The Right Desires in Communication

Rob Green February 28, 2009 Ephesians 4:17-24

 

Introduction

Communication has a “heart” component and a “skills” component.  To this point in our study we have focused on the heart component of communication.

  • Week 1:  Proverbs 18:19-21:  “Life and Death are in the Power of the Tongue”
  • Week 2:  Proverbs 4:23:  “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life”
  • We saw how Jesus elaborates on this theme in Matthew 12:34 and Luke 6:45 where “the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart”
  • That is why “I did not mean to say that” must be qualified with either ignorance/immaturity or with sinfulness.  It is not true that the words simply appeared.
  • We made a series of observations about those who struggle with communication and the results of that type of communication. 
  • Week 3:  James 4:1-2 and James 1:13-15:  We fight and quarrel because of our desires.
  • I suggested a progression that explains how we really think and behave.  We move from a series of desires to a series of actions which then produces consequences (either good or bad)
  • This is one of the reasons that we believe the heart is so crucial in our communication. 
  • I believe this is also what helps us explain how we can be so nice to one person and so mean to another.

Review of desires list from last week’s group activity

I want to be right

I want your undivided attention

I want you to agree / [I don’t want to be wrong]

I want you to appreciate me

I want the proper amount of interaction [sometimes wordy sometimes brief]

I want you to listen to me and acknowledge what I say [to be understood]

I want you to do what I say

I want to irritate you

I want to solve the problem

I want to frustrate you

I want to be in control

I want to demonstrate intellectual superiority

I want peace in the situation

I want to be left alone

I want you to be emotionally involved in what I am telling you

I don’t want to compromise

I want you to like me [fear of rejection]

I want to argue [I like arguing]

As you think about the long list of desires that can influence our communication with a given person or in a given situation I think it is fair to admit that most of the desires are not necessarily sinful in and of themselves (some might be).  However, under the right circumstances the desires can become sinful because they become more important than anything else.

  • Think about how easy it is to really get irritated when a person you are talking to is not paying attention to you.  There is nothing wrong with wanting someone’s undivided attention, but when you do not get that attention it is easy to get really mad and say very unkind things.

So this leads us to a very important conclusion:  FOR OUR COMMUNICATION TO CHANGE OUR DESIRES MUST CHANGE SO THAT THEY ARE PROPERLY CONTROLLED EVEN WHEN TEMPTED NOT TO BE CONTROLLED.

  • You will not communicate with the 2 people you struggle with in a more godly way until you change the desires with that person.
  • TALK ABOUT THE TREE  This is the “Three Tree” Diagram
  • You can’t go to the same tree and expect something different
  • If you want to get good fruit you have to change the root/heart.
  • You change the heart through the Cross 
  • See Illustration Below

Illustration is from the book

 “How People Change” By Tim Lane and Paul Tripp

Scripture Reference is 1Cor 10:1-14

  • Now what?

Importance of Changing our Desires in Communication

I asked you to read Ephesians 4:17-24 for homework this week.  I would like to read the text and then I would like highlight several significant points. 

Point 1:  Christians are expected to mature (vv. 17-21)

In v. 17 we see that there is a significant problem in the Ephesian church.  The problem is that they are genuine believers but they are still choosing to live and act like those who do not know Christ.

  • Before I went into ministry I would sometimes struggle with the flat out debauchery that occurred in my workforce.  We were a bunch of early 20 somethings with way too much money.  Since most of my co-workers were not married I was amazed how some people live.  One woman basically had sex with every guy in the office.
  • I had to remember that I should expect unbelievers to function with an entirely different worldview than I had.  “Futility of their mind” “darkened in their understanding” “excluded from the life of God.”

(Use your own illustration here)

The tragedy is sometimes we want what they want --- greed, money, power, sex, etc. and forget how they are described.

As an unbeliever the saying “eat, drink, and be merry” makes perfect sense.  I might as well get whatever I can.

But the problem is when Christians think that same way.  I would like to suggest to you that communication is one of the ways we can be just like our unbelieving counterparts in that we are driven by the same desires they are.

Verses 20-21 deliver the punch line.  You did not learn Christ in this way.  In other words, you did not learn that trusting Christ is just some sort of fire insurance.  Instead, it meant a life change for who you are and all that you do.

We understand that over time we are expected to mature.  Each year we are supposed to be godlier than the year before.

  • Here some simple tests:  Do I communicate godlier this year than last?  Do I understand more of the Scriptures this year over last? Do I make better choices of entertainment this year than I did last?  Do I learn from my mistakes of the past [theatre example]?

Point 2:  Change begins with a change in the heart (v.23)

So often when this passage is discussed v. 23 is somehow missing.  Yet the put-off and put-on of vv. 22 and 24 do not make much sense without v. 23. 

In order for me to put off anything I have to believe in my heart that it would be wrong for me to continue it.  Let me give you a wide range of ideas here.

  • Some couples (even those claiming to know Christ) live together before marriage.  That situation will not change unless they come to the conclusion that it is wrong to do that.
  • Some folks will communicate very sharply with folks thinking that is part of their right or their duty and until they become convinced it is sinful they will continue.
  • Some folks make entertainment changes because they begin viewing their TV shows, their movies, the plays, etc through a different grid.  Until they do they will not change.
  • People will not change their behavior over the long term unless they are convinced that their behavior is wrong --- to say it another way --- they will not change their behavior until they change their heart.

As we come back to the communication side we will not change our communication approach until we believe in our hearts that we are not honoring the Lord in how we communicate with others [even if it is just 1-2 people in your life]. 

Once we are convinced that we are not as much like Jesus as we need to be and now that we have identified some of the desires that need to change that brings us to the final point.

Point 3:  Put off the old desires and habits and Put on the desires and habits pleasing to Christ (22, 24)

The final point evident in the text is that SOMETHING must be PUT OFF and something else must be PUT ON in its place.

Thus, change is really a 3 step process.  First we must change our mind, then we must put off and finally we replace what we put off with something much better in its place.

This is basically what your accountability partner is doing for you.  They are asking you what you have identified regarding your communication with the 2 people on your list and they are asking you what type of communication you are putting off and what type you are putting on. 

Technically vv. 25-32 give multiple examples of what that looks like.  Let’s look at v. 28 to see one such illustration.

  • He has to come to the place where he believes stealing is actually wrong.  It seems obvious but it is not always obvious!
  • He needs to put off the stealing and put on working and giving.  In other words, he becomes the opposite of what he was before.  He used to steal and now he gives.

What I want to do for the rest of our time is dig deeper into this concept of put off and put on.  I have one task for each group.

Group Activity: 

I want you to pick 2-3 desires from our “desire list” and discuss (1) how that desire needs to be put off [either because it is wrong or too important]; (2) what needs to be put on instead; and (3) what are some steps I could take to help me accomplish (1) and (2). 

Here is the final assignment.

  • Do some soul searching this week and see what desires are true for you.
  • Ask the Lord to please help you communicate with others in a way that pleases God, is helpful to them, and builds relationships. 
  • Seek to practice the put-off / put-on with the desires that are true for you.

Rob Green

B.S. - Engineering Physics, Ohio State University
M.Div. - Baptist Bible Seminary
Ph.D. - New Testament, Baptist Bible Seminary

Pastor Rob Green and his wife, Stephanie, joined the Faith staff in August, 2005.  Rob’s responsibilities include oversight of the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry and teaching New Testament at the Faith Bible Seminary. He serves on the council board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and as a fellow at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

Read Rob Green's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Green to Faith Church.