Many in the church would like to go deeper, they honestly would. Despite modern church culture being filled with the seeds of the devil with false wisdom such as “Don’t be so heavenly minded you’re no earthly good”, or “God doesn’t want us to be perfect”, or, even the more scripturally documented lies such as “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and He is pleased with them.” and “God isn’t going to judge.” (Malachi 2:17), despite these, many people would actually like to get free from the sin in their lives. Some people are actually still grieved by the sin that they cannot seem to get free from.
Keep thy heart with all diligence; For out of it are the issues of life.
Proverbs denotes that it is out of the heart that all life comes. Jesus reaffirms this, saying…
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.
Jeremiah also convicts mankind at the root of the problem.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
The first thing is to not give up. The righteous man, though he falls, gets up again, and keeps going. The second is to approach the root of the problem, and not just its fruit.
He who sins is a slave to sin.
John 8:34 (portion)
Unless we approach the root of the problem, our own heart, we will never be free.
The Gospel of the Kingdom shows us the life of faith. It shows us where we step out of that. But, when we are faced with our own anger, with our own judgement, and our own inconsistency, where do we go from there? We know that Jesus is the only solution, but exactly how to apply the remedy sometimes seems to escape us.
When Jesus was present, and the disciples were arguing over who was the greatest, He was the light to tell them that the greatest was the servant of all. When they were rejoicing over the miracles and demons being subject to them in His name, He was the light to tell them NOT to rejoice over that, but to look at something Eternal. He told them to look at the fact that their names were written in heaven. When the disciples were looking to fall asleep after dinner, He was the light to warn them to pray, lest they fall into temptation.
The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.
It is His word that brings light. As Proverbs 25:11 says, a word in season is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
What must acquire then appears to be more shovels, or at the least the faith to use them. When Peter walked on the water, and subsequently sank, Jesus’ question was, “Why did you doubt?”. The question probed into the core of Peter. He probably could have recited a thousand other storms he had seen in his life as a fisherman. He probably could have listed hundreds of stories from his lifetime of people seriously hurt or killed in seas like those that night. His mind could have gone on a thousand different tangets, perhaps, yet whatever tangent it was, when he saw the waves and the foam, He go distracted from the Master.
The ironic aspect of the fear of Peter was that what he feared immediately came upon him. He was afraid he would drown, and immediately began to do so. Better for Peter, from the position of an observer, mind you, as I am now, for Peter to have feared he might begin to walk on the air above the water. Better to fear the water would cease to exist because it was in violation of the Kingdom, which had chosen him to be a witness to the nations. Better to have been willing to lose his life. Who knows if this very seed in his heart was the same self-preservation that came on the eve of the crucifixion after the rooster.
Jesus offered Peter a shovel… He asked him why he doubted. The doubt, the fear, were obvious, the question is why he did.
Emotions follow beliefs. If you don’t believe you’re about to die, you’re not afraid of death. If you don’t have an inner desire to be better than someone, you don’t argue about it. If you don’t have a reason to be afraid, you aren’t.
The path up, is the path in. The way forward is the way down. The church today stands before the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, offering to us the opportunity to hear His words, and obey them. That man will be like the man who DUG DEEP and build his house upon the rock.
If you simply know that the problem lies in the heart, but do not know how to get there, at least follow the advice of Jeremiah five verses after declaring the heart wicked, where he cries out, “Heal me and I shall be healed!” (Jeremiah 17:14). ”Jesus, Help!” is one of the most profound prayers available.
Yet, in His answer, let His light come into the depths. Let Him ask those questions, “Why did you doubt?” ”Why are you afraid?” ”What do you believe?” Perhaps we are afraid of losing? Let yourself die. Perhaps you are afraid you are missing out? So did Eve. God is the best, and all His commands lead to life. Perhaps you are afraid you will be left wanting? He shall supply all your needs, according to His riches. You may not be “first”, but many who are first shall be last, and the last first, in His Kingdom.
Certain inner healing ministries are learning this. When faced with sufficient pain, pressure, anxiety, and stress such that a person cannot function normally in society, people usually seek help, if they don’t have too much pride. The more honest, and scripturally integretous ministries usually point back to a person’s own belief and choice as the root of most ills, but when it comes to ministry, the anointing, platforms, and microphones, do people forget that it is out of the heart that a man speaks, and a man is defiled?
Or in a job, struggling to keep one’s temper, or to be gracious even to an ungracious slave-master, do we forget that our own inability to function in the peace of Christ is an indication of our own heart’s inner chambers?
The questions are the same, and the answers are merely the scriptures. You will not live this fruitfully with a love of this world and it’s pleasures. Yet, in light of the Good News, what you gain, in this life and in the age to come, is one-hundred times as much, if not more, albeit with persecutions.
Prayer is a bore until you find His Presence, and then you can’t live without it. Worship is only a drill until you get captured by love. When you’re in His presence, you don’t need anyone to explain, and when you’re caught up in His glory, there is no one else there.
Yet, it is the place of the shovel, the place of the digging into the chambers of the heart, through the hurt, pain, and memories if need be, into absolute trust and reliance, that the disciple is truly built. Without it, there can be no progress. Even if all that on the outside appears good for a time, it will reproduce after its own kind, and when the wheat bears its head, the tares will become obvious.
The work of the follower is the heart, and those that facilitate this must never be afraid to both point to it, and offer people more tools to dig deeper into what is there. Whether it be a shovel or a backhoe, until it is only the Spirit of Christ that we function out of, even “good” might not be “truth”, as far as John 3:19-21 is concerned. If the light within us is really darkness, how great that darkness is, for how many in the name of “good” have denied Truth, and led many down the wrong road?
If the inside of the cup is washed, the outside of the cup is clean as well (Matthew 23:26). If the blood cleanses our heart, and removes sin in every part, our every behavior is changed, and we are made whole again.
We don’t have to live a life of bitterness, anger, strife, anxiety, or the like. But, we must be willing to recognize and acknowledge, in deeper and deeper ways, what is going on in our heart. What are our emotions? What are we feeling? Are we afraid on some level? Why are we feeling this way? Why do we doubt? Why are we afraid? Why are we angry?
This last question is the question God asked Cain after his sacrifice was rejected and Abel’s was accepted in Genesis 4:6. It is also the question He asked Jonah in Jonah 4:4-9.
Jesus’ question to Peter was equally as hard. Three times, Jesus asked Peter, “Peter, do you love me?” The third time, Peter was grieved because it was the third time, and said, “You know that I love you.” And, Jesus responded, “Feed my sheep.”
Love is as strong as death, and perfect love overcomes the fear of death, for perfect love casts out all fear.
Jesus was the light of the world, for He knew perfectly where He came from, and where He was going. He was fully lit, because He had no dark corners, as He said before the crucifixion, the prince of this world comes, and he has nothing in me. He could see with perfect insight, because He didn’t have anything in his eye, and hence, His vision was single, focused, pure, and whole. He could be a light to the blind, his heart was pure, and He saw God.
As we submit, and let Him reveal our own hearts, more and more light comes in, for God himself is the Father of lights and His ministers angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:14 says satan disguises himself as one, not that he is one, even as satan’s ministers disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness, not that they really are). The weight actually comes off, to stand wherever God would have us. We can be before Kings or crickets, because both the pressure of performance and the fear of failure mean nothing when we are no longer afraid, and only have Eternity to gain. In Jesus, the reward for obeying is better than the striving of sacrifice.
We can offer people shovels to help them dig through their own heart down to bedrock, especially if we let Him do it in our hearts as well, first. We can be the first to come to that place where we let 1 Peter 1:22 be said of us, that our souls have truly been purified by obeying the truth to the point where we can have warm, real love for our brothers. We can let that love of God govern, and control us.
Some people are afraid of the brightness of the shining, and many might be ashamed if they saw the depths of their own darkness. But, Jesus promised that those who follow Him will NOT walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12). Those with a true, honest, and sincere heart shall bring forth the true fruit of the gospel, some thirty, some sixty, and some a hundred fold.