Steven Furtick - Defending Your Soul
This is an excerpt from: It's Your Door
Your soul is like a city. This brings up a question. If your soul is a city, what's the crime rate? Your soul…your mind, your will, your emotions. Now, your spirit is perfect. When Jesus saves you, he gives you the Holy Spirit. There's nothing wrong with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit doesn't need upgrades. The Holy Spirit doesn't have bugs and glitches. The Holy Spirit doesn't buffer. The truest part of you, if you belong to Jesus, is light and truth, and it is the incorruptible seed of the Word of God. So, that's your new nature. When you do something crazy and say, "I'm just keeping it real…" No, you're not, actually. That's not the real you at all. That's the you that you remember, but to really learn this new way of thinking requires that God does some work, not in our spirits but in our souls. If your soul is a city (I'm just putting this out there before we read all this), how's the economy? Is it a lot of poverty of compassion? Are you in compassion fatigue? That would be poverty of compassion.
Do you have a poverty of empathy? You only can see things how you can see things. If your soul is a city, God has given you charge over it. You are elected as the mayor of the city of your soul to develop and defend what God gives you. Give them the Proverbs verse. This will make it clear. The writer of Proverbs… Most people believe Solomon wrote the majority of the Proverbs. "Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control". Did that Scripture feel like it should have had your name by it or are you doing really good? If your soul is a city, what's going on inside? I see your sneakers. I see your smile. I see all of that, but I'm asking about the city of your soul…that stuff. Only God really sees that. If Solomon did write Proverbs, he would be the perfect one to tell us that when you don't have self-control, you're like a city with no walls. Anything can get in anytime.
That's exactly what he let happen, not only to his own heart but to the nation. You remember. Saul was the first king of Israel. David came after him. Solomon, David's son, took the throne next, and the Bible says he was the wisest man who ever lived. The only time I can find a sort of contradiction in the Bible is that if he's the wisest man to ever live, how did he have 700 wives? I'm still working on that. That's a mystery of God right there for me. The Bible says he did something crazy. He let the influence of the foreign women he loved turn his heart… This is the literal language of it (2 Kings 11). It says he let them turn his heart from the Lord. So, he started to let things come in, not directly (pay attention), but indirectly. He did not turn toward those gods; he turned toward those people, and those people turned him toward those gods.
We are far more easily influenced than we realize. Like a city without walls, just anybody, anything, any thought, any feeling, any impulse, anything you want to do, anything you want to say, anything you want to look at, anything you want to watch… Anything can get in when you do not see your soul as a city and realize that you have the responsibility to defend it. Now, I wish I could tell you differently. I wish I could tell you that when you turn 25, somebody is going to come into your life and make you happy, and they will help you deal with all of your dysfunctions, and you will meet the right person, and they will make you whole, but if you are half and they come into your life, then they will not make you whole; they will make you go through a living hell as you realize that what you thought was in another person could only be found in God. I have to work on my city. I have to work on myself. I have to work on what's within.
Let's go back to Nehemiah, because now I think you're ready. He said, "When we got the wall built…" They did it in 52 days with the help of their God. So, this is something to celebrate. "…not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates—Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: 'Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.' But they were scheming to harm me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply…" Y'all, I'm glad Nehemiah was skilled as a builder, because he did not have the gift of a preacher. He missed the most obvious layup in the history… Watch this. "Come meet with us on the plains of Ono". Nehemiah said, "I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down". Why wouldn't you start the response with "Oh, no"? He missed it. (Come on. Y'all like my humor. You didn't pay anything. It's not like you need a refund for the ticket.)
So, they say, "Meet at the plains of Ono". He says, "Oh, no". He didn't say it. I'm putting it in there. He should have said it. "I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you"? This is the part I like, because this gives me an indication. You don't just fight spiritual battles once, and they go away. Look at verse 4. "Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer". So, he's persistent about this because he has priorities. We'll come back to priorities in just a moment.
Skip over to Nehemiah 7, verse 1. They keep trying to get him to come. He won't come. They give him a false prophecy. They try to get him to go in the temple and close the doors. They're like, "Hey, come. Somebody is trying to kill you. You need to hide in the temple". He's like, "If I hide, I lose my credibility. I know what you're trying to do to me. Why should a man like me run and hide after God brought me this far? If God enabled me through letters from Artaxerxes to come here and rebuild this wall and helped me do it in spite of all this opposition, do you think I'm going to go run and hide in somebody's house right now? Not me. Oh no".
He wouldn't do it. He wouldn't quit. Now look at chapter 7, verse 1. I've never heard anybody preach chapter 7, because it lists a bunch of names of everybody who came back after the Babylon captivity. This is a "skip" most of the time in the book of Nehemiah. We just read right past it. But I saw something so important that I thought we should spend this entire sermon on it. Nehemiah said in verse 1, "After the wall had been rebuilt and I had set the doors in place, the gatekeepers, the musicians and the Levites were appointed. I put in charge of Jerusalem my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel, because he was a man of integrity…" That doesn't mean he's perfect. That means he's one person everywhere, the same person here as the same person there…whole. Integer in math. You remember that. That's what he's saying. He had integrity, and he feared God more than most people. I kind of like the shade of meaning behind that.
"More than most people". "He's better than all of these other bums, so I'll take him". But really, when he says he's a man of integrity, we realize he is appointed because of his character. Look at verse 3. "I said to them, 'The gates of Jerusalem are not to be opened until the sun is hot. While the gatekeepers are still on duty, have them shut the doors and bar them. Also appoint residents of Jerusalem as guards, some at their posts and some near their own houses.'" If I could call this study what I really want to call it, I would call it "Self-Awareness as a Form of Spiritual Warfare". But the more I thought about that, I thought, "They will never remember that when they leave". I don't hardly even remember it, and I just said it. It's so clunky. So, instead I'm going to call it… I want you to look at the person next to you and tell them the title I think you probably can remember. Say, "It's your door".
I need your prayers, as always, because God continues to have to help me to focus my priorities. I am constantly having to deal with the Holy Spirit about my priorities. It's almost like a bath or brushing your teeth. It's like, if I don't do it a couple of times a day, I start to notice in my attitude, in my thoughts, in my conversations. I can be the pettiest person. Last week I told you I'm very protective as a father. When my kids are in the ocean, I turn into "Safety Steve". "Y'all come in. You're too deep". It's really annoying, and I know it while I'm doing it, but I'm just scared. I don't know. I'm getting old. I know I'm getting old, because Elijah went to get five napkins last night, and I freaked out. Just last night. This is recent.
See, even that goes back, because my dad used to tear the paper towel in half and say, "You don't need a whole paper towel. Half a paper towel is all you need. What in the world do you need with a whole paper towel? You need to learn how to manage…" He had a whole system for folding it and getting through with half a paper towel. But he grew up poor. Now you carry all of these things into your adulthood. I don't know where this one came from. I can almost hear my mom's voice in my head. Somewhere along the line, my children all had a meeting and decided, relatively recently, that none of them were ever going to close a door in the house ever again…not a door to a bedroom, not a door to a pantry, definitely not a door going outside. I'm just walking through the house all day… I hear my mom's voice. That's the craziest part about it. I hear my mom's voice.
"You are cooling off the outside". Then she used to yell. She would yell, "You're letting the cool out! Shut the door! You're letting the cool out"! Or, if it wasn't that, "Shut the door! You're letting the flies in". So, I'm either letting the flies in or the cool out. I am so petty. I was walking through the house just the other day, and there's a door, and there's a door, and there's a door. I'm closing the doors, and I'm doing a little speech under my breath. "That's fine. I'll just be the official door closer around here. I've got nothing better to do. It's not like I lead a global ministry. I've got nothing better to do than follow y'all and close the doors so that the dumb dog y'all made me buy won't get out and get hit by a car! That's what I would love to do today, is close the doors behind y'all".
I promise when the Lord speaks to me, sometimes it is so basic. I don't know if it was the Lord. It was a thought that went through my mind. "I wonder what would happen if you were as concerned about what you let in your heart…" No, no, no. I didn't get to the best part yet. "You're talking about letting the flies in, but you let the fear in. You don't seem to be very concerned about that.
So, I wonder what would happen if you would be as concerned about what you let in your heart as what's getting in this house because the door is open. I wonder what would happen if you were as concerned about what you let in your heart…" This is the one that got me. "…and what you let out of your mouth". Everybody do this. We're going to talk about that in a minute. That's your door, whether you realize it or not. And that's your door, and that's your door, and that big ol' elephant-sized brain you're carrying around up there that knows all that math and science is your door.
Nehemiah builds the wall, and they have the structure, and the city is spacious and large, but the people aren't back yet. I don't know if you noticed the detail, but it's pretty significant if God put it in the Bible. Anything God put in the Bible, I'm like, "Lord, that seems random, but it must not be. Reveal to me what's in it". He said in chapter 6, verse 1, that when his enemies… "When they heard that I had rebuilt the wall, the whole thing, and didn't leave a gap in it…" Look at verse 1, part B. "…though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates…" We have two things happening in this Scripture. Nehemiah is making progress for God, and he receives an invitation from his enemy all at the same time. He is making progress for God. He's getting this wall built.
"If we can get a wall, we can get an educational system. If we can get a wall, we can worship without being worried that they're going to come and get us. If we can get a wall built…" But he said after the wall was built… That was the first wave. "Now I have to set the doors in place so that in the daily comings and goings, we can have assurance of protection, so that when we do what we do in the course of our lives, whether worship or work, we will be protected. I have to get these doors in place. If I don't get these doors in place, this wall isn't going to do me any good. If I get a wall but no doors, nobody can go out, but if I have a wall without doors, anybody can just get in. So, I have to have a wall, and I have to have some doors, because I'm making progress for God, but I'm receiving an invitation from the enemy".
So, this is the question. I'm bringing it right to 2022: What do you do when you are making progress for God but receive an invitation from an enemy? Not a physical enemy. Remember, we don't wrestle against flesh and blood. Sanballat is over Samaria in the north, and Tobiah is over the Ammonites to the east, and Geshem is over the Arabs to the south, but we're not talking about geography here, are we? We're talking about psychology, theology. We're talking about your Sanballats of self-pity, your Tobiahs of temptation, your Geshems of… What starts with a G? Gluttony! We're not supposed to preach about that sin in church. No, that'll mess the whole… How about we go with grumbling? I like grumbling. He said it was an enemy, and they asked him for a meeting.
The enemy didn't ask Nehemiah, "Can we come in and destroy your credibility"? Why would the enemy do that? You would say, "No". They said, "Let's talk. I'm hearing the rumors about what you built. Let's talk". It's an invitation. "Let's talk". "Hey, get that situation on your mind that you don't see any way out of, and play out every hypothetical scenario of how it could go worse than you ever possibly thought. Let's talk". "Count up everybody in your mind who ever left your life, who were supposed to be there for you and are not, and think about how they failed you and mistreated you, and think about the fact that they're probably off somewhere right now on an island, happy without you, driving a Ferrari. Let's talk".
"Think about the fact of everything you don't have, and I want you to go look at everybody else who has everything you don't have, and I want you to put together a perfect conglomerate of all of the people who in your imagination have something you don't have, and then compare your image of them to your reality of yourself. Let's talk". Nehemiah is like, "Oh, no," which gave me a lesson. When the Enemy speaks to me, Satan doesn't get to give me a command; he can only make a suggestion.