THE RECOVERY CHANNEL SERMON SERIES
HOW TO MAKE CHANGE
AUGUST 27, 1995
I am sure you are wondering why I have this Jacques Cousteau autographed diving mask on. Well, in this session, believe it or not, we are going to talk about diving. I’m talking about some serious deep water diving. And after this message today I think that most of us will be certified to do some diving that the Bible talks about and this diving is exciting. Believe me, it is more exciting than the premiere of Windows 95.
Recently I was fishing with a friend of mine in one of those two-man bass busters, those tiny little boats that are part styrofoam and part plastic. We were having a good time catching large mouth bass left and right. We were floating in the middle of the lake and suddenly the boat stops. We could tell we were hung up on something, we didn’t really know what. So we did what most experienced anglers would do in a situation like that, we began to rock the boat back and forth. That didn’t work. Then we began to paddle furiously like an olympic rowing team. That didn’t work. And then I cranked up the dial on the electric trolling motor to full blast. That didn’t work. I then elected to dive overboard into the coffee black waters of this pond and feel up under the boat to see what it was that was actually hanging us up. While fighting off fourteen deadly water moccasins….no, no, I’m teasing. While feeling under the boat, I touched this giant underwater limb that had poked a hole in the front of our boat. We were in serious trouble. We were stuck on this underwater limb. I called to my friend in the boat and told him that we had a problem, that we had to rock the boat off the limb, because if we didn’t, it could sink us. So he walked to the back of the boat and I tried to lift the front while under water. We moved the craft off of the limb and we experienced freedom, security and a great day fishing for the rest of the afternoon.
What would have happened, though, if we had been content to stay within the confines of the boat, stuck out in the middle of the lake, rocking back and forth, paddling furiously, tweaking the dial on the electric trolling motor? If we would have been content to do that, it would have been a disastrous day. Senseless repetition without getting to the real problem, the root cause of our predicament. Today we are going to look at the real problems in our lives. I am going to challenge you to take out a diving mask, put the diving mask on, the snorkel in, curl your toes over the edge of your boat, jump in the water and see what it is that is really causing you problems.
I am in a series called The Recovery Channel. The first week we lined this stage with luggage and we talked about the baggage that we all deal with. We admitted to ourselves and to God that we are powerless over our problems. And we all have problems. In last week’s session, we said that not only are we powerless over our problems, we must come to a point where we get into the wheelbarrow, into the arms of the Lord and we let Him move us and guide us and strengthen us and empower us. He is the one who needs to handle our habits, hangups and hurts. In this session, we dive. We dive, because a collection of character stumps, a collection of deadly obstacles hang you up and hang me up. I’m not talking about surface problems. We have problems on the surface, but oftentimes those problems on the surface are caused by subsurface hindrances like that limb I ran into just awhile ago. We all have those underwater limbs.
In fact the children of Israel dealt with underwater limbs. Deception had kind of crept into their camp and they rebelled against God. Then God would send a prophet to warn them and the prophet would say, “You need to repent. You need to turn from your sin and to show that you are turning from your sin, you need to tear your garments a little bit.” The children of Israel would kind of rip their Nike T-shirts and say they were going to change their lives. They would go through the motions and say, Yea God, but go right back out and dishonor God with their relationships, finances and worship. This went on and on and on, a vicious cycle until one day God sent Dr. J. Joel. A man called by God to confront the disobedience of the children of Israel, to really get at the real problem. And Joel went before the nation and said these words. “Folks, you don’t have a garment problem, you have got a heart problem. You don’t need to tear your shirts anymore, you need to tear your hearts. You need to get at the real issue, the root of the problem.” So today we are going to do some diving.
To start this diving course I want you to take out the piece of paper included in your worship guide, the one including the sermon title and followed by a series of lines. You always want to watch out for that penmanship, you know that. Number your paper, if you would, vertically one through seven. I am going to list for you the seven deadly hindrances, or you might have heard them called the seven deadly sins. These hindrances, these obstacles, these sins are usually subsurface sins that cause greater problems and greater difficulties and greater issues than we ever give them credit for. In fact, I would dare say that 99% of the hurts, habits and hangups that we deal with daily are caused by one of these seven deadly hindrances. Picture your life as a craft and you are hung up. Let’s jump right into the water.
Before we jump in let me read to you Lamentations 3:40. “Let us examine our ways and test them.” Let us examine our ways and test them. That is why I am challenging you to write down these seven deadly hindrances. The first. Pride. Pride is the basic breeder of human difficulty. You can’t pronounce the word pride without saying I…pride. Pride is interesting. Pride causes us to power up our justifying machines. Pride causes us to belittle the seriousness of sin, to say to ourselves, “I don’t need to hear about these seven deadly hindrances, I don’t really need to put on a diving mask and some weird snorkel. Plus it makes my ears stick out and it hurts my gums. I don’t want to do that. I have got it together.” Pride. Pride also causes us to elevate ourselves above others, to drop those names, to give those hints that “I have got it together. I’m adequate. I’m superior and you’re inferior. You don’t quite measure up.” Pride. Pride can keep us from doing this diving step. Pride caused us to impeach God and to kick Him out of the oval office of our lives years ago. Pride. Pride whispers to the overspender, “You deserve it. Even though your two credit cards are maxed out, you deserve this. Compare yourself to other people. You are not in that bad a shape. Come on, do it. Buy it.” Pride whispers to the alcoholic or drug addict. “You can stop whenever you feel like it. Just have another marguerita. Do a little bit more cocaine. Smoke a little more dope. You can stop whenever.” Pride says to the controller, “If you don’t orchestrate other people’s lives, who will?” Pride says to the blamer, “It is your parent’s fault. It is your coach’s fault back in Junior High School. It is your boss’ fault, it is your ex-spouses fault.” Pride.
In fact, as you look underneath the craft of your life and as you are swimming along and God points out to you, there is some pride, there is some pride hanging you up, if you peel back the bark on this stick, do you know what you will find underneath pride? Fear. Fear. We are fearful of being less than, we are fearful of not quite measuring up, we are fearful of being smaller. Yet pride says to us, “Get bigger, you’re better, you’re smarter, you’re tougher, you’re leaner, you’re meaner, you’re faster, and show other people this.” Pride. The first deadly hinderance.
The second deadly hinderance is anger. Anger. There is a good kind of anger. The Bible says, “Be angry and do not sin.” Anger in the right context is proper, it is godly. Jesus got angry at the right time. He had perfect anger. Yet a lot of us have anger and the anger has become rage. We tear lives and relationships and situations apart because it is out of control. Last week I took my kids swimming and there was a ball in the pool, floating around. I wanted to show my kids a trick. I took the ball with one hand and pushed it under the surface of the pool. After about ten seconds, it got hard to keep it there. Then the ball blew up from underneath and went up about four feet. And the kids went, “Wow, Daddy, unbelievable.”
Sometimes in my life I will take anger, cause you know that if you are a Christian you shouldn’t be angry, and I say everything is fine. And then suddenly without warning it will come up in my relationship with Lisa, with my children or at work, or if someone just cuts in front of me on the freeway. Do you ever deal with that kind of anger? Could anger be driving you, could anger be that hinderance that is keeping you stuck out in the middle of the lake in the boiling sun? Is anger causing you to paddle? Is anger causing you to tweak the dial on the electric motor? Is anger causing you to rock your boat back and forth. Anger.
The third deadly hinderance is greed. Greed. I am not talking about that overt Gordon Geeko “Greed is good” type greed. I am talking about the subtle greed. I want more than my life share of goodies. A little bit more and when I get a little bit more, I will stop. Then I won’t want anymore. And it never works that way, does it? There is always one more deal, one more transaction, one more check, one more car, one more house, one more suit, one more belt, one more dress, one more outfit, one more vacation home, one more boat, one more jet ski. One more. One more rod and reel. I like to fish. Greed. And you know what? We never get satisfied with where we are. And this can become out of control in our lives and we can look around and greed just begins to run us. That is why Jesus said in Luke 12:15, “Watch out, be on guard against all kinds of greed.” And it is difficult to see because it is so common. We are weaned on want as little children. A man’s life does not consist, Christ said, in the abundance of his possessions. Does greed have a hold on your life? Now as you are diving beneath your vessel, if you see greed and you are not greedy, under water, just kind of shake your head. No, God, I don’t have greed. And He will say great. Let’s move to the fourth one.
And as I say this fourth word it is going to get very quiet in here. Lust. Here is a hint before I talk about lust. Don’t shift nervously in your seats when I talk about lust, because if you do people will say, oh, oh, that must be a hangup in his life or her life. A lot of people get lust mixed up. I have had people say, “I can never look at a great looking girl. If I see a girl come in the room who looks like she is one of the Baywatch babes, I can’t look at her. And if I look at her one time, I am lusting.” Of course I was talking about men then. But that is a joke. We have eyes. And, men, if we see a beautiful woman I am sure, if you are like me, you will think to yourself, “That is a beautiful woman.” That is not lust. I like what Billy Graham said about lust. “The first look does not get us in trouble.” It is that second look, it is the third look. You know that is where you have the problem. When you begin to picture yourself with this person sexually, that is where lust takes over. Women, to see a handsome guy or someone who is attractive and say, “This person is attractive.” That is not lust. Lust happens when you lift the sexual dynamic out of the context of marriage and you use someone as an object. We have people who date for lust. We have people who marry for lust. We have people drop suggestive comments to others to test their lust quotient, to see if they can get something going. Lust.
The fifth one, if you are keeping score, envy. Envy. I heard a story about an envious merchant. He was very envious of his number one competitor in his small town. They were in the same kind of business. One day this envious person was walking along the beach and he found a bottle. Out of the bottle emerged this Barbara Eden type genie. Did you ever watch that show? I Dream of Jeannie, what a classic. And this genie looked at this envious merchant and said, “Sir, your wish is my command. One caveat, though. Whatever your wish for I will give in double measure to the person that you are so envious of.” And this man thought only for a second. “I wish to be blind in one eye.” Envy. Envy is fixating on someone else’s spouse, on someone else’s personality, on someone else’s portfolio, on someone else’s office, on someone else’s you fill in the blank. Do we have any envy here? Do you have the eye of envy focused elsewhere? It is difficult to relate to people, it is difficult to establish something deep with someone if you are envious.
The sixth deadly hangup, gluttony, taking in more food or drink than your body needs. Some of us struggle with this because we just like food and drink, we like the way it tastes. And we want more and more and more and more. Others of us struggle with this because of some deeper issues, maybe a poor self-esteem or a relational difficulty or when we get angry or feel pressure we begin to gorge ourselves with food. Be careful with this one because this hangup has land mines all over it, a shattered self-esteem, serious health risks. Gluttony.
The seventh deadly hangup, you won’t believe this one. When I read this one in the Bible I thought surely I know I don’t deal with this one. But I do and you do, slothfulness. Slothfulness. I didn’t say sloppiness. Slothfulness. Slothfulness is neglecting an area in your life. Some of us are fired up workers, we hit the marketplace and we are churning, we are shaking, we are baking and we are raking in cash. We go home, though, and we give our spouse and family leftovers. We are slothful in that relationship. Conversely, some of us are really into our families and children and we are slothful at the marketplace. Or we are slothful with our friends, with our time. We can even be slothful with our deadly hangups. We can say, “I’ll take care of that sin later. I can deal with these seven deadly hangups in a little while, but not now.” And we put it off until tomorrow. Some of us have a case of eternal slothfulness and this is where it gets really scary. We are a prayer away from spending eternity with Christ, yet we say we will get right with God tomorrow. I will come to terms with Jesus Christ a little bit later. We are a prayer away from spending eternity with Christ yet we say, “I will get right with God tomorrow. I will come to terms with who I am before Jesus Christ a little bit later. That is when I will do it.” Slothfulness when you were just a prayer from having your eternity secured, yet you put it off until tomorrow and you face a Christless eternity.
There is one instance in the book of Acts that speaks of the time that the Apostle Paul was in prison. One of the men who put him in prison knew him and saw the difference in his life. His name was Felix. And Felix called for Paul to preach him a little sermon about the Christian faith and the Bible says that this ungodly ruler heard the message, he was convicted, his heart began to beat fast. Here is what he said to Paul. “Paul, I hear you and I believe you but I’ll call for you to speak again to me at a more convenient time. I will get my life right at a more convenient moment.” Sadly, that convenient moment never came again for the man, Felix. Today, why don’t you settle the issue? Why don’t you say I want to come clean, I want to get to know Christ personally? I want to settle my eternity today.
Seven deadly hangups. Now the plot clots. The seven deadly hangups is the easy stuff. No problem. Most of us are swimming around now, we are identifying one, two, three, four hangups, habits, hurts. We see this and we are admitting it to ourselves. And we say, “God, thank You for showing me that I have got a problem with anger. Lust is really eating my lunch. Yeah, I have got some pride in the way. OK, God, I admit that to You.” Now the tough part. Now the real, real tough part.
Jump back to the story I told you at the beginning. When I saw we were hung up on the underwater stump, that limb, I told my fiend in the boat about it. I said, “We are hung up. We have got to do something.” I told him the problem. The Bible says, once we realize the root of our problem, once we point out those subsurface issues that are causing problems on the surface, we need to confess this to God but also we need to tell someone with skin on about it. Someone with skin on, Ed? That is right. Someone with skin on, friend. James 5:16 “Admit your faults to one another.” It doesn’t say God right here. It is talking about God in other places. “Admit your faults, your seven deadly hindrances, to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” The Bible doesn’t say to tell everybody, it says to tell somebody. Who do I tell? Because this can be the watershed step in your life, who do you tell? “Who do I share this with, Ed? We are talking about some serious stuff here. If I told this person what I really go through in my mind, if I told them what I deal with, if I told them what is hanging me up, they would never speak to me again. They would never even associate with me. I don’t know about this, Ed.”
Find someone, find someone who has a mature walk with the Lord, someone who is a mentor type. It could be a pastor, a Christian counselor, it could be someone 200 miles away. And make sure this person can keep a secret. Make sure this person is not some radio free person so that once they hear what you are dealing with they share it with everyone. They advertise. You tell the wrong person, it can be trouble. You tell the right person, it can be transformational. Transformational. As you share these things with this person here is what is going to happen. You talk about feeling free. You talk about having a load off of your shoulders. This person that you are involving in the loop, you confess it to God, you admit it to this person, this person with skin on will reflect to you the nature, the character, the forgiveness, the mercy, the grace of God. It will be a human reflection of a godly character quality. And that is why God created the church. Yes, God deals with us one on one. That is important. But He created us as relational beings. We come together in the church and He deals with us in relationships. More often than not this person you are telling this to will shake their heads and say they have gone through the same thing, and that they understand where you are coming from. They will reflect the grace and mercy of God to you. Is that person coming to mind that you could share something with?
If someone chooses you to share their seven deadly hindrances with, you have a huge responsibility. If you break their confidence it is a capital offense, it really, really is. Make sure you are sensitive.
What do I say to this person? What kind of speech do I rehearse? Take this list, the seven deadly hindrances and go through it. You might only have to deal with one, you could have to deal with seven, I don’t know. Look this person in the eye and say, “You know what, when anger happens in my life, here is what I do with my best friend, at work, on the freeway. I am not sure why this is happening.” Articulate it. We almost come cleaner when we involve someone else in the loop. We articulate it better. It builds accountability and responsibility. I am challenging you to do that. But you know what? I can’t force you to do it. You can’t force me to do it. The diving mask is on the boat, you are hung up, I am hung up, it is our choice to either pick up the mask or not. But before we pick the mask up isn’t it about time we stop rocking the boat, put down our paddles and turn off the motor? We should pick up the mask, put the mask on, jump in, admit it to God and another. You will be glad that you did.