“If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to remove our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8
I’d been keeping pretty quiet about it, but over the past several months I’ve been keeping a secret, and was trying to ignore a continuing problem.
Since the beginning of my time at the Anaheim church, I’ve had a mini-fridge in my office, in which I’ve stored drinks and little food items for some time. Near the beginning of the pandemic, though, I stocked-up that fridge, thinking “I’m going to be spending a lot of time filming and editing videos in here, I’ll have makings for lunches and sandwiches here, some snacky stuff, etc.” But over time the reality was, as I’d be busy with whatever church work, whether sermon writing or meeting with people in-person or online, I hardly ever thought to use the stuff I’d stocked the fridge with. I’d eat either before coming, or after going, or skip a meal due to busyness.
Then, after a while, when I would occasionally open the fridge door, I noticed a stench coming out of it that would waft into the rest of my office. That filled me with a sense of dread: that stuff I’d bought weeks and months ago was rotting in that fridge. Did I fix it right away? No. I closed the door: that rubber seal would protect my nose from the reality of what was going on in there.
I bought spray fresheners to spray around the office to cover the stench if the fridge accidentally got opened. I sprayed half a bottle of freshener into the fridge through a gap in the door just wide enough to fit the nozzle, hoping it would neutralize the bad smell. It didn’t. But I went on working: ever aware of, but trying to ignore, that problem in the corner. When my kids would come to my office, I’d tell them sternly that that little fridge was off-limits to them (though they’d sometimes disobey or forget and open it anyway). Then I’d shout at them, spray the spray, and have to vacate the office for half-an-hour or so.
Then, last week, I saw an extension cord going from the 3rd office down the hall, out into the hallway outlet, and I followed it, thinking “I wonder who did that and why?”. I saw that someone was trying to revive the other mini fridge, which used to be in Maritza’s office, but lately had been stored over in the third office. When I saw it led to that secondary fridge, I figured someone had tried the sockets in that office, but to no avail. I opened that other fridge to see if it was cold, but it wasn’t.
I soon found out that someone was trying to revive that other mini fridge, because a church member’s home fridge had broken, and would be helped if they could borrow that mini fridge for a week or so ‘till theirs could either be fixed or replaced. When it was clear that fridge in the 3rd office wasn’t working, I was filled with dread: I had a working mini fridge I admittedly hadn’t been using, but it meant facing a dreadful reality: cleaning out the dreaded rot and sanitizing the fridge. While of course I’d be happy to loan it, I was loath to do that dire task.
But, the next morning, I came prepared: with gloves, sponges, paper towels, 2 types of disinfectants, and practically a hazmat suit, I faced my fears. At the last minute, I realized it would be better to empty and clean the fridge outside, so I went to the food bank to get a hand truck, and moved the still-closed fridge outdoors so the stench could dissipate into the open air. When I opened the fridge door, I think I saw a puff of green smoke emanate from it.
I of course threw all the rotten stuff into a trash can to take to a dumpster, then doused the inside with disinfectants and scrubbed the inside of that fridge. I took out the shelving and cleaned it too. I tried to beat back the enclosing frost in the little freezer section. I left the fridge door open to air out as I called the church member to tell them it was about ready. About 30 mins later, the brother of the church member came in his pickup truck to come pick it up. We loaded it in, tied it securely, and off he went. I hoped this would serve my church member, rather than curse them with stench.
About 90 mins later I texted the church member to ask: “I did all I could to clean out that fridge and get it presentable: I hope it works out fine for you.” A bit later, they replied “It is perfect, thank you.” I was relieved (on two levels): the practically unused fridge was helping serve someone, and I’d finally cleaned-out that dreaded filth I’d been avoiding.
As I sat back down in my fridge-less, stench-less office, I thought: how silly that I didn’t take care of that weeks or months ago? Here I’d been avoiding that for so long: yet in about 45 minutes the issue had been resolved.
And then I got to thinking: isn’t that like us with sin? We have this little cube in the corner of our hearts or minds, with rotten, putrid stuff in it. We allow people in: friendships, colleagues, the like, but we’re always thinking the mental equivalent of ‘don’t open the fridge! Don’t let them know that you’ve got that horrible, rotting stuff in there!’ Maybe even with Jesus, we’ll say “come into my heart”, but simultaneously be thinking ‘but don’t go over to that part – pay no attention to that over there!’ as if Jesus can be fooled.
Though it’s not easy, though it’s not pleasant, it’s so much easier to mentally clean house of our sins (or more accurately, let Jesus clean house). We’re so relieved once it’s done, we think ‘why did I wait so long to do that?’
The Bible makes it so clear that we have two options for what to do about that gunky stuff: the sin we hold in our lives. Chapter 1 of 1st John lays it out clearly: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” (vv. 8-10)
So, we have a clear choice presented before us. What will we do? Deny there’s a problem (as I did for months with my office fridge)? To do so never solves things: just makes it fester and worsen. Or confess? Sure, it’s not pleasant. Sure, part of our twisted hearts want to keep that junky stuff just where it is. But, come on! To come out into the openness of true freedom with Jesus? Far better, friends, so worth it. Living cleanly, openly, with no dread back in the back corner.
I want to invite you: if you haven’t done so recently: to clean house with God & Jesus. As Jesus instructs: go into your closet or a private room, close the door, kneel down, and tell God all about it. And the God who sees what is done in secret, will reward you openly (Matthew 6:6).
I pray that you will find a more relaxed, more open form of life with Jesus, free of the drama, free of the clutter, free of the stench and dread of sin. “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” May we ever go forward walking in that pure light of His truth.
May God bless you all.
Pr. Mark Tatum