Life change doesn’t happen without heart change.  That’s how Sam started his talk last week.  And that is why your heart is so important.  Your enemy is here to ruin your heart and Jesus is here to redeem it.  It’s the reason we are in this series called Rise Up and Stand Firm.

King David told us the following.

7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.  8 They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. NIV Psalms 20:7-8

In the first part of this series we talked about the five things that steal our courage.  Five things that make it hard for us to rise up and stand firm.  Things that make us feel less, things that make us feel afraid, things that make us feel like we don’t matter.  When those things push against us, they make life hard.  Another way of saying the same thing is, ‘We are in a war, a spiritual war.’  Do you remember Sam talked about this last week?  He said, we are facing a spiritual battle.  That battle is over your heart.  And in this battle, there are no time outs, it’s for real, it’s for keeps.

Then he shared the words of Jesus.

33 Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” NIV Matthew 12:33-35

Did you see it?  What is the source of good and evil that comes out of us?  Our hearts.  It all starts in our heart.  That’s why Sam said, ‘Life change doesn’t happen without heart change.’  If you want a healthy heart, if you want to engage the spiritual battle and win, it begins in your heart.

The second part is about how get courage.  The way you get courage, the way you rise up and stand firm, is heart change.

Let’s get started for today.  I want to read for you a story you may already know.

8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil… 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” NIV Genesis 2:8-9, 15-17

This is the story of creation.  Everything is perfect.  No sin, no cancer, no diabetes, no hate, no pain.  How awesome would that be?  No social media.  No elections.  No endless political fights.  No stress, no drama, no anxiety.  No bills.  Just God, the garden and naked people [yeah, I put that in there to get your attention].

Adam and Eve had two goals everyday.  Goal #1, eat from the Tree of Life.  Why?  They would live forever.  Goal #2, do not eat from the Tree of Good and Evil.  Why?  They would die.

Let’s keep reading to see what happens.

3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”  2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” 4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  NIV Genesis 3:3-13

Satan did what he always does.  He makes sin look really good.  So good, it seems crazy not to sin.  How did he do it?  He lied.  Well, half lied.  He didn’t tell the whole story.  He told Eve, ‘You won’t die.’  What he meant was, if you eat the fruit you won’t physically die today – right now.

So, why did God tell Adam and Eve that they would die?  What God meant was, if they ate that fruit, they would be removed from the Garden of Eden.  That means they could no longer eat the fruit from the Tree of Life.  They would physically die.  Even worse, what they had no ability to understand and what Satan did not tell them, if they ate the fruit from the Tree of Good and Evil, they would be removed from God’s presence and they would die spiritually.

What does it mean to die spiritually?  It means being separated from God.  What happens when we are separated from God?  We lose our sense of significance, our self-worth.  This is why people can spend their lives demanding people validate them.  We lose our sense of safety and security.  This is why people feel like they need to be in control.  We lose our sense of belonging or being accepted.  This is why we feel rejected in life and want desperately for others to accept us.

Before we move on, let’s personalize this.  Are you in a relationship with God or are you separated from God?  How do you know?  Three questions.  Where do you find your sense of significance and self-worth? Is it God or do you expect others to validate you?  Where do you find your sense of safety and security?  Is it God or do you feel scared and insecure leading you to try to control life and those around you?  Where do you find your sense of belonging or acceptance?  Is it God or do you find that you are willing to change your character to please others so they might like you?

If you feel like you are spiritually dead, that is why we invite you into a relationship with Jesus.  Only in a relationship with Jesus will you find self-worth, security and safety, and being accepted and loved.

Okay, let’s keep reading.

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. NIV Genesis 3:3-13

What happened?  They wanted to be like God because God wasn’t enough for them.  They felt like God was holding out on them.  The garden wasn’t enough.  His presence wasn’t enough.  Their relationship with each other wasn’t enough.  The fruit wasn’t enough.  Their job to care for the garden wasn’t enough.  Basically, God wasn’t enough.  God, they thought, was holding out on them.

Adam and Eve bit the fruit because, Eve wanted more, and Adam stood by and said nothing.

By the way, doesn’t this sound like us?  Don’t we feel like we want more?  Almost like God is holding out on us?  We just find it hard to enjoy God and what He has done for us today – right?  We want bigger, better, more.

Let’s see what happens.

7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.  8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”  11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” NIV Genesis 3:3-13

What is happening?  Adam and Eve sinned.  They bit the apple.  What is the first thing they did?  They covered themselves with fig leaves.  What did they do when God showed up?  They hid.  How did they feel about God?  For the first time, they were afraid of God.  God was someone to avoid.

This story is a story about us.  We do the exact same thing.  We look at our lives and we don’t like who we are, so we hide.  This is the beginning of guilt.  What is guilt?  Guilt says, ‘I have a secret and I must hide it.’  Here’s why.  If you knew my secret, you wouldn’t like me.  If you knew who I really was, you wouldn’t like me.  If you knew what I have done, you wouldn’t like me.  I am afraid of what you will think of me, so I hide.  I must, at all costs, hide my secrets from you.

Kids, when your parents catch you doing something wrong, do you tell them the truth or try to hide it from them?  Chances are you hide the whole truth because you have a secret and you are afraid that if they knew what you did, it would change what they think of you.

If you are dating or married, are you honest all the time?  Chances are you struggle to be honest all the time because you have a secret and you are afraid that if they knew who you really were, it would change what they think of you.

If you have ever sinned, what have you concluded about God in that moment?  Chances are you are afraid of God and want to hide from Him.  You might stay away from Him because you wrongly believe, God probably doesn’t like me now.

God asked them a direct question.  Let’s see how they answer.

12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”  13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”  The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” NIV Genesis 3:3-13

When confronted, what do people with guilt do?  They blame others.  Who do they blame for what they have done?  Everyone one around them.  I am who I am because of my wife, my husband.  I am who I am because of my parents, my High School experience.  I am who I am because of my emotions, fears, and anxiety.

Let’s recap.

What is guilt?  Guilt says, ‘I have a secret and I must hide it.’

Why do we hide?  Because we think, if you knew who I really was, my secret, you wouldn’t like me.

How do people with guilt live?  When confronted, they blame.  They will do anything to avoid reality.

How do people with guilt treat others?  They are cold and distant.  Remember, they have a secret.  They  live in a way where you will never know about the secret.  They won’t deal with reality.  They won’t take ownership of what they have done.  They won’t deal with the hurt in their past.  Chances are they will settle to live like they are stuck, and they are a victim of what others have done.

To keep the secret, sometimes a guilty person will overreact to simple things.  That emotional outburst may be a shock to you because it’s odd, it’s weird.  But to the guilty person, that emotional outburst is a defense, a smoke screen.  They are telling you, ‘Stay away, I don’t want you to find my secret.  I have things to hide and I don’t want to deal with it.’  And you walk away thinking, ‘What did I do wrong?’

To keep the secret, another common way to hide is joking or talking.  Where joking is fun and enjoyable, it can cross the line into not dealing with anything real.  If I can keep you laughing, we will never deal with reality.  Where talking is helpful to communicate, it can cross the line into not having time to deal with anything real.

Why does this happen?  Why can’t you feel like you connect with this person?  Because guilty people hide.  I have a secret.  I am afraid that if you really knew me, you wouldn’t like me.

Who do you know who is like this?  You can probably point the figure to someone you know – right?  Scripture says, we need to first look at ourselves.

3 You didn’t think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard? Or did you think that because he’s such a nice God, he’d let you off the hook? 4 Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change. MSG Romans 2:3-4

Here is a better question.  Are you guilty?  Do you have secrets?  In your relationships, are you scared that if someone really knew you, they wouldn’t like you?  Do you hide?  Are you honest?  Is it easy for others to connect with you?  Do you have emotional outbursts?  Do you blame someone else for who you are?  Do you joke to avoid reality?  Do you talk so much, there is not enough time to deal with things that are real?

How do you view God?  Are you really close with God and enjoying a daily relationship that redeems and refreshes you?  Do you feel like you are hiding from God?  Do you feel like you are disconnected from God leading you to feel spiritually dead inside?  Where do you find your self-worth?  Where do you find you feel safe?  Where do you find acceptance?

I must tell you, if you are hiding a secret, if you are living in guilt, living with you is hard.  Your heart condition makes it hard to live with you.  You are wearing everyone around you down.  Your boss, those at work, those at church, your family, your spouse and friends.  You are wearing them down because they can’t connect with you.  They offer you life and love and openness but you are giving nothing back.  You want to stay on the surface.  They don’t know how to connect with you.  So they learn to avoid you because it seems like you overreact or blame or joke or talk when the conversation gets real.

I also must tell you, where you are wearing people around you down, you can’t wear God out.  God’s love is greater than any secret you have.

1 O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.  2 You know when I sit down or stand up.  You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.  3 You see me when I travel and when I rest at home.  You know everything I do.  4 You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.  5 You go before me and follow me.  You place your hand of blessing on my head.  6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!  7 I can never escape from your Spirit!  I can never get away from your presence! NLT Psalms 139:1-7

You never have to hide from God because He knows everything already.  Here is what I want you to do if you live with guilt.  If you are hiding and are scared that someone might find out your secret.  It’s a practical decision that has huge spiritual implications.

Get honest.  Jesus’ brother James tells us this.

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. MSG James 5:16

Get honest.  Get rid of your secrets.  Get honest with God and with others.  Live in a way where you confess so you can live in freedom.

Don’t hide from God, run to Him.

Don’t hide from people, get honest with them.  Stop talking so much you avoid reality.  Stop joking so much you avoid realty.  Stop blaming anyone and everything for who you are.  Stop having emotional outburst to keep people away.

Get real, get honest, get into a real conversation.

Remember what Sam said, life change doesn’t happen without heart change.  If you don’t get honest, you won’t be able to live with courage.  You will be too busy hiding your secrets and you will lose your spiritual battle.

Here what you need to know.  This is about growing up, it’s about spiritual maturity.  If I can be honest with God and others, I will have courage.  If I cannot be honest, I will not have courage.  Why?  Because I won’t be able to be the same person everywhere I show up.  Who I am in front of people will be different than when I am alone.  Who I am at work, home and church will be different.  I will lack the integrity I need to have courage.

Growing up spiritually means we must deal with our heart issues and guilt is a big heart issue that keeps us immature. Are you the same person everywhere you show up?  Are you close to God?  Are you real with those around you?

So get real, get honest, get into a real conversation.  Scriptures says it best.  Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed.