Throughout history, governments were put into place to attempt to bring law and order to society. What happens when there is no objective truth and everyone does what seems right to them? In this message, we open up the book of Judges and see what happens when people become the King of their own hearts.
Let's go! Come on! New series at The Porch. Welcome, friends in the room, friends at the Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, Corsicana, and the different 15 Porch Live locations. We are kicking off a new series called Before There Were Kings, where we, for the next handful of weeks, are going to look at a number of stories inside the book of Judges. If you are anything like me, this will be your very first series on the book of Judges, but there is some incredible teaching and truths that are in there.
Hey, let me start tonight by addressing this. One of the things that, if you have children someday (or maybe you have children and are listening to this), you're going to have to navigate is all around how you handle the whole issue of Santa Claus. Are you going to be the parents who are like, "Hey, we're doing Santa Claus," or are you going to be the parents who don't do Santa Claus.
There's really hot sports opinions as it relates to what you should do, so likely, whether you decide to or not, you're going to have somebody that's a sibling or someone in your Community Group or someone in your life who's going to have a very strong opinion in the opposite direction, which always makes for interesting family get togethers where they're like, "Yeah, we love our children, so we don't do Santa," and your like, "Awesome. Okay." Either way, you're going to have to kind of navigate through that.
If you'd stop and think about it, (this isn't a knock on Santa; we do Santa) it's kind of a funny deal that all these different people in society and culture and parents in general are kind of like playing this whole game or promoting this lie with kids that everyone knows is not true, where we're like, "Yeah, Santa. It's awesome. He's out there." No, he's not, and this is not real, and yet, everywhere you look in society, it's just kind of a part of the culture, and it's something we promote.
Again, my point is not to knock on Santa. It's just like we kind of all play this game, and if I'm bursting your bubble right now in not knowing that Santa's not real, this may not be the place for you. Either way, it's this phenomenon that, when you stop and think about it, it's just kind of a funny deal that we all get into, and we pull this prank on everyone fifth grade and under.
The reason I start there is just because like, in that same way they're promoting this thing that we kind of all know is not true (maybe we wish it was true and there was some guy that lived at the North Pole and was making presents all year long; we really all know that's not the case), there are other things in culture where we similarly promote and suggest and even throw out there and try to get people to believe that, "Hey, this is a truth," or "You should embrace this idea."
One of them I want to talk about tonight is something you may not have ever thought about before, but it's just this. It's this idea that's being promoted that is similarly not true which is, "Hey, follow your heart. The key to success in life, the key for you to be all that you're intended to be is for you to be someone who follows your heart. Follow your desires." It's something that we tell children and something you've probably heard a ton of.
It's something that, if you watch any amount of Hollywood entertainment and TV celebrities, you're going to hear this idea of, "Hey, follow your heart." You may hear different variations of it: "Always be true to your heart. Follow all the things that you're intended to be. Don't let anyone tell you who you should become. Just follow your heart," and it's kind of an interesting phrase because you go like, "Well, what does that actually mean? Like, follow my desires, follow kind of the things and feelings that I have, the emotions that I have?"
The reason I say it breaks down is kind of, if you stop and think about it, you go, "Man, I don't know if that is actually true," and it's certainly not applicable universally. It's certainly not something where we'd be like, "You know what, ISIS? At the end of the day, you guys just need to follow your heart. That would be really the remedy we should all embrace." It's something that, in the real world, just doesn't really work.
You will never hear a parole officer sitting down with someone who needs parole and being like, "Look, you want to get out of here? There's one way to. Follow your heart. Whatever you desire, do that." You'll never hear a teacher sitting down with a bunch of junior high kids and being like, "Look guys, the key to success in life: do whatever you feel like whenever you feel like doing it, and you will succeed."
Or a marriage counselor, sitting down and saying, "You guys want to make this work? You need to do whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it every time. That's the key to success. Follow your desires. Follow whatever your heart is telling you." I mean, it's insanity, and when you stop to think about it, you're like, "Man, that really is not a helpful thing," and by it, we just mean like, "I believe in you. If you want to be a doctor you can."
We don't really mean like follow the desires or follow your heart wherever it leads you, and yet if you embrace this idea, it's not just something silly whenever you stop to think about it. It has potentially or usually, if it's taken and embraced and applied in someone's life, extremely dangerous consequences; dangerous consequences for your relationships, for your own personal kind of well-being and your spiritual health. In every arena of your life, if you were to apply this idea of, "Hey, I'm just going to follow the desires I have," it is going to lead you off a cliff.
Tonight, we're going to look at the book of Judges, and we're going to look at the final story in the book of Judges, which is really meant to communicate that very idea. The book of Judges was a book that was preserved in the history of Israel. It's a bunch of these true stories that took place, and it was preserved to be a warning shot to the nation: if you follow your heart, it is going to kill you, hurt people around you, and hurt the nation overall, and God said, "I want to preserve this book that takes place in a time where there were no kings so everyone had the ability to do whatever their heart led them to do or to follow God's law."
God said, "Hey, there's a group of people in the nation, and really, just one story after the next, it's just tragic, where people decided, 'Hey, I'm going to follow my heart,' and it led to tremendous consequences for the nation, for their families, for people inside of it, so we're going to look at these different stories that contain some truths applicable to us, but the whole book could be summarized in the last sentence of the book (Judges 21, verse 25), where it says, "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit." Your translation may say, "as was right in their own eyes" or "as seemed right to them."
This was the "You do you" of the Bible. In those days, everyone did what they thought was applicable and what was right for them, in story after story, and God says, "I want you to write it down because I want people to know that, when they begin to just say, "I'm just going to follow my heart wherever it leads, it has catastrophic consequences for them; for everyone around them; and for, in this case, the nation as a whole.
Tonight, here's what we're going to do. I'm going to tell you the last story of the book, so we're going to watch a movie for about 15 minutes. I'm just going to tell exactly kind of what happens because this is the craziest story in the Bible. Other than the crucifixion of Jesus, it's definitely the most horrific and brutal story in the Bible, so you're about to hear a story that is not prescriptive, about like, "Hey, go out and do these things!" You're about to hear a story that is like, "Wow! That escalated really quickly," and a story that was preserved to be a warning to you, to me, and to the nation of Israel to anyone who read it.
The book of Judges is, just to give you a little context of what's going on… The Old Testament is all about the nation of Israel, and at some point, Moses leads the people of Israel out of the land of… Anybody know? Egypt, that's right. Here we go! He leads them out of Egypt. Charlton Heston, "Let my people go!" Got the tablets. We're out of here. He goes out of there. God says, "Moses, you're not taking them in. Mo, Joshua is going to lead them into the Promised Land."
Joshua takes them into the Promised Land. They get into the Promised Land, and they all set up shop on these different lands, different places. Then begins the book of Judges. Joshua dies, and things get a little crazy. Seven cycles of the same thing happen over and over and over again, and each one gets worse and worse. Here's the cycle that happens. There's sin, and the nation of Israel would sin against God. They're like, "God, you know what? We reject you." God says, "Great. You reject me, Other people are going to come in, and they're going to make you slaves."
They would be made slaves. Supplication is just a word that means cry out to God, so basically, they're like, "We sinned," and then, they're made slaves. They're like, "We're sorry," and God would send a judge or a savior to come in and to set the people free. A judge was not someone with a gavel and a robe. He was essentially a military leader who would set the nation free.
This happens seven different times, and it tells us every single time it gets worse and worse and worse, until the story we're about to read picks up tonight. This comes from Judges 19-21, so I'm going to just summarize. I'm going to tell this story because this story is crazy! Here we go!
Verse 1, "In those days Israel had no king." It's setting up again. It emphasizes this throughout the book: before there were kings. "Now a Levite who lived in a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah." Basically, it starts up with a Levite, who is just a priest. It says there was this priest who decided, "You know what? I'm going to take a girl, and I'm not going to make her my wife. She's going to be like a live-in girlfriend, which is a concubine, and we're going to have sex together, and it's going to be great."
Here we go. Not prescriptive. Again, descriptive. In other words, it's not telling you to do this. It's saying, "This is what happened as people drifted further and further from God." A concubine, again, is like a live-in girlfriend. It's someone who is not a wife and doesn't have the privileges of a wife. "But she [the concubine] was unfaithful to him." Shocker! "She left him and went back to her parents' home in Bethlehem, Judah. After she had been there four months…" Her husband was like, "Hey, where's that girl?" Initially, she cheats on him. He's like, "Great. We're done. Thank you. Next."
Four months go by, and he decides, "Where's that girl?" So he goes back to her parents' home. Here's what happens. "…her husband went to her to persuade her to return. He had with him his servant and two donkeys." Just in case you were wondering. "She took him into her parents' home, and when her father saw him, he gladly welcomed him. His father-in-law, the woman's father, prevailed on him to stay; so he remained with him three days, eating and drinking, and sleeping there."
Basically, what happens next: He's hanging out three days. They're eating and drinking, and the father-in-law is like, "Great! You're the son-in-law I never had." They're hanging out together, and then after three days, the guy's like, "Man, I keep waking up. We're partying. I wake up the next day hungover. I need to get out of here. I need to bring her. We're going back home," and the guy says, "Hey, won't you stay another day?" He says, "No, I don't want to do that." "Well, just, you know, let's have another meal and hang out a little bit longer, and you can eat and drink." Again, the same happens for a couple of more days.
Finally, the guy is like, "Hey, I have to get out of here." He takes her, begins the journey back home, and he left so late in the day, we're told, that he has to stop halfway. It'd be like, "Hey, we're going to Austin, but basically, it gets too dark so we stop in Waco." You with me? They stop in a town called Gibeah. He stops in Gibeah, and he doesn't know anyone there. He meets this guy, and the guy's like, "Hey, there's a law of hospitality," a big deal at this time which basically was like, "Hey, if there's somebody sojourning or traveling through, you welcome them into your home." The guy's like, "Hey, you can stay with me."
They go into the home, and they're hanging out, and they're eating food. It's him, the concubine, the two donkeys, the servant, and this guy. Everybody with me? Any questions so far? They're hanging out. They're eating the food. All of sudden, this is where things get weird. There's this banging at the door of some people that are from the town who are like, "Hey, we saw…" They're basically banging, and they're like, "Hey, Carl! We know you're in there, and we know that you have a new friend in town, and we want to meet him."
The reason I say it gets weird is because this is where they say, "and we want to have sex with him," so there's this group… Yes. There's this group… Not exactly your average day in Mayberry. There's this group gathering around the outside, and they're like, "Hey, we have this stranger in town. Let's have sex with him." The point of the story… The author is including it to make sure you know, "Hey, this is what happens when you drift away from God. All kinds of just perversion begins to take place in your life, and things just kind of go off the rails."
They're banging on the door, and they're like, "Hey, we want to have sex with him," and the guy says, "Hey, no. Don't do this crazy, wicked deed," and they won't stop banging on the door. Finally, the Levite is like, "Hey, take my concubine. I'm not even sure that I wanted to take her from her dad's house anyway," and he throws her outside. It's tragic, and what happens next is that, all night long, she is abused and abused and abused by this group of men, and eventually, she ends up dead, to the point that she was sexually abused in such a way that it was so horrific that she is dead on the doorstep.
The Levite wakes up the next day. He walks outside of the house, and there is his concubine dead on the doorstep, and all of a sudden, he's going, "Who are these people? What happened here?" It wasn't as though he had done the right thing in general to send her out there, doing that, but he was afraid, and he just did what he thought was the right thing in the moment, terrible as that was. He puts her body on his donkey, and he begins the journey back home.
He's thinking to himself, "I can't believe how evil this group of people was in this area called Benjamin," which is one of the 12 tribes. I'm telling you that for a reason because, at this time, there were 12 tribes. One of them is named Benjamin. He begins to go, "I can't believe how evil these Benjamin people were. This is terrible. I need to send a message out to the other 11 tribes." You guys following me?
He's like, "I'm going to write a note and let them know how wicked these Benjamin people are. This is unreal!" Then he realizes, "No one's going to do anything if I write a note to them, if I just send a message, and I'm like, 'Hey, there's some really bad people over there,'" they're not going to do anything.
Then he has an idea, and he begins to think, "You know what I should do? I'm going to cut up her body into 12 pieces, and I'm going to send it to all 12 areas throughout the nation with the message to these people of this is what's going on: there is evil in the land of Benjamin. That'll get the people's attention." Not the right thing to do. It's just what he decided to do. It says, literally he cut her limb by limb. He cut them and sent them out all over the area, and it got people's attention. Here's what it says in verse 30 of Judges, chapter 19.
They're sending out arms and legs and all this. "Everyone who saw it was saying to one another, 'Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Just imagine! We must do something! So speak up!'" In the nation, all of a sudden, there's kind of outrage going on, and people are going, "Did you hear what happened? Did you hear what happened in Benjamin? Did you hear what happened?" The 11 other tribes get together, and they're like, "We're not standing for this."
We're told they get 400,000 soldiers, and they go outside of the area of Benjamin. They say, "Give us the guys who did this to this woman. Give us the guys who killed this woman," and Benjamin says, "Nah, we're not doing that. We will judge them on our own laws. They're Benjamites. We're not doing it," so the nation goes to war. It's about to get even crazier. The nation has a civil war, the very first civil war, and it's 11 vs. 1. You would think, "That's going to last about five minutes," but Benjamin actually starts winning.
The first day, they start winning, and they kill a bunch of the Israelites, and the Israelites said, "What? It's 11 to one, guys. How is this even happening?" The next day that comes, same thing happens. Finally, on the third day, the 11 tribes, I mean by this point, they are angry. They're seeing people die. They're seeing their fellow soldiers get killed for this wickedness, and they break through the Benjamites, and they just begin slaughtering all the soldiers of Benjamin.
We're told that out of the 28,000 they had, only 600 survive, and they run off into the wilderness. Then, they're still so upset they turn and they go back to the nation. All the 11 tribes go to the area of Benjamin, and they kill everybody; every man, every woman, and every child, because they thought, "This is such is an evil group of people they can't be allowed to live." They kill everyone. They burn every town they come to. It's terrible. It's horrible.
They go back to their homes, and a few days later or a short season later, they realize, "Oh man, we just killed everyone except for 600 people. We just essentially extinguished a tribe," which was a big deal back then. They were the 12 tribes. Think like the 13 colonies of America. It would be like, "We just basically eliminated one of the 12, which was a big deal to God. What are we going to do?" because there's only 600, and they're all men, so they're not procreating. So, "What are we going to do?"
They begin to go, "Man, we can't allow them to marry any of our daughters," because one of the things we're told they promised is, "Hey, none of you guys are ever going to marry any of our daughters." So they begin to go, "Man, what should be do?" All of a sudden, one guy in the crowd is like, "I have an idea. There's only one area of the whole nation that wasn't here to fight with us. I think we should go to their town…" A town named Jabesh Gilead. "I think we should go to their town, and we should take any of the young unmarried women we can find." This is getting real.
This makes Game of Thrones look tame, people. So they go. Who's with me? You with me? We've got 600 people. They're out in the wilderness kind of eating berries, doing whatever, like "Hey, we have no women for us." Then all the rest of the tribes are like, "We have to find them some women or else they're going to be extinct for forever," so they go to this one town, the only town that didn't fight in the civil war, and they kill everyone except for the unmarried young women, and there are only 400 of them. If you do the math, there are 600 soldiers and 400 women, which means there are 200 guys without.
They basically tell the 600 in the woods like, "Hey, we have some good news and some bad news. We have 400 women for you. The bad news is we're still looking for 200," so they come up with another scheme, where somebody else in the crowd is like, "Hey, I have an idea. This seems like a good idea. There's a festival not far from here where once a year the young, unmarried girls will kind of come out, and they'll celebrate, and they'll dance. Why don't you 200…" This is crazy. I cannot believe this is in the Bible.
"Why don't you 200 men go over there into those woods over there, and when the girls come out here and start dancing, you just charge in and you grab one, take a woman on back to your home with you, and that'll be your wife." It happens, and the men line up, and they kind of like are waiting for the girls to come out. They're just like dancing, and this is so great. (You know Fyre Festival, though that never happened). They're just like, "This is going to be awesome. Here we are. We're hanging out."
The guys just come out of nowhere. Fee-fi-fo-fum. They grab a woman, and they run off into the woods, and that's how the book ends. Story over. That's it. I mean, literally, this is what the verses say. This is from the last verses of the book. "So that is what the Benjamites did. While the young women were dancing, each man caught one and carried her off to be his wife." Think about that story, telling your kids. "Let me tell you about how I met your mom. Okay? She's out there. I'm over there in the woods covered up camo, and…" It's exactly what happened. They carried her off.
"Then they returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and settled in them. At that time the Israelites left that place and went home to their tribes and clans, each to his own inheritance." Verse 25 "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did** as they saw fit[what was right in their own eyes]."** The point of the story is that exact verse at the end: whenever a person, a people, begin to say, "Hey, you know how I'm going to live my life? However I feel is right," it's tragic.
I mean, think about the story we just read. When you think back about each decision in each moment that took place, it was every single person just doing, "Hey, that kind of seems right to me. That's a good idea. We should do that." The Levite decides, "Hey, they want to get after me. I'm just going to send her out. That seems right to me. If she hadn't run away or cheated on me, I wouldn't even be in this situation. That seems right." It's not right, but it seemed right to him. "That's kind of like what I feel like I should do."
The men outside of the town are like, "Hey, this guy. What's he doing in here? I want to have sex with him." They're doing what seemed right to them. Then the guy is thinking, "How am I going to get the attention of a nation that killed my concubine? I'll cut her up and send her all over the place," as horrific as that is, because that seemed right or that made sense. "It's what I feel like I should do."
Then the nation comes together, and they're like, "We can't stand for this. We're going to kill everyone in Benjamin because that feels just. It feels like fair to me. It seems right," and on and on and on, and then, "Hey, you know we need to find wives for these men. Let's just go take them from those people, and how are we going to get these other 200?" At every turn, if you were to replay the story, it's just one person after the next doing like, "Hey, this is what I feel like I should do in this moment, so I'm going to do it." The book is setting up, and really the whole purpose of the book is to set up the idea that, in those days, it was the wild, wild west.
There was no king who was providing reign and rule and law and order, and yet today, we live in a time where the message of Judges I don't know could ever be more relevant or has ever been more relevant, at least in my life, in America, a time where consistently the loudest message that I hear or I feel like is constantly put in front of us from culture is, "Hey, you do you. Do whatever you feel like
No one can tell you who to be. No one can tell you what gender you are. No one can tell you how to have sex. No one can tell you what to do with a child. No one can tell you what to do with your body. No one can tell you what to do. You do you. If it's not right for them, that doesn't mean it doesn't have to be right for you," and the nation of Israel… In the message of the book of Judges, God said, "I want you to preserve because it is catastrophic if people decide that the moral compass is, "How am I going to live my life? However I feel."
He says, "Any time that people do that, it is catastrophic for that individual, for everyone around them, and for a society as a whole," and we are seeing it take place. I want to just cover briefly, because here's the truth, as crazy as that kind of stuff sounds, "Like man, how will they do that? They'd hide in the woods. They'd run out and grab girls." There are still levels at which in my heart, in your heart, in our world, we like to be those wo do whatever seems right in our eyes, kind of whatever seems to make sense or whatever's logical, or said another way, most commonly, "Hey, kind of follow your heart, follow your desires wherever they may take you."
I just want to lay out what that looks like today in our world and some of the consequences and then what it looks like when you submit or surrender to God as the King of your heart. The first idea I just want to cover… We're just going to do two points, and then we're going to land the plane really quickly here to set up this series, but the first idea that I want to look at is what it looks like when your heart is king, when you make your heart king.
Here are some of the ways that you know that you've made your heart king, or here are some of the ways that you see people living out… By heart, I just mean the desires that you have. The heart in the Old Testament, and really in the Bible, is synonymous with like you make decisions on your emotions, your desires, your feelings. Here's how you know if your someone who is following your heart, following what seems right to you.
On an individual level, we see lots of examples of saying like, "Man, this is kind of what I think seems right," and that's around the way that people see sexuality. How do I know that I'm someone who sees and who's just kind of living, not according to what God says, but according to what seems right to me?
If in the area of sexuality, I think, "You know what? Dude, I would never buy a car without test driving it first. Why would I marry someone without first having sex with them? I need to make sure that we're sexually compatible. That would be crazy. Of course, I wouldn't buy a car without test driving it. How could I get married without sleeping together?" you're someone who is doing whatever is right in your own eyes, who is thinking not as God's Word says but just kind of like, "Oh, yeah, that kind of makes sense me."
You are beginning to think like the patient in the nation of Judges, and God has consistently said, "Anytime someone begins to live according to what seems right in their own eyes, it always has catastrophic consequences," and if the way you perceive sexuality is, "Hey, you know what? I just feel like this is right for me…" Let me define something really quick. How do you know you're sexually compatible? If you are a man and she is a woman, you are sexually compatible.
I'm going to say that again because it feels like this is getting crazier and crazier in this world today. If you are a man… Do I need to use anatomy or get a chart up here? If you're a man and she's a woman, you're sexually compatible. It's true. "Well, what if our sex life is not off the chain, all the time, amazing?" It won't be. News flash! It won't be. It's a fact, and if you think it is, you are living in la la land. You are delusional. If you're someone who thinks this has got to be a part of it, you have begun to think like someone who lives according to what the heart tells them and acts, at least in the area of sexuality, according to what seems right in their own eyes.
Another one, very common, very related, is the idea of living together. "Of course, we need to live together. We need to make sure that we can spend that much time together before we get married. I don't want to have a broken home. I don't want to get a divorce. We need to make sure we move into together. It just makes sense. We can save on rent." You have begun to think not like God thinks but like the people in the book of Judges think, and you've begun to think, "Man, I'm going to follow whatever desires I have."
Tragically, as if God's Word wasn't enough, even psychology and sociology would say that the likelihood of you breaking up goes through the roof when you move in together, significantly more than those who preserve purity, who walk and date according to God's Word, but if that wasn't enough, there's scripture.
I mean, Hebrews 13, verse 4 says to keep the marriage bed undefiled, and if you're like, "Hey, we live together, but we don't have sex together," that's probably even worse because you are training yourself, "Hey, we're going to live together and not have sex together," which is not a great recipe for marriage, and if you've begun to think like, "Hey, of course, we need to live together. You should be concerned."
On a societal level, what does it look like to be someone who the heart is their king? As a society, we have embraced tragic things that mirror the horror that you see in the book of Judges, where you look, and you're like, "How did you kill that woman?" One of the ways that I mean that is around the area of abortion, and this isn't meant to be shameful or anything. If that's a part of your story, there's so much grace and hope, and whatever God is going to do in your life, I am confident it's going to be big and amazing. He's not done with you. He's crazy about you, and he wants to take your story and make an incredible testimony for him.
There's no path that's a problem for him, but in terms of legislation, think about where our country's headed, where in the name of "Hey, this seems right to me. I mean, if it's a woman, she should be able to have… It's, you know, her body, her choice. She can do whatever she wants with it up to nine months, even it's like about to be delivered. If it's her body, she shouldn't have to carry or have to care for a child if she doesn't want to. I mean, what if it was some random guy in the bar? Are you telling me that like, just one mistake, she's going to have to have this child? You're going to ruin two lives because of this?"
Think about that thinking, because the conclusion is, "You're going to ruin two lives? No, let's just kill one life," and if that child was 3 months old, we would all go, "That's horrific!" What is the difference between a 9-month-old and a 1-month-old or a 3-month-old? Our society has embraced thinking that like, "Hey, look. Who am I to judge? You know, that seems right to me. It seems fair. It seems like they should have the right to make that decision," and it is tragic, as tragic as it was in the days of Judges.
Around the idea of gender, any time that you make the heart or feelings god, when you don't pursue the heart of God but you make your heart a god, that whatever I feel like, whatever my heart identifies as, then I'm going to pursue that, it either ends up in chaos or a cage of enslaving yourself, because, "I'm going to do whatever I want, even if it makes me move in the direction of being in bondage to things that I want" or it ends up with just like straight-up crazy." Like some of the stuff that our nation is embracing is crazy.
Maybe the most American city in our country or at least the largest and at least the most diverse in representing all the stuff would be what city? New York City. Do you know how many genders are recognized in New York City? Thirty-one. On nyc.gov, this is what nyc.gov shows as the official genders that you can be a part of: bigender, crossgender, drag king, drag queen, femqueen, FTM (female to male), genderbender, genderqueer…
This almost reads like a Saturday Night Live skit, and I'm not trying to be offensive or anything. I'm saying like this is insane, and we didn't pull this from like newyorkerscrazy.com. We pulled it from nyc.gov, and yet, this is the insanity that comes when it's like, "Hey, what defines male and female is not a penis and a vagina. It is, 'What do you feel like? Butch? (Which is one of them.) Do you feel like a man? Do you feel like a…? What do you feel like?'"
I'm not trying to cast judgment on anyone. If they've found themselves at a place, we'd love to talk and engage in that conversation. I'm saying that, when you begin to say, "The heart is God," rather than pursuing the heart of God, you end up with craziness and chaos and often in a cage of your own making. What do I mean by a cage?
If you've ever experienced addiction or if you've ever had someone in your life who experiences addiction, the way you end up in that cage of that addiction, in that bondage, in that slavery is by expressing your freedom. You, in pursuing the things that you want to do and "this is awesome, and I desire to do this," all of a sudden, at some point, move in the direction where you trade in your freedom card for a slavery card, and you're no longer free.
You can't go without alcohol. You can't go… If anyone like me has ever dipped in the past, where you're like, "Man, I no longer can go without dip," until you at least reach some point where you're like, "Hey, man, I'm cutting that off because I'm no longer free from this." Or pornography or maybe it's a codependency in a relationship, whatever (fill in the blank), an eating disorder.
Any time you say, "I'm just going to go with what I feel like," it leads to craziness and chaos and oftentimes a cage of our own making, own desire. Sin always takes you farther than you want to go, costs you more than you ever wanted to pay, and keep you longer than you ever wanted to stay. The message of the book of Judges is, if you as a nation or as a person, wherever you compromise, you risk being conquered. Whatever you compromise in, you risk be conquered. God said, "I want you to preserve it for my people so that they would not allow their heart to be God and do whatever they see is right to lead and direct their lives."
The second idea is, "Hey, what does it look like when God is the King of your heart?" Here's what's fascinating. One hundred years later, the book of Judges ends, and it sets the stage for like, "Hey, we need a king because we are crazy," and so they cry out to God, "We need a king! We need a king!" Three kings in, a guy named Solomon, with this right in the rearview mirror, begins to think about this idea.
He begins to think about the heart and what leads and directs people, and he says, "Man, it's not that you should listen to what you think is right, listen to what your heart says," and he writes this proverb in Proverbs, chapter 3, verses 5 and 6 that really instructs the way that as believers we are to think about how to live our lives, how to make decisions, how to inform ourselves, and how to live.
He says in Proverbs, chapter 3, verse 5, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart…" Don't trust in your heart. Don't trust in your desires. Don't trust in your emotions. Take all those emotions, those feelings and desires, the things that are inside of you, and surrender and trust those to God. What does that look like, Solomon? "Glad you asked," he would say.
"…lean not on your own understanding…" What you think you should do is another way of saying that. "…in [every way] submit to him…" Or in all of your ways submit to God, submit to God's Word, submit to what God's Word says. What's going to happen if you do that? "…he will make your paths straight."
He will make straight your life. He will bring you to a place where, all of a sudden, the life that you have is not all jacked up and messed up. He will bring you to a place that is the life you want, where you're not experiencing bondage in every direction and chaos and relational dysfunction and one breakup after the next after the next after the next, ending up with one loser or one (I don't know how else to say loser) loser after the next.
It's going to involve you taking your thoughts and taking those desires and taking those emotions and not saying, "You know what? Maybe I should do these 50:50, split them," but saying, "God, I take all these, and I surrender them to you. Whatever your Word says about any arena, I'm going to try to submit my life to it. I'm not going to do it perfectly.
I'm going to invite other people that if they see my life not living consistent with your Word, not submitting my ways to him, to come into my life and speak and say, 'Hey, I see this, the way that your handing marriage, the way that your handing dating, the way that you're thinking about sexuality or alcohol or work or money,' and if they point out any of the ways that I'm not living consistent with your Bible, the Scriptures, with God's Word, your teachings, where I'm not submitting to you, I want them to call that out because I want to have, at the end of the day, a life that is made straight, that is not full of brokenness in every direction."
That's a life I think everyone in this room would say, "Man, that's the type of future I would love to have, not one where I look like I'm 58 years old and I still act like I'm a frat daddy." I mean, everyone has seen that person in their life, where they're like, "Dude, you never left college. Like you are still living for that kegstand, dude." It's true, and they've gone through one broken relationship and one divorce after the next. Is that the person you're going to be?
Here's the remedy. Here's the key because every one of us is going to walk out of this room, and you have a heart. There is a GPS inside of you called a heart, and it is broken. Jeremiah, chapter 17, verse 9 says that "The heart is deceitful above all things…" Think about that. It is utterly sick, beyond cure. That's exactly the verse. Jeremiah 17, verse 9: "The heart is deceitful…" You have something inside you that is a broken GPS. I don't know if you've ever had an iPhone that has like an "off" GPS. It's a really frustrating thing. Or an Android for our Android people. Do you guys have maps on there?
I have to stop hating on Android. This is great. I love Androids. Don't email me. If you've ever had a phone that has a broken map, where you're like, "Hey, this is telling me right now that I'm at the American Airlines Center, and that's really frustrating because I don't know a lot, but I at least know that I'm not there." In order for me to move in any direction, I have to be able to know where I am. I have to know where I need to go and have something that can guide and lead and direct me. That is what God's Word is meant to be.
You are not to listen to the things inside your heart because your heart, according to the Bible, is utterly sick and beyond cure, in need of curing, and that curing can only happen in walking with Jesus, and he has given you instructions and teachings not for you to make the heart god, not for you to make your heart and your desires king, but for you to make him, God, the King of your heart and submit all your ways to him, and he promises, if you will do that as it relates to dating, to sex, to money, to alcohol, to friends…
"Whatever you submit, I will make it straight. Whatever you submit to me, whatever you entrust to my care, I will lead you to straight paths to a life full of freedom and blessing and peace, but whatever you hold onto, you're working with a broken GPS, so good luck." That's what the message of the book of Judges is.
Every time we see this… I mean, this happens in all our lives. If you talk to any of us down in front afterwards…any of the volunteers who work here, all our staff…every one of us just has a past full of brokenness where God has come in when we were formerly trying to be our own king and our heart was the thing that made our decisions and that's what we followed in life.
At some point, God in his grace just kind of got ahold of us, and we were like, "Man, I believe Jesus is who he says he is. He's the Savior of the world. He died for my sins. He paid for everything I ever did on the cross. He rose from the dead, and I accept in and believe that, and I can have eternal life, not because I'm a good person, but because of what he did," and we began to walk and live out according to the Scriptures, and it changed everything.
I was talking with a few friends today, and a few of them were sharing their story, and I just wrote them down, where it said (this is from my friend, Mark), "I was following my heart, and I ended up divorced and then committing an affair afterwards with the wife of one of my friend's for a year. I was depressed. I was broken, and in the midst of all that, somebody sent me a message, and I listened, and I heard the gospel. My life was changed. I married another woman. I'm walking with Jesus. My life has been radically changed."
Another friend was saying, "Hey, I followed my heart, and it led me to constantly needing approval of others, to weed, alcohol, a string of destruction that led me to have an abortion eventually, but with Jesus and him coming in and him being King over my heart, I found the love that I was searching for. I feel free, and I'm not living for my glory but for his."
Another said, "Hey, I followed my heart into partying, into drinking, into drugs, into depression, and I was constantly looking for the next high. It was never enough. Then Jesus came in as King of my heart, and I found freedom. I found life to the full, what I'd never known before. I feel known and fully loved by the God who created me."
Whatever you hold onto is something where you're saying, "God, I want the broken GPS to guide my life, not you," and you are saying to the God who's there, "Hey, I want crooked, broken paths, not straight peaceful, healed ones," but he's invited you just like he invited the people in the book of Judges, "Will you surrender and submit to me?" That was the whole message. The point in the book of Judges was God who gave them the law said, "Hey, will you walk with me? I want you to not be ruled by a king. I want you to be ruled by me, God," and yet, they rejected him and said, "We don't want that."
Eventually, they said, "We want a king," and in the next books ahead, and maybe we'll teach those someday, they finally got a king. They got one king after the next after the next. Here's what they all had in common. They were imperfect rulers. They were broken, and the nation rebelled and didn't want them as king, over and over and over again, because they put laws…
Here's what every earthly king couldn't do, and it was all setting up the King of Kings to come, who is Jesus. Every earthly king would always rule from the outside with law, and Jesus came, and it was a foreshadowing all throughout the Old Testament, "There will one day come a king who will rule from the inside, not through the law but through love," and to the people, the nation of Israel through the book of Judges, he said, "If you allow your heart to reign, your heart to rule, you will lead yourself off a cliff, but if you allow me (eventually what they would see is the love he had for them displayed on a cross), you will lead yourself to life."
I'll close here, and then the band can come up. When I was in college, I spent like a month or a little bit over a month in this village in West Uganda, and while I was there, we had a chance to go rafting on the Nile River, which was awesome. It was crazy. We went rafting, and one day we set out, and we're going down, and there are these class V rapids which are just big, and eventually, we kind of get to this cliff and this waterfall, if you will, a small one, and we head down, and we get smashed up against a rock, and we're stuck.
We're beginning to go like, "Hey, man, we can't stay here. There's going to be water that's filling up the raft. Like, we've got to do something." It's literally kind of getting boomeranged round this rock, and we're wondering, "What do we do?" We kind of moved to the front, and we moved to the back. "How do we get off this thing?" All of a sudden, one of the guides come up, and he jumps onto the rock, and he begins to tell us what to do and begins to say like, "Hey, here's what you need to do. Move over here."
In that moment, we all had a decision. There were like six of us on the raft. We could go like, "Hey, man, what do you know? Okay? We've been here trying to get this thing worked out. We've been here trying to get off this rock, and all of a sudden, you show up, and you think you can just tell us what to do," or we could say, "You're our guide. You do this every day. You know exactly what you're doing, and so I'm going to trust you because we don't want to be stuck here."
We had the choice. Are we going to do what he says, submit and say, "All right. Nothing else has worked. I'll try that," or are we going to say, "Man, that may work for you. That doesn't work for me"? Of course, in that moment, we're on a raft in the middle of the Nile; we're going to do what he said.
Some of you in the room, the God of the universe is speaking to you and saying, "Hey, are you going…? If you want to get unstuck, there is a way." No matter what you're in, no matter what you're walking through, no matter what you feel like you're stuck in right now, there is a path towards freedom, whether it's pornography, whether it's drug addiction, whether it is alcohol, whether it's a just broken string of relationships, whether it is self-hate, the God who's there doesn't want you to continue to be unhealed.
He's not going to fully heal you in a moment, in a second, but by his Spirit, that's the process that Jesus brings all Christians through, where he says, "Hey, if you want to get unstuck, there is a guide, there is one Jesus, who by his Spirit, his Word, and his people, wants to set you free, and when you get stuck again, he wants to be there to set you free." That's the journey of the Christian life, and the question for you and me is not, "Is there a God there?" It's, "Will you submit to him?
Are you going to listen to him? Are you keep holding on thinking, 'You know what? I know better than you. You may be God. You made all the universe and everything, but I think I know better or I don't really care that much right now. I think, you know, my way is probably just as good.'" Do you know how arrogant that is? That's like my 3-year-old son when we're driving in the car, and he's like, "Hey, are you sure you know where you're going, Dad?" Like, "Yeah, you can't spell car, and you're going to give me a lecture? That's ridiculous."
The eternal God of the universe who made you, who knows exactly the number of hairs on your head, and you're going to say, "I think my way is just as good. I'm going to hold onto it," or are you going to submit to the God, the one who's crazy about you, who stretched out his arms to die for you? Whatever you're stuck in, there is a path towards healing, but it takes you waving the white flag and saying, "Man, I submit! I'm willing. I want to be unstuck more than I want to hold onto this. I want to be free." The choice is yours. It's all of ours every day. Let me pray.
Father, I pray for my friends in the room who are stuck in the shadows of shame of a past decision they made that they've never told anyone about that you would pierce through those shadows with light and they would open up and have a conversation, and they would be willing to come forward and talk to a friend or talk to another believer in their life. Maybe it's someone who's walking through, and they're in shackles right now and they know it, and they won't admit it but their desire to be free would be more real or more overwhelming than the desire to come out in fear of what that may look like.
Father, would you help us to walk with you, to submit to the guide? Would you take more ground in my life, the areas of my heart where I'm prone to act like the people in the nation of Israel and not submit to the one true King or submit my heart to him, God? Would you help us to know you, to love you?
I pray for anyone in this room who's never put their faith in Jesus, they've never accepted the free gift of eternal life that, God, tonight that would change forever. They would forever be changed because they would accept that you're not demanding they do a bunch of good things for them; you did something on their behalf.
You're not demanding something from them; you did something for them by giving your life so they wouldn't have to work their way to you, they could have a relationship with you, that tonight they'd accept that. Thank you for preserving the message in the book of Judges, that when we do what seems right to us, there are consequences, but because of the cross, we can walk with our King, and experience straight paths that take place. Amen.