Expecting Perfection, Accepting Humanity
Part 6: Making Changes ~ May 12, 2019
Because of Easter, Youth Sunday, and a missionary last week, it’s been almost a month since we heard a message from in series, Expecting Perfection, Accepting Humanity. Let me do a little review to refresh our memories.
This series has multiple goals in mind. The first goal is for Christians to accept that we will never be finished products while we’re alive and will always be works in progress until we pass from this life by way of the grave or Christ’s return. The second goal is to see us launch a new ministry called Celebrate Recovery. Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered 12-step program for people struggling with hurt, pain, or addiction of any kind. It is a safe place for people to find community and freedom from the issues controlling their lives.
A tagline for Celebrate Recovery is freedom from your hurts, habits, and hang-ups. Whether our own or those of someone we love, at one time or another, in one season or another, we’ve all dealt with hurts, habits, and hang-ups that have negatively affected us.
When I started this series, I painted a non-flattering yet realistic picture of us as human beings. We are sinful, broken, and hopelessly lost apart from our Savior, Jesus Christ. When we surrender our lives to him, we bring baggage with us, and that baggage needs to be unpacked and processed. This series is about the choices we must make to unpack that baggage and deal with it in healthy, productive, and godly ways. Those choices are …
- Admitting need
- Getting help
- Letting go
- Coming clean
- Making changes
- Repairing relationships
- Maintaining momentum
- Recycling pain
Today, we are looking at choice #5, making changes.
- I can be difficult admitting our need.
- It can be difficult to get the help we need.
- It can be difficult to let go of things, and people, and hurts, habits, and hang-ups.
- These things may be difficult, but they are necessary if we are to become the people God has destined us to be.
- People who are being conformed to the image of Christ.
- People who love God, love people and are making disciples.
We may be tempted to think that nothing needs to change in our lives. Or that change isn’t a pressing issue for us since we’re not as bad as other people are. That’s all hogwash because God never compares us to other people. Christ is always the standard…and there isn’t one of us who can take comfort in the fact that we are perfect reflections of the Savior.
The Apostle Paul wrote these words to the Christians in Rome: 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, (Romans 12:2, NLT).
I think we can paraphrase the first part of Paul’s words to touch on another reality of life. Don’t perpetuate the behavior and customs of your family or the way you’ve learned to get along in this life. Instead, 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, pleasing, and perfect.
To help us understand the need for change, I want you to look at someone around you and say, “I’m defective.” Now, let’s all say it together on the count of 3, one, two, three, “I’m defective.”
To be defective means to have shortcomings, faults, or imperfections. If you are defective, say
None of us are free of shortcomings, faults, and imperfections. We all have hurts, habits, and hang-ups, but where do they come from? Thanks for asking. Let me suggest three sources. This is not an exhaustive list, but it is helpful for us.
Where do our defects come from?
Some of our defects come from our parents. Stay with me. We aren’t going on a parent-bashing expedition, and we aren’t blaming parents for everything wrong in a person’s life. However, we did pick up some defects from our parents.
Krista is convinced my mother had a defect that she passed on to me. It is seen in this sentence and attitude: You can eat what’s been cooked, or you can do without. That was my mother’s philosophy to mealtime.
I see how some of you want to gag just a little when you hear me say how much I like scrapple. Well, I want to gag a little every time someone says they like liver. I hate liver. If despise is a stronger word than hate, then I despise liver. If loathe is a stronger word than despise, then I loathe liver. If abhor is a stronger word than loathe, then I loathe liver. Let there be no misunderstanding, I absolutely hate, despise, loathe, and abhor liver with every fiber of my being.
Why do I feel so strongly about
I have tried liver more times in my life than I could ever count, and the result was always the same—I was repulsed by the taste!
Now, why would Krista see this as a defect? Because she, like my dear, sweet mother-in-law, would offer to make something different for each child if they as much as looked askance at what was being served. And they did it with a sweet grace that, in my mind, was its own defect. I mean, how would these children ever learn that life didn’t always revolve around them? Sheesh!
That’s not the kind of defects I’m talking about inheriting from our parents. Truth be told, we inherited some of our parent's strengths and weaknesses. We inherited positive traits from them and also negative characteristics. This often explains our predisposition to certain actions, attitudes, and problems. This predisposition doesn’t give us an excuse for inappropriate behavior, but it can provide some understanding of why we are the way we are.
Some of our defects come from our circumstances. Much of how we behave and relate to others were learned from watching others—parents, siblings, peers, teachers, coaches. We developed patterns and habits; many of them were attempts to protect ourselves, to handle hurt and rejection, and to cope. Many of our current character defects are self-defeating attempts to satisfy our unmet needs.
Some of our defects come from our choices. These are the most significant sources of our character defects because they are things we can do something about. We can’t control or change who our parents are. We can’t go back and change the environment of our childhood. But we can, with God’s power, change the choices we make. We develop our hang-ups because we repeat negative choices. And if we choose to do something long enough, it becomes a habit. Once it becomes a habit, we’re stuck.
It’s one thing to understand the need to change, but it’s altogether different to really change. Why is change so hard? Let me suggest four reasons. Again, this is not an exhaustive list, but it is food for thought.
- Most of us have had our hang-ups and habits for a long time. Many are painful and self-defeating, but we hold on to them because they are familiar. They’re comfortable like an old pair of shoes.
- We identify ourselves by our defects. Our words and thoughts become self-fulfilling prophecies.
- Our defects have a payoff. The payoff may be temporary relief from pain. It may be attention or control. Our defects give us an excuse to fail or allow us to compensate for the guilt in our lives. The payoff may be self-destructive, but it brings some sort of perceived benefit.
- Satan discourages our efforts to change. He constantly tries to fill our minds with negative thoughts. He accuses us. He lies to us, and he lies about us. The negativity, accusations, and lies sometimes seen to bombard our lives so that we begin to believe them and live them.
Change may be hard, but it is necessary, and it is worth it!
Let’s go back to Paul’s words to the Romans and our paraphrase: Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person… Don’t perpetuate the behavior and customs of your family or the way you’ve learned to get along in this life. Instead, let God transform you into a new person…
If we’re going to let God changes us, we need to cooperate with him. Please note what Paul said, “let God change you.” He didn’t say this was
- Start small. Ask God to help you focus on changing on defect at a time. If you try to attack the whole ball of wax, you’ll be overwhelmed and discouraged.
- Take one step at a time. One day at a time. Don’t focus on next week, next month, or next year. Focus on doing the next right thing.
- Let God empower you. If your own will power worked, you would have already changed.
- Remember, you are what you think. Every time you think a thought-positive or negative-it sends an electrical impulse across your brain and that impulse creates a path. Every time you think the same thought, the path gets deeper and reinforces that brain pattern. Some of us have negative ruts in our minds because we’ve thought the same negative things over and over. But we can also create positive pathways in our mind. Every time we think about a scriptural truth, we reinforce that positive brain pattern. The only way to replace the negative ruts is to
thinkGod’s Word over and over.
- Don’t wait until you feel like changing. If you wait until you feel like changing, you’ll never change. If you do the right thing, your feelings will eventually catch up with you. It’s easier to act your way into a feeling than to feel your way into an action. (repeat) Do the right thing even though you don’t feel like it. Do it because it’s the right thing to do.
- Mind the company you keep. Paul wrote these words to the church in Corinth, Greece: Do not be fooled: “Bad friends will ruin good habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33, NCV)
- Rest in God’s love. Life change is a process. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that God will only love you once you reach a certain stage. God loves you at each stage of recovery and growth. God will never love you any more than He does at this very minute. And He will never love you any less than He does right now. It’s the direction of your heart that pleases Him.
He loves us enough to superintend the process of that change if we will submit to him and cooperate with him.
Some of us know we need to make changes. We also know we need to pray these kinds of prayers today:
- Lord, I need to change, help my fear of change.
- Lord, I need to change, help my unwillingness to change.
If that’s you, stand with me today and let’s ask God to help us cooperate with Him.
We have a tendency to judge ourselves and others as finished products when we are all works in progress. We need to learn to accept that fact.