This week I was in a local school watching my daughter compete in a speech contest and there was a sign on the wall that one of the teachers had posted. It said the two most important days in your life are, 1. The day you were born. And 2. The day you discover why. I thought that was a pretty cool saying. Why do I exist? Well we started Journey Church to help people discover why they exist. Your life is meant to be more than waking up brushing your teeth going to work to earn 90% of what life actually costs, brushing your teeth, going to bed, waking up.
We believe we have been created by God for God, and that the best life is a life lived with and for Jesus. Life with Jesus is bursting with love and goodness and joy and energy – Jesus came to give us an abundant life. So here at Journey we teach people to live as an apprentice of Jesus. We watch and learn about how he lived his life – and we are trying to help people here live their life as Jesus would live it if he were in your shoes.
Over the course of the past month we’ve been talking about the transformation of the inner person. Allowing God to change the part of us that cannot be seen or touched. The beauty of following Jesus is that it comes with a promise that every aspect of our life is being changed and renewed and made different.
A number of years ago Billy Graham and his wife Ruth were traveling by car when they got stuck in traffic. It turned out there was a major construction project going on that required roads to be closed and traffic slowed. As they finally came through the other side and as traffic sped up there was a sign that the construction company had placed on the side of the road – and after reading the sign Ruth Graham laughed and said, “I just saw what I want written on my tombstone.” And sure enough when she passed away in 2007, they wrote those words at the bottom of her tombstone. End of Construction – Thank you for your patience.
We are a construction project, you and I. Once we decide to place our confidence in Jesus, there begins a construction project inside of you. And the goal – is not a four lane road, the goal is – that Jesus would be formed in us. This is how Paul writes it in Galatians 4:19 – He wishes for Christ to be formed within us. Well that’s probably easier said than done. After all there’s alot going on inside of us. Way more going on inside of us than outside of us. You are more than flesh and blood.
Very little of you is flesh and blood really. There is an inner life that you and I have – it’s the real you and me. What does it profit a person if they have great skin and a perfect tan, but when you leave the room people say, “There goes one of the most obnoxious selfish jerks I know?”
God cares a great deal about our inner lives. In 1 Samuel 16, God has a discussion with the prophet Samuel, who has been sent to the house of Jesse to find the new King to replace Saul. And Samuel walks in and sees Jesse’s son Eliab and thinks to himself – this is surely the man who will be king. Big strong rugged – looks kingly!
1 Sam 7:16: But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height… The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
The reason God cares so greatly about our inner life is because he created us in such a way that our outer lives result from an overflow of our inner life. That’s what Jesus told us in Luke 6. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.
There is a construction project going on inside of us. It is God’s desire that Christ be formed inside of us, and that the result would be a heart filled with so much love that it overflows into the lives of others.
One time Jesus was teaching when a man in the crowd asked an important question. We read about it in Mark 12, One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
So this guy is looking for the bottom line. Maybe you are here today and you are not sure God exists – you don’t know about this Jesus thing – this is your kind of question. What’s the bottom line Jesus. What do you want? This is an important answer – so sharpen your pencils…
Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart,all your soul,all your mind,and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
What’s the bottom line? Jesus says the bottom line is to love. To be a loving person. When we place our confidence in Jesus he begins a construction project – I should say a reconstruction project – within us – Jesus is formed inside of us – and the overflow of the heart is love…. To Love God and love others. But notice the components that Jesus includes in this love of God part. He says Love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. But maybe the most important word here is ALL! All your heart, soul, mind strength.
This picture that Jesus paints is the picture of an integrated soul. All the components of this person – their heart and soul and mind and body – all are united together pointing in love toward God.
My favorite part of Jim’s message last week was this image of a soul, an inner life, that is either integrated – or it is dis-integrated. Your inner life is one of integrity and wholeness – it is either coming together or it is coming apart. This verse describes a fully integrated soul – a person whose entire life is together and full of love for God and for others.
So let me take a short tour here of these components of a soul. And I want to talk about these things Jesus talks about an how they can make a mess of the inside of a person’s life. Let’s start with the heart.Jesus says to love God with all of our heart. We believe the heart of a person is synonymous with the spirit of a person, or the will of a person.The heart of a person is the part of them that says either yes, or no, to God.
Now just for the record, these terms are an inexact science – admittedly. There are plenty of philosophical viewpoints that would parse an individual differently than I am putting up here. I don’t think we need to get into a debate about any of it – the terms are less important than the idea that the heart of a person is the inside of them.
It appears to me that the bible often uses the term heart as a catch-all for the insides of a human being. But I’m making the case for heart, being the will of a human being. The heart is the chooser – it says yes or no to temptation, for instance.
Temptation is not a sin. So long as you say no to the temptation. But often times, we find ourselves saying yes to things we know we shouldn’t say yes to. Am I right? We know better than to do it – but we do it anyway?
Want to know why? Let me tell you why… because our will, is the weakest kid on the playground. (Picture of weakling) I’d like to thank the artist of the kids books diary of a wimpy kid for drawing this character. Because I think it fits. If our will to take bodily form it would be this kid. And I’m telling you that the will of man, is very very weak. It is easily bullied by the other kids on the playground. Should it be? No, but one of the results of our fallenness is that our will power is broken. Will power accomplishes very little.
This is how Jesus put it in the garden of gethsemane – Matthew 26:41 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the bodyis weak!” What Jesus is saying is that the will wants to do right but the body bosses it around. The body does not share the will power’s desire to do the right thing? Anyone ever try to go on a diet and lose weight? The will is there. But the body is a bully! It pushes the will around.
Want to stop smoking? The will is there the body says, not so fast. Drink too much? Just stop. Easy right? No because will-power is weak. It’s easily bullied. And this is important to understand.
Ever read these verses? in Romans 7? Romans 7:15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. What is that a picture of? A will that says I want to choose right. But there are other forces at work inside that bully my will around. Which leads us to be miserable people. It leads us to be dis-integrated and miserable. So we want to do right, but instead we choose wrong. And Romans 7:23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind.This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.
So here we are introduced to the other components that Jesus talks about in Mark 12. Remember, we love God with all of our heart/will, all of our soul, all of our mind, all of our strength. Let’s talk about the Mind.Jesus wants us to love God with all of our mind – meaning our thoughts and our feelings are aligned toward God. We think like Jesus thinks. We feel what Jesus feels – and we grow to a point in our lives where we do-so naturally – we don’t need to wear a bracelet WWJD or What would Jesus think or feel.We want our mind to be set on things above. Colossians 3:2
But again, our thinking has been corrupted by sin. And often our thoughts and feelings act like an angry mob. That’s the icon I have here for the mind…
How many times have we entertained thoughts in our head that we are shocked that show up? Well, remember that the will is weak, right? The will is the weakest kid in the playground of your soul and is easily bullied by our thoughts and our feelings.
You know this, right? When we get angry – anger easily overrides common sense. That’s why the bible instructs us to be extra careful when we are angry that, In our anger – do not sin. Ephesians 4:26
Now the good news – is that you and I do not need to be subject to the whims of our emotions. Our lives were not created to be run by the emotions. Feelings are an important part of our soul – but they must not be given prominence – we can’t turn the keys of our soul over to feelings. Because feelings, unredeemed feelings, will lead us to override our will.
You know someone like that, don’t you? Someone who let’s their emotions get the better of them? It’s not terribly uncommon. But it’s not just feelings that can control a person. Thoughts can control a person as well and lock them up into bondage. There are some people who are being bossed around by their thoughts. They have bought a lie, believed it as truth, and are stubbornly set against God now.
So this is what I mean. The biggest lie I believe that I have come across, the one I hear in so many different forms, is this, “I cannot change.” I can’t change who I am. Sometimes it shows up like this, “They will never change.” But Jesus is in the transformation business. Is there any chance right now that you are allowing your mind to bully your will around? You want to believe, you want to change, you want to start, you want to stop, you want to please God but your mind has bullied your will – and now you find yourself in that miserable condition of Romans 7. I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it… there is a war in my mind…
The danger though is becoming James 1:8 describes as double-minded people. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.I say I want to do good – yet I do evil because my thoughts and feelings have bullied my will into doing the wrong thing. And it creates a dis-integrating soul.
The good news is Jesus wants to change the way we think. He wants to redeem our thoughts.
Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Ephesians 4:23 Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.
So when we look at the components of our soulwe see the soul is made up of the heart/will which is the weakest kid in the playground of your soul… it is also made up of the mind – the angry mob it might be… The third component of the soul is the body. Or what the Bible describes as the Flesh.
Jesus says to Love God with our heart, mind and strength – our bodies. The habits and addictions and desires that flow from our heart and mind (thoughts and feelings) result in action by the body.
Well guess what? Here’s my icon for the body. The body is a caveman, man! It’s carnal. It’s often debased. It’s often out of control. And so the will might want to honor God with our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:20)
And the heart says, Yes I want to honor God with my body. But the Body clubs the will with it’s caveman stick. The flesh speaks in grunts – it’s primevil. I want. Give me! It speaks in two word sentences. Feed me. I like-y! I take. The caveman flesh has a bumper sticker on his caveman car that says, “If it feels good, do it!” That’s the motto of the flesh that we fight against.
And the Bible is filled with warnings against letting the flesh bully us around. Romans 13:14 implores us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no
provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. 16
1 John 2:For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.
1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.
Thankfully we are not unarmed against the thuggery of an out of control flesh.
Galatians 5:16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
So here are the three componentsof a soul. Heart, mind, and Strength. And Jesus says that a well ordered soul has all of these components under the control of the Holy Spirit and in the process of being changed. Christ is being formed in us. So an integrated soul – is one that can Love God with All their heart, all their soul, all their mind and all their strength.
Now here’s the deal. When Jesus was ministering to people in Israel, he came across a lot of these kinds of people. People whose fleshly lusts were bullying the soul to the point where they became known among the religious people as ‘people of ill-repute.” remember the pharisees? Look at this Jesus – hanging out with cavemen!
People who, as Paul put it in Gal 5:19, the acts of the flesh are obvious. Sexual immorality, drunkenness, rage, hatred…
The religious pharisees were incredulous that Jesus was hanging out with these kinds of people. Prostitutes, drunks, sexually immoral, adulterers, people of ill-repute.
That should actually be a little bit of an encouragement for some of you in here, because some of you are living like cavemen right now – drunk, party people, drug using, strip clubbing, pleasure seekers. That’s you up there. Cave manning your will – Me want! Me Take! and your conscience is so seared that you are just cavemanning it up – well Jesus hung out with people like you – for a reason. He wants to lead you to place of repentance and transformation. He wants to lead you out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light.
So all that to say, a flesh out of control – it’s obvious. It’s out there for the world to see.
But check this out – very important – there are also these kinds of people.These are people who have their body under control. They don’t drink smoke or chew and they don’t go out with boys who do. These people look like they have their life together. By every outward appearance, they appear godly. But – in their mind and their thoughts – they are out of control. Like the pharisees. the pharisees had completely mastered their body – there was 600 rules to make their bodies follow and they were awesome at it. On the outside, they were shining, like, let’s see, how did Jesus put it? Oh yeah, like a freshly painted – tomb.
Listen, there are little old church ladies all over the world who on the outside look like they are righteous and pure. But on the inside they are filled with bitterness and anger and they if they could have it their way some people would be dead by morning because they are disgusted with you or me, or whomever. If the acts of the flesh were obvious – the inward attitudes of a broken soul are hidden. Because they have mastered behavior modification but haven’t changed a thing on the inside, where it matters the most. They honor me with their lips – but their hearts are far from me. Matthew 15:8
People who take secret delight in another’s pain. Who smile and cheer but refuse to forgive. Who secretly rank people and judge people and condemn people in their head -, people who say be warm and well fed and then will do nothing to help the orphan and the widow – the people who believe that God is impressed with their behavior – all of them are in for a rude surprise. Because it was Jesus who said, the prostitutes – the people whose flesh are out of control with greed and corruption – these people are entering the kingdom of heaven before the people who have mastered behavior modification.
So Jesus is saying the people who’s caveman is clubbing the will? Closer to the kingdom of heaven than the people who are behavior specialists. You are both screwed up – Jesus is saying, but it’s difficult to convince the pharisee – that person thinks they have impressed God by following rules. Meanwhile their hearts are a million miles away from the Kingdom of heaven.
The will is easy to bully. Whether it is being bullied by the mind or the body, both are signs of a soul that is dis-integrated – a soul that is coming apart – a soul in need of repair. Our goal is oneness – to be able to love. To be able to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. When we come to faith the Holy Spirit comes in and – you know what He does? He doesn’t let the will be bullied – he’s like the parent who steps into the playground and goes – alright – enough of that. We aren’t going to be like that anymore. Parents, you ever have to bring peace to your kids as they play? A little authority to bring harmony? The Holy Spirit comes in a brings harmony to our souls. The soul needs a keeper and the keeper is the Lord.
Let’s go back to romans 7 – it’s famous as the wretched man passage… I’m just going to read through this and not stop to even try to explain it – I’m not so sure that Paul isn’t making a literary point – he’s about to describe the confusion of living with a dis-integrated soul – it’s the exact opposite image of the person who loves with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.
Romans 7:15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?
This is the most important part of these verses… there is actually an answer to the wretched state of a dis-integrating soul.
Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Thank you Jesus! For delivering me from having to have to live a miserable life as a wretched, dis-integrating human being. Thank you Jesus for coming into my life and being strong enough to quiet the internal bullies in my life that wage war against my soul.
Thank you Jesus for actually having the strength to change the way I think and feel. That when I allow the Holy Spirit to control my life then I am not relegated to doing life with a bitter, hard, hating, biting heart. And I mean life as in doing life – a prison term. Some are here and you are being held prisoner on the inside by a sinful nature waging war inside of you.
Some are held captive by thoughts and feelings – Jesus has come to set the captive free. Some are held captive by a reputation – the sins of the flesh have made you famous in all the wrong ways. Who is able to free you – thanks be to God who delivers us through Jesus Christ.
We began our time this morning talking about our sols being a construction project. You and I are under construction. But let me ask you – have you ever driven through a construction zone that’s been on going, it seems like maybe it’s on your way to work and you drive through this construction zone and day after day you know you are going to hit traffic there, it’s going to be a mess.
Is there anything worse than driving through a construction zone only to find that there isn’t anybody working on anything right now? For whatever reason no workers today and then you think there hasn’t been any work here for a while – ever drive through a constriction project and there’s huge weeds growing all over the dirt where the road is supposed to be going? And you think nobody has worked on this thing in a long time?
You and I are under construction, right? But let me ask – is any work being done on your soul? Or has the project of transformation stalled? Can you remember the last time you’ve applied energy or resources or time to the project? It’s our job to cooperate with God on the construction – or re-construction of our hearts. And it’s going to require some energy on our part. So let me close with these questions.
First. I want you to imagine yourself being changed. You have to start with a picture of what you would look like being a more loving person on the inside.
What sort of heart would you like to have? Dream big: patient, kind, not self-seeking, not easily irritated. What actions would flow from such a large heart? Close your eyes and think about these things. Form these dreams and desires into a prayer. Speak with God even now as I speak with you – ask the father to form Christ inside of you. That you might think like Jesus would think if he were you.
If such dreams scare you, admit that to God. Tell him is you are afraid your needs will not be met. Will I be walked on? If you have these fears, admit them to God and ask him for courage. Plead with God to change you on the inside.
Now I want you to do something. I want to give you a couple of verses to read and challenge you to memorize and for the next week, when you wake up in the morning, I want you to pray.
Romans12Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodiesas a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.