“And He said, ‘Whatever comes from [the heart of] a man, that is what defiles and dishonors him. For from within, [that is] out the heart of men, come base and malevolent thoughts and schemes, acts of sexual immorality, thefts, murders, adulteries, acts of greed and covetousness, wickedness, deceit, unrestrained conduct, envy and jealousy, slander and profanity, arrogance and self-righteousness and foolishness (poor judgment). All these evil things [schemes and desires] come from within and defile and dishonor the man’ ” (Mark 7:20-23). From within deep crevasses and caverns lay ungodly strongholds. Tight ropes and heavy fetters are harbored in our hearts leaving scars and wounds from their ironclad chains. Living secret lives inside themselves, women’s hearts are bound.
“Now the practices of the sinful nature are clearly evident: they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and other things like these. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21). The Holy Spirit controls the Apostle Paul. Writing with fervor, the Spirit leads him down a path of evil versus good, dark and light, love and hate. Emboldened with God’s Words, Paul shakes with tenacity encouraging Christians to fight the spiritual battle raging in the heavens. Darkness seems to be everywhere, but the Light of Life shines through the darkness. “In Him was life [and the power to bestow life], and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness did not understand it or overpower it or appropriate it or absorb it [and is unreceptive to it]” (John 1:4-5).
Something lurks in the shadows. Dark and unseen, it crawls and slithers its way into fractures and ravines in the foundation. Its foul stench of death and decay encompass the surrounding aura reeking from within the being. Sensing an opening, the presence skulks around the glooms of an open door daring to cast a peering eye into the heart of man. It crawls, it crouches, and it waits. Patient and watchful, the open door always reveals darkness, a way in. – “Why are you so angry? And why do you look annoyed? If you do well [believing Me and doing what is acceptable and pleasing to Me], will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well [but ignore My instruction], sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you [to overpower you], but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7).
Mark 7:20-23 and Galatians 5:19-21 are amazing Scriptures tucked away between the pages of history. Jesus of Nazareth records thirteen deep seeded behaviors in which defile a person. The Apostle Paul lists fifteen actions controlled by the world within hearts. Each of these strongholds will be discussed and dissected with definitions, testimonies, and Scripture. My heart desires to fully understand what Jesus and Paul were instructing to believers.
Using different versions of Scripture will give us a better idea of what God was revealing to His people. Most of the verses are taken from the Amplified Bible (AMP) of the American Standard Version; I believe it explains words and phrases in depth enabling a better understanding of the context. The Message (MSG) is a version of the Bible in contemporary language or basically everyday vernacular with conversational expressions we can understand. Finally, the NIV or New International Version is an original translation of the Bible developed by one hundred scholars, translating Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Texts.
Here are the texts and Scriptures from each version:
Mark 7:20-23 using the different translations:
The AMP: “And He said, ‘Whatever comes from [the heart of] a man, that is what defiles and dishonors him. For from within, [that is] out the heart of men, come base and malevolent thoughts and schemes, acts of sexual immorality, thefts, murders, adulteries, acts of greed and covetousness, wickedness, deceit, unrestrained conduct, envy and jealousy, slander and profanity, arrogance and self-righteousness and foolishness (poor judgment). All these evil things [schemes and desires] come from within and defile and dishonor the man’ ”
MSG: “He went on: ‘It’s what comes out of a person that pollutes: obscenities, lusts, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, depravity, deceptive dealings, carousing, mean looks, slander, arrogance, foolishness—all these are vomit from the heart. There is the source of your pollution.’ ”
NIV: “He went on: ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 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.’ ”
Using the different translations give us a healthier idea of the verbiage used by Christ. I love the addition the Message adds, “…all these are vomit from the heart. There is the source of your pollution.”
In reference to Paul and the Galatians, he is addressing the spiritual battle we face daily. The Apostle says to habitually walk in the Holy Spirit and be responsive to His guidance; then we will not carry out the desire of the sinful nature [impulses without regard for God and His precepts]. The practices of the sinful nature are clearly evident:
AMP: “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and other things like these.
MSG: It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.
NIV: The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
God revealed in His Word the palpable behaviors of what defiles a man. If these are clear and evident strongholds we demonstrate, what are the godly behaviors we are to habitually strife for as the Apostle Paul encourages? Galatians 5:22-23 explains the behaviors when the Holy Spirit, God’s Spirit, controls us:
AMP: “But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while we are waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. Against such things there is no law.”
MSG: “But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.”
NIV: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
These are the beautiful fruits unveiled and portrayed when we are led by God’s Spirit. I enjoy reading the Message version comparing the Holy Spirit to seeds we plant in an orchard. The Bible distinctly states, “For whatever a man sows, he will reap; the one who sows to the flesh will reap from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit” (Galatians 6:7-8).
God’s generosity towards His creation never ceases to amaze me. He gives us a choice. We have the choice to accept His Spirit or reject His guidance for the world’s version of happiness. The Lord takes a step back and watches His children love or hate Him. Genesis 6:5-6 exposes our Father in pain; “The Lord saw the wickedness (depravity) of man was great on the earth, and that every imagination or intent of the thoughts of his heart were only evil continually. The Lord regretted that He had made mankind on the earth, and He was [deeply] grieved in His heart.” God’s heart experiences pain and anguish just as our hearts burn when feeling the sting of rejection and abandonment.
God revealed to Cain what desired to have him. Darkness was exposed when our Lord amorously pulled back the curtain hidden in the heavens, sharing with Cain what lurked and crouched, waiting to find a place in his heart. Sadly, Cain neither responded to Truth or love; he chose his own path. Engulfed in a murky pit of jealousy, envy and rage, Cain murdered his brother. He did not master the sin crouching in the shadows.
Seeds have been planted in your heart, good or bad. If you recognize any of the unclean defilements within you, then an overgrowth of weeds and thistles have nestled and cultivated in your spirit. Many of us carry around these wounds and deep festering, rancid cuts lashing out to all those who confront or disagree with our thoughts. The thorns of these dark seeds have pierced and penetrated our inner most being. Eventually, we will either grow weary of carrying them around and concealing what lies within us, or we will grow accustomed to the texture and coarseness of brier. Tired of the sadness, tired of the depression, tired of the addictions, tired of the constant emotional roller coaster, and tired of mental torment, the entangled mass of prickly plants can be surgically and methodically removed with Christ’s help.
Isaiah 55:11-13 captures this picture well, “So will my Word be which goes out of my mouth; it will not return to me void (useless, without result), without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. For you will go out of exile with joy and be led forth [but the Lord Himself] with peace; the mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush the cypress tree will grow, and instead of the nettle the myrtle tree will grow; and it will be a memorial to the lord, for an everlasting sign [of His mercy] which will not be cut off.”
The Word of God is powerful, bringing health to the body and nourishment to the bones (Proverbs 3:8). Praying and speaking His healing Scripture into your spirit will begin a transformation of Christ in your life. The removal of thorns, thistles, and weeds will be painful. Most of us have trenched, pulled, hoed, shoveled, and yanked out the sucker plants from our gardens. Well, this is the same spiritual process of yanking out unwanted, spiritually sucking, and dark weeds surrounding your heart.
It will take persistence, sweat, digging, searching, and wrenching out the root of the weed in your spirit. After you can pinpoint why these seeds were planted, as in any garden, you have to maintain the greenery. You will nurture a constant vigil of plucking the small, unwanted growths, clipping and pruning plants, spraying for annoying pests, and composting the ground with good food. If you can take this vision and plant it in your mind, then you will take away a picturesque, crafted tapestry of what happens spiritually in your mind and heart.
I pray this has awakened your heart to a fresh new and revealing outlook on woven behavioral actions and thoughts. Remember this vision of a garden. Jesus of Nazareth used images and everyday conversational contexts to get His message across in layman’s terms. Everyone, even children, could understand and comprehend what our Lord was rendering. Is your threaded tapestry spun with thorns and brier, or is it crafted with love and joy? May God’s hand touch your heart and expose any area where you need to heal and plant new spiritual growth.