Sometimes I Surprise Myself

Sometimes I Surprise Myself

Have you ever been in an argument with someone and said something that you regretted?

In the heat of the fight you said some not-so-nice things that you were sorry you said as soon as the words came out of your mouth

And as you calm down you apologize and tell the other person that you did not mean what you said 

You want to bring the relationship back to some state of health – repair the damage you have done – and so you sincerely let them know you did not mean what you said

Yet you know and they know that you are not really sorry and you did mean what you said when you said it

It is like you have allowed a lot of things to build up on the inside, not dealing with them as they arise, and then some small, often insignificant thing happens and the simmering volcano erupts in a big way and you deeply wound the other person with your words. 

Jesus has an insight or two into this behaviour pattern.

Some background to the Scripture we are going to look at:

In the religion that Jesus was born into – the Jewish faith – certain religious rulers over thousands of years had been establishing secondary rules to keep people from breaking a primary rule

These rulers actually made a career out of creating secondary rules to help people to keep the main commandments that God had handed down to them through the ministry of their leader Moses 

God gave Moses ten commandments and a number of othe laws for the people to keep and by the time Jesus arrived on the scene, more than 600 rules had been added to the laws handed down to Moses by God Himself

This ever-growing body of regulations was called the “Tradition of the Elders.”

Its sole purpose was to prevent the Jewish people from accidentally breaking one of the original commandments

For example:

The Law of Moses forbade commerce on the Sabbath (a day of rest) — so they added a clause that forbade the handling of money on the Sabbath, thereby ensuring that no one would violate the original Sabbath law.

Over time, the religious leaders had assigned to these traditions a status equal to the Law of Moses

To the continual chagrin of the Pharisees and Sadducees (the leaders), Jesus paid very little attention to their traditions

While He and His disciples observed the Mosaic Code, Jesus seemed to go out of His way to violate the man-made laws of the Jewish hierarchy

The religious authorities would often point to these infractions as evidence of his blatant disregard for the Law, thereby refuting His claim to be a spokesman for God

Matthew records one such incident

Interestingly, the rule that got Jesus into hot water on this occasion was a rule that most parents have in their home while raising children

He forgot — well, I guess Jesus never forgot anything.

He decided not to wash His hands before He ate — and His disciples followed His lead

This was seriously troublesome to the Pharisees, just as it is to most parents

According to the Tradition of the Elders, everyone was suppose to wash from the tips of their fingers all the way down (or up) to the elbows before eating any food

As picky as this might seem, the Tradition of the Elders went to great lengths to explain how one should wash his hands before eating

Beyond basic hygiene, this rule was designed to keep people from accidentally becoming ceremonially unclean — that is, it kept a person from unintentionally putting the wrong thing, or something that had touched a wrong thing, into his or her body

But washing your hands before a meal wasn’t required by the Law of Moses

Sure, it was a good idea, but the rabbis had made it a standard for righteousness

Over time this rule had taken on the same significance in the Jewish community and individual households as the original Law of Moses handed down at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20)

But Jesus ignored this rule and didn’t insist that His followers apply it either

Here’s how the whole thing went down, as recorded in Matthew 15:1-20

“Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” (Matthew 15:1-2)

Clearly these guys needed something to do

Here they are, standing in the presence of the man who heals the sick, raise the dead, and calms the seas with His words, and they are in a tizzy over the fact that He doesn’t wash His hands before meals

Jesus answers their question with a question (He often did this):

“He answered them, ‘And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?’” (Matthew 15:3)

He turns it right back around on them

The Pharisees accuse Him of ignoring the rules they had tacked onto the Law

Jesus in turn accuses them of breaking God’s law in order to keep one of their tacked-on rules

Then before they can respond, He launches into a scathing mini-sermon

He doesn’t hold back

Calls them hypocrites

He accuses them of nullifying the Word of God for the sake of their homemade traditions

It is seriously brutal

As soon as He finishes with the Pharisees, Jesus turns His attention to the disciples

Who, by the way, were probably busy high-fiving each other over the spectacle of seeing the religious referees beaten at their own game

He picks up on the cleanliness theme the Pharisees had introduced:

“Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled?” (Matthew 15:17)

Now there’s an insight

What enters a person’s mouth will ultimately pass through the body … I doubt that anybody wrote that down — except Matthew

But now that He has their undivided attention., Jesus drives home His point

“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person” (Matthew 15:18)

His point?

God isn’t nearly as concerned about what goes in our mouths as He is about what comes out of our mouths

God isn’t nearly as concerned about what goes into our bodies as what comes out of our bodies

This was new territory for the Jews

They were extremely cautious about what they put in their mouths

Now Jesus was saying that God was more offended by what came out than what went it

But it was this comment that must have gotten their attention:

“The things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart” (verse 18)

The heart?

Everything that comes out of the mouth comes from the heart? Everything?

Did He really mean that?

At first glance, we are inclined to disagree

Surely, not everything that comes out of our mouths originates in our hearts?

Even those angry words we spoke in the heat of an argument?

You know, the ones that deeply wounded the other person

The words we said we didn’t mean!

If you are like me, there have been plenty of times when you said stuff you didn’t really mean

 

“Sometimes I surprise Myself”


Again, we’ve all covered our mouths and muttered, “I don’t know where that came from!”

 

But apparently Jesus would respond,

“I know where it came from. It came from within. It came from your heart.”

But it gets worse

Jesus goes on to say that the heart is responsible not only for our words but for our actions and deeds as well:

“‘For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.’” (Matthew 15:19-20)

Evil thoughts?

I thought these originated in my mind

If Jesus is right — and I’m betting He is — my mind isn’t the source of all my thoughts

It goes deeper than that

My evil thoughts — and hurtful words — originate in my heart

“… for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45b)

And, take a look at the other items on the list

They are all actions, deeds, and behaviours AND they all come from the heart 

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person” (Matthew 15:19-20a).

The implications of this are huge

At times we have trouble monitoring our behaviour while pretty much ignoring our hearts

After all, how do you monitor your heart?

Keeping an eye on my behaviour is easy … and I often fail to do so

And I often have lots of help with that as people will quickly draw my attention to those things I do that are not right

But my heart?

That seems a bit more complicated.

But if the items on Jesus’ list emanate from the heart, then clearly we need a new monitoring strategy

After all, if we knew how to monitor our hearts

If we knew how to deal with trouble at its source

Then perhaps we would see a marked improvement in our behaviour

Makes you wonder why no one ever taught us to do this

Gives us plenty of room for thought hopefully followed by action

Jesus was not the first to point out the importance of the heart

Nearly a thousand years earlier, Solomon echoed Jesus’ concern when he wrote,

Proverbs 4:23 NASB “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”

Here we are actually commanded to “watch over” or guard our hearts

Why?

Because our lives — I.e., words and behaviours — flow from our hearts

The heart is the source!

Somehow, what’s in our hearts, good or bad, seems to be eventually translated into words and deeds

That’s a bit scary

Especially since it’s so hard to know what’s going on in there

For example:

When we hear or see something and suddenly we are overwhelmed with emotion, we think, That really touched my heart.

But we are always surprised it happens

Why?

Perhaps because we are so out of touch with our hearts

On the flip side, we have all seen and heard things that should have affected us emotionally, and … nothing

No response

And we wonder, What’s wrong with me? Why was everyone else impacted and I just stood there, unmoved?

Perhaps you have even been accused of being “hardhearted” or having “a heart of stone.”

If you are a guy, you may have even taken pride in the fact that your heart’s not easily moved

But is that a good thing!

And is that even true?

The heart is such a mystery

In fact, one prophet asked of the heart, “Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

Good question

The implication is, nobody can understand it.

And I agree with Jeremiah and would add:

Even if we do begin to understand it, we certainly don’t seem able to control it

Which is all the more reason we need to learn to monitor it because what you don’t know can and will hurt you and others

If you have suffered the consequences from anything on Jesus’ from-the-heart list you know that to be a fact

Back to my example at the beginning … 

Have you ever been in an argument with someone and said something that surprised you?

That you regretted as soon as you said it?

In the heat of the fight you said some not-so-nice things that you were sorry you said as soon as the words came out of your mouth

Out of nowhere devastating words pierce the soul in an unsuspecting loved one

And as you calm down you apologize and tell the other person that you did not mean what you said 

You want to bring the relationship back to some state of health – repair the damage you have done – and so you sincerely let them know you did not mean what you said

But the problem is … At the moment you said it – you did mean it!

“… for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45b)

Matthew 15:18-20a “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.”

We have all seen this happen

We have all felt the pain of words spoken in anger

We have all wounded others with our heart’s overflow – our words

Even today, in some way, we are all volcanoes waiting to erupt …

So, we need to learn to guard our hearts — More accurately maybe, guard against our hearts

We need to learn how to monitor what is going on in that secret place that has the potential to go public at any moment

When we look at the condition of the heart … we want to see a healthy heart 

Spiritually healthy

Emotionally healthy

Relationally healthy 

But most often we see one (or more) of a basic 6 hearts that have been wounded and thus are not healthy and can release words and actions that wound and even destroy others…

Six types of severely wounded hearts that can speak and sometimes surprise you…

Spiritual and emotional heart issues

The following heart conditions begin to arise because we have neglected to take care of our hearts … neglected to “guard our hearts”

They work in stages. We begin at stage one, but if the diagnosis is ignored, we move further along until we end up at the last stage.

As you go through the outline for each of these, once you feel that you no longer connect to the stage being discussed, you are probably at the previous stage. 

The good news is that, wherever you are, there is hope for God to breathe change, if you are open.

  1. Broken Heart.

This is where it all begins. 

Everyone on the planet has a broken heart to some degree, because we are all broken to some degree. 

The broken heart is a condition that arises when those who were supposed to love us did not. 

They either released harmful actions against us or they neglected to act in loving ways that you needed.

This comes about because we have not received love or given love perfectly.

Can be as simple as not remembering a time when your father said, “I love you”

A broken heart leads people to be severely insecure

Once we recognize that we have a broken heart and are insecure we should ask God for a greater revelation and experience of His love for us

A broken heart prevents us from truly experiencing God’s love, loving ourselves, and loving others because a broken heart makes us feel insecure and we shut down

2. Fearful Heart.

Any area of brokenness makes room for fear to enter. 

Insecurity and a broken heart is the land where fear loves to dwell. 

Every area of insecurity and brokenness has a work of fear attached to it. 

Those with a fearful heart become trained to avoid any past pain from reoccurring.

Believers fail to remember that love has such a powerful effect that it actually casts out fear. 

Love and fear displace each other – love casts out fear

When I am living in the divine sense of knowing I am loved and allowing that love to settle within myself, fear has no ability to access my being. 

The answer to fear is love

Even in the last days, Jesus said men’s hearts will fail because of fear. 

Fear will tag team on a broken heart to keep us focused on our past hurts as our story for the future. 

Those with a fearful hearts not only struggle to walk in love regarding themselves, they struggle to embracing experiences and be fully present. 

Fearful hearts become hypersensitive and constantly live to avoid their hearts being hurt or exposed.

3. Angry Heart.

As our fears remain intact, the stress and insecurity adds on another layer on top of fear; anger. 

The anger comes in to defend our brokenness and keep anyone away who might pose a potential threat to us. 

All anger stems from unresolved brokenness. 

Very little of the anger has anything to do with the current situation or subject. 

It has way more to do a past wound that has never been addressed.

So many attempt to use anger management as a solution. Yet that is all they end up doing—attempting to manage it. 

When in reality they should be removing this battle. But we cannot remove something that we have allow to become a defence mechanism.

An angry heart left unaddressed will eventually carry hate along with it. 

Yet the target of hate is not mainly others — This is a work of self-hate. 

The person may be angry with a past relationship, family member or life’s disappointments, but the target of their fury is against themselves. 

  The anger may stay bottled up or it will lash out on others but the root is that they have hatred against themselves.

4. Hopeless Heart.

When we walk through life overcompensating for our brokenness and serving our fears every day, we get exhausted. 

You can only be angry for so long until you hit an exhaustion stage. 

Depression sets in.

Energy becomes low. 

Irritability is high.

At this point, your faith becomes weary. 

The promises of God seem too far away. 

Breakthrough looks out of hand. 

Hope becomes weak. 

Our minds become so vulnerable to every negative thought that crosses the airwaves.

We experience hopelessness

This is where people develop a “hope deferred” condition.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick. (Proverbs 13:12) 

This is spiritual sickness that can even lead to physical sickness. 

Hope is a lifeline for our lives and when it seems distant, out of reach, or delayed too long, we suffer the effects of that. 

People at this stage have neglected to face their brokenness, fears and anger. 

 

5. Hard Heart.

At this stage, even hope deferred can be healed by walking through each of the previous stages and releasing the fears and anger we have towards others, God, and ourselves. 

But when we neglect this, we develop another dangerous condition—a hard heart. 

At this stage, the heart has lost its ability to believe. 

A callousness forms around the heart, so even when a passionate message of freedom is delivered, their eyes are veiled and hearing is dulled.

Hard hearts don’t hear encouragement or hope anymore.

Hard hearts are not growing in their walk with Jesus

Hard hearts do not forgive – themselves, others, God

Hard hearts do not experience emotions

Hard hearts refuse to embrace change

Hard hearts live in their past

Hard hearts are usually proud hearts unable to admit they need help / receive help

Hard hearts are simply repeating the pattern they have lived for years – living on default

Hard hearts don’t let others in to their lives – refuse to be fully known 

It takes a divine work of the Holy Spirit and the person’s willingness for a hard heart to be opened.

The only solution to a hard heart is the act of humbling ourselves before God as well as others. 

When we do this, we position our hearts for the hardness to melt off and tenderness to take residence.

If we don’t do this – If pride keeps us from doing this – we end up checking out

6. Numb or Checked Out Heart.

Getting to this stage is deadly. 

Of all the people I have worked with for over 50 years, the numb and checked out heart has been one of the most challenging to help. 

When the heart is engaged, the possibilities are endless for change. 

When its at this stage, it can seem nearly impossible to break through.

The numb or checked out heart has also become a more common condition today. 

Although the previous heart conditions listed here are dangerous when left unchecked, this stage is lethal.

You can minister to these people – love these people – but you will still get nothing. 

Very little engagement. 

Very little heart connection. 

You can see it in their eyes. 

Lights are on but no one’s home. 

Try to help a key area in their life and they check out. 

They may be present in the room, but absent emotionally and relationally.

People at this stage have either given up tending to their heart or never did so to begin with. 

Those who have become weary with their hurt, pain, anger, fears, and insecurity can often slide into a place of numbness. 

The pain becomes so unbearable to confront that checking out becomes a programmed way of living. 

They can go to work, pay their bills and say thank you; but inside, they are numb.

Conclusion:

So, the Bible states:

Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

The Psalmist is asking God to search his heart…

God does not need your permission to do so – but appreciates an invite

The Psalmist did not let God do this because God needed to know 

God already knows the condition of our heart

The Psalmist is literally saying to God: “Please reveal to me the condition of my heart”

And then the Psalmist asks for God’s help: “…lead me in the way everlasting”

That’s the beginning of the solution to the condition of the heart that often surprises us with what comes out of it…

You will need to involve others … friend, spouse, church leader

But you start with God for without experiencing His love in a fresh and new way and having a fresh revelation of the condition of the heart you will just continue on saying things that surprise you and wound others.