As Jesus ended his teaching in Luke 17, He talked about the master and the servant, rounding out His message beginning with offenses and forgiveness. We need to be on guard for bitterness. We need to employ forgiveness every day. We need to speak to our hearts in the act of faith to see the sick trees in our lives torn out. And, finally, we need to employ our faith and make it work for us as a servant does for a master.
It shouldn’t be unusual when someone manifests faith in God and love for people. He’s given us the tools we need to live for Him and change our world, but our mouths get in the way. I have often heard people speak healing over their lives, and then turn around and confess how sick they are. They will say we forgive someone, but then call that person names in the next breath. We use our faith like a yo-yo, and it can’t accomplish what we set it to work to do.
However, when our faith is attached to divine promises, and we stop declaring the opposite of the promise, God’s word will be fulfilled. We have to put our faith work and not cut short the miracles in our mouths with words devoid of faith.
“So Jesus said, ‘Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man’” (Matthew 15:16-18).
God wants us to live a life of miraculous power. He wants us to work with Him in setting the world free from the power of Satan. To do that, we need to not only address unforgiveness and bitterness, we need to submit to His work on personality issues in our hearts.
Many years ago, when I had just started in the ministry, I was dealing with some difficult people in my church. As I sought over why these people struggled with pride, depression, insecurities, and so on, He showed me that they had dealt with sin but not their personalities issues or flaw. He laid it out plainly to me with a passage from the book of Isaiah:
The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough places smooth;
The glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
And all flesh shall see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken”
In this passage, we have a fantastic picture of God addressing four personality conditions God wants to makeover: valleys, mountains, crooked places, and rough places. This transformation is a continuation of the heart work we discussed in the previous chapter. He is preparing us to walk in the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit, exhibited through the spoken word.
“Every valley shall be exalted…” Valley issues manifest as struggles with rejection, abandonment, and other adverse emotional problems. God wants to help valley people by filling up their souls with his hope and love and goodness.
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
He wants to help people with valley issues to see life healthily. He does this by pouring His word into the empty spaces to level out the low spots in their personality. He uses passages like Psalm 139:13-14 to lift them:
For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
“And every mountain and hill brought low…” Mountain places tend to manifest in a struggle with pride. When people continuously brag or tell others how great their lives are, they are out of balance and are trying to meet the need for acceptance in their lives. In the Kingdom of God, we must see ourselves the right way, in the light of God’s goodness and our fallenness. God helps mountain people—and all of us—develop true humility through His word; He has given us plenty to read concerning being humble.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up (James 4:10).
And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Matt. 23:12).
And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not (Deu. 8:2).
…if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chron. 7:14).
Then Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah (2 Chron. 32:26).
The humble He guides in justice,
And the humble He teaches His way (Ps. 25:9).
Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud (Prov. 16:19).
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
“The crooked places shall be made straight…” Crooked places produce inconsistencies in our lives. Peter is an excellent example of someone who struggled with inconsistency. As we see in the Bible, Peter was a handful. In one instance mentioned, we find him being given a new name (a new identity) and being rebuked as the devil by Jesus all in the same chapter.
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.
From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.
Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”
But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:15-23).
Thankfully, Jesus knows how to straighten us out and develop consistency in our behavior and souls through helping us form consistent prayer and Bible study times, placing us with others who are consistent in their lives, and by dealing with the fears and anxiety that often hinder us from moving forward.
“And the rough places smooth…” Rough places in a person’s personality can be easily identified by the fact they have not learned to show others love. They don’t represent the kindness and love of God in their behavior and words towards others. They don’t mind telling others how wrong they are, or what rules they are breaking, or what sins they are committing, and they do it with no emotion or empathy. Jesus called for us to love others as He did:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another… (1 John 3:11).
Jesus will help smooth them out so we can all survive life with them. And He does this through prayer time, worship, reading His word, and by putting us in groups of people that we have to love—no matter what the differences.