Changing Your Mind

  • Changing Your Mind
  • Matthew 13:44-46
  • Lyndol Loyd
  • September 16, 2018
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9-16-18 Sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

Maybe you’ve heard the story about the family from backwoods, rural Texas who decided to take their first ever trip from out in the country where they lived and visit the big city.

 

Ma, Pa and Junior all loaded up in their beat-up pick-up truck and headed to town for what they were certain would be the trip of a lifetime. They had heard all about life in the city and they decided it was high time they came to town to check it out for themselves.

 

They even decided that they were going to stay in one of those fancy hotels they had heard people speak of. Once they arrived in town they pulled up underneath something called a porte cochere at their hotel’s entrance. Pa looked at Junior and said, “Come with me while Ma sits here with the truck. We will go inside and find out what we are supposed to do.”

 

As they entered the hotel they started to see all kinds of fancy contraptions and things that they had never seen before back home. They looked to their left and there was a fancy machine that water spurted out of for people to drink from when they pushed a little button.  They looked to their right and there was a light that turned on any time someone approached.

 

Then they looked straight ahead where they noticed a set of shiny, gold platted doors that opened. They watched as a wrinkled, hunched over woman with thinning hair walked through the doors and then the doors closed.

 

Only seconds later they watched as the doors once again magically opened without any handles and out walked a young, vivacious woman with model good looks. Which caused Pa to look at Junior and say, “Hurry up, run back to the truck and get your Ma!”

 

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a set of magical doors for transformation. Here at LakeRidge we are in the midst of our Fall 2018 church-wide experience called, “The Me I Want to Be.” With our desire being to examine what it takes to experience true transformation in life.

 

Reality is that there is a “Me” each one of us wants to be. Someone who’s kinder and more generous, patient and loving, but there is a gap between the “Me” I am and the “Me” I want to be.

 

Becoming God’s best version of you is both God’s desire and the greatest task of your life. Here’s the good news, He’s already working on it.   Your life is God’s project, not yours.

Becoming “the me I want to be” requires what Dallas Willard calls “VIM” Vision, Intention, Means/method. What I would like for us to do for just a moment is to unpack the role each of these play in God helping each of us become the best version of ourselves that we can be.

 

If you’ve been reading along with John Ortberg’s book, The Me I Want to Be, then you’ll recall how he compares people learning a language in the U.S.A. to people in China doing the same.

Which country has the most methods—schools, classes, seminars, books, tapes, Rosetta Stone? The U.S.A. But in which country are the most people learning a new language—the U.S.A. or China? China. Why? The Chinese have a vision for how their lives will change for the better if they learn a new language, usually English.

 

It all starts with a vision, whether it is the teenager who saves up his money from mowing lawns so that he can buy his first car or the mom who starts an exercise regimen to lose her leftover pregnancy weight so that she can wear her favorite pair of jeans again.

 

It doesn’t matter if it is a student who attends night classes to get a college degree so that he can improve his earning potential or the woman who faithfully makes deposits into her 401K account so that she can have a comfortable retirement. The end goal doesn’t happen unless there is a compelling vision in place to motivate behavior.

 

A great example of this is found in Genesis 29 in the story of Jacob who fell in love with Rachel so deeply that he agreed to work for seven years to pay her dowry. “So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.”

 

Who would regard seven years of work as a couple of days? Someone who is working toward his dream. It was love that made Jacob’s long years of labor seem like a few days.

 

There is no power in life like the power of a “got-to-have” desire. When Jesus described life with God, He told stories about this “got-to-have” desire.

 

Jesus offers us a captivating vision of a new life. This is exemplified by a couple of the parables that Jesus taught that we find in Matthew 13:44-46,

44The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. 45Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. 46 When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!

We don’t grasp Jesus’ compelling vision, Jesus’ vision grips us. Periodically, when people listened to Jesus, some of them had this desire awakened in them. They saw how Jesus lived His life. They were drawn to His peace, His courage, or His wisdom. Sooner or later the thought would go off in their brain, “I must have what He has.”

 

All the best methods for life change languish without a strong vision. Jesus’ vision includes limitless love, grace and the freedom to be “the me I want to be.”

 

A few years ago I met a woman who worked as a reading specialist for a school district. Her job was to go into a school and work with teachers to improve the reading comprehension of students. She told the story of working with a well-meaning teacher who, when asked what kinds of things she was doing to help her students achieve learning gains, told her that, “I just do what I can and hope that the students will improve.”  The reading specialist said she had to look at the teacher and tell her, “I’m sorry, but hope is not a strategy.”

Intention is more than wishing or hoping; it is a settled decision. We can have all of the vision we want for a transformed life, but it is never going to happen if it isn’t accompanied by intention.

 

In the New Testament book of Mark 2:1-5 there is a story that communicates the role of intention for us.

1When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. 2 Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, 3 four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. 4 They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. 5 Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”

 

The paralytic’s friends did more than wish and hope Jesus would heal him. They intended, decided and acted. They formulated a plan for seeing their vision come to pass. They set their minds to it.

 

Scripture says that Jesus “saw” their faith. How? Through their decisions and actions. Their intention spoke volumes to Jesus about where they were placing their faith. It communicated their trust in the fact that Jesus was the one who could make the difference.

 

We live in a world where taking personal responsibility is somewhat of a novel idea in the minds of many. But the truth remains that the only person who can decide for you is you. You are not a spectator when it comes to your own life. You are the one who chooses to control your mind.

 

Nowhere is this concept of taking personal responsibility more important to our transformation than when it comes to our thoughts. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.”

 

We must take charge of our own thought-life. Romans 8:5 says, “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.”

 

You can’t stop thinking wrong thoughts by trying harder to not think them, but you can do something else. You can “set your mind,” for the most basic power you have over your mind is that you can choose what you pay attention to.

 

At any given moment including this one – we can turn our thoughts in one direction or another. It is within our capacity to set our minds. This explains why people can be in exactly the same set of circumstances and yet have completely different experiences.

 

John Milton wrote, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” So we seek to do like it says in Colossians 3:2, “Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”

At any moment you can turn your mind to God. The Holy Spirit is flowing, waiting to renew our minds all the time. We can choose to attune our minds to the Holy Spirit at any moment and ask the Spirit to guide our thoughts.

 

Michael Phelps has been hailed as the greatest Olympic athlete of all time after winning twenty-eight medals, with twenty-three of them being gold. There is no doubt that Michael Phelps is extremely well suited to swim. He has size fourteen feet and a 6ft 7in arm reach, which is three inches longer than his height. He has relatively short legs for his height, which gives him an additional advantage in the pool.

Also, his knees are double-jointed and his feet can rotate fifteen degrees more than average, allowing them to be straightened fully so that his mighty feet act like flippers. These genetic advantages help him to kick off the wall and propel himself ten meters before he actually has to swim. This is how he got the name, “the human dolphin”.

But being well suited doesn’t make someone into an Olympic champion swimmer. You can have the perfect physique for swimming, but it doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t have the practices and habits of a champion.

Phelps used to train for six hours a day, six days a week, without fail. Even if Christmas day fell on a training day, he would do a full day of training. Total dedication to his training program made him a world champion.

 

He swam approximately fifty miles each week, which is over eight miles per training day. He had two massages every day and also took ice baths to help his body to recover.  Incredible discipline on his part.

 

Much like Michael Phelps trained his body for championship level swimming by filling it with habitual practices aligned with his vision, Jesus Christ’s life was filled with practices that He habitually did. Luke 5:16 says, “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.”

 

Note that Jesus “often” withdrew for times of solitude and prayer. So ask yourself, what other holy habits did Jesus practice? The gospels are full of examples of Jesus both teaching and practicing disciplines such as solitude, silence, fasting, worship, prayer, simplicity, celebration, fellowship, and service.

 

We do not believe these spiritual disciplines are a means of salvation, rather a means of drawing closer to and becoming more like Christ. Many others in the church today feel as though there is something more to our Christian salvation than get saved and nothing else.

In the 1990’s, Gatorade ran a long series of commercials that sang the jingle, “I want to be like Mike” (referring to the basketball superstar, Michael Jordan). The student of Jesus Christ must have his or her own jingle, “I want to be like Jesus.” In essence, that is what spiritual disciplines are all about.

As an apprentice of the Master, you watch His methods, and put them into practice. You listen to His teaching, and apply it in your everyday life. As Dallas Willard puts it, the spiritual disciplines are “simply a matter of following [Jesus] into his own practices, appropriately modified to suit our own condition.”

There’s an old saying that states, “If you do what you’ve always done. You’ll get what you’ve already got.” This morning I invite you to the truly wonderful experience of throwing out life-as-usual and taking up new paths where God can change our lives from the inside out.

Being a follower of Christ has to mean following His example. He Himself tells us to take up our cross daily and follow Him, but we do not know how to attain that level of holiness. We are to be meek but we argue. We are to be gentle but we yell.

After we are saved we are not supposed to stay the way we were. I was told that I would be a different person if I accepted Christ. While I may have been saved, I was far from holy, and I did not have a clue on how to become holy.

How do we draw closer to Christ and let Him change us into who He tells us to be? We must slow down and listen to Him. We need to be in the Bible daily. We need to pray daily and give God the praise and glory for what we are in Him. We must practice listening and getting out of the world we live in.

Yes, we are to be in this world and not of it, but we must leave this world for a time in order to see what it really is. (I am not talking about leaving this world literally or spiritually, I am talking about retreating.)

The spiritual disciplines are an aid to help us draw close to God. There is no magic trick. Just stopping and letting Christ change you into the holy man or woman you are called to be.

To become “the me I want to be” requires knowing the means, that is, the disciplines or practices. Practices are essential in music, sports, medicine, dance and in so many significant and beautiful aspects of life.

 

Spiritual disciplines are all about freedom, freeing us from wishing and hoping, freeing us from others’ expectations, freeing us to become “the me I want to be.”

 

With VIM—vision, intention, means—we enter into the life God has for us and become the person God had in mind in creating us. John Ortberg writes, “Jesus does not come to rearrange the outside of our life the way we want. He comes to rearrange the inside of our life the way God wants.”

 

Will you surrender to God’s loving purpose for your life?