I was on the way to preach one Sunday morning and was going through a section of a town with which I was not familiar. I’d been through the town many times but never remembered going through this part of town. Since it was new and different I had my eyes wide open and was taking in all the sites and features of the community, and I saw a Baptist church. Some people were gathering at it, getting ready to worship. I slowly went by the church. I looked in the adjoining property to the church property that had a sign out front that said, “Scrap Yard,” and it listed the times it was open and what you could get there. Out behind the sign there were a building and wrecked and ruined cars and pieces of cars and trucks and tractors and no telling what other things you could find out there, but it surely was a scrap yard.
What made such an impression on me was that the church and the scrap yard were right by each other and I quickly thought how both of them are in the same business. You see, you don’t get in the scrap yard unless you’re wrecked and pretty much ruined, maybe even rusted and broken. That is just about the same description of the folks in the Lord’s church. In fact, one of the pre-requisites of getting into a church — and more importantly into the family of God and the kingdom of our Lord — is that you have got to recognize that you are broken, wounded, bruised, messed up. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
Now for us to recognize and confess that we’re sinners is somewhat easy for many people because they are assuming that all they have to do is to acknowledge that they have sinned and you don’t have to go into all the gory, painful, honestly gut-wrenching sinfulness that has affected our lives, and so we somewhat confess to God that we’re sinners but not too bad of sinners. In fact, at worst we’re kind of moderate sinners but the absolute truth is that if you’re a sinner, you’re a sinner and the Bible says of our sin, “The wages of sin” – sin, singular – “is death” (Rom. 6:23). Every one of us has sinned and every one of us deserves death. All of us are actually thrown on the scrap pile of life. We have crashed at points, broken down, gone flat, run out of gas, hit a tree, ignored the traffic signs, and generally all around messed up and so we end up in the scrap yard. You might think about translating Romans 3:23 something like, “We have all crashed, broken down and are now far less our potential than what God made us for.”
You see it’s the folks in the scrap yard for whom Jesus came and died. The only reason a car or a truck or a piece of machinery is in the scrap yard is because it has been broken up or down or in or out. I have known of several different churches that had a scrap iron Sunday School class. They’re usually self-named and they take delight in telling that they don’t really fit anywhere else and that no one else really wants them. They like to think of themselves as misfits and unusables and so they cluster together in their Sunday school classes and see themselves as nothing, teachers and technicians all of whom may have felt a little out of place with some of the kind of religious people at the church. There they were in the scrap iron group. What they didn’t know and maybe what some overly self-righteous people in the church didn’t know is that all of us are the same and no one needs to feel out of place, less qualified, or unappreciated than anybody else. In fact the whole church should have a sign out front: Scrap Yard. All of us should understand that we’ve messed up and we have been graced up by God which makes us in good standing with Him and with each other.
You see, when Jesus came He was clear and to the point when He said, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He did not come looking for the super righteous. He did not come searching for the above-and-beyond-better-than-everybody-else super folks. He came looking for folks that were scarred by sin and in need of a Savior. He came looking for the no-goods and the messed-ups, the broken-downs and the proud Americans.
I have known people through the years who just absolutely love going to the scrap yards. They can walk through there and see crashed cars and dilapidated old vehicles and spot just the perfect fit for something they need. It seems that spiritually, Jesus has that wonderful quality, a redemptive quality to take something that was on the scrap heap and use it for a perfect fit for God’s glory. He could walk along the seashore and spot a crude, rough fisherman and realize, “He is just what I’m looking for in spite of the fact that he is not perfect and that he will have his moments of being impetuous and do the wrong thing at the right time and the right thing at the wrong time and even deny that he knows Me.” The Lord touched his life brought him through one experience after another and said, “You will be my preacher on the day of Pentecost. You will launch the telling of the story of the Good News that I died for the sins of every man.”
Can the Lord use you? Oh, He sure can. He can take a murderer like Moses and pick him up off the scrap heap and make him into the first great leader of Israel. He can take a backslider like Jonah and send him to the school of prayer in the belly of the fish and use him as the great preacher for national revival. He can take an adulterer like David who squandered his influence in a wrong relationship and make him a leader and a builder.
The church is not supposed to be a sterile place for super-righteous people to come and act holy. It could be better described as a scrap yard where God Himself can take broken parts and replace them, busted hearts and renew them, discarded lives and give them meaning and purpose. When you get to church Sunday, just look around and you will see the scrap yard. Now, don’t spend all your time looking at your fellow worshipers, but rather spend time looking at yourself and all the pieces and parts that God has renewed, reclaimed, redone to put you in the place where He wants you to be — right there in the scrap yard with all the other folks letting God bless and use them.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.