Do you have something in your garage, basement, refrigerator, or closet that really needs to be replaced? There is an art to keeping things running longer than their warranty period, and a robust supply of thread, duct tape, and krazy glue can reduce our need to purchase new items for quite a while.
However, there comes a time when we need to decide that it’s time for some of our stuff to go. Maybe those t-shirts from the last decade have served you well, but it’s time to turn them into rags. Or, maybe the last piece of cake in the refrigerator needs to go, after it hardened underneath the frosting and might be better used as a scrubbing pad for the dishes. It could be that the replacement parts for an old power tool are going to cost more than a new one. I don’t know what your home looks like, but I know that I have plenty of these old things just hanging around, because I don’t take the time to toss, donate, or recycle them.
Consider this verse, capturing the word of God to the Israelites when the people’s life choices had gotten pretty bad. In fact, their path had gotten to the point where trying to keep things going further – just the way that they had been – was not going to help anyone:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36:26 NIV
It was time to perform some surgery, here. The people’s hearts didn’t need to be held together with another winding of twist-ties (like when we just “try to do better”). It wasn’t going to be enough for them to try to make their hearts look good by searching for others who were sinning worse than they were (like putting a fresh coat of paint over a broken, rotten board). No amount of self-maintenance was going to bring them back up to God’s standard of righteousness.
Like the freezer that I tried to repair earlier this year: once I accidentally punctured the coolant line, it was time for something new.
Now, I’m not accusing you of having a heart of stone. If you’re taking the time to read this, you’re probably interested in being at least a little better, with respect to the God of the universe. However, there could be other things in your life (as there are in mine) that are due to be swapped out with something new, better, and holier. For instance, maybe there’s a level of popularity that you’ve been trying to achieve, while you hide your lack of interest in the crowd that you’re trying to fit into. It could be that you’re trying to achieve a certain level of wealth so that you can take it easy, but the cost of getting more and more (especially as the finish line keeps moving) is taking its toll. Or, perhaps you’re just staring down a self-imposed deadline for where you thought you would be by a certain age, and you’re trying to make something happen that just isn’t there.
If so, you’re not alone. We all have plans and goals that we didn’t make with God’s input, only to discover that His plan was never intended to support them. And, this isn’t new: just ask Jonah, Paul, Moses, Joseph, or Abram.
So, knowing that God gives perfect gifts (James 1:17), how do we receive a “replacement” from Him, whether that’s a new plan, a new heart, a new goal, or a new outlook? To receive this, I think that there are two steps:
First, in order to get a replacement, we must let the old “thing” go, whether it’s an appliance, attitude, or aspiration. The delivery crew isn’t going to put in that new stove until you let them take the old one out. If you don’t sell or scrap that old car (the one in the driveway that doesn’t run), there won’t be any room for a newer one. Like that ice princess sang in the movie, Frozen: “Let it go!”
If we want God to give us something new from His perfect store of wisdom, we need to acknowledge what isn’t in His plan (or we should ask Him, if we’re not sure), and then disconnect our attachment to it. There are times when I have had to say, “God, I really want this, but I have to give it to you and accept Your will.” When we let go of the frayed rope, we can catch onto the good one. And, if you are having trouble doing so, ask God for help. In the verse above, He said that He would remove the failed part, so to speak, before replacing it with something better.
The second step to receiving God’s blessings (after we get rid of the junk that was taking up the space where those blessings were intended to be delivered), is to remember that we’re not the one performing the transplant. Somehow, we have gotten this idea that we should just follow all of God’s instructions, and we’ll make ourselves better. If that was possible, I suppose Jesus wouldn’t have had to die, but there was no other option when He made us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
We don’t “make blessings happen” because we do a good job at following God’s commands. Yes, God’s instructions are designed to help us live the life that we were designed to live, but many of HIs blessings are clearly gifts. When we stop trying to earn God’s favor (when He already loves us so much that He reached out to us), we can live in freedom and let God do His own work. We follow along, but the God who created the universe – and created both you and me – well, He’s got things under control, despite what it may look like from our finite viewpoints.
So, if you are good with a pliers or a sewing needle, you are welcome to keep material things around for a while, even when they break, rip, or get damaged. But don’t try to be your own handyman when it comes to the really important parts of life. When God calls you to let go of the outdated, expired, and useless things in your life, drop those old models like a rock, and let God swap them out for something shiny, new, and quite possibly eternal.
Originally written to accompany the July 2021 sermon series, “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb”, at First Christian Church, Canton, OH. Republished by permission.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.