The lies we tell ourselves Part 1
January 3rd, 2021
Matthew 4:17, Romans 12:2
It is a little weird talking to an empty room, except for the worship team and production people. By the way, we are conforming to the health guidelines in creating this service. We are allowed up to 10 people in the church, socially distancing. We are grouping the people on the platform by households, and keeping our distance.
There are some upsides to preaching to a camera. I can tell a joke, and I can imagine you laughing. – If you don’t find it funny, I will never know. The story I am telling myself, is that my jokes are hilarious.
This being the new year, many people are thinking about change. I imagine some of you have made New Years resolutions. Others of you are thinking about what you want to change in the upcoming year.
The focus of our series over the next couple of months will be about transformation. I am calling the series, “The Lies we tell ourselves.” Each week we will deal with a different lie that many of us tend to believe.
And what we believe matters. I used to work with a lot of university students. Almost every year I would hear story of students who believed that their exam was at one time, when it really was at another time. When you miss your exam, that is a problem – a big problem.
I never did that, but I remember once thinking that the exam was covering one particular area of the subject matter, when in reality it was covering another area of the subject matter. Of course, you study the area, that you think the exam is going to be on. It is a problem, when the exam is on something for which you have not studied.
Something that happens to me from time to time is that I make an appointment for what I understand to be one time, and the person I am making it with understands the appointment to be another time. When that happens, we are unlikely to make a connection.
When you act on faulty beliefs, things don’t tend to turn out well. But many of the issues we have, come from stories we believe about life that just are not true. Many of the dysfunctions we have are there because we believe lies.
As an introduction to this series, the lie that I want to deal with today is this: We change by the power of our will.
Many of us tell ourselves this lie at this time of year. We want to be thinner, smarter, better, and if we can just muster up enough will power then we could change. But the reality is that 95% of New Years resolutions are broken by the end of January.
Will power is important. Self-control is a fruit of the spirit. There are some choices that you will need to make. Here is the truth, we change indirectly. We change, not by willing ourselves to change, but change comes about as we are working on other things.
At Asbury, we believe that the most important transformation that can happen to you, is that you become Christ like; That you are transformed into the image of God. This is where we become loving, because God is loving. We become good because God is good. We become joyful and comforting, and peaceful and steadfast and holy, because God is like that.
But we will not become that way by trying to will ourselves to become like that. It doesn’t work that way. Let me give you the five elements of transformation.
The first is that we need to adopt the stories of Jesus as our stories. We are going to focusing in on that for this series, so I will circle back to explain that.
The second is that we engage in soul training exercises. Some would call these spiritual disciplines, but I like the idea of soul training exercises. This is where we pray and read our bible and fast and journal and a number of other things. These are not ends in themselves. They are like weight lifting for the soul, so that when you are living life, you have the spiritual capacity to meet the challenges.
The third element of transformation is Experiencing the supernatural. God’s spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are a child of God. We experience the supernatural, by God speaking to us, or seeing answers to prayer, or by God directing us, or by God allow us to experience his presence. Experiencing God is part of transformation.
The fourth element of transformation is participating in Spiritual community. You can’t really love people, without people. You can’t encourage, strengthen, or learn without people. But sometimes people are like sandpaper. But it is that friction that shapes us to be more like Christ.
The last element of transformation, which must permeate all of the others is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit must be the stories we tell ourselves about our selves. He must be part of our soul training exercises whether we feel him or not. He is the one who allows us to experience the supernatural. He is the one who allows a community of people to work together for the glory of God.
Transformation isn’t about somehow willing yourself to be different. We are transformed indirectly.
Over the course of this series, we will be focusing on the lies we tell ourselves. We will touch on some soul training exercises that will help. During other times of the year we will touch on the other components that allow us to experience transformation.
So, let me talk to you about adopting the stories of Jesus. I don’t know if you have ever considered this before, but what we believe about God, about ourselves, about how this world work – all come from stories we tell ourselves.
Now the stories we tell ourselves can come from family and friends, or significant events in our lives, or the culture that we live in or movies or the bible. The central function of our brain is story.
James Bryant Smith, who wrote the book “The good and beautiful God, from which I am taking some of the things for this series, wrote, “We turn everything into a story in order to make sense of life. We “dream in narrative, day-dream in narrative, remember, anticipate, hope, despair, believe, doubt, plan, revise, criticize, construct, gossip, learn, hate and love by narrative.” In fact, we cannot avoid it. We are storied creatures. Our stories help us navigate our world, to understand right and wrong, and to provide meaning (“So the moral of the story is . . .”)
When you walk into a room, do you think people are going to like me, or people are not going to like me? The reason you think the way you do is because of something that happened in your past, and you have developed a story in your mind – that helps you understand life. Like we said right at the start, the story you tell yourself may be false – but it is the story you live by, and that has consequences.
If you catch me early enough in the morning, before I have had my first coffee, I am usually pretty quiet and kind of oblivious to life. If we were to meet, you might greet me, and I might grunt at you. When that happens to people, the first question we tend to ask as humans is, “what did I do wrong?” We develop these whole story lines in our minds. Maybe I offended him when I … When the reality is, I just haven’t had my first cup of coffee. But the stories we tell ourselves affect our relationships.
You see, our lives are shaped by our stories. Here is what psychologist tell us. Our stories, once they are in place, determine much of our behaviour. It doesn’t matter if they are helpful or accurate. They create the foundation for our actions. Once these stories are stored in our minds, they will stay there, and go largely unchallenged until we die.
So, here is what you need to know, the stories we tell ourselves are running, and often they are ruining our lives. That is why it is so crucial to get the right stories. .
Come with me to the book of Matthew chapter 4. Matthew has told us about the birth of Christ, and the baptism of Christ, and temptation of Christ. In chapter 4, Matthew tells us about the beginning of Christ’s ministry. Here is what he says in verse 17
Matthew 4:17 (NIV)
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
From that time on, for the rest of his ministry, the preaching of Jesus could be summed up by one phrase. “Repent for the kingdom of heaven (or the Kingdom of God) has come near.”
So, when you read the sermon on the mount in the next three chapters of Matthew – He is saying – this is what life in the kingdom of God is like – Repent. When you see him telling stories, he is talking about the kingdom of God.
Now the kingdom of God is anywhere, where God’s way is lived out, where God’s ways are followed. He says, “Repent” for that is the way we can live in a way that is in harmony with God. Repent so that you can aline yourself with God’s story
The Greek word for Repent is “Metanoia.” The primary idea behind repentances is to changes one’s thoughts or attitudes which results in change of behaviour. I know that some people associate the word repentance with fire and brimstone preaching – but when you look at the preaching of Jesus – that is not how he spoke. Some people think of repentance as a sorrowful emotional state. But that may or may not accompany repentance and it certainly is not the same as repentance.
Repentance involves a change of mind. Paul had it right when he wrote in Romans 12:2 (NIV)
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Did you catch that – you are transformed when your mind is renewed. It doesn’t say that you are renewed when your will is strengthened. You are transformed when your mind is renewed.
So, part of the part of transformation is finding the stories that we tell ourselves, and compare it with Jesus’ stories. How many times heard Jesus say… “You have heard it said… But I say unto you.”
Matthew 5:43–44 (NIV)
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Jesus is saying, you have adopted one story in the way that you should live, but I am giving you a different way to think. I am telling you different story. He points out our old stories, and he tell us the true story.
How many times have you heard Jesus point out something, and then says, Truly, I tell you it is different.
Remember when he said, you have seen people who pray to be seen by others. – but that is not God’s way.
Matthew 6:5–6 (NIV)
…Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Jesus say, I know that you have been brought up to believe that making a show of righteousness is really righteousness but let me tell you the real God story. He sees when you pray in secret, and those are the prayers he answers.
Jesus is all about changing our stories so that our stories can merge with God’s story.
Now I have given you some good truth this morning. But unless you really experience this truth, you won’t know how profound it is.
None of us go through life unscathed. There is bad that happens to us that shouldn’t happen and there is good doesn’t happen to us that should have happened. When those things happen to us, and usually it is not because of anything we have done, but what has been done to us, we create stories in our minds to explain those things.
Stories like; I am unloveable, I must be in control all the time, I must keep people at a distance, I must always please people, people must always like me, and the stories we tell ourselves could go on and on and on.
Often what happens when something traumatic happens to us, Satan comes along and inserts a lie into our story. We believe his lie, and whenever you buy into a lie, you will be less than what you were created to be, and your life will become dysfunctional. Many marriage problems stem from the lies each spouse believes about each other.
Whenever we are believing a lie, our stories are not in tune with the Kingdom of God. The life you were meant to live, is lived out of the kingdom of God.
Now there are a number of ways to get at these lies. If you see a good counselor, often they can help you unpack this. But I have seen people who have seen reams of counselors, where Jesus was able to heal in moments in prayer.
After spending time in God’s presence, people pray a prayer like, “Lord take me back to a time in my life were I started to believe a lie. It is amazing how God does this, but he will often bring back a memory. Then you ask, God what lied did I believe when then happened to me? God will often point it out. Then you ask Jesus where were you when this was going on? He has a way of telling you. Then you pray Lord what is the truth about my life? He gives you a truth.
Then it is simply a matter of repentance. Lord when this happened to me I believed this lie and you name the lie. Forgive me. I accept the truth that you have shown me. Lord help me to live out of that truth.
Now often times, there are layers of lies, and God has to peal them off one layer at a time. But I have seen God do amazing transformations as we repent of the lies and believe the truth.
If you are a follower of Jesus, God wants us to transform us into Christ’s image. One part of the way he does that is that he allows our story to sync up with his story. Are you willing to allow him to show you the lies you have believed so that you can walk in the freedom of truth.
I want to encourage you to walk with us through the next couple of months, and do what Jesus says as we look at the lies that we believe.
 Smith, James Bryan. The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows (The Apprentice Series Book 1) (p. 25). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.