Have you ever dealt with a friend or regular acquaintance who had a history of bad breath? I have dealt with a couple. Have you ever handled a situation where a friend or regular acquaintance had bad body odor? I have. I also have a friend who has worked with someone like this.

My friend, out of the goodness of his heart, took into his home someone with all the hygiene problems you could imagine. Imagine Pig-Pen from Peanuts. In an effort to help restore some cleanliness and teach some good hygiene, my friend got him into a shower and all polished up. His skin was cleaned. His ears cleaned. His nails were un-gunked. His mouth cleaned and smelling minty fresh. His hair combed. He was a new, almost unrecognizable man afterward by my friend's account.

Then "what to my wondering eyes should appear" - the man put his old stinking, ratty clothes back on his new clean body with no afterthought to the new clothes laid out for him. Some Christians do the same thing with their attitudes and behaviors. Before they know the Lord and His best way of living, their attitudes and behaviors were trash. Then when they came to the saving knowledge and transformation of Christ Jesus, the attitudes and behaviors changed for the best, but only for a short time. Don't do that and help others that do.

In reading the first and second chapter of James, the half-brother of Jesus seems to be addressing established believers and those coming into the fold when he instructs - 
  • "Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls." (James 1:21)

The instruction here is two-fold.
  1. lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness
  2. receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls
So, we must first "lay apart" before we "receive". We must dump the gunk before getting clean water poured into our vessels. This is reminiscent of Matthew 9:17 to me, where new wine is not poured into old wine skins.

The first required action is to "lay apart". The original Greek word for "lay apart" is apotithēmi. This describes somebody taking something like an article of clothing and removing it from their body and placing it down and away from their person with the intention to never wear again. For whatever usefulness they thought the clothing was providing, this instruction tells the reader there is a better way or option.

Besides dirty clothes, what is it that people need to "lay apart"? The original Greek word for "filthiness" is raparian. This describes something or someone that is obnoxiously filthy. This term speaks of repetition. People always being negative, sarcastic, pessimistic or cynical. They might not even be aware of their offenses. Some have gotten so use to their own stink or inconsiderate behavior that it shocks them when considered wrong or inappropriate.

However, once these individuals "lay apart" their consistently bad attitudes and behaviors, the next step is to receive with humility the implanted word, which is able to heal, preserve or make you whole (save). This "engrafted" or implanted word is good news and victorious living, through Christ, that has been dropped into a person's heart as a seed. The seed might have grown into belief or is still dormant waiting for the person to receive with humility and be made whole.

However, receiving is hard for some people. Now is the time when the mature in Christ love them back to a healthy, clean and restored lifestyle with the help of God's Word, the Holy Spirit and a little "elbow grease" (good, hard work). Paul, in his letter to the believers in Galatia, really drives the message home when he said - 
  • "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." (Galatians 6:10)
The encouraging word to all of us, especially the Christian Pig-Pens of the world, is that God saves. Jesus continues to Save us from ourselves even after paying the ultimate price for our redemption. This original Greek word for "saves" is sozo, meaning preserves - a continuing action word.

Knowing the Holy Spirit is always around to lead, guide, direct and Save, I urge all of us to perform spiritual "spring cleaning" or inventory. Get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. And Don't Put Your Old Clothes Back On!