Month: February 2019

Heart or Brain ?

Heart or Brain Cut

Today’s blog post was inspired after a recent vibrant and lively meeting of  our men’s small group. We talk about serious truths of the Lord — but we also joke and tease each other as love grows amongst us as brothers .

Heart or brain ?  Love or truth ? Which one  drives you ?

Here’s how I  lean : I appreciate how much the gospel contains good ideas and concepts and doctrine. It’s truth. But I face a danger : even though truth is the most important part of what the gospel is,  it’s easy for me to slide into making  truth expand into  being all that the gospel is. Then, the gospel is reduced to being only a list of propositions to believe  or a set of rules governing  behavior. That’s rather cold, isn’t it ?

Other folks lean the opposite way. They are awed by and overwhelmed by God’s love, and filled with enormous compassion. They say, “The only law is the law of love.” But then they can slide into making love all that the gospel is. When this happens, just about any action is OK if it “feels like” love.

So, how can we join heart and mind, truth and love, together properly ? I think Isaiah gives us an idea.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

In this passage Isaiah volunteers after seeing a vision of God and his holiness. I don’t think you would ask Isaiah whether he was  driven by his head or his heart. No, his experience of God had both ; it was a call on Isaiah’s total being.

Isaiah received coal  on his  lips to symbolize his purification from sin ; and for us Jesus’ death on the cross purifies us. Due to this cleansing, we are able to push forward on Jesus’ mission :  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians  4:13).

See how Jesus blends truth and love together ? We humans like to organize everything in life into little compartments —including the Lord himself ! But our God is not compartmentalized. We can’t split out either love or truth from the grand totality of who God is.  Our powerful encounter with the Lord Jesus drives us to serve him fully with heart and brain !

Can Christians Cure Cussing ?

Let me begin today’s post with  a clarification. There’s a modern trend that says that Christians should be free to cuss in order to be  “authentic.” I am not advocating that trend in this blog post.

But I do want to warn against putting too high a priority on having clean language, because over-emphasizing language implies that  being a Christian means we need  to “clean up our act.”   When that happens, we force ourselves not to cuss. We keep our cusswords bottled up and we stifle any vulgarities from coming out of our mouth.

But the problem with stifling ourselves is that it prevents us from dealing with the underlying heart attitudes of envy, anger, etc. which often do spew forth in cussing.

Matthew 15:10-20 talks about the interplay between our outer stuff and what is in our hearts. Here, the Pharisees were ticked off at Jesus because he criticized their emphasis on conforming to outer rules of behavior.  Specifically, they asked why Jesus did not follow their handwashing rituals.

Jesus replied by saying that the heart is more important.

“ But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” (Matthew 15:18-20)

I think Jesus’ words suggest that when we try to throttle cursing by our own willpower, we are putting on a nice outer appearance while avoiding dealing with the evil stuff which lurks beneath.

Take a guy I’ll call Seething Sam, who has quite an anger issue. Usually he has enough will power to bottle up his anger but eventually  he spews enraged expletives when he does not get his own way.  But what if, instead of trying to put a lid on things, Sam repents of being an angry man?

If he repents, Sam can stop suppressing his evil thoughts and start to see how Christ’s way can  renew his mind and begin to replace his evil thoughts.  He begins to understand how the spiritual gift of self-control works. Instead of Sam struggling to put a stopper in his bottle, Jesus, by grace,  replaces the vicious and murderous  thoughts he is bottling up with  the freedom to love, edify, encourage, be patient, etc.

As that kind of gradual grace-fueled  biblical change proceeds, Sam’s volcanic eruptions of vulgarities  become less and less frequent.

In my church we have a group of men in a Christian community  called Battleground who are very helpful in achieving change.  How so ? The group is not interested in  portraying a nice Christian image where our bad stuff is all bottled up or secret. Instead, we are seeing that curing cussing (or any area of our Christian life that needs repair) is like dealing with a weed. Do we only cut off the leaves on a weed or do we choose to pull it out by the roots ?

Good news : When we repent and want more than the mere appearance of righteousness, the Lord graciously transitions us from mere outer change  to deep-rooted, spirit-filled heart change.