If you're starting something over, how do you keep it from fizzling out in a matter of weeks? How do you create lasting change?
David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Sometimes in life…we just really want to start over.
You’ve faced the facts…you’ve taken the first steps…
But there’s more to Starting Over than just that.
Sometimes, I meet people who tell me, “David, I quit my job! It was time to start over!”
And I say, “Great. Where’s your new job?”
And they say, “No idea yet, but I quit my job! Starting over!”
Sometimes, in Starting Over…we get ahead of ourselves.
Our heart is finally ready to get started, but we don’t have any plan in place that’s going to sustain us long-term.
That’s what we want to talk about this morning in week 3 of our Starting Over series.
Now that you’ve “faced the facts” that you need to start over…you’ve taken the first step…how do you actually make this thing work? Make it last?
We all know someone (usually ourselves) who’s tried to “start over” and eat right…or started over their exercise routine…
And yet 2 weeks later is back to binging on Netflix with potato chips lathered in French Onion Dip
Well, there’s more to Starting Over than just “starting”
And that’s what we want to talk about for these last 2 weeks of this 4-week series.
How do you keep the ball rolling?
And today, I want to give you 3 steps, from the Bible, on how to create long-term change.
By the way, I wanted to tell you, God is doing some pretty amazing things in the lives of the people of Renovation church through this series!
We’ve had a lot of emails come in, prayer requests submitted, and conversations with people…where our people have just said… “God is moving…and I need to make changes. I’m STARTING OVER!”
It’s been absolutely amazing to watch in 2 weeks!
God is on the move here!
But this is what we’re about, church.
World-changing isn’t just reaching people for Christ…
It’s helping people become like Him.
It’s being changed….to change…the world.
We’re a church that’s serious about reaching people for Christ…AND discipling people.
And it’s been really neat to see God at work these past two weeks.
PUT OFF THE OLD SELF
Let’s take a look at our passage for this morning.
As you’re looking it up, let me give you the context for it.
The Apostle Paul is writing this letter to the Church in Ephesus (modern day Turkey…home to 1 of the 7 wonders of the world actually…the temple of artemis)
Many of the people in the church at Ephesus had become Christians, but yet, their lives weren’t looking any different than they did BEFORE they met Christ.
They look just like the people around them that DON’T know Christ.
Sure, maybe they were different for a few days, but now, it’s just right back to where they started.
The Starting Over process never really got going.
So Paul’s going to give them some words of advice on how to become more like Jesus.
In Theology, we call this process sanctification…becoming holy
We call it, getting Renovated
(Ephesians 4:20-24) – NIV
20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
So let’s look at the first step to sustaining change in this Starting Over process.
#1 – Put Off Your Old Self
Paul says that WE, are to actively, put off the old self.
Well, first of all, what is the “old self?”
The “old self” is who you used to be before Christ.
But it’s ALSO who you are when you suppress Christ in your life.
It’s all of your attitudes, emotions, and actions when you’re not letting Jesus rule in your life.
Or, maybe you live for Jesus in one area, but you have other compartments where your Old Self is still on the throne.
Here’s a quick theology lesson:
You can certainly learn a lot more if you take one of our 4 School of Theology classes this summer…which sign-ups come out in just 2 weeks.
We are sinful…and without God…we can’t really do good.
But when you give your life to Jesus, the Holy Spirit dwells in you, and starts changing you.
But He doesn’t completely take you over…He just begins to renovate you and make you more like God.
However, you still have a sinful nature.
Paul says, that your life is “being corrupted” (present tense) by its deceitful desires”
So, now, instead of just a sinful nature, you have two warring natures…good vs evil.
Walking with Christ…making changes in your life…isn’t as simple as just becoming a Christian.
Becoming a Christian is the first step in a life-long journey
It gives you the Holy Spirit to start making changes in you, but becoming a Christian doesn’t completely erase your sinful nature.
It’s still there.
The question is: How much of it is there?
Well, if you do nothing…A LOT OF IT!
And this is why we need to practice Putting OFF Your Old Self
Let’s move from the theological to the practical:
Let’s say go with something simple: Let’s say you’re trying to quit smoking.
Let’s say you realize that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and you don’t want to die of Emphysema at 62…and maybe you’ve noticed that you often use smoking as a way to calm your emotions rather than turn to God.
But you’re not going to be successful in quitting if you just say: “God, I quit! I’m starting over. I’ve faced the facts. No more smoking for me!”
Good luck w/ that.
You need to PUT OFF the old self.
This is a key part in Starting Over in whatever you’re facing (whether it’s smoking, your marriage, your debt, anything).
You need to ask, “What are the old habits that are keeping me stuck in these patterns I don’t want to be stuck in?”
So if it’s smoking, that means:
Throw out all of your current cigarettes
Get rid of the ash tray or anything that reminds you of it
Stop taking breaks outside at work…
Start paying at the pump instead of going inside at the gas station where you always buy them.
Tell your friends that you’ve quit, so you won’t have to face that awkward moment when they offer you a smoke
Do you see what’s happening here?
You’re actually putting OFF all of the old habits in order to make this “starting over” process more sustainable for the long term.
And this applies to so many different situations:
If the current group of people you hang out with are always getting you into some bad situations… “put off the old self”
It’s time to cut the cord.
Tell them you can’t hang out anymore.
If you’ve been saying the past few weeks that you want to get serious about parenting again and spending time with your kids…
Then change your schedule at work
Stop working late hours
Put your phone on the counter instead of glued to your face when your kids are around.
It isn’t enough to just say, “I’m going to start over my parenting.”
You need to systematically “put off’ the bad habits that got you here in the first place.
We’ve got to come to the honest realization of: THIS is what God is calling me to now…and if God’s calling me to a new, better, and Holy life, than I can’t keep walking in that old direction.
I need to be serious about walking in a new direction.
Even if it’s hard.
Even if it means stopping your habit of going out to lunch EVERY DAY at work because it’s draining your family’s money.
Even if I don’t want to say goodbye to my old friends
No one said this process is easy.
But if you’re serious about long-term change in Starting Over, you have to “put off” the habits of the past
By the way, I think a lot of Christians (especially long-term Christians) get stuck here
They often aren’t willing to give up their pacifier of sin in exchange for trusting their Father has a better plan for them
Maybe you’ve been stuck here for a while.
You can’t even imagine (and maybe don’t WANT to imagine) what life would be like if you “put off” this old part of you.
It’s what you’re used to. It’s what you know.
In a sense, it IS you.
But trust in God.
He’s got something better for you.
THE NEW SELF
But Paul doesn’t just tell us to “put off,” but in verse 24, to put ON the new self.
#2 – Put On The New Self
In other words, if you just take off, you’re going to be naked…and even worse off.
You need to put on new clothes.
You need to fill those voids.
So don’t just ditch your old friends…you STILL need friends (you’re not a robot!)
Find new ones…Godly ones…that are going to spur you on towards love and good deeds…spur you on to following Christ.
If you’re marriage is a wreck, yes, put off the old.
Get rid of the things that are pulling you apart.
Maybe that’s cutting ties with a person who’s coming between you
Or maybe it’s cutting out a lot of activities that prevent you guys from ever having quality time with just the TWO of YOU.
But then, put on the new…
If the Starting Over process is ever going to work long term, you can’t just take off the old, you have to put on the new.
You need new systems that are going to help you flourish long-term
So, let’s take yet another example:
Let’s say you’re in a point where your marriage, where you’ve started to have kids in the last few years…and your marriage isn’t what it used to be.
Your life is just mostly about the kids now
So how do you “put on the new” in that situation?
First and foremost…bring as much as Jesus into the relationship as possible.
Pray together…read the Bible together…
And then, if you’re not finding time for each other, systematically make time for each other.
Listen, you’re no good to your kids anyway, if in 5 years you’re marriage falls apart
Too many American couples give their all to their kids, and then end up giving their kids the one thing they didn’t want (a divorce) by age 10.
Because they never worked on their marriage
Because they never hit that “starting over” button when they should have…years ago when they first noticed the problem.
So do something new.
Schedule a date night once a week.
Lindsey and I used to have a date night that we never missed before we had kids.
Every Friday night. Culver’s
Then we had kids. 2 of them. At once.
And the date night slowly faded away.
But finally this year, we decided that we’d just have the babysitter come an hour or so earlier for house groups, and we would go out to eat (and talk) every week.
And it’s awesome.
And it doesn’t have to be fancy.
Go eat off the dollar menu at McDonald’s if you want.
But the point is, don’t just put off, put on new systems
So what old habits do you need to stop/avoid and what new habits do you need to implement?
Will you do it?
RENEWING THE MIND
Now at first glance, this whole topic can seem just a bit like self-help.
And yet, when you study Paul’s words, there’s an incredibly important BRIDGE in between the “put off” and “put on” that links it all together…and makes it look significantly different than self-help
Look at verse 23 again. This is right in between the “put off” and “put on” verses
(Ephesians 4:23) – NIV
23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds;
#3 – Be Made New In The Attitude Of Your Minds
This is the third part of lasting change
Now, if you’ll allow me, I’m going to take you back in a time-machine to Middle School English
You’re voice was cracking…you’ve got zits everywhere…your fashion was a mess…and so was your knowledge of the English language.
Today…thanks to texting…it’s probably worse. J
But your English teacher probably taught you about passive and active voices
And what’s interesting about this passage in the Bible are the voices
And when Paul says, “PUT off” the old self…”PUT on” the new self…
That’s active voice.
It means, YOU’RE doing it. You’re acting.
But when Paul says in verse 23, “to be made new in the attitude of your minds,” that’s passive voice.
It means, someone else is doing it TO YOU.
In this case God.
This is even in our vision: To be a people…BEING Changed (God’s doing it!)
See lasting change in the starting over process always come on a combo-platter.
Real change always comes on a combo-platter.
You move and God moves too!
This is a multi-layered message too
I’m telling you how to create lasting change in your Starting Over process.
But this is also a Biblical look at how sanctification (becoming more holy) actually works
If you’re trying to do everything on your own…you’ll be miserable
If you’re trying to break free of an addiction on your own…
You’re trying to (put off & put on) and fix your marriage on your own…
It’ll never happen.
Because you don’t have the power to create real, long-lasting change.
But what about the complete opposite end of the spectrum…
What if we just sit on our couch, and let God do all the work?
Say, your relationship with your mom is a disaster, and you want to fix it…can’t you just lay on your couch, read your Bible and pray (let God renew your mind), and God will do the work?
It doesn’t work like that.
By the way, it’s really common to see churches on both ends of this spectrum.
Churches, in the first instance (where you do all the work), tend to have “do’s and don’ts list a mile long,” and if you just work hard enough, change will come
And churches on the opposite end, say, “Just stop striving so hard. Just let God do the work”
The problem is, neither are Biblical.
Christianity is not, “God saved you, now improve yourself!”
But it’s also not, “God saved you, now sit back and relax”
Let me flesh out for you how this combo platter actually works in regards to change.
Look at how Paul describes his life:
(1 Corinthians 15:10 – NIV)
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
He’s working so hard at this thing.
HE’S denying himself
HE’S picking up his cross
HE’S going town to town enduring stonings and beatings
And YET…it’s God that’s enabling him to do all that
It’s a bit difficult to see at first, as most things regarding change are.
Most of the real answers on “how to change for the long-term” won’t be found in a “5 easy steps” blog
But here’s truth of Scripture.
God always works WITH the individual.
He works WITH what Peter and Peter’s faith…He works WITH Moses…through Moses’ faith.
And then God does amazing things through them.
But yet, God doesn’t do utterly amazing things through everyone.
You could philosophically ask, “Why is God doing all of these great things through her life and not mine?”
“Why is she seeing change and I’m not??”
Now, I don’t want to be simplistic, but at least one of the reasons is: She might be putting herself in a position (putting off the old…putting on the new…and letting God renew)…for God to move.
As the old saying goes, if you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat.
God’s not going to have you walk on water, if you’re sleeping. He’s not going to pick you up and throw you on the water.
If you want to walk on water, YOU’VE got to get out of the boat.
But YET…you CAN’T WALK ON WATER.
Only He can enable you to do that.
Do you see how combination of change works?
Throw off the old, put on the new…let him renew!
God’s not going to move a parked car.
And so, what we’ve got to do is put ourselves in a POSITION for God to do His work
Because God says HE can renew your mind…make you new in the attitude of your mind.
What does that mean?
It means that, if you let Him, He can begin to change how you think.
He can begin to give you patience with your spouse…your kids
He can begin to give you self-control over your anger…
He can begin to awaken your cold heart to really love people again.
This is why the Christianity is infinitely greater than self-help.
God isn’t just telling you that you have a problem, need to change, and here are some steps to take.
He’s literally EMPOWERING you to take those steps to change
Self-help says, “Here are 5 steps to walking on water,” but often just leaves people frustrated because they know all the steps to take, but just can’t seem to pull it off!
They just keep sinking!
But with Christianity, you don’t just have someone telling you the 5 steps to walk on water.
You have someone who actually empowers you to walk on water
This is WHY you can believe in Starting Over.
This is WHY you can take the risk and start fresh again.
We have Jesus on our side.
God is with you on this!
But, If you want God to do that for you…if you want him to come in…change you…empower you…
...then you’ve got to put yourself in a position to let Him do that.
You’ve got to lay yourself out on the surgeon’s table.
It’s just doing all the outside stuff…it’s letting God change you on the inside!
And this is submitting your mind and heart to God.
It’s reading the Bible…every day
Get a Bible reading plan (hallway, app)
It’s coming to church
It’s listening online or on the app when you’re out of town
It’s listening to Christian music
It’s talking with other Christian friends about God
It’s stopping to pray
It’s YOU choosing to stop…and everyday putting yourself on the operating table, so God can get in there and begin to change you.
And, so then, this is how long lasting change in starting over really works.
It’s a 3-pronged attack. It’s a combo platter.
#1: You put off the old self.
Get rid of the things that entangle, ensnare, and keep you down.
Clear them out so God can work.
#2: You put on the new self
Start refilling your life with good habits…more importantly, Godly habits
#3: Surrender to God…give him time…give him space…and let Him get into you and change you…and HE WILL!
And you’ll know in the end…that He gets the glory for this!
All you did was to make sure to put yourself in the right position, and he did the real work.
He changed your mind, your heart, and gave you the POWER to BE and DO something different.
And if you do these three things (Put off the old, put on the new, let God renew), your life WILL look really different 5 years from now.
You’ll be amazed by what God can do.
And you’ll be so thankful…that you decided to get up and start walking…
And before you know it…God will enable you to walk on water.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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