Craig Groeschel - Why Can't I Stop?
So I'm curious, I wonder how many of you have a bad habit, something you wished you didn't do and you've tried to break that habit, but you can't seem to break it. I wonder how many of you may be at some point you just prayed out to God, like, "God, would you please help me stop, help this go away". You might even negotiated with God and say, if you will, I won't ever again, you'll please, God, just help me stop. I don't want to do this. Maybe you prayed, maybe you made a promise, and maybe you did stop for a little while, but then unfortunately you fell back into the very thing you didn't wanna do.
You might've made a promise, like God help me, and I promise I won't ever curse and lose my temper with my kids. And you drove all the way to church and set all the way through church and you didn't curse and didn't lose your temper at your kids until you were driving home. And someone cuts you off, and someone was saying something in the back and you cursed and you lost your temper and you went home. You were so mad at yourself. You felt so depressed. You just scroll through social media, mindlessly, and that made you feel worse. And so you went into the kitchen, ate half of what's in the refrigerator. And so you lost your temper and cursed again. You wanna change, you try to change. You ask God to help you change, but it didn't work. The title of today's message is, "Why can't I stop"? Would you pray with me.
Father, we ask today that by the power of your spirit, you would speak a word of life, a word of encouragement, even a word of power to help us overcome anything in our lives that would be displeasing to you or harmful to us or to others. God, by your power, teach us through your word, empower us by your spirit, strengthen us, God, by your grace to live a life that pleases you. We pray this in Jesus name. And everybody said? Amen. Amen, amen.
What's going wrong whenever you want to stop something, you wanna change a behavior, but you can't seem to do it. I would suggest that in most cases, there are a lot of people that have the right intentions, but the wrong strategy. What you're trying to do is you're trying to change, but you're actually trying to change in the wrong way. As we dive into this message, I wanna start by acknowledging, unfortunately, that this message is going to be a little bit incomplete. And I apologize for that. There's no way in a 30-minute time period that I could fully and completely address a full theology of change. When you ask why haven't I changed? I would just say there would be multiple factors working against you, that keep us stuck in the lifestyle that often we would like to live in a different way, for example, I'll show you some of the factors and then try to get to the root. Why is it that we can't change?
For almost all of us, there would be practical reasons that we find it difficult to change. For example, why do I always eat the wrong food? Well, the answer might be because you have access to the wrong food and not the right food. There's a practical reason. Why do I oversleep every morning? It could be because you're binge watching Netflix until two in the morning. And if you don't set your alarm, there's a practical reason why many of us don't change. There are other reasons, not just practical, but there might be emotional reasons as well. A lot of us, we have emotional wounds, we have some baggage, we have some unresolved issues that often lead us to coping and unhealthy way.
So there might be practical reasons, emotional reasons, and there would be relational reasons. In other words, it's really, really hard to get healthy when we're surrounded by unhealthy people, it's hard to have the right mindset if all we do is interact with people with the wrong mindset, you may say, why in the world do I always do drugs? Maybe it's because your three best friends are drug dealers. You're around the wrong people. And it's almost impossible to live the right life when you're consistently surrounded by the wrong people. Why don't we change? It could be practical. There could be an emotional element to it. There could be a relational element to it. And there's often what I say, a physical element, meaning some of us are stronger in some areas and we're just more vulnerable in other areas. We might have bad neural pathways, we might have a chemical imbalance. When we talk about change, there's a lot of complications to it.
There could be practical, emotional, relational, physical reasons, but at the heart of the issue, almost every time I would argue is a spiritual challenge. At the heart of the reason why most people can't change, the root issue is often a spiritual issue. And what happens is many people, whether they're a Christian or not a Christian, they're trying to meet a spiritual need with something besides God. And there is a void, there is a longing, there is an emptiness. They're looking for something to meet that need, to fill that void with something besides God that leads them into a very destructive lifestyle. And so that reason is we're gonna talk about the spiritual element of change today. Why can't you change? For so many people, the reason you can't change is because you're focusing on the poison of religion and forgetting the power of grace. Let me say it again. It's a spiritual issue for so many people. You're focusing on the poison of religion and forgetting the power of grace.
Now some of you may say, well, poison of religion, Pastor Craig, aren't you religious. And I have to say, actually, not at all. I am not a religious person. In the world today, when people think of a religious person, they might think of a Christian person or a church gore, but the root word of religion is actually something I don't wanna have anything to do with. In fact, if you're not a church person and you say, I don't like religion, I would say, guess what? I agree with you. And if you say I hate religious acting, Jesus actually said, essentially, I don't really like this religious acting hypocrisy either. What is religion? What is the poison of religion? One definition of what religion is is this, religion is our attempt to earn God's approval by following all the rules. It's our attempt to please God, to earn his love by following and obeying the law.
Essentially, it's our attempt to please God, without God, the reason you can't change me of you, is you're trying to change by religion and not by grace. In fact, what I wanna do is I wanna show you one of the most powerful verses that you probably don't know. There are an amazing amount of verses that you know, you've probably got them on your refrigerator, in your coffee mug, you see them on social media, but what I wanna do is show you a verse that you may not know. This speaks directly to how God helps us change. The verse is found in Titus chapter two, verse 11. And this is what the verse says. The verse says, "For the grace of God has appeared".
Now everybody help me out. What has appeared? Would you say it aloud? The grace of God has appeared. What is it? The grace, God's grace has appeared. And that grace offers salvation to all people. I've got to pause there for just a moment and say, this is the most amazing news that you will ever hear. The grace of God offer salvation to all people. If you are a follower of Jesus, you likely know that you're not made right with God by your works, by your religious efforts, by your best attempt, but you're made right with God by the grace of God through faith, our sins are forgiven by grace. We're made right with God by grace. God loves us because of his grace. We are saved by grace and grace makes salvation available to anybody. No matter how bad you are, no matter how mean you are, doesn't matter how many bad things you've done, doesn't matter how many bad thoughts you've had, God's grace is available to you.
So what's grace? What is grace? I know a girl named Grace. What's grace? Well, the Greek word that's translated as grace is the word Charis. Somebody say Charis. Charis. You got to say it like you're hacking a loogie, trust me, that's the way you say, Charis, okay? The word Charis, it means the unmerited, goodwill and favor of God, it's unmerited. It's unearned. It's God's favor, it's God's power. It's God's strength. And the good news is, it's always a gift. You can never be good enough to earn it. You can't do enough good works to deserve it. It is always a gift and we're saved by grace. So, there will be those of you that you might know that, okay? I'm saved by grace, I know that, but then what Christians seem to think is, okay, I'm saved by grace and God forgives me, now, it's all on me.
Now, I've got to get it done. Now, I've got to try hard. Now, I've got to check the boxes. Now, I've got to follow the rules and then they get like Christian face, like, mmh, what are you doing? Mmh, I'm being a Christian. Mmh, I'm good, Chris. Mmh, mmh, I'm trying to be good. What are you doing? Mmh, trying not to be mad. Mmh, I'm trying not to laugh. It looks like you're trying to go to the bathroom, but that's a whole nother thing. It's the grace of God that changes us. And we need to understand the grace that saves you is also the grace that sustains you. It's not just a saving grace of God, but it's the sustaining grace of God, the same grace that forgives you is the grace that transforms you. And I wanna show you the power of God's grace in this verse one more time. Why can't you change?
Watch what scripture says, "For the grace of God has appeared and offer salvation to all people". It teaches us, watch what it does. It teaches us to say no to ungodliness. It teaches us to say no to worldly passions. It teaches us to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age. Let that sink in. What does it do? It teaches us to say no to something that's displeasing to God. It teaches us to say no or deny our worldly passions. It teaches us to live a self-controlled, upright, and godly life. Now, what is the it that teaches us to live this life that glorifies God? Let me tell you what it's not. It's not the rules, it's not the law, it's not religion, it's not you trying to do the right thing before an angry God is watching over you waiting for you to mess up so he can switch you like a bug. What it is is, it's the grace of God. It's the grace of God that teaches us to say no to that which is wrong or harmful. What enables you to say no is not your grit, it's God's grace, it's not your strength, but it's God's spirit. The grace that saves you is also the grace that sustains you. The challenge is we're often focusing on the wrong thing.
Why can't I change? We're focusing on the poison of religion and we're forgetting the power of God's grace. So, why have I not been able to overcome this thing that continues to haunt me? Why can't I change? What I wanna do is talk about how God actually changes us by his grace. How does the grace of God change us? And what we're gonna do is we're gonna contrast religion and grace, and we're gonna watch how God uses his grace to change us and conform us to the image of his son. Let's contrast, starting with the focus. What is the focus of religion? The problem is, the focus of religion is always outward. It's what other people see. It's an outward effort to be right with God. So outwardly, I'm gonna stop yelling at my kids, or you might say, outwardly, I'm gonna stop smoking, or I'm not going to drink anymore, or I'm not gonna be addicted, or I don't wanna shop til I drop. Actually I do, I just don't wanna pay for it. Whatever it is, it's with the outside, it's the external what other people see?
The focus of religion is always outward. And Jesus talked about how dangerous and ineffective an outward focus life is. He said in Matthew 23 verse 25. He said, "Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees". He said, "You're a bunch of hypocrites". If all you're trying to do is get the outside looking good, you're a bunch of play actors. I can't stand hypocrisy. He says this, he said, "You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they're full of greed and self indulgence". He says blind pharisee, you wanna bring about real change? Here's what you do. "First clean the inside of the cup and dish, then the outside also will be clean". What is the problem? Why can't we change? For some of us, it's the spirit of religion.
Religion focuses on the outward, but the power of grace is always inward. Religion focuses on what other people see. Grace works inside of us. In fact, that's what Paul said in Ephesians 3:16, this was a prayer. He said, "I pray that from God's glorious," I love this, "Unlimited resources from every power in heaven," this is available to you, all the spiritual blessings from all those unlimited resources that God will empower you with what? With inner strength through his spirit, religion focuses on outward, but God's grace focuses on what's inward. I'll try to explain it this way. For years and years, I was blessed with a very high metabolism, and I could eat anything I wanted anytime and it didn't impact my physical appearance. Are any of you in that stage of life right now? Raise your hand if you're there.
Okay, just take a moment and praise God, just get breakout until the holy ghost dance right down and say thank you, God, because it will go away. And people told me that for years, but by the grace of God, I lasted longer. I was in my early 40s before they were finally right. And in my early 40s what we might say, we might say high metabolism, Craig disappeared and fuller faced Craig made an appearance. And those of you that would have been here a little while ago, there were some photos we can go back to. When I was about probably 18 pounds more than I am now, and most people wouldn't say, "Hey, you were grossly overweight," I wasn't, but let's just say my pant size has about three more inches around them than they do now. Not that big of a deal, but I went to the doctor and the doctor said, "Hey, there are some things on the inside that others don't see that aren't exactly where they need to be".
And so you can change your diet or we can put you on some prescription medicine, but you need to make a change. So I went home to Amy who said, let's not do prescription and let's change your diet. I said, okay, let's change my diet. You don't have any idea how bad I used to eat. I'm telling you, Amy can testify before the Lord, cinnamon roll pizza, brownies, ice cream, cupcakes, chips, and salsa, sweet tea, donuts, more donuts. Daddy's day off is donut day. Whenever we'd go to the grocery store, my kids would sing a song, and they would sing, mama buys good food, but daddy buys great food because daddy was buying the junk food, and that was me. So I decided I'm gonna change my diet. And if you looked on the outside, it looked like I was eating better, but on the inside all I could do was fantasize about chips and salsa and sweet tea.
Come on, somebody for the glory of God, little donut, little brownie with some ice cream. Oh, come on, I can feel that chocolate cake. And on the outside, it looked like one thing on the inside. I was just like, and I sneak after 10:30 at night and get a spoon and a half gallon of something cold. And then I make it disappear. And on the outside during some times, and you could watch, you could go into the picture like, okay, these two months, he's losing, and these two months, he's back. And the change wouldn't stick until I had a conversation with someone and it was a game changer. And a friend of mine said, "Hey, how do you like to please God"? What do you mean? He said, "How do you like to please God" So, well, I like to worship him. I've given him the pre-trial like preach, like to serve. I said, "Hey, one of the ways you can actually please God is because he already loves you, is you can just respond to his love by choosing what's best for what he calls the temple of the holy spirit. And you can make what you eat and you can make how you exercise".
You can make it not a duty, but a devotion, a way to be devoted to God. And suddenly there was a real change on the inside rather than me saying, no, I can't eat, but I want to eat on the inside, I started to say, you know what? I wanna honor God in the same way I honor him with integrity, in the same way I honor him with purity. I wanna honor him with the temple of the holy spirit and what I choose to eat or not is can be a reflection or devotion. And I'm not saying God can't get mad at you if you eat a brownie. If you eat the whole pan and a gallon of ice cream, that's called gluttony in the Bible, but I'm not saying you can't eat a little bit, but if you fast forward to today, Amy or the people in my office would tell you, I had a ridiculously, ridiculously strict diet, ridiculously strict diet.
And it's not out of duty, but it's out of devotion and it's not hard to do, it's easy to do. It's a reflection of my heart to please God, and to take care of what he's given me. It's a change that's been born on the inside, on the inside. Here's the difference. This was not a change of outward behavior, it was a change of the heart. If you simply change your behavior, but don't change your heart, what happens? The behavior comes back. And that's why so many people don't change, because real and lasting change is a reflection of God's grace on the inside. Let's look at the difference. The focus of religion is outward. It's what other people see us, what we show them. But the focus of grace is inward. It's what the work of the spirit of God is doing inside of us as we pursue God with all of our hearts, let's look at another difference for a moment. What does religion say versus what is grace say? Religion says, try harder. If it's gonna be, as I said, it's up to me. You need to do better, you need to stop. Religion says try harder, but grace says, trust more, religion says try harder, but grace says trust more. In other words, I'm not trying in my power, but I'm relying on God's power.
And this is the way the apostle Paul phrased it in 2nd Corinthians 12:9 when he was praying for God to do something and God didn't do what he wanted him to do. And he said, God said to him this, God said to him, my grace, everybody say my grace, it's God's grace. God's grace is sufficient for you, what do you need? You need the grace of God. And God says for my power is made perfect in weakness. And that's when Paul got it. He said, I get it now. I'm not strong when I'm strong, but when I'm weak and God's grace is perfected in me, that's when God is strong through me, that's how I actually change. I'm not trying harder, but I'm trusting more. And here's where I hope it all comes together. When you really trust God's grace, that he loves you and you're right with him, not by what you do or don't do, but it's his unmerited favor and love that he gives to you.
And when you trust that he always loves you, and that his grace sustains you, it's from that point of spiritual security and spiritual strength, that you can be honest, you can be honest. You don't have to play at, you don't have to be the hypocrite. You don't have to show one thing when you don't the inside or something entirely different. When you know the same grace that saves you is a grace that sustains you, you can be honest. You can be honest with God and you can be honest with other people. And why does this matter? Because you are only as strong as you are honest, you're only as strong as you are honest. And when you recognize the same grace that saves you, it's a grace that sustains you, then you can be honest enough to take what's been in the dark and bring it into the light. And so I actually do have a problem and I need help. And that's when change really starts to happen because whatever you keep in the dark doesn't get healed. Sin grows best in the dark. But when you recognize the same grace that saves you is the grace that sustains you. You can be honest and ask for help.
And I want to pause for just a moment because we're coming to the point of the message that for some of you would be the moment of truth, where you decided, I don't wanna pretend anymore. I don't wanna fake it anymore. I wanna be honest, transparent. I wanna be different. It's incredibly risky to be vulnerable about any part of your life that you're not proud of. And the only way you can really do it is when you're secure in the grace of God. And then you have courage to say, I need help because we know from any great 12 step program that the first step is admitting you have a problem, but you can't do it on your own. How do you know if you have a problem? Let me tell you, if more than one person has told you you have a problem, you have a problem. If there's a secret that you've been carrying, a shame that you've been hiding, chances are you have a problem. And this is the moment.
If you experienced the grace of God, the same grace that saves you will carry you, strengthen you, and sustain you. Then you can admit it and you have to admit it because you cannot correct what you won't confront, and you admit I need help. And you're not afraid to ask for help because you have the security and the strength of God's grace sustaining you, but in like asking for help is a sign of weakness? No, no, no, no, asking for help is never a sign of weakness. It's a sign of wisdom, that's what it is. It's a sign of wisdom and the strength of God's sustaining grace. So, why can't I stop? Whatever it is, stress eating, scrolling for hours, wasting your life through social media, looking at stuff that just makes you more depressed.
Why can't I stop looking at lustful images I shouldn't look at or overspending or whatever it would be. And the reason would be, I can't tell you completely because it's complicated, but what I do know is that the root problem is probably spiritual. In most cases, you're probably trying to live by the poison of religion instead of being transformed by the grace of God and at a deeper level, why is it that you're trying so hard to find something to ease the pain? Because deep down, there's very likely a spiritual issue where you really aren't trusting God and you're fearing the loss of control, or maybe you just feel alone or depressed or left out, or you feel empty on the inside, or you feel overwhelmed with anxiety or frustration or anger. And here at its root is so often the problem, you're trying to meet a need or relieve a hurt with something besides God's grace.
Let me say it one more time, what are you doing? You're trying to meet some need. You're trying to relieve some hurt with something besides God's grace. So what do you do when you try to stop and the problem doesn't go away and then it gets worse? And that voice inside of you says, "Do better, do better, do better". Anytime you hear that, remember, you're focusing on the poison of religion and you're forgetting the power of God's grace. We're not here to try harder, but we're going to trust more. We're gonna put our trust and our faith, not in our grit, but in God's grace. And if you're ready for some good news, your apostle Paul said this. He said in Romans 5:20, he said, "But where sin increased, guess what? grace increased all the more".
Wherever there's more sin, there's more grace, wherever there's more temptation, there's more grace, wherever there's more shame, there's more grace, wherever there's more loneliness or more brokenness or more heart or more shame, there is more of God's grace. And the good news is his grace is always enough. It's exactly what you need. And whenever you're tempted, the Bible says, God is always faithful and he will always provide for you a way out. There's always a way out. There's always a way out. And grace is the way out, it's by his grace. I don't think you're getting it. I don't think you're getting it. Video game fans, raise your hand. Video game fans, video game fans, video games fans.
So there are a few video games fans here. Classic video game fans, donkey Kong, gala got, Pac-Man, asteroids. I go way back the olden days, pack man. What happens when the little red guys on your tail? Where do you go? You go to the little tunnel. There's always a way out. Asteroids, anybody remember asteroids? A little spill, may high-tech, whenever you're in trouble, there's a button in the middle, what's it called? Hyperspace, and your little guy disappears. And the kingdom of God, I'm here to tell you there's something better than hyper space, it's called hyper grace. It is the grace of our good God that always gives you a way out where sin increases. His grace increases all the more.
And so you don't change by trying harder. You change by trusting more. You don't change by focusing on what the outside behavior is, but you let the grace of God do something only the grace of God can do and change you from the inside out. Because the grace that saves you is the same grace that sustains you. God's grace doesn't just forgive you from sin. Here's the good news. Grace also frees you from sin. And the good news is, God's grace is available to all to bring salvation, and it doesn't just save you, but God's grace sustains you.
So Father today, I pray that your grace would do what our strength can't do. Teach us to say no to ungodliness, teach us to live a holy and disciplined life. Grace by grace, strengthen us from the inside to do your will.
Wherever you're watching today, I'm gonna ask you to do something a little bit different. Would you just go ahead and look up. If you're back at your computer, wherever, what? At a campus, would look up for a minute, and out of the humility of knowing that God's grace saves you and God's grace sustains you out of that strength, not caring what anybody else thinks, 'cause it doesn't matter what they think, because God is with you. Those of you who would say there is something in my life that I need God's grace to help me change, would you be bold enough to just say, yes, God, I need more of your grace. Lift up your hands right now, lift them up. Those are your line, you can just type it in the comment section, I need God's grace to change.
With a hand lifted toward heaven and an act of worship, we pray heavenly Father, give us more of your grace. Give us the same grace that saves us, God, give us that grace to sustain us, to change us. God, I pray you'd just forgive us when we out of good intentions, try to change with religious efforts, help us rely on your grace, your grace, not just to try harder in our own power, but to trust more that your grace is sufficient. Your grace is enough. And so Father, I thank you ahead of time that from the inside out, your grace is going to change hearts, God, by your power and by your grace, make us more like your son.
We pray as you continue in an attitude of prayer at all of our different churches, wherever you're watching, there's some of you that all this talk about God may even be a little bit intimidating to you because if we sat down with each other and I just kind of ask you, where are you with God? You might say, I'm not really sure. And if we talk long, but you might say, well, I try to be a good person, I try to help people, and I try not to do bad things, and that's kind of a good thing to try not to do bad things and try to do good things. But the problem is, that's not what God is looking for. Scripture teaches us very, very clearly that every single one of us we've all done wrong. And you know it, you feel guilty for some things we send and we fall short of God's standards, that's the bad news, but here's the amazing good news.
The good news is that God's grace is available to all for salvation. What is his grace? It's his unmerited favor. It's his undeserved Goodwill that while we were still doing wrong, God sent his son Jesus, the perfect son of God who never, ever sent to die in our place. And God raised him from the dead so that anyone who calls on the name of Jesus, your sins would be forgiven and you'd be made right with God. Not because you're good, but by God's grace. It's the grace of God, wherever you're watching, those who say, "Yeah, I really don't know where I stand with God, but I wanna know him". All we're gonna do today is we're gonna confess that we've done wrong and we're gonna step away from that. And by God's grace, he's going to accept you. And by his grace, he's going to forgive you. And by his grace, he's going to reveal himself to you. And you're not gonna become a better version of you, you're gonna be different, why? 'Cause you're changed by God's grace.
Wherever you're watching from today, those who say "I need his forgiveness, I wanna know him". Call on his name today. When you call him the name of Jesus, he hears your prayers, he forgives your sins. And by grace, he makes you new. Those who say, yes, I need his forgiveness today. I give my life to Jesus, that's your prayer. Lift your hands high right now. All over the place. Say yes, we've got hands going up here. And over here, the all over the world, those of you online, just type it in the chat, just say I'm giving my life to Jesus. Come on, somebody. Let's give God thanks today. For people around the world coming to faith in Jesus. And I would love it if you all would just pray with those around you, pray aloud:
Heavenly Father, forgive all my sins. Save me by your grace. Fill me with your spirit so I can know you and serve you and follow you for the rest of my life. Teach me to do your will by your grace. Thank you for saving me by your grace. I give my life to you by your grace. Take it all in Jesus name I pray.