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8-17-2014 message by Pastor Rich Doebler

Renew your mind…reshape your life!

If you want to be changed, you must first change the way you think. Genuine transformation—a new way of living—comes only as our minds are renewed by God’s power.

Six years ago my nephew, Josh, was driving to Minneapolis and he stopped to pick up a hitch-hiker, someone obviously in need. He gave him a ride and $20 to help him on his way.
Josh is a U.S. marine (one of those “few good men” they were looking for). He’s been on the go for quite a while. Served in Iraq and three times in Afghanistan. Traveled to various training camps and assignments around the country. He doesn’t let the moss grow under his feet.
So it was a surprise to him when recently he was again driving to Minneapolis and again he stopped to pick up a hitch-hiker. And six years later, it was the same guy he had picked up before! Still in the same situation, still needing a ride, still needing cash. So Josh gave him a ride and another $20. But I wonder, where will that guy be six years from now?
Some people get stuck in life. They cannot move on. They cannot escape their habits.

How many of you have ever broken a bad habit? What happened?

  • First, you had to see that you were caught in a cycle.
  • Second, you decided you had to change.
  • Then, most likely, you got the help you needed, and you worked hard. Very hard.
  • Finally, you practiced doing things differently. You trained yourself, developed new habits. You replaced bad habits with good habits.

Habits can be a good thing. Did you know God designed us to rely on habits? Habits help us function in life. They help you with the routine of life—you get out of bed, you brush your teeth, you put on your pants, you eat your breakfast.

If you didn’t have habits, life would be quite unmanageable. For instance, if you had to figure out how to tie your shoes every morning (what kind of knot should I use?)—if you had to re-learn every detail of your life each day (how do I keep this bicycle from falling? how do parallel park this car? how can I make a call with this smart phone?), you wouldn’t get anything done. Your life would be a chaotic mess.

Habits give you the ability to do things without thinking. Before they became a habit, they required a lot of mental energy—a lot of concentration and effort. Do you remember what it was like learning to tie your shoes? Do you remember learning to drive and to parallel park? (Some of you still have trouble doing it.)

Once you become comfortable doing something fairly complex, it can become automatic. You don’t have to think about each detailed step of brushing your teeth or tying your shoes or zipping up your jacket. Habits simplify your daily routine.

But that’s also why habits can be so dangerous. You don’t have to think.

Because you can do them without thinking, because habits become automatic, the very thing God intended for our good to simplify our lives can be highjacked to ruin our lives.

If you repeat a bad choice a few times, for instance, it can become a habit. It may have started innocently enough. It was merely a diversion to begin with, a distraction, a simple pleasure. But before you knew it, it took control over you. In the end, it consumes you.

You can get caught in a rut. Stuck. You’ll spin your wheels instead of moving forward. Some bad habits are fairly innocuous (biting your fingernails, cracking your knuckles), but other habits are destructive—overeating, smoking, heavy drinking, pornography, gambling, video gaming, etc.

The OT prophet, Jeremiah, wrote: Can you ever change and do what’s right? Can people change the color of their skin, or can a leopard remove its spots? If so, then maybe you can change and learn to do right. (Jer 13:23, CEV) KJV says we are “accustomed to do evil.”

Some people become controlled by certain things. They lose control of their lives. Habits cause them to jeopardize their health; habits cause them to put their relationships at risk. They cannot serve the Lord because they have become slaves to something else. Paul wrote about them in the NT:

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. (1 Cor 6:12, NLT)

I’ve never met a person who didn’t need some kind of change in his or her life. Most people will admit they need change. Others are in denial. But people cannot change sinful habits on their own.

Bad habits and sinful behavior are hard-wired in our hearts. Life experiences only reinforce our ways.

Marvin Stewart, 76, had been lonely ever since he got out of prison, so he stopped by the People’s National Bank in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and handed a note to a teller demanding $100. After he got the $100, he said, “I’ll be waiting in my car.” And that’s where police officers found him a few minutes later—sitting in his car, smoking a cigarette. He told officers wanted to be sent to prison where he had friends and where he was more comfortable.
How many people have the same kind of problem when they try to change their ways using their own abilities? Perhaps they hold it together for a while, but before long something pulls them back to their old ways, to their old habits—to the things that make them feel comfortable. [Reuters, via This Is True [10/7/00]]

Thoughts and attitudes hang on; bad habits are difficult to break; behavior is hard to change. But sin? Without God, sin is impossible to escape. Sin holds us hostage—and if we seem to get away for a while, we discover without God we’re still imprisoned in our thinking.

“Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you’re willing to pay.” —Steve Farrar, Finishing Strong

Only God can change us and set us on a new path in a new direction. Only God can give us a new way of thinking—a new way of understanding. God confronts us with truth, demolishes our excuses, and destroys our denials.

How does God do this? He broke the power of sin on the cross, but he only sets us free from our sinful habits when we give ourselves to him—as we continue to surrender to him each day while new habits are being formed.

A change in lifestyle begins with a change in thinking.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think… (Rom 12:2, NLT)

…be transformed by the renewing of your mind… (Romans 12:2, NIV)

This is a biblical principle: life change requires a change of mind, a change of heart.

Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts. (Prov 4:23, TEV)

God does a deep, inner work so there can be an outward change. Paul, the apostle, tells us in the NT letter to the Ephesians:

…Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused [NIV: in the futility of their thinking]. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes [NIV: be made new in the attitude of your minds]. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. (Eph 4:17-24, NLT)

We can’t change ourselves; but we can allow him to change us! v 23: “Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.”

Basic steps to opening the way for change:

  1. Recognize untruth (i.e. lies). We must get out of our denial.
    1. Some lies we hear from othersyou were never wanted; you’re worthless, a loser.
    2. Other lies we tell ourselvesI’m unworthy, not deserving, inadequate.
    3. Some lies (like Adam and Eve) we hear from the devilit’s okay, it’s not wrong.
  2. Reject the lies. We must repent of our false beliefs and bad ways.
    1. Jesus gives us God’s grace to change! v 21: You “have learned the truth that comes from” Christ. He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6, NIV) He said, “31 …remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32, NLT)
    2. Bad behavior or destructive habits, require a change of thinking. For minds to change, we must first turn to Jesus.
    3. We must reject all these lies. Change wrong thinking to right thinking! Accept what you can’t change, changes what you can, have the wisdom to know the difference.
  3. Renew your mind.
    1. We need a “brain washing.” Spiritual cleansing comes through repentance.
    2. One of the Gr NT words for “repent” literally means: “change of mind; to think differently after a change of mind.” [μετανοέω]
    3. Repenting means to turn away from sin and turn to Jesus: v 22 “thrown off”; v 23 “put on.” It does no good to tell sinners to stop sinning—they need a change of heart before there can be a change of behavior. They need to be converted, not counseled.
  4. Reshape your life. You can make adjustments in your behavior once God has cleansed your mind and your spirit!
    1. Let Jesus give you new perspective.
      • “…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new
      life has begun!” (2 Cor 5:17, NLT)
      • “We have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor 2:16, NIV)
    2. Then you choose think correctly.
      8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. (Phil 4:8-9, NLT)
  5. Reinforce these truths. Practice. Now that you’re out of the “rut” of old thinking, practice the new patterns of thinking; form a pattern of new behaviors. Four helps:
    1. God’s Word. Soak it in. Allow its truths to continually retrain your thinking and reshape your reactions.
    2. God’s ways. Choose to follow God’s ways. Make deliberate decisions to do the right thing. Practice them.
    3. God’s people. Get support from God’s people. Nurture positive, uplifting relationships. Encourage one another.
    4. God’s Spirit. Be filled with the Spirit. Keep leaning and relying on his power.
Renew Your Mind…Reshape Your Life!