Influences

  • Influences
  • Romans 12:1-2
  • Bill Couch
  • October 25, 2015
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10-25-15 sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

Last week we began a new series of messages entitled Toxic. In this series we are looking at the effects of toxic thoughts, influences and relationships. Last week we looked at the destructive impact of toxic thoughts. The dictionary defines toxic as “anything poisonous which can result in serious illness or death”.

Each of us has about 30,000 thoughts a day. Some of those thoughts are going to be negative. What we do with negative thoughts determines whether they become toxic or not. Negative thoughts become toxic if we hang onto them and recycle them. They literally poison our minds, our souls and our bodies. Toxic thoughts contribute to many physical diseases. One of the most common toxic thoughts is excessive worry about the future. We hallucinate all kinds of things that might happen. To review the impact of worry, I want us to watch a video. Stay with it to the very end!

 

Video: “Worst Case Scenario”

 

All the energy we waste worrying about the future! After last week’s message, Bill Miller sent an email with a quote from the movie “Bridge of Spies”. Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel, is asked by his attorney: “You may be executed and you don’t seem worried. Aren’t you worried?” The spy answers: “Would it help?” How much does all your worrying help?

Another common toxic thought is regret about the past. We constantly focus on how much better our lives would be if this or that had not happen.

Other toxic thoughts are about our self-worth—“I’m not smart enough,” “I’m not good enough,” “My life is not worth living.”

To prevent our negative thoughts from becoming toxic I suggested a new pattern of dealing with them: the Three R’s—Recognize, Release and Replace. If you missed last week’s message I encourage you to watch it on our web site or order a DVD or CD in the foyer.

Today we look at Toxic Influences–one of the main sources of our toxic thoughts. We will examine those outside sources and how we can guard our minds from allowing them to become toxic. Paul addresses this in his letter to the Romans

 

Romans 12:1,2

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

 

What are your eating habits? Do you eat healthy or unhealthy foods? We are all familiar with the effects of junk food: it clogs our arteries resulting in heart problems and strokes, increases our waist line, and our risk of Type Two Diabetes. I came face to face with my bad eating habits in my forties when I had a routine physical exam. The doctor looked at my blood work and told me I was on the border line of developing heart problems and diabetes. He said that I needed to change my diet. He encouraged me to eat low glycemic foods—which simply means nothing white—potatoes, rice, white bread. He told me to eliminate fried foods.  I began to read about healthy diets and discovered all the toxins that are in our food supply from herbicides and pesticides. So as much as possible I eat organic and non-GMO foods.

We know what it is like to consume junk food. We eat a greasy hamburger, fries and chocolate milk shake. It tastes good going down, but later we notice the toxic effects: indigestion, heartburn, bloating, feeling sluggish. If we consume a steady diet of junk food we become less conscious of its toxic effects—indigestion and bloating become the norm, we always feel that way after we eat.  It is toxic to our bodies—we just choose to ignore all the warning signs.

It is interesting that food comes with extensive labels about all the stuff that is in it. We are warned about the levels of bad cholesterol, sugar and fat. Often we choose to ignore those warning signs as well. We keep poisoning our bodies with junk food until we get sick or die.

 

Junk food for the mind has the same toxic effect. What are we feeding our minds–healthy or unhealthy influences?

What we watch influences our mind. The more movies and television we watch the more it influences our mind. It is interesting that, like food, most movies and TV shows come with labels about the content—a rating system: G, PG, R and “anything goes”. It alerts us to how healthy or unhealthy the content is going to be to our minds. It will tell you specifically about the language, the sexual content, violence and drug use. We think it is just entertainment and that it has no real effect on us, but it does. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church in California wrote: “You would never invite a couple to come over to your house and ask them, ‘Why don’t you commit an act of adultery right here in front of us?” But we do it every time we watch a TV program that has adultery in it. You would never invite someone and say, ‘Why don’t you murder someone right here in my living room?’ But we do it every time we watch a TV show in which someone is murdered.” We are stuffing our minds with junk food. What we watch influences our mind.

I was recently watching TV with our two grandsons. We watched one episode of Ninja turtles. It was animated and had no blood spilled. But the turtles were fighting the bad guys for about 75% of the show. Immediately after the program was over, the boys got up and started acting aggressively toward each other—at first it was just play, but then it got a little rough. They were just acting out what they had seen. I think we are seeing an epidemic of violence in our nation. The number of mass murders in the past year is staggering. After each one we hear about a pattern of junk food for the mind that mass murderers feasted upon. The things they watched, read and listened to poisoned their minds. I know what they watched was far worse than Ninja Turtles—but what I’m saying is that we are bombarded with messages of violence. Over time we become desensitized to it. We are no longer aware of how much toxic stuff we admit into our minds and the minds of our children and grandchildren. As Paul said in his letter to the Romans: “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.”

The sexual content in the media has desensitized us. It is very explicit even on network TV. The Internet has provided the illusion of privacy and has contributed to an epidemic of addiction to pornography. Both men and women are addicted. It begins with just an occasional viewing. It is justified by saying, “I’m not hurting anyone. It is just in my mind.” But it poisons our soul and becomes a substitute for genuine relationships and intimacy. It can lead to acting out. It is destroying many marriages and families.

The books and magazines we read can influence our minds with healthy or unhealthy thoughts. The music we listen to can also fill our minds with thoughts of violence, vulgarity or with peace and joy and worship. Let’s listen to Geoff Sisemore talk about the influence of music on his life.

Video: Part One, Geoff Sisemore, effects of music

Junk food for the mind tastes good going down. It is enjoyable—but wreaks havoc on our souls. At first we may be aware of the negative effects. But over time we become accustomed to it—desensitized. I man came to see me many years ago. He asked me if I thought it was OK for him to have an affair. All the guys he worked with were having affairs. Every show he watched on TV had multiple affairs. I told him I thought it was not a good idea—that it went against God’s plan for marriage and would destroy the trust of his wife. He seemed shocked that I would even question it. I asked him why he had come to ask me. He said he was 95% sure an affair would be OK, but that 5% made him seek out my counsel. He was on the verge of being overwhelmed by the toxins of the world. Something told him, this junk food may not be a good thing.

We have talked about the things in our culture that are probably the more obvious forms of toxic influences. Some things in our culture are much more subtle but just as toxic. Think about how our culture encourages busyness.

The culture influences us to get our worth from how busy we are. Busyness results in fatigue of body and soul. It causes us to neglect relationships with the people who matter most. God gave us the gift of the Sabbath because we need a day to cease our activity. But our culture has eliminated the Sabbath. Our lives are filled with activities 24/7. Sports and extra curricular activities take place regularly on Sunday morning. Rather than spending one day in seven worshipping God with our families, we now think we are regular attenders if we are in church once a month. How much have you become desensitized to the built-in pattern of a Sabbath for worship and rest? To ignore it will result in spiritual atrophy.

Our culture also poisons our minds with materialism, consumerism & greed. Our worth is determined not only by how busy we are but by the quantity and quality of the stuff we have. We are constantly wanting more and bigger and better. Why? Because we have swallowed the toxin of the world that our worth is measured by our stuff.

This was problem also in the first century when the Apostle John wrote:

“Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.” 1 John 2:15-17 (MSG)

How can we detox our minds and begin to feast on healthy influences?

It begins with asking the Holy Spirit to do a soul scan for toxins. We have so subtly accepted and justified them that we no longer recognize them. We need the Holy Spirit to bring them out of the darkness and into the light. We need to pray with the Psalmist: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23–24

Make your own inventory—what is unhealthy for you?

I encourage you to also find or start a small group with people who also want to live a healthy life. Encourage each other. Hold each other accountable. Pray for one another, that any toxic influences that have been planted in your life will be rooted out.

Examine what you are watching, reading, listening to. What is the real message? Is it healthy? Will it bring me closer to God? Is it poisoning my mind or nourishing my soul? Is it a lie or the truth? What would happen if I began to live my life like the people I’m watching, reading about, listening to? If the whole world lived this way—what would happen? Pay attention to where you may have become desensitized. Look for clues like telling yourself, “There is nothing wrong with this. One time won’t hurt me. Everyone is doing this.” Any of those justifications are usually an indicator that something is not healthy.

Video: Part Two Geoff Sisemore, how he made different choices

Be aware that as you begin to choose healthy things, there can be a temptation to become legalistic, self-righteous, arrogant and judgmental toward those who are making unhealthy choices. Those attitudes are just as toxic as pornography or violence. Ask for God to give you a compassionate heart to those who are still trapped and to be encourage them toward healthy choices.

Begin to detox your environment of toxic influences. Improve your mental diet. Choose healthy options that will nourish your soul—good movies, books like the Bible.  It is very encouraging how many faith based movies are available. Support them and Hollywood will pay attention.

As your mind begins to reset on healthy things, you will become more aware of how many unhealthy influences are out there.  After eating healthy for several months, I ordered some fried food. The first bite was like: “What is greasy taste in my mouth?” Once I began to eat healthy, what used to taste good no longer tasted good. The more healthy choices you make for your soul the more sensitive you will become to the toxins and their lure will no longer be as strong. You will experience great joy and freedom. What toxic influences do you need to get rid of today?