Getting to the Root of My Problems

Slide1           The companion booklet to this message series (available on Amazon) is titled, “Change me.”  I want you to read the sub-title; Notice what it says… “When you really want to change.”  Here’s what is interesting about that sub-title; sometimes we don’t actually WANT to change!

Have you ever said, “I’ll never do that again!” only to repeat the same mistake a few days later?  Have you ever vowed to stop sinning, only to do it again just hours or even minutes later?  Mark Twain once wrote, “To promise not to do a thing is the surest way in the world to make a body want to go and do that very thing.”

“I’m never going to smoke again…” and suddenly you have this indescribable urge to have cigarette, or drink, or gamble, or whatever.  What IS it with us humans? Why do we act so contrary to our own self-interests … and so often?

Our problem isn’t lack of information. Bookstores are stocked with countless books about how to eat less and exercise more; dozens of experts advise us to save and invest our money; wise friends warn us to stay away from troublesome lovers. We have plenty of information on getting rid of clutter, managing time, overcoming addiction, managing our finances, and becoming a better person. But all this information doesn’t appear to really change us. We know what we should do but we still don’t do it.

In fact, all too often we do just the opposite of what we know is good for us! We overeat and under-exercise; we spend every last nickel; we fall in love with and marry the wrong person – again. We buy useless stuff we don’t need nor afford, we procrastinate and fritter away time, neglect our bodies, drink to excess, are overcome with anger, distress, depression and anxiety. If anyone else treated us the way we treat ourselves, we’d be outraged![i]

Paul summarized our problem in Romans 7:15, “The things that I want to do, I fail to do, and instead I do the things that I hate myself for doing.”  (paraphrase).

So why do we do the things we do?  What are the root causes of my sins?  If we don’t address the real reasons behind our sin, we will only treat it superficially, adjusting our behavior, not our hearts. God doesn’t want mere behavioral adjustment; he wants affectionate obedience!  Nor will mere attempts at behavioral change really change our deepest motivations.

Many of our sins can be traced back to a deep erroneous belief or a serious fallaciousSlide2 lie. These false promises of acceptance, approval, satisfaction, worth, beauty, and significance have deceived us. If we are to discover true freedom we need the ability to expose those lies. Cultivate a habit of looking beneath your sin to expose the lie underneath it. Once we understand why we sin, we can replace those false promises and the truth that will set us free.[ii]  The Psalmist put it this way:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Psalm 139:23-24

Slide3

You have probably seen this phenomena in the forest somewhere.  A tree falls down flat on the ground.  But instead of dying, it sprouts branches that turn into three or four or five trees.  It doesn’t do any good to cut off those shoots.  If you want to kill the tree, you have to pull it out by the roots!  This morning I want to review four root causes of sin, so that you can begin to remove the root and not the shoot.

Slide4#1.  Bad Company – 1 Cor 15:33

Do not be deceived: “Bad companions corrupt good morals.”

As a root problem, this one is a little different than the others because this one can also be a symptom of a deeper problem.  The truth here is that you often end up imitating the kind of people that you hang around with.  Or (the deeper problem) you hang around those people because you are like them already.  Friendships are critical to faith.  Be careful who you associate with.

If you want to be a successful Christian, hang around other good Christians.  If you want to stay sober, stay away from drunks.  If you have a problem with gossip, don’t hang around the gossip circle.  If you struggle with depression, keep away from people who drag you down.

But please be wary of the danger of blaming the people around you for the way you behave.  Don’t play the blame game, you know the one where you blame your job, your wife, your dog, your mother-in-law, your neighbor six doors down, the media, the government, the receptionist at your doctor’s office, the culture, God, millennials, your lack of education, your medication, the devil, or the dressmaker who measured you wrong as though somehow everyone else is responsible for the problems that you have.

Slide5

If you are hanging around bad company, it’s your problem.  Walk away.

Slide6#2.  Unbelief or Ignorance – Eph 4:17-19

17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer live as the rest of the Gentiles live, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

There are two things that Paul is saying in these verses.  #1 Pagans live their lives based on unbelief, ignorance of God’s Word and blindness to spiritual things.  Because they have never been saved and transformed by Jesus they often see nothing wrong with sin, in fact they celebrate it.  Without God, they think nothing is wrong with getting drunk, getting high, becoming transgender, or indulging in lust… and the list goes on.

But they are paying a terrible price for their ignorance and unbelief.  Is it any surprise that transgenders have a suicide rate of 40 percent or that Homosexuals are 3 times as prone to suicide?[iii][iv]  Does it surprise you that Alcohol abuse is involved in over a quarter of suicides?  You cannot sin and get away with it.  You cannot rationalize or justify your sin and get away with it.

What is the answer to the Pagan problem of overindulgence in sin?  You must be born again!  You must submit your life to Jesus.

The second thing that Paul is saying in these verses is to Christians:  #2 Christians are not to live like pagans.  We are not to live in ignorance or unbelief.  There is no excuse for a Christian to be ignorant of sin.  The Bible clearly lists numerous hazardous sins that we are told to avoid.  We are not to justify them nor celebrate them.

Slide8

But Christians often live in unbelief?  One of the root causes of sin is unbelief.  James 1:6-7 tells us that if we doubt that God can answer our prayers, we cannot expect to receive deliverance or anything from the Lord.  Ephesians 6:16 tells us to take up the shield of faith in order to quench the fiery temptations of the Evil one.  Faith is the opposite of unbelief.  While Pagans live in unbelief, Christians must not follow their example.

Slide9#3  A Pleasure Driven Heart – James 1:13-14

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.

Hebrews 11:25 describes our problem as “loving the pleasures of sin for a season.”  James 4:1-4 traces our problem to our selfish desire for pleasure.  We want what we want to spend it on our own pleasures.

Sin would be very easy to avoid if it weren’t so pleasurable. There isn’t a single sin that doesn’t carry a pleasure (whether it is a worthy pleasure or not). If sin didn’t contain this aspect, it would be very easy to avoid it.

Sin and pleasure have a very troubling relationship. When we first are enticed into a sin, it is the potential pleasure that lures us. As we become more impassioned, we often find that the pleasure which we once received is no longer experienced, or if it is still there, it is weakened and often even disappointing.

The fact is that we love our sin and it is destroying us.  It is not so much that our anger is destroying us, it is that we love to be angry!  It is not so much that laziness is destroying us, it is that we love to be lazy!  It is not so much that our anxiety is destroying us, it is that we love to worry!  We love to gossip! We love to lust!

Slide10

1 John 2:15 challenges us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”

We need to pray that God would give us a personal revulsion and disgust for the sins that we commit.  And a desire to please Him instead of pleasing ourselves.  That leads us to our final root of our sins.

Slide11#4 Lack of Love for God – Matthew 22:37-40

In Matthew 22, Jesus explained that there is really only one way to overcome our sin and obey the Law.  This was His solution:

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Modern psychology suggests all kinds of ways to modify your behavior, but they fail to get at the root of the problem.  The root is this, you love your pleasures too much, and you don’t love Jesus near enough.  To really change your heart, you must pray, and ask God to give you personal revulsion for sin and a deep and emotional love for the Savior.  Only love is enough to change your heart.  Love for God and love for your neighbor.

Galatians 5 expands on this idea.  3 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

This then is the answer to changing the root problems of your life.  You must seek to love Jesus more than you have ever loved Him before.  You must seek to live a life focused on the Holy Spirit.  Your new passion and love must be Jesus.  If you do not remove love of pleasure and replace it with love of Jesus, you will never find the motivation to change.

Slide12

What is your motive for action? What drives you in your life today? if we misunderstand the root of our problem, we will miss TRUE and COMPLETE healing! It’s like trying to treat cancer with a Band-Aid.  Have you failed to love the lord and your neighbor with all your heart?  Have you failed to live in the spirit and think on spiritual things?  I’m here because I believe that a passionate love for Jesus is the force that will change your life.  Because I believe that the invisible force of internal drive, activated, is the most important thing that will successfully fix the root of the problem in your life.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Psalm 139:23-24

[i] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bj-gallagher/why-dont-we-do-the-things_b_409428.html

[ii] https://www.crossway.org/blog/2012/04/know-your-sin/

[iii] http://thefederalist.com/2016/07/07/evidence-the-transgender-suicide-rate-isnt-due-to-discrimination/

[iv] https://cola.unh.edu/sites/cola.unh.edu/files/student-journals/P12_Schaaff.pdf

What’s My Motivation for Change?

Every one of us is a little dysfunctional.  For some of us life sucks.  Many are struggling with deep, dark, demons like depression, anxiety, anger, alcoholism, addiction, gossip, bitterness, lust, or resentment.

We all have some character flaw we inherited from our parents, some bad habit we picked up somewhere in the past, some unhealthy defense mechanism we default to, some faulty belief that is deceiving and degrading us, or some terrible sin we’ve become addicted to which we just can’t shake.

For example, In 2011, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that antidepressant use in the United States has increased nearly 400% in the last two decades. By 2008, 23% of women ages 40–59 years were taking antidepressants.[i]

We are in serious trouble. I feel the turmoil, confusion, and pain of the people I associate with. It touches my heart to see their struggles.  We want to be better.  We want to be free from our sins.  It’s just that we’ve tried and failed so often that we have begun to wonder whether or not there is any hope.  I love this little saying I ran across this week: “You can’t keep dancing with the Devil, and then wonder why you are still in hell!”

Whatever your regret, Christ has the answer.  You’ve tried but you can’t, but with Jesus, you can.  That’s why I’m preaching this series of messages.  That’s why Jesus died!  He came to free you from your sins.  I’m going to take you through a series of steps, which, if you follow them faithfully and sincerely, Jesus will faithfully deliver you.

The very first thing you must do is to do an examination of yourself to determine why you want to change.  At first it may seem like a no brainer.  After all, you’re broken and you want to be fixed.  You are hurt, and you want to be healed.  What more, besides that, do you need to know?

For the answer to that, let’s look at the success rate of New Year’s Resolutions.  Is anyone in here still keeping their new year’s resolution?  It turns out that about 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions.[ii]  According to U.S. News, 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February.[iii]  That number eventually increases to over a 90% failure rate.  The University of Scranton researchers suggest that only 8% of the people actually achieve their goals.[iv]

Why is that?  It turns out that motivation is critical!  Most people fail because they fail to maintain their motivation for a long period of time.  Your motivation will have an exacting, direct impact on your success.  In your booklet on page 6, there is a list of motivations.  Look it over and check all motivations that apply.

I want to overcome my sin because:

  • I am embarrassed or ashamed of how I act.
  • I don’t want to feel this way anymore.
  • I want to stop hurting myself and / or others.
  • I want to be successful.
  • I want to be a better mother / father / husband / wife etc.
  • I don’t believe Christians should act this way.
  • I want to live a holy and pure life.
  • I want to please / glorify God

While some of these may be good motivations, and while we may be motivated by several of them, the reality is that there is one motivation that outshines them all.  There is one motivation, that without it, you might as well join a self help group or go to a secular psychologist, because without this essential value in place you can’t honestly ever expect to fix yourself.  What is that motivation?  Let’s find out.

Today I am going to lead you through three powerful motivations, and show you how you can put them to work for you in changing your life.  Here is the first one.

The Motivation of Fear

the motivation of fear

9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the fear of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.

There is much we could discuss here, but I want to focus on one statement, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ… 11 Knowing, therefore, the fear of the Lord, we persuade men.”

Fear is a great motivator.  We have a tendency to dismiss fear as a weakness, but it’s not that simple. Fear can be incredibly useful.   Fear can be your friend in just the right doses.  There is healthy fear and there is unhealthy fear. Fear can preserve your life from doing stupid stuff. Fear of breaking the law and fear of angering others can prevent you from making stupid choices.

There is one fear that stands out, among all other fears that we ought to nurture, and that is the fear of the Lord.  Proverbs tells us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  Here’s why.  God knows what you are thinking, even when no one else does.  God knows what you are doing even when no one else is around.

So it is essential that we gain an attitude of respect toward God, which includes a healthy dread of displeasing Him.  So how do you gain a healthy fear of God?  #1 Recognize his presence daily and cultivate his presence.  Spend time in prayer with the Almighty.  #2 Meditate on God’s Word and the majestic greatness of God.  Remind yourself he is all powerful.  #3 Act as though God is with you at all times, because He is.  When you fail, admit that you’ve been caught.  When you are wrong, seek his forgiveness.

2 Corinthians 5:10 gives us another way to cultivate the fear of God.  Recognize that God will one day reprimand your wrongdoings and reward your obedience.  We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.  If you want to get better, cultivate fear.

The Motivation of LoveThe Motivation of Love

14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

The Love of Christ compels us.  Fear motivates, but only in proper doses.  Love also motivates.  It is a higher motivation.  In fact, Jesus said that the number one thing you can do is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Virtually nothing motivates a person more than love.  Being deeply loved gives you strength, loving deeply gives you courage.  When I look at the great men and women in literature, art, music, science and achievement, I notice one defining commonality between all of them –they did what they did because they loved it!  They overcame because Love is motivational.

Love is compelling.  Love is a motivation that will produce lasting change in your life.  You do what you love, and you avoid hurting those you do love.  The love of Christ compels us – verse 15 – so that we should no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died for us.  If you fall in love with Jesus, You will soon quit living destructively, and begin living for Him!  That’s what love does!  Love compels us to change.

Above all things, cultivate your love for Jesus.  Remind yourself daily how much you love Jesus and want to serve Him.  Tell Jesus that you’ll serve him and obey him and do anything He says.  Love intensely, and love will change your life.

The Highest MotivationTo Glorify God

1 Corinthians 6:19 “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

The highest motivation of all is the Glory of God.  If you are only trying to get better because of you, your motivation will be limited to what you can do.  But if you want Divine transformation, you must have your motivation right!  You must decide to live a pure life because it pleases God.  You must want to overcome sin because it displeases God.  You must decide right now that the purpose of your entire life, and every action of your life is for the highest reason ever: to glorify God!

What does it mean “to glorify God?”  Glorifying God means to acknowledge His greatness and give Him honor by bowing before him because He, and He alone, deserves to be praised, honored and worshipped.

Notice the implications of this:  Vs 19 “You are a temple.”  “…your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you.”  In order to do things for God’s glory, in order to experience real life change, you must understand that God made your body as a temple – that means that your body was made for God to inhabit – the Holy Spirit lives in you, and you were made to worship , so you should cultivate worship as part of your daily routine.

The second implication is in verse 19 and 20- “You are not your own, you were bought with a price.”  In order to truly change, you must recognize who your master and owner is.  Christian, God owns you!  You don’t have rights over your own thoughts, your own time, your own actions; God owns you so that you have a duty to obey him!  So take a moment right now to adjust your motivation so that your only purpose in existence is Jesus.

We want to change, but change is so hard!

Have you ever switched from junk foods to healthful foods and felt sick to your stomach? Or stopped smoking and nearly chewed your fingers off?  Have you cut back on watching television, spending or gambling and noticed how your former compatriots in those activities tried to nudge you back into doing those things?  You need the right kind of motivation to effect real change!

According to the research of Dr. Anders Ericsson, motivation is the most significant predictor of success.  Dr. Ericsson found that experts in many walks of life, whether sport, music, chess, dance, or business, had put in the most hours at their craft. He coined the phrase, “It takes 10 years and 10,000 hours to become an expert.”  In other words, the most successful people just keep plugging away longer than others.  Finding the motivation to change means maintaining your efforts consistently when it would be easy to give up.[v]

The most successful people just keep plugging away longer than others. Why is the relationship between motivation and success so robust? Because high motivation will ensure you keep going when everyone else quits.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing.. That’s why we recommend it daily.”

What’s my motivation for wanting to change?  Fear of failure is a good place to start.  Love for God is life changing.  And giving yourself up t to live for Jesus and the glory of God will take you where you need to go.

Change is HardIn closing let me give you the three Ds of motivation:  The first D stands for direction. Before you can change, you must first consider the direction you should go in your life.  In our case the direction is downward to the knees to please God.  The second D represents decision.  Once you know the direction, you must choose to head in that direction.  Choose this day, whom you will serve!  The third D stands for dedication. Once you’ve made your decision, you must dedicate yourself to it.

  • Yes! I want to live my life for the glory of God!  Dear Jesus, I am all yours!

 

[i] http://www.alternet.org/personal-health/how-our-society-breeds-anxiety-depression-and-dysfunction

[ii] http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

[iii] http://www.businessinsider.com/new-years-resolutions-courses-2016-12

[iv] https://www.forbes.com/sites/dandiamond/2013/01/01/just-8-of-people-achieve-their-new-years-resolutions-heres-how-they-did-it/#c3806bb596b2

[v] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-prime/201201/personal-growth-motivation-the-drive-change