We often hear the term value today. Usually it is in reference to some product being advertised. “This car is one of the best values on the market today!” “Come shop here, we have the best values in town!” “Wow, that is an incredible value!”
If you have a home and you are getting ready to sell it, you hope that your home has gone up in value, although when it comes time to pay taxes you may wish that the value had gone down. We value rare items on the Antique Road Show, we value the opinion of a respected friend, and we value our jobs.
But these are not the uses of the word value that we are going to be talking about this morning. The values we are going to be discussing this morning are those core beliefs that form the foundation of our very lives. We are going to look at those beliefs that are at the root of our being.
Why are values important? The values that each of us holds, are what shape our character. Our character, in turn, determines our behavior and our actions. And our behavior really is what makes up our life. We behave well, kindly, toward those around us, or we behave badly. But our behavior is based on our character, which is built on our core values.
Values > Character > Behavior > Your life!
Because values are at the core of our being, they shape everything else about us.
To at least some degree, companies have understood the importance of values for years. In fact, it is difficult to find any medium- to large-size business today that does not have a value statement. If you go to Google and search on “our values”, you will get a total of 232,000,000 hits back. Companies know that if they can get their employees focused on what is really important, the company’s core values, they can shape the organization as a whole in a dramatic way. A common mistake that some organizations make is confusing outcomes with values. Things like quality, customer service excellence, community focus, and financial strength are outcomes, they are not values. Things like courage, perseverance, service, faith, and integrity – these are values. A perfect example of this is Enron, now being dissolved and their assets are being distributed to their creditors. Financial strength was apparently a big focus for Enron, when in fact integrity should have been one of their core values that was lived out in their leadership.
There is one other thought that I want to share with you before we really start to dig into our discussion of values, and that is simply this: Our values have to be written somewhere: They are written on our heart. For a company, it can post value statements and have meetings every day of the week, but there will be no change in the company, no change in the character of the company, no change in the behaviors of those in the company, if those in the company don’t write those true core values on their hearts.
What I want to do this morning is take thoughts from two areas of our experiences that are familiar to us, and then connect them. My hope is that in connecting these thoughts we will gain a deeper understanding and a new clarity regarding the importance of values in our lives as Christians. And I wanted to start with this general discussion of values, and what we often see of values in companies today.
Well, let me be clear, I am only using this illustration of companies and their values to make the transition to us. Understanding our personal core values and how they shape our lives is critical to us as Christians. Jesus taught these lessons to his disciples on many occasions. When speaking of the Pharisees and teachers of the law in Matthew 15:8, Jesus quoted a prophesy from Isaiah 29:13 and said to them:
8 “ ‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.’d”
Jesus said it was obvious that there was a disconnect or inconsistency between the behavior and speech of these Jews, and what was really written on their hearts. Jesus could no doubt see their hearts and the values written there: Selfishness, power, cowardice, and arrogance.
In Luke 6:43-45, Jesus taught his disciples that our behavior is ultimately going to be consistent with the values written on our heart, and in his teaching he uses a metaphor of fruit to represent behavior:
43 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. 45 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
In a similar passage in Matthew 15:17, Jesus explains to his disciples his teaching of clean and unclean:
17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what make a man ‘unclean’;
And James also emphasized this consistency that may be seen between what is outward behavior, in this case our speech, and what is deep within us. He said it this way in James 3:9-12:
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salta water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
Now let’s pause for a minute and think about our lives before we became Christians. In many ways, we were like the Pharisees and the teachers of the law – certainly we had our own set of values written on our hearts. Maybe our core values were things like selfishness, pride, arrogance, or anger – these were the things written on our heart.
But when we became Christians, saved by the blood of Jesus, God changed our hearts – He changed what was written there – He changed our values. And He gave us his Spirit to help us to continue to keep our values what they should be. Galatians 4:6 says:
6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,a Father.
Romans 5:5 tells us that God “…has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
There is a very kind and thoughtful man named Joe Tye that travels all over the United States helping companies develop their value statements – those things that are core values to the organization, those things that will shape the behavior of a company. I recently was privileged to attend a meeting where Joe presented and he spoke of the importance of values. Companies pay Joe good money to help them out, and rightly so. Joe shares his 12 Core Action Values with companies, and conducts seminars, coaches executives, and provides on-going consulting services on values.
But for us as Christians we need look no further than God’s word to find our core values. Because for us, the Spirit brings those values to our heart. What was there before is erased, and a whole new set of values are written there. A very familiar passage for us is Galatians 5:22-24:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
Paul tells the Galatians that the result of the Spirit being in your life is a whole new set of values. There are now new things that are most important to us, new values that shape our behavior, new things that guide our life. He even tells the Galatians that those that are in Christ have killed off – wiped clean – that old set of values, that old sinful nature.
And we know from Jesus’ teaching in Luke 9:23 that we must daily work at killing that old sinful nature, those old values that used to be written on our hearts. We also know that God’s Spirit works in us in many ways, leading, confirming, strengthening and interceding.
But, can those old values sneak back in and affect our behavior? Yes, we know those values can work their way back into our heart if we let them. In fact in the verses right after Galatians 5:22-24, we read the following in 25 and 26:
25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
We can get out of step with the Spirit, even as Christians. If we are not careful, pride, anger and envy can sneak back into our lives. In 1 Corinthians 11:18 Paul tells the Corinthian church that he heard that when they came together there were divisions among them. Those old values of selfishness and pride had crept back in and were evidenced in their behavior. The Galatian Christians had some struggles too, and Paul warned them in Galatians 5:15, just a few verses before the passage we just read. Paul warned these Christians:
15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
And we certainly know that the church at Ephesus lost its first love, as is written in Revelation 2. It can happen – those new values brought into our life can be eroded if we let them.
Jesus’ teachings and His Spirit completely change our values, which changes our character and behavior, which in turn changes the way we live our lives. It all starts with the heart and the values that are written there. Jesus works through us when we hold to his values and his teachings. Jesus told his disciples in John 15:5-8:
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Here Jesus says that if we remain in Him, if we hold to his teachings, our behavior will be changed, he will use us, and we will make a difference for Him in the world. If we let those old values creep back into our lives and we separate ourselves from Jesus teachings, we will wither up. What does “wither up” mean? Based on our study this morning, it means those old values, that sinful nature, will lead us back into behavior and a life that we lived before we knew Jesus – our old life. And Jesus is also talking about the spiritual death that we will experience if we are apart from him, the withered up vines will be burned up. We can also see from this passage that the fruit that we bear while in Jesus, serves as evidence to those around us that we are His disciples.
Now, we have spent some time this morning talking about the importance of core values, how we see them in companies, more importantly how we see them in ourselves, how new values are written on our hearts when we become Christians, and how those values change our behavior and our life.
But, now let’s each look into our own life and the values that are there. First of all, let’s look at the consistency between our values and behavior – do they agree? Do the things that are most important to us shape our behavior? In his training, Joe Tye expresses it this way: If we were to write down our core values on a piece of paper, and then have someone follow us around for two weeks, would there be a gap between what they observed in our behavior and our stated core values? How big would that gap be? Would it be a great big gap, a small little crack, or no gap at all?
We know that consistency is not the only important thing – there can be consistency between our values and behavior because both of them could be wrong. So the next question we need to ask ourselves is this: Are those things which shape my life, those core values, the same as God’s core values? Only you can answer that question, but again we can follow Jesus’ teaching and take a look at our behavior – the actions that are a result of our values. Does our behavior agree with the values that we read in Galatians 5?
You see, Satan is really good at what he does. He usually does not just overtly attempt to change our behavior. But, he will attempt to work on our values. He will try to chisel and pick away at those values. “Oh, that is not so bad!” “Don’t worry so much about that!” “It’s OK to be involved in that just a little, after all you are in control.” And before you know it, our behavior has started to change – perhaps just a bit at first. But the change in our behavior is evidence that our values have changed.
When our values are God’s values, our behavior will be Christ-like, because God’s Spirit lives in us. Love will be a core value, and it will be shown in our behavior and the way we treat our family, co-workers, and fellow Christians. Joy will be a core value, and it will cause us to start each day with a smile knowing that nothing will separate us from the love of God. Peace will be a core value, and it will be a calm strength to us through all of life’s storms. Patience will be a core value, helping us to persevere through trials, and to help those who are weak, knowing that we are often weak ourselves. Kindness will be a core value, guiding our every word and action. Goodness will be a core value, keeping our focus on pure things, positive things, and helpful things. Faithfulness will be a core value, assuring us each day that we serve a God that keeps His promises, and who will never let us down. Gentleness will be a core value, and all around us will know it by the tone of our voice and our demeanor. And self-control will be a core value, teaching us self-denial and moderation in a world filled with reckless abandon and excess.
What are your values today? Can you tell from your behavior? Are they God’s values? Have you first obeyed God, putting on your Lord in baptism as Galatians 3:27 tells us, “you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ”? Or have those original values been eroded over time, and you need prayers to strengthen you as you continue to daily pick up your cross and follow Jesus? Whatever need you might have, won’t you please come forward as we stand and sing.
d Isaiah 29:13
a Greek bitter (see also verse 14)
a Aramaic for Father