Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sermon 6/25/06--It's Never To Late to Clean Up

Minus a few Sunday Morning Additions and edits, here is the message from this Sunday

It’s Never Too Late to Clean Up—1Samuel 7

One of the moments that I do not like the most is when I’m supposed to be somewhere and I forget about it. Or I’m supposed to have something for a meeting and I forget it. Or I forget we’re going to have company over at the house like on the 4th of July and I’ve forgotten to clean up the yard and the house. Life is normal until all of a sudden somebody says something, the phone rings, or you get to that important moment and it hits you… I forgot all about that. So many times it’s too late to do anything about it.

You also see that in the phrase--You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. I know as a child, I never appreciated my grandmother as much as she deserved. And now I can’t go back and tell her. I never appreciated an independent heating system until a couple of winters ago when we lost power in our house for a few days. I seem to lose something when I need it the most, like car keys. You never know how valuable and important something is until you realize you need it or want it and it isn’t there. And you ask yourself, am I too late?

The nation of Israel learned this fact during the life of Samuel. Of all things to lose, They had lost the Presence of God, too much dirt had gotten in the way.. Missing God’s Presence. In 1 Samuel 4, the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines at a place called Ebenezer. In that defeat, two corrupt priests, sons of Eli, were killed and when Eli heard the news he also fell over dead—not from the news of his sons, but from the news about the Ark’s capture. The Living presence of Almighty God had been captured by gentiles because the hearts and loyalty of the people of God were far from Him. As 4:22 declares “The Glory has departed from Israel, for the Ark of God has been captured.”

Eventually, the Ark was eventually returned in ch. 6. into the private house of Abinidab for 20 years. The Ark stayed there in obscurity, essentially hidden and cut off from the people, until David came years later to move it to Jerusalem.

The Presence of God was weakening in the hearts of the people. God had less of their loyalties, less impact on their daily lives. There were, few words from the Lord and few visions. It’s as if the house is getting dirtier and dirtier, but you rarely notice your own mess.

But after so long of the Glory of the LORD being departed, after years of neglect and idolatry, the hearts of the people began to change. And Samuel was there to strike the match to start the fires that cleaned up the hearts of the people.

Even when you don’t think it’s possible, even when you think it’s too late to have your life cleaned up and God’s Presence restored, it’s not too late. Samuel shows us how and why.

Samuel, was essentially a “handy man” a “Jack of all trades” in the hand of God, he performed the functions of a priest, military leader, judge, but his main task in life is expressed here. He is to bring the people back to the Lord. He led them to realize that it was never too late to return to the LORD, to realize that …

1. Heart Cleaning is More Important than Spring Cleaning—v. 7:2-6.
a. Men, I know, as much as you welcome spring because it hopefully means less snow to shovel. I know you fear the day when your wife consults the Farmer’s Almanac or determines the planets’ alignment for just the right moment to start Spring Cleaning. You’re relaxing one moment, the next moment you have a list 3 pages long of things to move out of the Garage, to lift, to dust, to replace.

b. But Spring Cleaning is not the most important kind of cleaning we need. We need to have a frequent Heart Cleaning. And the longer we go without it, the harder it is to get it done—we may even wonder if the mess is too bad to clean up.

c. Sometimes the mess is overwhelming, but cleaning has got to start somewhere.

d. Here, the people were in such a spiritual mess, they were finally beginning to see the mess and mourn the loss of relationship with God--something was missing—they had no intimacy, they had no fellowship, they had no blessing, they had no victory in the LORD.

e. They wanted their lives cleaned up. Then Samuel challenged their motives and the strength of their desire. “if you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts…” in other words, don’t just come if you are half-hearted. Don’t do this unless you are serious. If all you feel is guilty, then don’t waste God’s time b/c those feelings will fade.

f. Samuel led the People to a moment of genuine, real, authentic Heart Cleaning—it was so hard because it took them so long. They had to back up their mourning and feeling sorry with a demonstration of their return to the LORD by getting rid of everything that is more important than God in their lives.

g. They had to do physically what was most needed spiritually. It was a demonstration of their seriousness.

h. Little is more annoying than hearing someone say they’re sorry when you know they don’t really mean it. So Samuel wants to make sure they follow through.

i. What about you? How many times have you sought God’s forgiveness and not really meant it? When was the last time you really and sincerely asked God to clean up your heart?

j. True Heart Cleaning is beyond your power, only He can do it.

k. Just like them, We must Rid ourselves of these foreign gods—the things that have no place in our hearts, in our homes, in our nation and commit totally and completely to God.

l. I would venture that if I went into your house, I would not find a family altar with a bunch of stone and wood idols on it to which you pray, offer sacrifices and live in fear of.

m. So, What are our foreign gods? You can see them in the way that so many things compete for our time and attention in today’s world. We may not bow down and worship them, we may sit in front of them for hours, we may not offer sacrifices, sing songs or pray, unless they are a winning baseball or football team, but when they hold a higher place in your life than God, they are essentially a foreign god in your life

n. A Change needs to be made, a Cleaning Up must take place.

o. A change in your heart is a change in the life of your family, and the life of this fellowship. A change in the heart of the people will change the heart of the nation.

p. All these distractions need to be removed. They have no business being there, no right or claim to your heart like God does. You and I both must…

q. Serve Him only—if you are returning to Him—serve Him only—don’t hold anything back but give it all over to God—your family, your job, your children, your grandchildren, your life. You must decide to not allow anything to compete or take priority over Him. Serve Him in all you do, let Him be the King because when you do, and you will experience the Presence of God.

r. If your life is a mess, you might feel like you’re missing His presence as well. It’s not too late to begin living with His presence. Having your heart cleansed is the best starting point. If you desire to find the source of cleaning, the Real Mr. or Mrs. Clean, you won’t find in a mirror. You must Look Up.

2. For the Real Mr. Clean Please Look Up—v. 7-11
a. They are coming to Samuel because they knew the LORD was with him, they knew he had a personal calling and experience with God and as 3:20 says—“all Israel… recognized that Samuel was attested as a Prophet of the LORD.”

b. The Philistines, a traditional enemy of Israel, didn’t like the idea of the Israelites getting together in too large a group. They thought that the assembly at Mizpah was preparation for war; instead, the Israelites were fighting more of a spiritual battle, a battle for the hearts of the people.

c. This is true for us today. Satan always resists a true change in the lives of sinners and the people of God. When you and I begin to repent and reform, to change and let God clean us up, you should expect that Satan will muster all his forces against you, and set up every weapon at his disposal to work to oppose and discourage you. When the people of God are giving God control and living passionately for Him, Satan resists.

d. I always try to give a warning to those that want to get back into church, that they should expect something to happen on Saturday night, or Sunday morning to keep them from coming—an argument, a child waking up in the middle of the night, a sickness. Even desiring God to clean up your life, desiring His presence to fill your life, puts you on the front lines of the spiritual battles around us.

e. When we come together as the church to pray, to praise God, and to strengthen each other, Satan sees this as a Preparation for War and he will respond in force.

f. Here, Satan is using the Philistines to take their attention away from God, to instill fear, to hold them back. All it would take would be a whisper, a rumor among the people that the reason the Philistines were attacking was b/c they had put out their idols. They would be tempted to go back to the mess—to the absence of His presence.

g. When you are ignoring God in your life, Satan will often leave you alone, but the moment you start calling and crying out for Him because you are realizing that His presence is missing, the moment you realize there’s some necessary cleaning, then he goes on the offensive—Satan will even claim to be the real one to clean us.

h. Alone, we don’t have the ability to clean up ourselves. To find the real Mr. Clean, we must look up. We must LOOK UP FOR OUR DELIVERANCE. Without God at work in our lives, we don’t have a chance against our adversary, we don’t have a chance to make the life changes to clean our hearts—the task is too big. The forces working against us are too strong. It was the same for them.

i. That’s why when the people were afraid in v. 8—the people said—“do not stop crying out to the LORD our God for us, that He may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” This is exactly the response that the Lord is looking for.

j. Cleaning up is hard to do and the old way of life is going to fight to keep things dirty, to keep things the way they were before. . The living, vibrant Presence of God is able to clean up any mess or conquer any foe in your life. Anything that is holding you back, anything that is destructive, anything that is coming between you and God must be replaced.

k. The salvation here is more than a physical deliverance from the Philistines, it is typical of spiritual salvation that the Presence and cleaning of God brings.

l. Remember, Samuel had promised the people that if they Returned to the Lord with all their hearts, then God would deliver them out of the hand of the Philistines. What Satan wanted to use to destroy, God can and will in turn use to bring praise to His Name and strengthen our relationship with Him. Even the battles in life can remind us of the Joy and Victory that comes with His presence in our lives, when we look to Him for Deliverance.

m. So Samuel fought the battle for Israel in v. 9—not with swords, but with Prayer and a close relationship. The LORD answered him while he was sacrificing the burnt offering.

n. Now the whole people could see the deliverance of God. No enemy can stand against the Power of God—no mess is too great for Him to clean up. It was true then and it is true today—Satan cannot stand against the Power of God working in your life. When God does do something in your life, He will provide the Deliverance.

o. But when God does it, when He conquers an enemy attack, you must never forget it. Remembering what God has done, where He has taken you is vital in your walk with Him. Samuel thought it important enough to set up his very own Ebenezer, his “stone of help”. Today we would take a Before and After Picture to remind us of just how much has changed. We would call it the Extreme Life & Faith Makeover.

3. A Reminder of the Change—12-17.
a. Ebenezer means “stone of help.” It was a memorial to God’s Cleaning them up and keeping them from going back.
b. EBENEZER —This stone was a Testimony That God’s Presence had returned.

c. He didn’t want them to forget how much better it was to be right with God. Samuel wanted the people of God to be able to see something to remind them that Having Faith, knowing He is cleaning up your heart is better than anything in the world.

d. This physical reminder for them is why the Lord’s Supper is so valuable for us today.

e. God delivered under Samuel’s leadership and blessed him and the people with His presence. The Mess that was their spiritual life was cleaned up—idolatry was thrown out, and God protected them.

f. Have you been living without the Presence of God? Is your life a spiritual mess? Then Look up for the real Mr. Clean—who will strengthen you, who will protect you and give you hope. We all need a Stone of Help, a reminder of God’s Deliverance and willingness to clean up our lives. The greatest stone of help is the Rock of Christ Jesus. Let Him clean you up, let Him help you remove all the distractions and idols in your life. It is never too late to clean up.

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