What's on the Inside Matters
(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)
This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
What’s on the inside matters! Anyone question that? Anyone think that is a nonsensical statement? Take a few minutes and write down what’s on the inside. Think of these questions:
- What are your dominant emotions?
- Who are they directed at?
- What are the thoughts that captivate you?
- Who did you most recently have an intimate conversation with? What did that reveal about your heart, what’s on the inside?
- What would be the image/picture that would best describe what’s on the inside these days?
In our study of Jeremiah, we discover that he revealed more of his inner feelings and personal reactions towards God and men than did any other prophet in Old Testament times - there are 7 main texts that are Jeremiah’s “confessionals”. Jeremiah speaks in the first person - he unloads! He talks to God about the great swells in the ocean. At times he is filled with praise, and at other times.... well, let’s just take a look.
Let’s look at a few of these texts as we unpack our big idea, What’s Inside Matters!
For sure, Jeremiah found himself in some pretty lonely places.
- A prison - Jeremiah 37:11-16
- A cistern - Jeremiah 38:4-6 (a type of well)
- Stocks- Jeremiah 20:1-6
These places are not like a Starbucks or busy malls at Christmas. These are lonely places. What are your lonely places?
- Leadership can be a lonely place at times
- Your walk home from.....
- Your home - especially after someone has died or the kids have moved away or....
- A sea of faces - crowded loneliness -
- A hard or unpopular decision can represent a lonely place
- Lying in bed at night with just your thoughts can be a lonely place
- A season can be lonely - Christmas.
- Transitions can be lonely times.
- What is your loneliest time of the day or day of the week?
Here is the interesting tension for Jeremiah. See if it is yours - turn to Jeremiah 15:15-17. Why is he alone? What has got him here, in this predicament?
Jeremiah is lonely because this is exactly where God has allowed him to go. It’s exactly the place obedience would take him. In fact disobedience could have solved his loneliness problem. But remember Jeremiah 1:17-19? God told Jeremiah to get ready for the lonely road. You see the reason what’s inside matters is because God can use those experiences, and consequently, the feelings to do a deeper work in our hearts. We live in a culture that moves away from the negative - like loneliness- but perhaps for some, God is speaking and wanting us to grow because of it.
Discuss this (from Bob Goff. Love Does.):
The thing I love about God is He intentionally guides people into failure. He made us be born as little kids who can't walk or talk or even use a bathroom correctly. We have to be taught everything. All that learning takes time, and He made us so we are dependent on Him, our parents, and each other. The whole thing is designed so we try again and again until we finally get it right. And the whole time He is endlessly patient.
God intentionally led Jeremiah into loneliness, a place of dependence and growth.
So what’s your conversation with God like these days, as you have moved through a season of feeling alone? Perhaps that season has passed. Think back to what your conversations with God were like back then.
What is He teaching you?
What is inside matters. God might be saying - let me shape you through this!
Anger and Hurt
Ask an angry person who or what hurt them and they will probably have an answer. Hurt often lies behind our anger. Agree? Now note Jeremiah’s anger and hurt in Jeremiah 15:18a. Remember he is not talking about a physical wound but a wound to the soul - inside stuff!
Note the direction of his anger:
1. God (v.18b) A deceptive brook was like a mirage, one of those streambeds in the desert that looks as if water should be flowing in it but when you arrive at its banks, it’s dry. What he is saying is “God you have tricked me. You promised but you did not deliver.” - “God You over-promised and under-delivered.” Ever felt like that?
Jeremiah has some more words for God. Read Jeremiah 20:7-10. A blunt but literal rendering of v7 is “First you seduced me, then you raped me.” This is what you call a “ tell me how you really feel prayer”- blunt, honest, no holding back!
Eugene Peterson says “Believers argue with God; skeptics argue with each other.”
2. People (v.18:18-23) This is another “tell me how you really feel” kind of prayer. Note it says they attacked him with their tongues. Quite the image. Tongues can do to the soul what a bullet can do to the flesh.
Here is the question - Where did Jeremiah learn to talk like this with God? Who modeled this kind of deep soul language, honest, at times brutally honest. I would suggest that Jeremiah learned this from none other than the God he worshipped. The book of Jeremiah is filled with language that reveals the (at times, angry) heart of God.
Discuss the following
I think in some cases we have cleaned up the language of God, the strong emotion, and consequently weakened our perception of God. The emotion, this passion of God’s has been translated into sterile doctrinal statements, codified, predictable, and sanitary. Consequently our prayer language has not really touched into what is going on inside.
What is interesting is that at the end of these confessionals who do we hear responding? Check out Jeremiah 12:5;15:19. God is engaged with Jeremiah. God responds to Jeremiah at a deep “soul wound” level because Jeremiah has prayed a “tell me how you really feel” kind of prayer. What’s inside matters! God uses the inside “stuff” to do a deeper work in Jeremiah’s heart.
What is your “tell me how you really feel” prayer?
What is He teaching you?
Did you grow up in a context where honesty with God was encouraged?
How do you draw the line of disrespecting God in prayer vs. being honest about what’s inside?
What’s inside matters. Don’t ignore it! It can be the source of great growth!
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