Making Changes, transformation (Romans 12:1-2)

Life’s Hurts, Habits and Hang-ups and Their Healing Choices
Subtitle: Making Changes, transformation (Romans 12:1-2)
Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, June 30, 2019

We are going to be looking at Romans 12:1-2 in a few minutes. Please turn there.

We have been walking through the 8 steps to healing from the book, “Life’s Healing Choices.” These are the steps outlined by number. These are 8 principles and each principle is a Christian version of the 12 steps of the 12 step method of recovery. These 8 principles/steps are an acronym that spell “recovery.” If you are a Christian, then you are in recovery. We are all in recovery from our sin problem. In addition to that we all have hurts, habits and hangups from the world. We are on number 5 today.

Celebrate Recovery’s Eight Recovery Principles

1. Realize I’m not God; I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. (Step 1 of the 12 step method)

2. Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him and that He has the power to help me recover. (Step 2 of the 12 step method)

3. Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control. (Step 3 of the 12 step method)

4. Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust. (Steps 4 and 5 of the 12 step method)

5. Voluntarily submit to any and all changes God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects. (Steps 6 and 7 of the 12 step method)

6. Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others when possible, except when to do so would harm them or others. (Steps 8 and 9 of the 12 step method)

7. Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will. (Steps 10 and 11 of the 12 step method)
8. Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and my words. (Step 12 of the 12 step method)

We are now on step 5:
Voluntarily submit to any and all changes God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects. (Steps 6 and 7 of the 12 step method)

Read with me:
Romans 12:1-2 tells us:
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

We will come back to that passage in a little bit.

So, my theme is taken from step 5:
Be transformed!

I. What is wrong?
a. We have defects and these defects come from three sources.
1. Biological
2. Sociological
3. Theological.
b. In the book, “Life’s Healing Choices” these are called: Chromosomes, circumstances and choices.”
c. Each of our parents contributes 2300 chromosomes to our birth. However, this is not excuse for our hurts, habits or hangups. This just shows there are certain habits that are part of our DNA.
d. Socially, we have a legitimate need for love, respect and security. But as we grow up the social circumstances we face develop who we are. Even as adults, we are still changing based on our social circumstances. Some, even many, of these are good things. But there are some negative hurts, habits and hangups which we develop as well. Sometimes we develop hurts, habits and hangups as a way to protect ourselves from certain people or situations. Or, maybe we excuse them that way. Sometimes our hurts, habits and hangups are a response to a situation, or situations.
e. Theologically, we have a nature and this goes back to Adam and Eve. We are also in a fallen world.
i. Creation: everything was created good (Gen 1-2).
ii. Fall: humanity fell from grace, we have a sin problem. We also have diseases mental, physical, etc (Gen 3).
iii. Redemption: (Jesus saved us, but we are not in Heaven yet (Romans 3:23 and 6:23).
iv. Restoration: someday God will make all things new (Rev. 21-22).
a. So, we have these hurts, habits and hangups and sometimes they become comfortable, like an old pair of shoes. They may be comfortable like an old pair of shoes. Even though they have holes in them.
f. Why is it so hard to change?
i. We confuse the defects with our identity.
ii. We often confuse our identity with our character defects. We say, “That’s just the way I am.” We identify ourselves by our defects when we say, “It’s just like me to be a workaholic or overweight or anxious or passive. It’s just like me to be fearful or lose my temper or to lust.” Our words and thoughts become self-fulfilling prophecies. If you say, “I’m always nervous when I get on planes,” what’s going to happen the next time you get on a plane? You’re going to be nervous.
iii. Every defect has a payoff. A mom who is struggling with her anger might politely say to her children, “Kids, come to dinner.” When they don’t come, she asks them again. When they still don’t come, she yells, “Kids, come down to dinner, or you are going to get me mad, and you know what happens then!” Then they come. Unconsciously, the kids have set up their mother to yell and get mad, and Mom has figured out that yelling works. There’s the payoff.
iv. Satan discourages our efforts to change. John 8:44: You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
II. What does the Bible say?
a. Let’s go back to Romans 12:1-2.
b. Black is the opposite of white, wet is the opposite of dry, left is the opposite of right, winter is the opposite of summer. There are many opposites in our life. The world is the opposite of God. The world opposes God. James 4:4 says that friendship with the world is enmity (hostility, ill will) with God. In John 17 Jesus prayed about the world hating the disciples and Him. In Gal 1:4 Paul talked about this “present evil age” or “world.” There is a dichotomy between Christians and the world. There is a difference between the things of God and the things of this world.
c. Let’s focus on verse 2. In verse 2 Paul calls us to avoid worldly contamination and have spiritual transformation:
d. We can present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy, by not being conformed to this age, but by being transformed.
e. These words: “Conformed” and “transformed” are both commands.
i. Transformed is the word for metamorphosis. This is the same word used to describe a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. We must have a gradual change to be more and more like Christ.
ii. I think of Clark Kent changing into Superman
f. The New American Commentary: The verb occurs in two other settings in the New Testament. First is Mark 9:2 (Matt 17:2), where Jesus is said to have been “transfigured” before his three disciples. Next is 2 Cor 3:18, where Paul taught that believers, as they behold the glory of the Lord, are being “transformed” into his likeness. The transformation of which Paul spoke in Rom 12:2 is not a change effected from without but a radical reorientation that begins deep within the human heart.
g. This happens by renewing our mind
i. Paul doesn’t tell us what to renew our mind in, but I can take some guesses
ii. I think of walking according to the Spirit in Romans 8, which sets one’s mind on things above.
iii. I also can’t help but think of Jesus’ command “to deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (Mark 8:34; Matt 16:24; Luke 9:23)
iv. Don’t be conformed, but be transformed to discern God’s will. We should renew our mind in God’s word.
v. This, “don’t be conformed” passage is quite memorable: I like it. This is a rhetorical nice and memorable verse.
h. When we are transformed we can test God’s well
i. 1 Thess. 5:21 says to “test everything”
ii. We must test things to make sure they fall under God’s will. We can’t do this when we are of the world, but only when we are of God. God’s will is good and acceptable.
iii. We cannot test these things when we are still in the world.
i. Come out of the world, be Christ like. There is a difference between the world and Christianity.
III. What is the treatment from this step (Most of this comes from the book, Life’s Healing Choices)?
a. How do we cooperate with God’s change plans? All of us have picked up worldly habits. We all have hurts, habits or hangups.
b. We can only change by God’s power.
c. Focus on changing 1 defect at a time Proverbs 17:24: Wisdom is in the presence of the one who has understanding,
But the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.
d. Focus on one specific change at a time: anger, anxiety, worry.
e. Focus on 1 victory at a time.
f. We live in a world of instant everything: mashed potatoes, coffee, microwave popcorn, even information. And we want instant spiritual maturity. One day we are a total mess, and we want to be Billy Graham the next. It doesn’t happen that way. There’s another old saying: “Life by the yard is hard, but by the inch, it’s a cinch.”
g. Don’t set a deadline, some things you will be working on for your life.
h. Ask God to help you just for today: “Lord, just for this day, I want to be patient and not get angry. Just for today, protect me from going to those Internet sites. Just for today, help me think pure thoughts instead of lustful ones.
i. Focus on the day.
j. Thank Him at the end of the day.
k. Focus on God’s power, not your will power.
l. Try to imagine God literally taking away your character defect. Let’s say you are working on your temper. Imagine taking your temper out and opening up the garbage can. Imagine putting your temper into the garbage can, sealing the lid, and taking the garbage can out to the curb. Then imagine the garbage truck pulling up by the side of the road. See the sign on the side that says, “God & Son, Doing Business with People Like You for 2000 Years.” Watch them pick up the garbage, dump it in the truck, and smash it down. Then watch as the truck turns around and speeds off, taking your defect with it. Some days you will need your garbage picked up about every hour. Talk to God about it: “God, it’s going into the garbage.” Then let God take it away. Willpower doesn’t work. You have to trust God’s power, not your own. He can help you change your character defects if you submit to Him and pray, “Lord, I know I can’t change on my own power, but I’m trusting You to change me.”
m. Focus on the good things, not the bad (Phil 4:8).
n. Did you know that 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 think God’s Word over and over.
o. Focus on good, not feeling. Fake it until you make it is good in this case.
p. Focus on people who help, not hinder.
q. Focus on progress, not perfection
IV. Action (Most of this comes from the book, Life’s Healing Choices):
a. Pray
b. Write: In addition to writing in your journal, this action step will provide you with some Bible promises to help you focus on the good things, not the bad.
i. On one side of each card write scripture,
ii. On the other side write a practical application of the verse in the form of a personal affirmation.
b. Share with a prayer partner.
i. Share the one defect God has guided you to focus on changing first. Be honest about the character defect, how it has hurt you and how it has hurt others.
ii. Share the progress God is making in your life in changing this defect. Be honest about your level of cooperation.
iii. Share about your efforts to act yourself into a better way of feeling. Share the negative feelings you’re trying to replace, and share the positive actions you’re taking even though you don’t yet have the feelings to match.

Robert Bellah, a sociologist who teaches at the University of California at Berkeley, is very interested in the influence of religion on the community. In an interview in Psychology Today he said, “We should not underestimate the significance of the small group of people who have a new vision of a just and gentle world. The quality of a culture may be changed when 2 percent of its people have a new vision.”

There are many more than 2 percent Christians in your country and mine. Then why aren’t we having more effect? Why aren’t we having more influence? I pray that God will call you to permeate non-Christian society for Christ, to take your stand there uncompromisingly with the value system and moral standards of Jesus.
Eugene Peterson shares:
Everybody treats us so nicely. No one seems to think that we mean what we say. When we say “kingdom of God,” no one gets apprehensive, as if we had just announced (which we thought we had) that a powerful army is poised on the border, ready to invade. When we say radical things like “Christ,” “love,” “believe,” “peace,” and “sin” — words that in other times and cultures excited martyrdoms–the sounds enter the stream of conversation with no more splash than baseball scores and grocery prices.

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