I attended the Tulsa workshop for a day a couple of weeks ago. Among the speakers I heard was Terry Rush who preaches at the Memorial Park congregation in Tulsa. The title of his lesson was, "I want to be where you are." In his lesson, he made this true, powerful statement that immediately stuck in my mind: "When you work where God is, things get messy."

That statement struck me because I have found it so very true. Too many of us picture God as the chief inspection officer of the universe. Those of you in the military are vividly aware of the necessity of passing inspection. The officer in charge is not there to compliment you. He is there to uncover all the flaws and mistakes.

Inspections are not confined to the military. Government agencies are notorious for their inspections. So are bank examiners. So are those who audit income tax accounts. The situation is always the same. The inspector has to find something wrong. He has to discover corrections that need to be made. That is his or her job.

Too often we picture God as this always right inspector who is never wrong. His job is to make endless inspections--he inspects everything all the time. As He inspects he wears a bright white suit with bright white gloves. He is constantly searching for dirt.

In this picture, God hates messes. He convulses when he sees a mess. He refuses to touch a mess. His job is to expose the mess, not to deliver from the mess. He will only associate with people who are neat, orderly, proper, and mess free.

I am almost 57 years old. I have spent over 40 years of my life working in God's behalf as best I know how. From the earliest years of my work until now I have consistently witnessed this fact. God's work is always messy work. I often have watched as God makes His presence and work obvious in lives that were too messy to describe.

I am not certain how the image of the inspector God who wears white gloves evolved, but that is not a biblical picture of God. The Bible certainly declares that God's eyes are open to everything happening, that He is totally pure, that He is absolute holiness, and that He despises all evil. At the same time, He is the God who is so concerned, so involved, so merciful that He is always at work helping, always getting His hands dirty.

  1. Why should it surprise us that God is not afraid to get His hands dirty as He works with the messes of this world?
    1. God always has involved Himself in messy situations.
      1. Do you recall the very first thing the Bible tells us about God?
        In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was a formless void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters (Genesis 1:1, 2).
        1. Think about that a moment.
          1. What were conditions? Chaos!
          2. Chaos is the mess of all messes--the ultimate form of mess.
          3. No orderliness, no form, no tidiness, nothing but darkness and useless, meaningless waste.
        2. And God, of His own initiative and choice involved Himself, and brought good, order, purpose, usefulness, light, and life into existence.
        3. God got involved where there was chaos; God got His hands dirty.
      2. And then we read about Adam and Eve (Genesis 2, 3).
        1. And they took the good creation that God made out of chaos and created an even worse mess.
        2. They created a worse mess by spiritually polluting the good God created with evil.
        3. Genesis said it only took six days to transform chaos into order and life.
        4. But it took all the time from Old Testament Genesis chapter one to New Testament Acts chapter two for God to create order and life in the chaos produced by evil.
        5. I don't know how long that was because the Bible does not say how long it was; but it is at least several thousand years by human time.
        6. This is what I want you to note: people created the mess, and God involved Himself in creating a solution for the mess--He got His hands dirty.
    2. That is one of the continuing themes throughout the history of the Old Testament: God involved Himself in the messes people made.
      1. The descendants of Abraham were in Egypt in a hopeless situation as they lived in slavery with no chance of being free.
        1. When you read the early chapters of Exodus, the situation was a horrendous mess.
        2. But God got involved, and God did what they could never do for themselves--He freed them.
      2. When you read the rest of Exodus and the book of Numbers, you learn that these delivered slaves became a nation in the Sinai desert.
        1. And the whole situation sounds like an impossible mess!
        2. The problems these people created and perpetuated cannot be exaggerated.
        3. But God stayed involved until enough people of faith would allow Him to lead them into what would become their own land.
      3. In the book of Judges you read about the second generation of this new nation in their new home.
        1. What a mess!
        2. Conditions were at least as bad as they were when they were slaves.
        3. All their evil and all their godless conduct created incredible chaos.
        4. But God remained involved.
      4. If you read about this nation in the time that they were one nation, in the time that they were two nations, and in the time that they were exiled, you see a mess that gets worse and worse.
        1. If you look objectively and honestly at all that happens in each period, the only appropriate comment is, "What an incredible, unbelievable mess!"
        2. But God stayed involved and refused to surrender to the chaos that Israel made.
    3. Then you begin reading the New Testament.
      1. The first four books, the gospels, tell us that God sent a part of Himself as a person named Jesus to be born in, to grow up in, and to minister in the chaos of Israel and the chaos of mankind.
      2. This Jesus was literally God in human flesh.
      3. He so perfectly revealed what God would be in human form that he even told his disciple Thomas, "I am the way, the truth and the life. I am the only access to God the Father. If you know me, you know the Father. When you know me, you know God the Father, and when you see me, you see God the Father" (John 14:6,7).
      4. And in the most personal, direct manner ever, God through Jesus went to work in individuals' lives.
        1. Jesus got involved, and he got his hands dirty.
        2. He did not target the people who belonged to God, the people who in faith, dependence, and surrender belonged to God.
        3. He did not target the religious people who were so filled with their own sense of self-righteousness that they were certain that they had no problems and needed no help.
        4. He targeted and powerfully ministered to those whose lives were in chaos--people who knew that their lives were in chaos, people who felt their worthlessness.
          1. The hopeless.
          2. The demon possessed.
          3. The men and women that the public knew were "the sinners."
          4. The adulteresses.
          5. The incurables.
          6. The outcasts.
          7. Those who were dishonest thieves.
        5. If you will read the gospels and make a list of all the people whom Jesus helped, many on that diverse list will be those whose lives were in chaos.
        6. And to those who knew their chaos and with faith and trust honestly accepted his help, he brought forgiveness, life, hope, and a new existence.
      5. As always, there were the devoutly religious who deeply resented Jesus working with people in chaos and pointedly criticized him for doing so. And he replied to their criticisms.
        1. Once he replied, "The sick need the doctor, not the healthy. You folks need to learn what God meant when He said this: I desire compassion, not sacrifice. I did not come into this world to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matthew 9:12, 13).
        2. Listen to what he said on another occasion:
          1. "I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent" (Luke 15:7).
          2. "I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:10)
    4. God introduced Himself by telling us that this universe, and earth, and life began because He destroyed chaos and created order and life.
      1. He sent us Jesus to address the chaos in our personal lives, in our marriages, in our families, in our friendships, in our involvement, and to destroy that chaos by giving us forgiveness and life.
      2. He sent Jesus to sustain us after we receive life by continuing to strengthen and forgive us as we learn surrender, commitment, and service.
      3. He is a God who works with us in the chaos of our messes.
      4. He gave us a Savior who works with us in the chaos of our messes.
      5. All God and Jesus ask is for us, with faith, to work with them in the chaos of our messes and allow God's spirit to live in our lives.

  2. Many of us, as Christians, respond by saying, "God, I love what You are doing! I rejoice when I understand that You are a God who willingly gets His hands dirty. I want to help. I want to help You work in people who are in chaos."
    1. That is wonderful!
      1. That is exactly what God wants to happen.
      2. He wants you to let Him, Jesus, and His spirit work in your life as you, in faith, address the chaos in your life.
      3. Then He wants you to share the good news of what God through Jesus can do to help anyone who is in chaos.
    2. So we make a request: "God, I want you to work with my chaos, and I want you to use me to help other people in chaos."
      1. And God says, "The greatest victory I had in my war with chaos was when I created the eternal Savior."
        1. "Because of that Savior:"
          1. "I can forgive any sin."
          2. "I can give hope to any life."
          3. "I can liberate any person from evil through redemption."
          4. "I can give spiritual life to any person."
          5. "No person is too bad or too hopeless if he or she in faith enters Jesus."
        2. "Just like I use that Savior, I can use your life to help others in chaos."
      2. So we respond, "Great! That is just the kind of thing I had in mind."
      3. God replies: "First, you need to understand how I created the Savior."
        1. "He understood how much I love people, and he loved people just like I love them." "Okay!"
        2. "His mind, his heart, and his life were ruled by my compassion and mercy--and he understood what kind of people needed compassion and mercy." "Okay."
        3. "He was a servant; he did dirty work; he did not come to be over anybody but to work with everybody--he was never Mr. Big Dog, Mr. Top Dog, or Mr. Prestige." " . . . Okay."
        4. "Because my work is so unusual, nobody understood him--the common religious folks thought he had a demon, and at times his own family thought he was crazy." Silence.
        5. "Then I took Satan's work in a betrayal, an arrest, injustice, and execution, and I made Jesus eternal Savior." After a long pause, we say, "Well, God, that is not exactly what I had in mind."

There are three things I want you to think about.

#1: God has always specialized in creating life where there was chaos.

#2: Through your faith and the power of Jesus, God can take your chaos whereever it is--in your marriage, in your family, or in your heart and mind--and create life. He can bring light to your darkness.

#3: When God works in chaos, He gets His hands dirty. Helping God is not easy. Many times the process is not even fun. If you surrender your life to help God work in chaos, you will have to get your hands dirty, too.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 13 April 1997

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