“CLEARING THE CLUTTER” By Pastor YAU
Text: Philippians 3:3-12 December 27, 2009.
1) Can’t throw away: Writer David McCasland had a personal experience like this. He said we all have heard that “one person’s junk is another’s treasure.” When he tried to help his parents clear their house of “unnecessary items” before moving to a smaller home, he found it very difficult. He was often frustrated by his parents’ refusal to throw away things they had not used for years or decades. Finally David’s father helped him understand that even the worn-out, useless items were tied to important events of family and friends. Clearing them out felt like throwing away their very lives.
2) Throw them away: The spiritual parallel of our reluctance to throw away clutter in our homes is our reluctance to clear our hearts of sins and sinful nature that had weighted us down. As Paul clung to his hard earned “righteousness” by following the law of Judaism before he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-8). Face to face with the risen Christ, he had to let go of his cherished possessions which he later counted as rubbish when he wrote, “But what things were gain to me before, these I have counted loss for Christ.” (Phil. 3:7-9)
WHY CLEARING THE CLUTTER?
1) God cares about hearts: “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” (Deuteronomy 8:2) These were the words of Moses reflecting the desire of God to make sure the Israelis would be cleared and humble in their hearts so they will keep the commands of God. God knows that it is the heart that directs the acts of His people. If the heart is cluttered with pride and sin, they will not follow the commands of the Lord.
2) God desires clean hearts: “The Lord set His affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations. So, circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.” (Deut. 10:15-16) God didn’t just care what was inside of their hearts, He asked that their hearts be circumcised, be clean, so they won’t be stiff-necked as their forefathers. God desires total loyalty from His people and loyalty of their hearts. A heart cluttered with worldly objects, sins of the fresh or idols of the fresh will not be acceptable to receive God’s blessings. Moses gave warning at the end of this book on the consequences of not obeying God.
3) God won’t settle for less: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamp-stand from its place.” (Revelation 2:4-5) God will never settle to be second in the hearts of His people. By His nature and on what He has done for His people, God deserves the highest, the best and the total dedication their hearts. He demanded that in ancient times, and He still demands the same today. He can’t be a second class God
4) God wants the best for us: “Above all, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) These are the words of the wisest man in history, King Solomon, on the importance of keeping a clean heart. We need to protect our hearts from being polluted by any unwanted “fillings.” A bad heart, like a bad tree, can only produce bad fruits. If you desire good fruits from your life, you need to keep your heart clean and good at all cost.
WHAT ARE SOME CLUTTERS? Just to list a few as samples:
1) First, the world: “Do not love the world or things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him.” (1 John 2:15) This is about freedom of choice: love the world or love the Father God. For people of the world, love the world is a natural choice, in fact, the only choice. But to the people of God, we have a choice: to love the world or to love the Father God. Sadly to say, quite a few of people who claim to be God’s people in fact are world lovers. God doesn’t want to share your heart with the world. If you love the world, then you cannot love God the same time. It is that simple.
2) Then, the flesh: “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit is the Spirit of God dwells in you. If any man has not the spirit of Christ, he is not His.” (Romans 8:8-9, KJV) This is about how Christians live their lives: by the desires of the flesh or by the power and direction of the Spirit of Christ. Who is in control of our life is very important to God. It doesn’t matter what we claim to be, if a life is controlled by the flesh, he is not Christ’ people. God demands absolute loyalty of His people. We either follow the flesh or follow God. There is no middle ground.
3) And the old self: “For we know our old self was crucified with Christ so the body of sin might be done with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin, because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7) This is about our wanting to keep the old sinful nature and continue to sin even after we are freed from the bondage of sin. If we believe that we are in Christ, we cannot hold on to the old self, the sinful nature and continue to live in sin. Here are the words of Paul “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:24-25)
4) And the idols: “What similarity is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: I will live with them and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (2 Corinthians 6:16) Ever since the Old Testament time, God commanded His people, the Israelis not to worship idols but they did and suffered terrible consequences. God cannot and will not coexist with idols in the same temple. Today, God still won’t live in the temples of his people where idols still exist. We have to clear out all idols in our hearts and give it to God who deserves all our undivided loyalty.
HOW TO CLEAR THE CLUTTERS? (Philippians 3:3-12)
1) Count on the Spirit: “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh.” (3:3) Spiritual clutter can never be cleared by the flesh or human efforts. We need the Spirit of God to clear spiritual clutter. The only way to clear our heart of spiritual clutter is to stay close with God and allow His Spirit to do the cleansing. All we need to do is be submissive and obedient to God’s cleansing work. Hard but necessary.
2) Sense of proper value: “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more I consider everything a loss compare to the surpassing greatness of know-ing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (3: 7-8)Just as David McCasland’s father who valued everything in his garage but they are clutter to David. Our value determines our choice and priority. Paul changed his value and priority since he met Jesus Christ and no longer holding his old clutter. Many of us got mixed up with values and priorities and we tend to keep the things God really doesn’t care. We need to be willing to get rid of them.
3) Know what to keep: “For whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ.” (3:8b) Paul had more than a sense of value, he also had the wisdom to keep what is really important, Jesus Christ. To clear anything takes correct sense of value so we can keep the important and dispose of the unimportant. The same applies to spiritual inventory. Paul gives us a pretty good list to follow in 4:8 which reads: Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. “Think about such things” means keeping such things in your mind and your heart.”
4) Focus on the goal: “Not that I have already obtained all this or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (3:12)Paul was very focus when he tried to do his inventory. Even though he had kept clear his life of all the clutters, he continued his effort until he attained what Jesus would have him to attain. Each step of clearing clutters is important to our ultimate goal to attain what Jesus wants us to be. Anytime we relax or become reluctant, old junk will find their way to clutter our hearts.
1) It’s time to clear up: It is a good tradition for people to clear up their houses, closets, garages and places that have been cluttered with junk. Christians also need to do it likewise with our spiritual inventory to get rid of things that are supposed not to be there. At the turn of a New Year, we may need to do both to turn a new page of life, both physical and spiritual for a new and clear beginning.
2) Let go of the junk: Ask God to give us a correct value system so we know what to keep and what to dispose. Keep what is good, biblical, pure, true, righteous and admirable. Get rid of selfish intent, pride, impure thoughts, ungodly attitude and all those worldly, carnal and sinful acts, thoughts and intend. Ask God to help us so we may focus on the goal He has set for our life.
3) A new beginning: It is never a better time for all who have not yet accept Jesus as Savior to begin that new life at the start of a New Year. God can change all lives from ordinary to special. It is the best decision you may make for your future to receive eternal life from God. Ask Jesus to enter your heart and forgive your sins so you will be a new person in Him.