Summary: Change in the Christian life must first come in the mind.
Imagine with me for a second that it’s the first day of school. You have already had four classes, and you are carrying around all of your books because you haven’t had time to go to your locker yet because you have been using all of your time just trying to find your new classes. You are walking down the steps of a crowded hallway when out of the corner of your eye, you see them. You know who I’m talking about. The guy, the girl, the one you have been thinking about all summer long, but it’s been three months since you’ve had a glimpse of their face. As your eyes meet theirs, your face begins to crack a smile, but just as you begin to smile… oh no! You trip! You thought you were at the bottom of the steps, but it turns out you still had one step to go. It all feels like slow motion. You begin to fall. As you begin to fall, you put your arms out to brace yourself and your books…they go flying. You feel your face hit the ground and slowly rub up against the floor that has already been walked on by 1,000 kids today.
You are dejected. You are humiliated. In fact, you are quite sure that this IS the most embarrassing moment of your life. But just as you are telling yourself this, it gets worse. Some punk from the top of the stairs decides to yell at the top of his lungs, “HA! YOU IDIOT!” Oh no…yep…it has gotten worse. You are beyond being humiliated now—you are enraged. Thoughts start racing through your mind, “This is it, I’m finished. My life is ruined. UGH! That stupid kid. Why did he have to say that? I gotta get him back. I’m gonna get him back. Just then, without even thinking, you race up the stairs, lunge at the heckler and push him to ground. But just as you are feeling victorious, the principal taps your shoulder. Unfortunately for you, he didn’t happen to see the beginning of the story, and you find yourself in detention. When you get home that day, your parents are beyond upset. You’ve gotten in trouble again. What’s your problem? How come you keep screwing up? How come you keep sinning? Why don’t you just stop it?
But we have to stop and ask ourselves here. How easy is it to just stop sinning? Can we ever just say, “Nope. I’m NOT gonna struggle with that anymore. Do we have the willpower to pull that off? It’s kind of like, when your parents say to you: “You’re crabby. Lighten up!” “Oh, sure, HEY, I’m happy now! Let me just flick on the happy switch!” It doesn’t work like that, right? Well, neither can we flick on the switch to have self-control in our lives. Furthermore, how can we expect change to happen simply by willing ourselves to change: “Uhh, I’m going to…….not party anymore!” “I’m…not gonna have sex anymore!” It doesn’t work like that! But yet, that’s often what we try and do. Maybe we don’t try and make changes that drastically, but essentially what we are doing is trying to change on our own willpower. But, how is that any different from the world? How is that any different than any new year’s resolution that any non-Christian would make? No wonder we don’t statistically look any different than non-Christians, that just as many Christians get divorced and struggle with other sins as non-Christians. We are trying to be transformed and changed in exactly the same way the world is. We are waging war against sin by using their methods.
Let me read to you a passage of Scripture. Here’s what Paul writes. It is in 2 Corinthians chapter 10, verses 3-5. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. Whoa, wait a second, we’re supposed to fight differently right? The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world (which is to just use willpower) On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. See, we have divine power! We have Jesus! But the problem is, we’re just not using him to help fight our problems. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. See, we are to wage war against our sin. To wage war using Jesus Christ. But the battle, the battle is not on the outside. The battle is on the inside. “It’s all inside” Like JC Penney. The battle is for us to be renewed in our minds, to have the mind of Christ.
Too often all we ever do is focus on the external problem that we can see. In front of us we have a row of dominoes. Imagine for a second that the last domino is your outward sin. The time you gossiped, swore, or pushed a kid in school. However, you will notice that there are many, many things that lead up to that sin. But too often, all we ever do is look at that last domino and scream, “YOU! Why do you keep falling over, stop it!” We are not looking at the whole picture because there are so many things that lead up to that sin. For instance, in the story I told earlier, when the student was on the ground, all the thoughts started running through their head. They thought, “UGH, I’m so embarrassed. I can’t believe that guy said something. I’m so mad. I hate them. I’m gonna get them back. You know what, I’m gonna go push him right now.” It happens quickly, but it happens in our head. So we must realize that if we want to win the war against our sin, we have to start fighting in our head first. So when some punk yells, “Idiot,” and an evil thought comes in to our minds, we have to stop the train there.