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Living With Yourself Part 2 | "Monitor your Heart"

By the time we reach adulthood, we’re all pretty good at monitoring our behavior to get what we want now, but what if there’s something more important that we need to monitor to ensure we get what we ultimately want?

NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.

Growing up in our home, and I bet your home it was similar, there were certain words that were off limits in our home, and again, I grew up in a different generation than some of you. But here was one of the big ones. In fact, it’s hard for me to even say this out loud in church, darn, it was like, Oh, you know. This was like not being able to say this word was a fence rule. A fence rule is a rule that keeps you from breaking a worse rule, and so in our home, we didn’t wanna say the word that sounded kinda like darn, not yarn. Starts with a D anyway, and so my parents thought, if we don’t say this word, the kids won’t drift over to another word because the ultimate rule was no cursing, or we didn’t say cussing, I don’t know if that’s a southern thing or not, but no cursing or cussing either one. So we had kind of these Fence rules around some words, and the threat was, this is really gonna show you something, so the threat was if you cuss or curse, or you say one of these words, especially that word, you’re gonna get your mouth washed out with soap.

So sure enough, we lived in Miami at the time, so that meant I was in the fourth grade or younger, we had a little tiny house, a little sidewalk that went out to the sidewalk, that connected all the houses in the row, and standing out there, I still remember this. And my friend had knocked his bicycle over and I’m on my bicycle, we’re just riding up and down the little sidewalk there, and I stopped and I said, Get that darn bicycle out of my way, and I looked up and literally my mom… I don’t know how moms do this, she was standing on the front porch, and no lie, she’s standing on the front porch, I look up and she gave me that that you know. Now later she confessed to me, she had no idea what it meant to wash a child’s mouth out with soap, this was just a thing. People said, since the bad words come out, we’re gonna wash the mouth out. So she took me in our little tiny bathroom and she took my toothbrush and rubbed it in a bar of soap and she brushed my teeth with soap. And so and thus began my lesson, or continued my lesson with what we call these days, behavior modification. She was modifying my behavior, it was a cause and effect.

I learned to monitor my behavior to avoid certain unpleasant effects, and I continued to do that through my childhood, and we’ve never met in most cases, but you continue to do that through your childhood as well, you’ve modified your behavior. We all have why? Well, because we wanna get dates and we wanna get second dates, and we wanna get invitations, and we wanna be invited back, and we wanna do get jobs, so we modify our behavior for job interviews, and it goes on and on and on and on. but as it turns out, that is not enough.

And we’re gonna come right back to that in just a minute. Today we are in part two of our series. If you’ve been keeping up or if you haven’t been keeping up, living with yourself, three habits to safeguard your soul, three habits to ensure… And this is the theme, three habits to ensure that the self you’re living with internally is the self that’s on display to everybody else, these are habits to ensure that what people see is what they’re actually getting, that there’s integrity between who you are on the inside and who you are on the outside. And we set this up last time by saying, we’ve all had the experience of hearing about somebody in culture, somebody popular or maybe someone we know who they’ve been living a double life, and suddenly it comes out that they’ve been living a double life, they got something else going on. They were not the person everyone thought they were, and they get caught and they get caught in a lie, and the family is devastated, maybe your career is devastated, and when that happens, and we hear about, Wow, this has been going on for years and nobody knew.

We either think or say, Hey, how could they live with themselves, how could they carry on for so long with that going on in the background? And the assumption, of course is, Hey, if it was me, I couldn’t live with myself. I could not have the double life and keep it a secret or have such variation on the themes of my life the way that they did that, that my conscience or my integrity would not allow me to do that. We think I couldn’t do that. But the truth is, you could. You could do that. Now, you couldn’t live with your current self, but if left unattended, as we said last time, your current self may not be your future self, and your future self might become, might be someone that you wouldn’t even recognize, that you wouldn’t even respect. In fact, maybe that’s the situation you’re in today, you have slowly over time, become someone you never intended to be, and you’re carrying a secret that no one knows you’re caring and you’re thinking to yourself, How did I get here?

Well, the reason nobody thinks this will happen to them is because nobody thinks this will happen to them, and the reason this happens to people is because the assumption is, Well, it can’t happen, but it does. And it happens all the time, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But it could happen to you, and it can happen to me. And the best way to keep it from happening is to, number one, assume that it can, and number two, to take steps to ensure that it doesn’t, and that’s what this series is all about. Three habits to safeguard your soul, and when I say soul, I mean your inner life, your interior life, that part of you that no one sees, the part of you that you go to bed with every night and wake up to every single morning and that you face every single morning in the mirror. Now, the theme or the big overarching principle, and whether you’re a religious person or not, this is just true, so this is something to take into consideration is simply this, that the health of your soul or the health of your interior life, the health of your soul, determines your capacity for duplicity.

Now, duplicity is the traditional way of thinking about duplicity is somebody is someone with this group of people and there’s someone entirely different with another group of people, and if those two groups of people ever got together to discuss that person, they would think they’re talking about two different people, there’s duplicity. But the other version of duplicity is when someone is something publicly and something entirely different, privately and the health of your soul, what’s going on on the inside day in and day out, determines your capacity for duplicity, and here’s what I mean specifically, it determines how wide the gap between who you are and who you pretend to be, it determines how wide the gap between who you are and who you pretend to be grows or can expand before your conscience just can’t take it anymore, before your guilt just can’t take it anymore, or between or to the point that you’re eventually found out, that the health of your soul determines whether you close the gap immediately, that’s what we’re gonna talk about today. The health of your soul determines whether you close that gap immediately or if you decide to manage that gap indefinitely. And as we manage the gap, it always gets wider and wider and wider and wider. So I’m suggesting these three habits to ensure that that gap gets closed immediately, quickly and stays closed.

Now, last time we talked about the first habit, the first habit was surrender your will, specifically surrender your will to your Heavenly Father to wake up every single morning and in some form or way to present yourself to God, your hands, what you’re gonna do, your feet where you’re gonna go, your eyes, what you’re gonna look at, your ears what you’re gonna listen to, your mind, what you’re gonna think about. Surrender your resources, surrender your opportunities, your hopes and dreams, and say, Heavenly Father, I am 100% you, I’m giving all of me to all of you. I trust you because I know you are for me. So today we’re gonna talk about the second habit, and to set it up, I wanna tell you a little story from the life of Jesus.

So one day, Jesus and his disciples, and this is a general term for the general Jesus followers, they’re going along and the Pharisees who were constantly dogging Jesus and sort of in a running conflict or running tension with Jesus everywhere he goes, they issue a complaint and they say, Jesus, your disciples, the people who are following you, they don’t observe the tradition of the elders, they’re not observing the tradition of the elders. Now, I gotta explain what that is for this to make sense, the tradition of the elders or the other phrase that you sometimes hear the oral torah was a list of fence rules that essentially God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, and God gave Moses the civil law, this detailed civil law for the nation of Israel, and it was written down, but supposedly, supposedly God also gave Moses an oral law that he did not allow to be written down, and Moses passed that on to Joshua, and Joshua passed it on to the priest, and this got passed along generation after generation after generation in parallel with the written law.

Now, nobody knows if this is true or not, there’s no way to prove it or disprove it because, well, it wasn’t written down, but what we do know is that these unwritten laws were generally fence laws to protect the written law so people didn’t accidentally break the law of God and defile themselves and put themselves at odds with God. This became so onerous, the law was difficult enough to keep we know from the testimony of first century Jews, but to add to it this oral Torah that you were never really sure if you were doing something wrong until the Pharisees showed up and said, Oh yeah, that’s in the oral Torah. You can’t do that. That’s the tradition of the elders.

So that’s the tension that Jesus finds himself in with the Pharisees and on this particular… In this particular instance, this had to do with how they washed their hands. The written law, as you know, for Jews had a very strict diet, had very strict dietary guidelines, we know that. So that was the written law. The oral Torah or the tradition of the elders said, to ensure that you don’t accidentally put something unclean in your body, there is a specific way to wash your hands, some say up to your elbows, some say further, but there’s a very specific way you’re supposed to wash your hands, and they had made hand washing and this specific hand-washing as much of a law as don’t put certain things in your mouth based on the written dietary restrictions in the Torah that God gave Moses. So this is the tension. So they come to Jesus and they say, Jesus, your disciples aren’t following the tradition of the elders, they are not washing appropriately. Now, you need to know, and this is helpful. Jesus had nothing good to say about the tradition of the elders, he was not a fan of the oral Torah. So when the Pharisees criticized Jesus’s disciples, Jesus decides to use it as a teachable moment. And it’s kind of funny, and so here’s where the text… Here’s where we pick up with the story. So Jesus called the crowd to him and said, Listen and understand. In other words, I’m about to tell you something and I’m about to explain something that you need to know. And this was, for us, this is like a big duh, but for the first century, his first century audience, this was so ground breaking. He says, I just wanna be clear. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them. For First Century Judeans and Galileans and members of Abraham’s covenant and members of the Mosaic, there were people who were adhering their lives or defining their lives by the Mosaic law. This was like, what?

Jesus is like, Yes, what you eat does not… This was the important part, what you eat does not put you at odds with God, that’s what it meant to be defiled. To be at odds with God, I’ve done something that’s… I’ve put me at odds with God. Jesus is like, what you eat doesn’t put you at odds with God, and he says this, but what comes out of their mouths, talking about the Pharisees specifically, what comes out of their mouths or what comes out of a person’s mouth, that is what puts them at odds with God, and then this is the coolest part, after he drops this bomb. The text tells us, this is in Matthew and Mark, he just walks off. Listen and learn, I’ve just said something that is so offensive and is gonna drive the Pharisees crazy, and he says, Come on guys, and he just literally walks off. And the disciples are following, and one of the apostles says, Jesus, hey, you really offended the Pharisees. And Jesus is like, this is my concern. Look, okay, I don’t care because… And here’s why this is so important, if you’re not a Christian or a Jesus follower, this is so important.

You see, Jesus understood something that they had missed in the first century, that the law was not given in order to please God, the law was given to protect people, the law was for people, and the Pharisees got it backwards and he would say to them, Look, The law… People are not for the law, the law is for people, and when you use the law to hurt people, divide people and to create enmity between God and people, you are mis-using, you are abusing the law of God. Now when God established a law over a rule, it was for the good of the people, he established the rule or the law for. So anyway, so Jesus walks off, the disciples are following him, and they’re like Jesus, you just offended them, and then one of the apostles says, And by the way, that might have been clear to you, but what… That’s not clear to us either. So Jesus decides to have another teachable moment, sits ’em all down. This is kind of funny. In fact, this is Jesus’ humor, we’re afraid to laugh ’cause it’s Jesus, but this was meant to be funny, so maybe you’ll get this. He sits ’em down, and he says, Are you still so dull? That’s kind of funny, isn’t it? Imagine Jesus saying to you, you’ve been with me for a couple of years, you still don’t get it. Are you still so dull? Jesus asked him, don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and out of the body? They’re like, We see that every single day.

Okay, what? [chuckle] We’re a dull, but we’re not that dull. What is your point? And then Jesus goes a little deeper, he says, what comes out of a person is what defiles them, not what goes in, what comes out is what puts them at odds with God, which they’re thinking. So using the bathroom is offensive to God. What are you talking about? He’s got their undivided attention. He says, For it is from within out of a person’s heart that evil thoughts come, it’s not what goes in that defiles you, it’s what comes out of you that defies you, it’s what comes out of you, that puts you at odds with God. And so then they’re like,wait, evil thoughts? Wait, an evil… This was a new idea. An evil thought can put us at odds with God? And Jesus would say, Yes, because everything harmful and everything harmful to other people begins as a thought, and then he gives them a list of examples.

Here’s the kinds of things that come from within, they’re exhibited in the real world, but they began from within, they began with the heart. He says, For example, here are some of the things that come out of a person’s heart: Sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, error, I mean, he’s just listing these things off, and your English text says folly, we don’t even use that word anymore. But essentially, it means bad judgment, it’s making bad decisions that impact yourself and impact other people, and here’s what they thought, this is so important, when they hear this list, they think, Wait a minute, those are behaviors directed toward other people, not God. I thought we were talking about being at odds with God. I thought we were talking about what defiles a person or puts a person in bad relationship with God, to which Jesus would say, It’s exactly what we’re talking about because hurting another person, disadvantaging another person, puts you at odds with God.

You cannot be right with God and mistreat another person. This isn’t about this kind of vertical thing I have going on, and I can treat all my horizontal relationships any way I want to, but boy, me and God we’re cool. God’s going, “I don’t know where you got that. That’s not in the old covenant. That’s not gonna be in the new covenant. You just made that up.” That’s what the Pharisees think. They think they can be right with God and mistreat people at the same time. But you are defiled. You are at odds with God when you mistreat another person and anything on the inside of you that begins as a thought, that becomes a behavior, that undermines the integrity of, or hurts, or diminishes the value of another person, you are not right with God. This was a huge, huge shift. But this would characterize, or was supposed to characterize the new kingdom that Jesus had come to establish. All these evils, he says, all these evils come from inside, and that’s what defiles a person. But eating with unwashed hands does not.

Now, the implication of this, hopefully, is so obvious. I don’t even need to state it, but I’ll state it anyway. Here’s what he was saying. Here’s what he is saying to you and to me. He’s saying, “Pay attention. Pay attention to what’s within. Pay attention to what’s going on inside of you because it doesn’t stay there. We leak. You leak. I leak. And most of the time we don’t even know that other people know what’s inside of us because we leak in such a way that we’re not aware of it and we think we’ve covered it. But then people walk away and go, “Wow, what’s up with her? What’s up with him? And the reason I know that is because you do that all the time about people. It’s like he or she thinks that we think they’re fine, but they are not fine. And it is obvious to us because we all leak. Our behavior will eventually reflect. Here’s a Jesus’ point. Our behavior will eventually reflect the condition of our hearts or our souls. So just for an uncomfortable minute, I want us to look at that list again. I kind of spread it out. Look at it a little different. Immorality, adultery, theft.

Just look at that list a second. I’m gonna ask you a question. Do you know anyone or know of anyone, and certainly you’ve read of someone who lost their family, lost a job, lost a career, lost a reputation, maybe over time, lost their mind over any of these things? The answer is yes. And in some instances, not all, in some instances, remember how shocked you were? Like, “Not them. They were so kind and they were so nice and this whole time, and how did that come out of them? They were just the nicest people. He was the nicest guy, nicest woman. I grew up with him, I grew up with her, went to school with them. You know, I went to grad school with them, used to work with them? What happened, and how did they live with themselves?” And the answer is simple. They just did not tend to their soul. They ignored what was going on in their heart because whatever it was that embarrassed them and wrecked their home and caused such damage, it came from within. These were people, or that’s a person who was managing the gap instead of determining to close it. And they became a different self, a self they never intended to have to live with. So the second habit, again, I don’t even need to say it. Now you know what it is. It’s to monitor your heart, it’s to monitor your heart.

Pay attention to what’s going on inside. I don’t have to tell you to pay attention to what’s going on on the outside. We’re really good at that. Jesus says, Look, hey, congratulations on your modified behavior. Everybody’s behaving. But come on, I love you. I want you to pay attention to that part of you that has the potential to divide you from yourself and the people you love the most, and the people who love you the most, pay attention to what’s going on inside.

And specifically, I wanna give you four things to look at when it comes to monitoring your heart. We talked about these several years ago, and I don’t mind coming back to them every once in a while. Guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy. Guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy. These four, because you know exactly what they are, and they have the potential as much or more than anything to rot your soul. They will, to use a Jesus word, they will ultimately defile you. They will ultimately put you at odds with God. And if you don’t close the gap, these four things have the potential to ultimately define you as well. Because you leak. Because they leak. They hurt the people around you.

Guilt says… You know what guilt says? Guilt says, I owe you. I owe you. I got a secret, and I owe you the truth. I owe you an apology. I owe you restitution for what I took. And you may or may not know I took it, or you may know I did. But I’ve argued, made excuses. But the truth is, I’m living with guilt because I owe you. I owe you an apology for what I’ve done. I owe you an apology for what I’ve said and the solution, you won’t even need to write this down, it’s to confess. And when you confess, you’ll make a mess. We talked about that last time. And you don’t wanna make a mess.

Let me just say something to you real quick. You’ve already made a mess. There’s no getting around the mess. ? it’s either gonna leak and you’re gonna have to make excuses and eventually fess up or you can stand up straight, invite your heavenly Father into this area of your life and hold him by the hand and say, I’m going in. I’m gonna confess. I’m gonna get this out. I’m gonna deal with the mess. I want this to end. This is not who I wanna be. This is not where I intended to be in my relationships, in my marriage, at work, with my reputation, whatever it is, you confess, and when you do, you begin safeguarding your soul.

Anger. The driver behind anger is, you owe me, you owe me. You’re angry. Whenever you’re angry, it’s ’cause you’re not getting your way. Whenever you’re angry is because something’s been taken from you. You’re not getting what you deserve. You’re not getting what you want. But in the big anger, the anger that seeps, that free flowing anger that follows people throughout their lives, somebody took something big.  But here’s what you know, and this isn’t helpful.

They can’t give back to you what they took even if they wanted to, even if they apologized. We can’t go back in time. You can’t be 18 again. You can’t have a first marriage again. You can’t… Bring that first baby home from the hospital again, it’s gone. So you’re stuck and you’re angry and you leak. And the solution, I… We all know the solution is to forgive. And yes, I’ll just own this. It’s easy for me to stand up here and say, ’cause I don’t know your story. Now if it was just the two of us, we’re sitting across the table and you told me your story, my inclination would be to give you a pass. So you know what everybody else has to forgive, but not you, you get over here, you get a pass, okay? God understands. I’ve heard your story. Now I’m angry at him. I’m angry at them. I’m not sure I can forgive them. They didn’t even do anything to me, but based on what you’ve been through, I might give you a pass and say, You don’t need to forgive. Forgiving them is giving them a gift they don’t deserve. But your savior, who loves you more than I ever could, is not gonna give you a pass because he knows what that resentment is doing to your soul.

And he says, Come on, you gotta cancel that debt. You gotta forgive. It’s rotting your soul and you leak. And people know something’s up and they… There’s just an edge. You gotta forgive.

Greed, this is something no one’s ever admitted out loud, can’t even see it in the mirror. We have so many excuses. We have so many other names for this. And it’s… Greed is fueled by the consumption assumption. We talk about that. The consumption assumption is this, if it comes to me, it’s for me. If it’s placed in my hands, it’s to stay in my hands. If I earned it, if I inherited it, if it was given to me, if it comes to me, it’s for me. Greed says, I owe me. I owe me everything that comes to me. And it forces people to compete with your stuff. And we have so many ways around this. We say, I’m not greedy, I’m just careful. I’m not greedy, I’m just responsible. I’m not greedy, I just like nice stuff. I’m not greedy, I’m just preparing for the future.

Again, I’m responsible. And what greed does is it actually empowers you to excuse a lack of generosity. It trickles out and it triangulates with other people and other things in your life and impacts people and it puts you at odds with God. [laughter] Do you know what the solution is? It’s like ripping off a bandaid. The solution is to give extravagantly, consistently with a plan to something that’s making a difference in the world, it’s your way of saying. Greed is not gonna reside in my heart, is not gonna reside from within, because eventually it’s gonna come out and it’s gonna come out on the people closest to you. It always does.

Jealousy, this is the ugliest one of all, ugh, you celebrate when other people fail. Not out loud, just inside, you feel like you’ve made… Not you, we, I, all of us, we feel like we’re making progress sometimes because somebody else fails, that is ridiculous. That is so ugly. When you see it in your kids or grandkids, it’s like it bothers you. This will rot your soul, celebrating other people’s failure. And you know what we do? We compete with other people in our head, and they don’t even know there’s a competition, they’re just living a happy life and we’re just mad, and the more happy they are the more angry we get. We’re like, yeah, but… And do you know what drives this? Is this assumption that you need to root out, it’s a lie. Life owes me. Life owes me. Life owes me.

And then when you scratch beneath the surface, do you know what you unearth? God owes me, ’cause he could have made you prettier, taller. He could have made… Give you opportunities to be richer. He could have had you born into a different kind of family, to give you more opportunities. So admit it. I think God owes me and I don’t wanna live that way anymore, because God has done enough for me. And you know what the antidote or the solution is, or the process that eventually gets us to where we need to be is to celebrate. Celebrate what God has given you and celebrate what God has given others.

So bringing guilt, anger, greed, jealousy into the light, it diminishes their power over you. So monitor your heart and root these things out, be on the look out for these four villains, and as soon as you identify them, you don’t manage that tension, you just say, Nope, you talk to them. Right? You say, Hey, there is no room for you inside of me, I already have a boss. I already have a king. I have a king who is for me, the only thing you four guys do is take stuff from me. So monitor your heart and surrender your will. And don’t miss part three, where we talk about habit three of living with yourself. Three habits to safeguard your soul.