Text: Hebrews 4: 12-16
We have two closets in the front of our
house. I thought this was a really cool feature when we bought our home in
1992. We could have one closet for our coats and one closet for the coats of
guests whenever we entertained. The problem is, the two closets are small and
with four people in the house, those closets filled up with our own coats.
When we host a dinner or party,
particularly when there are many guests, we always clean out those closets. We
take out all of the coats in both sides and lay them on the bed in the guestroom.
Then we don’t have the lay our guests’ coats on the bed. And, it also means that our guests don’t get
a chance to look around in our closets. When you have people in your home, you
don’t want people snooping around, seeing what’s hiding in your closets.
Like it or not, that’s what we are going
to do today. We are going to look around in your closet and it’s about time.
All of us have stuff in our closets that need attention. You know the Goodwill
commercial that we see so often. The guy
opens the closet, hats falling out and then the Goodwill driver says, “There’s
never been a better time to give to Goodwill.”
Well there has never been a better time to clean out your spiritual
We are talking about the closet today
because we finally made it inside your home with Jesus. We are in a series
titled The Homes Jesus Builds. We started curbside at the mailbox when we
considered the invitation that Jesus makes first to his disciples at his Last
Supper. The offer extends to us. Jesus said, “Abide in me as I abide in you.” (John 15:4).
Jesus wants to take up residence in your home, to live with you and you
When Jesus says this, he is saying that he wants to enter
your heart, make his home there and begin a renovation project inside of you.
He wants to walk through the door, roam through your closets, redo your living
room and sit at your table.
Last week, we met Jesus at the door. He is insistent on his
desire to enter your home. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If
anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in...’ (Revelation
3:20a). He is serious about getting busy
with his renovation project; he wants to move in. While maybe none of us wants
to hide behind the door and act like we aren’t home, few of us truly fling wide
the door to let Jesus enter, fully, completely into our home and heart. We
crack the door open enough to let him get a foot in. But to move in; that’s an
entirely different matter.
But he’s in and the first thing you do
when someone moves into to the house is show them around the place. Imagine
doing that, showing Jesus around your home. What do you do? Maybe you start by
showing Jesus the family room, where you’ll be spending time together. The kitchen is important too. You’ll be
taking meals together, sitting at the table together. We’ll spend more time in
those rooms. Then, you head to the bedrooms. “This is my room, Jesus, you’ll be
staying in this room.” You can see
yourself doing that with a guest, can’t you?
After all, if Jesus is going to abide in you and you in him, then you
have to show the place. You could also imagine him standing in the hallway,
asking questions like, “What’s in that room?”
“Oh, that’s not a room. That’s just a
“What do you keep in there?”
“Oh, nothing really.”
“Well, it must be valuable because it is locked.”
Why would you lock a closet other than to keep people from getting in and
seeing what’s there?
It’s really impossible to live with
something when there is a big secret buried away in the closet. It’s always
there and you know it is there but it is so deeply buried that you are always
walking around it, avoiding it, not wanting to deal with it. Or if the person
whom you are living with doesn’t know that it is there, you know it is there.
In this case, Jesus knows what you’ve hidden away in the closet of your heart.
This is the kind of God that we have. “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight.” (Hebrews 4: 13a).
When it comes to the one who enters our heart and home, nothing is hidden, even
our thoughts and intentions. We may not believe it. Most of time, we act as if
it isn’t so. But the reality is our lives are an open book, completely
transparent so you might as well hand over the keys to that locked place in
your heart. “I moved in to renovate the entire place” Jesus says, “so we might
as well start now and start here. Let’s see what you’ve locked up and hidden.”
Jesus see? What would he pull out? Imagine him opening the door and out comes
there is something rotting. What is this, an apple? What is it with you guys
needing to take a bite of an apple. It’s rotten. No wonder there is a
smell. And a skeleton. You guys always
have skeletons in your closet. Don’t worry about that. The apple and the skeletons aren’t enough to enough
to make this big of a smell. There is something dead in here. What’s about
Jesus, there from a long time ago; I don’t look at them now. I’m saving them.
They are a collector’s item.
it looks like lust to me. I think you
should get rid of them. What about this
mask? It looks angry to me.”
that’s from a long time ago, from a drama I was in with family. I can’t get rid
got to get rid of that. This is one of the things that really smells.”
this box? Beads, rings, watches? How much of this do you really wear?
a box of jewelry.”
It may seem like it’s just jewelry to you but there is a lot here. It looks
like GREED to me.”
about this robe? And this crown?”
Jesus, I know you are going to think this is weird but sometimes I like to feel
kingly, like I’m in charge. So I wear them around the house.”
see. No wonder the label reads, ‘PRIDE.”
the deal. If you don’t start working on this closet, letting go of the lust and
anger, greed and pride and whatever else is in there, we are going to have a
tough time renovating your home.
Jesus, how do I do that?”
going to have to repent.”
what Jesus wants to do when he comes into your home. He wants to roam around
your closets and find out what’s there. Then he wants you to repent from those
sins. How many of you are really good at
repenting? Contrary to popular belief, repenting isn’t a one and done deal. It
has to be a way of life in the home Jesus builds.
Most of us
don’t understand that. We take a laundry room approach to repenting. We think
we take all of our dirty laundry and put it in a big pile. Then we cram it into
the washing machine, not worried about mixing and matching colors and whites. All sin is sin. Then, we asked God to clean
us up. It’s less embarrassing and
painful that way. Just one cycle and we’re done. “Here’s a big pile God. Do your work. Make me
When we do
this, we may feel better, we may feel cleaner but we haven’t really cleaned out
the closet. Repentance isn’t about
accounting, about God checking off some balance sheet that lists our sin.
Repentance is about your relationship with God. Sin, by whatever name is goes
by, …lust, anger, greed, pride…breaks your relationship with God. Repentance is about restoring that
you have to name the sin. You are painfully honest with yourself. I told my client that I got caught in traffic
but the reality was I didn’t give myself enough time. I lied in order to make myself look good. I
am a liar. I wrote down more gifts to charity than I really gave because I
needed the tax deductions. I don’t want to pay taxes. I’m a cheat. I told my
wife that I was working late but I was really with someone else. I am
adulterer. Liar, cheat, adulterer?
What’s in your closet? Jesus looked into
the hearts of the Pharisees and said, “For out of the
heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false
witness, slander. These are what defile a person…” (Matthew 15:19-20a). What defiles you? What breaks your
relationship with God? Be specific. Name it. That’s the first step.
The second step of repentance is to accept responsibility, to claim your sin. That may sound odd to
say but one of the biggest barriers to repentance is our tendency to wiggle out
of responsibility for our actions and behavior. Far too often, we rationalize
our behavior, finding excuses for what’s in our closet, for what we’ve done,
how we behaved.
Those people are judgmental and if I didn’t lie about being late, it
would go bad for us. And it’s not like they are the most honest people.
The government wants so much money and it’s not like everyone else isn’t
trying to pad their deductions here and there.
She’s complains all the time and is always tired. She pushed me away,
withdrew her affection so what am I to do?
From the moment Adam said, “she gave me fruit
from the tree, and I ate." (Genesis
3: 12), there has always been an excuse, someone
else to blame, circumstances to point to, a way to avoid responsibility. When
we fail to accept responsibility for our sin, it is like throwing it back in
the closet and slamming the door shut.
You name it. Claim it. Then, the third step in
the repentance process is to seek to make amends. Try to set things right. This is the behavioral step and it one of the main
ways that you tell the difference between going through the paces or somebody who
is genuinely repentant. Are you really
sorry for your sin or are you just trying to do damage control? True repentance doesn’t try to minimize pain.
It tries to set things right with your soul and with the people you’ve wronged. It asks the question, what do I do to make
things right? If I am a liar, a cheat, an adulterer, how do I make amends for
those who I’ve wronged? The classic
example in scripture is Zacchaeus. Do you remember what he said to Jesus?
“Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I
have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
(Luke 19:8) Part of repentance is the sincere intent to change.
Name this sin. Claim the sin. Set things
right. Then experience God’s grace. Embrace again the mercy and love that come
from Jesus. “…approach
the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace
to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16).
Jesus loves it when this happens. Because God sent Jesus to live among
us, he sympathizes in our weakness. He’s been tempted in every way. So Jesus loves it when we hand him the keys
to the closet so that he can start empting it out. Nothing is going to shock him. No one is
going to be turned away. He is the great
dispenser of grace. It is why he went to the cross. Repentance is never
complete until we take time to remember the cross and hear his words of grace
and love to us again, saying, “Father, forgive
them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34a). The words are
essential in the home that Jesus builds.
The real, piercing truth that is sharper than
any two-edged sword is we all have a closet in the home that is in our heart.
You have yours. I have mine. I know more about mine than I do yours and if I’m
as honest as I’m asking you to be, it’s a dark place crammed full of stuff.
It’s a mess, a scary place. I can’t fix
mine by myself and neither can you. This renovation project requires you to
hand the keys of the closet to him and let Jesus start emptying it.
A lot of stuff is going to come out of our
closets. Maybe it will be pride. Maybe anger, bitterness. Maybe it’s a raging
appetite for more, greed. Maybe it’s lust or envy or hatred. Maybe it’s
self-righteousness or gossip or condemnation. There’s no telling what will come
out of our closets but you have to hand the keys to him. Have you? Can you?
Will you? If so, then you’ll approach
his throne with boldness by bowing your heads and praying with me. Repeat my
words, our prayer.
Jesus, I’m handing you the keys. It’s a relief to stop hiding and name what’s
there. Clean out the closet of my heart, Lord so that you can live in me and I will
live in you. Amen.