Steve's Story: Getting to the Heart of Things
Excerpt from Rescued from Hell, Chapter 7: Journey to Healing
Until now I have been showing you elements of growth in what I call "basic discipleship": searching the scriptures for truth, listening for His voice, trusting and obeying your new Life Manager, throwing things into the fire, seeking to liberate others and pursuing your destined future by pursuing Him. These are tremendous things to be doing! There are more elements in addition to those I mentioned, and I am immensely excited about every aspect of basic discipleship - they are a lifeline to God! If you have been badly damaged and have a wounded heart, you need to be practicing all of these things - as if your life depends upon it. These are the essential elements of your new life. What's more, the new you, who is you combined with Jesus in you, actually wants to be doing them. You will never be healed and made whole without them. There's only one problem: Basic discipleship alone probably won't be enough to heal you. If it could then the whole church would be full of genuinely happy, emotionally healthy people who simply radiate the love and joy of the Lord. But that's hardly the way it is.
If the Body of Christ is an army, then let us acknowledge that every army nowadays has mobile hospital units for the necessary task of putting soldiers back together. As it is, we Christians are notorious for "shooting our wounded," heaping condemnation rather than grace upon those who can't march in ranks with the rest. Truth be told, most of our raw recruits need in-depth healing before being sent off to boot camp for basic training. I have seen so many well-intentioned new believers charge into the front lines, spurred on by their comrades who mistake their zeal for maturity, only to be shot down and sidelined because they had no idea how to mend or tend their hearts. That is why this testimony of new life is leading into an extended section on healing - too many people have sold the idea that all you need is Jesus and everything will be fine. Yes, all you will ever need is Jesus, but you will need all He brings with Him to become complete, which includes both basic discipleship and emotional healing.
Believers with emotional wounds have a very hard time maintaining enough basic discipleship to stay "in the game." Once they lose their joy and their "first love" - their early enthusiasm and devotion to the Lord - they often also lose their zeal for sharing with others, their willingness to lay their lives down and their "hot" pursuit of Christ. Pretty soon it's all they can do just to show up at church, participate in a few functions and try not to lose more ground. Rather than thriving, they are merely surviving. Don't believe me? Just ask around: Almost everyone will say, "I'm hanging in there." That's certainly better than quitting, but it is not the goal! Holding on for dear life and toughing it out will keep you on the team, but you're still spending most of your time on the bench, rather than playing the game. Joyless Christianity is not the kind of life for which Jesus died to bring us. It's definitely not the kind of living that will attract non-believers to Christ: "Hey, want to know my Jesus and hang in there' with me?" "No thanks, I'm already doing that without Him. Why give up my freedom and the few pleasures I have left?"
The elements of basic discipleship I listed above are a vital portion of the new life, but you cannot coax or cajole people into taking them up if their hearts and lives are badly broken. I believe that we have only "slightly" healed the hurt of God's people (Jeremiah 8:11). This has contributed to the sad condition in the United States of a Christianity which is, as one visiting African bishop reportedly said, "An ocean that covers the continent, but is only one inch deep." We have not bridged the gap between the head and the heart. We have focused upon instructing the intellect but have greatly neglected training people in the way of the heart, and that necessarily includes healing emotional wounds so that genuine wholeness can be restored.
We may not apply it ourselves, but the enemy certainly seems to have taken the Word of the Lord, concerning our hearts, as a truth; his kingdom has targeted us where the most damage can be inflicted. Proverbs 3:24 says, "Keep your heart with all diligence for out of it spring the issues of life." Whose job is it to keep our hearts with all diligence? It is ours - "keep your heart." It evidently requires "all" diligence, which indicates that this necessary task cannot be fulfilled without intense and intentional effort on our part. In practical terms, guarding our heart means keeping it cleansed, open and held up to the Lord by a living faith so that His love, peace and joy keep flowing into us no matter what we are going through. We were all issued hearts both at birth and at the new birth. How few of us have been taught God's ways of "keeping" them!
This neglect of the heart greatly hinders us, for what is tucked away in our hearts holds the key to who we really are (Proverbs 23:7; 27:19). According to Jesus, our heart is also the wellspring for all of our words and actions, even the sinful ones (Matthew 15:18-19). I can honestly say that as a pastor, I have seen far more people overthrown by what was left un-mended in their hearts, than by wrong doctrine left unchecked in their minds. Thankfully, the Spirit of the Lord brought this to my attention early. From the beginning of my new life in Christ I was asking God fervently and frequently to "lead me in a path with a heart." I didn't want to end up with an intellectually correct faith and an unsatisfied and un-ravished heart! I didn't want to talk about God's love and not be love. I wanted His way of peace to become a river of life in me 24/7 - not just something to touch base with on Sundays.
For that to happen, God had a lot of mending to do. The heart works by the same rule as computers: garbage in, garbage out. Unless you and I work with the Lord to get the garbage out, the festering mess inside will spill out onto the people around us and, frankly, make life odious for us as well. Since I had nailed my tongue and my actions to the cross, I knew I had to get the Lord to sort out my insides or stuff was going to explode at some point down the road. That and being only too aware of the emotional pain I carried with me daily, launched me on a journey to find healing. What I learned on that journey became the basis of our healing ministry.
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