Clean Up the Mess: Thoughts on Is Your All On the Altar


A few years ago, I moved to my apartment in Long Island. Now, I’d lived in NJ for all my life. I was born in Princeton, grew up in Princeton Jct., went to college in New Brunswick, went to grad school in Newark, worked in South Plainfield, Piscataway, and Basking Ridge, went to church in Elizabeth and Hillsborough. I have a shelf full of Sinatra CDs, I’ve been to a Springsteen concert, and I still feel weird pumping my own gas and making u-turns.

Anyway, I moved from my childhood home in Princeton Jct to my apartment in Montclair about 5 years ago. Now, I didn’t move all in one day…I actually moved over a period of a few years. You see, I’d go home to visit my dad, and every week I’d drive up, I’d bring a carload of stuff with me back to my apartment.

So, in September a few years ago, I got a job in Westbury, NY. So I sold my apartment in Montclair and bought a new one in Great Neck. When I first walked into the apartment, I fell in love with it. Two big bedrooms, beautiful hardwood floors. I thought to myself…there is just so much potential in the place. I could move in furniture, invite friends over, maybe even start a family there one day. I looked forward to the move.

The week of the move came. Now to myself, I thought…this’ll be easy. I’ll just pack about 15 boxes of stuff, take about 2-3 hours to move, and that’d be it. I started packing.

10 boxes.
20 boxes.
30 boxes.

I ended up with over 40 boxes full of junk!

The day of the move came. One hour. Two hours. Three hours. Four hours. Five hours… It was a full Nine hours later before the movers were finally done. It would have been a lot longer, but by the sixth or seventh hour, I put on a T-shirt and became one of the movers. After all, they were paid by the hour…

After we were all done, I signed a few papers and let the movers out the door. Then I turned around. My heart sank.

Every square inch of my beautiful new apartment was filled with moving boxes and junk. Some boxes were piled 2, even 3 high. I couldn’t even walk from one end of the room to the other.

The next week I went to church. One of the first people I talked to about my new apartment was a good friend of mine, who happens to be a fellow Yankee fan. I mentioned to him that I had cable TV, with the YES Network. His eyes lit up like Times Square.

“Say Steve…Opening Day is this Sunday against the Red Sox”.

I wanted so much to tell him to come over that weekend. But I was too ashamed…not to mention that it would be a health risk…I don’t know if his insurance would cover if a pile of boxes fell on him.

The next week, I was at the CostCo near my work, and a girl came up to me and tapped me on the shoulder. It was someone else from my church! She and her husband had driven all the way to Westbury to buy the famous CostCo grapefruits. We had a nice chat, and I wanted so much to invite them over to my place for dinner…I was in the perfect place to get food for a feast. But again, I wasn’t able to.

And I came to a realization. Until I got rid of the clutter, I could never enjoy my apartment. And no one else could either. I could never invite anyone over. My apartment would be pretty much useless.

So I started to get rid of stuff. I went through all the junk box by box, item by item. I had to decide what was worth saving and what wasn’t. I found that some things I had treasured 10 years ago, they were meaningless to me now, but for some reason I held onto them. I just threw them out.

Some things were still worth something, but had no value to me personally anymore. But I listed them on eBay, and funny thing is, they had value to other people. Things I was about to throw away, I ended up making tens, even hundreds of dollars of them!

I told myself I’d toss a little bit each day. So for the next few weeks, I’d make sure I’d have at least one garbage bag full of stuff as I left home for work in the morning. On weekends, I’d spend all day and night, to the point where I’d get exhausted.

But finally, I started to see hardwood floor again. And the empty boxes started to pile up one by one, to be thrown out.

Bet you’re wondering how it all ended up ☺

Well, not too long after that, a friend and his wife, both of whom are good friends of mine, came to visit from California. I offered to host them in my apartment. They came, and spent two nights with me.

On the last night, my friend made a comment. He said he couldn’t say my place was like a 5-star hotel. He explained. Saying that would be a disservice to my place, because it was more like a 6 or 7 star hotel!

The following week, a bunch of church youth went to eat at the buffet in Great Neck. I invited everyone over to my place after dinner. Everyone came over, and we just sat around the living room table and talked for hours. And my friend did finally get to see a Yankee game.

The feeling of having my friends over to my place was just a wonderful feeling…like Peter, that night I wished I could have built booths so that they could stay there forever.

Well, there is a point to my story.

And I’ll give it in the form of a question.

What junk are you carrying around with you?

You see, as servants of God, we’re a lot like my new apartment in Great Neck. We dedicate ourselves to God. We are excited at the change to be of service to God. We are filled with potential, with beautiful gifts.

But something within us prevents us from being of service to God? Or something prevents our service from being joyful.

Perhaps it’s something we’ve carried with us for a long time. Something we never quite let go of.

For each of us, it something different.

Perhaps it’s a bad habit. A habit that we never quite let go of. And it still clutters our lives today.

Perhaps it’s an incorrect concept. Maybe there is still a part of ourselves that still believes that money has value. Or that outward appearance has value. Or that human prestige and honor has value. This is all clutter.

In some cases, perhaps we were hurt in the past. Perhaps by someone who was supposed to love us. Perhaps by someone who should have known better. And we never let go of that hurt. Instead, we let it clutter our lives.

So, like my apartment, our lives get filled with clutter. We wish to be of service to God, but we just can’t. Even if we try to, chances are people will get hurt. And we simply feel more burden in our service, and certainly no joy.

What do you do when this happens? When your life is filled with junk?

Well, we know Jesus is the greatest physician.
He is the greatest philosopher.
He was the greatest orator.

But did you know that Jesus is the greatest garbage man? He is the king of the Sanitation Engineers.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28)

Just like those 40 boxes, the clutter in our lives is a heavy burden to bear. For as long as we’ve been carrying it, it’s been taking a heavy cost from us. The longer we’ve lived with it, the heavier it becomes.

Whatever trash you have, one by one, give it to him. How do you do this?

Like I did with the boxes

One by one, go through the junk. Ask yourself..Is this junk I’m carrying with me worth anything?

Perhaps your junk is valuable to someone else, like my useless junk was worth something to others on eBay. In other words, maybe a bad experience you’ve had in the past will help someone else going through the same thing.

But most things will be worthless. In that case, throw them out. Every day, throw something else away. Clear your heart. Just like my apartment had beautiful hardwood floors once the clutter was gone, the same is true of your heart. Once the clutter is gone, you’ll see the beauty of a pure heart, ready for service to God.

I’m happy to say that the apartment is still relatively clean. But keeping the apartment clean is a daily task. It’s so easy to leave a pile of junk mail here, an empty can of soda there, and soon the apartment will be unfit again. So, clearing the clutter is not something you do once and it’s over, it something you do for the rest of your life. But the beautiful thing is, Jesus is always there, waiting for you to take a pile of junk and hand it over to Him. And each time you do that, you’ll find that your heart opens up to being able to be a blessing to many.

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1.
You have longed for sweet peace, And for faith to increase,
And have earnestly, fervently prayed;
But you cannot have rest, Or be perfectly blest,
Until all on the altar is laid.

Refrain

Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid?
Your heart does the Spirit control?
You can only be blest, And have peace and sweet rest,
As you yield Him your body and soul.

2.
Would you walk with the Lord, In the light of His Word,
And have peace and contentment alway?
You must do His sweet will, To be free from all ill,
On the altar your all you must lay.

Refrain

3.
O we never can know What the Lord will bestow
Of the blessings for which we have prayed,
Till our body and soulHe doth fully control,
And our all on the altar is laid.

Refrain

4.
Who can tell all the love He will send from above,
And how happy our hearts will be made,
Of the fellowship sweet We shall share at His feet,
When our all on the altar is laid.

Refrain