restoring our biblical and constitutional foundations


Cleaning Up the Backyard

 David Alan Black

You and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness.  - C. S. Lewis

When I lived in Europe I often rode the train, and I would frequently travel through the residential parts of small towns. The tracks would often run along the back side of a row of houses and I got a good view of the backyards and porches. Many yards were filled with junk—they obviously hadn’t been cleaned in years and had become catchalls for odds and ends. Had I been able to walk down the front street instead, I imagine I would have found these homes quite respectable. But because visitors don’t usually enter from the rear, the backyards tend to be neglected.

It’s easy to keep up a good front when you’re a Christian, but the backyard of our minds and hearts can become cluttered with much that no one should ever see. The Pharisees were good at decorating the frontyard in a profession of public piety, but the Lord condemned them for their hidden sins.

The Bible says that all things are open and naked before the eyes of God. You and I can only look on the outward appearance, but God sees our hearts in their deepest recesses, grunge and all. The Psalmist prayed, “Cleanse Thou me from secret faults” (Psalm 19:12), and I too must pray for cleansing. Moreover, I must be willing to get rid of all the “stuff” that displeases my heavenly Father.

One of the first passages my Greek students translate is 1 John 1:9: “If we make it our habit to confess our sins [rather than justifying them or rationalizing them away, see vv. 6, 8, and 10], He [God] is faithful and just to forgive us the [aforementioned] sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The verb confess means “to openly acknowledge,” and the verb tense suggests continuous or habitual action. I have found that one of the most important aspects of my Christian walk is ongoing confession of sin. When is the right time to confess a sin? The moment we become aware of it. This means that most of us will have to confess our sins on a daily basis. We know we are saved because we have Christ in our lives, but daily confession is fundamental.

God, in His grace and mercy, offers forgiveness and cleansing to confessing Christians. But practicing daily confession of sin is not easy or always pleasant. As Pastor Erwin Lutzer has said, “Forgiveness is always free. But that doesn’t mean that confession is always easy. Sometimes it is hard. Incredibly hard. It is painful (sometimes literally) to admit our sins and entrust ourselves to God’s care.”

God’s invitation to us today is clear. Why would anyone want to live with the guilt and despair of sin? Why would we wish to risk so much for so little? Why would we want to live like spiritual paupers and with such mediocre results in our lives and churches and in the propagation of the Gospel around the world?

We shall have revival in America when Christians begin a backyard cleanup.

July 1, 2003

David Alan Black is the editor of

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