#199 "Dust, Dirt, Cobwebs and a Yoke"
May 18, 2011
"Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing-grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God." (Joel 2: 13-14)
My calendar says it's May and by all accounts it's spring. You wouldn't know by the weather. It seems like it's been raining for months and the temperatures refuse to rise above 60* for any length of time. Nevertheless, spring time is upon us and for many gals it means two horribly dreadful words...Spring Cleaning. Aargh! I know.
We've been holed up in our warm and toasty houses for months. At least those of us in the North have. For you Southern girls, I repent of bitter envy right this moment. The sun hasn't been as bright. The windows are dingy and the light doesn't pour over those things we haven't done around the house all winter long. But when we turn the page and it says May....all of a sudden we can see every dust bunny, every dust ball, every cobweb and every speck of dirt that's been building up. Am I right? Anybody?
Now, I'm very good at concealing the blemishes around my home. If I ever was privileged enough to have you over, you would say that I am an excellent housekeeper. Things are neat and tidy, dusted and vacuumed. But oh girlfriend, don't look too close. In the corners, in the closets, and in the rafters, are unholy things of epic proportions. And I see each and every one of them, now that spring is here. I can choose to ignore it all. I can choose to just keep on keeping the outward appearance of my home presentable to the naked eye, or I can choose to deal with the stuff that's hidden away in the corners; the dust, the dirt and the cobwebs. You may not know it's there, but I do.
Our hearts are exactly the same way. Years ago, God instructed His people through the prophet Joel to rend their hearts, not their garments. He didn't want them to perform an outward expression of their sorrow over sin so that everything looked good on the outside only. Here's how one commentator describes what is involved in "rending":
"A penitent rends and "rips up by a narrow search the recesses of the heart, to discover the abominations thereof," and pours out before God "the diseased and perilous stuff" pent up and festering there, "expels the evil thoughts lodged in it, and opens it in all things to the reception of divine grace."
Maybe you need to read that paragraph again. It's pretty strong isn't it? That is the condition of your heart. That is the condition of my heart. There are abominations, diseased and perilous stuff, and evil thoughts festering in our hearts. Our inner recesses have lived too long in the winter. Might I suggest to you that spring is here and it's time to do some cleaning; some rending?
We sure do a good job at cleaning over the tops don't we? We talk Christianspeak; we go to church and read our Bibles. With the naked eye, we appear to have it all together. We look like we're obedient, faithful, holy disciples of God, but what kind of dirt has been building up in our hearts over the long winters of our lives. Maybe months or even years of grime and sin and disobedience have accumulated in the one place that God deems more important than any other part of you...your heart.
When I preached at a local churches' food pantry, a man used to come each week who was a cross dresser. He asked to be called by a woman's name, when he was clearly, well, a he. He was kind, he was friendly, but he was in so much pain. As I preached the messages, there were countless Saturday mornings when his eyes would fill with tears. One of the pantry volunteers was discussing him with me one morning, going on and on about how weird he was and what we could do with him, not to mention his total lack of fashion sense. This particular day it was as if the Lord took over my mouth and said these words:
"He's really just like the rest of us. He just wears his dysfunction on the outside for all to see."
We can be so good at keeping our dirt and sin and dysfunction hidden from the outside world. I submit that we can be so good at keeping it hidden even from ourselves. We don't face our flagrant disobedience to God's commands. As long as we're doing some of the Christian stuff, we refuse to admit that there are things in the corners and closets of our hearts that need a good cleaning. There may even be things that we thought we conquered years ago, but are still there waiting to be pulled out by the roots. They are still causing us to behave in destructive ways. We just don't know it because we just don't face it. We clean ourselves outwardly, over the tops, so that we appear neat and tidy. But inside...
God is interested in the neglected, hidden corners of your heart. He knows that your disobedience isn't doing you any good. He wants what's best for you and He can't give you His best if you're not allowing Him into every area of your life and heart. He wants to set you free. He has a plan and a purpose for your life, but it may be on total hold until you're willing to let him into those places no man has gone before and do a deep, deep cleaning.
Would you be willing to submit yourself to the white glove test of God? Don't you want all of the dirt, the filth, the wrong attitudes, the hurt, the sin, the wrong motives and ugliness OUT OF THERE? If you ask you will receive. When I asked, I received. God has been shining His light on the darkness that resides in my heart. It's not a pretty sight. The things that I thought I had under control...not so much. What an enlightenment to find that I was still letting old things determine my thoughts and my actions. I am allowing Him to do a total housecleaning in my heart. In the spiritual sense, I'm pretty beat up right now. But in a good way. God will never show you your sin and condemn you for it. Convict you? You bet your sweet bippy, He will. But the thing about God, the thing that makes me love Him so, is that there is no condemnation. None. (Romans 8:1)
I believe that God will never give the go-ahead to the fulfillment of His ordained destiny in our lives until He believes that we are ready. If you have a vision yet unfulfilled, it may be time to submit to the inspection of the living God. Let Him have His way with you. Obey what He tells you, even if people disagree with your decisions. It's obedience to Him that will lead you into His plans and purposes for your life. Other people just want you to do things their way for their own reasons. Make up your mind to win the approval of God, not men. (Galatians 1:10) Your future is at stake. You can live your life looking all put together on the outside and go nowhere. Or you can submit to God and let Him do His work in you and walk right into His glorious inheritance. He will deal with you tenderly, but deliberately.
As I've been going through this myself, familiar words of Christ came to me like fresh, cool water on a hot summer's day.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11: 28-30)
Allow God entrance into the deepest recesses of your heart. You think it's hard, I know. But it is so worth it. And you are never alone. Jesus will be there with you every step of the way. He will tenderly shine His light on what needs to be exposed and by His Holy Spirit He will empower you to walk on, a changed person.
His yoke is easy. And you know the one thing about a yoke, friend? Where there's a yoke, there's always a Someone on the other side, helping you carry it all the way.
Living the Word along with you,
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