I spend a lot of time listening.
While there are a number of good reasons for doing so much listening, one really jumps to the forefront: when I focus on listening and give great attention to a person’s words, I can pretty well tell what is going on in their heart. I can pretty easily discern the presence of anger, bitterness, jealousy, guilt, greed, lust….
Now that should not be a big surprise; but it is not because I am some extraordinarily insightful man. Instead, Jesus very plainly tells us in Matthew 15:18 that “the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man unclean.” A person’s words are an incredible thermometer of the heart.
So, when folks come for ministry and sense the presence of the Lord and feel unusually safe, then they tend to relax the filters on their mouths and even the things they would normally restrain themselves from saying come pouring out – and their hearts get exposed.
The goal of Spirit focused ministry is not to install or improve filters on the mouth. While that may appear to make day-to-day life “better,” the darkness that lurks in the heart will always find a way to punch through the filter, usually at the most inopportune times. Instead, Spirit focused ministry helps develop self-awareness (“Hmm, how can I know the condition of my heart? Oh, I know, I will just listen to the way I talk and the words I say”), followed by a willingness to take responsibility for my heart (“I cannot blame anyone else for the condition of my heart. While things may have occurred in life that lodged stuff in my heart, it is totally my decision about whether it stays or not”).
Jesus has an answer for breaking the bondages of everything we might find in our hearts. However, there is really no sense talking about those answers until we are willing to listen to our own words (including the words we want to say or would say if we didn’t have our social mouth filters in place), acknowledge that those words only reflect the state of our hearts and may very well reveal that we have black, black hearts.
Ugh. Doesn’t a discovery like that make us horrible, hopeless people? Absolutely not! What it means is that there is great hope for working with Jesus to change my heart and minimize my need for so many mouth filters.
So, consider this challenge for the week ahead. Listen to your words. Give your spouse or close friends who already hear your words permission to share what they hear this week. And when you are tempted to say, “Wow, I have no idea where that came from!”, pause long enough to listen to Jesus; you will probably hear Him saying, “I know.”