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

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