When I first came to New York City, I was surprised to see the garbage bags and trash cans piled up on the sidewalks all over the city in the evening. It just happened to be one of those days of the week you take your trash out. But it didn’t look like the New York City of my imagination. As the Capital of the World, I thought New York City should always be as clean and pleasant as other modern cities like Singapore.

However, the sanitation trucks came by to pick up the trash at night. The garbage piles were gone the following day. Still, my question was, why do they have to put the garbage out in front of their homes by the sidewalks? It’s unsightly! In most modern cities, the trash is picked up from the back doors.

If you have been to New York City in the evenings before garbage collection, you can’t forget the unpleasant sight. It sticks in your memory. However, over the years, I have learned to appreciate it as an excellent metaphor for how to live a good life.

But, first, let me give you a little more subtle place for garbage dump—American media. The American media are like New York City streets, constantly exposing the garbage of the country. It’s unpleasant. Sometimes, they make you cringe; other times, they make your blood boil, triggering your rage. I didn’t like it, but now I appreciate the wisdom behind the First Amendment, which includes the freedom of the press. Exposing the garbage of the nation allows responsible leaders to clean it up.

When I was in Singapore many years ago, I noticed the news was carefully censored. Their media is as clean as the city. Many other governments around the world control the media and don’t allow them to report the shameful news of the nation. They only report the positive news of their government, sweeping the garbage under the rugs until they rot and stink. By the time the skeleton came out of the closet, it was too late to clean.

So, the downside of exposing the trash constantly and publicly is unsightly, but the upside is it gets cleaned up. Hidden stuff behind the scenes is hard to clean. In the long run, it can make us sick.

How about it as a spiritual metaphor? Do you hide your spiritual trash to maintain a nice and clean facade? I know Trinity members are down-to-earth; we don’t wear masks to the church. (I’m not talking about protective masks but pretentious masks hiding the skeleton in the closet.)

Lent is the time for spring cleaning to maintain a clean heart and spirit. Why should we keep a clean heart? The Bible says our body is God’s temple. Paul said,

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Co 6:19).

As a redeemed, your body is the temple. If Jesus were to look inside your body to make his home in it, what would he see? This question might make us cringe because we all have skeletons in the closet and prefer Jesus to stay with our neighbor instead. “Oh Jesus, I love my neighbors; I rather have you make home in their hearts. I don’t want to hoard you for myself.”

In today’s scripture lesson, we read that Jesus went to the Temple in Jerusalem and found it a mess. He cleaned it up and decided to tear it down and rebuild it inside your heart. There is no more physical temple today. There is only a broken wall left, called the Wailing Wall.

Jesus has moved the temple from Jerusalem to your heart. This church or any house of worship is not God’s temple. They are just a place for congregation. The temple is your body. That’s why you need to keep your body clean for God to dwell in.

Today, we will explore spiritual cleansing, developing the habit of taking your garbage out for Jesus to cleanse. So the trash inside will not become rotten and make us sick down the line. Most importantly, let’s prepare our body to be an acceptable temple of God as we welcome the risen Lord. So, let’s begin!

[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper—you are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you and you are satisfied in God.]

The Scripture lesson for today, the Third Sunday in Lent, is from the Gospel According to John 2:13–22. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

23 When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone. (John 2:13-25)

[Blessed are those who delight in God’s word. Thanks be to God!]

The last sentence says, “he himself knew what was in everyone,” indicating that not only did Jesus see the garbage in the temple, but he also inside people’s hearts. The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. The temple was dirty not because of the stuff but because of the people’s hearts.

We might like to hide things from people, but we can’t hide them from Jesus because he reads people’s hearts beyond the facade. Since we can’t hide from him, why don’t we just take things out in the open and let him cleanse them out? It’s healthier for our body, mind, and spirit. The first verse says,

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” (v. 13).

People came from all over Israel to the temple in Jerusalem before the Passover to offer sacrifices of purification to prepare for the festival. The merchants were there for the convenience of the distant travelers who couldn’t bring their own animals for the sacrifice. However, they had turned it into a profiteering opportunity, taking advantage of the long-distance travelers.

In other words, the hearts of the providers for purification were impure. Of course, the religious leaders were behind the profiteering. The merchants wouldn’t have been there if the priests and Pharisees hadn’t allowed them. So, it indicates that the hearts of the religious leaders were not clean. They all profit from it, and that’s why they hated what Jesus was doing.

Jesus said that they were defying his Father’s house, “making it a den of thieves,” as Luke put it. By calling the temple his Father’s house, he implied that he was the Son of God or the Messiah. So, the temple authorities asked him to prove it.

The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (v. 18-19).

Always remember that John used the term “the Jews” to talk about the religious elites, not all Jews as an ethnic group, because Jesus was himself a Jew, and John himself was one. So, these temple elites asked Jesus to prove that he was the Messiah, and he said that they would eventually destroy the temple, but he would raise it up in three days. Nobody understood what he was talking about at that time. So,

The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. (v. 20-21).

Jesus was saying that his body would replace the temple after the resurrection. So, people don’t have to go to the corrupt temple for purification but to the body of Christ for true purification. Where is the body of Christ then?

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Cor 12:27).

So, each of us is part of the temple of God. If Jesus visited your part of the temple, what would he see? Would he see a clean and healthy environment? Would he discover the garbage of grudges, guilt, gripes, guile, or greed? I call it the Five G’s of Spiritual Garbage. We must get rid of these five grave categories of garbage to keep us pure.

1. Get Rid of Your Grudges

Remember, we live in a fallen world dealing with fallen beings. Inevitably, we get betrayed by family members, friends, or coworkers. Holding grudges will only hurt yourself. The perpetrator might not even know that you are holding a grudge against them.

You know, a snakebite does not kill us, but the venom left in our blood kills us. We must purge the venom immediately before it stops our hearts. That venom is our grudges. How do we purge the venom? Forgive. Jesus said,

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Mat 5:7).

Jesus repeatedly emphasized that our sins are not forgiven until we forgive others. It contradicts the Reformed tradition, in which we believe God’s grace is unconditional. However, Jesus revealed repeatedly that God’s forgiveness is complete only when we complete the cycle by forgiving others.

For your own health and well-being, purify your body by forgiving those who hurt you. God promised to forgive us when we forgive others. That leads to the next garbage we must get rid of.

2. Get Rid of Your Guilt

Since we are all fallen beings, just as we get hurt by others, we make mistakes and hurt others, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes intentionally. Our conscience makes us feel guilty for our mistakes. Hidden guilt can become a source of sickness and affect our well-being.

Today, we don’t need an animal sacrifice to redeem us from our guilts because of what Jesus had done on the cross for us. We must confess our sins to our Redeemer because he is always ready to forgive us. He is our temple for purification. John said,

“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).

Notice it says, “he is faithful,” meaning he keeps his promises to forgive us. Again, always remember what he has taught us: Forgive and be forgiven. It doesn’t make God’s forgiveness conditional; it just works as a complete cycle. So, don’t keep begging God for forgiveness without forgiving others. Jesus has already forgiven you on the cross. You just need to complete the cycle by forgiving others. The moment you forgive someone, you feel relieved knowing you are also forgiven.

So, get rid of your guilt by confessing and forgiving.

3. Get Rid of Your Gripes

We will never find happiness in this fallen world if we desire perfection or think this world owes us better treatment. In fact, we have gripes because we fail to count the blessings. If we realize we live in a fallen world, we learn to treasure everything that brings us beauty—from a little wildflower to the great Redeemer. When you complain, your light becomes dim. The Bible says,

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15).

When you find yourself griping, count the blessings, sing a song of praise, and give thanks to the Redeemer. Your well-being is restored, your heart is purified, and your light shines brighter.

4. Get Rid of Your Guiles

One of the problems of this fallen world is that honest people often get the short end of the stick. After getting cheated several times, we became cynical and learned that you must hustle to make it. The Burmese say, “Honest people can be found only in the graveyards.” It’s a pun because the Burmese term “honest people” has the same pronunciation as “human bones.” So, you can only find human bones, or honest people, in the graveyards. It’s a sad proverb. The wise King Solomon said,

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.” (Pro 12:22)

It means deception defiles the temple of God. The way to get rid of your guiles is to realize that God blesses the purity of heart. Jesus said,

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Mat 5:8)

Deception blocks God’s blessings and blinds our eyes to see God. So, get rid of your guiles, purify your body, and enjoy God’s presence in your heart.

5. Get Rid of Your Greed

Another problem with this fallen world is uncertainty. The pandemic has given us a clear message that the future is never certain. It creates fear in us. In a world of uncertainty, people look for security in their possessions, thinking that the only way to secure the future is having abundance. We develop greed because we are unsure how much is enough to secure our future. The Bible says,

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” (1 Tim 6:10).

Note that money is NOT the root of evil, but the LOVE of money is. It says, ultimately, this garbage brings us many pains. The solution is trusting God to provide. As King Solomon said,

A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched.” (Pro 28:25).

All these five categories of garbage come out of our ego. As I’ve mentioned many times, I find fasting the most effective way to purge them because it cleanses our body, mind, and spirit at once.

Lent is the season for using mindful fasting for spring cleaning our hearts. But it doesn’t mean you do it only once a year. It’s an intentional season for deep cleaning but you still need to maintain a clean heart by always keeping the garbage out.

There you have it! Five types of garbage to get rid of to cleanse your body—the temple of God:

1. Get Rid of Your Grudges

2. Get Rid of Your Guilt

3. Get Rid of Your Gripes

4. Get Rid of Your Guiles, and

5. Get Rid of Your Greed.

Let us all keep our body—God’s temple—clean.

That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound freedom, purpose, and happiness.


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