Matthew 12:35 | Proverbs 20:5 | Ezekiel 36:26 | Philippians 1:6
Let’s get to the heart of the matter.
Alitheia has a problem that might sound familiar. To you. If you struggle with addiction or even self-control, here is good news…
…And bad news. Let’s start with that. (Groan if you must, but this way we leave you on a high note.) The bad news is: behavior problems can go deep. As in, all the way deep.
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.(Matthew 12:35 NLT)
(Just to be clear, Jesus is talking about the spiritual heart here, and not the physical, beating-in-your-ribcage heart.)
How can you tell if your problem goes all-the-way deep? Try this: ask yourself if you actually like the behavior you’re trying to end. For example, do you secretly like looking at unwholesome online material? Do you actually like passing off falsehoods as truths? Do you in a small way enjoy the feeling of power from being harsh to a younger sibling?
If you’re not sure what the answer is, dig deeper through prayer and reflection. It will take some time, but it will be worth it.
The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.(Proverbs 20:5 NIV)
This proverb paints a picture of your heart as a well. And it says that a wise person goes to the trouble of drawing water from that well to see what is down there.
So look deep inside your heart. If you are honest with yourself and answer yes to a question like the ones above (“Do I like passing off lies as truth?”), you have a heart problem: you’re trying to stop a behavior that a part of you actually wants to continue.
Here is the good news: God can change your heart.
And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.(Ezekiel 36:26 NLT)
Even if it would take a miracle. Even if you don’t know how your heart could still need changing because you have been a follower of Christ for a while and thought you had it all taken care of.
Your new heart will be a grand work that takes time to complete, and you can be sure that God will finish what he started.
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.(Philippians 1:6 NLT)
So if you are experiencing the frustration of trying to change your behavior, end an addiction, or be a better person…stop being frustrated and start asking for help. From trusted people who can advise and support you, and from God who can change your heart.
Questions for Group Discussion
- Have you faced a problem like Alitheia’s? Or a more serious one? Are you still facing it?
- Have you faced a problem similar to the one in this video that could be solved by simply changing a habit or behavior? Is there a place for ‘willpower’ or determination in the life of a follower of Christ?
- When does a problem NOT go as deep as the heart?
Going Deep: Application
You may have read above that God’s transformation of your heart is a lengthy process. It is. in fact, it’s a life-long process.
You may have also read that God’s aim in this transformation is to give you a softer heart that is more responsive to the leading of his Spirit, and that a wise person looks into the depths of their heart’s motives. Perhaps the wise person is looking for hardened places in their heart for God to soften up…?
That will be our aim in this activity: to find places in our hearts for God to tenderize. Take out your favorite writing implement and get ready for some quiet reflection!
In a quiet, safe place, get as calm and relaxed as you can. Eliminate as many distractions as possible, and read Psalm 139:23-24.
Then do the following:
- Write what comes to mind when you read, “Search me, O God… and know my anxious thoughts”? What are those anxious thoughts?
- Imagine those anxieties in their own boxes. What size are the boxes? How heavy are they? What are the boxes made of?
- Picture yourself giving those boxed anxieties to God. If it won’t make you feel silly, silently go through the motions of physically giving them to God.
- Sit down, close your eyes, and ask to God to “Point out anything in me that offends you.”
- Silently wait for an answer. It may come as a word, an image, or even a feeling.
- Write your answer.
- Finally, repeat the exercise of boxing that offensive thing up and giving it to God.
Father in Heaven, thank you for the work you are doing in my heart. I welcome your Holy Spirit and the changes you make in me. Please line up my desires with yours. And help me keep from taking any of those anxieties back into my own hands–please give me the presence of mind to keep handing them off to you as new ones appear. Thank you for loving me right now, just as I am, and forgiving me through your son Jesus. Amen.
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