A Voice in the Wilderness - Observations and Excursions of a Christian Zealot

Terry Walker's Weblog --- Occasional articles on the Christian Ethic

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

What’s in your closet? A ministry story from the front line!

During a recent Cooks for Christ ministry project, I was cooking for 30 men who were making major repairs to a house owned by a retired gentleman who could no longer afford to care for his house. I was told the gentleman was a professing Christian with a long history of church service. But this was not my motivation for serving him and the work crew. My motivation was the promise found in Luke 14:11b & Hebrews 11:35b, the promise of a better resurrection for those who are faithful.

Because of its horrid condition, the gentleman’s house has been on the city’s “Emergency House Repair List” for over two years. You could see the night sky from several rooms in his house, and what the rain hadn’t rotted, the bugs and rats had eaten. And what the rats hadn’t eaten, mold and moth had ruined, and what was left wasn’t worth calling a home. There was no hot water in the house because the hot water heater had fallen through the floor into the moldy crawl space. The kitchen was useless and filled with trash, as was nearly every room in the house. And the only bathroom had no functioning appliances, which left little to the imagination as to what we were shoveling off the floor. We shoveled literally tons of garbage and unrecognizable material into dumpsters which made a constant rotation to the dump. I found it somewhat amazing that the city had not condemned this property. I wondered, “If this house was not classified as unlivable, what was?”

As we worked, we would run across clues that revealed the life of our home owner. It was as if the man’s house was speaking to us, providing a witness of this man’s life! On the dark, dingy walls were hung pictures of our home owner in bygone years. And in some he was accompanied by his wife and a daughter. Apparently those were happier times, as he told me his daughter and what remained of his family had long ago deserted him.

As we cleaned the heaps of trash from each dismal, gloomy room, to gain access to the next, I wondered, “Where is the light in this Christian man’s life? Where is the evidence of his faith? Where is the proof of his salvation? Where is the witness of the changed life that he so willingly confesses? Could it be that perhaps he is the old widow that gave her last copper coin to the church, or is this man just a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a heathen hiding in Christian garb?”

Finally we reached the inner sanctum of his house, and there on the walls I saw hanging plaques commemorating meritorious service that this man received from his church. I momentarily thought of the silliness of “church awards”, but chose to praise Jesus instead; after all, I had finally found some proof of this man’s Christian walk, and a reason to praise the Lord for this man. There in the corner was a Bible disintegrating on a tiny table; its cover having sunk deep into the table’s varnish. Apparently this was the least used room in the house as we had to dig our way through heaps of trash just to gain access to the door.

In this way the house continued for two days to give witness to the man’s life, but the evidence was still inconclusive. At mealtime the gentleman would say Amen after prayers and occasionally he would agree with whatever theological topics were being discussed, but the house kept begging me to question, “Who is this guy to Jesus now?”

There is one great thing about a house; it is what it is, and it doesn’t lie. I was determined to find the truth in that house. As we entered the areas of the house where our gentleman actually lived, I thought back to all those church awards which were dated as recent as 2004. Wasn’t 2004 the same year his house was put on the emergency repair list? How could a church let a member live in such squalor? This bedroom looks like something out of a third world country! Unbelievably, he’s urinates out his window. My thoughts ranged from feeling sorry for this man, to being angry at his church, to holding them both responsible for the condition of this poor house, back to feeling sorry for the gentleman.

But none of these thoughts prepared me for what the house revealed to me next. As we sifted our way through to our gentleman’s bedroom we found many used needles, scores of new but empty liquor bottles, boxes of porno and hundreds of centerfolds spread throughout the room. His room was Satan’s den. While his Bible sank ever deeper into table varnish in an unused room, his porno lay neatly folded in stacks, like a now valued commodity.

The house laid bare our gentleman’s life! The truth was found in the darkest room of the house. His lips may utter whatever they might, but to no avail, the true witness of his room makes his speech, mute!

At lunch I watched our gentleman say pray and say “Amen,” and speak of the things of God. But with a slight turn of my head I could hear his house laughing at his hypocrisy and his closets spewing forth the truth. I could smell the sin wafting from his room and thought for a moment that the porno I had thrown in the dumpster was setting his house on fire.

So I thought to myself, “What if I died today and my church friends came to clean out my closets. What witness would my house give? What would the walls say? What would they find in my closets?”

What would I find if I came to your house? In your death would your house speak the same witness as your life? Does your home bear witness of your need to repent? Or do your closets bear a wrong confession that would ruin the true witness of your life, because you held on to evil things from bygone years? Do not allow worthless worldly things to destroy your witness even in your death! It is time for a little spring cleaning. It’s time to hunt down and destroy that one last magazine, video, or CD from Satan, before your old age or death finds me at your house, to find out what’s in your closet.

Brother Terry Walker
Providence Baptist Church
Greer, South Carolina