I would like to start with a fictional, but very realistic, scenario. Imagine: My wife and I meet at a local Waffle House to discuss our annual family vacation plans. Kid-free, plus the privacy of a booth at 2:30 pm, all is quiet and we can focus. Besides, Waffle House serves up our favorite guilty pleasure, the “Double Covered Hash Brown.” While discussing plans for dates, locations, and budgets, Amber has several excellent suggestions. However, unbeknownst to her, before the late lunch date, I was pretty much set on my pick of St. Augustine, Florida, in March. This was less of a brainstorming session than I led her on to believe. Ten minutes into the conversation, you could tell by my tone of voice that I have become insistent on my St. Augustine pick. What Amber said made sense. “I thought this was a discussion, but it looks like you have made your mind up, already.” The food came and subjects changed to how our days were progressing.
I told her about an interesting conversation I had with a missionary friend about the women of the Lu tribe. With their unusual rituals and worship practices, “The ladies of this Vietnamese tribe color their teeth black using dies and tree sap! They think white teeth are reserved for savages, wild animals, and demons!” Amber chuckled, “Why?” I explained, “It prevents tooth decay, and they think it increases sex appeal!”
For many of us, this is how we think people idolize or worship things. We envision isolated, far-flung people groups bowing down to little statues, chicken bones and other oddities. Worship is much more than that; It defines who we are and affects all we do – effecting our outward actions and conversations.
How do you communicate with others? How you speak to others reveals your heart and mind. What is at the center of your solar system? Is it God and loving your spouse and his/her best interests? Or are you being self-serving?
“… For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,”
Matthew 12:34. How we converse reveals what we are about. Therefore, learning to communicate better really will not help if you have bad and/or selfish motivations. A reorientation of our heart and mind is at the core of better communication. That is why our actions, including how we communicate, reveal what we are worshipping.
Born to Worship.
The definition of worship is: to “treat (someone or something) with the reverence and adoration appropriate to a deity.” Reverence, meaning having a deep respect. Adoration is similar but adds-in showing a deep love towards something or someone held in high esteem.
As humans, Christian and non-Christian, we are built to worship; that is baked into who we are. This is by God’s design as His image-bearers. Our minds and hearts are always active and directing our love, respect, and adoration towards “something.” That “something” is considered the object of our worship, and we can categorize it into either of two things: God or someone/something else.
Worship, being an innate quality, could be describe like a garden hose that is always on, full blast. It is not a question of “IF” the hose is on or off, but “WHAT” the hose is pointed at. God intended our worship to be directed at Him, as the object of our adoration, respect, and love. But that doesn’t always happen, right?
When we worship someone or something other than God, it is called idolatry. Idolatry at its core is selfishness. Why worship God, whom we cannot control? Even for the Christian, our relationship with the Lord is not quite right; it is flawed. This isn’t God’s fault but our own, originating with our own sinful natures (going back to the fall from Genesis 3). We all have a free will to choose what we worship. Do we love and adore other things or God? Often, these “other choices” are irrational and cheap substitutes that are only temporary, ultimately painful, and costly – they are either delusional or an illusion.
Heart Check: How to tell if our hearts are in the right place.
When communications get heated with your spouse, do you want to win the argument? Or do you want to better understand your spouse, so you can speak encouragement, correction, or support into the situation? How you talk is rooted in your heart and mind. So, who you are loving at this moment? God and spouse? Or your own selfish interests?
Here are three questions to ask yourself in the moment to help you pinpoint where your heart and mind are oriented?
- What is driving you at this moment?
- What are you loving at this moment?
- Are you loving God and the people around you, or are you wanting to manipulate them?
The First and Second Great Commandment says in Matthew 22:37–40: [Jesus speaking]
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
So, in the moments before communication even starts, what is the state of your heart and mind?
Ponder the following questions because you have a choice:
- Are you driven by a love for God and people, in this moment, that you use the things in your life to express that love, including how you communicate?
- Or are you being selfish? Loving things or ourselves so that you are using the people around you and even the LORD to get what you want?
It is a choice to be motivated to honor others or to manipulate them.
For example, if I think life and my relationship with my wife revolve around pursuing sexual fulfillment – that I think it brings ultimate happiness – I will judge all of my decisions with their sexual ramifications, rather than how I will honor God and love my wife well. Such a view is selfish and corrupts the way I would buy gifts, how I do dishes after dinner, the way I argue or appease my wife and so on. Therefore, the consequences of a view of life that worships at the altar of sexual gratification even with my wife is telling in how I communicate with her. Why?
The winning desire within us shapes our behavior. Ultimately, change in how we communicate needs to happen in our heart and mind, not just behavior modification. For a more in-depth coverage of this point, please refer to my article on it in relationship to anger (although it is about anger, it applies to this topic of worship and communications): Root Cause of Anger: A 5 Part Series to Help the Christian that is Prone to Anger. (Part 2).
But HOW can I CHANGE if I’m like this?
Let us not forget, as Christians, we are united to Christ in the “here-and-now,” not just when we go to heaven. The reality of this truth is it has very real benefits and implications to help us reorient our worship. The shifting of our desires and motivation from me-centric to loving God and then others can fundamentally change how we communicate or talk.
The real hope and the real help is that our Savior is Christ and that we are united to Him as Christians.
Be thankful if your heart’s desire is not simply to improve how you talk, but to foster a deeper desire to love God and love others well. Part of that is how we want to converse, by being incarnational to those around us. Sometimes we forget and overlook the experience of our union with Christ. Namely, the blessings that union holds for us and the power in that union to help us in our daily lives and struggles to bring a sincere desire to glorify God through word and deed. This union is not simply “self-help.” In fact, we are ambassadors for Christ. We are called to help reconcile the world back to God through Christ – in part by acting incarnation-ally in our conversations, to influence our little corners of the world for the better. 2 Corinthians 5:19:
“that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”
(Here are some other scriptural citings regarding our Union with Christ: John 15:1-11, John 17:20-26, Ephesians 1:3-14.)
Getting Specific: A Re-orientation of worship.
In order to re-orient our worship, we must focus on specific issues. Why? Specific repentance leads to specific change. One of the great things about identifying ruling desires and dominating allegiances is that they are specific and can therefore enable us to turn from our old sinful ways and turn back towards our Lord Jesus. That act of turning, uncharacteristically, from your “old ways” enables specific change. (Here are 2 articles I wrote that unpack this more if you would like to know more: Root Cause of Anger: A 5 Part Series to Help the Christian that is Prone to Anger. (Part 3) and Root Cause of Anger: A 5 Part Series to Help the Christian that is Prone to Anger. (Part 4)) As Christians, let’s all remember these three things, as God is in the business of transformation.
- God can create new desires within you, fruit of the spirit desires, to replace the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:17-24). Yes, God can change your desires. What God commands, He provides the power to accomplish (Ps 25:4-5). God promises to change what you really want (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is radical! For a thorough analysis on this concept in the form of a classic sermon, please visit: The Expulsive Power of a New Affection, by Thomas Chalmers.
- God’s aim is to further conform you into the image of His Son. 2 Corinthians 5:16-17, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
- God refuses to serve your instinctive longings (James 1:13) but commands you to be ruled by other longings and desires. Galatians 5:22-24, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Pray and ask, Philippians 2:13, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
God is always reorienting our worship and our walks, our motives, and our lifestyles.
Only when your heart is right, regarding worship, you will be ready to truly change for the better in how you communicate with others.
Back to my mid-afternoon meeting with my wife at the Waffle House. We finished the light-hearted conversation about the black teethed women of the Lu tribe, ordered coffee, and got back to the main topic of vacation planning. She could tell I was clinging to my choice. I went right into St. Augustine’s hotel options and dates with a determination in my voice. Amber, being agitated by my inflexibility and being misled about being part of an open-minded discussion, sarcastically said, “Just like the Lu tribe, you have something in your teeth!”
If you need more personalized help with communications or marriage counseling, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for counseling from a biblical perspective at https://www.providencebiblicalcounseling.org.