- The Energizing Impact of Scripture
- Romans 12:2; Matthew 12:33-36; Psalm 27:1-6
There was an Ethiopian woman who lived in a rural village hut. She was blind. She was ninty-nine years old and illiterate. She did have two Bibles: one in Amharic and one in English.
People of the village would regularly come and read to her. She heard the words so often and thought about them so much that she committed most of them to memory. People would come from the villages miles around to hear her recite.
What would cause healthy people to come to a blind, aged, illiterate woman? Because her mind was renewed. Her hut became an outpost of the kingdom of God and people came because they wanted what she had—the mind of Christ. She became “the me I want to be.”
We know that Jesus’ life and ministry was shaped by Scripture. The early church was deeply devoted to Scripture. This morning we want to focus on how to get out of a “chore” mentality and into a “delight” mentality regarding the personal reading of Scripture. Let’s explore the energizing role of Scripture in our journey to personal and church-wide transformation.
Romans 12:2 “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
The habitual patterns of your thoughts determine what kind of person you will be. The transformation of our lives begins with the renewing of our minds. Without aiming for the renewing of our deepest, habitual patterns of thoughts, we will not become “the me I want to be.”
We cannot simply keep doing the same things that we have always done and expect that any sort of significant change is ever going to happen in our lives. The things we have always done are the things that yield the very results we are receiving right now.
We are talking about something more than mere cosmetics or exterior sorts of changes. Take the idea of the modern RV for instance. The motor home has allowed us to put all the conveniences of home on wheels. A camper no longer needs to contend with sleeping in a sleeping bag, cooking over a fire, or hauling water from a stream. Now, he can park a fully equipped home on a cement slab in the midst of a few pine trees and hook up to a water line, a sewer line and electricity. Most RV’s built today include a satellite dish attached on top. No more bother with dirt, no more smoke from the fire, no more drudgery of walking to the stream. Now it is possible to go camping and never have to go outside. We buy a motor home with the hope of seeing new places, of getting out into the world. Yet we deck it out with the same furnishings as in our living room. Thus nothing really changes. We may drive to a new place, set ourselves in new surroundings, but the newness goes unnoticed, for we’ve only carried along our old setting.
The adventure of new life in Christ begins when the comfortable patterns of the old life are left behind. Renewing our minds means that we begin to break our old patterns and ways of doing things. It is about allowing God to change the interior, our hearts and our minds. It is about something more than an exterior makeover, a coat of paint or some cosmetic enhancements.
Jesus very clearly illustrated this truth with a simple metaphor. In Matthew 12:33-36 He speaks these words, “33 A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. 34 You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. 35 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. 36 And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak.”
If a sponge soaks up water, you can squeeze it and out comes water. If a sponge soaks up Kool-Aid, you can squeeze it and out will come Kool-Aid. If a sponge soaks up vinegar, you can squeeze it and out will come vinegar.
In much the same way, whatever is in us, good or bad, will leak out whenever life squeezes us. If we fill our minds with negative thoughts, negativity is going to come out when life squeezes us. If we fill our minds with graphic images, those sorts of things are going to pour right back out of us. It is just the way our minds work. What you place in your mind is what it produces.
You’ve heard the old saying, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.” Although be it a somewhat humorous image, there is a truth in that statement that does not need to go unheeded by us when it comes to our lives: We cannot cover up our character by acting spiritual.
Quite often whenever we are speaking in front of someone, we hide our real hearts. We put a filtered version of ourselves out there that seems appropriate to us or the situation we find ourselves in.
Back in 2006, LifeSong, the church I pastored in Orlando, was honored to receive the Outstanding Service Organization Award from the East Orlando Chamber of Commerce. It was a huge honor for our young congregation. As part of the award, Joni and I were invited to attend the Chamber of Commerce Banquet which was a black tie event at the UCF Alumni Center.
The banquet followed a worship service at LifeSong on a Saturday night that I had to be present for so once Joni and finished up we did a quick change number and drove entirely too fast to make it to the awards dinner on time.
After quickly finding a place to park we hurried into the banquet hall. As we entered the doors the emcee for the evening asked for everyone to find their seats so that they could get the festivities started. Most of the seats had already been taken so Joni and I found a table with a couple of empty seats, asked the folks who were sitting there if we could join them to which one woman nodded “Yes,” and we took our seats.
We had never met them and they had no idea who we were. What we soon realized is that the couples seated at our table were in the midst of what was a very interesting conversation about attending “adult entertainment” clubs in Orlando. One man in particular was going on with another man at the table about which was a classier place for he and his wife to attend together.
Remember, I don’t know these people and they don’t know me. We haven’t even had the opportunity to exchange greetings or names at this point when the emcee says, “We would like to invite the Rev. Dr. Lyndol Loyd from LifeSong Church to come forward and offer tonight’s invocation as we get started.”
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a greater look or horror and shock on the face of another person in my life. I went up said the prayer and came back to the table, smiled broadly and said, “Nice to meet you.” Let’s just say it all made for a rather awkward evening.
I share all of this with you to say that as human beings whenever we speak in front of someone there is a filter we utilize to manage what we might say in that person’s presence.
Now pretend that person is God. Bring God into the picture. Do you find that you act differently when you are in church than when you are at work? Do you speak differently with your church friends than with other friends? Is there a different person you present when you are at LakeRidge than when you are at home with your family?
We are only fooling ourselves if we believe that we can cover up our true character by acting spiritual. The truth is that God knows and sees everything we do and say. The only ones we are fooling when we act spiritual is ourselves.
If you’ve been reading along in the book, The Me I Want to Be, then you have come across a section in chapter thirty that lists the good and bad, the strengths and weaknesses, of nine personality types. We don’t have time to cover all of these this morning, but I do want to encourage you to read about these and see if you can’t identify yourself in one of these personality types. It will list out for you both strengths and weaknesses of your particular type.
Then I want to highly encourage you to turn to Scripture. We need Scripture to help us see the dark side of ourselves honestly. This will provoke us to seek God and personal transformation with intensity.
The human mind, apart from God, drifts to chaos. A leading researcher in mind and consciousness in our time, Michael Csikszentmihalyi (Sick-Zent-Mi-Hall-Ee), writes, “Contrary to what we assume, the normal state of the mind is chaos…When we are left alone, with no demands on attention, the basic disorder of the mind reveals itself.”
In light of that statement think about this for a moment, we put the worst criminals in solitary confinement and a disobedient child in “time out,” both are left alone with their thoughts. Put it that way and I don’t know if that is necessarily a good idea.
But more importantly, what about when we have shut God out of our minds? Romans 1:21 says, “Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused…their thinking became futile…their foolish hearts were darkened…” Apart from God the human mind goes bad and resists good. Social science research mirrors the Word of God that the human mind left to itself drifts to chaos.
Our problem is that, all too often, we make ourselves deaf to God’s voice. He’s trying to speak into our lives, but we refuse to hear or we ignore what He is saying to us.
In the book, John Ortberg tells the story of waking up in the middle of the night to a loud beeping noise. He didn’t want to get out of bed so he didn’t acknowledge it. He waited until his wife finally said something to him.
Finally he stumbled out of bed and outside his bedroom. He returned in a few moments. No more beeping noise. His wife looked at him and asked,
“What was that?”
“It was the smoke detector.”
“How did you make it stop beeping?”
“I took the batteries out?”
“You can’t do that. There could be a fire in the house.”
Ortberg said that he looked at her and said, “There’s no smoke. We’re upstairs. We can’t smell anything. I checked. Do you smell smoke? I don’t smell smoke. It was just a battery problem. Trust me I took care of it.”
The next morning Ortberg was out having breakfast at a restaurant when his server came over and asked if he was John Ortberg. “Your wife called. She needs you to come home. Your house is on fire.”
He returned home to find fire trucks in his drive and smoke billowing from the top of his house. It seems that some birds had built a nest inside the chimney of his house.
The nest eventually started smoldering and because he didn’t do anything a fire started and ended up causing a tremendous amount of damage to his home.
Ortberg asked, “What kind of an idiot would take the batteries out of a smoke detector so he could sleep better during a fire?”
Reality is that each one of us has a life. Think of it as your spiritual house. It is your soul. Do you hear any beeping sounds?
Beeping sounds like all sorts of different things:
- Parents have a child with out of control behavior, but rather than dealing with it, they ignore it. They chalk it up to growing pains. They immerse themselves in work and other activities hoping the child’s bad behavior will simply go away. The child’s behavior is a loud beeping sound.
- A man finds himself visiting internet sites he really shouldn’t be on. The thought of what he might see arouse something deep within him that at first seems exciting. His heart is pounding telling him, “No, don’t do it,” but he clicks the mouse anyway. Do you hear the beeping sound?
- There’s a woman who fills the emptiness of her life with frequent trips to the mall. Whenever she is able to purchase something new it gives her a few moments of pleasure and happiness to mask the stress and loneliness of her life. She takes the batteries out by making more and more purchases convincing herself that she needs just one more thing.
Sometimes people wonder to themselves, “How much sin can there be in my life before I need to start worrying? Is there a level of sin that is acceptable for a Christian, then if you go higher you’re in danger?”
The issue isn’t whether God will get tired of forgiving sins and choose not to do it anymore. The danger isn’t that God will not respond to sincere repentance; the danger is that we would become so ensnared in our distorted thoughts that sin inevitably produces that we would simply become unable to repent.
The mind fixed on God can transcend any circumstance. We have to cling to something bigger than ourselves and our own thoughts. We must fix our minds on God. 1 Corinthians 2:16 says, “…but we have the mind of Christ…”
There is a story of a young girl shut up in a prison cell who could have no visitor, possessions, information or freedom. On her cell wall were the words of Psalm 27.
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation— so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?
2 When evil people come to devour me, when my enemies and foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
3 Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked I will remain confident.
4 The one thing I ask of the Lord— the thing I seek most— is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple.
5 For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
6 Then I will hold my head high above my enemies who surround me.
At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy,
singing and praising the Lord with music.
She began to read it over and over, over a 1000 times. She began to want it, believe it, experience it. She was filled with delight. Even a prison cell, which is hell to a mind shut up with itself, can become, by grace, an outpost of the kingdom of heaven.
Philippians 2:5, “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” The mind fixed on God, through Scripture, makes us a free person. The mind fixed on God, through Scripture, operates for the good and we start becoming “the me I want to be.”
We find ourselves worshiping God
We find ourselves serving others
Application: I will have to form an intention to have my mind shaped by Scripture.
Ask God for the love to learn. We were made to learn (curiosity).
Read a passage of Scripture (example, Psalm 1).
Ponder every phrase imagining that you are in the verses.
Listen to Scripture on Tape/CD (ex., CDs “The Bible Experience”).
Take a class on “How to read/study the Bible” [should be available].