MAKING CHANGES – Romans 12:1-2
Look at this glass of water. What would happen if I shake it? Right it would spill out…but why? – Well water spilled out because you shook it stupid! That’s true but there is another answer. Water came out because water is what was inside the glass. If there hadn’t been water in the glass in the first place, no water would have ever come out of the glass. Sure, it came out because it was shaken, but water came out because water was inside.
I say this because many of us will say things like…”I did that because I was stressed…I lashed out because he kept pushing me and pushing me.” Or we say things like, “My upbringing conditioned me to react that way.” It’s a way of excusing our actions and not dealing with them…it’s a way of denial. And we never get to the root cause…which is sin.
We treat each other poorly, we hold grudges, we try to control…we lack patience, we have a hard time loving unconditionally, and on and on, because of sin.
David says in Psalm 51:5 “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” David says “Evil came out of me because there is evil in me.”
We must get to the point were we recognize the sin in our lives if we want to change. We have said in this series, that God’s antidote for denial is pain. It came up this week that some are confused by that statement…and think that it makes God sound like a punishing God. Listen…God is a good father, there are many terrible fathers out there, but God is a good father…a good father is not happy to punish his kids. However, a good father wants to develop a deep strong character in his children. Sometimes that means letting them deal with the consequences of their sin until they are ready to come to him for help. That’s what I mean by turning up the heat. God does not want to watch us suffer…and at the same time he wants to do everything in his power to get us to see the sin in our lives so we can be in a place where we cry out to him and say, “Help me deal with this mess I have made.” It’s at that point that a Good Father runs to his child and begins to help him or her change. God is not a punisher…he loves us so much that he wants to help us change not matter what it takes.
- – Realize I’m not God, that I’m powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and my life is unmanageable. – Reality Step
- – Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him and that He has the power to help me recover. – Hope Step
- – Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control. – Commitment Step
- – Openly examine and confess my faults to God, to myself, and to someone I trust. – Housecleaning Step
This leads us to step 5 of Recovery in our Breaking Free series. Step 5 is called the Transformation Step. It’s the V in the road to recovery. – If you missed the last 4 weeks, it’s on the podcast on our website. Check it out!
Step 5 – VOLUNTARILY SUBMIT TO EVERY CHANGE GOD WANTS TO MAKE IN MY LIFE AND HUMBLY ASK HIM TO REMOVE MY CHARACTER DEFECTS.
It’s based on Romans 12:1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. How are we transformed? – by having out minds renewed and changed!
Where do these defects come from?
MY CHROMOSOMES. Some of them you inherited. – pic of sloth That’s your chromosomes. Both your mother and your father contributed to you 23,000 chromosomes each. And so you inherited some of their weaknesses, physical defects or emotional defects. Genetics explain our predisposition towards certain problems. But it doesn’t excuse a sin. For instance, because of my parents, I may have a tendency to have a hot temper, but that doesn’t excuse me to reek havoc on my relationships. I may have a tendency, genetically, to be given toward certain addictions, but that doesn’t excuse me to go out and make the choice to become addicted. My chromosomes or genetics is one source.
MY CIRCUMSTANCES. You were raised a certain way for good or bad. Defects appear when we try to fill unmet needs. You learned to respond to your own needs in certain ways and how to cover for yourself, how to handle hurt and rejection. You have a legitimate need for respect. But if you didn’t get respect early in life, you settle for attention and figured out a way to get attention in many various ways. You have a legitimate need for love, but if you didn’t get love you may have settled for cheap sex, to get the emotional closeness. You have a need for security but if you didn’t get it, you may have tried to cover yourself with materialism and possessions to show “I’m secure.”
MY CHOICES. We all have the tendency to misuse the positive qualities of our character and do the wrong thing. If you choose to do something long enough, it becomes a habit. Once it becomes a habit, you’re stuck. Things you never intended to develop in your life develop because you chose to do a certain thing that became a habit.
This leads us to ask…Why is it so hard to Break Free from these defects?
- Because we have had them for so long.
Some began forming in the womb, others were formed throughout childhood. They may not be comfortable, they may be frustrating, but they are familiar and routine. It’s like an old pair of shoes…terrible for running, but man their comfortable.
- Because we think, “That’s just the way I am.”
When you say that, you’re confusing your identity with your defects. Complete this sentence (in your mind) “It’s just like me to be _______________________,” a workaholic, overweight, anxious, passive and let people run over me, fearful, to lose my temper. What you are is that you’re setting yourself up and identifying yourself with your defect and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. “I tend to lose my temper”…well the next time something happens and you get mad what happens…you lose it, you have excused yourself. In reality we are afraid of change…“If I really let go of this defect, will I still be me? This has been a part of me for so long.”
- Because my defects have a payoff.
It masks my pain, it gives me an excuse to fail, it helps me deal with guilt, or it’s how I get attention. We don’t do things that don’t get rewarded. You may have never thought about it that way but there’s a payoff.
- Because Satan is good at his job.
He’s the accuser. He says, “This will never work, you can’t do it, you can’t change.” Some of you have been coming to this Breaking Free series and thinking, “This is good. I’d really like to get rid of this habit, I’d like to stop hating that person, I’d like to stop hurting from that past situation.” Then you get outside and Satan starts: “Who do you think you are? You think you’re going to change, forget it! It’s hopeless.” He’s always saying these negative thoughts to you, trying to defeat you. The Bible says Satan is a liar. Jesus says in John 8:32 ,”the truth will set you free.”
The Truth of Change
Romans 12:2 “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Sam, our Connections Pastor is working on his Doctorate…so that means here soon we will have to call him DR. Draper.
Anyway Sam’s Doctoral project is on mind renewal…that there can be a change of mind to the point where an addiction no longer has it’s pull on you. This is what Romans 12 is all about. The Bible says, your thoughts determine your feelings, your feelings determine your actions. Thoughts are like auto pilot…it’s set in a specific direction. You can turn it around, by forcibly grabbing the steering wheel and the whole time you’re under tension, because by will power you’re going the opposite way that you’re naturally inclined to go. Pretty soon you get tired and you let go of the wheel and it automatically turns back…and I go off the diet, start smoking again, acting the way I’ve always done.
How does change happen? Remember that it is God who is changing, we don’t do it ourselves, and at the same time we can either cooperate or ignore, but if we want to change we need to cooperate with God.
How do we cooperate with God in the change process?
- Focus on changing one thing at a time.
Scripture? – Proverbs 17:24: “An intelligent person aims at wise action but a fool starts off in many directions.” Last week we talked about creating a personal moral inventory, that means you get a pencil and a notepad and you sit down and say, “What is wrong with me? What have I felt guilty about? What have I regretted? What are the faults in my life that I know need changing?” And you ask God to help you out…to bring to mind those things I feel guilt over that are messing up my life. You may want to bring that list and try to change all that on that list at the same time…don’t do it, it won’t work and you’ll be stuck. Instead, get specific, ask God, “God, which specific defect would You like to work on first in my life? Not what I’d like to, but You.” You don’t just pray, “God, I’d like to be a better person.” Let Him start working on that. You must work on one defect at a time. Otherwise it doesn’t work.
- Focus on victory one day at a time.
Matthew 6:11: “Give us this month our daily bread.” No, it says “Give us this day our daily bread.” Why? Because God wants to give you enough strength to change for one day, not for one week, one month, the rest of your life, eternity. He wants to take it one day at a time so you trust in Him. That’s like the old saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” You take a lifetime problem (you didn’t get it overnight—that hurt, hang-up, habit) and your break it down into bite-size pieces and you work on it one day at a time and you get God’s strength one day at a time. Maybe you pray, “Lord, just for this day, I want to be patient; just for today, I want to think pure thoughts, instead of lust; just for today, I don’t want to lose my temper; just for today, I want to be positive instead of negative.” Character isn’t built in a day, character defects aren’t removed in a day. At night stop and thank God for whatever change or victory, no matter how small. Your attitude will begin to change as well as your heart and your situation.
- Focus on God’s power not your own.
You know that willpower isn’t enough…We don’t have the power to change! Listen to Jeremiah 13:23, “Can a leopard get rid of its spots? So what are the odds on you doing good, you who are so long-practiced in evil?” God says, “Forget it, you’ll never change in your own willpower.” But, here’s the good news: “I can master anything with the help of Christ who gives me strength.” So you pray, “Lord, I know I can’t change on my own power, but I’m trusting You to take away this defect.” I want you to literally imagine God taking away your defect.
Every Wednesday morning the trash man comes. My job is to identify the trash throughout the week and bag it up and put it at the curb and he will pick it up. Imagine every morning coming to God and saying, “God so as you know my temper is a problem for me…today I have a few situation coming that could really cause my temper to fly. So before I even walk out the door, I am walking this to the curb, take it far from me today. And imagine God picking up the trash and driving down the street with it.
You trust God’s power, not your own. He can help you master it.
- Focus on the good and not the bad.
Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Focus on good things, not bad things. Whatever you focus on is what you move toward. Whatever has your attention, has you.
If you have ever played sports you have endured practice, if you have played an instrument or had a part in a play you endured long hours of practice. I remember wrestling practice in middle school and high school. Every day in practice we would work on the skill of shooting at someones leg, crouching and immediately dropping to one knee and driving forward and then lifting the other knee and driving forward all the way across the wrestling mat…even though there was no one in front of us to take down. Back and forth we would go, over and over. Practice implies that we work on certain skills until we become proficient at them or they become habitual. Coach didn’t want us thinking about how to take them down…he wanted us to concentrate on finding openings to take them down and our body would immediately respond.
We think when we are tempted…I just need to resist…and the more we resist…the more we think about it. If you are If you say, “I’m not going to think about sex, I’m not going to think about sex …” What are you thinking about? Sex. You don’t resist temptation. Instead of resisting, the Bible teaches refocusing. What does that mean?Paul says, think about what is good! There are over 7,000 promises in the Bible. Probably the most helpful discipline you could develop is learning to memorize Scripture. Memorize one a week; by the end of the year you’ll have 52 verses memorized. They are in your mind so you can use them to counteract these negative thoughts that the devil and other people give you.
Look at how this plays out…over here you have all the negative things people have said…“You’ll never amount to anything”, “You can’t change”, You’re worthless”, “You’re terrible” and on and on. And over here are the good things that God wants to say about you that are in His word. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ve got more of these negative than you do positive because you haven’t spent much time in the Word.
As you memorize scripture…those are positive good thoughts straight from God. Every time the devil says, “You can’t change,” you say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” “Who do you think you are? You’re worthless.”—“There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
You keep repeating the positive over and over until finally it’s like every time you put a pebble on this side it gets a little heavier and one day the table is going to turn and you’ll have more positive than negative and you will be free. God wants to do that in your life. If you focus on the good and not the bad.
- Focus on doing good not feeling good.
Galatians 5:16: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Do the right thing even though you don’t feel like doing it, because you know it’s the right thing to do and you do it anyway. Eventually your feelings catch up. Anytime you start trying to change a major part of your life, a major character defect, flaw, personality weakness, anytime you start trying to make a major change, it’s not going to feel real good at the start. Satan will make sure that it doesn’t feel good. In fact, it will feel very awkward. In fact, it will feel bad, for a while. Why? Because it won’t feel normal.
If you’re a workaholic and you say, “I’m going to let God work on this workaholism” and tomorrow at 5pm you decide to go home and you don’t take work home in a briefcase, the first time you go home you’ll say, “This feels really weird.” If you’re a workaholic, the first time you try to relax you’ll find you don’t even know how to relax because you’ve worked so hard for so long. If you overeat, or drink or smoke, the first time you try to break that habit you’ll feel weird: “Nothing’s in my mouth.” It’ll feel funny for a little while and it may not feel right. But if you do the right thing, over and over and over eventually your feelings catch up with your behavior and you cannot control your feelings, but you can control your muscles. So you do the right thing whether you feel like it or not and the feelings will catch up with you.
- Focus on people who help me, not hinder me in making these positive changes I want to make in my life.
This is so important in any recovery situation. The right kind of people will help you. The wrong kind of people will hinder, prevent your recovery. If you don’t want to get stung, you stay away from the wasps and bees. If you know what kind of people tempt you, just stay away from it. If you’re struggling with alcoholism you don’t say, “I think I’ll go down to the bar and eat some peanuts.” Wrong people. You don’t get around the things that mess you up. However…You can’t recover on your own. You must be in a group, in a relationship. Recovery always happens in relationship, never on your own.
For example…Last week we talked about building a moral inventory list. You go home and say, “Lord, what are all the things I feel guilty about and regret and I’m going to do some housecleaning this week.” You make a list of those things and admit them to yourself, to God and to one other person you trust. Many of you had every intention of doing that this week. But you didn’t. The people who did it are those who are in relationship with someone else who asked them, “Did you do it? No? Let’s sit down and do it.” They were in Celebrate Recovery or a small group. Those of you who didn’t do it, didn’t because you’re not connected to anybody who’s helping you on this road. That’s why we have this thing called Celebrate Recovery, one of our ministries that meets here in our elementary area every Tuesday night to encourage people because you won’t make it on your own. Notice this verse Proverbs 27:17 “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another..” You need to be in relationship.
Today could be a turning point for you…Jesus says come to me if you are tired, burned out, struggling, frustrated and I will give you rest. Coming to Jesus means surrender, asking Him to take this life of ours all the good and the bad. It means coming to Him and saying, “I have tried living life on my terms…and it obviously isn’t working, so I am committing to you, you manage my life, lead the way, help me surrender. God tells us that when we surrender to Jesus, we become a new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. Maybe you need a new start this morning.
Just realize that the change we have been talking about doesn’t happen overnight. It is a lifetime of work. That’s why all of us have some recovery to tend to…But I love what Paul reminds us in Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” I look forward to that day, but until then we continue to ask Jesus to lead us in renewing our mind.