Resentment

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Today, I want to talk about something that so often stalks us, as Christians. It is something that hides in churches, and it is something that hides in our lives. It is something that actually kills and steals so much of life.

It is resentment.

Resentment is almost a “Christian sin.” And, I say the word “sin” specifically in the sense that sin separates you from God.

Sin kills healthy things. Sin infects living things with death.

In this sense, resentment is a sin. It will infect your life, bring death to your soul, and separate you from God.

It’s also almost a “Christian sin,” because it’s such a temptation for Christians – a temptation to do the right action for the wrong reason.

Resentment is a particularly tough temptation for those drawn toward caring and helping others, because resentment builds when we don’t feel appreciated enough, valued enough, or noticed enough.

We do the right actions, but don’t see the “right” or expected reaction, and resentment builds.

This is why I said it’s almost a “Christian sin,” in that so many Christians choose to love and care, but then feel resentful afterward…

They serve and give to someone, who doesn’t seem to appreciate their effort.
They bend over backwards for someone, who seems to take it for granted.
They put way too many hours into a sermon, only to have it critiqued within five minutes.

Or, however else it works out in your life.

But, this is why resentment is both subtle and a sin. Because, ultimately, whenever resentment is present, what it reveals is that the right actions were done for the wrong reason. That we gave, sacrificed, or served not because it was right, but because we wanted the “right” reaction.

Resentment happens when sacrifice turns inward.

And so, while we often talk about lots of other “obvious sins,” this is one that goes unnoticed, slides under the radar, and then remains unchanged.

But, I think it does need to change.

Because, I know, at least in my life, that resentment is often right there under the surface. I can get resentful to God for all that I gave up for Him. I can get resentful for the sacrifices that I give that seem to go unnoticed. Surely I am owed something in return!

But, resentment can’t go unnoticed and unchanged, because a resentful heart isn’t a Christ-like heart.

So, what do we do with all of this?

Well, I think the first step is to reflect and ask: Is resentment hiding in our hearts?

And, if so, then I think what we do is confess and get back to giving.

We confess the sin, ask for healing and forgiveness, and then seek to get back to giving, serving, and sacrificing, but this time without the expectations or agendas.

Lent: Seven Woes of Jesus ~ Week 4: Cleaning the Dishes and Heart Transformations

clean-1445150So on Sunday we continued our series of Lent looking at the seven woes. And the “woe” we unpacked was this one from Jesus:

What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish and then the outside will become clean too.

And here Jesus enters into a debate on the cleaning of cups. And there are lots of cultural things going on here that we unpacked on Sunday but the main point of Jesus really is this: having stuff clean on the outside (our actions, our religious rituals, our following the rules) doesn’t matter if inside we aren’t clean (our hearts, desires, and wants).

Jesus is trying to point out something that is obvious to anyone – you can do the right thing with the wrong motives and it misses the point. That your kids can clean their room not because you want them to, but because they want to to go to a party. Your employee can go above and beyond, not because they care, but because they want the weekend off. Your spouse can be all thoughtful and caring, for you to only realize they got in a fender bender. The point is that the right actions without the right heart is deadly. That what good is it if you do the right thing – but your heart and motives are off? What good is it if you follow all the rules of the Bible – but inside you are seething with greed, excess, and sinful desires? What good is the outside of a cup looking clean, if the inside is full of junk?

Jesus’ desire to move our focus from the outward to the inward and where the work needs to be done. Because here is the truth: all of our hearts are dirty and filled with junk. Everyone has some brokenness, some greed, some hurt, some pride, some agenda, some mixed motives and desires that need to be changed.

And the truth though is that following the rules doesn’t change our hearts. I know this because my kids sometimes follow the rules, but they aren’t doing them happily and their hearts remain unchanged. For our hearts to be changed we need an encounter, and an experiences specifically with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

So on Sunday we unpacked this main idea: that we all need a heart change, a heart transformation, and a heart cleansing.

And so to do this we took communion and took time to connect with Jesus. We took time and created space to ask for a heart cleansing, because that is what we all need. We all need some transformation from hurt to healing, from grime to grace, from hate to hope. And the way this happens isn’t by doubling down on following the rules, but doubling down on an encounter with Jesus. And that’s our challenge for the week: to have an encounter with Jesus that changes us. Because that’s where the magic is of following Jesus, not out of duty and legalism, but out of freedom with a new and changed heart.

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaWe all need a heart change, a heart transformation, and a heart cleansing

Teaching Points:

  • “I think what Jesus is warning us about is that it’s entirely possible to be a religious, dedicated Christian, and yet totally miss the life-giving nature of a life centered squarely on his teachings. Some of us have exchanged Jesus for a Christian religion.” Benjamin Corey
  • The inner life is what matters.
  • Following the rules and the law doesn’t matter unless your heart is changed.
  • A heart change matters more than following the rules.
  • What God wants aren’t people who just follow the rulesGod wants people who have hearts like his.
  • Following the rules doesn’t change your heart.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Have you ever had an experience of someone “following the rules” for the wrong motives? How did it make you feel? Why don’t you think following the rules changes our hearts? How can Jesus change our hearts? How can we ensure that they stay changed?

Discussion Questions for Families:

Use the example I gave from Hudson, or maybe one from your own life to talk about motives. Talk about how we as parents love when our kids do the right thing, but more than that want to see the right heart. Ask them what the difference might be in simple and easy thing like dishes, like cleaning up toys, etc.

Challenge for the Week: Have a heart change