THE RECOVERY CHANNEL SERMON SERIES
TAKING OUT THE TRASH
SEPTEMBER 3, 1995
About four months ago I related to you a story regarding what happened to me at DFW airport. Just for illustrative purposes let me briefly go through what happened at that time. I was in Colorado speaking and I flew back to DFW airport. My family was there to greet me. As I got off the plane, I had with me a black leather attache and in the attache I had my Bible and that particular week’s sermon. As I was assisting my wife in putting the twins into the car seats of our suburban, I took the leather attache and put it on top of the suburban. I then drove off and the attache flipped off the top of the car never to be found again.
Needless to say, I was very upset. I was angered. I was chapped. I had had the Bible ever since the church was started five years ago. I used it every week in my preparation. The leather attache was a gift from my parents to me and the sermon, well it had to be rewritten. And I vowed to my wife and to my family that I would never, ever, ever put anything on top of a car again as long as I live.
And I kept my promise until this past Wednesday evening. This past Wednesday evening after our midweek service I was walking out in the darkness with my family to my wife’s car. I had in my hand a notebook, a Bible and this week’s message. Again I was trying to be a man for all seasons, helping her with the twins in the car. Once again I put the notebook and Bible on top of the suburban. I got the twins all strapped in like the Apollo astronauts. I told Lisa that I would take EJ, my three year old son, with me and that I would follow her closely. I talked for a couple of minutes with some friends but then left. EJ and I were walking to the car and suddenly that sick feeling hit me. And my first response was to blame my three year old son. I said, “EJ, did Daddy give you a notebook and Bible?” He, of course, replied no. Then I said, “EJ, you would not believe how dumb Daddy is because Daddy has put them on top of Mommy’s car.” So I throw him in the back seat, backed out of the parking lot and cruise down MacArthur Boulevard with my bright lights on searching for this stuff. I am going about three miles an hour and after I have traveled about four miles I see my Bible in the middle of MacArthur, so I put on the brakes. As people were passing me they were doing something funny with their hands, I’m not sure what it was. I pulled onto the grass area and told EJ to remain where he was. I run across four lanes of traffic and pick up the Bible. I thanked God that I didn’t lose this Bible since it was one I had had about fourteen years. I looked for my notebook. No notebook and no sermon. Then I reason that the notebook, because it was heavier, stayed on top of the car and I would be OK. So I get back in the car, drive further. We make some turns but no sign of the notebook. I really believed that it was still on Lisa’s car. I had no sooner thought that thought than I spied the notebook in the middle of the street on which I was driving. I pull over, evade some traffic, pick up the notebook hoping to find my sermon. No, the sermon is not there. I am thankful that I have gotten back the Bible and the notebook. Then I just happen to glance down about 150 yards and billowing in the breeze were fragments of my 18-page message. So I sprint, again dodging traffic, and I retrieve all the part of the message. If the message seems a little bit fragmented today you’ll understand but I did get all the elements together. I was lucky, I really was, very fortunate that I was able to retrieve all the objects that I had inadvertently left on top of my wife’s car.
It is frustrating when you try to change something in your life yet you keep on doing the same thing over and over again. Today, in this session, we are going to talk about making lasting, revolutionary change. And making real change has to do with taking out the trash. I am in a series called The Recovery Channel. Last week we talked about seven deadly sins. We called them seven deadly defects that most of us have in our lives and we said that they are subsurface defects causing most of the problems on the surface of our lives. We talked about pride. We talked about anger. We talked about greed. We talked about lust. We talked about envy. We talked about slothfulness. We talked about all of these different issues, even an issue like gluttony. Surely we don’t have anyone with a problem of gluttony, overeating, here, do we? And we labeled these things and we admitted that we had these hindrances in our lives. We admitted it to ourselves, to God and then I challenged you, based on scripture, to admit these faults and hurts and hangups to others around you. Last week we just admitted that they were present. This week is the exciting part. We are going to see how God can remove our character defects. How He can just take them and totally revolutionize our lives.
In John chapter 5, Jesus was making His way through the streets of Jerusalem. Jesus saw a pool and beside the pool were a number of persons lying around. They weren’t catching rays, most of these people had severe problems and infirmities. Some were handicapped. And the people who were following Jesus were talking among themselves saying they were sure they were on the brink of a miracle. “What is He going to do this time?” “I can’t wait to see what Jesus will do, because He always surprises us.” And sure enough Jesus surprised them in this account. He knelt down beside a man who had been crippled for thirty-eight years. Jesus asked him a unique question. When I first read the question I thought that it was odd. Why would Jesus ask a question like that to man who has been crippled for thirty-eight years? Here is what Jesus said. “Do you really want to be healed? Do you really want to part with your problem? Do you really want me to change your life?”
If you think about it, that is a fair question. Jesus knows human beings better than anyone. He knows our tendency to build our lives around our problems, to set up systems around difficulties. Maybe this man had set something up around his infirmity. Maybe he was pleased that he would not have to find a spouse, or work. We do the same thing. I am going to ask you the same question that Jesus asked this man who had been crippled for thirty-eight years. Do you really want to be healed? Do you really want Jesus to change you? Do you really want to part with your problem?
When people, like you and me, are challenged to deal with our defects, most of us say, of course, we want to get rid of our problems. Sure I want to get rid of pride. Sure I want to part with anger and greed and slothfulness and gluttony and all those other things. Yeah, I want to. But if you stay after it for awhile, if you meditate on it and contemplate on it, a strange form of sadness invades your life and mine. Getting rid of pride, on the surface sounds cool. But do you really want to part with it? Do you really want to part with that feeling of superiority, that feeling of being better looking than, stronger than, smarter than. Do you really want to part with your pride? You might miss that adrenalin rush you feel when you rage on your spouse, your date, a co-worker. And you are not really sure you want to deal with anger when it comes right down to it. Getting rid of greed sounds wonderful until it cuts into your buying habits. Some of us might miss the excitement of those sexual fantasies that lust produces. Gluttony, that sounds fine but most of us are going out for brunch. You see, it really starts to get sticky, it starts to get complicated when we really feel the Holy Spirit of God saying, “Release it, take care of it, deal with it.”
I am going to give you some reasons why all of us have a tough time releasing our trash to God. The first is, our defects have been around our lives for a long, long time. They are kind of our friends, our buddies, the kind of people that we do lunch with, do life with. We have had this defect since the third grade and it is comfortable. You know it is kind of like an old pair of running shoes I have. They don’t serve me very well, but they sure do feel good. Could that be you? Could that be the reason, could that be the rationale you are giving God about not releasing these defects in your life? Another reason that we have a tough time letting go of a character defect is because it has become a part of our identity. You hear people say, “It’s just the way I am. I am a Type A personality. I rage on people. I orchestrate other’s lives. That is just me. That is just me.” Fill in the blank. It is just like me to…..overspend, drink too much. Is it just like you to do that? You see when you identify your identity with your defect, you are being less than what God wants you to be. Yet it is such a part of us, we have a tough time letting go. Another reason we have a difficult time letting go is every defect has a payoff, a kind of benefit. We use our defect to cover up sin, to excuse our behavior, to kind of jump around the consequences. It gives us an excuse to use our defect on other people.
I want to give you a little assignment right now. We are all prepared right now to take a trip. I am talking about a trip of a lifetime. And this trip will be a revolutionary trip because I want you to take the seven deadly sins and pinpoint the sin that you most deal with, pride, anger, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, slothfulness, one of those seven. Picture that sin as an automobile and then in your mind jump on the back of let’s say pride, strap in and take a mental journey with pride. What is going to happen if pride is left unchecked? What is going to happen to your marriage? What is going to happen to your work? What is going to happen to your children? What is going to happen to your friends if you let pride go? What is going to happen if you let envy go out of control? If you don’t check envy, if you don’t release it to God, what is going to happen? Project that. What will lust do? What will greed do? If you are like me, you are going to take a step back in your mind and you are going to go, “The cost is too high. I can see the wreckage, I can see the broken glass. I can see the lives that are ruined and devastated and taken because of an attitude, because of a hurt, because of a habit, because of a hangup that was not dealt with. The price is too high, I want to change. I am not going to take that trip. I don’t want to do that deal. I want to stay here.” Have you done that before? I challenge you to do that. You see I can talk all day long and all night about dealing with the seven deadly sins but you are not going to do it because your pastor tells you to do it. You are not going to do it because someone by cassette tape tells you to do it. You are not going to do it because you read some motivational book. You are going to do it when you understand who you are before a holy God and say, “I have a defect. I cannot control it. I cannot change it. I know, God, You can change it and right now at this point I release that defect to You. I admit it is there. You know it is there. I have told others about it, now I release it to You, God.” The moment we say that the trajectory of our life begins to turn upward and we begin to have freedom and victory and true recovery that the Bible talks about time and time again.
I want to share with you in the few moments that remain five areas of cooperation that we need to have if we are going to experience lasting change. Number one, tackle each character defect one at a time. Tackle each character defect one at a time. Tomorrow night a lot of us are going to watch football. When you watch the Cowboys up on the New York Giants, you must watch the defense because everyone talks about the Cowboy defense. Yes, their offense is great but the question is the defense. The defense will not tackle every single person on the offense. They will tackle the person who has the ball, the person who can do them the most damage. The person who scores on them, they will tackle that person. When you think about your seven deadly defects, tackle the one that damages you the most. Don’t say, well I will tackle him and her and this one and that one. That is why the Bible says in Proverbs 17:24, “An intelligent person aims at wise action, but a fool starts off in many directions.” Boy, I have felt that way before. Here, God, take care of this and this and this. Tackle the ball carrier. And here is how you tackle Biblically. You become a laser prayer. A laser prayer.
Most of us pray like this. Let’s say we have a problem with anger. “Dear God, I admit to You I have a problem with anger. I’ve admitted to You. I know I do. I have admitted it to a friend of mine and this person is praying for me. God, right now remove anger from my life. In Jesus name. Amen.” OK, anger is done. Everything is good. To become a laser beam prayer you break it down into short, small, bite-sized chunks. You see the ball carrier of anger and before you tackle and do business with the ball carrier, you pray something like this. “Tomorrow, between 9 am and 11 am I am going to be in a business meeting and usually in this business meeting I rage all over people, I show my superiority, I let them have it. God, I am asking You to take the anger away from 9 am until 11 am and replace it with humility, replace it with love. Help me to make my points without raging on people.” You see what you are doing? You are not saying, “God, take care of anger for the rest of my life.” He will help you but break it down. Laser beam the thing, because you are prolific when you are specific.
Single adults. Some of you have problems in the area of lust. Instead of saying, “God, remove my lust. Thank you. In Jesus Name. Amen.” You might want to pray like this. “Dear Heavenly Father, tonight I have a date and I will be on the date from 8 pm until midnight. Help me, God, to see this person as a whole person, someone who matters to you, not an object to be used.” Tackle each character defect one at a time.
Number two. Focus on victory one day at a time. Focus on victory one day at a time. Jesus said this in Matthew 6:11, “Give us this month our daily bread.” I’m sorry. “Give us this quarter our daily bread.” No, He didn’t. He said, “Give us this day our daily bread.” I heard someone say one time, life by the yard is hard but life by the inch is a cinch. Focus on the victories one day at a time. And I am going to challenge you to have a victory party, a full-blown victory party when you begin to see progress in your life. Let’s say you have gone for three weeks, three straight weeks without letting anger get the best of you in that business meeting. Throw yourself a party. I am seeing progress, God is doing great things in my life. You have won the battle with lust for six weeks. Call some friends on the phone and let them pray prayers of thanksgiving for you. You are seeing results. You are concentrating on victory, winning. Maybe you struggle with overspending and for two months you have balanced your budget. You throw yourself a cheap party.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:34, “Do not worry about tomorrow, each day has enough trouble of it’s own.” When you start this change process it is not going to feel right. It is easier to act your way into a feeling than to feel your way into an action. Alcoholic’s Anonymous says, fake it until you make it. God, I want to be obedient to You even though it seems weird to me, I am going to do it. And once you start that process, God will allow the feelings to catch up with you.
Number three. Rely on God’s power not your willpower. Rely on God’s power not your willpower. Willpower is the major blockade in recovery. I talk to people all the time and they say things like this. “Well, Ed, you know I said ten years ago that when I made my first million I would never be greedy again. Never. In the next ten years I am going to be generous. I am going to give to the poor, I am going to give to the church, I am going to be content with my contents.” Let me tell you something, if you have not been generous the last ten years, what makes you think you can fire up those willpower machines and all of a sudden turn into a generous person. You might be for a month or two, but it is not going to work. Willpower is not the key. It is God’s power, the Bible says. I love what Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 13:23. “Can a leopard take away his spots? Nor can you who are so used to doing evil now just start doing good.” On the other hand, Philippines 4:13 says, “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” We have got to rely on Christ’s power, Christ’s strength, Christ’s energy.
When you think and contemplate dealing with your character defects, I want you to think about a trash can. My family and I generate a lot of trash. We have four children as you know, twins in diapers. You can imagine the situation. And oftentimes when I take the trash out, it is a challenge for me because right next to our house, in fact, five feet from our house there is a fence. There is about a six inch gap at the bottom of the fence and on the other side of the fence are two man-eating Rotweillers To show you how tough these dogs are, one day I was shooting basketball and I missed. What a shocker! The ball bounced over to the other side of the fence. Immediately I heard growls and then a loud indication that the ball was deflating. The dogs ate my Michael Jordan basketball! So I am taking the trash out, and the first time it happened it really scared, I am dragging three Hefty trash bags with the trash can and suddenly the dogs caught the bottom of one trash bag and started pulling it underneath the fence, with me close behind. So my taking out the trash is really dangerous.
Mentally, now, when you deal with a character defect, when you deal with a sin, think about a trash can. Let’s look in this trash can here. Here, in this particular trash can, are some signs listing some of the problems you may be dealing with, overeating, the need to control, fear, gambling, overspending, anger, perfectionism, overworking, etc. Whatever you are dealing with, those seven deadly sins or one of these specific things, you think about the trash can. Think that you are having a problem with, I want to release this defect to God. Then mentally take it and put it in the trash can. Now here is the tough part. You have got to take the trash out to the street. The evil one, Satan, the father of lies, who is like a prowling Rotweiller, is behind that fence and as you begin to drag that trash out, he will tell you again and again, “Don’t do it. Man, you don’t have to take the trash out. Everything will be OK. You have enough willpower to take care of this problem.” And if you don’t take the trash out, what is going to happen? It will stink your life up. It will rot you away.
As you take the trash out and evade the evil one, you put it on the street, run back in your house or apartment or condominium or dorm and look outside. Suddenly you should see, in your mind, a giant, white, pristine garbage truck pull up and on the side of the truck will be this legend. God and Son. Dealing With Trash in Believer’s Lives For The Last 2000 Years. And then you will see Jesus Christ driving this machine. He will nod to St. Peter, St. Peter will jump out of the garbage truck, he will take whatever you have placed in the trash can and he will dump it. Jesus will kind of give you the thumb’s up sign and roar away. And you say to yourself, “That’s it. I’m done with that.” No, you aren’t done. You have to take the trash out regularly. We take the trash out every Tuesday and every Friday. You do have to keep on doing it, God is not going to do this for you. God is not going to say, “OK, get up and walk to the trash can, take pride and anger and throw it in and take it out to the curb.” We pray and ask God to help us cooperate with Him promptings. But we have to move our muscles to deal with these issues. Number four. Associate with people who help you, not hinder you. One of the most amazing things in life is to look back and to see children, junior high students, high school students, college students, graduate students, those who have PhDs and everything else, those who are middle age and old age, they always, always, always are like the people that they associate with, their friends. And too many of us in this room are hanging out with people who keep dragging us down. We hang out with people who have the same defects we do and they cause us to stumble, they cause us to trip, they cause us to be on the side of the road in a ditch amongst all that wreckage. The Bible says in Proverbs 27:17, “People learn from one another, just as iron sharpens iron.” That is why we have the church. God has put us together to strengthen one another, to encourage one another, to challenge one another, to help one another. That is why coming to worship in this big place is fabulous. We have thousands coming by every weekend, that is fine and good. Praise God for it. However, you are just experiencing part of the church when you come on the weekends. True life change occurs when you get plugged in to our Bible Study program, our small group program, when you come regularly in mid-week. Real community, real life change occurs, real character defects are dealt with when you can talk to someone else about them, someone who will help you.
I am going to give you some homework. This afternoon take out the Bible and turn to the Book of Judges. Read chapters 14 through 16. Judges talks about one of my favorite characters in the Bible. His name was Samson. Samson was a man who was a leader, a man who had so much intelligence, a man who was a make a difference kind of guy. His weakness, one of his character defects, was a thing called lust. God gave Samson two choices. God said, “Samson, I want you to hang out with your Hebrew hillbilly friends, those God-followers, those people who have high morals, those people who can help you with your problem. You can hang out with them, Samson, and do great things for Me and judge Israel or you can hang out with the Biblical beach bums, the Philistines. The Philistines are so decadent, so immoral, involved in so much chicanery that they will drag you down, Samson.” And take a stab at which group Samson choose to hang out with. The Philistines. Samson, God’s man, this difference maker, hangs out with the Philistines and Samson’s story is a story of what might have been. He associated with people who hindered him, not who helped him.
The fifth step is cooperation. Pursue progress not perfection. Pursue progress not perfection. Too many of us think that the more we are perfect, the more we do or don’t do, God will like us more and more and more and more. God loves you and me as much in stage one of this recovery process as He does in stage three and stage seven or eight. My daughter, LeeBeth, is nine years of age. She is someone I love. I love her and it is my desire for her to grow into a mature, Christian woman. I love her now when she is nine, I will love her when she is nineteen, I will love her when she is twenty-nine, I’ll love her when she is fifty-nine. She is mine and I love her at this stage of her development. God loves you in whatever stage of development you are but He wants you to focus on progress. And the Bible is a book about progress. Too many of us are locked into the past, we are worrying about what could have been, what might have been, what should have been instead of thanking God for where we are and looking forward to what He is going to do.
Philippians 1:6. “God, who began a good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in His grace, until His task within you is finally finished.” Whatever God starts, He is going to finish. Whatever God begins, He is going to see that it happens in the end. God is going to do it. And this Wednesday night I am beginning a brand new series of teachings based on the book of Philippians, one of my favorite books in the Bible.
Are you focusing on progress? Are you looking ahead? God wants you to. He really, really does. The trash can is in your life. The trash is all around us in different ways. The option and the control is in your hands. You either put the trash in the can, take it out and deal with it Biblically or you don’t. The choice is yours.