Getting used to the bad smell

I want to look at Proverbs 26:11 for this message:

As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.

The Apostle Peter quotes this verse in his second epistle:

They prove the truth of this proverb: “A dog returns to its vomit.” And another says, “A washed pig returns to the mud.” (2 Peter 2:22)

I know – not the most pleasant of mental pictures.  Most of us have seen this happen in real life and it is quite disgusting (every time).  It is supposed to be a gross thing to watch someone or something eat that which their body has rejected.  Solomon and Peter associated this vivid imagery to people who return to things that they have been delivered from.

One of the saddest things in the world is to see a person who has known the love, grace and power of God return to living their life as they had previous to receiving Christ.  We typically call these people, “Backsliders”. 

The journey from the Father’s house to the hog pen is never instantaneous.  It requires a deliberate movement on our part away from the things of God.  It requires an ignoring of warnings along the way.  It requires desensitization to the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Simply, it requires prolonged, purposeful disobedience on our part.

I was in the fourth grade when our science class took a field trip to the Water Treatment Facility for our city.  The first part of the day involved us taking a tour of the facility that distributed drinking water to the homes and businesses of our little town.  People wore white lab coats and looked like scientists.  Everything was clean.  There were lots of lights, buttons and gauges – it was very impressive (especially when you are 10).  After this part of the trip we ate a brown bag lunch in the park consisting of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

It was after lunch that my life changed forever.  The second half of our trip was a tour of the facility that processed storm drain runoff and waste water (why the public school system took a group of 10 year olds to this place I will never know).  As we descended the steps of our yellow bus we were greeted by a man in black coveralls with large knee high rubber boots.  He was wearing a hard hat and had safety goggles over his eyes.  There were three very large metal tanks at this facility.  We had all seen them from the road – passing by them without a second thought as to what was in them.  Well, we found out what was in them.  We were marched across catwalks over top of these giant metal tanks which contained thousands of gallons of human waste being processed.  Never before and never since has my nose experienced what it did that day.

The amazing thing to me still this day is that there were men and women working in this facility (a few dozen of them) every day.  Does the smell ever go away?  Does its intensity lessen?  Do the bacteria, germs and disease flowing through the waste ever become benign?  No. 

Does your nose lose its ability to smell?  In some cases it is possible, but the typical response is gradually becoming accustomed to it.

I have told this nasty story because backsliding away from Christ is like taking a job processing human waste.  The first day at the job everything is repulsive, but because you frequent the location you become accustomed to the environment, until one day it doesn’t bother you anymore.  Scary!

We have all heard the story of how to cook a frog.  If you throw a frog into boiling water he will quickly jump out, but if you put a frog in a pan of cold water and raise the temperature ever so slowly, the gradual warming will make the frog doze happily.  The frog will eventually cook to death without ever waking up.

  • Are there goals, priorities or relationships in your life more important than Jesus?
  • Are there sins that just don’t bother you like they used to?
  • Are there lines that are easier to cross now?
  • Is it easier to justify certain things to yourself than it used to be?
  • Is your worship, prayer and praise to God becoming less radical, less frequent and less necessary?
  • Is it easier to remember lines from your favorite films than your favorite scriptures?
  • Would it surprise someone to find out you are a Christian?

If you answered yes to any of these chances are you are getting used to the smell of the world again.  You are the frog in the pot and the devil is turning up the heat slowly as he lulls you to sleep.

This is not my attempt to be God’s condemnation artist.  Notice we are not talking about specific sins and activities.  The Holy Spirit is dealing with you on an individual basis as you read this message.  You and He know the things in your life.

Do you have friends or family members who smoke cigarettes or cigars?  Normally it is pretty easy for your nose to pick out a smoker.  As clean as some smokers are, it is very difficult to get the smell completely washed away.  After all, it is in your body.  Most smokers don’t notice the smell of other smokers (if they do, it is really bad).  Non-smokers, however, normally find it very easy to pick up the scent of nicotine on someone.

Sin is our enemy.  Sin is the reason Jesus died on the cross.  The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

This message is not directed to those who have never had a relationship with Christ, but to those who have and do. 

You may be the prodigal son – God the Father loves you regardless of the sin in your life or the righteous deeds you perform.  He loves us unconditionally.  Our lives, however, bear the repercussions of the sins we commit.  Forgiveness of sin by God does not negate the law of sowing and reaping in our lives.

  • Adultery can be forgiven – but you will still have to deal with your marriage
  • Theft can be forgiven – but you may still have to deal with the justice system
  • Lying can be forgiven – but you will still have to deal with those to whom you have lied
  • Every sin can be forgiven – there are always consequences to deal with

Don’t revisit the things that God has delivered you from.  You will be like the dog of Proverbs 26:11.  You will be like the frog slowly boiled in the pot.  You will be like the worker at the waste processing plant; you will slowly get used to the bad smell.

Wake Up!

God’s mercy is new every morning.  His faithfulness is great.  Regardless of how far you have gone or how long you have been gone you still have a seat at the Father’s table.

What does coming back to Christ involve?

  • It involves repentance and humility. 
  • It involves faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and acceptance of His forgiveness. 
  • It involves a cleansing by the Holy Spirit and the renewing of your mind with the Word of God. 
  • It involves an ongoing relationship with God.

Sinners need a Savior and His name is Jesus.  Backsliders need to come home.  The front door of the God’s house in the New Testament is very similar to His front door in the Old Testament.  In the Old Testament the first stop in God’s house was the altar, where sacrifice was made for sin.  In the New Testament our first stop is always the cross, where Jesus Christ paid the price for the penalty of our sins.

If you are coming back to Christ from a place that doesn’t smell like heaven – come back to the cross.

Savior I come, Quiet my soul remember
Redemptions hill, Where Your blood was spilled
For my ransom, Everything I once held dear
I count it all as lost

Lead me to the cross; Where Your love poured out
Bring me to my knees; Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself; I belong to You
Lead me, lead me to the cross
(Brooke Fraser)

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