So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good?
Romans chapter 6, verses 1 and 2; from The Message (Msg)
Being a pastor, I know something about this “change of address” thing. Today, it’s not a big thing. Go online, notify whomever, fill out a form, and PRESTO! The address has been change! But at the risk of sounding old I will say, “Back in the day, we had to fill out a form with the post office, and then write letters to those others who sent us mail notifying them of our change of address.” Moving isn’t easy. I still remember to this day what the late Bishop Sanders would always say before the reading of the appointments: “When you move, take everything! Take the piano and the dog!” Oh, one other thing he would say: “And don’t go back!”
Why all these random thoughts about moving and change of address? Before one is about to leave their old home or apartment, they make one last round to make sure that they haven’t left anything behind. But when it comes to following Jesus–it takes a complete break from what use-to-be and step into what-it’s-going-to-be. We cannot carry our old baggage with us if we are truly following Jesus. As a matter of fact, we can’t take anything with us from that old address! Nothing! Nada! Zilch! Alas! We have too many preachers and teachers who do not believe that God wants us to make a complete break with our old life. And these apostate teachers and preachers are leading folks into the life of Deception! Yes, I called them Apostate! Like Horton the Elephant, “I meant what I said and I said what I meant!”
Teaching and saying that you can still do the things you use to do and still be a Disciple of Jesus is akin to an addict who says: “I’m not an addict anymore. Although from time to time I still allow my addiction to control me. But I’m a follower of Jesus, so that doesn’t matter anymore.” Grace forgives us of our sins–but Grace Never Sanctifies Our Sins! Yet there are so many who have been taught that this is how it works; especially within the LBGTIQ community.
To be a follower, I mean a REAL follower of Jesus is disruptive! It’s the call and life of leaving everything else behind. It’s not always easy to leave the old address. And the temptation to “move back” to that old house is very real–and often very powerful. But the same Grace that invited us to move away from that old address and into this New Address, is the same Grace that is available to help us from that temptation to go back to that old home. God’s definition of “sin” hasn’t changed; nor will it ever! But thankfully He is always here to help us to keep moving forward–and to help us from wanting to move back to that old address. You just can’t carry that old baggage from our old life and follow Jesus. You just can’t! And that, my friends is the best news ever!
1And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 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. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Romans chapter 12, verses 1 and 2; from the New Living Translation
Do you ever think about your “thinking”? Maybe you should. Some say thinking is important. But I would say “No so! HOW you think is what’s important!” God created us to be thinking beings. He didn’t design us like computer software that processes zeros and ones that produce a predictable outcome. No, He took the risk and gave us a mind that is both capable and designed to think. Everyday is another day of “thinking”.
We think about the weather, work, family, ballgames, and the beat goes on. Thinking! All the time we are processing life through our thinking. Even the person who does some bonehead thing and when asked why they did that, replies, “I wasn’t thinking!” Oh, yes you were. It’s just that you were involved with what American psychologist Albert Ellis called “stinking thinking”. What makes stinking thinking, or thinking that’s stinking? Ever done some thinking on your thinking?
Thinking comes out of who or what we allow to influence us. Influences influence thinking! Real profound stuff, right? But it’s the truth! And there’s the thing: We Choose Who Or What Influences Us! Sorry, but when it comes to thinking, there is no victim card to play. When I think about thinking, I think about the parable of The Rich Fool (found in Luke chapter 16). He had the best year ever farming. It was so good, that he didn’t have enough silos to store it in. The pivotal moment that revealed what influenced his thinking happens in Verse 17: “He said to himself”!
Look, people! Yes we can think for ourselves. But remember, our thinking is always under some influence. Paul understood this and that’s why he wrote: “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.“ Without being born again–without the New Heart–without experiencing conversion–our thinking remains under the influence of SIN! There I said it! Some think I’m a bit crazy for talking about SIN! But sin is a reality.
But even after conversion, Satan and sin doesn’t give up working against us. Therefore (I love this word) we must continually think about our thinking! Our minds do not come like Ashley Home Furnishings furniture. We are more like Ikea–not so easy to assemble. It is easy, so very easy, to be influenced by the way this world thinks. But there’s a way to avoid the stinking thinking that is in the world, and invaded so many churches. Read again the rest of Verse 2: “but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.“
Loving God is more than what is in your heart. Loving God is also about how you think. And how you think is determined by who or what you allow to influence you. Think about that. Just think about it!
Whatever happened to thinking? Listening to people talk, watching the news, seeing how some people drive, and observing what they do, I am compelled to ask: Whatever happened to thinking? I wanted to conclude, “Well, they just aren’t thinking! If they were then they wouldn’t say and do all those stupid and insipid things!” But I’m wrong! Yes, mark this date on your calendars, Preacherman admitted he was wrong! It doesn’t happen very often, but it did this morning! Contrary to my errant conclusion, people do think–even when it seems like they aren’t. I mean, have you ever said to someone, “What were you thinking?” The implication is they weren’t–but they were. Thinking is controlled by our mind.
You see, if we are walking, talking, and breathing, then we are also thinking! It’s how we are wired, how we were created. The problem isn’t NOT thinking–the problem is HOW we think. The HOW of thinking is controlled by one thing and one thing only: PERSPECTIVE! And PERSPECTIVE is influenced by the things and people we allow to shape our values, beliefs, and attitudes; and these things form our words and actions. If we allow the gibberish thinking of others influence us, then the outcome is, well, what we see so much of today.
There’s a line of thinking around the concept of mind control. Research has been done in the hollow halls of academia, the maladriot back rooms of Washington D.C.–even the military has explored it has a weapon of war. But the truth is there is no such thing as someone else controlling how a mind operates. Thinking is controlled by our own mind. We allow and we turn away, we permit and reject, what goes into and out of our minds. So the question of the hour–heck! The question of the ages is: Who Or What Controls Our Mind?
Many seem to be at a loss for the answer to this question. Fortunately for you, I’m not at a loss for the answer. It’s the heart! Think for a moment about what Paul wrote in Philippians Chapter 4, Verse 5: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Think of your heart as the throne room of your life. Someone or some thing rules from your heart. Whoever or whatever is sitting on that throne at the time is your Ruler. Remember, that rulers can be ruthless, rancorous, and remorseless. Make sure your Ruler isn’t that–and the only one who isn’t ruthless, rancorous, and remorseless is Jesus! His heart is kind, merciful, and gracious. There is never a moment when He isn’t!
By surrendering your Throne to Him, He’s right there doing what only HE can do–Giving Us A New Heart! That heart He transplants into us is His Heart. And what does His Heart look like? Well, read the Manual–it’s also known as The Bible. And when (not if) you have trouble understanding The Manual, The Holy Spirit is right there to help us understand God’s Heart! But be aware, The Holy Spirit often contradicts what we and others think. But remember He is Safe because He is Kind and will never do anything to harm us. And as far as the mind goes? Well, the New Heart is instantaneous. But the Renewed Mind takes time and effort on our part. After all, you control your thinking! And your thinking comes out of whatever, or whoever, is sitting on that Throne!
I was thinking this morning–even though sometimes I shouldn’t. But I was. I was thinking about a lot of stuff–why was this happening, why wasn’t that happening, what’s wrong with the world? Then a sombering thought broke through: What’s wrong with me? Please, no comments from the peanut gallery–I was dead serious. What was to be my time with The Trio (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) was constantly being interupted by this plethera of thoughts. Finally The Spirit was able to get a word in edgewise in the midst of all this thoughts of mine; He said, “Give us permission, and we will help you get your focus back.”
Permission! I hit the breaks to all those other thoughts, stuffed them back into the closet where they belonged, and I gave my Permission to The Trio to take control. All it took to settle my gray matter down, was to give my Permission to The Holy Spirit to take control. And thus this morning’s musings about Permission. Whatever thoughts we have are there because we have given them Permission to be there. And whatever is in our heart? You guessed it! It’s there because we have given it Permission!
And just as quickly as we gave something else Permission to run wild in our heart and mind, we can give Permission to our Heavenly Father! Giving God Permission is quick–but not always easy. Giving God Permission to take over contradicts what we’ve been taught, what we believe, and how we see life. Those thoughts, ideas, and beliefs will cry out that you’ve been wounded by God. But you haven’t been wounded by God–only those thoughts, ideas, and beliefs that have set up shop in your mind and heart have been wounded. But you? You are being set free and liberated from the chaos and confusion that comes without God on the throne of your heart. I leave you this morning with these words about Permission–straight out of the Bible; the Old Testament even!
Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track.
At 8:00 a.m. Central Daylight Savings Time, I have an appointment for an adjustment. NO! It is not an attitude adjustment! I know what some of you were just thinking! I don’t need an appointment for that. I have a wife. . .and God for that, thank you very much. Both quickly do that for me with me scheduling an appointment–and they do it graciously. It’s time for me to visit my chiropractor, Dr. Fetter. And don’t tell me that chiropractic care is snake oil medicine. My shoulder blades, right shoulder, lower back and right hip will, in harmony, quickly tell you that you are bonkers and to leave me alone!
But this upcoming chiropractic adjustment appointment did get me to thinking about what you just thought I needed: An Attitude Adjustment! I am totally convinced that this culture is run amuck with prodigality and profligacy abandon. In case you do not know what prodigality and profligacy means:
It seems that everywhere I turn, people’s attitudes are. . .what’s the word I’m looking for? Dense and slow on uptake. Nothing is ever right. Nothing is ever enough. I lived under those attitudes for 29 years–but never again! Attitudes like always angry. Always critical. Always resentful. Always distrustful. Always better than you. Always snarky. Well, maybe not ALL the time–just Ivory Soap time–99.9%. They dwell on things like misery, crankiness, doubt and suspicion. They are always right and you are always wrong. This list is ad infinitum.
So, how can people get an attitude adjustment–I mean, without using a baseball bat and sledge hammer? Can you believe that the Bible has the answer–and it’s all without violence? Well, not physical violence, but tearing down old attitudes can be violent, for some. It’s what Paul told the church in Rome in his letter to them.
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)
Changing our attitudes begins with more than changing our minds–but having our minds Transformed into the mind of Christ. But Transforming the mind takes more than decision or resolution. It takes surrender–placing it before God as an offering. Offering is something given over–and given up to another. We need–URGENTLY need to think in a totally different way–the way Jesus thinks. Then–AND ONLY THEN–will we have the right attitude!
When I was on staff for The North Alabama Conference Center, I had this sign on the door to my office: “A Lack Of Planning On Your Part Does NOT Mean We Have A Crisis. It Means YOU Have A Problem!” The meaning is pretty obvious: When you are in the panic mode because you failed to make and follow a plan, do not expect me to join you in your panic. Planning is important. To borrow a term from Coach Nick Saban, there is a Process to follow.
We plan lots of things like careers, work, families,
and retirement. And we would never build
a home without first having a plan. But
what about the development of our spiritual life? If planning work, families, retirements, and
homes are important, why do so many spend so little time planning the
development of their spiritual life? Have
you heard this saying? When You
Fail To Plan, You Plan To Fail.
I want us to look at developing a plan, a blueprint of sorts for Building A Brand New You. I believe that God is on the move in our
culture for yet another Great Awakening, much like what God promised Israel
through Isaiah in Isaiah 43:19
For I am
about to do something new. See, I have
already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
God promised this, they were in exile and things seemed hopeless. If we are honest, we feel the same way about
our culture—that things seem hopeless.
But I am convinced otherwise. I
see the signs in Africa, Southeast Asia and in Central and South America—and I
am seeing and sensing the same in our time and place. God is doing a new thing in our time, and we
need to position ourselves to see it. We
need a new blueprint for a new you. Every
blueprint has a beginning point, so I began thinking about where to start. I kept thinking and thinking and thinking,
but I just couldn’t figure out where to start this blue print.
I was thinking about a lot of different things as the first part of this blueprint—transformation of the heart, the importance of living out God’s word, faith, but the more I thought about it, nothing seem to fit. I did my usual walking and pacing as I was thinking. Now, I don’t know how other preachers arrive at their messages, but me, I don’t know how to explain it, other than to say it just feels right. I was doing all this thinking, and nothing felt right.
Finally, I said, “OK, God,
what are you thinking?” And I thought I
almost heard Him say, “Exactly!” Excuse
me? What do you mean by “Exactly”? Then it hit me, the Blueprint For A New You begins with A New Way Of Thinking! And our passage for today comes from Romans 12:1-2. Last week I shared it with you from The Message, but this week I want you
to hear it from The Passion Translation:
1] Beloved friends, what should be our proper response to God’s marvelous mercies? I encourage you to surrender yourselves to God to be his sacred, living sacrifices. And live in holiness, experiencing all that delights his heart. For this becomes your genuine expression of worship.
2] Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.
we think is more important than many may realize. It influences our perceptions and
our reactions—both positively and negatively.
And our thinking greatly shapes our daily actions. How many times after we did something that
defied common sense did we say, “What
was I thinking?” Anyone here other
than me who has ever said that? When
Debbie and I got married, I wanted to use that country song as we walked the
aisle. She wouldn’t let me.
our own answer to that question is: “I Wasn’t
Thinking!” Most of the time,
this is probably true. But open your
minds to another possible answer. Maybe,
just sometimes the answer is: “I was
thinking the wrong way.”
Case in point is found in Mark 6 when Jesus had been teaching most of the day. This was supposed to be a day for just the Disciples and Jesus. But then the crowd showed up, ruining their plans. This crowd had been there at least all afternoon long. I don’t think the disciples had a table set up with snacks, coffee and water, so they had been there most of the day without eating. The disciples know this, so in order to get their own time with Jesus, they tell Jesus, “The day is almost over. These people need to eat. Stop preaching and send them home.” But their little ploy to keep Jesus to themselves quickly unravels.
Jesus tells them, “OK, they do need to eat, so YOU give them something to eat.” Maybe Jesus doesn’t fully understand this situation. Almost immediately they reached a rare consensus: “It would take 8 months of our wages to buy that much bread. You want us to do that?” At first their thinking was: “Send them home”, and their second thinking was, “It would take 8 months of wages to buy that much bread.” The meaning of that statement is: “We don’t have enough money to feed them. So, let’s go back to our first statement: Send them home!”
Jesus the Teacher is persistent, so He asks another question: “Well,
how many loaves do you have?” There
must have been a look of shock on their faces because Jesus added, “Well, go on and see!” It seemed like Jesus wasn’t listening to
them. But they do what He says just to
prove THEY are right.
They take a very quick inventory. John’s Gospel says they found a young boy with a sack lunch. They come back with their report: “We have 5 loaves and 2 small fish.” Obviously this is not enough, so they are probably back to their first way of thinking: “OK Jesus, send them away.” But Jesus Doesn’t See This Situation The Way They See It. He tells them, “OK, everybody, I mean everybody have a seat. We are going to have a picnic. Sit in groups of 50 or 100. Oh, and save the leftovers.” Try to imagine, if you can, the look on the faces of the disciples. 5 loaves of bread? 2 small fish? A picnic?
with common sense would know this can’t feed all those people; 5000 men plus
women and children. I can just imagine
Matthew, who knew how to work with numbers, thinking: “Well this won’t take long.”
look at what happens. Everyone eats
until they are full, and then there are 12 baskets full of leftovers. Their way of thinking said, “This isn’t enough.” But Jesus’ way of thinking said,
“Everyone sit down, the servers will bring your meal to you as quickly as they
can. And save all the leftovers!”
A New Way Of Thinking Begins When We See People And Situations The
Way Jesus Sees Them. And this will never happen in us until we
have our minds transformed by God’s grace into the same mind of Jesus who told
those disciples, “You give them something to eat.” It happens when we allow Him to make us
something altogether different. It happens inside us when His Holy Spirit, is
more than with us; But Living IN Us. It’s all an inside job. We can’t make it happen, but we can choose to
allow it to happen by surrendering to God’s grace.
Here’s the one thing you need to remember: This Transformed Mind Is Where We Discover, Accept
And Live In God’s Intended Design.
God has an Intended Design for your life. It’s Called His Will. That Will brings about His Purpose
which is bringing people into a relationship with Him.
natural mind cannot see it no more that the natural minds of the disciples
could see how to feed all those people. But
Jesus did feed them, and Jesus will use us when our minds have been transformed
by the Jesus who wants to live in us.
Only with the transformed mind can we discover and live in God’s
that transformed mind that understands why we need His Intended Design. It’s the renewed mind that understands 3 Unshakeable
Truths that keep us Thinking In A New Way.
1. God’s Will Is Good
will is good because it is honorable. Thinking
A New Way understands that our everyday life can also be
honorable. We can show integrity and
compassion in any situation. It works
from the desk of a CEO all the way to a simple ditch digger.
Wherever you are, Thinking A New Way Means We Look For Ways To
Express The Holiness And Majesty Of God; His Grace, Mercy, And His Unlimited
Love To A World That Desperately Needs To See Him. To say His
Intended Design is good means that whatever it is He wants from us is the
right thing. This adds value, purpose,
and the beauty to life.
2. His Will Is Life As It Is
Meant To Be.
Thinking A New Way means that we Look For Ways To Bring Our Daily
Life Back Into Agreement With God’s Intended Design For Our Life. Thinking A New Way Shows Us How
To Live This Life In SuchA Way That We Find A Passion Living God’s Way.
It is pleasing to us, because it is the very life we
have been created for—a life in deep intimate relationship with Him. And it is pleasing to Him—who created us and
who loves us enough to allow His Only Son to die on that Cross, just for us so
that this horrible and destructive power of sin that was Defeated ON That Cross
could be Defeated
IN Our Life.
3. This Life Moves Us
God’s Intended Design is perfect because ultimately,
it will make us perfect. We’re not
perfect yet, but Thinking A New Way
means we know that Every Choice, Every Carefully Chosen Word, And Every
Deliberate Act Can Take Us Closer To Or Further Away From That Total Perfection. It all depends on YOUR chosen priority. Thinking A New Way means We Live Our Life With
A Clearly Defined Purpose—To Allow All The Life That Is Jesus, To Be SeenIn
Great Desire is to finish the process of transformation that begins when we
invite Jesus into our heart as Savior and as Lord. Then we begin this journey toBecome
The Person Who God Intended For Us To Be All Along. Thinking A New Way can only
happen when we offer Jesus both our heart and our mind. Does this process of surrendering the mind
forward to Acts 3. John and Peter are
about to enter the Temple in Jerusalem.
A beggar stops them, asking for money.
They don’t have any money. What will
they do? Do they start shouting, “Hey,
this man needs money. Will someone
please step up and help this poor man out?”
That, my friends, would have been their old way of thinking.
now, thanks to the Holy Spirit, they have a new way of thinking. Listen to verse 6: Then
Peter said, “I don’t have money, but I’ll give you this—by the power of the
name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk!” A new way of thinking is all about knowing
that Jesus isn’t just with you, but that He wants to be and can be IN you.
Here’s Your Next Step
Do Something This Week That
Will Cause 2 Things In Your Life:
Find a way to look and think a little more like Jesus each day. Maybe read the Bible more, pray more, start reading a book by a solid Christian writer–whatever works for you.
Ask God to use you to show someone else that God loves and cares about them.