Do the Heart Work

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In this message, we take time to pause, reflect, and do the heart work as we wrap up our Build series.

Alright, hey everybody, welcome to Valley Creek. Wherever you are, whatever is going on in your life today, we are so glad that you are here with us. And we have been in this series called Build for the last couple of weeks, Becoming a Dwelling Place for God. And this has been a big series. It’s been a deep series. It’s been a challenging series. It’s been a convicting series. And to be honest with you, what I think this series has been more than anything else is it’s been an invitation from God to experience more of Him. See, what we’ve been talking about it building the relationships that matter most, rebuilding the relationships that matter most, because it’s in our relationships with one another that God tells us He comes and dwells, that we are like living stones being built together to become a holy temple that rises to the Lord. And out of all the places that God could choose to dwell in the universe, He chooses to dwell in us when we come together in the name of Jesus.

And so we’ve been talking about this and going through it, we talk about you can prepare for what you want to attract, that if we really want more of the presence of God in our lives, then all we have to do is prepare for that. And He tells us exactly where we go to find Him, and it’s in relationship with each other. And we have talked about how we’re all called to build and be built, that we’re called to use the gifts and the talents and the abilities that God has given us to build the lives of the other people in this church, and that we need their gifts and their talents and their abilities to build us up if we’re ever going to become everything that God has called us to be. So we have to have a level of humility, and vulnerability, and engagement. And then we said that when this next season, every time we’re together, we should never leave before we have at least one meaningful conversation because we have a hunger and a desire to experience more of the presence of God.

Big series, was only supposed to be three weeks. This is week four. And here’s the challenge. The challenge with a series like this is the temptation to just say, great series, and then rush out. That’s the temptation. You see, I think sometimes we get so used to learning about God that we forget we’re supposed to meet with God. I think sometimes we get so used to consuming content that we forget that we’re actually supposed to connect. I think we can get to focused on knowledge and information and tell me something new up here that we forget it’s actually supposed to transform what’s going on in here. And I’ve been telling you all year, I believe that this is one of the most important years in your spiritual journey and your entire lifetime for however long God gives you on this Earth.

I believe this year is one of the most important ones because the decisions you make this year are going to determine the trajectory of the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years of your life. And what I think God is showing us in this importance is the importance of the relationships that we have with each other, that we are as strong as our relationships together, we will go as far as our relationships will carry us, that this isn’t just a nice Build series and let’s rush on to the next thing. I literally think it’s an invitation from God to say, how much of me do you really want? And I think He wants us to do more than just clap for Him, and take a few notes and say, that was good, what’s next? You see, one of the things that I’m doing all the time is I’m always trying to study and evaluate how people grow. I’m always trying to figure out like, how do people actually change?

How do they transform? How do they move beyond where they are to where God wants them to go? Because it’s interesting, right? You look around and you think about your own life, sometimes we’re regressing and sometimes we’re growing. So like, what makes people grow? And one of the things that’s really interesting to me is that if we look at the pre-pandemic season, now as I look back on it, there were so many leafy people. Do you know what leafy people are? It’s how Jesus would describe them, like leafy people. Like they’ve got a lot of leaves in their life which means they have a lot of knowledge, a lot of activity, a lot of information. They can say all the right things. They know all the right things, but they don’t have any fruit. And the point is not to be a leafy person, it looks good on the outside. The point is to be a fruitful person that’s growing and transforming from the inside out.

And I think the difference between people that grow and people that don’t is the willingness to slow down and do the heart work along the way. See, this was a big series and we put it in here, but if we rush pass it and don’t do the heart work that’s in here, then we become leafy, not fruitful. And the whole point of this is about transforming us so we have deeper encounters with God. And what I love about our church is our church has always been a church built around movement. From day one, we’ve always said, we want to be disciples, man, we want to follow Jesus, we want to become like Jesus, we want to live a lifestyle of next steps. In fact, we are a movement of hope, which means we’re moving forward. We want to be transformed. In fact, we love the psalmist when he says, “Show me your ways, teach me your paths.” Like God, I want to know how you want me to live. I want to walk in your ways. I want to move forward. I don’t want to become comfortable and convenient.

I want to be transformed in Jesus’ name.

And so regardless of what series we’re in or regardless of what we’re talking about, beneath whatever the topic is there’s always these fives things that I’m trying to do within us because these are the things that I believe help us grow. I just want you to scratch these down for me real quick because I think this gives you insight to behind the scenes of how I think of whatever we’re doing. And this is just real quick. Like these are five things that I’m always trying to work on in your life because we are more than just a harbor of hope, we are a training center for life. Yes, this is a harbor where lost, lonely and broken people come into every single week, but this is also a training center for how to actually live the life that God has for us. And so these are real quick and then we’re going to do something together. These are the five things I’m always trying to do behind the scenes.

First thing is I just want to help you discover who you are. In every series and every message, if you ever pay attention to it, you know what we talk a lot about? Identity. Why? Because who you are determines what you do. Identity determines behavior. And I am convinced that a whole lot of the struggles in our lives come because we don’t know who we are or we forget who we are in Jesus’ name. We forget that in Jesus, we are beloved sons and daughters with nothing to earn, nothing to achieve, nothing to perform, everything to receive, discover and explore in Jesus’ name. You now are righteous, you’re free, you’re forgiven, you’re holy, you’re set apart. Everything that is true about Jesus is now true about you. So no matter what we’re talking about, we’re always trying to help you discover and remember who you are in Jesus’ name.

The second thing is I’m always trying to help you learn how to hear God’s voice. Trying to help you learn how to hear God’s voice for you because God wants to be in relationship with you. And the question is not is God speaking, it’s are we listening. And the moment that we’re born again in Jesus, we’re born with spiritual ears with the ability to hear in the spiritual realm. Just like when you’re a baby, you’re born with physical ears you can physically hear, when you’re born again you’re born with spiritual ears. And you can hear God’s voice speaking to you. Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Jesus says, my sheep know me and they know my voice. You have the ability to hear God’s voice. And so I’m trying to always help you learn how to hear it in here through God’s word, through His Spirit and through one another.

Because if you can learn how to hear God’s voice, wherever you go, whatever problems you face, whatever wisdom you need, all you have to do is listen because you know how to access the realities of heaven.

Third thing I’m trying to help you do is just think like the kingdom. I want to help you think like the kingdom because we spend so much of our lives thinking like the world. We’re followers of Jesus, we’re citizens of heaven, and yet if we’re honest, we think a whole lot like the people of this world. But we’re supposed to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world. In other words, don’t think the way this world thinks. Come on, be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Change your thinking and it will change how you live. There is a new reality that you are now a part of, that you have now experienced, that you have now been brought into. And so instead of looking at the world through the world’s thought patterns, we need to learn to look at the world through the kingdom’s thought patterns.

In fact, that’s why Jesus’ main message is repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent, change your mind. Change your thinking. The kingdom is here and you’re now a part of it. So learn to think from the kingdom to this world instead of the world to the kingdom. If you’ll change your thinking, it will change all of your life. So I’m trying to help you learn to think like the kingdom of God.

Fourth thing is I’m just trying to help you cultivate a healthy heart. In everything we do, we’re constantly trying to cultivate a healthy heart. I love this about our church – we’re always talking about the heart. Why? Because Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.” Above all else, more than anything else in your entire life, guard your heart. In other words, you got to protect your heart. You got to cultivate this thing. You got to keep it healthy. Why? Because it’s the wellspring of life. In other words, whatever is happening in here will flow out into any and every other area of your entire life.

So if there’s bitterness, and fear, and anger and offenses in here, it will flow out into your marriage, and your finances, and school and your job. But if there’s faith, hope and love in here, it flows out into your marriage, and your job, and school and your finances. So I’m trying to help you cultivate a healthy heart. Most of us never want to acknowledge that we even have a heart, let alone cultivate it, because we don’t want to deal with the deep things. We want to keep moving forward in the shallow things because they’re much more comfortable and convenient. But God wants to take you into the deep waters, and the deep waters are in here.

And then the last thing is I’m just trying to help you learn to own your own journey, to take authority, to have some initiative, to take some responsibility, to live a life of passion, refusing to settle, refusing for apathy, this belief that there’s more, to live a lifestyle of next steps, saying, “I want more of God and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get there. I have a faith to move forward in Jesus’ name.” And so if you’ve ever wondered what’s happening behind the scenes on any different thing, some of you are like, “I just thought we just did series.” We do. But beneath every one of those, and if you’ve been with us, you can start thinking, you’d be like, “He’s not kidding about these things.”

We’re kind of always talking about who we are in Jesus. We’re always trying to listen to what God wants to say to us. We’re always trying to learn to repent, change our thinking, think differently because that then drives the rest of your life. We’re always trying to cultivate the health in here of our heart, and we’re always trying to give you ownership, responsibility, initiative over your own journey to say, “I refuse to settle for what the world offers. I’m going to be a person of big faith to follow God into the future that he has for me.”

So if you even think about the series, for some of you, I know you’re like, “This is my first time here.” Great, you’re getting a really good snapshot of what we really believe. But if you’ve been here for these three weeks, think about it, I mean that’s what we were doing, right? I mean, even in it, we were helping you discover who you were by what? By telling you you’re no longer a citizen of this world, you’re a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, that you’re members of God’s household, that you’re a holy temple, living stones rising to the Lord. Do you understand what all that is? Identity. Come on, we’re trying to help you hear God’s voice every week. We’re talking about what’s God saying to you today in this moment about this reality. Where is he trying to heal you or set you free? Thinking like the kingdom, changing our minds about the relationships of the other people in this church, because that’s repentance. It’s changing our thinking.

I know I blew up some of your minds when I said you have more in common with a believer on the other side of this room than you do with your closest worldly friend. You know what that is? That’s kingdom thinking. It’s changing my mind to agree with what God says regardless of how I feel. That’s kingdom thinking. Cultivating a healthy heart, we’ve been trying to remove the rocks, the debris, the rubble, the old mortar in our hearts so we can once again connect with each other and own our own journey, is you having a meaningful conversation every time you come here. Isn’t that fascinating? And it’s not even like we set out to do it intentionally. Those are things that are just so hardwired into the reality of our church because that’s who God has called us to be, and we want to be disciples in Jesus’ name.

So you’re like, “Why are you telling me all of this?” I’m telling you all of this to say, before we rush on from this Build series, we have to stop long enough to actually do the heart work. And doing the heart work is how we move from being a leafy person to a fruitful person, and doing the heart work is now a new reality for us in perpetuity from this point on as a church because we learned so much coming through the pandemic about what actually changes people. See Psalm 139, “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” I love this.

David says, “Hey, God, can you help me do the heart work? Because I’m not even sure how to do it on my own. In fact, I need you to look inside of here because I’m not even sure what’s all inside of here.” And so what David is giving us is this basically template on how to do the heart work at the end of any series, at the end of any big encounter with God, at the end of any big season in your life. Why? Because the heart work is about reflection, repentance, response, renewal. It’s giving God the ability to do the things in here that matter, not just say, “I have the information up here,” but I need the transformation in here.”

So here’s what I want to invite you to do. You grab a pen and a piece of paper if you haven’t done so already. And hopefully you got a journal with you. I would encourage you, bring a journal with you every single week because that’s a step of faith. Having a journal and a pen is actually believing that God is going to speak to me today. Think about it. If you actually believe that God was going to speak to you, don’t you think you would want more than just memory to remember that day? So did we lose me? Test, test. I think we lost me. Jay, you want to give me the — oh, there we are. We’re back. Sure, why not? Okay. What do you want me to do, John? Okay.

Okay. We got it? Test, test. Test, test. Yes? Okay. The heart work. Are we still there? Okay. Alright. The heart work. If you bring a journal, you’re believing that God is speaking to you, and then you’re stewarding God’s voice, you’re cultivating his heart in your life. And so here’s what I want you to do. Grab a pen, grab your journal, and I’m just going to walk you through a couple of questions and let’s just do some heart work together. All we want to do is we want to let God speak to us and believe that he has something to say. Okay? So this is just you and God. I’m not going to ask you to turn this in. We’re not going to ask you to collect it. I’m not going to ask you to share it with anybody. We’re just going to go ahead and write these down for us.

First question is simply this. Do you believe that you need relationships with people in our church? Why or why not? Do you believe that you need relationships with people in our church? Why or why not? Like what do you actually believe? Not what I’ve been telling you. Not what you think the right answer is. But like do you actually believe it? And like people in this church, not like a Christian friend you have at school or that Christian person from like 20 years ago. I’m talking about like people right now sitting in the room with you. Do you believe that? Because your beliefs will always determine your behaviors. Why or why not?

And whatever you wrote, did those beliefs align with what God has said? Do they align with his truth or are they more about your feelings, or thoughts, or choices? Second question is just how are your relationships with the people in our church? How are your relationships with the people in this church? Are they growing? Are they healthy? Are they thriving? Are they vibrant? Maybe you’re new and you’re like, “I don’t have relationship with anybody in this church.” That’s okay. Write that down. Are they moving forward or are they retreating? Do you look at your relationships and think, “Man, my relationships here used to be stronger a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago,” or whatever it might be. Like, how are your relationships with the people in this church?

And this is some of the heart work because this is acknowledging the reality of where we are so we can move towards where God wants us to go. Third question is just what keeps you from building relationships with people in our church? What keeps you from building relationships with the people here? Comfort, convenience, time, awkwardness, a past experience. Like, what keeps you from building relationships with us and from building next level relationships with us? Just listen to what God wants to say and write that down.

And even if you don’t believe like you need them, I still would encourage you, write down why you don’t — why you don’t, what are the reasons that keep you from building those relationships. Fourth question is just are there any hurts, wounds or offenses that are keeping you from building those relationships? Is there a hurt you’ve experienced? Is there a wound that you have? Is there an offense that’s in your life? Maybe it’s from six weeks ago, six months ago, six years ago, twenty years ago. Maybe it was something that happened to you as a kid and you still haven’t been able to get over it and that’s been a barrier in your life. Come on, are there any hurts, or wounds or offenses that literally are the heart work that’s keeping you from connecting to the other people in this church?

Holy Spirit, come and show us that we could be free. And then what do you do with a hurt, or a wound or an offense? You submit it to Jesus. So if there is a hurt, or a wound or an offense, can you right now even offer that to the Lord? Can you say, “Holy Spirit, will you heal my heart? Holy Spirit, will you show me the grace that Jesus that gave me so I can offer grace to others? Holy Spirit, will you remove that dry mortar that’s built up around my heart so that I could once again connect in relationship?”

The next question is simply what are you the most afraid of in connecting with others? What’s the fear? What’s the thing that’s keeping you back? Is it fear of vulnerability, fear of being exposed, fear of being hurt or taken advantage of, fear of being misunderstood or being left behind? I don’t know. But before you just say, “I don’t have any,” could you just let the Holy Spirit show you, like, is there a place that you’re afraid of in connecting with others?

And then what do we do with fear? We submit it to the Lord and we allow his perfect love to cast out fear. You haven’t been given a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love and sound mind, so can you take that fear and can you offer it to the Lord? Satan wants you to be afraid so he can keep you from more of God. So can you just offer up that fear to the Lord and say, “Lord, would your love free me from that fear, that ungodly belief, that broken thinking that keeps me from being a part of the body of Christ at the next level?” And I just believe even now some of you are being set free from a fear that’s been holding you back for years, in Jesus’ name.

What does God want to do in your life through the gifts of others, and what does he want to do in their life through your gifts? Just think about this and write it down for a moment. What does he want to do in your life through the gifts of the other people in this church? Maybe he wants to give you that encouragement that you need. Maybe he wants to give you that leadership that you need. Maybe he wants to give you some mercy, some compassion. Maybe God wants to release prophetic words, words of knowledge, healing, the miraculous into your life. What does he want to release in your life? A destiny, a calling, a clarity, a wisdom. Like, he has filled the people around you with the Spirit of the Living God to build you. What does he want to do in your life through them?

And then what does he want to do in their life through you? Come on, you’re gifted. You’re talented. You’ve been empowered by God not to keep those things to yourself. We talked about that we’re supposed to do good to all, especially the family of believers. In other words, the first place we’re supposed to do good is with each other. He’s given you gifts and talents. What does he want to do in their life? Maybe he wants to release encouragement through you, a prophetic word through you, give a healthy relationship through you, be a mentor through you, invest in the next generation through you. Come on, what does he want to do in someone else’s life through you? Don’t bypass this question. Don’t think, “Ah, nothing, whatever.” No, no. Come on, what does he want to do in someone else’s life in this church through you?

Two more. You’re doing great. What’s God saying to you right now macroly? What is he saying to you about relationships, about his presence, about this series, about this church, about your heart, about your future? You say, “I don’t know how to hear God’s voice.” Yes, you do. Just close your eyes and listen. The Holy Spirit speaks in a gentle whisper and his voice is always kind, and loving and peaceful. The voice of darkness is the voice of shame, and fear and condemnation. So if it’s shameful, or fearful or condemning, in Jesus’ name, reject it, push it out of your mind and listen for that which is peaceful, loving and kind. I think for some of you, God’s just whispering life into your heart. For some of you, he’s saying, “Come on, trust me. Let’s try this again.” Some of you, he’s saying, “I have so much more for you. Will you take that step of faith and build a relationship?”

And then the last question is just simply, what’s your next step? What’s one thing you can do to respond to that which God has been saying to us? Maybe it’s time to get in a Circle, or join a serve team. Maybe there’s that person you know you need to reach out to to reconnect, or that new person that’s been in your mind that God’s inviting you to initiate relationship with. Maybe it’s to actually stay 15 minutes after every service and have a meaningful conversation? Like this is where faith comes into play. We can hear all these things that God says but then we have to actually, by faith, respond and move forward. So come on, just what is a next step that God is asking you to take in this season? And write it down, and by faith, let’s respond.

See, this is the heart work. Everything we just did, those eight questions, you’re like, “Is that really what church is today?” Absolutely. Absolutely. Why? Because that’s the heart work. If you want to know how I raise my kids? I ask them questions like that all the time. Be glad you’re not my kid. You want to know how I lead our staff team? I ask them questions like that all the time. Why? Because that’s what moves you from leafy to fruitful. That’s what moves you from knowing about God to actually connecting with God. That’s what moves you from being a religious person with information to a disciple of Jesus who is being transformed from the inside out. You just did some heart work. Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me, see what’s offensive in here and lead me into the future. Cultivate the soil of my heart.

Listen, even the fact that we had a tech glitch in this service, I’ve been telling you this whole series, Satan does not want us to come together in Jesus’ name. He does not want God to have a home on this earth. He wants God to be homeless because he is homeless. So he will use every means he has to try to distract, distort, create skepticism, awkwardness, vulnerability problems, the things of the past, hurts and wounds of yesterday to keep us from coming together to become who God has called us to be – a dwelling place for God on earth. How much of God do we want?

And before we just rush on, next week we’ll go to the next thing, but this week we had to do the heart work, because this is a harbor of hope but it’s a training center for life. And it’s time to roll up our sleeves, get our hands dirty in humanity again, and start building and being built in Jesus’ name. No virus, no politics, no dysfunction, no division, no offense, no kingdom of darkness can stop that which God is building. So let’s roll up our sleeves and be a part of what he is doing. In fact, let me pull it all together with this. All over the Bible, every time you see a teaching, there is always an expected response. Every time there’s an invitation, there’s always an expected next step. Every time truth is delivered, there is always an opportunity to believe and obey.

And so I want to close with maybe one of the strongest passages of that in the Bible. At the end of Deuteronomy, Moses has set up the Israelites to go into the Promised Land to take the land, the new season, the more that God has for them, the kingdom of God on this earth. And after he teaches them all of the things that God has said to them, and reminds them of what God is asking of them, look at what he says. “Now, what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in the heaven, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so that we may obey it?’ No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.” Ready? “Now choose life so that you and your children may live, that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life.” Now choose life.

At the end of every series, at the end of every revelation, at the end of every time God speaks to us, there is a “now choose life” moment. By faith, move beyond where we were, a process of repentance to agree and align with God and allow new realities to flow into my life. Today is the day of heart work, and a day of choosing life in Jesus’ name, that we might become the next level dwelling place for God.

So close your eyes with me. In fact, stand up on your feet for me. Wherever you are, whatever campus you’re at or if you’re online, even if you’re at home, come on, stand up on your feet and let me just pray for us together. So Lord Jesus, we just want to become a dwelling place for you. Lord, would you continue to build the relationships in this church wherever we are, however old we are, whatever is going on in our lives. May like living stones, you the master builder, stack us together to become a place where you choose to dwell on this earth. Lord, thank you for the heart work, that you are interested in more than giving us information or making us religious. You want to transform us from the inside out. And so I pray that today, even as by faith, we slowed down long enough to do some work in our heart that you’re transforming and changing us.

Lord, I declare that the greatest relationships of our lives are in the days to come, that the healthiest this church has ever been are in the days to come, that the greatest spiritual gifts being used to build up people in this church are in the days to come. So Lord, would you connect us through the bond of peace, through the Holy Spirit, through Jesus, his goodness and his grace, and may we build and be built, in Jesus’ name we pray, and everybody said, “Amen”. Come on, let’s give a shout to the Lord.

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