Craig Groeschel - Help! I'm Out of Control
Hey, well, what I know about you is chances are pretty good you're hoping that something will be different this year. Am I right? Yes. How many of you would love to see something different in 2021? And I'm not just talking about like the end of the COVID days or the end of the complications we've seen in our country and beyond, but I'm guessing there are a lot of you that would like something to be very different in your own life. For example, some of you might be thrilled if you could become more healthy and lose some weight, some of you might want to pay off some debt. Others of you maybe are praying that God would give you a better marriage, or maybe you're hoping that you'd become closer to God.
I'm guessing that almost all of you have some area of your life like me, where you're hoping for something to be different in this year. And perhaps you even have a goal or some type of a resolution where you're thinking this year in 2021 is finally gonna be the year that I'm gonna accomplish something or stop doing it or whatever. And maybe you even started out strong but unfortunately, if you're like most people in the world today, your good attempt may fail relatively quickly. In fact, some of you this short end of the year, you've already forgotten your new year resolution. You're off the farm and you're in a lot of trouble.
Why is it that so often we have really really good intentions, we wanna change but we find it so difficult to make the changes in our lives. What I wanna do over the next three weeks is I wanna look at very specifically how do we choose what I'm gonna call the greater reward? And we're gonna look today at a guy that I promise you, he's gonna encourage you. If you ever feel like you can't figure out why you do the wrong thing, believe me when I tell you the Apostle Paul, he's gonna make you feel way, way better about yourself.
Let me give you some context about Paul. If you don't know, the Apostle Paul was guy that experienced and encountered the risen Christ, literally experienced Him. Here's a guy that God used to raise the dead. The Apostle Paul wrote almost 1/3 of the New Testament. And as close to God as he was and as impactful as his ministry had become, I wanna show you the words that he said in Romans chapter seven. He said this, it makes me feel so much better about myself. He said, "I don't really understand myself".
Did any of you ever feel like that at all? He said, "For what I wanna do what's right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate". He said, "I wanna do what's right, but I can't. I wanna do what's good, but I don't. I don't wanna do what's wrong, but I do it anyway". He almost sounds crazy in a way that's very endearing. And then he says, "Oh, what a miserable person I am. Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Who can help me change? Who can help me be better? Who can help me do what I want? Who can help me stop doing what I don't wanna do". We're gonna hold the answer to his question. But the title of today's message is Help, I'm Out of Control.
So Father, today, we pray as we're launching into a new year, that by the power of your spirit and the truth of your word, you would help us to change to become more like your son, Jesus. In His name, we pray, and everybody say, Amen. Amen.
I'm excited to talk to you about a subject that I really believe can impact your life. But it's a subject that really has gotten what I call a bad rap. What I wanna do is I wanna talk to you about the gift of discipline, discipline. Now, the moment I say discipline, a lot of you are like, ah, I'm not a disciplined person. I don't wanna work that hard. I hate discipline. There are some people that are disciplined and I'm not disciplined. Discipline has gotten a bad rap.
What I wanna do is give you a very simple definition that I like to use in my own life for discipline that really puts it on a bottom shelf, helps you see that not only is it attainable and achievable but it is incredibly helpful in your life if you can let God help you to grow in your discipline. What is discipline? A very simple definition is this. Discipline is choosing what you want most over what you want now. Very, very simply. What is discipline? Discipline, with the help of God, is choosing what you want most over what you want now. What's funny is when you think about it, most people, most of us, we kind of want similar things, right? In almost every area of, every major area of life, we want similar things but the results are often vastly different.
For example, those of you that if you are married, chances are pretty good you want a marriage full of trust and intimacy. You want a strong marriage. I don't know anyone who's ever said, I wanna be divorced four times by the time I'm 40. Nobody wants that. Everybody wants a good marriage. We want similar things. The same with our health. Most people say, I wanna feel good. I wanna look good. I wanna be healthy. They don't wanna say, I wanna be out of shape. My goal is to be winded every time I walk up a single flight of stairs. I wanna look really bad on the beach in my bikini. Nobody says that.
We want similar things when it comes to our finances. What do people want? We wanna be able to be a blessing to others, right? We don't wanna worry about money. We want some freedom. We want some merge and we wanna feel secure. Nobody says my goal is to be paycheck to paycheck for the rest of my life. I love fighting with my family, telling them, no, you can't do that. Fighting over the... My goal is bankruptcy in three years or less, nobody does that.
What happens? So many of us, we want similar things but we end up with tremendously different results. Why? We want the same thing but we need to recognize, desires don't determine who you become. Disciplines determine who you become. Desires don't determine what you do. Disciplines determine what you do. In other words, hoping for a better life won't bring a better life. Habits that honor God will bring a better life. Why is it that we want perhaps to be more disciplined but we end up failing? Why is it that we try so hard but fall so short? One of the reasons is, because willpower doesn't work. Willpower doesn't work. We think that it does, but it doesn't. Willpower is a lot like a muscle. Once you work it too hard, it becomes fatigued and its power starts to wane. It gets tired. And you know this because you can have some willpower for a little while.
Let's say they bring donuts to your office and you're trying not to eat sweets right now. And so you can walk by the donuts one time with great confidence. I don't even need that chocolate covered sprinkled one. And your willpower is strong. The second time you walk by, you don't have so much distance but you're looking at it a little bit closer. The third time you tell yourself, I'm just gonna smell it. The fourth time, you just think I'm just gonna touch it. The fifth time you break it in half and you celebrate that you're only eating half of it. And then you come back 30 minutes later and you eat the other half. And you think you won because you waited and spread out the donut.
What happens is willpower doesn't work for long because eventually it starts to wane, which is a real problem if you're a follower of Jesus. Because think about it, if we're Christian, what do we know? We know that we're supposed to do good, to honor God, and we're not supposed to do bad, right? We're supposed to do good. We're supposed to pray and read the Bible and be nice, and serve, and be generous. And we're not supposed to do bad. We don't lie and we don't cheat and we don't steal. And we don't yell at people in the store. We know we're supposed to do good and we're not supposed to do bad. And so what do we do? We try with all of our willpower. We're not gonna say cuss words and we are gonna be nice to our kids. And we try and we try and we try, but eventually, our sinful desires start to overwhelm our waning willpower.
And what do we do? We give in. And without even knowing, we look back and say, I took it, smoked it, touched it, clicked on it, bought it. I can't believe I ate the whole thing. Have you noticed that before you fail, before you give in and do whatever you didn't wanna do or can't do what you wanted to do, before you fail, have you noticed how the devil will tell you, it's no big deal? Don't worry about it. Everybody else is doing it. You're not hurting anybody. It's not any big deal. Before you fail, have you noticed how your spiritual enemy tends to minimize the consequences of any kind of wrongdoing but after you do it, what does that same voice do?
The same one that minimized it then connects your failure to your identity and tells you, now, you are a bad person. You are a spiritual failure. You will never amount to anything. You are pathetic. You are worthless. You will never ever change. You don't have what it takes. You can never be healthy. You can never be pure. You can never have a good marriage. You can never be financially free. Before you fail, your enemy minimizes it. Afterwards, he starts to try to connect your failure to your identity. This is so important, why? The key to really changing starts with our identity.
And I want you to watch whenever the Apostle Paul was struggling the most, you can see the root of his problem in this particular dilemma when he defines his identity this way, what did he say in verse 24? He said, "Oh, what a miserable person I am". Another version, he said this. He said, "Oh, what a wretched man I am". Because I'm bad, because I'm pathetic, I can't do what I want. I end up doing the wrong thing. And he enters into what I would call a cycle of shame. Let me show it to you. Why is it that we have such a difficult time changing? Because fundamentally oftentimes, we believe I don't have what it takes. I am incomplete. I am pathetic. I am bad.
And so because by nature, we think we're bad, what are we gonna do? We're gonna try really, really hard. I'm gonna try, I'm gonna try, I'm gonna try, whatever it is. I'm gonna try to wake up early. I'm not gonna hit the snooze button four times. I'm gonna go to the gym. I'm gonna do 10 sit ups a day. I'm gonna stop eating carbs. I'm gonna stop spending more than I make. I'm gonna stop being a rude person. I'm gonna start being, well, I'm gonna try to be generous. And then once we try for a little while, we may have some success, but eventually our willpower wanes and our own strength, we just don't have enough to get it done. And once our willpower wanes that eventually, we have some sort of inevitable failure.
We sin, we lose control of our temper. We say the wrong things. We fall into a lustful moment. And after our inevitable failure, what do we experience? Tremendous guilt and shame, which reinforces the belief, I'm never gonna please God. I'm always gonna be bad. I can't shame. So what do we do? We try hard again to be something that we're not but deep down, our distorted identity discourages us and disrupts our ability to become who God is calling us to become. It's the cycle of shame. And one day we wake up and think, I just can't do it. I really can never be different. Something's wrong. Something's not working. Something is not right in my life.
What I wanna do is I wanna try to tell you that it's not some thing that you're missing but it's someone, and that someone you're missing comes with a power that you do not have. The Apostle Paul was wrestling through his distorted identity. When he comes upon the truth and preaches to himself, "Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin"? Who can help me change? Who can help me be different? Who can help me honor God? He says, and then he answers the question. "Thank God. The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord". It's in Jesus Christ. It is a power that I do not have because he who the Son sets free is free indeed.
And this is the key. It starts with identity. It's not all about behavior. And the root is this, it's not about behavior modification. What we're talking about is spiritual transformation. And, oh, this is a night and day difference. It's not about you try to be a better version of you. It's about a power greater than what you have that changes you from the inside out and empowers you to become the person that God wants you to be. It starts with identity. Somebody say that it starts with identity. Type it in a chat. It's in identity. So the devil wants you to think you are what you did. You are bad because you failed.
Listen, you are not what you did. You are not who others say you are. You're not even what that own voice of discouragement that condemns you in your mind says you are. Who are you? You are who God says you are. You are who He says you are. And if you're in Christ, He says, you're forgiven. If you're in Christ, He says, you're free. If you're in Christ, He says, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. He says, you're an ambassador of the most high God. He says, you're called and set apart.
You have the righteousness of God in Christ dwelling within you. He says, you can do all things, anything He calls you to do through the power of Christ that gives you strength. He says, you are an overcomer by the blood of the lamb and by the words of your testimony. When you know who you are, you know what to do. It's not behavior modification, it's spiritual transformation in how you see the core of your identity when you become a child of God. You're not a better version of you, you're different. You're new. The Scripture says, "The old self," that pathetic thing "is gone, and behold, because of Jesus, all things become new". It's a transformation. You belong to Jesus when you recognize that you belong to Jesus.
When it's not just a Sunday school statement or a yeah, I'm a Christian blah, blah, blah, blah. When it becomes your identity, that changes everything. If you have surrendered your life and declared Him as Lord, you belong to Jesus. You've been adopted into the family of God. You are a joint heir with Christ. You belong to Jesus. So would you just say that, just generally, just say I belong to Jesus. I want you just to say it again. I belong, say it again. Say it again. Say, I belong to Jesus. Type that in the chat, if you will. Just say it again a few times to just internalize it. Just, listen to me, feel it. Not loud at all. Just say it. I belong to Jesus.
Close your eyes if you don't even mind and just feel it. Just say it like you believe it. I belong, I belong to Jesus. He is my source. I belong to Jesus. He is my identity. I belong to Jesus. He is my strength. I belong to Jesus. His power is made perfect in my weakness. I belong to Jesus.
When you recognize you belong to Jesus, listen, you're no longer a slave to your sinful desires, but you're filled with the spirit of God that gives you strength. It's the spirit that gives you the strength to choose what you want most over what you want now. How do we do this like real practically? How do we live this out? Like it's not church sermon time but it's Tuesday morning and you wanna be angry. How do we live this out? The Apostle Paul said this in Galatians 5:16. He said this. He said, "So I say, walk by the Spirit". Somebody say, walk by the Spirit. Type that in the chat wherever you're watching right now. Just say it again and type it in. Walk by the Spirit. Somebody say, walk by the Spirit.
Here's what you're gonna do. You're gonna walk by the Spirit and when you do, when you walk by the Spirit, I like this. "You will not gratify the desires of the flesh". What does that mean? You won't gratify the desires of the flesh. The word in the Greek language is translated as flesh. It doesn't mean like your skin is the Greek word, sarx. It's used 147 different times in the New Testament. What that means is your sinful nature. It's your sinful desires. The Apostle Paul said elsewhere. He said, "We put no confidence in the flesh".
In other words, we put no confidence in our willpower. We're gonna walk in the spirit. When we're walking in the Spirit, when we're faithful to the direction of God, when we're empowered by the Spirit, we will not, not by willpower, but by Spirit power, we will not gratify the desires of our sinful fleshly nature. That word walk in the Greek is from the Greek word peripateo. And this is a present tense verb. And I like this. What it means is, when it's a present tense verb it means that continuous regular action. It's a habitual way of life. When you walk by the Spirit, it's not a one-time event. It's an ongoing habitual way of life.
What are you doing? I'm waking up and I'm depending on the Spirit. What are you doing? Well, I'm asking the Spirit to give me the words to say, I'm asking the Spirit to give me the wisdom to know what to do. I'm asking the Spirit to give me the power to say yes to what's right. I'm asking the Spirit to give me the power to say no, it's wrong. It's not my power. It's not my willpower. It's the power of the Spirit of God in me, and I'm walking with the Spirit. I'm walking with the Spirit. I don't know if you've ever known, but Christians, we sometimes have our own language. Christianese which is kind of a language. Like we say things like, how are you doing? I'm blessed and highly favored. If that's what... He never talked to you like the guy at your office. Hey Joe. What do you think? Hallelujah. There's Christianese everywhere.
One of the things Christian say is kind of funny. It's actually biblically accurate, but it's kind of funny. They'll say a lot. They'll say this. They'll like, I'm about to take a big step of faith, okay? I'm gonna do something crazy. God's called me to take a step of faith. I'm gonna take a step of faith or it's gonna be a big step of faith. I'm gonna take a step of faith. What I wanna do is I wanna encourage you to please take a step of faith. Take a step of faith. Always take a step of faith, but don't just take one, take a step of faith, followed by another step of faith, followed by a continuous habitual action of depending on God, another step of faith. And before long, once you're taking enough steps of faith, you're not living according to sight, but you're walking according to the Spirit. Daily.
And, this sounds almost crazy and undoable in the beginning until your identity is so formed. I belong to Jesus that I just don't like go to church to honor Him, but I need His presence with me every day. Guide my steps, direct my thoughts, renew my mind, empower my words. Use my life. Moment by moment, by moment it becomes a succession of steps when you're walking in the Spirit of God. And when you're walking in the Spirit of God, guess what? You don't obey the desires of the flesh. It becomes a spiritual habit that's born out of a spiritual identity. I'm walking with the Spirit of God.
What's interesting is the metaphor. Notice what Paul said. He said, you're walking. He didn't say you're running. In other words, it takes some time to get there. The challenge with what you want now, the sinful desires, what you want now, I want it now, the challenge with what you want now is that almost always has an immediate payoff, right? That cookie tastes good now. Sexual sin feels good now. You guys are looking at me like you don't know what I'm talking about. Just polish your halo and just act like you're holy, okay. Sending that really mean and hateful text when you're angry, it feels good now. The desires of the flesh have an immediate payoff, but the greater reward, the greater reward, it almost always takes more time.
What do you want most? A godly marriage? A rich spiritual legacy? Financial freedom? A meaningful ministry? The greater reward almost always takes time. It's walking by the Spirit, depending on God day by day, moment by moment. It leads you to the greater reward. Somebody say, I belong to Jesus. I belong to Jesus. I belong to Jesus. I belong to Jesus. I belong to Jesus. It breaks the cycle. It breaks the cycle. Instead of try hard and the willpower wanes, and you fail and you feel horrible and the cycle goes on and on, instead, it looks more like this.
"I belong to Jesus. And because I belong to Jesus, I'm gonna walk in the Spirit. I'm gonna depend on Him. Listen to me, when I'm weak, and you're gonna be weak. When I'm weak, His spirit, His history, He is the one who helps me. It's not religious talk. It's spiritual transformation. I depend on the Spirit and then what happens is, it builds my faith because I know that He's with me".
And as I'm depending on the Spirit and it builds my faith, then what does it do? It empowers the right actions, which then in turn does what? Then in turn, it makes me closer to God and it reinforces the root identity that I am His and He is mine. I belong to Jesus. His power is within me. The same spirit that raised Christ from the dead, it dwells in you. You can change when your identity changes. It's not behavior modification, it's genuine spiritual transformation empowered by the risen Son of God. Then suddenly, you're not shame-driven, got to try harder but instead, you're spirit-led. You're not trying to control your flesh, which you can't do, but you're depending on the Spirit of God. And because we belong to Jesus, He's empowering us to become more and more like Him.
Then here's the key. We're not striving and living for the future results way out there. When I finally get married one day, when my kids are finally behaving one day, when I finally lose 22 pounds one day, when I finally get my cholesterol down one day, when I finally pay off my student loan. We're not living for the results in the future, we're living from an identity today. And identity drives actions and actions create results. What do you do? You wake up one day and you say, I belong to Jesus. Because I belong to Jesus, I'm not trying to read my Bible, and I'm trying to pray so much, and I'm trying to be a better person. No, because I belong to Jesus, I want to read His Word. Because I belong to Jesus, I like to spend time in His presence. And as I get to know Him, it reinforces my identity, and I'm becoming more like Him.
Hey, because I belong to Jesus, I wanna honor God with my body. So I'm not trying to get up and go to the gym. I'm not trying to, you see. Because I believe this is a temple of the Holy Spirit, I choose empowered by His Spirit when I want most over what I want now. Who am I? I belong to Jesus. I am a godly man who will be a godly husband. And for those of you struggling with lust, when you change your identity, I'm a godly person, suddenly you realize, I don't need porn. That's stupid. It's fake. It's disgusting. What I love is when I feel tempted, I'm empowered to make the right decision. And then I love the freedom of not worrying about being caught. And I love the joy of not feeling the guilt. And I love the intimacy that I now have in my mirrors that's real and not a mirage.
It's who I am in Christ. With God's help, with God's help, by His spirit, by His power, He's helping me choose what I want most over what I want now. That's why I call it the joy of discipline. Like, I love it. I love it. Some of you say, well, God bless you there, preacher boy. I'm so glad it's easy for you. Okay, good. You're ordained, you glow in the dark, you get spiritual power, all that kind of stuff. What I want you to understand is where I came from is really, really different than where I am. Where I came from is really, really different. Both of my parents, my mom and my dad, they came from incredibly broken and dysfunctional homes with a long line of incredibly destructive addictive behaviors.
And so, with the same lineage and the same biology and decades of examples on both sides, I found myself with a very dangerously addictive personality And so I became a Christian and tried really hard to do what's right. And tried really hard not to do what's wrong. And I couldn't get it right, because deep down inside, I felt I'm still unworthy. I'm still no good. I'm still a fraud. And it was when I met Amy that... She was so special to me that it shook me at my core and I feared deep down that I could not be worthy of the woman that she is, because I knew internally that I'm no good. That even though I try, I'm probably gonna fail.
If you've been a part of our church for a while, you know that I have confessions, declarations that I say to renew my mind. One of them I say is this. I say, I am disciplined. The reason I say that is because for years I was undisciplined. By faith because of who Jesus is, I declare I am changing my identity, I am disciplined. And then I say this, I am disciplined. Christ's power in me is stronger than the wrong desires in me. I am disciplined. Christ's power in me is stronger than the wrong desires in me. And I am humbled and honored to say by the grace of God that in 30 years of marriage to my best friend, I have been pure and honorable. Not because I'm good, but because the power of Jesus through me has enabled me to choose what I want most over sometimes what looks tempting now.
Listen, none of us have the willpower to become who we're supposed to become. None of us. Here's a little secret, it's a life-changing secret. Self-control, you want that? Discipline, self-control? Listen, you know what that is? That is a fruit of the Spirit. It's a fruit of the Spirit. It's not a fruit of your willpower. Galatians five, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness," and what else? Say it loud it and, self-control "self-control". It's a fruit of the Spirit.
So what do we do? Just answer the question, what do you really want most? Like don't play around. What do you wanna be different? Name it, whatever it is, what do you want most? Not just what do you want most but who do you wanna become? And then wake up every day with the identity true to who God says you are. You're new in Christ. You're forgiven. You're changed. You're an overcomer. And then moment by moment, you just learn to walk by the Spirit. Oh, I messed up. I confess it. I ask for your forgiveness, now, give me strength today. And I'm gonna continue successions of steps learning to depend on God and it just becomes habitual. I don't need them when times are bad, I need them all the time.
Step by step. I'm walking according to the Spirit and I'm not gratifying the desires of the flesh. God's spirit in you. God's spirit in you. God's spirit in you helps you choose what you want most over what you want now. And that's how you change. Not by willpower, but by the power of the Spirit that dwells within you.
So Father, today, I ask that you would begin a string of miracles in people who need your power.
And all of our churches and those watching online, those of you who say there is something that I really do want, I want this most. I wanna change in this area. I want something to be different in my life. If you have something like that, that you say yes, God helped me to choose what I want most. I wanna change in this area. Would you lift up your hand right now? Or you can just click it in the chat I want something different. Just type it in the chat right now.
And Father, we're gonna approach change in a way perhaps different than we ever have before. Not by just trying and hoping, but over the next couple of weeks, learning what your Word says starting with the identity. We belong to you. And God, because we belong to you, I pray that you would help us to depend on your Spirit. Teach us, God, moment by moment. We know we won't always get it right, but when we fail we don't run from you, we run to you. Teach us to walk by the Spirit moment by moment depending on you. So we will not gratify the desires of our sinful flesh but instead, God, we would honor you in all that we do. I thank you in advance. It's not something that's missing, is someone. His name is Jesus. We thank you for the one who sets us free.
As you keep praying today at all of our churches, some of you may come to the realization that you actually really don't belong to Jesus. At least not yet. What's funny is you can go to church and be around church people and even know some stuff about the Bible and even look religious at times but not really know Jesus personally. Following Jesus is not like signing up for a membership or stop and doing bad things or improving your life, it's a relationship. God sent His son, Jesus, to show us who the Father is. And because we sinned Jesus gave His life, the perfect one, as an innocent sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins.
And all of our different churches, some of you say, well, I do, I'd love to belong to Jesus and I'd love to know God, I'd love to be forgiven but I'm just too bad and I'm too dirty. I've done too many things wrong. And listen, that's exactly where you start. You just come right as you are, you come to Jesus. He loves you as you are. When you call on His name, He forgives you. Everything that you've ever done wrong, He forgives you. You don't become better, you become different. The old is gone and the new has come. And then he doesn't just leave you there and say, good luck. He fills you with the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead. You will belong to Him. You will be different. You will have His power.
All of our churches watching online, those who say, yes, I need His grace, I want His forgiveness today. I let go of my sin. I give my whole life to Him. You're ready for His forgiveness. You're ready to be new. You say, yes, Jesus. I give my life to you. That's your prayer. Lift your hands high now all over the place and say, yes, thank you, I give my life to you. As we have hands all over, those of you online just type that in the chat right now. Just boldly say in front of everybody online, I'm giving my life to Jesus. And as we have people at churches around the nation and people online around the world coming to faith in Christ would you just join me in praying with them? Nobody prays alone, we pray together, pray aloud:
Heavenly Father I give my life completely to Jesus. Jesus save me. Forgive me, make me brand new. Fill me with your Spirit so I can walk in the Spirit so I could follow you. So I could choose what you want for me instead of my sinful desires. Because of your grace, I belong to you. I belong to you. I belong to you, Jesus. Thank you for new life. I give you all of mine. In Jesus name, I pray.