The Lesson of the Stinky Trashcan - How to Have Victory over Sin

“Ewwww!” I said, wrinkling my nose. “What is that smell?” 

“I don’t know,” my husband said, following me into the kitchen. “It smells like something died.” 

It didn’t take us long to trace the source of the smell to the trash can, which contained two poopy diapers and parts from the chicken I’d cooked for lunch the day before. 

Holding his breath and hurriedly tying the ends of the garbage bag closed, my husband whisked it out the back door, carried it across the yard, and flung it into the receptacle. 

I began damage control, spraying disinfectant and lighting a scented candle. The stinky smell lingered a bit, but before long, our house smelled good again. 

David and aren't always so efficient at taking care of issues like this. Some mornings we run late. We don’t have time to take the trash out the back door, across the yard, and into the can at the back of our property. “I’ll take care of it when I get home,” my husband promises, and off we go. 

Homecoming on those days isn’t very pleasant. The scent of smelly trash does not improve with time. Scented candles and disinfectant only temporarily mask the odor, and until we remove the source of the stench, it only gets worse. 

Some days my life is like my stinky kitchen. Instead of a poopy diaper or chicken parts, however, I allow a smelly thought, action, or habit to linger in my spiritual house. 

Unforgiveness, anger, selfishness, or comparison may take up residence. Laziness, grumbling, or stinginess crawls into a dark corner and makes a nest for itself. Justifying, excusing, or minimizing my sin does little to mask the odor. 

If I ignore it, any one of these sinful thoughts or behaviors can stink up my life. Until I remove the source of the problem, it will affect my relationships with others and with God. 

So what should we do when we suspect a foul-smelling sin has made itself at home in our life? 

1. Identify the sin. Pull it out into the light, and call it what it is. Ask God to help us see it like he sees it, and hate it like he hates it. 

2. Confess it to God and repent. Confessing is agreeing with God about our sin. Repentance is intentionally turning our backs on it. “If we confess our sins,” 1 John 1:9 promises, “he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 

3. Look for a trigger so it won’t blindside us. Do we engage in this thought pattern or behavior when we’re _______ (bored, lonely, anxious, alone, away from home, etc). Make a plan in advance to avoid the triggers or deal with them when they come. 

4. Do whatever it takes to remove it from our lives (not just cover it up). This might mean not spending time with those who encourage us to sin (intentionally or by association). Or asking a godly friend to hold us accountable. Or memorizing Bible verses that address the subject. Or joining a group of other Christians struggling in the same way. Or keeping a journal so we can record and track our progress. Whatever it takes, don’t bring the stinky trash back into your house. 

Romans 13:14 gives good advice: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” 

5. When we fail (and we will), repeat steps 1-4. Identify the sin. Confess and repent. Look for a trigger. Remove it from our lives. 

I wish we could remove most sins, especially entrenched, long-standing behavior patterns, from our lives overnight. Unfortunately, that's not usually how it works. Instead, we often take two steps forward, one step back. 

If we could plot our progress on a graph, however, we’d see that we are making forward progress. The forward steps begin to outnumber the backward steps, and we realize God is enabling us to have more victories than defeats. 

The Christian life is a lifetime of progressive sanctification—two fancy words that describe how God works to makes us more like Jesus. As I continue to haul the stinky parts of my life out to God’s trashcan, I am encouraged by the promise of Philippians 1:6. I hope you will be also. 

 “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.”

Now it's your turn. What steps do you take to remove sin from your life? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

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