Raise the White Flag
Many of us follow God with our lips, but who's policing your mind?
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
I don’t know if you’re into movies or not, but once again this summer, SuperHero movies are dominating the box office.
It looks like “The Avengers” is set to become the highest grossing movie of all time.
I just can’t believe that they’re still that popular, and that Hollywood can keep coming out with them, and we keep paying $10 a ticket to see them.
Maybe it’s because with superheroes, you can have so many different stories, because they can each have different powers.
Like, one guy is really strong, and another can fly, and another shoots webs out of his hands.
Every once in a while there’s a superhero or x-men, or you name it, who can read thoughts
And let me ask you, would you want that person to be around you for a day?
What if somebody could get in your head and hear everything for a day?
For most of us, that’s a pretty scary thing!
Because our minds are a pretty scary place.
But at the same time, our minds are the software that control everything that we do.
They determine our actions.
Our mind is where the battleground is for following or not following Jesus every day.
We are in the middle of a series called “Mind Control,” where we are talking about how to better control your mind to focus on the Things of God rather than the things of this World.
This week, we’re going to be talking about “Raising the white Flag.”
How do you surrender your sinful thoughts to Jesus?
Because this is Christian, spiritual formation in a nutshell:
It’s really boils down to a matter of recognizing evil or sinful patterns, systems, or thoughts in our mind, and then replacing them with the thoughts, ideas, and mind of Jesus Christ.
Today, we’re really going to focus on surrendering the evil
And next time, replacing them with the Holy
THE PROBLEM WITH NEGATIVE/EVIL THOUGHTS (THEIR RAMIFICATIONS)
And unfortunately, most of us don’t take what we let enter our mind in the first place very seriously.
As someone who loves history, I reference the pendulum principle often
It’s the idea that culture always overreacts. We swing to one extreme, and then swing back to the other, without ever stopping in the middle
Here’s yet another example of that:
60 years ago, Christians were famous for their pursuit of holiness:
SO much so , that they took it to extremes: No dancing, no playing cards with facecards, just rook, no secular music, Elvis is the devil incarnate, etc. etc.
Christians in the ensuing years said, “Really? That’s ridiculous”
And honestly, a lot of it was ridiculous.
But now, we’re at this point where we are UNDERreacting to Holiness.
With what we watch on television. With the movies we see. With the things we talk about. With the places we go. With the music we listen to. With the magazines we read and on and on.
And because we have little to virtually no MIND CONTROL on this, I’m assuming that we must also think that these things are having no affect on our mind
But they are absolutely having an affect on our minds, and therefore our actions.
And the same is true for our children who watch the same things we do.
But we feel like, what’s the big deal? Does it really matter? The bible doesn’t say specifically what magazines I should read. What I should watch. It’s not illegal!
The Apostle Paul brilliantly writes this to us:
(1 Corinthians 10:23) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION
You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial.
We ignorantly think we have this great freedom, but NOTHING enters your mind without having an effect for good or for evil
Your mind is like a factory.
(Matthew 12:35) – NIV
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.
And how do things get stored up in us? Through our minds!
You’re constantly putting good in and evil in…and then the result of what you put in…what you dwell on…will be your actions.
This is why MIND CONTROL is so important.
This is an old Youth Ministry principle that we as adults, in our pride, think we’re too good for.
It’s “Garbage IN, Garbage OUT”
But we boldly, in our pride against God, think, “Nah, I’m an adult, I can handle this”
I wouldn’t let my 10 year old watch this..but I’m adult. “I’m ready for this.”
Let me tell you something: You’re never “ready” for ungodliness.
Listen, you’re free to choose whatever you want…God gave you free will.
But we have to admit there are indeed consequences to what you let your mind think on
Dallas Willard, in one of my favorite books of all time, a book that helped me name this church: “Renovation of the Heart,” points out that:
“We are free to put in our minds whatever we want, but we aren’t free of the consequences. You cannot choose conditions and reject the consequences. If you choose to step off the roof, you can’t then choose not to hit the ground”
It’s crazy, because we think it doesn’t really matter what we watch, what we read, and on and on…but IRONCIALLY enough, secular media and businesses prove otherwise.
Why do you think businesses pay MILLIONS of dollars to flash something in front of your mind for 30 seconds?
Because they KNOW…(do you know?!?) They KNOW…and they’ve got the evidence to prove it…that what they can get you to think about WILL move you to do something.
What goes in your mind, WILL influence your actions.
And I sometimes think we worship our freedom more than we worship our God.
The prophet Habakkuk tells us that God’s eyes are too pure to behold evil, yet then, why do we think that it doesn’t matter for us?
(1 Peter 1:13-16) – NIV
13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
And we want to watch what we put in our minds, what we dwell on, what we think on, not because it’ll allow us to think we’re better Christians.
No, that’s legalism. That’s self-righteousness. That’s where the church screwed up 60 years ago, and what we reacted to.
No, we want to be Holy because He is Holy.
Because we want to be like Him.
Because we realize that our minds are the battleground.
And if we don’t watch what we put in…if we don’t monitor what we think about…it will come out in our actions. And it won’t be pretty.
So what do you need to do? What do you need to change? What do you need to stop watching? Stop listening to? To be more holy?
WE HAVE NEGATIVE/EVIL THOUGHTS ALL THE TIME
But maybe you don’t believe me. Maybe this just kind of seems like ol-school, overboard, religious thinking.
But let’s look at the results. Let’s look at how our minds are doing.
What sort of state of mind are we in?
Are we becoming more holy? Are we thinking about Christ? Do our actions reflect Jesus? Are we a Godly culture? Do people look at American Christians and say, “WOW! I see JESUS!”
Because some of that should be happening. We should be changing. Becoming more holy.
Here’s the basic theology behind that
If you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your Forgiver and Leader, the Bible tell us that you are forgiven, and 1 Cor 6 tells us that then the Holy Spirit comes and lives in you.
The part of being forgiven is what we call “Justification”
You are justified in God’s sight…Forgiven.
But then, for the rest of your life, God is helping you grow more holy as you follow Him more each day.
Theology calls that “Sanctification”
That’s the process of growing more “Holy” – Sanctus means holy
However, it’s not an easy process. At all.
And it requires GREAT discipline of your mind. Great MIND CONTROL.
And for a lot of us, we may appear to be on the path of sanctification, but really we’re not.
We may smile at the outside world like we live for Jesus, and move our feet to the church, like we live for Jesus, but often our minds, (which no one can see), are like a forbidden playground of sin, rebellion, and hate.
What if your close friends could live in your mind for a day, would they still be your friend?
But here’s a great truth for you as we start this: Jesus does live in your mind…EVERY DAY!
And he still wants to be your friend.
He is FOR you. Not against you. Work w/ Him on this!
The truth of what REALLY GOES ON in most of our minds is really hidden from most of our Christian friends.
A lot of us, despite what we portray on the outside, are drowning on the inside.
Drowning with thoughts of shame. Self-rejection.
Maybe you’re mind is swimming with pride.
Or maybe the opposite. Maybe it’s more like depression. All day, you just think negative thoughts about your life.
Drowning in lust. All day long. Almost every night.
Or maybe in resentment. Bitter thoughts.
Maybe your mind is consumed with angry thoughts for your boss…a parent…a sibling.
If you’re honest, maybe you think about it almost all the time.
Who’s in your head so much, they oughta be paying rent?
Despite the fact that we rarely share any of these things with our friends, let’s be honest, most of us are consumed with thoughts like these.
The majority of them sinful.
Thoughts and temptations that come from evil like the devil or his demons, or thoughts that come from our own sinful flesh.
So…if our minds are really in this bad of shape…and I truly think they are…then what do we do about it?
Well, step one is what we first talked about:
It’s getting serious about holiness.
It’s getting serious about what you let in to your heart and mind.
Be different for Jesus. Take your walk seriously. You’re not gonna die if you don’t see that movie.
You’re not going to wilt if you cancel your subscription to that magazine, or stop watching that show because it causes you to lust or whatever.
So we start with controlling what we put in our minds.
Then secondly, when we struggle with sin in our minds…we surrender it up to God.
WHY WE STILL DON’T SURRENDER
But…that’s easier said than done.
Surrender is difficult. Really difficult.
For one, we don’t even like the word surrender.
Who wants to get up and raise the white flag?
None of us. We like to be in CHARGE of our own lives!
Not somebody else. It’s MY LIFE!
And it’s kind of sad. Because this isn’t like surrendering to the enemy.
It’s surrendering your will to the Hope of the World. The source of Joy. The source of Life: Jesus Christ.
Here’s what happens, and here’s why I think we don’t let Jesus reign in our lives and our minds, and we don’t surrender our thoughts to Him:
The basic idea of all temptation is that God is presented as depriving us by His commands of what is good, SO…we think that we must take matters into our own hands, and act contrary to what He said.
But that’s not true. You’ll only find true life in surrendering to His ways.
Listen to this quote by Andrew Murray: “We find the Christian life so difficult because we seek for God’s blessing while we live in our own will. We should be glad to live the Christ-life according to our own liking”
In other words, we want all the blessings of following God, without surrendering to Him!
But they aren’t going to happen, unless you can surrender to Him.
So, when your mind goes into jealousy mode…and you keep getting angry about that person who has the thing that YOU want…
Or, when your mind is stuck in bitter mode…and you keep having a “fake conversation” of you going back and telling that person off…
What’s happening there?
God has told us that we are to forgive those who wrong us.
But in that moment, our mind thinks, “NAH! That can’t be best for me. It would be better if I could picture myself making them look silly! That idiot!!!”
And yet, the sin of an unforgiving heart only gives us the illusion of temporary relief, but in reality, it only serves to build the roots of bitterness even deeper into our hearts.
But what if we could just surrender those thoughts up to God instead? Like he asked us to in the first place?
Surrender is to relinquish control of our thoughts to God. To give them up to Him. To trust he can take them away and give us His thoughts instead.
To surrender to His ways!
To NOT be like Adam & Eve who simply fell for a quick and momentary desire of their hearts, & thus missed the greater reward down the road
HOW TO PUT TO DEATH THESE THOUGHTS. HOW TO SURRENDER
But how do you actually surrender? What does that really mean?
(Colossians 3:5-10) – NIV
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry (by the way, ALL of these are in your mind or at least start there) 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
Paul is saying that, life, is a Renovation process.
God is constantly renovating you to make you more like Him
BUT we’ve got to submit to the master carpenter to let Him Renovate!
And we do that…by what we do with our minds.
(2 Corinthians 10:3-5) – NIV
3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Next time, we’re going to talk about how to better DEMOLISH those bad thoughts with the truth of God…
But notice today what it tells you to do with those stray thoughts of sin…
I love the imagery: Take the thoughts captive.
Grab ‘em! Stop letting them roam around your mind and dominate and control your thinking!
Take them captive, box ‘em up, and hand them over to Jesus!
If we’re going to grow in Christ, we need to do a much better job of policing our minds.
It’s shocking what we let exist up there.
And we’ve got to better “police our minds”
“Whoa, I’m thinking about that other person WAY too much…”
“I’m feeling those negative thoughts. Those thoughts that I’m worthless…and a terrible person (not true…Jesus loves you…I’m thinking that WAY too much)
Gotta stop! Police your mind.
And then, surrender them to God!
And surrender isn’t necessarily just using our minds to resisting thoughts. Resistance is different than surrender.
And the great news is, you’re NOT called to do this just on your own.
Because you can’t resist these temptations, these thoughts, on your own. You can not defeat sin…on your own.
What we need to do, is not resist in our own strength, but to surrender those thoughts up to God…and align our thoughts with His.
We surrender our thoughts…and then…we REFOCUS our thoughts on Him.
Which, is part 2 of this message next time.
Okay, but what would this actually look like? Let me give you some examples.
Let’s say, you’re sitting at home and you find your mind is just totally running wild thinking about how much you dislike your neighbor…or someone at work.
You’re thinking about all the ridiculously annoying things they do…they’re the biggest idiot on the face of planet…do they even know how many ppl think they’re annoying…and you’re maybe even picturing yourself telling them that YOU and EVERYONE else you know thinks they’re an idiot…
And then of course in the middle of your thoughts, they hang their head and say, “You’re right…You’re always right”
Which in your mind…you usually are J
BUT…let’s say…you’re starting to get better at policing your mind…you’re reading more of the Word of God and learning God’s truth…and for a second, you feel convicted.
Man, this is bitterness. This is hate. This isn’t love. This isn’t what Christ would think.
Now…crossroads time. What do you do? How do you surrender?
Step One, you take the thought captive:
You say, “I’m gonna stop that thought. I’m not gonna keep dwelling on that. That’s just GROWING bitterness in me.”
Step Two: You surrender it up in prayer.
God, take these thoughts from me. Help me change my attitude and focus on you. I NEED your help with this. I can’t fix my mind on this. Change my heart. Change my mind!
Then, step Three: You refocus your mind onto God’s truth of that person (which is what the next time is going to be about)
But, you would in a sense, think of truth: Maybe a Scripture verse. Maybe something about God. OR, maybe see that person through Jesus’ eyes.
“God…you love this person. Teach me to love them. See them as you see them.”
Maybe even PRAY for the person rather than just “hatin” on the person
“God, please be with that annoying person and help them to stop being so stupid and annoying!”
OH! You just got caught again! Whoops!
Take it captive. Surrender. And speak truth.
Try again, “God, please be with them. I pray you move in their life. Bless them and may they know you more.”
The same process works with all sorts of things. Like jealously, greed, even lust.
If you’re thinking a lustful thought…
Police your mind. Take it captive. Stop it.
Surrender it to God…maybe even another person.
“God, this is a LIE! This won’t bring me life. It’s a cheap trick. You are life!”
This is going to feel impossible at first…especially if you are first trying it
But GOD CAN DO THIS. He tells us so:
(1 Corinthians 10:13) – NIV
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
He will ALWAYS provide a way out. Always! You just have to take it!
The surrender of your mind is a life-long pursuit.
And it is a daily choice. An hourly battle. Against our selfish presets.
And it’s often a struggle at first.
But trust the process. Trust me on this. Trust His Word.
And once you start to get a few victories in this, and when you experience the “Fruit of the obedience of your mind,” you’ll be even to trust even more.
Because you’ll see it working!
And remember, surrender isn’t giving up in the way we normally define it.
It’s more like “Giving over”
It’s like saying, “Hey God. You take the wheel of my life. You drive. You’re a better driver than me. I’ll go with your ways and your thoughts.”
“I just keep crashing into the walls. You drive!”
And it’ll take time, but you can do this. God can do this in you.
You can learn that surrender is okay. God can teach you that the feelings of your flesh (anger, resentment, lust, greed, etc.) do NOT have to be fulfilled.
A spiritually mature person knows that they don’t NEED to keep dwelling on that lustful thought.
They will not DIE if they don’t bring it to fruition. They can surrender…and surrender WORKS!
And the more you surrender, the more you find that raising the white flag to God, doesn’t lead to captivity, it lead to LIFE!
And all along, it was not surrendering that led to bondage.
But surrendering, raising the white flag, was what finally helped you find true life.
Raise the white flag. Surrender to God.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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