Jack Graham - Change Your Thoughts and Change Your Life
When I was a fifteen year old boy, I came to a point and place of decision in my life where I needed to decide whether or not I was going to be all in or all out. I knew I couldn't be half in, half out for the Lord. He needed all of my life, required all of my life and therefore, I surrendered to the lordship of Christ. And that set a pattern in my life that has continued to this day because I came to the place where I said Lord, I take hands off my life. It's an act of consecration and dedication.
One of the verses that I memorized as a young Christian, two of the verses, that I memorized as a young Christian are the verses that we have in front of us today and these words and the entire twelfth chapter of Romans is really what the Christian life is all about. For it says: "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship". And then today's verse, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect".
Two great verses, and let's get right into verse 2. And the title of this message is: "Change your Thoughts, Change your Life". Your mind, your thought life is control center of your life. Everything that your body does physically responds to what your brain says emotionally, intellectually, psychologically. The one thing I've noted as I've studied the Bible over the years, the Bible is not only good theology, but it's good psychology. Jesus is the Great Physician, the Holy Spirit is our Counselor, God the Father loves us and embraces us. So we have this amazing record, the revelation of God, the Bible, which tells us how we are to live: what we believe and how we then behave. And every human situation, emotion is addressed in the Bible, whether you're talking about guilt or fear, worry, anxiety, anger, depression, relationships, it's all in the Bible. So the Bible enables us to think. And when we think the transformed thoughts of God's Word then our lives are powerfully changed everyday.
So many people think they can't change. In fact, one of the big questions I get as a pastor regularly is, "Can I really change? I've tried so hard to break this addiction or to overcome this opponent. I have tried and tried and I keep failing. I can't seem to change". Well, I've got great news for you. You can change and you will change if you will do exactly what God's Word tells us to do. First, as an act of consecration to the Lord bring your life totally and completely to Him, no holds barred, unreserved, "seeking first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness". I tell students all the time, if you want to have a great life then put Jesus first, and spend the rest of your days doing what He tells you to do. And having consecrated or dedicated our lives to Him, then there comes this separation from the world. For the Scripture says here: "Do not be conformed to this world".
I like the Phillips gives this in his paraphrase of the New Testament. "Don't let the world squeeze you into its mold". Don't allow the world, as opposed to the Word, to control your thoughtlife. I wear contact lenses, and these lenses enable me to see clearly. All of us look at life, we have a world view, and we either see the world through the lens of Scripture or the lens of culture and society. We are not to live and learn from the world as compared to the Word! You mind can change your life, the way you think. You can cast down, according to scriptures, imaginations and thoughts. Now the "world", of course, is not the world of people, but the world of ideology. You might just substitute the word "culture" here. It is the world system, the cosmos. But actually the word here for world has to do with the idea of the spirit of the age.
So whether it is the opinions, ideologies, philosophies, the spirit of this age, it says don't conform to that! Don't allow your thinking to be conformed or compromised by the world. Perhaps you've these lines: Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny. We are the sum total of our thoughts. The Bible says, "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he". And therefore, the most important decisions that we make every single day are the thoughts that we choose, what we think about all day long, because as the mind goes, the man goes. The way you think is the way that you live. And so it's obvious, isn't it, if you are a Christian, you want to think biblical thoughts, you want to think God's thoughts, not the world's thoughts.
Now this all this is all obvious, isn't it? And as a matter of fact science and Scripture are in agreement that the way we think influences not only our psychological life, but even our physical life. You are wired, brain-wired by God the Creator to think with hope and optimism, to think good thoughts, but rather so many are thinking toxic thoughts and this is poisonous, not only to the brain but to the body. This is why we're told in the book of Philippians chapter 4 in that whole entire passage about anxiety and overcoming anxiety and having the peace of God in our lives. He says, "Whatever is true and praiseworthy and good and pure, concentrate, think on these things".
God has so made us that we can only think one thing at a time. If you can think more than one thing at a time they call that schizophrenia, by the way. But really you can only think one thing at a time. I know, you know, people deal with ADD and those kinds of issues, but the brain is so designed that if you are thinking the right thoughts, you cannot be thinking the wrong thoughts. You can't sow thoughts of fear and anger and expect to sow peace and grace in your life. And again, so many people in the physical realm are sick, not all, of course. Not every one is sick because of the way they think, but scientists, physicians, they tell us that so many of the patients they see it's not initially at least a physical problem, but a problem of the way we think.
It's what our dear Zig Ziglar used to say, "Stinkin' thinkin'"! Now we have three enemies as believers and followers of Jesus: the world, the flesh, the devil. The world around us influencing us, pressuring us. The world system that is anti-God and anti-Christ. The flesh, our own human nature. We're getting better as we grow in Christ. We're becoming more like Christ, but till the day we die we will deal with our humanity, our fallen humanity. We are being changed day by day. That's happening day by day in your life though we will always deal with the flesh. The world, the flesh and then the devil. And the devil is real. And the devil, of course, uses our flesh or uses the world to taunt us or tempt us, or take us out! But there are several big lies that the world is telling us and our young people.
Lie number one is that life is an accident. You're just a blimp on the evolutionary ascent, or as we know, descent. Just a naked ape. You are a result of blind chance. There is no creator, there is no meaning, no accountability to God in your life because life is an accident. Big lie of the world!
Another lie the world throws at us: truth is relative. There are no moral absolutes says the world; no real commandments. You are your own truth, or you have your own truth and you can do what you want to do. And as a result people decide their ethical and moral behavior, and we've seen that impact and infect the church. I was looking at some numbers and it appears that many in churches across this country have the same views as the world regarding things like homosexuality, things such as co-habitation, such things as gambling, drugs, alcohol, all the rest. You can just put a list up and unfortunately the world has infected, rather than we changing the world, the world is changing us!
A third lie that the world throws at us is that you are what you are, and you can't change it. That's call determinism philosophically. And you can't change who you are or what you are. That's a big lie! If you do bad things it's because you have a genetic predisposition that cannot be recreated. Or it's your parents. You know, we're no longer, you know, we are victims of our environment or our lack of education, etc. You are what you are, you can't change it. That's what the world says. And the world says if it feels good, do it. That the goal of life is pleasure so indulge yourself. Eat, drink, be merry, for tomorrow we die! The God of life, or the goal of life is self-fulfillment according to the world.
That's what the world says! But what does the Word say? The truth is opposite of this! Life is not an accident! You are made by a Creator-God and Savior! Your life is sacred! All life is sacred from the womb to the tomb and into eternity! God has a plan for your life! God has a purpose for everyone, therefore, there is meaning! And along with that meaning comes accountability to God. That we're all accountable to God and to people around us! God has given us His Word, including clear commandments! Not suggestions, but commandments that are good for us because God is good and knows what is good for those He has created! And these commandments and precepts and principles that God has given us in His Word, this is not multiple choice.
You can't pick and choose which commandment you believe and what you don't believe. Truth is not relative; truth is real! And the morale absolutes that we find in God's Word apply to everyone. You are not a victim of your circumstances. God can change your life through the power of Jesus Christ. You don't have to live the way that you've been living. You can overcome your past. You can overcome your lack in life and be changed from the inside out. And the purpose of your life is not self-fulfillment; just doing whatever you want to do and self-pleasure, and self-indulgence. But the purpose of your life is now, as a Christian, as a follower of Jesus Christ is to honor God! To live for Him and for His glory! And not for yourself!
First John 2: 15 to 17 tells us how we are to respond to the world as believers. "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them, for everything in the world (here's the world) the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desires pass away. (It's all going up in smoke!) But whoever does the will of God lives forever". In the next message we're going to be talking about the will of God for your life. But it all starts right here. Don't be conformed to this world. And it's not only students and young people that face peer pressure, the squeeze. Everyone faces the lure and the lust of the world. But God has called us to be unique, to dare to be different.
When I think of some who dared to be different I always think of Daniel in the Old Testament. Such a great young man and as a teenager he, along with his friends were deported over to Babylon and they attempted to squeeze them into the system of the Babylonians and to teach them the language of the Babylonians. These were good Jewish boys who loved the Lord, but now the pressure of the world is on them. And whether it was the food and the drink that they were to receive, or whether it was the language that they were to speak or the gods that they were to serve, the Babylonians were trying to say "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas". "What happens in Babylon stays in Babylon".
So what did Daniel do? Verse 8 of chapter 1 of Daniel says, "Daniel purposed in his heart not to defile himself" with what the king was giving and offering. He dared to stand alone; he dared to stand out, and others followed him. And that's what God is calling every one of us to do, to dare like Daniel, to be different. I was reading this week that the idea here is of don't let the world squeeze you into its mold; it literally means don't wear a mask. Don't go through life masquerading, because when you wear the mask of the world, you start looking like the world! And don't give your life to live like everybody else! It's a charade! It's phony, it's false!
How could a Christian live like the world? Our behavior is to be different! We are called up higher! When the world says go low, God says go high! "Set your affections on things above", Colossians chapter 3, "not on things below". Don't be conformed; don't be contaminated by the world. And this is a choice we make. And again, it happens by the way we think. Thus we have not only separation here from the world, but now the transformation of our minds. To be transformed is the very opposite of being conformed. We are to be transformed! You probably have heard over time that this word transform here is our word metamorphosis. Same word that was used describing the transfiguration of Jesus when everything Jesus was on the inside was demonstrated, displayed on the outside. His glory was revealed at the transfiguration. That was a metamorphosis. You know what a metamorphosis is? It's when, you know, a caterpillar wraps himself in a cocoon, a coffin, and over time the metamorphosis takes place and a beautiful butterfly appears. It's a process; it's a transformation; it's a metamorphosis.
The Scripture, God is telling us that this metamorphosis must take place in our lives by the transformation of our thinking, of our thought life. The caterpillar, the creature is no longer crawling in the dust but soaring like a beautiful butterfly! As Christians we are to no longer live in the dirt and the dust and the coffin of this world but we have been metamorphosized, we have been transformed! Yes, you can change by the power of God! The bondages that you can't seem to break, the chains that seem to lock you up; they are breakable by the Word of God! You can overcome that addiction! You can overcome that pain in your past! You can get beyond the way you used to think and begin to think the thoughts of God after Him. When you are all in! Remember the story of Elijah, when the people of God Israel were in bondage and the terrible king of Israel as a matter of fact, Ahab and Jezebel were in control and they were leading the children of Israel to worship false gods and all the rest.
And so at a place called Carmel, still there today. When we go to Israel we stand on Mount Carmel, this very place where this thing happened. And Elijah stood before the people of God and he said, "How long are you going to keep limping between two opinions? (Limping on one leg, and then the other!) If God be God, serve Him. If Baal is god, serve him," but away with half in, half out! It will destroy your life. When you go all in in consecration and then the separation, then the transformation begins to take place. Compromise and conforming to this world will destroy you and your family. Another biblical story, the story of Lot. Remember Lot? The nephew of Abraham, and when they came to the plains of Sodom and Gomorrah they needed to split up for a variety of reasons and Abraham gave Lot the choice and Lot chose to move in to Sodom and Gomorrah. He first just moved near and then he moved in. It was compromising.
Lot is known as a compromiser. And when the judgment came upon Sodom and Gomorrah, when God strictly judged the people because of their great sin, Lot and his family barely escaped. They'd lost their testimony; they lost everything because of compromise, because they moved into the world instead of following by faith the plan of God. I can give you many, many examples of this. One of the big things that we need to do is spend more time in God's Word. I was reading, I looked it up, I googled it so you know it must be true, right? Well, there are at least ten or fifteen articles so from this fall the average teenager. How much time to you think the average teenagers spends on a screen of some kind? Either their cell phone or a tablet. Nine hours a day. Nine hours a day. And before you cluck your tongue they did a study on adults and it wasn't much different.
Do you spend all your time on this screen, listening to the world, looking at the world? If you spend that much time, where do you think your mind is going to go? I mean, you wouldn't even dare suggest, would you, that somebody spend nine hours a day in their Bible. Sounds loo, what a fanatic! If you keep looking at the world and listen to the world, guess what? You're going to be like the world. But you get in the Word and the Word gets in you, then you start becoming more like Jesus, and less and less like the world. This is the renewal of the mind. Do you see that phrase there "renewal of the mind".? That actually means renovation. This transformation, this renovation, this reset, to use the language of the computer: the reset can happen in your life if you will be all in and commit. And when you do this you're going to find the wisdom of God, the ways of God and the will of God accomplished in your life. And that's what we're going to be talking about next week.