Setting the Garbage on the Curb

It happened again this morning. In the pre-dawn hours I lay awake, unable to sleep. Anxieties were filling the room like ghosts in the night, trying to frighten and alarm me with varying degrees of success, but successfully robbing me of sleep. As always, I lay there sending up little prayers to the Father.

“Forgive me of my sin, Father. Help me. You are my Rock. You are my strength.”

Lying there, I thought of all the reasons the Lord has for not hearing me. I’m such a poor Christian. My prayer life is so shallow. I read the Bible in the mornings and rarely give it another thought in the day. He takes care of my financial needs and still I worry. What kind of Christian am I. Why should He forgive me. What if the people I work with knew what a poor Christian I am.

And then this morning, He sent an answer.

I heard the garbage truck outside, running its usual early Saturday morning route. The motor revved as workers compacted the trash. Someone hollered. A can hit the pavement. The engine purred as the truck softly moved forward to the next house. The noises were oddly comforting, and then the Holy Spirit told me why.

The workers are taking away our garbage. The sanitation system has ways of dealing with it, places to dump it, methods for disposing of it. It will be gone; we will never see that trash again. Their system works–our streets are clean and our homes are free from the continual buildup of accumulated garbage and the unhealthy conditions that would produce. We owe a great debt to workers whom we rarely ever see.

In the same way, God removes the sin we have confessed. It is gone. We will walk outside later this morning and retrieve the garbage cans we set out last night. They will be empty. We will set them back in place inside the fence, ready to receive today’s and tomorrow’s garbage. That’s the process; we believe in it and rarely question it.

Shouldn’t we believe God just as strongly and surely? Shouldn’t we take as fact that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)

When He takes it away, God removes it totally and deals with it thoroughly. He buries it in the deepest ocean(Micah 7:19). He forgets it (Hebrews 10:17). He nails it to the cross (Colossians 2:14).

The point being, we’ll never see that sin again. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalms 103:12)

There’s a condition here, though. A “divine however”.

The garbagemen–the sanitation workers–only remove what I set out. They do not enter my house and walk through the rooms and comb through the waste baskets gathering up all the trash they can find. That’s my job. What I identify as trash and put in the appropriate container and set in place, they will cart away.

My job before the Lord is to identify and name the trash in my life, anything unworthy of Him, everything that interferes with my worship and obedience of Him, all that does not have His name on it, whatever weighs me down and holds me back and hinders faith. “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin,” we’re told in Romans 14:23.

I make it a point to name anything the Holy Spirit calls to my attention–because He is the One who knows what I need to set on the curb–and then I pray, “Forgive me of all my sin, O Lord.”

In confessing it to the Father, I am not removing my sin. I am merely bagging it and setting it on the curb for the Holy Spirit to pick up and deal with.

Because of the great and mysterious process that occurred when our Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross and was resurrected three days later, the system works. His blood atones for my sins. His death paid for my wrongs. He died in my place. He and He alone is the Savior. I am the beneficiary, the heir of His estate, the one blessed by the curse of the cross. Only in Heaven will we learn the full dimension of the blessings that are ours by Calvary.

Human language falters trying to fathom and encapsulate and describe all that is ours as a result of that event on the hill outside Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago.

We know it’s not just a matter of saying the right words, of touching all the bases, but in asking the Father for cleansing and forgiveness and for Him to fill me with His Spirit and to use me that day, I ask Him to do this “by the precious blood of Jesus, in the matchless name of Jesus, for the wonderful sake of Jesus.”

Now I’m ready to face a new day.

11 thoughts on “Setting the Garbage on the Curb

  1. Jill came over today and was looking up some people on the net and came across your page. Enjoyed the sermon. Margaret

  2. Brother Joe,

    Thanks for the great illustration. God is faithful and just and will forgive us. And He has!

    Think of you often.

  3. Thanks for describing my same exact situation and how wonderful we have the same answer!

    Joyfully Serving Christ,


  4. Joe,

    Thanks for your “garbage” message. You hit me right where I am this morning. Once again, the Lord used someone to speak to me – when I was too busy speaking for Him.

  5. Hey, Joe that’s a great analogy, except on this side, we have all the alarmists (like expert Globalist Albert, who made him a global environment expert anyway, Gore) telling us that we are warming our Globe and killing the environment by running those fossil fuels in those garbage trucks and killing our environment by dumping your garbage where others are fighting to keep the garbage trucks from dumping it there. Too bad we don’t have the Heavenly Father through Christ to say we’ve taken your garbage and put it as far as the ‘east is from the west’ and no one has to worry about it anymore. Do you think some of those alarmists may ‘worship the creation more than the Creator’?

  6. Joe, you have made taking the garbage to the street a sacrament. (Wickipedia says, “in Christian belief and practice, a sacrament is a rite that mediates divine grace, constituting a sacred mystery.”). Tuesday morning will be my time of sacrament.

    Lee, though I am one who has never been a tree hugger, I am more convinced than every that the God who cares for people also cares for the world itself. Ultimately, as goes the inhabitability of this world, so goes the care and comfort of the people of this world

  7. Great message, Joe! One reason God uses you is because you are so honest. Thanks for a message all of us can understand and apply to our lives. Looking forward to seeing you in Nashville at the National Conference for Ministry Assistants.

  8. P.S. from Joe

    One never knows just when to end this kind of article. For instance, consider that expression: “one man’s trash is another’s treasure.” What the Holy Spirit convicts one of, another may go right on doing.

    I recall how after Margaret Zeringue came to know Christ personally at the age of 41, she knocked on my door and presented me with two lovely rosaries, one silver and the other jade. “I don’t need them any more,” she said. “I can go straight to Christ. They no longer mean anything to me. I had thrown them in the garbage, and Earl said you might like to have them as keepsakes of my salvation.”

    On the radio one morning, I was mentioning the low value people sometimes put on human life. A Church of Christ pastor called and told me this. The garbage men knocked at this woman’s house early one morning. They said to her, “We found this beautiful vase sitting on a garbage can, and we know you did not intend to throw it away.” She said, “It’s the ashes of my first husband. I’ve married again and didn’t know what to do with his ashes.”

    There’s no accounting for what some people consider trash!


  9. Bother Joe, Our son, Austin, is the HR generalist for Waste Management in South La. He told me that the garbage truck driver and his helper don’t get many breaks in the day, so if I had a lot of trash I should watch for them and give them a drink and a treat of some kind. I’ve done that here in Austin, Texas. I know they don’t expect it, so I enjoy doing it as an extra reward for the good job they do. I guess that you could take your analogy a step farther, and say that the praise we give our Lord for taking away our sin, brightens His Heart and also makes us more joyful. We probably know we should give thanks for forgiveness, but because we are human, He probably doesn’t expect it. Peace and Joy, Lana

  10. Hi Joe:

    The topic of you message, garbage, intrigued me and I just had to read it. It is so true that we all have garbage we need to put on the curb to be picked up and taken away to cleanse our hearts.

    I am sorry to not be in touch for so long. I am still writing and having poems published on the internet which is a blessing to me. I am amazed at the inspiration God gives me to write. I hope you will enjoy the follow which I have had published. Check the following links.

    You school mate and friend,


  11. Bro Joe,

    Thank you for your message about the “garbage” in our hearts. What struck me was the fact that I rarely doubt that our physical garbage will be disposed of in a timely manner. However, I sometimes have less faith in our spiritual sanitation system. I put my “trash” out for God to deal with, but then I keep checking on it – instead of trusting that He will do what He said He will do.

    “Shouldn’t we believe God just as strongly and surely? Shouldn’t we take as fact that

    …if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. I John 1:9”

    Your message convicted me to live like I’m forgiven and to stop checking on the garbage. Thanks again for sharing your walk and struggles with the rest of us.

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