September 23, 2007
Well the last seven days have been very interesting in my life. If you weren’t here last weekend, I have a gar scar. Do you know what a gar is? It’s a big fish with teeth.
I was gar fishing and this gar sort of nicked me. You can see the bruising, and if you look close you can see the teeth from this prehistoric fish. You know you’re a redneck if you have a gar scar.
Later that day, I was kayaking. And as I was dragging my kayak up a bank, I fell off a rock, skinned my knee. I fell, though, into a fire ant bed. I have fire ant bites all over my leg. I will not show you, but trust me, they’re there.
Last time I said that I don’t really like horses. I mean, I like to look at them, but they don’t really dig me. And this past Tuesday, I had the opportunity to do a one hour ride through a trail and on this little path. So I jumped on this horse named Roman, a big, strapping, muscular animal. And I really liked Roman. Roman was a nice horse. And after the ride had ended it was time for the easy part, the dismount.
I’m thinking, “What’s so difficult about a dismount? I’m a decent athlete. I can get off of this big ol’ horse.”
So as I was dismounting, my foot got caught in the stirrup, I began to fall off of this horse. I tried to grab for the reigns. Roman looked at me, and I could see the whites of his eyes like, “Ahhh.”
I fell in that corral and I had visions of being drug around the corral by this horse, Roman; yet, thankfully, I was able to get my foot out of the stirrup and I got into the fetal position and I think I said, “Mommy, mommy.” However, my back and neck are still hurting.
I was down front a couple moments ago and I was like, “Man, I’m in pain.” So if I am looking stiff today, just bear with me. And to top that off, last night after the second service, I went to DFW airport to pick up my wife and daughter and several other people who had been at a conference, and we drove home and got something to eat at our house. And it was about midnight or 11:30.
So Lisa and I were in our bedroom, the door was closed, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, we hear this banging on the door, “Mom, Dad, LeeBeth is hurt. I am serious, she is hurt.” We’re like, “Oh, man!”
So I open the door and we had 2 friends spending the night last night so a total of 6 were over at our house, which is always fun. Our house is like a circus.
So Lisa and I ran into the kitchen and our oldest daughter, LeeBeth, her kneecap was on this side of her leg. I slightly gagged. And several minutes later the ambulance and fire truck show up at our house. This is last night. And we put LeeBeth on a stretcher and took her to a local hospital and they were able to put the kneecap back on her leg, and she’s here today, LeeBeth. Let’s give it up for LeeBeth.
You might have gone through a lot of struggles to get here today. I’m not sure about the kneecap, but it could be a number of things. And you know what I have discovered? The devil… That’s right, I believe in the devil. It does not take a rocket scientist to know there is a dark, evil, personal, sinister force out there wreaking havoc in our culture and world today. The devil does not want us to hear this message. He does not want me to speak this message. So if you have gone through struggles this week, and praying about change, then it is a good thing because the devil has tipped us off.
He has showed his hand, because the reason he is after you and me is because of the incredible potential that will occur because of this teaching. So thanks for being here in Miami, Plano, Downtown and Fort Worth. Balcony people, thank you for being here.
T.S. That horse, Roman, was a big one. And I had these visions of Roman walking all over me. And right now we’re going to walk through the book of Romans. What a transition! Thank you very much.
Romans 12:2. The Apostle Paul says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
That’s the battle that we face. Our culture wants us to conform; God wants us to be transformed. And here is the lynch pin of the deal—by the renewal, by the renovation, you might say, of the mind.
ILLUS: How many in here have ever renovated a room before? I have. I mean not personally, but we paid for it.
Several years ago we renovated our kitchen. And here’s what I found out about renovation. Number one, it takes longer than they tell you it is going to take, every single time. There is no exceptions. Number two, it is going to cost more money than they tell you it is will cost. And number three, it is going to be messy. I am talking about, it is going to be chaotic throughout your house. And then I would say number four, you question along the way why you even started this project. I liked the kitchen the way it was. What were we smoking to involve ourselves in this process?
So often change is that way. And this is something that you might not have heard before you became a Christian. You know, sometimes there are things they didn’t tell you before you became a believer. Well, this is one of those things today. I try to tell you everything, no-holds-barred speaking. But sometimes in the Christian community, teachers and leaders will keep the things from you that maybe you should think about and consider before you become a believer.
It’s not a popular subject. It doesn’t sell a bunch of books. But here it is: We will experience pain as we change.
In other words, you might be on this horse, or maybe it’s a financial thing, maybe it’s a hurtful habit, maybe it’s with substance abuse or anger and you’re saying, “You know what? I can dismount off of this any time I want to.”
We discount the dismount. We say, “I can leave it whenever I want to. I can change whenever I want to. I can transform my life whenever I want to. I can alter my life whenever I want to.”
Yet, invariably, what happens? Our foot gets stuck in the stirrup and we’re flailing and trying to grab the reigns and it hurts. We fall. We hurt our neck and back. It’s not easy to dismount.
Well, today we’re going to talk about something; we’re going to begin something that I just brushed over last time. We’re going to talk about the cycle of success. That’s right, I said it, success. God wants us to experience success. “What is success? Financially?” No, not really. “Emotionally?” Yeah, but deeper than that.
True success is discovering God’s perfect and pleasing will. That’s what success means. It’s walking in sync with the Savior, allowing the Lord to lead and guide and deliver us.
The spin cycle of success, though, oftentimes is hard. So you have success but how do you get there? You get there by change. You get there through conflict and then the result is growth. Change, Conflict, Growth.
Wow, change. God is the agent of change. God does not change; yet, he sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins to change our lives. I’m not talking about just a rearrange. That’s not true change. That’s superficial. I am talking about significant, supernatural change.
Once we allow the exchange to take place, we trade in our failures for his forgiveness, our guilt for his grace, our pursuits for his agenda. Once that takes place, Christ infiltrates our lives and he places the agent of change in the depth of our being. I’m talking about the Holy Spirit of God who renovates our lives.
Yes, it’s messy. Yes, it’s costly. Yes, you’re like, “Why did I make this decision?” You have all the questions like, “Is it worth it?” Blah, blah, blah.
He reorders our life, redecorates our life from the inside out. While this is happening we see and experience change. We defer to him. We are led by him. And as we’re led by him, we have to negotiate conflict.
And here is the problem. Here is where the rubber meets the road. Here is life on the rugged plains of reality.
So often when we experience resistance, we resist because of the resistance. In other words, I’m experiencing conflict. I don’t dig the conflict. “I thought change was going to be instantaneous, automatic, systematic.”
We thought it would be that easy to change. And yet we’re going, “They didn’t tell me that. They didn’t tell me I was signing up for that. You mean there’s going to be some conflict? You mean there’s going to be some persecution? You mean there’s going to be some temptation? You mean my foot is going to get stuck in the stirrup? You mean I’m going to fall flat on my back? They didn’t tell me that.”
Yet, to get to it, success, walking in the will of God, we’ve got to go through it. To get to it, we’ve got to go through it. Change, conflict, growth. The cycle, the spin cycle of success.
So many times we bail right before the breakthrough. “God, change my life,” and what happens? What happens? The exchange takes place, we have said, “God I can’t change. You are all about change and God you change me.” We confess our sins to the Lord. What does confession mean? It means to agree with God. It means, “God, you are right in declaring my behavior sin, and I am wrong in my desire to do it. I turn from my sin,” repentance, “and I walk following you.” Change, conflict, growth.
We have this ability, though, this tendency, to cover stuff. What we cover, God will uncover. Yet, when we cover up our shortcomings and shams, we begin to blame others. Surely we don’t have anybody who blames others. We have a whole generation of blaming boomers and generation excusers.
“I am this way because of my mom and dad, and that coach, and I got a bad break; I blew my knee out in high school. Otherwise I would be in the NFL.”
Then we bunch up with people. We invite people under the covers who are sinful sympathizers, and they soothe us from the temporary aches and pains of rebellion.
And then we lie. We lie to God. We lie to others. We lie to ourselves.
We cover what God uncovers, but here is what we need to do. We need to uncover.
Because what we uncover, God will cover. He’ll cover us with this mercy. Instead of blaming others we will take responsibility. “Guess what? My bad. I blew it. I messed up. God, I want to be truthful before You, before others, and with myself.” And then we’ll have this sensation where we want to draw close and move to encouraging empathizers.
I am talking about people who support us. People who show us the love. People who say, “You can make it because life is too short to hang out with whiners, negative people.” If we’re going through change, conflict, and growth, I want to hang out with people who will show me the love. How about you? That’s why we find them in the house. Here’s the church, there’s the steeple, open the doors and see all the cheering, encouraging, changing people.
But the battlefield is in the mind. It’s all about the mind. Sometimes I meet people and they make these whack decisions. And you have met them and sometimes we can stand on the sidelines and watch life unfold and we are like, “What? Why were they making these whack‑a‑doodle‑doo decisions?”
Let me stop for a second. We really should not freak about it, because people who make whack decisions aren’t thinking right. It’s very simple. If you’re not thinking right, if your belief system is botched, your behavior is going to be botched. So it shouldn’t surprise us.
ILLUS: One time I was talking to someone who had been married like four times. They were telling me this and that and that and this about their marriages. And I was thinking this but I didn’t say it. Maybe I should have said it. I was thinking, “You know what? There is one common denominator in all these situations—you.” It’s like Jerry Seinfeld says, “Maybe it’s you.” But I don’t think Jerry made that up. That’s Bible, see, that’s Bible. Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s me.
So, if my belief system is whack, my behavior is going to be whack and my decisions will be whack‑a‑doodle‑doo. On the other hand, if I’m a Romans 12:2 guy or a Romans 12:2 girl, I will allow God to transform my mind. The word transformed in the original language means to be changed from within. It’s a renovation.
That’s why—go back to Romans 12:2. It says, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”
If we cooperate with the Holy Spirit of God, that’s what’s in the cards for us. We will be transformed by the renewing, not by the removal, of our mind. We don’t check our brains at the door when we become Christ followers. We don’t say, “God, perform this spiritual lobotomy on me.” No, we don’t do that. We need to use our minds, engage our minds. God has given us a phenomenal mind. And most of us, when we clock out, only use about 10 percent of our mind on planet Earth.
As we use our mind, as we allow God to renew our mind, check out what will happen. Then, here’s the result, “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good and pleasing and perfect will.”
The mind. The mind. Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV) says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”
What do you think about? What is on your mind? Take anything in your life, just take anything in your life that you know you need to change by God’s grace and power, and from this point on, in the rest of the talk, when I talk about change, I am talking about God-change. Okay? God change. When I say change, think God-change.
Whatever you need to change in your life; a situation with anger, a situation in your marriage, a situation at school, a situation at work, whatever it is—whatever it is, you need to get involved in the spin cycle of success. So to get to it;; to get to God’s pleasing and perfect will, and to get to God’s success, you have got to go through it and you have to go through conflict.
ILLUS: A couple years ago, Lisa and I talked to someone who had gotten cosmetic surgery. “Man, when I first had the surgery, I was like, ‘What was I thinking?’ So much pain, so much turmoil.” I was saying, ‘You know, I’ll never do this again.’ But now three months later, I’m looking good. And I would do it again even though it was painful. Look at me now.”
And if you want to get cosmetic surgery, good for you. That’s between you and God. I mean, you will not find a verse in the Bible that says, “Thou shall not get cosmetic surgery.” It is not in there.
It is funny, though, how physically we will put ourselves through all this pain and pay all this money to get like this, but when it comes to real change, internal stuff, the stuff that really matters, we’re like, “Man, conflict, too much conflict, too much pain.”
I’m telling you; when we get serious about getting off of that horse, our foot will get stuck in the stirrup. We will have some back and neck pain. It’s not going to be that easy because the devil is a liar. He is powerful and he wants to grip us and to hold us to that horse that is messing us up. It is really like the law of the harvest. The law of the harvest.
Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”
So often people, during the week will go like, “Man, I will just sow my wild oats during the weeks. I am going to sow my wild oats. Then, I will come to church on Sunday and pray for a crop failure.” Some of you will get that later. It’s the law of the harvest.
We are the net effect of seeds we have sewn during our lives. I am and you are. We change from God then we experience conflict. I said we experience challenges and we experience this faith fight. What is the conflict about? Let me break it down.
The conflict is about the past. People today think, “I can just leave.” And sometimes people have the desire, “What if I just left my family and my marriage? What if I just jumped on the freeway and just bolted? What if I sold everything, bought a sailboat, and lived in the Bahamas the rest of my life?”
You know what? All of that sounds so cool and sexy and hip, but here is the bottom line. You can’t leave your past. You can’t do it. I can’t do it either. The past is there. God forgives us of our sins. I mean, the slate is wiped clean. The consequences, though, are still there. The residue is still there. The film is still there. And it is something that we have to negotiate and fight. I have it, and you have it, too.
Maybe you were married before, and you had a couple of kids in this marital situation, this family. And now the divorce has occurred and you are involved with someone else; you have a new family and new kids. Has God forgiven you? Yes. Do you still have to negotiate the complexities of that first relationship of family? Yes.
I rob a bank. They arrest me. I’m in my prison cell. I hit my knees, “Lord, I confess my sins. I turn from my sins. Lord, forgive me, amen.” Does God forgive me? Yes. But guess what; I’m still in jail. He’s not going to remove the consequences.
Here is what we need to do with our consequences because we all face them. Grab them, don’t hide them or try to cover them up, and bring them into the light. God will give us great perspective on them. As we sow seeds of obedience; as we fight the faith fight, we’re starting to sow. And then what’s going to happen? We’re going to reap a harvest because you reap later than you sow. You sow in the spring and reap in the fall.
Also, whenever you sow, you’re always going to reap a greater harvest than the seeds that you have sown. So I don’t care what you’ve done, what you’re involved in, what your past looks like. Begin to defer to God and sow seeds of prosperity, sow seeds of generosity, sow seeds of discipline and faith and endurance.
God will build great stuff in your life in this conflict phase and you will have incredible, phenomenal growth.
Galatians 6:8 says, “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
So the past is an opponent during the conflict.
Also, impatience is an opponent during this conflict. A lot of us bail in the conflict because of the being impatient. “Man, I want marital bliss now. I want financial freedom now. I want a pure thought life now. I want the right friends now.” Now, now, now. Stop, in the name of love. It’s about patience. It’s about time. It’s about God’s redemptive plan.
God has you and me in that conflict. And remember, the devil is coming after us because we matter so much to God. Our future is so bright. God has us in the conflict for a reason. So welcome the conflict. Embrace the conflict. Understand that through your pain and through your suffering great things will occur as you go to a ‘hole ‘notha level. But, whenever we go to a ‘hole ‘notha level, there is a whole new devil. Have you discovered that?
Pride is something else that we deal with in this game. Pride is a major thing that causes conflict. A lot of us think, “You know what? I know what I’m doing is wrong. I know leaving my spouse and my kids is wrong. I know sleeping in another bed is wrong. I know committing adultery is wrong. But you know what? Yeah, it’s sin. But I’m cool enough, I’m big enough, I’m bad enough, I’m rich enough, I’m powerful enough to change the outcome. I’m an exception to the rule.
“I mean, you don’t know how smart I am. You don’t know how intelligent I am. You don’t know how creative I am. Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Look! Up in the sky. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman. Ba ba ba, ba ba ba ba.
“Yes, I can break the odds. Ba ba ba ba ba ba. I’m the man of the hour. Ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba. I’m the exception to the rule. I’m Superman. Yes, the Bible says one thing, but I will do another. I can do it. I am the man.”
Hey, Superman, Superwoman, drop your cape. It’s not going to happen for you. I mean, how is it working for you right now? Be honest. You might be like, “Yeah man, everything is cool and everything is good.” Oh really? Well Scripture says in Hosea 8:7, “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.”
Proverbs 22:8 says, “He who sows wickedness reaps trouble.”
You try to do the Superman or Superwoman thing. You think you can outsmart God.
You think basically that you know what’s best for you in life. Here God is, the author of life. But you’re saying, “You know what, I am going to put my cape on, God. I’m Superman.” Come on now.
Change, conflict, growth.
“God, I am ready to go through this. I want to drag the past out into the light. God, build patience and stuff and character and vision and discipline and determination in my life. Lord, I want to drop the cape. I don’t want to ride on pride any longer. I want to bow to you and do what you want me to do, because the growth part is what Jesus has talked about.”
He said in John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” How do you know the truth? It’s the mind; the battle is in the mind.
ILLUS: Have you ever swum in the ocean? You’re staying in a hotel, you jump into the ocean, into the water and then inevitably the currents carry you down the beach. You look around and say, “Man, I floated all the way down the beach.” How do you get back?
Well, you get out of the water, walk all the way up the beach and get in the water again. Then you float down, get out of the water, walk all the way to where you entered. And you do it over and over and over.
That’s what it means to renew our mind. Daily I drift. Daily you drift. And we don’t drift into great decisions. We don’t drift into great changes naturally. We have to be intentional about it. We have to say, “God, renew my mind.”
So regularly, daily, corporately, we’ve got to reenter the water and say, “God, renew my mind because I want to know what your good and perfect and pleasing will is.” And believe me, it’s amazing.
Scripture says in Proverbs 3:5‑6, “Trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on your own understanding…”
Don’t trust your heart. That will really mess you up. People say, “Go with your heart.” Man, if I went with my heart, I would be really jacked up, man. Don’t lean on your own understanding.
My understanding? I’m going to pick up the Superman cape now and go, “I know what’s best for me and my career and my business.” Oh, really, really?
“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
How do you do that? It’s in the mind. You think right, you’re going to feel right; you feel right, you’re going to act right. Your right beliefs determine your right behavior and that equals phenomenal and off the chain change.
So it’s okay to experience conflict. Conflict happens. Conflict, though, is a good thing because it’s a God-thing when we’re listening to him.
The children of Israel were all about conflict. Change, conflict, growth. They left Egypt, conquered the Promised Land. It was a journey, a process. Then the growth. The same is true for the Promised Land and real estate in all of our lives.
I needed to hear that, didn’t you? Change. And I don’t mean to scare anybody or to freak anybody out, but I want tell you, you know what? You step over the line and become a follower of Christ, you’re going to experience conflict and pain. But you’re going to live in this transformed state which is exciting and adventurous and it’s just phenomenal.
[Ed leads in spontaneous baptism and offering.]