Part 4 of Above & Beyond!
Peter Foxwell. The Cornerstone Church
January 28, 2018.
I was sitting in the library one day and a mom and her toddler came in. He wanted to run around and touch everything and she wanted him to stay close. When she held his hand, he threw a fit. Screaming, jumping, twisting, falling, gagging, roaring, crying out, "Let me go, let me go, let me go." I'll bet that mom can't wait for her boy to grow up.
In Ephesians 4, we are told to grow up in Christ. We're told to put off the old self and to put on the new self. And we're told how to do it. Verse 23 explains that our "new self" emerges when we are "made new in the attitude of our minds." That's talking about changing our thinking.
If your life is ruined by negative emotions; or you're struggling to overcome old habits; or you want to live for God but never seem to get there, the simple fact is this: your life cannot change until your thinking does.
How we think controls how we live. Better thinking leads to better living.
HOW TO THINK BETTER
How can we think better? Verse 23 tells us:
By working on it everyday. The grammar of "made new" (present tense) means it's an ongoing activity - all day every day.
By working on it with God's help. The grammar of "made new" (passive voice) means that it's something God is doing in us as we work with him. The Lord's going to help you do this.
By working on our controlling beliefs. That's the meaning of "attitude of your mind." In Star Trek, there is the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. The bridge is the control center for the whole ship. That's how the mind works in our lives: its the place where our controlling beliefs live and control our lives.
Proverbs 4:23 "Above all else, guard your heart (that's the mind), for everything you do flows from it."
Our old controlling beliefs controlled our old life. We need new controlling beliefs for our new life in Christ. Look at the chart for some examples:
HOW TO CREATE NEW CONTROLLING BELIEFS
1. HIT DELETE.
My morning ritual includes sitting with my phone, scrolling through my email, swiping left, and hitting delete. It's kind of fun to get rid of all the messages I don't need to deal with.
When an old controlling belief downloads to your mind, hit delete. Don't focus on it. Don't dwell on it. Hit delete and forget it:
If it's discouraging: hit delete.
If it's not true: hit delete.
If it's a temptation: hit delete and move on.
There are two words for that old-life kind of thinking:
In verse 18, old-life thinking is called "futile." That thought has no value because God isn't in it. Hit delete. King Solomon discovered the futility of his "old-mind" thinking. He wrote about it in Ecclesiastes: "There was a time when I thought to myself: 'If I work longer, build higher, and party harder, I'll be happy.' But those thoughts were empty, vanity, futile. HIT DELETE!"
In verse 22, old-life thinking is called "deceitful." That thought is a lie. It will take you away from God and the truth that is in Jesus. Hit delete. Where do those lying thoughts come from? Some, we create all by ourselves. Some, we learn from family, friends, or the media, and some are planted by the devil himself. Hit delete!
When you wake up on a cold, grey, rainy, Monday and your emotions tell you to be miserable, that nothing good is going to happen today, that God has taken the day off and forgotten about you. HIT DELETE. Never, ever, listen to your emotions; they lie all the time.
Do you have a Google Home or an Echo or a smart phone? Those devices are listening to you all the time. We have an Echo in the kitchen - mostly for music when we're cooking. The other day, we were watching TV in the living room and the Echo started talking to us. She was listening to our TV and our conversation.
Be like the Echo: Listen to your thinking. If it belongs to the old-life, hit delete!
2. RE-WRITE YOUR OPERATING SYSTEM
A month ago, my iMac computer crashed. It wouldn't boot up. Panic time! I went online to find a fix and nothing worked. I called Apple Support and they gave me the same fixes - they didn't work. The hard drive had been corrupted, so, I had to do something drastic: a clean and install. That process removed everything and re-installed the operating system. Hitting the clean and install button was a very scary decision, but the results were amazing. My iMac is like a brand new machine. It's fast and awesome!
Our minds are sort of like my Mac. Sometimes the code gets messed up and we need to hit delete and rewrite the operating system. Romans 12:2 says we're TRANSFORMED by the renewing of the mind. That's how our new life emerges.
We can replace the old ways of thinking with new. We have all the code we need. It's called "the truth that is in Jesus" - verse 21. Fill your mind with all Jesus is and all he has done for you. Learn and apply his principles and promises to your thinking.
Here's how to rewrite your operating system: Start preaching! No need to stand in front of the church. Preach to yourself. That's a captive audience :) Preach "Jesus-centered, grace-based, promise-filled, truth-talk."
I know preaching has a bad reputation. I heard a story about a preacher whose sermon went very long, 30, 40, 50 minutes, on and on. One young man snuck out of the service and met his friend in the atrium. The friend asked, "Is the preacher done?" "Oh yes, he's done, but he hasn't stopped." Ha! Forget the story and start preaching the "truth that's in Jesus" to yourself.
When you want to feel great, preach to yourself: "This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it. In the presence of the Lord, there is fulness of joy. O taste and see that the Lord is good. He is good, he is good to me."
When you need courage to face a difficult situation, preach to yourself: "With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. I can do everything God calls me to do through Christ who gives me strength."
When things aren't going well, preach to yourself: "I am blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Nothing can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. I am more than a conqueror through him who loved me."
When someone criticizes you, preach to yourself: "If God is for me, who can be against me? There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Jesus died the righteous for the unrighteous to bring me to God."
I could go on and on. Maybe just three more:
When you're betrayed or blamed for stuff you didn't do, preach to yourself: "My Savior Jesus was betrayed, he was accused, and he was unjustly condemned. Therefore, When they hurl their insults at me, I will not retaliate; when I suffer, I will make no threats. Instead, I will entrust myself to him who judges justly and for the joy set before me I will endured my hardship, scorning its shame."
When you face temptation, preach to yourself: "Jesus was tempted, but he resisted. Therefore, I praise the Lord, who counsels me ... and I will keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken."
When you experience bad health or even the prospect of dying, preach to yourself: "Jesus defeated death and he is alive forever. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. I will walk the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand."
If you want to read a whole book on this kind of Jesus-centered, grace-based, promise-filled, truth-talk, check out John Piper's book, Future Grace.
You have been made new in Christ. He did all the work, now you need to receive it and stand in it by faith. You activate your new self by changing your most basic thinking patterns - the ones that control your life - your controlling beliefs.
New thinking leads to new living. It's the foundation for everything else.
Think about the leaning tower of Pisa. During construction, the foundations began to sink. And it just worse and worse over the centuries. By 1990, the tower was leaning 15 feet off the perpendicular. Since then, they've raised the foundations some, but it's still leaning.
That's a great picture of a life built on old thinking. It doesn't work.
Build your life on the truth that is in Jesus. Delete everything else. Renew your mind with Jesus-centered, grace-based, promise-filled, truth. Preach it! "Whatever is true ... think about that." - Philippians 2:8