Growing in Faith: Taking Out the Trash

Good morning and welcome.  My name is Phil Human.  I’m one of the pastors here at Journey.  And this morning we are talking about how to grow in our faith.  We talked about the fact the growth is urgent though requires patience.  And that growth requires effort on our part.

This morning we are going to talk about the importance of cleaning out the junk in our life that inhibits our spiritual growth – and we’ll focus on two of the most common issues that are primary areas for transformation.

I want to start by looking at a video that was going around this week – pretty shocking – it comes to us from the state of Florida – where two men got into a fight.  I seems they were both out for a walk and apparently came across a pile of trash – and they both eyed a piece of trash that they felt was a pretty awesome piece of garbage and when the one guy grabbed it – the other guy was really really upset that he was unable to retain that piece of garbage and well – he went home and grabbed his samurai sword – well – just watch this and then we will try our best to comprehend what we just witnessed…

Now – just to try to summarize what we just watched.  One guy was swinging a samurai sword at another guy in order to take the piece of garbage for himself.  And the other guy – in an effort to keep the item of trash – was willing to risk having both hands ginsued – lopped off – in order to retain possession of the trash.

Both these guys are nuts – right?   One guy was willing to risk going to prison for the rest of his life by killing a guy – in order to keep the trash.  The other guy was willing to risk having to go through life maimed in order to hang onto the garbage.

And how might I tie this in?  Ready for this?  Isn’t that just like the heart?  You know – our hearts were built to cherish something – to cling to something important – it’s built to cherish God.

Jesus tells us to love the Lord our God with all our heart soul and mind – and yet the heart is prone to pushing God to the side in order to get what it feels it can’t live without – even if it has to dumpster dive to get it.

Here’s how the Apostle Paul put it – in Philippians 3 – after talking about all of his achievements and his religious pedigree, all of the things that the world might try to convince Paul is worth clutching and clinging to…  Paul says this…

Phil 3:7 I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him.

How easily our heart cherishes garbage.  Our heart is a dumpster diver.  It is.  But if we are going to grow in our faith – we too have to learn – as Paul – to Discard the trash in our life that is keeping us from growing.

And this morning we are going to look at a passage of scripture that is going to call out two major issues that have got to go – if we are going to grow in our faith.

Two biggies – in fact these two issues are addressed by Jesus as priority issues in the life of anyone wishing to be transformed by Jesus.  And the issues are anger and sexual sin.  It is God’s desire that we take out the trash of anger and lust.

Why are these issues called out?  Well, they are primary sources of evil in this world.  How much damage has been inflicted in the lives of people because of anger and lust?  How much damage has been caused in your life by them?

Both anger and lust are Kingdom issues.  They are the dividing line – whose Kingdom shall prevail?  God’s or mine?  Must I always have my way?  Will I explode in anger should someone dare cross me?

Both anger and lust are really about conquering others – and taking from them what we wish – as if we are the kings and queens of the universe and one dare not deprive us of our will.

Anger and Lust are trash and they need to go.   It’s beneath our dignity as God’s cherished children to be controlled by anger and lust.  And make no mistake – that’s what they do – they end up controlling us.

The scripture we are reading today comes from Colossians 3.  And I’ll start reading.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.

Let’s use thee first verses as a recap of what we learned last week.  Last week we said that spiritual growth begins by thinking differently about reality.  We talked about the word repentance – and to repent means to change the way we are thinking.

Now true repentance never ends with just thinking – true repentance will end up in a change of behavior.  If the behavior doesn’t change – there has not been a true change in thinking.

Let me give you an example.  I went to Wal-mart once to buy tires for my car – it was a front wheel drive car – and I only wanted to buy two tires.  So I told the tire guy – please put the new tires on the front of my car.  And the tire guy proceeded to explain to me that science had proven it was far safer for new tires to be placed on the back of the car – even in front wheel drive vehicles.  And he pulled out a brochure created by Wal-mart for people just like me – who needed to rethink where to put new tires.

The brochure explained that new tires should always be installed on the rear axle and the partially worn tires moved to the front. New tires on the rear axle help the driver more easily maintain control on wet roads since deeper treaded tires are better at resisting hydroplaning.  And there were more diagrams.

The whole time I nodded my head – wow – that’s really interesting – I did not know that!  You did a really good job – you’re quite a teacher and I appreciate it.  “Great”, he says, “so I’ll put them on the back then?”  and I said – Put them on the front.

See – I hadn’t repented.   Despite his best efforts, I hadn’t come around to thinking differently about where to put new tires.   And it was proven in the decisions I made.

True repentance will be shown by our actions – we are making decisions that are different than before.

So what does that mean to us?  Paul is saying here – our faith in Jesus is more than hypothetical.  Our faith has to translate into how we live.  If our faith doesn’t play out in transformed life, then it’s fair to ask – have we really repented?  Do we understand that real life is the life with Jesus?

Or – are we still living life as if there is no God we can count on?

A heart at home with the King is a heart that hungers to be free from anger and lust – it’s a heart that will not cultivate these things-

That’s why Paul writes – verse 5. So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. 

Wow!  What an interesting statement.  What do we learn from this one statement?

We learn we are in a fight!  And it’s a tough fight.  But it’s a good fight.

What are we fighting?  We are fighting a battle for control of our soul.  We learn that even after we trust Jesus enough to surrender our lives to him – there will still be lurking within us – sinful, earthly things.

See – here’s how it works – until we find Jesus we think we are God.  We act like we are the King or queen of our own tiny kingdom.  Granted it’s not much – but it’s ours!  And we run things the way we want to run them.

But when we come to faith in Jesus – we surrender control of our Kingdom to Jesus.  We move out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of Heaven – and there’s a new King in town calling the shots.

And frankly – each one of us now have a tiny little Napoleon running around inside of our heart yearning to be back in power!  Unwilling to yield to God.

Even after we decide to follow Jesus – there remains with us the residual effects of our former way of life.  Remnants that yearn to go dumpster diving.  Look at my kingdom!  The Kingdom of trash!

So – brother and sister in Christ – I want you to know that you aren’t abnormal if you struggle with sinful desires.  You aren’t abnormal if you are struggling with anger and lust.  All of us have a fight on our hands against the tiny tyrant of self – that is plotting a scheming to get back on the throne.

It’s fight, but it’s a good fight.  So don’t give up!  Don’t give in!  Fight the good fight that is required in order to grow in faith.

And here’s the deal – anger and sexual sins – well, they are strong opponents – they will not go quietly into the night.  They will fight all the way.

Paul writes…   5bHave nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 

All of these words deal with sexual sin – both overt sin – immorality – and subversive, invisible sins, like lust an evil desires.   And Greed also – by the way.  Lust is greedy.  It’s the opposite of love – in fact if you were to read 1 Cor. 13 – lust is the opposite of love in every sense – lust is not patient.  Lust is not kind.  Lust does boast.  It IS proud.  It DOES demand its own way.

And it’s time we recognize it as trash – garbage – and it’s time to get it out of our life.

Paul goes on to write…   You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds.

All of these items can be lumped under the issue of anger and contempt.

10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 

Now here’s the deal – I don’t think we have the time to deal with anger without it turning into two different sermons- and I felt like God was leading me to talk more specifically about the fight we have against lust and sexual sins – though I’d say the ways I will suggest we fight them can overlap – all three levels of help can apply to the person in here who is having real anger issues.

But I want to stop here and talk about how we can overcome the idol of sexual immorality in our life.

And I know there is likely two different kinds of thoughts about sexual immorality.  there are people in the room who are thinking – oh brother.  What’s the big deal about sexual immorality?  It’s just sex.  So long as it’s consensual – who cares?  And what’s the big deal about pornography?  It’s harmless.

Now I know there are people who are tuning out as I speak – just like I was tuning out at Walmart.  I sound to you like the Walmart Tire guy – You hear a lot of words – but it’s not going to change your opinion.  And I’d say – Okay – God’s the one who changes hearts.

And so I understand and I don’t hold it against you for believing what you do. Our society has gone one of two ways with sexuality – it either degrades our sexuality to a plaything – a source of amusement and entertainment – or it elevates sexuality to the point where it becomes our very identity – and too important to allow God to influence.

I guess what I’d say is – I’m not even going to try to convince you right now – God will have to work in you at His time.

But there is another group of people who might be listening who understand that I sexuality is a sacred gift and yet – they find themselves enslaved by their lust or sexual immorality.

Men and women both, who want to be free – but seem unable to get out of the dumpster of sexual sin.

I know I have many brothers in sisters in Christ who love Jesus with all of their heart and have struggled to the point of despair to find freedom from sexual immorality in all of it’s forms.

And you are living with deep shame – and you hope you don’t get found out.  And you wonder if there really IS a God because you’ve prayed and prayed and prayed and still no victory!  And you feel like a hypocrite.

You hunger to become the kind of person who can look finally in at sexual immorality as something in your rear view mirror, but it seems an impossibility.

You, my beloved brother and cherished sister – I want to talk with you.

And I want to start by apologizing.  I read this week that nearly 75 percent of Christians struggle with sexual temptation, specifically pornography – yet only 7 percent of churches offer any kind of help.

And God convicted me.  Because we’re part of the 93 percent of churches that preach we should flee from sexual temptation, and then do nothing to provide actual help.  And I’m sorry that we haven’t been more proactive in offering practical help.

We’ve left you to fend for yourself and it’s not working.  Is it?

Now – that said, there are people in our church who are running at the goal of sexual purity with tenacity and courage – You know who’s leading the way in this area of growing in their faith – or putting to death the garbage in our heart?  Kyle tells me there are some high school students – a group of young men- as well as a separate group of young women who are who are meeting weekly to discuss this battle against sexual temptation and pornography.

They are running at the problem.  They have decided it’s time to drag the garbage out into the light – to stop being ashamed for the battle they are fighting.  And these students are my heroes.

Absolute courage to say – I trust you guys enough to be honest – and to admit I need your help because I don’t have the strength to fight this battle alone.  And you know – they are right – this idol of the heart cannot be overcome through will power.

You know what these young people are saying?  I know the kind of person I hunger to become – and I’m willing to be transparent and to display grace and to ask for help and to do the difficult thing in order to be free from that which lurks in their heart.  Rock stars every one of them.  Will you pray for these young people?

And will you pray for other in this room who are just now beginning to feel that maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Maybe something is going to change.  And maybe now is the time to resolve to run at the issue and put to death what has been lurking and defeating you.

So where do we go from here?  If you have been struggling to overcome sexual temptation and are ready to do something about it – here are three options.

  1. Contact Spence Counseling and set up a meeting with a counselor. Journey church is committed to making it affordable.  So if you call them, let them know Journey Church recommended you to them.
  2. There are groups that meet all over the country called Celebrate Recovery. And this might sound weird for me to do – but I’d suggest checking out Christ Community Churches website for renewal ministries.  They have groups that meet on Tuesday nights – check out their options – one of which is called Men of Integrity.  And there are support groups.  Look for the term Renewal groups.
  3. If you want to find some people to form an accountability group with – you just need someone in your life asking you how you’re doing staying clear from the pitfalls? Contact me – send me an email or a text or slip a note in my hand – whatever – and I’ll do what I can to connect you with others who want to meet up periodically in order to check-in.

Now – I know this is one of those things were you are thinking – oh man – do I really want to disclose this to Phil?  Well, I promise that it will remain confidential – and I promise I’m a no shame zone person – and I promise I’ll do my best to connect you with a couple of others – women with women and men with men.  Just send me something that says, “I’m interested.”  Or “I’m in.”  And we’ll try to arrange those kinds of groups to get you moving toward freedom.

You can write it on your communication card if you’d like and we will be in touch.

I understand it takes a lot of guts to say – I’m interested in getting help – but here’s the thing – this kind of thing isn’t going to be put to death easily.  It’s not going to be put to death alone.  You will not be freed by reading a book –  This is the kind of thing that needs to be brought out into the light.

So that means there has to be a willingness to talk about it with other without feeling shame.

If we are going to grow in our faith – we must put to death the idols of the heart.  The trash that our heart clings to as too important to let go of…  Let’s imagine being the kind of person who is set free from these kinds of things, okay?

And let’s imagine being the kind of church that allows people to admit they need help without fear of being shamed for it.

This is a big deal – we have to decide what kind of church we’re going to be.  Are we going to continue to be a church where it’s okay to be honest about the garbage in our life we’re dealing with?  Can we speak freely without being afraid of shamed or humiliated?

Or are we going to be a church that is like many churches – a place where people hide their garbage for fear of being humiliated, or embarrassed?

The only way we can be a church filled with grace is if the people are filled with grace and love and support for those who are fighting a good fight against stubborn but defeated enemies.