Sometimes self-care involves detoxing your life – mind, body, and soul. Do you have hurts, habits, or hang-ups that you’ve been carrying into your future that should stay in your past? In this message, we talk about what it looks like to reveal what could be holding you back, release the burdens of your past, and recognize how to move forward and help others do the same.
Welcome, friends in the room, friends in El Paso, Fort Worth, Dallas, Houston, and Rogers, Arkansas, wherever you are tuning in and joining us from. We are excited to continue this series. Any fans of the show Tidying Up right now? I love it. Yeah, Marie Kondo. For those of you who have never heard about it, let me tell a story that will give us some direction for where we're going tonight.
A friend of mine, a girl who works on staff, recently suggested that. She was like, "Hey, you guys need to watch this show" and was telling us about it. It's like the reverse of Hoarders. Hoarders is where you keep everything. This is a show where the woman goes into your house and basically helps you… "Hey, let's get rid of this stuff." It has a cult following right now around it, to the point where if you are watching it you're probably like, "That's not exactly what the show is about." But it pretty much is.
I was like, "Okay. We need a new show. We'll watch that." We turn it on. Let me give you a couple of interesting facts in case you ever go watch it. First, Marie only speaks Japanese, which is interesting and was a curveball. She's in America, and she goes around, and basically, she's telling you with her translator, "Hey, this is what you need to do. Take these things out. Move these." She has all of these different step-by-step things to clean up your house.
I can't exactly endorse it, or any of it, but I was a little bit surprised. Just funny things, like you talk to the clothes. You're like, "Thank you for being a part of my life in this season," and the way you evaluate whether you want to keep different clothes or items is like, "Does this thing spark joy?" or "Is this something that is a part of my past or do I want this to come into the future?"
One thing it does definitely do is it gets you in the spring cleaning kick. So, of course, my wife and I began to go through things and immediately recognized how many things we have either that we didn't know we had or how many things we were holding on to from the past that probably had no place in our future. For example, cargo shorts. Probably not something anybody needs to hold on to. So, I'm going through.
Really, you realize how much you have. I had a pair of binoculars I've had since 15. I've never used them, but you always hold on to stuff because you're like, "What if I take up bird-watching someday? I'm going to need these." Or going through old clothes. It's like, "Pearl snaps? This probably has to go," or just things that no longer fit anymore. So it was a revelation to us of just how many things from our past we were still holding on to that we didn't realize we were carrying into our future unknowingly.
What does it have to do with what we're talking about tonight? We're continuing a series called Self Care where we explore what the Bible says about caring for yourself. Self-care is a cultural term right now that's popular. People, under the banner of self-care, will do all kinds of things, whether it is participate in retail therapy, where, "Hey, I just need to go to the mall because it has been a hard week" or "I need a margarita" or "Hey, I need to go on a diet." Kind of anything you want that you think would be good for you fits into the bucket of self-care. That's what the world says.
Biblically, self-care is not like that, but there are things that God says, "In order for you to be a healthy person in mind, body, and spirit, these are things that should mark your life." So we have been exploring that and are spending the next handful of weeks exploring what it looks like in 2019 for you to be all that God wants for you to be, for you to experience increased health as it relates to your mind, as it relates to your body, as it relates to your spirit.
Tonight, we are going to talk through the idea of cleaning out the closet of your soul, if you will. Just like in that scenario where there are things inside of our closet that we stumble across and are like, "Man, I didn't realize I still had this from high school" that we're carrying around, there are things in all of our lives that if you don't intentionally go through your life… You didn't just pick up that shirt from high school you're still carrying around; you picked up wounds and hurts from that friend who betrayed you in high school that you're still carrying around.
Not just hurts. There are also habits or, we would call them, hang-ups or sins that at some point along our journey in life all of us are either exposed to or sins committed against us, and if we're not diligent to clean those things out, to work through those, we will carry those items or those things from our past into the future. It looks like being exposed to pornography in the seventh grade, and all of a sudden that begins to feed something, and you carried it. Maybe you're still carrying it.
It looks like being sexually abused along the journey of life. It wasn't your fault. Somebody made a decision, and it was wrong and it was evil, but if you and I are not careful to deal with the hurts and things done to us and things we've done, we're going to carry those items into our future whether we want to or not. So, tonight, we're going to discuss what it looks like to diligently clean out the closet of your soul, if you will, to make sure you're not carrying things from your past into the future.
If you do not deal with that, if you don't deal with hurts, sins, and things from your past in the present, you will carry them into the future. It is a guarantee. So we're going to look at what God's Word says about how we can experience freedom from some of the hurts and sins that have marked our lives. We're going to look at three principles and three practical things from God's Word…three principles as it relates to experiencing a healthier you at a spiritual level and three practical steps in light of those three principles. We're going to dive right in.
The first principle we're going to look at comes from Proverbs 28. It's really all throughout the Bible, but Proverbs 28:13 says, "Whoever conceals [hides] their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy." The first idea that Solomon tells us in Proverbs 28:13 is repeated all throughout the Bible, which is essentially whatever we conceal will not heal. The way I said it was God cannot heal whatever we hide.
There are things in your life, some in the present, some in the past, and if you are hiding them, you are basically saying, "God, I do not want you to heal this arena of my life." Some of you are carrying around a secret addiction to pornography. You would say, "It's not an addiction, but I pretty much look at it every day." You will not be healed as long as you hide or conceal that. Some of you are carrying an eating disorder, and no one knows, and you're committed to no one knowing. You think, "I'm probably just going to die with this. I don't know that I could tell anyone."
For others of you, there was sexual abuse in your past. Maybe you carry the shame of an abortion. I don't know what it is for you, but I do know the Bible says whatever you hide God cannot heal. Whatever we decide to hide or conceal from him is something we are saying, "God, I do not give you access to healing this." You're carrying an addiction to drugs or pain medication, and you're doing it all alone. You're afraid, "What if other people knew?"
There's an Enemy called Satan who is feeding you the lie that "You can't tell anybody. You need to suffer in isolation alone, because if people really knew the real you, they'd reject the real you." It's a lie. The God who's there says, "I'm inviting you to experience the cure," which we already read, as James says further to punctuate it, is confession. He says in James 5:16, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."
The Bible teaches that the solution, the cure, the first step in cleaning out the closet, or the soul, in your life involves confession, because the principle is whatever you hide God cannot heal. As long as you keep that a secret, you will not experience the healing of God in your life, but if you will confess it, which means…what? Not talking just to God. It says confessing to one another. It means talking to people, bringing it out into the light.
God says with that, along with prayer, you will begin to experience the cure. Confession is the cure. He's inviting you. If you want to experience healing, it's not going to happen the day you wake up and are like, "I just don't want to be depressed anymore." The first step is when you begin to expose it to the light, you begin to bring it into the light with other people, other Christians inside of your life, but as long as you hide it, you delay healing in that area.
I had a friend when I went to college. One day we went out to this lake that was called Lake Bryan, which is near College Station. We were out there hanging out for the day, and he had to go to the bathroom. We were out at this lake park, and there weren't bathrooms around, so he was like, "Hey, I'm going to go to the bathroom over here" and went off into the woods. He didn't have to go #1, so you may see where this is going.
So he goes, and he uses leaves. Everything is fine. We go back to the day and go home. We lived in the same house. That night he woke up, and he was covered in a poison oak rash. Yeah, I know. Here's the fun fact about poison oak and poison ivy. This is just free. In order for it to heal, it has to be exposed to the light and out in the open. The longer it is covered up with clothes, it will not heal.
That's a really tricky area. He's essentially wearing a diaper of poison oak around him, and that's a really tricky area to keep out in the open, because we are not on National Geographic in Africa or something. So what does that mean? It means that for weeks he had a poison oak rash that covered him, where he would essentially go to class and then come home and take a bath, because whatever you hide cannot heal. It delays the healing in there.
That guy was this guy. I know. Just didn't want us to go there. Still don't. But I learned a valuable lesson as I experienced this firsthand. If you don't expose a poison oak rash to the light and to the open, it, like sin, is not going away and will not heal. Here's where this really is true for you. If you do not expose the areas of your life where you are struggling, you are going to not heal from them. You will not, if you don't have other people you are opening up your mouth to and honestly saying, "This is the area where I'm really struggling right now."
I don't know what it is in your life. Maybe it's anxiety. Whether or not anxiety is a sin directly or what that looks like, it's a part of a fallen world, and I do know you weren't meant to walk alone in the midst of that anxiety. There is an Enemy who wants to tell you the lie, "You can't tell anybody this. You're the only one who has same-sex attraction. You're the only person here who had an abortion. If they really knew who you really are, they wouldn't even let you in here." It's a lie.
He feeds you lies like, "Man, what are they going to think if I tell them?" Let me tell you what they're going to think. If you come and open up about this part of your life, here's what they're going to think: you're really honest and you're a lot like them, only more honest. That's what they're going to think. All of us come into this room, and we're all broken. We all have problems. If you walked into this room and everyone looks pretty like they have it all together, we're all on a journey here.
Nobody is like, "Hey, I just woke up like this." That doesn't exist in the church. If the body of Christ can't be open about the areas where we are struggling, what group on the planet can? So here's the invitation. If you want to experience healing or cleaning out at a soul level, if you want to be all God wants for you to be, not just today but going forward, you have to tell someone. So tonight, grab a trusted Christian, grab someone you believe…
Sometimes I feel like we're like, "Hey, you have to live openly," and we give the impression that "Here's what we want you to do. Every one of you line up. We're all going up onstage. You have to tell everybody everything." That's not what I'm saying. I'm inviting you to tell one person. Start there. Share with your Community Group. That would be awesome. If you're like, "That's too much for me," take a baby step. I dare you. Tell one person. Tell a trusted believer.
If you're like, "I don't know any trusted followers of Jesus," we'll have an entire team down front after this message that would love to come alongside and pray for you. You're like, "What are they going to think if I share that?" They're going to think you're honest and you actually want to get well. That's what they're going to think. The God who's there is crazy about you. He loves you so much he would give his own life for you.
There's an Enemy who's telling you, "You need to carry this alone," and God is saying, "I love you. I want you to experience healing, not because I'm angry at you…because I love you." The choice is yours. Are you going to experience or allow the only cure we're told, prayer and confession to another person, to come into your life and begin to breathe healing or are you going to hold it alone and just let it grow? What you hide does not heal, and what we hide God cannot heal.
So, the first principle is what we hide God can't heal, and the first practical is that you have to reveal. All of the practicals come with an R, so it should be really easy tonight. You have to reveal it. You have to reveal it to someone else in your life. This changed my life. I remember in college around that same time there was a guy who busted into my house and basically said, "Take this phone. I did it again. I looked at pornography, and I don't want to be this man anymore." I'd never seen someone be that honest.
Do you know what I did? I slammed the door and said, "Get out of here!" No, of course I didn't do that. That was entirely a joke. I said, "Oh my gosh. Me too, and I don't want to be this man." It was the very first time I began to experience healing around pornography, because confession is not just a cure; it's contagious. When we open up our lives, it breathes health not just into us but others around us. So the first principle and the first practical we're given is reveal, because what we hide cannot be healed.
The second principle we see laid out in Scripture comes from Hebrews, chapter 12. It really comes from all over the place, but we'll dive into it from Hebrews, chapter 12, verse 15. "See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root…" Your translation may have "…root of bitterness…""…grows up to cause trouble and defile many." The writer of Hebrews says, "See to it that in your lives you do not have a root of bitterness begin to grow."
Here's what I love about the analogy. It's brilliant. What's a root? It's something that's below the surface that you can't see, but it's impacting what's on the surface. Some of you are carrying around a root of bitterness, and no one can tell. You have a great smile, and you have it all together, but you are harboring anger, and it is impacting what's on the surface. It is going to impact the future relationships you have.
So, it's not just evaluating and confessing sins and revealing sins inside of our lives to one another. The second principle is around hurts: stop holding on to hurts that hold you back. There are things in this room that are scars that are being carried and you are holding on to hurts…from a friend who betrayed you, from a parent who walked out, from someone who abused you, from someone who hurt you, from a coworker who lied about you. That root is beginning to grow, and it is not going away, and it will have consequences.
How do I know if I have a root of bitterness growing? Let me give you a couple of questions, if it's not already obvious to you that "I'm angry at this person, and until they own it I'm not forgiving them." Here's how you might know. "Is there anyone in my life that part of me hopes they fail or suffer, that I would be excited if things fell apart for them?" The root of bitterness is growing. "Is there anyone whose name, when it's brought up, makes me angry or brings bitterness to mind?"
"Is there anyone I'd avoid in public because of something that happened between us? If I saw them, I would try to go out of my way to avoid them or not let them see me because of what they did." Is there anyone you are waiting to let into your life until they apologize? The root of bitterness is growing. Whenever I was engaged to my wife, we were going through premarital counseling, and the pastor was going to marry us. My wife's parents had been divorced, and she had had some past hurts from her dad.
He asked, "Have you forgiven your dad?" She said, "There hasn't been a specific time that I can remember." He says, "I can't marry you until you deal with that, because if you can't learn to forgive someone when they deeply hurt you, you are not ready for marriage. Marriage is one call to forgive someone who deeply hurts you over and over and over again, and if you can't do that, if you're storing up bitterness already, you're not going to be prepared to step into marriage."
Candidly, let me tell you the truth. That's what marriage is: the call to forgive someone who deeply hurts you over and over and over again. I'm not talking about abuse. I'm saying that's what even healthy marriages are. If you can't and haven't forgiven, if you're carrying around bitterness now, what makes you think you're going to be the type of person who gets rid of bitterness later? You're going to store it up and store it up and store it up, so I can't marry you.
If you're dating someone in the room and they haven't walked through the process of forgiving a family member or they're carrying bitterness, you should be concerned, because they're going to carry bitterness against that person, which means they're going to carry bitterness against you. That root, though it's below the surface, will continue to grow and impact what is on the surface. So you should be concerned if you're dating someone who has not forgiven someone inside of their past.
In the 1940s World War II happened, and all over Germany there were thousands of bombs that were dropped. In the midst of World War II, the Allies flew over and were trying to take down Germany. Thousands and thousands of bombs were dropped. Thousands of them did not go off. They're there to this day. In other words, all over Germany there were these bombs that dropped and never went off, maybe because the fuse or something was wrong with them, and every now and then they'll find them.
Do you know what happens? Oftentimes, it happens whenever new construction is coming in. They're like, "We're putting in a McDonald's over here. We're sick of the bratwurst. Here we go." They'll begin to dig, and they find a bomb. Do you know what they do? They have to evacuate the entire city. They get everyone out, and then they try to defuse the bomb. If they can't defuse it, they have to just set it off, because they know "This thing may not go off today or tomorrow, but it's a danger to anyone who's around it."
So it is with hurts inside of your life. If you store anger, if you don't deal with them, it is like a bomb. It's not going to go off maybe today, maybe tomorrow, but it's not going away, and it is a danger to every relationship and person around you. So the question is…How do you defuse past hurts? The Bible says it's through the process of forgiveness. The second practical is releasing them. That's what forgiveness is. It's releasing.
The Bible in Colossians 3:13 says, "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance [holds a grudge] against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." What is forgiveness? It is releasing justice to God for the hurt someone else did. "Hey, God, I'm trusting you with that. I am releasing all of that to you, God. You're the God who will avenge any wrongs that were done to me. Every sin committed against me will be paid for, either by them in all of eternity or was paid for on the cross. So I am releasing that to you, God. I am choosing to forgive this person."
If you want to experience freedom from the hurts that are going to hold you back, that are going to hinder your relationships, it is going to involve forgiveness. What is forgiveness? It is releasing justice to God for the hurts that were committed against you. "I'm not choosing to hold that against them, and I'm releasing that and trusting it with you, God." Forgiveness is not forgetting. In order to even forgive someone, you can't just forget and act like it never happened.
It's saying, "I see the inexcusable… What you did was wrong, and I'm not excusing that sin. It was hurtful and painful. I'm choosing that I will not hold that against you. I'm releasing that to God, and I will trust him with the outcome. I'll trust him with whatever vengeance or restitution needs to take place. That's ultimately in his hands, not mine. I'm choosing not to hold that." Forgiving is not excusing sin. It's not pretending like it didn't hurt or like you're not angry about it.
Sin should make you angry, and sin does hurt. Sin makes God angry, and it grieves the heart of God. Of course that's a natural response. It's not saying, "Oh, it never hurt. Fine. Everything is good." It is choosing despite that, "I'm releasing that to you, God. I'm trusting. I'm not going to continue to hold on to this and carry it with me." Also it is not optional. As a believer, it is God's call that you are required to forgive as he has forgiven the inexcusable in your life.
Finally, it's not conditional. The most common thing I'll hear is, "Hey, if they will own their part, if they would come and apologize… They don't even think they did anything wrong. They're all defensive. If he comes and begs for my forgiveness, then I'll give it to him, but until then, I'm not going to just empower and entitle him there." The Bible says forgiveness is not conditional. It's not, "Hey, once they do this, then I will forgive them."
It is a call to release to God, "Hey, I'm trusting you with those things. I'm not going to hold them against them, just like you, God, didn't hold my sin against me." Tragically, as long as you hold on to those things… If you're waiting for someone to come apologize or own their part or make it up to you, you're holding on to a hurt that is only going to hold you back.
I was talking with Josh who leads out in Fort Worth this past week. He grew up out in the country, and he was telling about raccoons that would come and try to kill chickens. The way they would trap these raccoons is they would drill a hole into the side of a tree or a log and kind of make a trap, and they would put a shiny object in the hole. Then you put these screws around the hole.
They could reach their hand in to grab the shiny object, but if they made a fist they couldn't get out. Though at any point they could just release the shiny object and go, it never comes into their mind because they're like, "No. I have to hold on to this thing." They don't realize their freedom is within their hands if they'll just let it go.
In the same way, there is a freedom God wants you to experience, but as long as you hold on to hurts or hold on to requiring that they come do something…they make it up, they own their part, they need to apologize…you are holding on to the shiny object, and you are holding yourself back from experiencing the freedom God wants you to experience from no longer being owned by a bitterness that's there.
He's inviting you. "Will you release that? Will you trust that to me? Every sin will be paid for. It has been paid for on the cross or it will be paid for in all of eternity by them. Will you release that? In doing so, you will experience freedom." Part of the reason maybe some of us in this room struggle with forgiveness is we think about, "The hardest thing is to forgive myself. I can't forgive myself for what I did."
The bad news is you can't forgive yourself, but you can accept God's forgiveness. That's what the Bible teaches. The Bible doesn't teach that you just need to forgive yourself. The Bible teaches that you need to accept God's forgiveness over your life. That's what it means to be a Christian.
In other words, to be a Christian, in case this is new, maybe you're back in church for the first time… A Christian is someone who says, "I am not trusting in my behavior, how good of a person I am, the things I've done, how many Bible verses I know, how many times I go to church. That won't get me into heaven, and it won't allow me to have a relationship with God."
A Christian says, "Despite everything good I do or everything bad I've done, the only way I can have a relationship with God and experience eternal life in heaven is by trusting in Jesus and what he did on the cross, paying for my sin, dying in my place, and rising again. He died the death I deserve so I could live the life I cannot live without him." That is what it means to be a Christian.
It's essentially, "God, I'm accepting your forgiveness, not because I earned it, not because I deserve it but because you offered it to me when you gave me your life. That's the only way I can have eternal life." That's what it means to be a Christian. The truth of the matter is if you're saying, "Man, I just can't get over forgiving myself," you're holding a higher standard than God is, and you're also belittling the work he did through Jesus on the cross.
The action you need to take is not choosing to forgive yourself; it's choosing to accept God's forgiveness despite the fact that you do not deserve it. So, the second R is release. The practical of "stop holding on to hurts that are going to hold you back" is you have to release them through forgiving. You have to make the decision, "I choose to forgive you."
I remember one of the most powerful things that marked my 20s was a moment where I had to do this myself. I had to sit down and make the decision that I had to forgive my dad. I was raised by a single mom, and I've shared about that. My dad was really absent. He wasn't around, and the times he was around were just not great. We'd see him every other week on a Monday night. I realized there were some things in my heart that I was holding on to bitterness.
For me, I had to go write it down and choose and make the decision to forgive and say, "You took from me a dad who was present in my life, and I'm choosing to forgive you. You took from me every other Monday night where I had to drive across town to that tiny apartment, and I'm choosing to forgive. You took from me a father who would attend sporting events, a father who was present who actually knew anything about his son.
You took that from me. I didn't get to have that because of you, and I'm choosing to forgive you and release it. Ultimately, it's a sin against God, but I'm not going to carry that anymore." Every time I find a new hurt or a new thing in my life that I'm like, "I feel like I'm bitter," I find a new bomb, I have to go in and defuse it through forgiveness and make the decision, "I'm not holding that against them. I'm releasing that, God. I'm trusting that with you."
The third principle we see is found in Mark, chapter 5, in the story of a man who was demon-possessed. I'll kind of set up the scene, and then we'll get the third principle and practical. Jesus shows up. He's kind of going around. He's on the scene, he's doing miracles, and he goes and finds this guy who we're told is demon-possessed. He's just crazy. He lives all by himself. It says he lives in a graveyard and he's cutting himself and is not wearing clothes. He's Crazy Carl.
Everyone knew you don't go near that graveyard because Crazy Carl is over there. Jesus shows up. He goes right up to the man and heals him. This man, it says, is now clothed and in his right mind, sitting at Jesus' feet, and he's totally changed. All of a sudden, the town is coming up. They're like, "What happened to Crazy Carl?" That's not in the Bible or his name, but he was crazy and Jesus healed him. It says Jesus then went to go to another town, and here's what happened.
"As [Jesus] was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And [Jesus] did not permit him but said to him, 'Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.' And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis [the city] how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled."
Jesus said, "Don't come with me." How crazy is that? This dude is like, "Hey, I want to be the thirteenth disciple. Can I come?" and Jesus says, "No. I want you to stay here, and I want you to go and tell people everything I've done in your life. Go home and tell your friends about the power of God at work in your life."
The third principle is there is no past in here that cannot be a platform for God's power if you will let him. I don't know what your story is. I don't know what you've done. I don't know where you are right now. I don't know what you did today, but I do know if you will allow God to come into your life and bring healing there…
There's no person who has committed sins and offenses and done such things that God can't write an incredible story through your life, and he wants to write an incredible story through your life; that you cannot be a platform for the power of God. What do I mean by platform? I mean someone who surrenders and says, "All these different things I've done… I'm a serial adulterer. I slept with a married woman. I've been dealing drugs…"
I don't know what your story is. Maybe it's an eating disorder you've carried. Maybe it was sexual abuse that was done to you. Maybe you're in a homosexual relationship right now. None of those things make you anything less than the perfect candidate for someone that God will write an incredible story if you will allow him to, and that story will be a platform.
What do I mean by a platform? A platform is something you stand on, and in doing so it displays to others. It allows others to more effectively see. In other words, this is a platform. When I step down here on the ground, you cannot as effectively see. If you're looking on the camera, you can no longer effectively see me as well.
But if you will allow God to come into your life and take your story and take whatever ashes you have, he will turn them into beauty; take a garment of heaviness and make it a garment of praise, he says. Your story will not become some thing in your past you're embarrassed and ashamed about and don't want to ever talk about, but it will be something that is a display where others can see and go, "Oh my gosh! God has to be behind that, because that doesn't make any sense apart from him."
There are so many different stories that have marked the lives inside of this room. That's what The Porch is: a bunch of broken people coming together trying to walk with Jesus as best we can and openly be honest about the times where we're not. God, in the midst of doing so, writes these incredible stories where you can't help but look at them and go, "There has to be a God. That doesn't make any sense apart from him." Let me give you a few examples.
There's a girl who was in Florida a few years ago. She was working at a club. She was doing bottle service. She was living for the weekend and living for the party life. All of a sudden, a friend introduced her to The Porch. She started listening. She started getting plugged into a local church there. Her life began to change.
She moved here to serve here, and her life radically transformed from this girl who was living the party life and doing bottle service to now running really everything you see done in terms of social media here. She doesn't spend her life trying to get other people drunk; she spends her life trying to let people know about Jesus.
There's another guy who moved here from Texas Tech, was chasing after the corporate ladder of corporate America and trying to make a million dollars by the time he was 30, living for the weekend. He was still living the frat life. God comes into his world, turns it upside down, and he's responsible for discipling more of the volunteers and people here than anyone else in the last 10 years. Story after story.
How do you explain that apart from Jesus? What their life is now is their past is not something like a problem or defines them or any of that. It is a display of the power of God to change people. Whatever your story is, that is what God wants it to be. He wants you to tell people how much he has done for you. If you're unwilling to do that or if you're not at a place where you're experiencing how much he has done for you, that's the invitation to you tonight.
Will you allow him to take your past, take your problems, and make them a platform for him? The question is not if he's willing; it's if you're willing. The R behind this is recognize that your past can be a platform for God's power, a display to the world around us. The tragedy is if you're unwilling to move toward healing, you're not just risking becoming who you don't want to be; you are forfeiting becoming the man God wants you to be and who you want to be. You are operating at less than 100 percent.
What do I mean by that? Let me use this example and tell a story, and then we'll close. This is a handheld vacuum. We use it all the time at my house. It's great. Black & Decker. It's not the best vacuum of all time, but it gets the job done. Here's where it doesn't get the job done. We'll be vacuuming along. This is not a very big opening, so all of a sudden different things get picked up. Something gets lodged in there.
Do you know what happens when something gets lodged in here? All of a sudden, the effectiveness of the vacuum goes from 100 percent, because it had the entire opening opened up, to less than 100 percent, so it's no longer operating as effective as it would have been. Do you know what else is interesting that happens when something gets lodged in here? It makes it more susceptible to other things getting lodged in there. All of a sudden, it's kind of clogged up, and more things get stopped in there that wouldn't have even gotten stopped had there not been something lodged in there already.
This is how your soul works. You'll be going along through life, and all of a sudden something will get lodged. You were exposed to pornography. A friend betrayed you. A girlfriend cheated on you. All of a sudden, something gets lodged in there, and if you're not diligent to deal with it, it's not going away, and you will be walking with a limp. You're not operating at 100 percent, and you will have a more likelihood of other things getting lodged in your soul.
What do I mean by that? If you don't deal with the different hurts that pop up in your life… Let's take pornography. If it gets lodged inside of there, you're going to be more likely to have other secret addictions and other things begin to spread. Not just that. If you're looking at porn in the room, it's coming out of the woodwork for you. Every girl you look at, you struggle to not try to undress her with your eyes or wonder what underwear she has on, because it got lodged and other things are starting to stick.
Maybe there's a hurt from your past, and if you don't deal with it and remove that thing, that offense that took place, you will be more easily offended all the time. That one big hurt of that friend who betrayed you… All of a sudden, you're so easily offended that if somebody doesn't follow you on Instagram you're like, "Oh my gosh! What is wrong with her? I'm unfollowing her. That's what I'm doing." Something got lodged, you didn't deal with it, and now little things are beginning to stick. That's who you are becoming.
The only way for you to experience healing, whether it's a hurt or a sin hang-up, is for you to reveal and bring others in, for you to release the hurts from your life and allow God to be the one who administers justice for those things and for you to recognize, whatever your story is, God wants to use it if you will let him or you can just let it get lodged. No one can tell if something gets stuck in there. Unless you look inside or turn it on, it's really hard to tell.
You can continue to coast. No one will know. You come here every Tuesday, try to get better, and you will suffer in secrecy. The God who's there is crazy about you and he's inviting you. "Will you come and experience healing?" Conclusion: God is calling you, but there are areas in all of our lives that we have to constantly reveal to others. There are hurts we have to constantly release through forgiveness and recognize there's no story God can't use and doesn't want to use if we will let him.
Here's the most powerful thing on this show I've been watching. It's one question. It was really helpful. Whenever you get stuck and you're like, "Oh man. Should I get rid of this? Should I not?" it's just a single question: "Is this something I envision taking into my future with me? Is it a part of my future life or is it something I should leave in the past?" Why is that helpful? Because it's like, "Oh man. Look at this pearl snap shirt. I don't think I should bring this into the future. This is no longer in." (No offense to pearl snaps. They're great. So don't get lost there.)
"Hey, these binoculars. I don't envision my future using these binoculars around town as I think about it." The God who's there is inviting you as it relates to hurts in your life, as it relates to sin habits in your present. Are you willing to allow him to begin to breathe healing into those things? The choice is yours. Let me ask it another way. The question before all of us… There are things you're holding on to. I don't know what they are for you, but the question you need to be asking is "Is this something I envision in my future or something I need to let go of from my past?"
Let me say it another way. Let's say you're 22 years old in the room and you have an eating disorder. I want to ask you a question. Is that something you want to bring into your future? Let's roll forward the clock 10 years from now. You're 32. Your coworkers come in. It's your 32-year birthday. They bring a 32 on the cake. They set it down in front of you.
Do you envision having an eating disorder on your 32nd birthday? Is that something you want to bring in there or is it something you want to let go of from your past? You'd go, "Of course I'm not going to bring it in there." Do you know when you will stop having an eating disorder? When you allow others in, when you begin to reveal and experience the cure in your life.
Here's another one. You're 25 and you're addicted to pornography. Let's go five years. Think about it. You're five years down the road, 30th birthday. They bring in a 30 balloon, a 3 and a 0, and it's like, "Happy birthday." The question before you is…Is that something you want to carry into your future? When you envision 30-year-old you, is that something you want to mark your life or is that something you need to let go of in the past? Here's the lie. It's not going away any other way…not today, not tomorrow, not when you turn 30, not when you get married.
Maybe you were abused. It was evil and it was wrong, and you're not alone. God will have vengeance. First Thessalonians, chapter 4, says he's the avenger of such actions. You're carrying hurt, and you don't trust people anymore. You're 24. Let's roll forward the clock to when you're 40. Sixteen years.
The family gets together. They have an over-the-hill party for you. Is that something you envision carrying into your 40s? Are you ready to release it? It's not going to magically happen at some point. It will happen when you choose, "God, I'm trusting you with that. I'm letting this go. I don't want to carry this anymore. I don't want this to mark my life."
The invitation the God of the universe is giving to you is, "You can trust me with that. If you will allow me to come in through other people around you and experience what my Word wants for you, which is healing, you will have it. Not perfectly and not in a moment, but you will experience the only healing this world offers or you can hold it, but it's not going away." The question you need to wrestle to the ground is "Is this something I envision my future with?" Because it's not going away unless you deal with it in the present. Let me pray.
Father, I pray for every person in this room who's hiding, that you would, in your mercy, expose the parts of their hearts they're not even aware of themselves, maybe things they have never told anyone. I pray you would heal. I pray for anyone who has ever experienced abuse from another person, that they would tonight experience a rush of your Spirit and your love would overwhelm their hearts and you would allow them to continue to experience healing, and that story, which is tragic and evil and wasn't their fault, would become a platform that shows your power.
I pray for the future of the current 23- and 24- and 25-year-olds and whatever age, that you would help us to be men and women who diligently clean out the parts of our lives that don't align with you and that the 30th birthday or the 40th birthday, whatever the future holds for us, we wouldn't be holding on to things that are hurting our souls, holding us back, and hindering us from being a platform for you. We worship you now in song, amen.