The Heart of the Problem
Proverbs 4:23 says:
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
While there are other verses that address what we allow in, this verse provides wisdom for watching what comes out. Our hearts, complex as they are, require constant supervision.
Jesus taught the same thing to His disciples. He said (recorded in Mark 7:21-23):
“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
It is as common as breathing to blame others rather than take responsibility. But what I plan to exhort us to consider for the next few weeks is not who is responsible, but what we are responsible for. Stated more specifically, this will be a confession exhortation mini-series on emotional control.
How many times have you heard someone say that she can’t help a certain behavior or making a certain comment because that’s just how she feels? Her response must be accepted by the rest of us because it wasn’t something she chose; she might even say the response chose her. Many Christians have been catechized with these worldly, emotional defense mechanisms, and it makes no less of a mess.
The Christian’s goal is not suppression of emotion or feeling, the goal is mortification, that is, the killing of sin in our hearts by God’s Spirit. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). That same Spirit produces the fruit of love and joy and peace and patience, which certainly include relevant emotions. Self-control doesn’t mean being emotion-less, it does mean we don’t let fleshly emotions rule us.
It is as dangerous for a man to indulge in fits of anger that his kids aren’t obeying him as it is for a young man to indulge in proud self-pity that a young lady isn’t fawning over him. It is as dangerous for a woman to indulge in envy over another woman’s housekeeping skills as it is for a young woman to indulge in foolishness over a teenage boy who couldn’t fill her father hunger even if he wasn’t foolish himself. These things come from our hearts, and that is the problem.