There is a lot to be said when dealing with lymphoma/leukemia. One of the first things, is beginning to doubt your own worth. You are no longer able to do all the things you used to do. You need your wife to do things you always did, because you were the man of the house. You may even look at others, who offer there, “how are you doing”? Or “I will be praying for you,” and sometimes find yourself wondering if they really mean it. For over a period of ten years, I had become hardened, by lies and cheating, that hurt me far more than I had ever realized. My mind hardened, so I would not be hurt so deeply anymore. Since those years, I have only been loved, by my family, and even with all the love my wife and children showed me, it was still hard to really believe that I was really important. I had become hardened to many feelings, so I would not ever be hurt like I had been. This is harsh I know, and has been wrong, even when I became a Christian, and tried to welcome others into my corner of the world, it did not happen. On the surface, it may have looked like I had, but in my mind, I was not secure enough to trust or let in many people. With all of this said, what happened to me last year, on Dec. 26th, changed me forever, and has caused an internal war within me, pertaining to the truth of my own worth.

That was the day I was told that I had cancer, (non-hodgkins disease), as most of you have already read, it turned out to be SLL/CLL (small lymphocytic lymphoma/chronic lymphocytic leukemia) a subgroup of Non-hodgkins cancer, same cancer, just takes longer to kill you. I recall after being told, my wife came in the room, and when I told her, a unimageable sadness came over me. As she was crying, uncontrollably, it came to my heart(mind) that Jesus Christ had just shown me what His love was all about. I had been a Christian, (believer in Jesus Christ) for 33 years, and over the last several years had come to realize, that as a child of God, I did not have the love for others, that God, my Father has told me, by His Word, that I would have. That night, in that hospital room, He showed me how to care for and love others, and what that meant. I must with all truthfulness, thank Him for answering the prayer I had prayed for so long, “Take away the anger, insecurity, and distrust I have for others, and let me love them as I should.””Lord, please help me love others, like you do.”

Have I fallen on my face since then, oh yes, but finally I know when I do. I am now aware of the war that rages within me, just as Christ said in the Gospel of Matthew, that what comes out of a man, comes from his heart and defiles the man. The war that is within myself, that old man who was crucified with Christ, died with Christ, buried with Christ, and the new man who I became when I rose again with Christ, righteous, loved, worthy, secure in Christ, who is no longer subject to the law, and sin. I know that old man died, but my new self, was also left in this body, that has not died yet, and still has its leftover desires, wants, fears, anger, anxiety, selfishness (what the Bible calls the flesh). So when I get up in the morning, feeling down, because of what I have physically (SLL/CLL), and the mind battle I face of being worthy enough for my wife, my family, and others, I look in the mirror with complete assurance, and I choose to know that I am loved, secure,  and worthy, not because of anything I have or have not done, but because of Christ. Now I can believe others when they say they care, why because I care. Before, like most of us, I cared for me, I cared not to take a chance on being hurt, lied to, and cheated again.

The renewal of our minds is a necessary process because our hearts are filled with the “traditions of men” (the natural mans way of thinking), rather than the truth of the Word of God. By “traditions of men” I mean the natural humanistic world view conditioned into each of us as we grow up. Jesus exposes them as being the root cause of all our problems, in Matt. 15:1-20.

In these verses, you see the account of Jesus in conflict with the religious leaders of his day. It was not unusual for him to be embroiled in a heated controversy involving the tradition of men. His entire message to the nation was summarized in one word, “REPENT,” —change your thinking (the traditions of men) that has been encrusted in you and me since we began understanding as a child. So we find him again in controversy because his disciples violated the traditions of the elders when they failed to wash their hands before they ate bread (verse 1-2).

Jesus’ response to the accusations of the religious authorities was to simply divert attention to the real problem. A problem which existed with them then, and now with us. He pointed out that our traditions themselves tend to violate commands of God, and can, therefore, cause us more damage by keeping them than by violating them. The specific example he used to illustrate his point concerned the way in which the traditions of the elders allowed for refusing to care for aging parents, if one had given all his extra money to the temple. Such a tradition permitted the Pharisees to avoid their family responsibilities before God, and still appear righteous before man.

Such hypocrisy brings to mind Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the real problem we human beings have with our traditions. He said “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. The problem with our natural understanding of how we ought to live and function in a healthy way is that our “hearts” are miles away from God. Instead of knowing and sharing God’s heart, we find ourselves in all sorts of self-inflicted wounds, religion and traditional bondage; “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (verses 7-9)

To bring his point home Jesus returns to the issue of failing to keep the tradition of the elders by not washing. To the multitudes, he made the radical statement that it is really not what goes into a man that defiles him, but rather what comes out of the man. The dysfunction or defilement of sin does not come about by eating or drinking or drugging. It is not what goes into the body that defiles the person. True dysfunction (defilement) arises because of what is already in us that comes out (verse 11).

This statement was so radical that Jesus’ disciples were afraid Jesus had offended the authorities, and they would suffer because of it. To fully appreciate their fear, we must realize many of these traditions concerned the dietary laws given by Moses in the first five books of the Old Testament. Certain foods were strictly prohibited by the written law of God, and Jesus appeared to be contradicting them by his last radical statement.

After assuring his disciples that the religious authorities were “blind leaders of the blind,” and encouraging them to “let them alone,” Jesus went on to explain what causes us to become dysfunctional. It is not the things we eat or drink (the things we do). The real source of defilement is what naturally comes out of our heart or subconscious mind. The prophet Jeremiah warns the heart is “desperately wicked and deceitful above all things,” and contained in it is all the “evil thoughts that lead to murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, blasphemies. . .” It is the “evil thoughts” springing up from within our subconscious minds that defiles us, and causes both personal and relational dysfunction in our lives (verses 15-29).

As a closing note in this study, let’s define “evil thoughts” in terms more easily understood, and applied to our lives. An evil thought has at its core the idea —“I will be worthy if . . .” (In my case I will be worthy if I never let anyone know how really scared I had become of being hurt again). Regardless of how we may complete the sentence, the thought is evil. It is evil, because according to the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is a lie. To say “I will be worthy if . . .” implies we are right at this moment worthless, but if we can obtain something (whatever follows the if) we will be worthy. Continuing this further, it ultimately means we need something more than what God has already provided for us in Christ. This is the core of the evil thought.

The truth of the gospel says, “I am worthy (secure and significant) because of who God has made me to be in Christ!” To see the evil character of such thinking, we have only to realize that when we think, “I will be worthy if . . .,” we are really calling God a liar, and rejecting Christ as being sufficient to make us worthy. Instead of believing God has joined us, inseparably, to his son Jesus Christ, we may choose to believe that we must have someone or something more than what God has given us in Christ to make us worthy.

It is this evil thought springing up in our hearts that actually defiles us and, underlies all our dysfunctional emotions and behavior.

My thanks to Church in the Woods, for these thoughts in Matt: 15.