A portable toilet outside Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Mixed messages and your relationship with God

After I graduated from college, I couldn’t find a writing job anywhere. The local newspaper had been sold and wasn’t taking any new employees. There were no marketing positions open. Nothing. I couldn’t even find a secretary job that would take me.

And that’s how I ended up as a sign language interpreter. Yes, a sign language interpreter. For a truly adorable little second grade girl in a public school. Not many folks know I did that, mainly because I didn’t do it for very long, only a semester. I really don’t think I was qualified.

Something I learned? Sign language is less about the hand signs and more about the facial expressions and body language. That surprised me at first, but then I got to thinking about “normal” communication. And it’s true.

Wouldn’t you agree that what you say is less important than how you say it? I mean, you can say the words people want to hear, but the tone of voice you use can communicate the exact opposite of what you’re saying. And more often than not, people listen to your tone or your body language more than the actual words you’re saying.

It’s the same way with your attitude. You can tell God that you want to honor Him and do what He says, but if your attitude isn’t turned toward Him too, all you are is words.

A portable toilet outside Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

A portable toilet outside Glen Eyrie Castle (which has lovely bathroom facilities inside, no mixed messages there), Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Matthew 15:11.

It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.

Whatever you have in your heart is what’s going to come out when you speak, whether you say good words or not. You can say good words and still tear people down with your tone of voice. You can claim to be doing what God wants while your heart is cold toward Him.

There’s nothing in the world you can put in your body that will destroy your soul. The only thing that can corrupt you is the attitude you already have in your heart.

So what is that attitude? Are you stubborn and willful? Are you proud and self-centered? Are you desperate to control everything? Or have you just convinced yourself that whatever consequences you’ll have to face for disobedience will be worth it?

When I was interpreting, I remember very clearly that there was one day–one day out of many–that I really felt like I did a good job. And I remember what happened that day: I forgot about myself.

I forgot that I was sitting in front of a room of second graders on a chair three sizes too small for me. I forgot that I really didn’t know what I was doing, that I really wasn’t qualified. I forgot my insecurities and my anxieties and for once I actually, really accepted my role as an interpreter and just did it. And it was great.

How badly do I need to do that with my life now? I really just need to focus on what God has called me to do–not worrying about what I’m qualified for or what I’m capable of or who will be disappointed or who will think I’m ridiculous.

But I want to do it myself. In my time. With my rules. And it just doesn’t work that way.

What I need is an attitude of honesty and humility. So instead of trying to communicate without facial expressions, instead of my tone contradicting my words, I want to embrace an attitude of wholehearted, genuine honesty. Instead of just paying God lip service and then doing whatever I want, however I want, I want to start doing things His way, even if I don’t think it will work.

How about you? When was the last time you told God something you didn’t mean? Did you even think about it? Or did it just roll off your tongue and you forgot about it?

So stop mixing your messages. God knows the truth anyway, and all you’re doing is confusing people around you. And you’re not doing yourself any favors either.

The heart determines your actions, not the other way around

Today’s verse is 2 Corinthians 7:1.

1 Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.

As I was reading this, first I wanted to know what promises Paul was referring to. So I flipped back to the previous chapter. And basically, what that seems to be referring to is a section of Scripture Paul quotes from some different areas of the Old Testament: Leviticus 26:12; Ezekiel 37:27; Isaiah 52:11; and 2 Samuel 7:14.

 “I will live in them
      and walk among them.
   I will be their God,
      and they will be my people.[e]
 17 Therefore, come out from among unbelievers,
      and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord.
   Don’t touch their filthy things,
      and I will welcome you.[f]
 18 And I will be your Father,
      and you will be my sons and daughters,
      says the Lord Almighty.[g]

God is telling the people of Israel to stay away from the darkness of the world and that if they will do that, they will be His children. His people. So the promise is if we will abandon the things of the world–the things that defile our body and our spirit–God will welcome us as His children. And according to 2 Corinthians 7:1, we should do this because we fear God. (This instance of the word fear is more like reverence or awe instead of terror.)

So the next question I have is what defiles us?

I’m sure people can come up with all sorts of lists. Getting drunk. Pornography. Drugs. Sexual sin. Anything the world is into can probably be listed as something that will defile a person’s body or spirit.


Well, all of those things are bad. And in excess they’re worse. But there is no physical thing on Earth that can actually defile our spirit. Granted, those things aren’t very good for our bodies either, but if you ask me, the spirit is the part I’m most concerned about.

So what defiles a spirit if it’s not drugs or sex or alcohol? Jesus already gave us the answer in Matthew 15:11.

11 It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”

This is another area where Christians get caught up in, I think. Religion usually is able to get a foothold in our lives in this area because we buy into the lies that doing something or saying something or taking something will defile us. But that’s not true. It’s the condition of the heart that will defile a person. I’m going to go ahead and put the whole section of this interaction up because I think it’s so revealing:

Matthew 15:1-20

1 Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They asked him, 2“Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.”

 3 Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? 4 For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’[a] and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’[b] 5 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 6 In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents.[c] And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,

 8 ‘These people honor me with their lips,
      but their hearts are far from me.
    9 Their worship is a farce,
      for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’[d]

 10 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “Listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 11It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”

 12Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?”

 13 Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, 14so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.”

 15Then Peter said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable that says people aren’t defiled by what they eat.”

 16 “Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. 17 “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.”

See what I mean? The Pharisees were throwing this big fit because the Disciples hadn’t washed their hands before they ate (it was a big ceremonial deal apparently), and Jesus pointed out to them that even though they were extraordinarily strict about keeping the laws, they didn’t understand why the laws are important.

So because I fear God and because I believe in the promises He made, I want to get as far away from what will defile me as possible–namely, a proud and unyielding heart that wants its way and refuses to listen to God.

God gave me a new heart when I chose to accept Christ, but my old nature still holds on. And I struggle with it every day. I’m still a work in progress. God is still working on me, helping me get through each day, learning more about Him and His mercies, and one day I won’t have to struggle with it anymore.

But until then, I want to have a pure heart. Because if your heart is pure, your actions will be too.