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Wherefore, gird up the loins of your mind. . .
— 1 Peter 1:13
And be renewed in the spirit of your mind.
So What’s In Your Garage That Can Be Tossed?
Before we make too many resolutions for next year, maybe it’s time to do a little cleanup from this year’s clutter. It’s time for some New Year’s de-junking and trash removal. Alright then, what can we get rid of? What needs to go? What’s really in the way?
First, let’s tackle the big stuff. For instance, pull out all the worn-out, beat-up pieces of furniture still in the garage or in paid storage… Now, this part should be easy. Here in Thomson, we set stuff by the road with a “FREE” or “TAKE ME” sign on it. Things aren’t quite gone in sixty seconds but close enough.
Now, since I use my Kindle a lot, how about all those books I’ll never read again? Especially any books ghostwrote for Glenn Beck, and maybe even some of my wife’s Christian romance novels. But don’t touch my comic books! I distinctly remember when one of my old and extremely valuable Spider-Man comics got tossed because someone thought it was junk. Ouch. I should have had a “price check in pile three.”
Sorting All This Out Can Be Painful!
What’s in my closet? Hmm. Out of style shirts, pants and pullovers from That ‘70s Show. Someone might want this stuff, right? Maybe Goodwill or the Thrift Shop in Clinton, Iowa. My old leisure suit? Someone might need it. Though I doubt even drifters would wear this stuff. My son Matt would look great in my old paisley, Nehru shirt though. Okay, okay, off to the Thrift Shop then.
Now the old tools. I still have my grandfather’s rusty old tools from a hundred years ago. Most of these I don’t even understand how to use. But I hate throwing family stuff away. They’ll mean nothing to my kids down the road, though. It’s time to lose most of this stuff. But there are a few tools I‘ll rescue. Just a few.
Seriously though, it’s time-consuming and even painful to look back and reflect on what has lasting value and what doesn’t. The truth is, an honest look back can help us shape a cleaner look forward. After all, we’ll end up better organized and with more space, right? I hate getting started with a project like this, but I always feel like a dead weight has been lifted off me when I’m done. It’s more than that, however… it makes it much easier to move forward and make decisions with greater clarity.
Now the hard part…
Disposing Of Our Mental Trash
January is also a great time to de-clutter our minds. Using God’s word to shine light on the way we think and reason is a great start. Like me, you might find you’ve left some unbiblical junk just lying around, perhaps it’s even piling up. No doubt these things are in the way. So, let’s look for some unbiblical mind-clutter to toss this year. Here are a few items to look for:
“Religion Is Fine In Its Place”
Trash To Toss: Medieval Scholasticism and the post-60s Conservatism I grew up with join hands here. Religion is important, we’re told. We need a foundation for morality after all. We need meaning and purpose and some sort of hope for the afterlife. But beyond these basics, formal religion should be confined to church on Sunday mornings. Natural law, human reason, and our Western traditions can answer all our questions about practical morality, as well as political, social, and financial ethics. Really? There’s obviously some clutter here already.
Treasure To Store Up: Scripture says that God is the Creator and Ruler of literally everything (Gen. 1:1; Ps. 103:19). All things exist for His glory (Rev. 4:11). All things have their source and meaning in Him. Man is made in God’s very image and inevitably lives out that reality in every circumstance of life (Gen. 1:26; 1 Cor. 10:31). Man’s life in all its fullness is religious (Col. 3:17). God calls his image-bearers to trust and serve Him in every area of thought and life (2 Cor. 10:5). The bottom line is this: Everything is religious.
“God Always Has To Make Sense To Me”
Trash To Toss: Everything God does has to make sense to me. Further, God agrees with me on all significant moral, social, and ethical issues. In fact, He’ll never say or require anything of me that would make me uncomfortable or stretch my conceptions of reality. He will always be reasonable as I understand reason.
Treasure To Store Up: Scripture says that God transcends human understanding (Ps. 139:6; Rom. 11:31-36). Yet, God made man so he can understand the world and function well within it (Deut. 29:29). Human reason is finite and has been corrupted by sin since the Fall (Eccles. 9:3). Man by nature often reasons sinfully and always reasons with less than 100% of available information (1 Cor. 2:14; 3:19).
He also reasons in terms of his lusts and his pretended autonomy (Rom. 1:18-32). He tries to make God conform to his notions of logic and truth. But as C. S. Lewis once said… you can’t put God in the dock. You can’t put Him on trial using human standards. I’ve learned and perhaps you have too that He won’t submit to my expectations (Ps. 50:21). God expects me to submit to His will… whether I like what He says or not (Isa. 55:6-9).
“No One Can Understand God – What Matters Is If We’re Sincere”
Trash To Toss: God is beyond human understanding. He is too big, too great to fit into any one religion. After all, all religions are searching for the same truth and the same ultimate reality. What matters really is the journey, not the destination. What matters is our sincerity and love along the way. God is waiting for us up on the mountain. Nevertheless, there are a lot of paths up there. What’s more… He doesn’t reveal his truths in any detailed fashion. He also has no specific and understandable requirements of me. So, mostly… it’s all a mystery.
Treasure To Store Up: Scripture says God is by nature self-revealing. He reveals Himself perfectly in the person of His Son (Col. 1:15). The Father and the Son eternally breathe the Holy Spirit to each other in perfect love (John 15:26; Gal. 4:6). This Triune God reveals Himself in the world He’s made and in the words of Holy Scripture (Ps. 19). Because God is one in essence, He is without inner contradiction or change (Jas. 1:17).
Furthermore, because He knows Himself exhaustively (1 Cor. 2:10), His revelation in Scripture is not only clear but authoritative (Ps. 119:130). We can understand what He says and what He means. In addition, what He says is coherent truth and is truth for all of life (John 17:17). For instance, Mark Twain said this well when commenting on the Bible. He said and I’m paraphrasing here, “it’s not what I don’t know about God that’s troubling to me, it’s what I do know that’s troubling.” Despite Twain’s outer agnosticism, he had a conscience.
“People Are Basically Good”
Trash To Toss: People mean well. And for theme’s part… they do the right thing, kind of. When they don’t, it’s because of the corrupting power of their environment. They’ve been poorly educated, economically deprived, or physically or sexually abused. All of these things can be repaired with enough money, information, and the newest scientific techniques.
Treasure To Store Up: Scripture says that man is made in the image of God, but he’s fallen in Adam and prone always to lust and pride (Rom. 5:12; 1 Jn. 2:16). Man’s heart is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). No amount of external force, no educational or psychological manipulation, can change his corrupt nature (Prov. 27:22). Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can bring new birth. Only the Holy Spirit can work regeneration (John 3:3).
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Trash To Toss: Love is a warm feeling that makes the world go around. Nothing is more important. Love can’t be bound by rules or legal documents. It’s blind and embraces all humanity. Love never asks anyone to change. Of course, love is still a bit fickle. Also, sometimes it just slips away. Then you have to do what you have to do.
Treasure To Store Up: Love is the communion, commitment, and self-giving that exists eternally in the Triune God. The Father and Son love each other eternally in and through the Holy Spirit. In love, God in Christ gives Himself to His people through the Spirit. God gave His Son to save the world (John 3:16); the Son loved His Church and gave Himself for it (Eph. 5:25). Jesus Christ gives His Spirit to those whom He calls to faith. That same Spirit initiates love for God and man in the hearts of those He regenerates (Rom. 5:5). True love is an evangelical grace (Gal. 5:22). Love comes from God and has God’s Word as its reference point. This makes love… the fruit of the gospel. Love is faithful and enduring and pure (1 Cor. 13). Additionally, Jesus said that love was a function of keeping His commands.
“All Violence Is Inherently Evil”
Trash To Toss: Violence is wrong, no matter what.
Treasure To Store Up: Scripture says, “The LORD is a Man of War” (Ex. 15:3). Scripture celebrates His war against Egypt (Ex. 15; Ps. 78:43-51) and His ongoing wrath against His enemies (Nah. 1:1-6): “His fury is poured out like fire.” When Jesus came to us the first time, He came as God’s sacrificial Lamb. He freely surrendered Himself to His enemies. Jesus told Peter to put away his sword (Matt. 26:51-54). He gave Himself as a ransom for sin.
But now, in His reign, He wields a rod of iron (Ps. 2:7-12; Rev. 2:27). He strikes through kings; He “fills the places with the dead bodies” (Ps. 110:5-6). He treads the winepress of God’s fierce anger and pours out the blood of the martyrs in divine judgment upon the wicked (Rev. 19:15; 14:18-20; 16:1-7ff). He delegates the sword to the civil magistrate and allows the law-abiding to violently (if necessary) defend themselves and their homes (Rom. 13:1-6; Ex. 22:2). David could bless the LORD for teaching his hands to war (Ps. 144:1). Remember, Jesus told Peter to put his sword back, not to toss it in the trash. (Matt. 26:52).
“Mere Words Aren’t That Important”
Trash To Toss: The things that really matter in this world are beyond mere words. God. Faith. Love. When we try to describe deity or ultimate concepts with mere words, we destroy them. Truth is more likely located in our feelings.
Treasure To Store Up: Jesus Christ is the living Word of God, the divine Logos, the perfect expression of the Father’s heart and mind (John 1:1; Heb. 1:3). In His incarnation, He tabernacled among us and spoke to us with human words (John 1:14-17). God has been speaking in words to us since He created Adam (Gen. 1:28; 2:16-17). Our God is the self-revealing God who condescends to speak to us in words we can understand. God’s word is truth (John 17:17). Above all, when we reject God’s words on principle, we are, in effect, attempting to push God out of His own universe. We make Him incoherent and distant so we don’t have to be faithful.
Taking Action For 2021
In conclusion, what I’m talking about here is what Scripture calls putting off the old man and putting on the new (Eph. 4:20ff). This process is known as sanctification to some folks. If we’re going to do this faithfully, it should be obvious that we need to fill our hearts and minds with the Word of God. We need to shine that light even in the darkest places.
This also means reading, studying, and searching the Scriptures. It means daily meditation on God’s Word. It means giving thanks. Further, it entails reading and listening as well as receiving the teaching and preaching of God’s word in a church that seriously believes that the Bible is the Word of God. After all of this, it may involve reading a few good books… both recent ones and classics that challenge us to confront the world with the truth of God’s Word.
Happy New Year!