Pastor Jon reminds us that with the Lord, the right thinking over time leads to growth.
Let’s turn to Galatians 5 if you have a Bible. If not, they’re in your handout. Don’t worry about it if you don’t have a tablet or you don’t have a Bible. We’re in a series called Step. I’m going to talk to you today about stepping into transformation. Or we could say it like this, stepping into the full you. The full you. I am very, very sure that there’s a full us that’s waiting to come forth in all of its giftedness and passion with no restraints, to live until we die. I love that idea. I want to live to life’s fullest until I die. Every ounce of me, I want it to come out. I want to show you how Christianity or the gospel actually creates that through the power of Jesus Christ.
Let me ask you a question first. No one freeze up, throw elbows. or say anything out loud. It’s a very dangerous thing for me to do, but it’s all good. It’s not like we’re recording this or anything. If you could change one thing about yourself. I don’t mean a job. I don’t mean the person next year or whatever. I don’t mean where you live, rent, or whatever. If you could change one thing about yourself, your heart, your psyche, your soul, what would it be? Think about it. I’ve got 18 things that just came to mind about me. Just think about that.
We’re all going through this together. We all have these places in our lives that we want to change. Maybe for some of you, it’s fear. Or maybe you’re just tired of being afraid of not knowing what’s going to come. Or maybe it’s anxiety. That’s a very real thing that we all struggle with. Maybe you would just love the idea of you living without anxiety. Just to be real, maybe it’s being hurt by someone and you want to get it out of your mind, your life. You want to learn how to forgive, release, and let that thing go and move on because you’re trapped in that past offense. I don’t know. For all of us, it’s something different.
Here’s what I believe with all of my heart. I wouldn’t be up here doing this, giving my life to this, if I didn’t believe it with all my heart. If I was not experiencing it day to day in my own life. I know we all want a different story called us. I know we do. I do. This isn’t necessarily the narrative we created when we were 10 or 12 years old in certain parts of our lives. We didn’t anticipate having this part of us that we seem to carry that we would love to offload and let go of. But here’s what I’m very sure of. I want you to envision your life in light of Galatians 5:22-24. Forget the verse numbers. Make this real. I want you to see this as you because this can be you.
This is a letter written by an early church leader named Paul. He wrote a letter to a church in a city called Galatia. That’s why it’s called Galatians. Paul lays out the most staggering promise. You can find this in so many self-help books and all this stuff. But here in this ancient book for contemporary problems is what we find. He says, “but the fruit of the spirit is,” and then he lists all these gorgeous attributes that we would all love to have dominate our lives.
What Paul means by the fruit of the spirit. When you become a Christian, not by anything good that you’ve done, but by believing in Jesus solely in faith in who Jesus is and what He did on the cross, all of a sudden, it’s like a seed is planted in your heart. Like a new life, the seed is planted in your heart. He says it’s like fruit. This thing starts growing. This new life starts growing. These new things like love, joy, and peace like a tree start growing. Fruit starts developing until it’s like this, an orchard of life in your soul.
I’m serious. I mean that because if you knew me before I was a pastor, you wouldn’t have anything to do with me. I hope we’re cool now. I’m just saying. This is the promise of the gospel. Paul says this is yours. If you’re in Christ, this is your birthright now. The fruit of the spirit is love. You can replace anger and bitterness with love. You can replace despair and anxiety with joy. You can. Unrest with peace, agitation with patience.
I’ve been in Europe for a while the last couple of weeks or whatever it’s been. When I get tired, I’m just a jerk. I’m cool most of the time, but when I get tired, I’m a jerk. Everything’s backward. My clock is backward. I snapped at my wife and, and I was like, “Aw man, why did I say that?” Because I’m tired and I’m using all these excuses. I had to claim this; John, you can replace impatience with patience. You can do this. This is the promise of being a son of God. From anger or frustration to kindness, goodness, faithfulness, trustworthiness, and gentleness. This is the real you. This is the you, waiting. Isn’t that fantastic? Gentleness and self-control. Do you know what it’s like when you do the same thing over and over? You think, “man, am I ever going to overcome this thing? It keeps eating me alive.” Yes, you can. Self-control. You can control these appetites.
Then Paul says, and I love and thank God for this, “against such things there is no law.” This isn’t getting really religious. This isn’t if you get a checklist, tithe, and go to church, this will happen to you. This is something internal, a new life, that’s birthed out of you when you receive Christ and you do what I’m about to teach you today. As a matter of fact, the way to become this, Paul says, is a secret that can be unlocked, but oh how few unlock the secret. He says in verse 24, “those who belong to Christ Jesus.” I love that. I love belonging to Christ and His love. “We have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” All of those things like anger and frustration. He says, “those don’t have to dominate you anymore. You have the spirit of Christ on you and in you, and he has set you free.” Now they’re just old habits that you can rework. You can replace them with new things. This is Christianity. Fantastic.
I came to Christ when I was 20 years old. I grew up in an atheist home in Seattle. I’m a Niners fan now. Don’t sweat it. It’s all good. Everyone asks, “Are you a Seahawks…?” No, I’m not. I’ve repented. You have Sherman now, it’s all good. I remember looking for life in philosophy, metaphysics, Buddhism, and all these different avenues and drinking. I was a really good drinker. Some people drink. I was drinking on another level. This is tea, by the way. It’s all good. Some of you are asking, are you good right now? You’re pretty excited. I remember religion terrified me. I thought, “I’m in bondage. I hate my life. I’m not going into a new set of bondage through religion.” When I heard about Christianity like this. No, this is Christianity. It’s life. It’s the person you always wanted to be. I came to Christ-like that, and this is my new journey.
What’s the starting point? If this is ours, if all of us in this room can have this through Jesus, how do we do it? What are the two steps, the three steps? How do we start working on becoming the full us? Transforming and stepping into this new transformative life and being a person we never dreamed we could be? What is the first step? Because I don’t want to give you 18 steps or something and overload us. What if we could work on just one thing? I need one thing. Life’s too complicated. Give me one thing for Monday. What’s that one thing that we could start focusing on and working on that we would start seeing love, joy, peace, and patience show up in our lives?
Let me ask you a second question. When you look back with me on our last great disaster, what do we always say? “What was I thinking?” What was I thinking? What does that tell us? What does that tell us we know about ourselves? It tells us that thought life is driving everything. As you think, you are. If I’m a frustrated person or I’m a hopeless person, the starting point is fixing how I think, how I process life, how I see myself. If you don’t have much self-confidence and you’re afraid to step out and do something big with this brevity of life that you have, it’s the wrong view. You have the wrong view of yourself. We need to fix the way that we think about ourselves and our own self-image and become the people that God says we are. It all starts in the mind. The mind is the engine. I know nothing about cars, but I think the engine drives the rest of it.
I once jumped a car and hooked the jumper cables up backward. This is a safe place. Don’t repeat this, please. I actually caught the engine on fire. Do not tell anybody. But the mind is the engine that drives everything. So, in a way, to simplify it, that’s exciting. If I can just work on the way I think, the rest of my life will follow. But it’s complex at the same time. Proverbs 23:7 says this. I’ll read out of a different translation, the NASB. “As he thinks within himself, so he is.” Jesus says it in the New Testament. “As I think, I am.” This is not anything new, by the way. You will read people like Aristotle saying the same thing. Great thinkers have always come to the conclusion that as we think, we become. I’m a negative person because I have negative thoughts. I’m a joyous person because I have joyous thoughts. I’m not talking about The Secret or anything strange like that. What I’m saying is that we are through thought creating our perception of reality.
You may genuinely hate your job because it is a genuine bad job. So don’t get me wrong. How are you thinking about your job? You may hate where you are in age, but isn’t it really about how you’re thinking about your age? Thought is so powerful, so pivotal, and so important. I would say we are creating a reality by the way we think. Good or bad, however, we’re thinking about things at home or whatever, we are creating a reality based on the way we think about things. I said this at 9:00 and no one raised their hand, so help me out a little bit. If you’ve never done this, raise your hand anyway just to make me feel better. I’m working on my thought life. Has anybody been down to Pier 39 for the tree lighting? We’re all going this year together, okay? This is not to exalt me because I struggle with my thought life but just track with me. I just want to show you a comparison here.
There are 300 of us down there. We’re down there the first year we were here because that’s what new people in San Francisco have to do. You have to walk across the Golden Gate and all that. We’re looking at the tree lighting. We’re up on that bridge thingy and we’re looking down. There’s a lady next to me. I am judging her. But I mess up, too, so don’t get me wrong. I’m listening to her and she’s saying, “Oh, they’re late. The tree lighting is supposed to happen already. I’m freezing out here. You can barely see because of the fog.” She’s just going on and on.
That Christmas tree experience is just a thing. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s a thing. I’m over here, and this is not to exalt me because five minutes later I messed it up. I’m over here thinking, “I cannot believe I am in San Francisco on Christmas, one of the greatest cities in the world, and I’m watching a tree lighting. Look, there are thousands of people.” It’s the Christmas season. This is the best. We both went home with two completely shaped lives based on how we perceived that night. I didn’t just isolate myself in that Christmas tree experience. That bled out to how kids are viewed, how Monday’s viewed, and jobs are viewed. How do we think about life? It’s a big question. It’s going to take time.
I want to say this; Transformation. If you’re like me and want to become the full you, then you want to be full of joy in life with laughter and love. There was an amazing little boy running around this place before our 9:00 service, and just the freedom and the laughter, I just love that. Like this is us. We can be this if we want this. Transformation is the art of thinking the right thoughts. You just focus there. I’m going to say with humility, as we journey together, we need to learn how to renew our thought life. Because there are some thoughts in all of our heads right now that are not perceiving things correctly. It’s causing us to not experience the joy we can have in life. So, I’m going to give you two steps from the book of Romans. If you have a Bible, turn to Romans 12. If not, it’s in the handout. I’m going to give you just two steps on how to begin renewing your thoughts because from thought comes life.
Has anybody seen that old Pollyanna movie? I feel so alone this morning. Google it, it’s cute. It’s about this frustrating little girl that runs through this town, and the town is full of just frustrating people. All she does is say, “Well, sure, you’re late, but at least you got here,” and she runs off. The guy’s like, who’s this kid? She runs and someone breaks a pane of glass and they drop it. She runs over and she said, “Don’t worry, Mr. Jones. It’s okay. At least you didn’t cut your foot off.” She’s doing all these positive things. Pretty soon the whole town revives. I don’t even like old movies, but I love that movie. So good. So, let me show you a little Pollyanna-ism or something.
Two steps to renew the mind. Write this down. Here’s what we need to do to reshape our thought life, to reshape our whole lives. One, think about what you’re thinking about. 30,000 thoughts in a day are what the average mind thinks. 30,000. Every thought shapes us for good or bad, think about that. The hard part is, do we understand what we’re even thinking through the day? We’re just normal people moving through the day. We’re going here, we’re going there. But the whole time, if you want to do intentional living and make a science of yourself, you need to slow down and start paying attention to what we’re saying to ourselves; the messages we’re saying to ourselves. That’s what Paul, early church writer, and leader, is writing to this church that’s in Rome. That’s why we call it the book of Romans.
Let me walk you through Romans chapter 12:1. This is what he’s saying. If you want to transform, be aware of the messages you’re telling yourself. Be aware of the messages that are in your mind. So, the first 11 chapters of Romans is a letter, so don’t think of them as chapters. It’s a huge letter. The first 11 chapters of the book of Romans are about how someone comes to faith in Jesus Christ through grace alone. Through what Jesus did on the cross. Not by works, not by being religious, but by believing in the goodness of what Jesus did on that cross for us. Going to Him in faith. Jesus saved me, I believe. All of a sudden in verse 12, something shifts. This is where a lot of us get stuck. Paul says, “Okay, now that you’re a Christian, here’s what you do next.” Our thing is; what do we do now? What do we do now? Chapter 12 is this amazing pivotal place in this letter, this aha moment. I want you to have this aha moment. He says in verse one, “I appeal to you, therefore,” therefore. That’s the first 11 chapters.
Because you’re a Christian now, I’m appealing to you, I’m pleading with you. Go after this, brothers and sisters, family of God. He says, “by the mercies of God.” You can only do what I’m about to say because of God’s goodness. I want you to present your bodies, your whole life, your money, your time, your sex life, your spouse, your kids. I want you to give all of it to God willingly with excitement because He’s great. That’s why he says to do it like a living sacrifice.
Have you ever thought about a goat that’s going to be sacrificed? That is not a willing sacrifice. He’s digging his heels in, sees the altar, and knows what’s going down. He doesn’t want to go. He’s got a rope on his neck. Paul is saying, ‘Look if we know our God, we should be running to lay our lives down because of His goodness and what He’ll give us in joy.’ Okay, I’m good with that. He says, “which is your spiritual worship.” A reasonable response to what Jesus did for us is to give our whole lives to Him. I think, “okay, that’s good. How, Paul, how?” Verse two, here it is. “Do not be conformed to this world.” Do not be conformed to this world.
Not everything in this world is wrong. There are a lot of great things in our culture. What he’s saying is you need to be careful what messages you allow into your mind from our world. I turned 40 last week. I didn’t get one gift shipped to me in Germany from you, but I love you. I turned 40. I’m amazed at the messages I was receiving through the media and news. On how when you grow older, you begin to diminish in importance. Yet, the scripture actually says the opposite. It says, the older you get, the more valued you are. So, you have these messages from the world. Not all are wrong, but so many of them are creating thoughts that are really driving us in directions we don’t want to go.
I say this gently with love, but some of you have received messages over and over again, maybe growing up on who you are, and what you should do, over and over again. Those thoughts run rampant through your minds. They tell you things about yourself that aren’t true. Maybe it’s even from religion. It’s as if messages from religion drag guilt in you or whatever it is. Doesn’t matter. Whatever messages we’ve received, Paul says, you need to be really careful about these embedded messages that are in our minds because they’re shaping us. We live our life from our thoughts. If you think about it, at least in my life, you play those thoughts over in your mind for 10 years, that same message like a broken record, over and over and over and over again. What we do is create what the Bible calls a stronghold.
When I was in Germany teaching the Bible last week, we stopped by some castles. Being an American, I thought only Disneyland and Disney World had real castles. These are castles from the 11th century and all this stuff. I’m thinking about this text right here in my own life. I walk up to this castle and I think, that’s exactly how ‘thought’ is. I’m looking at this castle, around it is a massive wall, and the wall is made up of individual bricks. I think, ‘oh my soul, that is a thought.’ That is; ‘John, you’re not good enough. John, you’re not good enough. John, you’re not old enough. John, you’re not young enough. John, you’re not talented enough.’ That’s a message over and over again. It begins to build like each thought is a brick. I begin to build this wall around my brain with my thoughts. It’s stuck in there. That’s what Paul is talking about, a stronghold. A stronghold. The beauty is Jesus can crush that thing like a cannonball.
Has anyone seen Rogue One? It’s on Netflix right now. I’m just saying. Jesus is in Rogue One somewhere. In Rogue One, there’s this amazing scene in there that really gives me this visual. I literally started crying in the theater, it’s so dumb, when this happened in the movie. He’s an Asian Jedi guy. He’s not really a Jedi, but he looks like it. He acts like a Jedi. Really cool guy. He’s the best guy in the whole movie. Do you know what I’m talking about? He’s locked away. The captain is in this prison with him. The captain is so full of strife, anger, and bitterness. About who he is and what he’s got to do. He says, “We gotta get out of this jail. We gotta get out of here.” That very methodical Jedi-like dude says the most profound words. He turns to him and he says, “Captain, there is more than one sort of prison. I sense that you carry yours wherever you go.” He’s talking about his mind. Oh, you can be free from this physical prison, but you need healing here. That’s what he’s saying. I love that.
First of all, I say, we need to begin to be intentional about our thought life. Let’s listen to how we speak to ourselves. First thing in the morning I’ve got so many negative messages going through my mind. Let’s be aware as step one of how we speak to ourselves. Step two. Here’s the positive. Here’s where it gets fun. Here’s why we need a church right here. Here’s why we need people right here. The second thing we need to do is compare our thoughts with the thoughts of God and see if they align. If I have this negative or angry thought towards someone or whatever. Okay, let’s grab it, there it is. I capture it. Now, what does God say about this? What does God say about this? Kind of eye doctor stuff. There’s the T. There are two. Tell me when they’re one again. Any minute, any minute. There it is, there it is, there it is. That’s the mind of God in our minds. That’s God’s way of thinking about things. That’s our way of thinking about things. We need those two to come together.
We spot the thoughts that we know are eating us alive. Then we say, “God, what do You have to say about that?” That’s Romans 12:2, “do not be conformed to this world.” Don’t let the world’s messages, the world’s lies, get in there and mess your thinking up because it’s shaping your actions. There’s the contrast but be transformed by the renewal of your minds. That word renewal literally means to renovate, like a house. Paul says, ‘let’s identify the bad thoughts that are killing us. Let’s rip them out like drywall. Let’s get them out. Let’s move some new material in, that is God’s Word. Let’s rebuild some thought towards things. That’s when life comes together, right there. That’s a lifelong journey that you do in community.
This is something I’m writing in my Bible this afternoon. I wrote this on the way here. We can’t afford to entertain thoughts about us that God does not think about us. We cannot entertain thoughts about us that God does not think about us. If God says, “John, I love you, I believe in you, I’ve put stuff in you that’s powerful, you can be used in this world, you are worthy to be loved, and love. I say that about you.” I cannot afford to listen to anybody else’s message. I need to hear His message and let it create thought. It was a total amen moment.
2nd Corinthians 10:4 check this out. I think some of you are going to be set free this afternoon as you implement this. These two verses are about our heads. We have a battle on our hands. We have a fight. It’s a fight with our thought life. “For the weapons of our warfare.” Okay, it’s on. “Are not of the flesh.” We’re not going to fix our life by moving to another country. But have divine power. We have divine power. We have a power from God. We can destroy these walls that are built around our brains that are holding these bad thoughts. How do we do it?
Verse five. We destroy arguments. There it is. “My parents are…” or religion or the world has told me this thing about me and it’s killing me. Well, we can destroy those things and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God. God says things that counter those things. If we let God speak new thoughts into our minds, it will wreck those lies and drive them away. We can take every thought captive to obey Christ. Captive means to hold a spear.
Here’s what Paul is saying. He’s so visual. He’s brilliant. You need to visualize a little man in your head. Maybe he didn’t say that part, but this is good. Give him a spear. Every thought enters your mind, you need to have that little man say, “why in the world do you want to come in? Why are you here? Why are you here, negativity? Why are you here, hopelessness? Why are you here, I have no clue how I’m going to pay my school bill? Why are you here, I have no idea how to fix my marriage? It’s not going to work out. Why are you here? This isn’t the word of our God. No, no, you’re not coming in here this time. You’re not coming in here.” That’s what Paul is saying. Then he turns around and lets God speak new information into the mind. Those are words like; all things are possible for God. God will never leave you nor forsake you. God is the great healer. Yes, there’s always hope in God. All things work together for good. I’ll never leave you. I’ll never forsake you. My love is invincible. My grace jumps over every bit of your sin every second. Those are the messages we need in our minds.
I’ve been telling myself all week when these thoughts hit me, that is not what God says about me. That is not what God says about this situation. It’s amazing what happens when you do that. I’ve had this problem for a long time. Sometimes from watching way too many horror films when I was way too young, probably. I still get a little freaked out at night. Don’t laugh at me. I know you do, too, so it’s all good. I will be in bed sometimes and hear something in the closet or on our back, and I’ll freak out a little. The lights are off. I’ll get tight and start sweating. I will literally think, is there someone in my house? That is so dumb. Nobody’s in my house. It’s a lie. How interesting, just like our thoughts. All I have to do is turn the light on. What light does is destroys lies, darkness, and the unknown. That’s what the Word of God is for. When the Word of God has been put into our minds through singing, church, worship, Bible studies, and friends sitting down, talking about God and the Bible in small groups. That’s why we do these things. It’s like light is shining into our minds. When God says, “No, I love you,” the lie of no one loves you is destroyed. It’s like the light comes on. The Word of God renews minds.
We need to argue with our minds. I love the idea that my mind is so simple that two thoughts cannot take place at the same time. I’m either terrified or totally in hope. I’m either angry or forgiving. It comes down to whose voice is loudest in your minds, yours or God’s. Whatever wins the thought creates the action. We have some math whizzes in the room. I love you guys. I’m on the artistic side of things. I struggled with math, algebra in particular. I’ve come up with an algebra equation I want you to write down. I’m going to put it on the screen behind me here. This is a formula for life and transformation that will change everything. RT over T equals G. Okay, you got 30 seconds to do it. RT over T equals G. Right thinking over time equals growth. If that goes on Instagram, rep me. Right thinking over time, guys, I’m a testimony of this, will create growth because life comes from thought. Think about the things of God. Believe in the things of God. Live the life that God has promised you. It’s a lifelong journey we do together.
I say this in closing. Renewing your mind means learning to recognize what’s a lie and what’s truth from God. Agreeing with God over and over again until you believe it, and life begins to be transformed. I want us to bow our heads just for a second in prayer. We’re going to sing a closing song. We’re going to have a time of giving. But I want to do something. Nothing weird. Just bow your heads and listen to my voice. I want us to focus on this one thing this week.
If you’re married, if you’re engaged, if you’re single, if you’re a student, if you’re up in age, if you don’t feel appreciated as a young person, wherever you’re at, whatever lies are in your head, listen to my voice. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4, “the God of peace will be with you.”
Father, make it our cry, our focus, and our excitement this week. I know there is someone who came in here with a lie that’s just eating them alive. I pray they would see themselves as you see them, a powerful, fully loved, incredibly secure in your acceptance, full of giftings, worthy to be loved and worthy to love, all things are going to out because you said it, type person. That’s who they are. I pray that Your light would shine in the darkness and that all of us together would battle against those thoughts. We would ask ourselves, “Why are you here? I am tired of you.” This is what my God says. We would find new life, and we would be a people that live with new joy. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.