Craig Groeschel - The Habit That Will Heal Your Heart
Let me ask you a question. When you lie, who do you think you lie to the most? Can we just go ahead and start the year and get ridiculously honest? How many of you lie? Raise your hands. Go ahead and leave 'em up, leave 'em up. Go ahead and leave 'em up. Look to the person who's not raising their hand right now and just call 'em a liar, right? Just call 'em a liar. Yeah, and we all lie. When you lie, who do you lie to the most? How many of you would be honest and say that you've lied to your boss before? Anybody ever lied to your boss? Okay, I'm looking for my staff right now. I'm looking for my staff. You know, "It's a beautiful day out. No, I'm not feeling well. You know, I gotta stay home. I got a headache. It's a beautiful day". You lied to your boss.
How many of you have ever lied to your kids? Anybody lie to your kids? Boy, I do. They asked me, "Can we do this"? And I'm like, "Uh, we'll think about it. I'll think about it". Ain't no way we're doing that. I'm just stalling. How many of you ever lied to your parents? I'm looking at my kids right now. Their hands just went up, right? "It wasn't me, it wasn't me, I promise". How many of you have ever lied to your friends? Raise your hands. Raise your hands, yeah. Like, "Yeah, I wish I could help you move on Saturday, but I got a lot going that day". Anybody ever lie kind of on social media? You post something that's not exactly true. Like my life is blessed and perfect and happy, and it's amazing.
And it really sucks, I'm depressed, and I wanna die right now. Anybody ever do that? It is interesting when you think about the lies that we tell. Who do you think you lie to the most? It may surprise you, but the research is conclusive. The person you lie to the most is you. The person that you lie to the most is actually you. In fact, experts say that we will lie dozens to literally hundreds of times every single day to ourselves. We'll tell ourselves, "I'll do it tomorrow," when you know you won't. We tell ourselves, "I can stop at any time," when you really can't. We tell ourselves, "I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine," when you're not fine at all. You tell yourself, "I don't care at all what they think," but you really do. And we tell ourselves, "It's not really that big of a deal," when it's really a big deal. Studies show that the one that you lie to the most is actually yourself.
In fact, Jeremiah 17:9 tells us something very important to understand, that "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is"? The unredeemed heart has the capacity to not only lie to others, but to completely deceive yourself. And that is one of the major reasons why most of the New Year's resolutions that you have and you're so excited about right now are likely going to fail. And the reason is, with very good intention, you're focusing on some external behavior. You're focusing on something that you do on the outside. You wanna, whatever it is, you wanna get more organized or you want to get up earlier, or you wanna stop being on social media so much, or you want to stop looking at things you shouldn't look at. You want to eat better, you wanna save more money. Whatever it is, you wanna stop yelling at your spouse.
The problem is you're simply focused on external behaviors. But where are behaviors actually born? Our behaviors are born in our hearts. So as I've always said, if you wanna change your life, change your habits. But if you wanna change your habits, let God change your heart. This year we're not starting on the outside, we're starting on the inside. And we're gonna ask God to change our hearts. Today, we're beginning a new message series. I'm calling it Habits of a Healthy Heart. And I wanna show you where we're gonna go over the next few weeks. We're gonna look at five different habits of the heart. Today, we're gonna look at The Habit of Self-Examination to give a very true, very sincere, very honest look at our own lives and give God permission to work in our lives.
Next week we're gonna look at The Habit of Simplicity. Almost all of us are looking for more, more, more, more, more, when actually less is often more. The third week, we're gonna look at The Habit of Solitude, of slowing our lives down to be quiet before God, to genuinely seek him in His Word and to hear His voice that will direct our steps. Then we're gonna look at The Habit of Sorrow. You say, "But I don't want to be sorrowful". We're actually gonna discover in Scripture The Habit of Sorrow is very powerful, worldly sorrow that leads to death, and we don't want that. But there is such a thing as Godly sorrow that brings us to repentance and leads us to salvation and to life. And the final week, we're gonna look at The Habit of Slowing. I may skip that week or actually delegate it to someone else, but in a world where we're actually very, very fast-paced all the time, we're gonna learn to take a day off to honor God with the Sabbath, to slow our lives down in a way that would truly be God-honoring.
Today, what I want to do as we launch into a new year is I want to talk about The Habit of Self-Examination. And God's Word tells us this in Psalm 139. It was David who prayed this prayer. He said, "Search me". Somebody say, search me. Search me. He said, "Search me, God, and know my heart;" because my heart is actually very deceitful, it's deceitful above all things. He said, "Test me and know my anxious thoughts. God, see if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting". What I'd love today at all of our churches, if you wouldn't mind just saying this aloud, kind of quietly, almost as a prayer, where you sit today online, you can do the same thing. Just let's just say it aloud. "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Search me, God, and know my heart; test me. See if there's any offensive way in me".
This was a prayer of David. And why do you think David prayed this prayer? If you watch his life, you'll discover that, over time, David started to understand the same thing that I hope that you'll understand. He started to understand his propensity to lie to himself. He was the master, just as all of us are the master of self-deception. And he started to discover this later on in his life after what happened in 2 Samuel 11:1. Let me show you what this pivotal moment in his life. Scripture says, "In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war". So he was the king. He should have been at war, but he wasn't at war. "David instead sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites".
However, what did David do? He wasn't at war. What did he do? David stayed behind in Jerusalem. What was going on in his own mind? He was actually deceiving himself. We don't know exactly what he thought, but I'm gonna kind of just read into it a little bit. He probably thought, "Okay, this is the time when kings go off to war. But I've been at war quite a bit. I've been fighting. Everybody knows I'm kind of a war hero. I am the king. It's dangerous when I go out. I fought enough, I actually deserve a break. It's probably better if I sit this one out, take care of myself and keep myself safe. After all, I am the king, and I have proved my worthiness on the battlefield".
And so he's probably telling him something like this. And then at some point he thinks, "Hey, I wanna relax. So maybe I'm gonna go have a little drink on the roof of my house and watch the sunset". And when he does, he looks across and he sees a woman taking a bath. And he looks at her. The Hebrew word that is used is the word, which is pronounced this way, raw-awwwwwwwwwww. That's how he looked at her, because what it means is to look and to keep looking. So he saw this woman taking a bath and he raw-awwwwwwwwwww or he looked at her. He stared at her. And he probably thought to himself, "Hey, I'm not doing anything. I'm just kinda looking, it's not that really big of a deal". And then somewhere in his mind, he deceived himself again and said, "Hey, you know, I have been going kind of hard, and some companionship would be good".
So he sent one of his men to go and bring her to his place. And she comes to the palace, and he probably thinks, "We're just gonna spend some time together. We're just gonna talk about her life and the kingdom and what it's like to be the king". And one thing led to another, who knows, maybe he brushed up against her, maybe he said, "Hey, can I give you a back rub"? Whatever it is. One step after another, he rationalized his sinfulness, and he ended up having sex with her. If you know the story, she ends up being pregnant, and he finds himself in a really, really bad place. "What am I gonna do now"? And so in his mind he's thinking, "Well, I gotta cover this up. And so I'm gonna call her husband Uriah home, and I'm gonna give him a chance to be with his wife. So then he'll think the baby is his". And Uriah comes home, but he's too loyal of a soldier.
So he says, "I'm not gonna be with my wife, I'm gonna stay with my men". And so that doesn't work. So David's like, "Well, I've gotta protect my name, and I've gotta protect the kingdom". Whatever he is thinking, he's telling himself, "And I've gotta protect the name of God". And so he says to his men, "Put Uriah, her husband, out on the front lines". And sure enough, Uriah loses his life. Looking back, step by step by step, he would've rationalized his own sin and the whole time thinking what he was doing wasn't a big deal. But what exactly did he do? He abused his power. He violated an innocent woman, Bathsheba. He committed the sin of adultery. He wrecked an entire family. He essentially murdered Uriah. Then when the baby was born, the consequences evidently led the baby to get sick and die. And step by step by step, sin by sin by sin, he didn't recognize his own sin, because of "The heart is deceitful above all things".
And we're the master of self deception. Psychologists call that a cognitive bias. The Bible calls it flattering yourself or deceiving yourself, or the Bible calls it having a deluded heart. In fact, Psalm 36:2 says this, the Bible says, "In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their own sin". I'm not that bad. I'm not doing anything wrong. And we flatter ourselves and deceive ourselves. And that's why it's important to adopt the habit of self-examination. I researched this and spent a lot of time in the last few weeks, and I discovered that our self-deception tends to manifest itself in five major ways.
You may see yourself somewhere in these different categories. I'll show you them. The first one is what experts call addiction to distraction. Because we're doing something wrong, we find ourselves unintentionally distracting ourselves by anything that keeps us from facing the truth about ourselves. It might be an addiction to pornography. It might be an addiction to social media. It might be an addiction to the news. It might be an addiction to talking bad about other people. It might be an addiction to alcohol or some other form of drug. It's an addiction that distracts us from facing the truth about ourselves. The second way it manifests is in a manic cheeriness. This is the person that's not really happy but pretends like they're happy all the time. I'd call it the Lego syndrome, right? "Everything is awesome".
Okay, you gotta have kids to understand that reference. But it's like you just go around smiling and acting like everything's great and showing this great life on social media, when the truth of the matter is, in honest moments, you're actually down or maybe depressed or discouraged or maybe even worse, having thoughts of ending your life. And yet you don't show it. You show this manic cheeriness, even trying to deceive yourself. Another way we'll see it is in judgmentalism. We have something wrong with us, but we point out the faults in other people. We point out the the speck in their eye when we have a log in our own eye. And what we do is we oftentimes will judge others very, very harshly about the sin in their life, when the reality is we're vulnerable to that very sin in our life. We judge in others the very thing that we dislike in ourselves.
The next thing we're gonna find is that we can be very, very defensive. We're offended if anyone makes any indication or suggestion that we might be wrong, that we're vulnerable, that we're doing something unwise, that we're doing something sinful. Any suggestion that we have a problem, we're defensive against them. We may deflect it. We may say that "They have the problem. It's not our fault. We don't have a problem. It's someone else's fault, or I'm a victim," or whatever it is, is we're completely defensive about any suggestion. And the final one is sometimes we just become cynical. We surrender to cynicism, and we think that everything is bad in life, and everyone else is the problem, and everyone is wrong. And we deceive ourselves, because we don't want to face the truth about ourselves. And that is the very thing that David did. He deceived himself, and his life fell apart.
What happened when he said, "I'm not doing anything wrong. Everything's okay. I can get away with this. It's not that big of a deal". And in sin by sin by sin, he found himself in a very, very, very dangerous place. Well, the Lord sent a prophet. And the prophet Nathan sat down with David and had a little conversation. And to help David see his own sinfulness, Nathan the prophet told him a story. And the prophet said, "David, let me tell you a little story about two guys. One guy is really, really rich, and the other guy was really, really poor. And the rich guy had unlimited number of sheep and cattle. He was rich. And the poor guy had only one little lamb, and his whole family was close to the lamb. The lamb was like a little pet. And one day the poor guy with his little lamb ended up at the rich guy's house, and it was time for dinner. And the rich guy went to get a lamb. And instead of taking one of his thousands of lambs, he took the one lamb of the poor guy, sacrificed that lamb and fed the poor guy's lamb to him for dinner".
And David heard that story and said, "That's the worst thing I've ever heard. That guy should be punished. He should be put to death". And Nathan looked at David in Hebrew and said this, means, "You are the man". "You are the one who did that. You are the one that was judging someone else in this story when you are guilty of the very same thing. You are the one that's been defensive and pushed back and made excuses and rationalized. And you've done the very same thing". The Habit of Self-Examination. Not easy to do. "Search me, God, search my heart. Show me, is there any offensive way," anything sinful, anything in my life that I don't see, that you see that you want to change? And I would ask you if you would stop for a moment and let God search you. What problem are you denying? What sin are you rationalizing? What issue are you hiding?
Welcome to church early in the year where we're gonna get after it, just so you know. If I haven't stepped on your toes yet, just hang in there. We're gonna get everybody today. That's my goal, everybody including myself. Where does God wanna work? Is it a secret addiction? You're addicted to porn or masturbation. Is it alcohol or drugs? Is it that you lose your temper over and over and over again, and you think, "Hey, I wouldn't do it if you didn't do that. It's not my fault. You make me do it". Are you flirting with an affair or are you in a full-blown affair? Are you addicted to overeating and make jokes about, "Ah, that's just the way I am."?
Are you addicted to overspending and you pretend like it's not a problem? Are you numbing yourself consistently with a drug or just with TV or just scrolling mindlessly on social media? Do you say you don't need help when you really, really do? Asking for help is never a sign of weakness. It's always a sign of wisdom. Are you at church on the very first weekend of the year? Your body's present, but your heart's far from God. "Search me God, know my heart. See if there's any offensive way in me". I wanna give you three warning signs to think about as you adopt the habit of self-examination. You're asking God to speak to you. Let me give you three thoughts.
Number one is I wanna encourage you to watch for what others have tried to tell you, if someone else has tried to tell you, "Hey, you might have a problem". I always tell myself, if more than two people that love me tell me I have a problem, I better pay attention to that. Maybe there are those that are telling you, "Hey, maybe you're working too much. You're not present". Or "You're always looking at your phone". or "You're spending too much time on video games". Maybe some people that love you say, "Hey, you drink every single night. And you say you don't have a problem, but you can't seem to go without it". Maybe there are people that love you that tell you, "You're dressing immodestly". And I know you say it's the styles, and I know you say it's no big deal, but people who love you say, "Maybe that is an issue". There are people that love you that may say, "You never say no, because you have a problem people pleasing". When you ask God to search your heart, watch for what others that love you have tried to say to you.
The second thing is watch for what you rationalize. Watch for whatever you try to explain away. Watch for the time when you say, "It's no big deal. And I can handle this, and I'm not hurting anyone, and I don't have a problem with this". Watch for what you rationalize, 'cause it'll sneak up on you. Amy and I were talking about recently years ago when we had a single adult LifeGroup in our home, and we had them all gathered. And we were talking about the value of relationships and how much they matter to us and how much we matter to each other. And then time went on, and they just wouldn't leave. We had a baby and none of them had babies, and they didn't know. And so I said like, "It's been great and you all matter so much, we're gonna wrap things up. And it's been awesome". And they didn't leave. And so I went in another room, and I put on a robe when I came back and said, "It's been awesome. And we've got the baby, we're gonna put the baby together".
And they just wouldn't leave. And then I turned the heat up really high, I mean, made it ridiculously uncomfortable. I'm in a robe, you know, Amy's sitting there yawning. We got a baby crying, "You all matter to us so much, but let's call it, it's good". And they wouldn't leave. And so I said, "Hey Amy, let's go in the room and check on the baby". Went in the room with the baby. And I just said to her, these people are ridiculous. They've got no brain. They don't take any cues. What's wrong with them? They're like, socially, they're idiots. They're completely idiots. And right as I'm saying that, I looked down and I saw the baby monitor in our bedroom broadcasting into the living room where relationships matter and you matter to God and you matter to me, your pastor. That was our first church split. And since then we've been rebuilding. But watch for those things that you just try to explain away. I wouldn't do what I'm doing if you weren't doing what you're doing. "Search me God".
Watch for what other people are trying to tell you. Watch for what you rationalize. And number three, watch for where you're most defensive. Watch where you're most defensive. Wherever you push back and say, "I don't have a problem". Or maybe you get a little bit angry and say, "Leave me alone. It's none of your business". I always tell those that I love that the more convinced you are that you don't have a problem, the more likely it is that you do. The harder you push back when people who love you press in, the more likely you really do have a problem. And I have learned that through the school of hard knocks. This is our 28-year anniversary of the church. I've been in ministry for 33 years. And literally almost the whole time, the people that love me the most have said, "Craig, you work too much. You work too hard". And almost the whole time I've said, "You guys just don't love Jesus like I do".
I know that's kind of arrogant, but that's literally what I thought is that "You don't understand. This is the call on my life". And year after year, all the way back in my early twenties, they put me in mandatory counseling for being a workaholic. And I shook that off. And in my thirties and in my forties. And in my fifties, my body actually started to catch up with being in 2019, my body started to break down. I had a two week period where I functioned fully and had no memory of what took place in that time. I was performing, going through the motions, and yet I couldn't remember anything. And so Amy helped me to get a very good counselor, and we started working together. And after months of working together, his diagnosis and his suggestion was incredibly offensive to me. He said, "We're not gonna talk you into slowing down, so we have to distract you. And so what I want you to do is come up with a list of 30 things to do. We're gonna try five or six of them. We're gonna start with 30. And they have to be adrenaline producing. They have to appear kind of dangerous, and they have to involve other men".
I mean, this is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. So you want me to like, it's like race motorcycles or jump out of airplanes or climb mountains or whatever. I was insulted, I was angry. Like the last thing I needed to do is throw axes and play laser tag with a bunch of men. Stupid, right? And so I pushed back, and I said, "This is dumb. I can't believe I'm paying you for this". I was real honest. And we had that kind of relationship. And he said, "You're kind of at the crossroads right now". And in the same way I'm gonna say to some of you, "You're at a crossroads right now". You let God do what he wants to do or you stay in bondage. And my counselor looked at me and said, "One of three things. Number one is you can ignore your wife who loves you, your close friends who love you, and you can ignore my professional opinion. And you can stay the same until you do work yourself to death, like to death, like die because of it. Number two is you can fire me, get another counselor. Go through months and months and come up to the very same conclusion. Or number three, you can get over your pride of which you've had for years and you can listen and you can get better".
Those are the options. And when I say working too much, everybody goes, "Yeah, yeah". It's almost something like you applaud for. It's idolatry is what it is. It's idolatry. It's not trusting God. It's ignoring the more important priority. It is a very, very real problem. So I listened to a stupid diagnosis. I tried two things. One is Jujitsu, where you actually roll and fight men on the ground. It looks very odd, strangely fun. I don't know how that happened. And the other thing I tried is I took flying lessons, ended up getting my private pilot's license, and then somehow I ended up liking that and got my instrument rating. And what I know is that whenever someone is pressing their forehead, their arm into my forehead or choking me out, or when I'm trying to land a plane at 300 feet in the clouds when you can't see anything, I don't think about work.
And I hate how good of advice that was, because by disconnecting my mind, I give myself a mental break. And now I am a way better husband, way more involved with the kids, and even more effective and productive at church by listening to wise advice. And there's some of you, there have been people who love you who've been trying to get through to you for a long time. And I want you to hear me clearly. You cannot change what you won't confront. It's the habit of self examination. And for some of you, honestly, like this is the moment of truth. It's a new year. God has your attention, and you're gonna pray, "Search my heart, test me. See if there is any offensive way in me". And I'm gonna ask you right now, what is God showing you right now, the very thing that you probably don't want to face? What is he saying to you? If you're afraid of what it is, let me tell you right now, He already knows. You should not be afraid of God. You should be afraid of what your sin will cost you if you don't get free from it. What do you do, is you run to him. You confess your need of him. You run to the people that love you, your LifeGroup.
If you do not have a LifeGroup, how do you do it? How do you face the spiritual opposition and the temptation and all the distraction of the world without an army of people standing by you, praying for you in your life, loving you? What do you do when you're caught? There's two types of confession. You confess your sins to God, confess your sins to God, "He is faithful and just to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness". And you confess your sins to the people in your spiritual community. "Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other that you may be healed". You confess to God for forgiveness. You confess to people for healing. And you confess, you confess, "because the heart is deceitful above all things". And that's why David prayed this prayer he prayed, "Create in me, God, a pure heart". I've been lying to myself. I've been deceiving myself. I've been pretending like I was seeking you when I wasn't. I've pretended like I was righteous when I was sinning against you, God.
"Create in me a pure heart. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me". David's sinned big time. And yet he's still described "as a man after God's own heart". No matter what you're trapped in, this could be a moment of freedom. You confess to God and you confess to people. What is God trying to say to you? What does he want to do in you? Don't resist it. He loves you. He wants freedom for you. And so week number one, The Habit of Self-Examination, to give God permission to show us what we need to hear so we can do what we need to do. This is our prayer at all of our churches. Would you pray it with me slowly from the heart with all honesty and integrity? Feel it as you pray it. "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts". Whatever is weighing on you, "cast your anxiety on him because he cares so much for you". Pray it with me. "See if there is any offensive way in me, God, and lead me in the way everlasting". Because if you wanna change your life, you change your habits. But if you wanna change your habits, you let God change your heart.
So, Heavenly Father, do a work in us. We submit and surrender our hearts to you and give you permission, God, show us. Speak to us, transform us.
Today, as you're reflecting in prayer, if you wanna be open to what God would say to you, would you just lift up your hand right now? All of our churches, lift up your hand. I hope that's everybody online. You can just type in the comment section, "Search my heart, O God". Just type it in there, "Search my heart, O God". Just pray that right where you are right now. Just pray it. Just pray, "Search my heart. Search my heart, God, show us if there's any offensive way in us".
And God, I pray as you have spoken to me about my current issue I confess before you, that I will confess it to my community. I will turn from it, and I will depend on you. God give us the courage to tell the truth to ourselves, to let your truth, God, your holy truth, set us free. Jesus, you are the truth. You are the Way, the Truth and the Life. And when you know the Truth, when you know Jesus, the Truth is a person. When you know the Truth, Jesus, the Truth, Jesus will set you free.
As you keep praying, today, at all of our churches, there are those of you, you may be like me. You might've been around the church, but if you are really honest, you don't have a relationship with God. Others of you, there's no question. You don't have a relationship with God, and you know it, but something's happening right now. You're being drawn to God. What is that? Let me just tell you right now. That is God drawing you to himself. That is his Holy Spirit loving you and reaching out to you and drawing. You may say like, "I don't even understand this. Like why am I being drawn"? It's because God loves you and he cares for you. And it's him drawing you to him. So what do you do? You tell yourself the truth. I've sinned. I've messed up. I've fallen short. I've done things that are wrong. Guess what? Welcome to the party. We all have, every single one of us.
The scripture says, "All of us have sinned". That's where we start. That's why we feel guilty. And then we just confess our need for Jesus. When you call on Jesus, who is Jesus? He is the sinless Son of God, perfect in every way. He is the Lamb of God who was slain, the innocent one who died in our place. And God raised Him from the dead so that anybody, and this includes you, it doesn't matter what you've done, anybody who calls on his name, you would be forgiven and you would be made new. Today at all of our churches, everybody online, those who say, "I don't know that personally. I don't have a peace of my heart," we're gonna step away from our sin. We're gonna step toward the Truth. His name is Jesus. When we surrender our lives to him, He'll forgive all of our sins. He will make you brand new.
Listen, some of you, here's what we're gonna do. Eyes open right now. Everybody up, eyes open. Nobody hiding. Tell the truth. Those of you today that would say, "I don't know him, but I need him. I'm turning for my sin. I'm calling on Jesus today. I need Jesus as my savior," with everybody looking around, we're not hiding anywhere. Jesus said, "If you confess me before people, I confess you before my God in heaven. If you don't, I won't". So now in front of everybody, "I need Jesus. I need him as a Savior today. I give my life to him".
If that's your prayer, lift your hands high right now all over the place and say, "That's my prayer". Praise God for you. Praise God for you. Others that believe, saying yes. Right back over there and for you as well. Right back there, put them high. Praise God for you. We worship God for you, right back there. "I need Jesus". Welcome into the family today, others, today, right back over here saying, "Yes, I surrender". Come on, give Him some praise today. Give God glory for who He is and what He's doing. Online, type in the comment section for everybody to see, "I need Jesus". Type that in. And wherever you are, nobody prays alone. Guess what? We're not going through life alone. You are not going through life alone. Hey, this is your first LifeGroup. Your next one gets smaller. This week is smaller. This is your first one right now, everybody together, would you pray aloud? Pray:
Heavenly Father, Forgive my sins. Jesus save me. Make me new. Fill me with your Spirit. So I could know you. And serve you. My life is not my own. I give it all to you. Thank you for new life. Now you have mine, in Jesus name, I pray.