the world looks at most church people as hypocrites, because we don't live the life we preach. As a result, they don't want to be associated with that image.
And we on the inside of the church know all too well how often this statement is true, and may even have been the cause of such a statement. As a result, even church members back away from sharing in the needed spiritual house cleaning.
When this happens, we also begin to feel that we have no choice but to do it on our own.
And there is still another related reason; and that is that we realize that we may be one of the hypocrites and, therefore, can't say anything to those who also need their houses cleaned.
Yet God told Ezekiel (Ezekiel 3:16-21) and many others to tell sinners to repent, or to take the blame of their sin upon themselves.
16 Now it came about at the end of seven days that the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
17 "Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me.
18 "When I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die'; and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.
19 "Yet if you have warned the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself.
20 "Again, when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I place an obstacle before him, he shall die; since you have not warned him, he shall die in his sin, and his righteous deeds which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand.
21 "However, if you have warned the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; and you have delivered yourself."
God's very clear message was that if the sinners repent, they will be forgiven.
I believe that every person who stands up for God has the absolute responsibility to tell this message to everyone they can, and if they fail to do so, then they are responsible for the soul of that person whom they failed to tell.
Yet Jesus called the people hypocrites, who went around telling others that they were sinners. (Matthew 7:1-5)
1 "Do not judge lest you be judged.
2 "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
3 "And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
4 "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye?
5 "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
Why did Jesus call the hypocrites?
Because the life they were leading was in direct contradiction to what they were saying the other person should be like.
They had not removed the log from their own eyes.
They had not done their own house cleaning.
Now you may be saying, "These two statements you made seem to be in conflict with each other. Are we to tell others of their sins and the need to repent, or are we not to do so?"
We are to tell them; but the key is that we are to judge them as we would be judged.
If we come on to others as one who is without sin, we are hypocrites, and the other person knows it and probably will not listen.
And if we don't tell them of their sins, but turn around and tell others of what they have done, we are worse than hypocrites, for we have compounded their sin upon ourselves.
Let's look at an example: the animal agriculture industry, and in particular, egg laying hens, and the same applies to their mothers before them.
When their eggs are laid, they roll away from their mothers and they never see each other again, which breaks the natural bond that God created in all of us, and this causes anxiety and mourning.
When the eggs hatch in incubators, the male chicks are thrown away to slowly suffocate in trash bags and garbage bins.
The females have the ends of their sensitive beaks cut or burned off without any anesthesia.
When they are old enough to lay eggs, six of them are crammed into a small wire cage for the rest of their lives, where they cannot even stretch out their wings, and so they suffer all the days of their lives without any medical care.
But because it is considered standard practice, no one does anything about it.
In other words, they sweep the sin under their already dirty carpets.
If we say nothing and even buy the products of this terrible cruelty, we become a part of this barbaric behavior.
What God told Ezekiel, and what Jesus is telling us are really one and the same thing.
We are first to stop buying and eating the eggs, as an example of removing the log from our own eye, before we can be seen as being credible enough to speak out against the pain and suffering inflicted upon the chickens and our fellow human beings for committing these atrocities.
And the same applies to every other sin we can think of.
If we can only learn to judge ourselves first, then we will be able to see through the sins of others as we want others to see through our sins.
Only then can we effectively reach out to help them reach out to God for forgiveness. Thus we will redeem both them and us.
Sinner, take this sinner's hand, for we have all fallen short of the glory of God. But our God is faithful to forgive all who come before Him with a repentant spirit.
He loves us very much.
He will heal us from all the evil we have done to each other, and to His beautiful creation, if we will let Him.
He will bring us back together as a vibrant, living, and loving fellowship; a church that is truly dedicated to serving Him; that is, if we are willing to submit to Him.
Come! Let's set our houses in order. Let us resolve before God to help each other with our house cleaning, and that we will only discuss the condition of the other person with God, and then only in a humble manner, for we could be talking about ourselves.
Let's come before the Lord in prayer, and reflect on Micah 6:6-8.
6. With what shall I come to the Lord
And bow myself before the God on high?
Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings,
With yearling calves?
7. Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams,
In ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I present my first-born for my rebellious acts,
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
The answer to these four questions is, NO!
8. He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?