What’s Inside

There are active volcanoes in our world and they fascinate me. The hot powerful lava comes from deep inside the earth. The pressure builds and then it has to explode and starts flowing out on the surface.

When the pressures in our lives build, something will come out. The question is what will come out? Will it be good or bad? Yes, we can try to hide it, control it, or cover it over for a while, but what’s inside, good or bad, is more powerful than what we use to conceal or manage it. That’s why Jesus said…“For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Matthew 7:20-23).

Now let me take us to a place we rarely go. Are you righteous inside? What a tough question. And instinctively, we’ll answer “No!” if we are honest. Frankly, we don’t connect well with the idea of righteousness. It isn’t a term or idea our culture uses or gets. Paul, in the letter to the Romans, takes about two chapters (Chapters 2 and 3) to show how no one is righteous.

But that’s not the main theme of Paul in Romans. Rather, it’s that Jesus Christ has made us righteous. I’m righteous or right with God through Jesus and that means that because of Jesus I’m of invaluable worth to God. I’m saved from my sins, but it is so much more. I’m so loved and valued that I’ve been made a child of God with all the rights and privileges of a naturally born child. Righteous describes my worth, my value, my identity and my security. I can’t earn it (by religion and effort) as it is just freely given as only love can be given.

Some of us get this at a theological level. But we don’t apply it to our daily life and leadership. Too many of us find our worth, identity, value, and security in our role as a leader based on what we do and accomplish. Righteousness as a part of who we are, our being, is very difficult for us to grasp.

Let me unpack it this way. What’s really inside? Do you experience being righteous or right with God? Do you believe it and actually feel it? Is that your identity?

You’ll know when the pressure is on. By pressure I mean failure (a bad sermon, a loss, a poor event or outcome), conflict, members or clients leaving, financial challenges, etc. When our identity and worth is in our success and what we produce, we’ll end up reacting in ways that don’t honor God, others, or our own dignity when we fall short. The solution isn’t an anger management or empathy course, it’s looking at what’s inside or what’s absent inside. It’s out of being righteous, being loved by God that we can actually love others.

And what’s inside affects our ability to do good self-care. We don’t take days off, we don’t spend quality time with our family, we don’t take long vacations because our worth and identity is wrapped up in work. The solution isn’t going home earlier once a week because the issue is what’s inside. Am I worthy and valuable to God because of Jesus or primarily when I put in the extra work and time to produce and get results?

How we lead is based on what’s inside. Do we control or do we empower people? Do we hold people consistently accountable or do we let things slide too often for too long? Both control and not confronting are different outward signs of what’s inside – we are getting our worth and identity from people, from production, from success, or from recognition. And we ALL struggle with this. No one is exempt!

Faith is believing and experiencing that we are righteous! That means we are loved, valued, treasured, adored, and cherished as a child of God by God himself. Knowing and truly believing that we are righteous no matter what changes everything because it is what is inside that will always come out. And you’ll see a distinct difference in a leader who really lives and leads, trusting they are right with God, that God is for them and with them, no matter what happens or doesn’t happen on the outside.