“The Heart of the Problem”
All you have to do is turn to the Lord, and admit it, and that’s hard to do. A few months ago, I had this happen to me. Again, we just have this problem with our wives. If they would just behave, it would be much simpler to live, wouldn’t it? Well, we were going out that night, quite a distance, to teach the people how to walk in the Spirit, of all things. It was quite a distance, so I wanted a heavier car than we had, so I rented one.
I walked into the rental agency and I sat down in the chair, and the fellow is on the other side of the desk. And so he said, “Now let’s fill out this form, and you can be on your way.”
The phone rang, and he spent five minutes telling somebody how to rent a car. That’s okay. So, that happened four times. But in the meantime, I’m watching my clock. Twenty-five minutes, and he hadn’t put a thing down, all he was doing was teaching people how to rent a car. Finally I said to him, “Look, either you fill that out, or get somebody else to fill it out.”
About that time, Jo, my, wife came by. She said, “What’s the matter with you?”
I said, “What do you mean, what’s the matter with you?”
“What do you mean what’s the matter with me? There’s nothing wrong with me. What are you talking to him like that for?”
“What do you mean? All I’m trying to do is get my form filled out.”
She burned me up. I was getting along okay until she came along. It has got to be her problem. But the trouble was that she was gonna get into the car with me. So here is this woman I’m mad at. You know, this stuff doesn’t work in a time like that. It doesn’t.
Oh, I tell ya, the simplicity of walking with the Lord. We drove about a half an hour stirring up our juice in this beautiful car, stereophonic music, air conditioning, and I’m mad. It took me a half hour and ten minutes. I tell ya, facing up to your sins is very difficult, isn’t it?
Well, let me remind you, folks, this is what we’re all about in church. What’s our message? Our message is that Jesus Christ came to this earth to die for our sins, and to enable us to walk in the Spirit. Didn’t He? As I travel around, I’m amazed at the low level of Christian living that people want to live at: grumpy, crabby, mean, nasty, snippy people.
I look around here, and notice that you folks all combed your hair before you came, didn’t ya? You stop several times a day to check up on your hair. Well, you can look at your hair and just get through being mean to your partner, doesn’t bother you one bit. But to have your hair out of place?
The purpose of this book is to make it clear to you what sin is. I find that people are very vague and fuzzy about what sin is. I want to reassure you that there are still therapists who are not Christians, or there are therapists who are Christians, who have learned a lot about helping you live with your sins. Live with them. You don’t have to face them, you can live with them.
The function of the church ought to be to help you be cleansed from your sins. Jesus came to save us from our sins. If you will confess your sins …. IF, IF.
I’m a half an hour down the pike, still stirring in my juice, my hostile, angry juice that my wife put into me. Didn’t she?
Listen folks, my spiritual condition has nothing whatsoever to do with my wife. What’s she got to do with it? That’s between God and me. Like I said in the book, my sins have nothing to do with people. That’s the best news that we could possibly give you, isn’t it? If it’s only sin, then one of the greatest barriers that I find is for people to confess their sins. I’d rather go to somebody that’ll help me live with my sin.
Well anyway, a half hour down the pike I was able to face it. I prayed, “Lord, are you there?”
The Lord said, “Nope. You wait a half hour to call me, call me back in a half an hour and see if I’m busy.” You can call on the Lord anytime you want to, and He’ll be there.
One of the toughest things that I know about to do in that particular case is to admit that I’ve sinned. I wasn’t treating my wife that way; all she was trying to do was tell me that I shouldn’t talk like that to that fellow. Well, what does she know? She wasn’t there.
Isn’t that the way we are sometimes? Get people to admit, “Okay, okay, I’ll admit that I’m right, but I want to explain to you why I’m mad….” And they’ll spend a half an hour explaining to you why they’re entitled to be mad.
I’ve heard folks say, “I had a temper.” That’s not a confession, that’s a warning! Let me call your attention to the fact that in your psychology book, the psychologist is dealing with the very same human issues that the Bible teaches: hatred, resentment, anger, bitterness, rebelliousness, stubbornness; that’s what the psychologists deal with.
What’s the real surprise of that? It’s the combination of the way you’ve been treated as you were growing up, and the circumstances of your life. What does the Bible say they are? Sin. And if it’s sin, there is no human remedy. But also if it’s sin, it’s the simplest thing in the world to deal with. So let me urge you to bring yourself up-to-date on the subject of sin.
I was talking to a lady just the other day. She was telling me that she was taking her son to see a therapist; her four-year-old son. Now this is what the therapist told her was wrong with her son. In the DSM, this is a handbook for psychiatrists, so they can find out the trouble with people; this young child was afflicted with oppositional defiance disorder. Obviously there’s no verse that’s gonna touch that one. Can you think of another name for it? Rebellion.
She said, “Is that all it is?”
Isn’t that amazing? This is an intelligent lady; she presents this follow-up kind of stuff in the therapy. Thought she might want to go back into practice. Oppositional defiance disorder. No wonder it takes three years to help the kid, with a problem like that.
Well, I’m looking at my partner there; I’ve run out of stuff to say. Do you have something you wanted to say?
Let me walk you through something that we use in here to help you. Once you see that your problem is sin, then how do you walk through that in repentance. So I want to walk you through five steps of repentance. It won’t take you long to take notes on this, but I think it will be very practical and helpful for you.
The first step is to be able to say to God, “God, I am wrong.” Henry has already told us much about saying I’m wrong. Very, very difficult for us to say, I’m wrong. The hardest thing in the world to admit, in fact.
Can you remember the last time that you got in an argument with your husband or wife, or church member, or a Pastor, or a Deacon, or a boss, and then ten minutes later you found out you were wrong? What did you do? Did you say, “Oh, I can’t wait to go back and see my wife, and tell her how wrong I was.” We tend not to even want to approach it. David was the same way.
Do you think King David knew he was wrong when he committed adultery? Sure he did, but it hadn’t moved from his head to his heart to where he wanted to repent of it. The first step in the process of repentance is to say to God, “God, I’m wrong.”
Second step is to say to God, “God, I’m sorry.” Now those are difficult words, too, aren’t they? I mean, it’s easy to say, “I’m sorry,” to get a relationship back on speaking terms. It’s a whole other thing to say “I’m sorry,” and really mean it. We’re very good at saying “I’m sorry,” and don’t mean it.
In fact, we teach our children, and force our children how to say they’re sorry when they could care less whether they’re sorry or not, and we’re learning how to say words without having any meaning behind it. In 2nd Corinthians chapter 7, in verses 9 through about 13, the scripture says, “It is a godly sorry that leads to repentance. The worlds sorrow brings…” what? … ”death …” according to that passage … “but a godly sorrow brings life.” And so we’re looking for that attitude within a person to where they have a godly sorrow that leads them to repentance.
Step three is to say, “God forgive me.” I think many Christians stop at this point of confession, and never do any repenting. They say to God, “God, I want you to forgive me, because I feel guilty. I don’t like feeling guilty, so Lord, would you forgive me?” And many times He does, and then we say, “Well thanks Lord, it feels so good not to feel guilty anymore.” But our life hasn’t changed.
Let me give you an example. Has God ever convicted you of not spending time in the Word and in prayer daily? You know that love relationship with the Lord? How often?
Many times we’ll go to God and say, “Oh, God, I want to be a great prayer warrior, I want to be a great student of the Word. And two weeks later we’re sitting in the pew, and we’re convicted of the same thing all over again, and life has not changed. Why? You just wanted to feel better. That is not repentance, but it is in the process of repentance.
But you’ll know when the repentance has come if you get to the fourth step, and that is to say, “God, cleanse me.” Now this is a little bit different. This would be where you come to the place and say, “God I’m not just wanting relief from my sin, but I’m wanting a change of life. In fact, God, I want you to restore fellowship with me as though I never did anything wrong.”
Isn’t that what you want with your Heavenly Father? To be put right back in a love relationship with Him where you sense no tension, or you sense good communication. You can talk with the Lord, you can pray, you can study the Word, and you hear from God. You want to fellowship.
But see, many times we stop with step three. You get mad at your boss, like Henry talked about, and you say, “Okay God, I know, it’s obvious now, I’m angry, I’m mad, I’m bitter, but God, tomorrow, I’m going back to work, and no matter what my boss does, I am determined I will not get angry.” Have you ever tried that?
Christianity is humanly impossible to live. It does not depend on your acting ability. You can act like you love your boss, but I’ll guarantee you, it won’t last very long. Or you can do what one verse of scripture says. Try this for the next two days, and never fail. “Rejoice always.” You see, if you try it in your human flesh, you’ll come up as a failure. But a Spirit of Rejoicing is something that only God can do. It is a fruit of His Spirit. And so the cleansing part is coming to God and saying, “God, forgive me, and cleanse me. Wipe the slate clean, and then, God, empower me.”
Step five: God empower me. Step five would be that point where you’re saying, “God, I do not have it in and of myself to be a loving mother, or husband, or child, or parent. I’m at the end of my rope with the relationship.” You see, God can give you a love that passes all human understanding. He can give you a peace that passes all understanding. He can give you a joy that does. And so being empowered is asking God to fill you full of His Spirit.
Now, Dr. Brandt and I have tried to cover 12 weeks of material in about 45 minutes, but let me sum it up by giving you a real-life story of how someone deals with this. Pastors, we were talking about it at lunch, that if you only had one hour a week to work with a person in your church, what would you suggest to them? You ought to suggest to them to come hear you preach, because the truth should be revealed through your life, and the truth will set people free.
Well, I’ll never forget though, a person came to me, or a couple. Dr. Brandt and I interviewed them this last January. They came to me about two years ago. And Pastors, I know your struggle of so many people wanting council, and you don’t have enough hours in the week to give it to everybody in your church. So you need to ask them to come hear you preach. Give ‘em a resource, or direct ‘em to another person in the Body.
This couple came to me. They were not a member of our church; they were members of another church. And I sat down in my office, and they said, “Kerry, we came to see you because our four-year-old son has no peace in his life. He’s always upset.”
And I said, “Well, tell me about it.”
They said, “Well, eight months ago our four-year-old son found our 18-month-old daughter dead in the pool.” And they said, “For eight months, every single day, our four-year-old brings the subject up. ‘Why did Kaitlyn have to die?’”
Now the four-year-old had gotten to the place where he hated his dad, because his dad was at home when it happened, and had fallen asleep on the couch for 15 minutes. The four-year-old blamed his dad, but the couple came to see me, and they said, “We have no peace.”
They said, “We just finished going through Experiencing God about two months ago, and God has helped us tremendously through that, but we have now been to the psychologist. We have been to group therapy, we have had our son in play therapy, we have been to every kind of counseling we can find, and we have not found an answer. Can you help us?”
I said, “Well, I need you to understand that I’m a Biblical counselor. And if your problem is sin, I can help you because I can point you to the one who deals with it.”
They told me a little more of their story, and then I gave them a chart that’s in the book. And I said, “I want you to look at this.”
I’ll never forget Lynn looking at me, and just saying, “Kerry, my husband is seated right over here next to me, and I’m a Christian, and I know I should forgive him because it was a simple accident. He has been a good father. He’s taken care of the kids. I ought to forgive him, but I can’t seem to.” She said, “I’m angry at him.”
And she said, “Quite honestly, the ladies at work, they’re not Christians, and their advice to me is, ‘If my husband had let that happen to my child, I would leave him.’” She said, “That’s the kind of comfort I was getting.”
He felt like he had murdered his daughter. He was under a lot of guilt. I couldn’t tell you how difficult the situation was, humanly, but I gave them this chart. On the right-hand side it has a list of the sins of the mind, the sinful emotions, the sins of the mouth, and the sins of behavior, and I said, “Keith and Lynn, I want you to look through this list, and, and I want you to circle every word that you currently see in your life.”
And I said, “Let’s just start this time by asking God to search your heart, and show you any way in your life that’s not pleasing to God.”
Well, I let them go through this list. It’s not a list that we made up, it’s just simply a list of sins from the scripture, but Lynn began to look at this, and she saw the words unforgiveness, hatred, anger, an unloving attitude, and bitterness.
And when Keith and Lynn finished looking at that list from the standard of the Word to judge their heart, Lynn looked up and began to weep. And she said, “Kerry, God just showed me. I am an angry, unloving, unforgiving, bitter wife.”
I couldn’t have told her that, and she listened like she did when God told her. And her husband couldn’t tell her that, and she listened like she did when God told her. And her husband couldn’t tell her.
Then Keith began to go through his list. After they went through that list, I walked them through, with a little more detail, these five steps of repentance. And I said, “Now the choice is up to you. If sin is your problem, there’s no human remedy, only God can deal with it.”
I said, “The reason there is no peace for your four-year-old is because mom and dad have no peace, and what you need is to be filled with is God’s peace.”
I gave Keith and Lynn two assignments. I said, “I want you to go to our bookstore, pick up a copy of The Heart of the Problem, and I want you to begin working through it. Second, I want you to go find a room in our church that is empty, and get alone with God, and repent of what He just showed you about your heart.”
Not every couple will follow that advice, but Keith and Lynn did. They came back the next week. They looked like different people when they walked in, because they were different people. They walked in and Lynn sat down, and one of the first things she said was, “Kerry, we’ve been married over eight years, and this past week is the best week we’ve ever had in our marriage.”
I saw them one other time after that, and they said, “You know, it’s been 18 days in a row that our four-year-old boy has never mentioned Kaitlin’s death.”
We saw that couple in January, nearly two years after this happened. Keith is now going into the ministry. He’s a top executive of a company, and we found out in listening to their testimony, and talking to their pastor, that in less than two months after God had dealt with them in that one week of time that they turned their heart over to God, they had helped two other couples in the church restore their marriage, and cancel the divorce orders.
So you see, Keith and Lynn had less experience than I did, and I had less experience at counseling than Dr. Brandt did. You know all it takes to counsel, to disciple, to love people in the Body? It takes a love for God, a love for his Word, and a love for people.
We talked with them in January, and they said, “We have never had such a good marriage.”
They began to say, “You know, our marriage had been going down for years.” And you see, they tried to blame the death of their child for a bad marriage, and usually when you go through a crisis in life, you will tend to blame many things on the one event.
The one event wasn’t the problem, it revealed the problem. I looked at Keith and Lynn, as I did several couples who we talked with who would come in because they needed help in their marriage, and I said, “Keith and Lynn, do you remember our time we spent together?” I said, “Did we ever talk about your marriage?”
They said, “No, we never talked about our marriage, and our marriage is better than it’s ever been.”
I said, “Can you imagine that? Your marriage was not your problem, it was your heart, and when both of you got your heart right with God, it got right with one another. And so often we want to blame our problem on everything around us.”
See, God is saying, “I can give you the ability to be a Spirit-filled Christian in the midst of a difficult situation.” The heart of the problem, according to Jeremiah, would be the problem of the heart. “The heart is deceitful, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?”
And the scripture says that only God can. So you want to deal with your problem? You take them to God. You recognize your heart. If it is sin, repent, and God will do the restoration.
We’re living in a day where we’re trying to teach people how to recover from the effects of sin. You cannot recover from sin without repentance. In fact, when you repent, God will do the restoring. So I pray that God will use this message in your life and in your church to restore others, as well as yourself, in your daily walk with the Lord.
We thank you that you’ve given us the time this afternoon to spend with you, but I want to ask you for a moment, to bow your heads. Maybe while Dr. Brandt has been speaking, God has revealed something in your heart you need to deal with the Lord about. We just want to give you an opportunity to do that. I’m gonna pray, and after I pray, we’re gonna take about a 15-minute break. After I pray, I want you to take the time, where you are, to deal with your own heart between you and God. Whatever that is you need to deal with, God is more than able.
Lord, would you speak to the hearts of these, your children, and if you have revealed something in their hearts that is sin, would you teach them, Lord, that they’re just a repentant prayer away, all the time, from being restored in right fellowship with you. God, will you deal with their hearts right now in this time of silence, I pray. Amen.