Have you ever seen the television series “Hoarders” that airs on the A&E network? It is amazing to see how folks can collect so much junk in their homes that they can’t even get around. Their kitchens are overflowing with piles and piles of dishes, old boxes, kitchen appliances that haven’t worked in years, and much more. There is no way you can cook in the kitchen of a hoarder. There is no way to live, really live, in the living room of a hoarder because hoarders never let go of anything. In the living room of a hoarder you will find every television set they’ve ever owned. There are piles and piles of TV Guides from years and years ago. Do they even publish TV Guide anymore? Plates of food enjoyed dating back to ballgames from years ago are tucked under the coffee table. The list of the junk that fills the living room of a hoarder is endless. There is no place to sit down in the living room of a hoarder because junk occupies every square inch of space. There is no way you could ever get a good night’s sleep in the bedroom of a hoarder because the piles and piles of clothes, hangers, books, broken furniture, and boxes and boxes of items being saved for who-knows-what-reason fills the room. I don’t watch “Hoarders” every week, but I’ve seen enough of the episodes to know that the folks who live in these conditions are not really living. They are prisoners in their own home.

I was thinking about the people whose stories are told each week on the television series as I was working on our lesson for today because I see some similarities between hoarders and us. Our lesson this morning is “Coming Clean.” Our lesson is not about making sure we practice good hygiene in our homes so that we can provide sanitary surroundings for ourselves and our families, although that is a great idea. Our lesson this morning is about the junk that we collect as we go through life. Junk like shame and guilt brought on because of what we have done or failed to do. This kind of junk suffocates us, paralyzes us, stymies our growth, and keeps us from living the abundant life that God desires for each of us to live.

This morning we are going to take a look at the Fourth Choice on the road to recovery. In the Celebrate Recovery ministry there are 8 Choices that are necessary for us to make if we want to be freed from the debilitating effects of our hurts, hang ups, and habits. The Fourth Choice says, “Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust.” This choice is based on Matthew 5:8 where Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8 NIV)

God has no desire for you and me to carry around the load of guilt, shame, and sin that we accumulate as we travel through this life. We need to know that God doesn’t take our sin lightly. He is not like many of our friends who tell us, “It’s no big deal.” Neither is God like those in our society who, once you and I have our sin exposed, will never let us live it down. These are two extremes, the most prevalent ways that people deal with one another’s sin and guilt, but God has a better way. God’s desire is that you and I face what we’ve done, confess what we’ve done, and allow His grace to remove our guilt and shame so that we might be free from their paralyzing affects on our lives.

Sin. Shame. Guilt. These do have a paralyzing affect on our lives don’t they? The truth of the matter is that our sin doesn’t even have to be exposed, or made public, for us to feel shame and guilt over what we’ve done. James writes,

I need help. I’m absolutely ashamed of myself. I cheated on my wife recently. I met up with a family friend who has been flirtatious in the past, and we ended up having sex. It lasted no more than 5 minutes before I realized what I was doing and made myself stop. I’ve been a wreck ever since. I can’t believe what I’ve done. I’ve never done anything like this to anyone, ever. I don’t know what came over me, my wife means the world to me and I can’t stand the thought of seeing her in pain after I tell her what I’ve done. Which is why I am leaning towards not telling her, it would destroy her and our marriage would be over. I know what I did was beyond wrong. All I want is for things to be normal again. I can honestly say that I’ll never do something like this again. I’ve been up every night sick to my stomach because of what I’ve done. Is not telling her the right thing to do? Would it be selfish to unload all this guilt on her?

James’ sin wasn’t broadcast on the evening news. You didn’t read about his infidelity while you were standing in line to check out at Wal Mart. There are only two people who know what he has done and yet he is now immobilized because of his sin, guilt, and shame.

Sometimes we are led to believe that the sting of our past sins will fade with time–that we will forget with the passage of time. The truth of the matter is that we don’t forget. Worse yet, our past sins can cause us to interpret all of our present day hardships as punishment from God. Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. A young mother wrote,

I had an abortion when I was young. Several years later I gave birth to a child with a disability. My guilt knows no bounds. I feel God is punishing my child with a life of suffering due to my horrible sin. I think of King David and how God punished his sin by killing his baby. At least his baby died and went to heaven. My child will live and suffer all the days of their life. I know it’s my fault. What can I do?

I mentioned to you earlier that most people deal with one another’s sin, shame, and guilt in one of two ways: we either hold the sin over someone’s head forever, never forgive them, and often remind them of what they’ve done or, when someone expresses their remorse and shame, we simply tell them that it’s no big deal, that everybody does “it,” or that they need to get over it. Folks, sin is real. It just can’t be swept under the rug or we will become even more sick than we already are. Our friends can sincerely love us, want the best for us, but their willingness to dismiss our sin doesn’t help us. Let me give you one more example before we move on.

I did a lot of binge drinking in college because sober I am horribly shy. To make a long story short, I made a complete fool of myself for quite some years. At first glance I seem like a very decent, shy girl, but all of the drinking ruined my reputation. I had blackouts, acted foolish, and people often had to see me home because I was too drunk to do it myself. I stopped binge drinking 2 years ago. I finally quit drinking a month ago. Now I feel all these bad memories coming back. I get anxiety attacks when I think how I behaved while I was drunk. I hardly slept for weeks because I’m so ashamed. People tell me to move on and live in today, but I just don’t manage to. I always remind myself of past blackouts, and then I will spend some hours thinking about what people might have thought about me at that time. How do you deal with the remorse and shame? I even think about changing the place where I live so I won’t be confronted with my alcoholic past, but I doubt this will help in the long run.

Sin, guilt, and shame will destroy our relationships and keep us locked in the past. The problem is that simply feeling sorry for our sin will not make the memories or the hurt go away. We need something more than feelings to help us deal with our sin, guilt, and shame. I read a story this past week, in John Baker’s book, Life’s Healing Choices, about a young man that called into one of those call-in radio talk shows. The young man said, “I’m consumed with guilt and don’t know what to do with it. How do I get rid of this guilt?” The answer offered by the talk-show host was very upsetting: “You can’t get rid of guilt. You just have to learn to live with it.” The response of the talk show host was both true and untrue. Left to ourselves there is nothing we can do to get rid of our guilt. We can try and mask it with busyness, alcohol or drugs, or some other solution. We can try to rationalize it. We can work to forget it. None of these will work for any extended period of time. Apart from the forgiveness of God we can’t adequately absolve ourselves of our guilt. Sin leaves a deep, deep stain in our soul that nothing that we have at our disposal can remove. That is true, but in Christ there is a forgiveness that is available to you and me that not only deals with our sin, shame, and guilt, but purifies us, cleanses us, and can restore us as well as our broken relationships.

There is not one soul present this morning who does not know the feeling of guilt experienced because of what we have done. It doesn’t matter if anyone else knows what we have done…we know. Sometimes, others not knowing what we have done can be even worse than having our sin exposed. If what we have done is not known by anyone else, if it hasn’t been made public, then we lose lots of sleep worrying if, or when, we will be found out. The story is told about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the writer of the Sherlock Holmes novels. He died in 1930, but while he was alive he was quite a prankster. One day he played a prank on five of the most prominent men in England. He sent an anonymous note to the five men and it simply said this, “All is found out, flee at once.” Within 24 hours all five men had left the country.

You see, when we are found out, when our sin is exposed, we have to deal with public humiliation, but we no longer have to lay awake at night and wonder if someone will discover what we’ve done.

Scripture makes it clear to you and me that sin is universal. If you were born into a wonderful Christian family, that is irrelevant—you are still a sinner. If you were abandoned at birth, that is irrelevant—you are a sinner. If you were born into the most prominent family in town, that is irrelevant—you are a sinner. If you were born to the most notorious family in town, that is irrelevant—you are a sinner. If you’ve been in church every Sunday since the Sunday after you were born, that is irrelevant—you are a sinner. If today is the first time you’ve ever stepped foot in a church in your life, that is irrelevant—you are a sinner. Paul wrote,

10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12 NIV)

Just a few verses later in his letter to the folks in Rome, Paul puts an exclamation mark on this statement we’ve just read when he writes, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 NIV) That’s the truth, from God, for you and me, but instead of telling us that there is nothing that can be done, God’s Word, His advice to you and me, is altogether different than the prescription of the radio talk show host. He told the people of Joel’s day the same thing He is saying to us today. Listen to Joel 2:12-13.

12 “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. (Joel 2:12-13 NIV)

“Return to Me with all your heart…” That’s what we need if we want to come clean. Some say, “Well, Mike you don’t know what I’ve done.” He knows and He says, “Return to me…” If you will come to Him in your brokenness, cling to Him for your forgiveness, trust in Jesus’ cleansing power, then you have no idea what His plans are for you. The Apostle Paul has a word for you and me. Listen to this:

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:15-17 NIV)

I am the worst of sinners, but God has shown me that it was because of this very fact that He has been so kind as to show me mercy. He has shown me, the worst of all sinners, mercy, so that in the future, when other sinners wonder if God could really love them, they can think about me and know that if He can forgive and love me, then He can certainly love and forgive them. Wow! God’s ways are so different than ours!

Paul wasn’t the only one who was astounded at the mercy, grace, and forgiveness of God. Micah, the prophet, recorded his thoughts for us. Turn to Micah 7:18-19 with me.

18 Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. 19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19 NIV)

“Who is a God like you…” It is mind-boggling isn’t it? God is so gracious, loving, and forgiving when we will take our sin, guilt, and shame to Him. The beauty of Celebrate Recovery’s 4th Choice is the emphasis on coming clean. How do we move past our guilt and shame? We focus on the truths from God’s Word that we’ve been talking about. The thing I love about Celebrate Recovery is the fact those who are involved in Celebrate Recovery neither have their sin swept under the rug or held over their head. They are given some very tangible helps. Whether you are involved in Celebrate Recovery or not these helps will serve you well. Let me share them with you.

1. Take a Personal Moral Inventory.

It is so important for us to open our heart and mind to God and let Him show us what we need to see. God will reveal to us what He wants us to know if we will honestly ask Him and then set aside time to pray, reflect, and let Him search our hearts. The Psalmist said,

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV)

It is very important that we set aside time and write down the things God shows us. I think it is fair to say that we are all very much aware of some of the things we have done that have brought shame and guilt into our own lives as well as caused pain for others, but God will reveal things to us that we might not even be aware of. Write them down—don’t just think about them.

2. Accept responsibility for your faults.

It’s vitally important that we own what we have done. We can’t rationalize it, justify it, or dismiss it—we must own it. There is something I need to say at this point. If you were sexually or physically abused then I want you to know how deeply sorry I am that you had to endure that. You should have never had to experience the horror you went through. When you are writing down your personal moral inventory then you need to write, “Not guilty” next to the abuse. The next thing you need to do is to renounce the lie that the abuse was your fault. The abuse was not your fault. What you can take responsibility for is if you have hurt others as a result of the abuse you experienced in your past.

3. Ask God for forgiveness.

There is a beautiful promise in God’s Word that has comforted me time and time again when Satan has tried to use my sin to condemn me. Listen to this:

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NIV)

There is no guarantee that if we ask our wife, husband, son, daughter, co-worker, or friend for forgiveness that they will forgive us. The effects of unforgiven sin are before us each and every day. The good news is that if we ask God for forgiveness we have a promise…”he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all righteousness.”

4. Admit your faults to another person.

In John Baker’s book, “Life’s Healing Choices,” he talks about how important it is for us to admit our sins to another person and not just to God. He writes,

Why can’t we just admit our faults to God? Why must another person be involved? Because the root of our problems is relational. We lie to each other, deceive each other, and are dishonest with each other. We wear masks and pretend to have it together. We deny our true feelings and play games largely because we believe, ‘If they really knew the truth about me, they wouldn’t love me.’ We become more isolated than ever. We keep all of the junk of our past inside, and we get sick. There’s a saying: We are only as sick as our secrets. The hurts, hang ups, and habits that we try to hide end up making us sick, but ‘revealing your feelings is the beginning of healing.’ (Baker, John. Life’s Healing Choices. pg. 110-111.)

I want to caution you. Don’t just find the first person you know and tell them everything. Pray about it. Think of someone you respect, someone who is trustworthy, someone who is mature enough to hear what you have to share and not share it with anyone else. Make sure that the person you share your personal moral inventory with is of the same gender as you. Let them know that you want to share your personal moral inventory with them. Ask them to take some time to pray if God would have them to help you in this way. When you find the right person then set up a time when you will not be rushed. Find a place to meet that is private and not public.

5. Accept God’s forgiveness and forgive yourself.

After you have taken these steps then receive God’s forgiveness and forgive yourself. God’s forgiveness is guaranteed my friends. If we will confess our sins, if we will agree with Him that what we have done is sin, not His purpose for our lives, then He will forgive us. There are so many of us who are carrying our shame and guilt around with us like a heavy backpack. We can’t shake it. It wakes us up at night. We feel guilty. Let me assure you, there is no way for you to rid yourself of that shame and guilt apart from the truth of God’s Word that teaches you and me that God has dealt with our sin through Jesus. Isaiah writes,

4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6 NIV)

He is willing to take that load off of your shoulders this very morning. I really hope that many, many of us will get involved with Celebrate Recovery when it begins right here at Britton Christian Church in January, but you need to know that you don’t have to wait until January to find forgiveness. Jesus is here in this very place and He is waiting for you to come to Him. Won’t you come?

Mike Hays
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
October 28, 2012