Head Before Heart
Starting a Godly habit usually requires us to rely on our head before our heart (emotions).
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
We are starting a new series this morning called “Resolution Regret”
Because the reality is, by January 15th, most people have already not fulfilled their New Year’s resolutions
Sad, but true.
Maybe you had a resolution to lose weight or stop smoking or work less or whatever.
But as you might have found out…this year…or in year’s past.
Keeping a resolution or starting a new habit is ridiculously difficult to pull off.
And this is about the time of year where people start feeling pretty bad about themselves.
They’re experiencing Resolution Regret
And it’s a rollercoaster of a few weeks usually.
You start off the last week of December or the first week of January just pumped about how you are going to the sign up for the gym or start reading your Bible or whatever…
Man, things are going to be different!
2012, you’re gonna get in shape just in time for the world to end!
But now, two weeks later…you’ve got a bad case of Resolution Regret.
Not only did you never go the gym, you never even got as far as calling them and signing up.
Or whatever your resolution was.
And why do we go through this every year?
I think for a lot of us, it has to do with the fact that very few of us have any idea how to actually establish healthy, or more importantly Godly habits.
Everybody WANTS to, but we don’t actually know HOW to
And that’s what this series is going to be about.
We did a series a year ago called “God’s Gym” where we talked about all sorts of different spiritual disciplines you could try out.
This is going to be a different sort of series.
During “Resolution Regret,” we want to talk about not necessarily the practices themselves, but HOW to start them and KEEP doing them, in the first place.
Because some of the spiritual disciplines may be fascinating to you, but if you don’t know how to actually get a plan in place and pull them off, you probably will never experience them
And being able to successfully implement spiritual disciplines into your life is absolutely essential to God moving in your life, changing your life, and renovating who you are.
We are all about you encountering the living God and being changed here at Renovation
In fact, “Encountering God” is one of our 3 Core Values.
We want you to encounter God through spiritual disciplines.
Because God’s NOT going to MOVE in you, CHANGE you, and CHANGE this World through you…
if you first don’t sit at His feet in prayer.
If you first don’t stop…and read His Truth in the Bible
Being “Changed to Change” requires us to first effectively start the habit of Encountering God every day.
But I think the first big obstacle that gets in our way, and it’s what I want to talk about today…is never getting started in the first place.
Next week we are going to talk you through how to establish an actual plan
AND, also next week we are going to begin to reveal our brand new “Personal Renovation Plans” whereby each person can set their own personal spiritual goals by picking when they want to read the Bible, how they want to do it, and so on and so forth
And then two weeks from now, we’re going to talk about yet another reason people don’t develop effective spiritual habits: Which is the shame that we feel when we have unmet goals.
And it all relates back to one of our key 3 or 4 verses here at Renovation
1 Timothy 4:7 – NIV
7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.
This is what we’re about. That each and every one of us meet with God and that He moves in us and changes us to change the world.
Because your habits are the foundation of your character.
“The vast majority of who you are is a result of being shaped by the habits you currently have or have had.
Whether good or bad.
HEAD BEFORE HEART
But for many us…our biggest obstacle to effectively establishing spiritual habits (like reading the Bible and setting aside time to pray)….
It’s not getting started in the first place.
And why is that?
Well, often it’s because we don’t have a plan, which we’ll talk about next week
But today I want to talk about how, often, we let our flesh, our heart, our emotions, our impulses dictate what we should do rather than just our head and reasoning
Now, this isn’t always the way to live. Sometimes our heart should come before our head.
Like in matters of faith… Sometimes your head can get in the way!
But with discipline. With habits. We often need to rely on our head first and our heart and emotions second.
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the marshmallow study, but it’s a fairly famous psychological study that started in the 60’s at a preschool on the Standford University campus
Children were told that they could have one marshmallow right now
However, if they waited while the experimenter ran an errand, they could have 2 when he came back.
Some preschoolers grabbed their marshmallow immediately, while others waited for what must have seemed like an endless 20 minutes
Some of them covered their yes, rested their heads on their arms, and even tried to sleep to resist temptation.
The study then showed that years later, the children who as 4 year-olds that were able to wait to get 2 marshmallows, were as adolescents, still able to delay gratification in pursuing their goals.
And that’s exactly what we often struggle to do… delay “gratification” in order to pursue our spiritual goals.
Say it’s 11:00 at night, and you wanted to read your Bible still today…but it’s 11:00…and you’re tired, so you choose sleep.
Or it’s 7:00pm. You just finished dinner. You wanted to set aside some time to pray after dinner, but a new episode of House Hunters is on…
We struggle to delay gratification in order to pursue our spiritual goals.
This is not a new struggle. The apostle Paul was no different.
(Romans 7:15-19) – NIV
15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
My guess is that almost everybody in this room WANTS to read the Bible and would LIKE to pray more…
It’s like Paul said, “I WANT to do good…” but my sin nature keeps taking over.
I keep choosing the things of this world over “the good I should be doing”
So a big piece of it, is simply because we keep picking our flesh over what we know is right.
So how do you stop that?
Well, in this case, it’s putting your head before your emotions…your flesh, what you feel like doing…
Because if you try and start a discipline based on what you feel like doing…Good Luck to you.
You have to be disciplined even when you don’t feel like it.
Because you’ll always have an excuse not to.
They use this principle in dieting a lot.
They call it, “No Special Days”
Because there’s always a special day where you can “cheat on your diet’
It’s someone’s last day at work and we celebrate them leaving by finally baking them a cake
Or, you’re at the movies, so you have to have popcorn at the movies
Or, you’re on vacation, and well, “It’s vacation!!”
If you always go by your heart, your emotions, it’s incredibly difficult to establish discipline and habits
We talked about this with our team in Haiti. Every morning, we did 10 minute prayer walks.
And there were a couple of days we could have skipped. Like Sunday when we were going to church anyway or the last time when we were going to the airport.
But I said to our team, this is what we do at home…You’re always going to have things come up.
But when you say, “Well, I’m not gonna pray today cuz…I’m busy…I have a meeting…I….WHATEVER….
Then, you’re eventually just not gonna do it.
If you always go with your heart and your feelings, discipline will escape you for most of your life.
And that’s no different for Godly habits
You’re always going to be able to come up with something else to do instead of reading the Bible. Always.
But so often…we let our heart dictate how we start a habit and not our heads
I’ve run into kind of an interesting philosophy on this from a lot of people in our postmodern generation…
I’ve had a lot of people tell me, “David, I’d really like to start spending more time with God or reading the Bible, but I’m just not really in a good place spiritually right now, so I’ll think I’ll wait”
OR, “David, I’d really like to read the Word more, but I feel like if I did it, I’d just be doing it to do it, not because I’m actually pumped about doing it”
Our culture has actually become over obsessed about out intentions.
Are good and honest motives preferable? Sure.
But necessary? Absolutely not.
If I see an elderly woman struggling to cross the road, and I don’t feel like going out of my way in the cold to help her out…Does that mean I shouldn’t do it??
No. Absolutely not. I should still do it.
If I see a need in the church or an opportunity to serve and I don’t want to do it, does that mean I shouldn’t do it?
No. In fact, often the only way your intentions ever get right is if you start DESPITE not wanting to and find out that, “yeah, okay, this is a great thing”
If you spend your life waiting to have the perfect intentions before you act on something, you’re going to waste your life.
And yet, that’s what I see a lot of people doing.
“I want to read the Bible, but my heart’s just not in it yet.”
Well guess what, that’s EXACTLY WHY you SHOULD read it!
Think about it this way:
That’s like people saying, “I’d like to start exercising, but I’m just not honestly excited about running 2 miles on the treadmill”
If you wait until you get excited about running on the treadmill, you’re never….ever…ever going to run on the treadmill.
Stop wasting your time waiting for the perfect motives. Stop wasting your time waiting for this inspirational feeling to come where you going to feel like, “Today I’m so moved to study Scripture….”
Just pick it up!
When it comes to habits, HEAD BEFORE HEART.
Don’t wait for your heart to improve first. That comes after you actually start spending time with God.
But you start the process with your head.
That’s true for a whole lot of things.
I can’t tell you how many times people have come up to me and said this exact thing:
“David, I gotta be honest, I didn’t really want to join a House Group. I was afraid and nervous the people would be weird or whatever (those are HEART things)
But, I did, and it’s so awesome. So amazing. I go every single week, and I can’t wait until that day comes every week!!!
Which, by the way, you seriously need to sign up for one today if you haven’t yet…you can sign up any week in the hallway
But that’s a perfect example. Those people, went with their heads first (which is important in habits)…
They KNEW that it was a good thing to do. That it was what God was calling them to. Biblical community.
So they did it…and then, their heart came along. And they love it!
THE DELAY OF DISCIPLINE / THE VINE
Change in our life, comes through encountering God…but look at the type of metaphors Jesus uses to explain this
(John 15:1-5) – NIV
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
So Jesus says that He is the Vine. And if we remain in Him (that is…encounter him…spend time w/ Him, etc.), we will bear fruit.
The Bible calls this the fruit of the Spirit in Galatains: Love, Joy, Peace patience…
Fruit is essentially God changing you for the better.
IF you spend time with God, He will change you. Simple as that.
But think about the illustration here.
How fast does fruit grow on the vine?
Is it instantaneous?
NO way. It takes time.
Fruit takes a while to come out.
But unfortunately, we are impatient people.
I think this is one of the main reasons we are so poor at establishing Godly habits.
We do not understand what I like to call “The Delay of Discipline.” The reward of it is delayed.
On the one hand, it takes you a while just to establish a habit.
How long??? 21 days.
Let’s be conservative. Let’s just say it takes a month.
But the fruit appearing in your life often comes after that.
Fruit never shows up on the first day.
Godly discipline is like me pouring water into a cup from a cap.
Let’s say each day I read the Bible is like pouring a cap full into this cup.
Eventually it’s going to spill over into my life.
However, it might take 20 days…30 days…40 days.
But I guarantee you if you establish a habit of getting into God’s word every day and talking to Him every day, fruit will grow in your life.
The Bible promises you that.
Again, this is no different than exercise or any other discipline.
Does a person run on a treadmill for a half a mile the first day and lose weight? NO.
But if they keep doing it, they will see the fruit of it.
It’s the DELAY of DISCIPLINE.
But we’ve got this deadly combination in the U.S.
On the one hand, we don’t start disciplines, because like I said, we let our emotions rule our lives.
And now, on the other hand, we don’t keep up our disciplines because we don’t have the patience to wait until the “Delayed reward of discipline kicks in”
I’ve had a knee injury the past 10 months or so, so I haven’t been able to run like I like to
But I can remember when the fruit started to grow in my life from running
Two things happened at the same time
1) I finally got past the “I hate every moment of this stage because my heart hurts and my legs feel like they’re going to fall off” and started to kind of enjoy it
2) I started to see results…and started to lose weight.
But most of the time, when it comes to Godly discipline we never get to those stages, because we let our flesh and our emotions rule.
But in the first 21 days. In the first 30 days…Your head must rule your heart.
Because you’ll want to stop. You’ll have other things to do. You won’t feel like it. You wont’ feel like your spiritually good enough OR WHATEVER….
But your head must first rule over your heart in order to start a Godly habit.
And then…and then…the fruit will start to bloom.
You’ll start to see God changing you…Him speaking to You. Moving in you.
And then you’ll find, that…well, it doesn’t take as much discipline to do it.
In fact, you might even be addicted to it…in a positive way.
It does so much good in your life…why would You NOT want to do it???
But your head must rule your flesh first.
Not just your head. But your Spirit. God in you. Calling you to what is right.
By the way…you know what another name for this concept is?
It’s called obedience.
And it’s also called trust.
We obey and we trust God even when we don’t emotionally feel like it.
We’re not so good at this as Americans.
We’re so independent in our thinking. We operate out of what feels good and by golly, we’re in charge!
And thus we feel like we shouldn’t have to do anything we don’t FEEL like doing.
We say this as kids, but we live it as adults, “But MOM, I don’t FEEL like doing that!”
But we obey…we trust…even when we don’t feel like taking time out of our busy days to meet with God.
We trust. We obey.
It’s like a person whose starting with a personal trainer at a gym.
They might ask you to do some pretty weird exercises sometimes. Even ones that are really hard. Maybe even painful.
But you trust them right? Because, after all, they know what they’re doing.
And if you do trust them, you WILL see results.
It’s the same thing here, but only greater.
Trust in God. Obey. Surrender.
Sit in the vine, and fruit will grow. (Repeat)
But here’s the difference in the metaphor.
Doing wall sits and hill climbs on the treadmill is just not a lot of fun, but I think that when you do this, you will find getting in God’s Word and spending time with Him…often very rewarding…even in the early days in the 1st month.
And if you have days that are not. Doesn’t matter. It’s a discipline.
If we judge only by the heart, we will surely be led astray
Sometimes, in different matters, the same can be true for our heads.
But God’s spirit in us…calls us to follow Him…despite what we sometimes may feel.
Because your feelings aren’t God.
(Romans 8:5-8) – NLT
5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.
“So we want to let God influence our head to make our decision
Not our feelings or sinful nature to make our decisions.
Jesus gives us a great example here.
When he was in the garden of Gethsemane the night before his death, he was vigorously praying to God.
(Luke 22:42) – NIV
42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
And that’s the attitude we have to have in spiritual disciplines.
“God, in my flesh, in my emotions, I may not want to even do this right now….but what do you want?”
Your will be done.
That’s why the Bible uses the phrase “pick up your cross”
(Luke 9:23) – NIV
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
It’s surrendering our self-will and trusting that this WILL INDEED grow fruit.
And if you do that, you’ll find it’ll grow amazing fruit!
But you have to trust in HIS Spirit, not your feelings.
So what are you going to do about this?
No seriously. What are you going to do about this?
Too often we just hear messages like this, and we go, “Oh that was nice. I intellectually agree with that. Well, off to lunch!”
But what are you going to do about this?
How can you start getting in God’s Word daily? Setting aside time to talk to Him each day?
Don’t wait. Don’t put it off. Trust in Him.
I want to challenge every single person in this room to pick up the Bible again sometime in the next 24 hours.
If you need a Bible, steal the one under your chair. That’s why it’s there.
If you don’t know where to start, take a Bible Pyramid from the “Spiritual Disciplines” section of the table outside.
It’ll show you the best books to start w/ in the Bible.
If you’re looking for a different sort of plan, we just came out with this AMAZING new plan called 100 chapters in 100 days.
It’s 100 chapters in the Bible that will give you the basic overview of the entire Bible in 100 days.
And then, come back next week. Next week, we will be talking specifically on how to develop a plan for getting addicted to Godly habits.
And we’re going to begin to unveil pieces of the “Personal Renovation Plan” you can customize for yourself.
But start now. Sometime in the next 24 hours.
And trust that if you rest in the vine, He WILL GROW FRUIT IN YOUR LIFE.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.