God’s Garbage Man

‘Three graduate students, puzzled by the antagonism of the students, invited me out to dinner when I was speaking at the University of Southern Illinois.

One of them said to me, “Brother Jed, we have been listening to you preach since we were freshman. We have always wanted to ask you why the students behave as they do when you preach to them. Normally, they aren’t that bad. We recognize that they are sinners but usually they aren’t as gross, lewd and disrespectful as they are when you preach. We can’t figure out their behavior. We room with them, eat and study with them. Usually they aren’t like that. Could you explain their behavior?”

“Yes, I can. Your sinner is like a garbage can,” I replied. “Basically, there are two types of sinners. One represented by a garbage can which is painted nicely, without a dent, which always has its lid on. This is your sinner who has actually come to college to get an education and does not spend his substance in revelling and riotous living. The second sinner is represented by a can in which the paint is chipped with dents on the side with a lid that is often ajar. This represents most students who have come to college because it’s a good place to party while someone else foots the bill. He spends his time in drunkenness and debauchery. Both sinners try to keep the lids on their cans because they want to leave the impression that they are basically good people. They try to cover their sins. The first sinner is much more conscientious about covering his sins than the second. But both cans are filled with garbage. Their sin is always present with them.

I continued, “You might call me God’s garbage man. I come in the power of the Holy Spirit and with the law of God pull the lids off their cans. All the stench and stink of sin comes fuming out. As God’s garbage man I make a lot of noise and commotion. Finally, I take the water of the Gospel and hose them out. Gentlemen, you are seeing the students for what they truly are but most of the time they cover up their rotteness.”

Admittedly, my ministry brings out the worst in people. But some, at the end of the day, will return to the privacy of their rooms and reflect on their behavior with shame. For the first time they will see themselves for what they really are–decadent, depraved and degenerate.

The sinner to be saved must admit to more than wrongdoing. He must see how utterly malignant, cunning, repulsive, deadly and damnable his sin is. Until he realizes the exceeding sinfulness of sin, he will never see the great love of his Saviour. The sinner must be convinced that he has stood against God. Realizing this, some may try to reform but eventually they will recognize their failure to be righteous.

My duty is to thrust in the sword until the sinner cries “O wretched man that I am! What must I do to be saved? How shall I escape from the bondage of sin?”

Only at this point can the sinner appreciate the precious atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ. Desperate for deliverance he will throw himself upon Christ for salvation from the slavery of sin.

Then my purpose is accomplished: these cans of garbage are transformed into “vessels unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (II Timothy 2:12).’

source: Jed Smock, Who will Rise Up? (1985), p. 79-80.


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