Radio Broadcast

Lasting Change - Why We Want it so Badly and Achieve it so Rarely, Part 1

Scripture: Proverbs 10:9

We all want to improve something about ourselves but we often fail to accomplish that goal. Chip begins this series by sharing why our best efforts fall short, how to overcome obstacles, and how to achieve victory.

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Transcript

I wonder how many here, we’ll start with the easy ones, would like to start a sensible eating plan and stay with it for the next two years and drop all weight desired. I wonder how many here would like to be a more sensitive husband, or a more effective father.

I wonder how many, if you really believed it was possible would like to read and study God’s Word regularly and enjoy it and find yourself either early in the morning or at night opening God’s Word and having Him speak to you in a way like never before. And instead of an ought or a should it would be a delight.

I wonder how many here would like to overcome some of those down deep insecurities that thwart your confidence and inhibit relationships and produce that negative self-image so that when you look in the mirror, down deep, you don’t like you.

I wonder how many here, if it was really possible, would like to break a habit, a destructive habit. Some people know about it, maybe nobody knows about it, but it’s a destructive habit and it has been nagging and nagging and nagging. Wouldn’t it be great to be, at the end of this year, and say, “It’s in the rearview mirror”?

I wonder how many people here would like to get in great shape, look in the mirror and say, You know something? I’m taking care of my body the way I know God wants me to. Or finally, I wonder how many people here would like to slow down. Would like to be more patient with your children. Would like to be a better listener with your friends. Would like to be a person that is more at peace with yourself.

Now, I can’t image, to be very candid, I can’t imagine a lot of people saying, “Cha, man, I don’t want any of that stuff. Not me! I’m an irritable person, not a very good parent, and I want to stay that way! I’m a single person, I’m in rebellion, I’m living in a way, and the consequences are killing me and…”

See, everybody wants to change for the better. We all do. It’s inherent in your heart and God made you that way. Here’s the deal. If that’s true, why is it so hard? In fact, not only why is it so hard, but why is it, if honestly everyone in this room could say, “I would like to change for the better in this area,” why do we want it so badly and yet achieve it so rarely?

And see, the fact of the matter is is that a lot of us have Slim Fast in the closet, it’s unused. We bought a case at Costco thinking we were going to save a lot of money. Some of us have a gym or a spa pass that it wasn’t purchased this year, it was last Christmas someone got it as a gift and, by the way, the number of times we have gone, it averages out, we paid about fifty to eighty dollars a visit.

For others, we have Bibles that were brand new and the new study version. The only problem is we haven’t opened them. For still others, we have books on time management and boundaries, the Christian family, maximum marriage, single but not alone, and finding peace in a hurried world. Except we just haven’t had time to read them.

You know what we do have? Most of it, when it comes to changing for the better, what we do have is guilt. A lot of guilt. A lot of inner voices that say, You ought to do this, you should do this, you ought to do that, when are you going to get with this? And some of you, like me, have come to points in your life where you said, New Years, or, New Year’s resolutions, I don’t do that because, you know what? It’s just a painful process to set them, not keep them, set them, not keep them, set them not keep them. So if you don’t set them, it doesn’t feel quite so bad.

And so what I want to talk with you about today is how in the world can we, in fact, change for the better? No short cuts. But in a way where it happens from the inside out and it lasts.

And I want to ask and answer this question: Why do our attempts to change so often fail? Now, my answer may not be the whole truth, nothing but the truth, and include everything, but it’s a premise I’d like you to listen to. My premise is this, is that the problem with change is this: Superficial analysis and superficial focus produces superficial temporary change.

And what I mean by that is our focus is usually superficial. I want to lose a little weight, or, I’d like to be a little more disciplined or have a better relationship. In fact, to give you the picture of what I’m talking about, pull out a pen if you’ve got it and see on this little diagram, this pyramid of an iceberg. I want you take it and put some squiggly lines right under the word behavior.

So it looks like this pyramid I have given you is an iceberg floating in the water. But above the waterline is your behavior and below the waterline is speech, thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, values, and at the bottom, integrity.

And what I am really saying by this is that we tend to focus on change above the waterline. I need to change my eating habits, I need to change my workout habits, I need to watch less TV, I need to be a better parent, I need to get more work done. It’s above the waterline.

Our analysis, often, is superficial as well. Did you ever wonder why you eat when you’re not hungry? Why, if you really believe you need to get in shape, you don’t. Why, if you really believe that you want to have a deeper marriage, you don’t really spend much time cultivating it more than a few quick runs.

What I want to tell you is that when we do in-depth analysis, when you start looking below the waterline, the Scripture says, in fact, we’re going to look at a passage of Scripture where all of this is developed out of.

The Scripture says that whatever comes out of your mouth is the best indicator of what is really going on in your heart. Not what you think is in there but what is really in there.

And the Bible will talk about thoughts that we have and attitudes that we have that really shape our behavior. And behind our thoughts and attitudes there are some values and some belief systems that are deeply ingrained in you and that is what is creating these behaviors above the waterline.

My premise is this: We don’t look down deep underneath the waterline and, therefore, we have problems that have deeply rooted issues, we give a superficial analysis, a superficial solution, and three weeks to three months later, there is no change. Did you notice what is at the bottom of the pyramid? What is the word? Integrity. The verse on the top is from Proverbs 10:9, “He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his way will be found out.”

If you walk in integrity, if you walk in honesty, if you are willing to say, God, I want to see myself the way You see me, if you’re willing to look in the mirror and say, I want to see myself accurately, not what I want to believe but what is true, if you’re willing to look below the surface and say, What values and attitudes and thoughts and beliefs do I really hold dear that is producing these kind of behaviors?

If you’re willing to look there, you’ll be secure. “But he who perverts,” the Hebrew word literally means crooked, takes a shortcut, “but he who perverts his way will be found out.”

Let me give you a picture, okay? I think it’ll help you pull it together. For the first, probably, ten, twelve years that I was a believer, I was a full-blown workaholic. Okay? It started early and it got worse, worse, worse. By the time I was in college I was playing two sports, working a job, in a Bible study, leading a Bible study, and meeting with five people individually every week.

It worked. If the goal was to get through school and get good grades, it works. I stayed up late, got up early, pushed my body to the limit, got involved some ministry, got involved in coaching, then I got married, then I went to seminary, then I was in a church.

And, by the way, some of those behaviors began to catch up with me. Behaviors like I was always late, above the waterline. I was very insensitive. See, you know why workaholics are late? You can get one more thing done before you leave for that meeting.

I was insensitive because I always multitasked. You see, while I’m on the phone I am reading something and filling something out at the same time, you get a lot more done. But it means I don’t really listen to what you are saying. I’m thinking about what I am going to say and where I am going to be later, even with my kids.

I was always in a hurry. You know those people on Highway 17 that drive very fast, make you nuts, and weave in and out of people? That used to be me. Why? I’m important! I’ve got a lot to do! And I found if I drove like that I could save somewhere between two and a half and three minutes!

I was exhausted a great deal of the time. And I was overcommitted. I said yes to everything and everyone. And I ended up in the hospital a couple of times. Totally exhausted, drained, I had a doctor look me in the eye and say, “You know what? You are a fool.” I worked sixteen, eighteen-hour days all the time. No day off.

And my wife would say this and my friends would say that. And somewhere along the line, because of my spiritual roots, two things I didn’t neglect. One, I didn’t neglect my time with God and, two, I did not neglect my family. All through seminary and all my workaholism, my wife will tell you, “He was there for me and he was there for our kids.”

But what I found out was they were sleeping from three, four, five, six in the morning, I could get work done. And after they went to bed, I could get more work done.

And so I tried to be less hurried and I tried to be more sensitive – above the waterline. Try this, try this, try this. Three weeks, failure. Three weeks, failure. I’m going to try harder. I became a workaholic at trying not to be a workaholic.

“But he who walks in integrity walks securely.” God brought some people and some books and some friends and some walls where I finally realized, I need to look underneath the hood. And I started examining my speech and I found that I, in my speech, would let people know how early I got up. And I let them know how many things I was doing. You know what it produced? Aren’t you wonderful! I found that I would tell people how exhausted I was and they would see me and I would say, “Well, you know, when you’re serving God like I do…” Poor little me, victim.

And I arranged to get strokes and feedback from people to try and build my self-worth. See, everyone operates in a way that works for them. And then I went behind the thoughts and the attitudes to the belief systems. And I came to the conclusion that was really scary. I believed, down deep, even though I was a believer, that God didn’t love me unconditionally. I believed God loved me when I was good. I believed God loved me when I got a lot done. And then I somehow had this perverted thing that turned into being a little martyr. And I couldn’t say no to people because I had to come through for everybody.

And then I looked at that value. I remember being a pastor, the first year, we would be at the supper table, the phone would ring, I would jump out, “Hello! Who is it?” Dut-da-daaa! Da-da-da-da-da-dut-da-daaa! “Excuse me, dear! I’m going to get in my phone booth!” You know? My wife would turn to me and say, “Let it ring, hun!”

And then you know what I found? I found that because I didn’t believe God loved me unconditionally, I didn’t believe people could either. And so I tried to come through for everybody all the time.

You know when change occurred? Not when I tried to stop hurrying, not when I tried to change my driving, not when I tried to make some amends above the waterline. Change occurred when I got honest with God, honest with me, when I took a journey and looked down deep inside and I examined where those issues came from and then began to see God accurately, me accurately, and I changed from the inside out.

Integrity is the prerequisite for lasting change. I’m going to ask you to go on a preliminary journey for four weeks with me and I am going to ask you to look deeply into your own heart, below the waterline, because, see, here is the issue.

Choices made after an honest look below the waterline grow out of convictions. Do you know the difference between convictions and intentions? Convictions are something God gives you, you have to do, it’s from inside. Intentions are: ought, should, everybody wants me to, I think I should but…

You never follow through with those. When we approach the need to change from a heartfelt repentance to honor and please God, rather than simply get relief or feel better about ourselves, then and only then are we in a position for lasting change to occur.

It goes beyond self-help, short-term strategies, no short cuts. It starts with integrity. It starts with being honest with God, honest with yourself, honest with others at a whole other level. And I’m going to tell you something, okay? It’s painful.

This week is going to be the most painful. See, if you’re really honest with God, if you let Him speak to you today, I think God loves you so much that He is going to let you know that, you know something? The issue has nothing to do with working out. The issue has nothing to do with media. The issue has nothing to do with eating when you’re not hungry. The issue doesn’t have to do with work, work, work, work, work. There is something under the hood, below the waterline that you don’t quite get right about God or right about yourself.

And, by the way, He loves you. He wants to help you. So let’s define integrity and then after that, here’s what I want to do.

I want to give you three reasons and, unapologetically, I’m going to try and sell you, all right? So you don’t feel manipulated, I’m trying very hard. I’m going to try to persuade you to get as honest before God as you have ever been, as honest with yourself and honest with others because I am going to tell you there is so much at stake that if you don’t go this direction, you’ll pay such a high price that you will walk out of here saying, You know what? I am going to get honest with God. It may be painful but it can’t be half as painful as not being honest. All right?

So let’s make sure we’re on the same page. Let’s define integrity. The Hebrew word means: complete moral innocence. It’s the state or quality of being complete, undivided, moral soundness, upright, truthful. Walking honestly. It’s when your life and your words are telling the same story. It’s not speaking this way but thinking and living another way.

It comes from the same root word as to integrate, or to bring unity and wholeness. It’s this idea of living a life where there is not a dichotomy, where you don’t project this to people but your attitudes and your thoughts and your beliefs or your lifestyle is different. It is when your walk and your talk tell the same story. That’s what integrity is.

The synonyms are: sincere, authentic, real, consistent. Even now, think to yourself, who are the people that you love to be around? Aren’t they people that are real, authentic, sincere? Don’t you want to be that kind of person?

All I am telling you is, the journey there may be painful, but the alternative is lethal. So let me give you three reasons why you can’t afford and I can’t afford, if you really want to change for the better, three reasons why integrity is essential.

Number one: relationships are impossible without integrity. Not hard, they are impossible. As you scan Scripture, you’re going to find it’s impossible to have a relationship with God without integrity. It’s impossible to have a relationship with yourself without integrity. And you can’t have a relationship with others without integrity. You know what you’ll have? Pseudo-relationship, pseudo-relationship, pseudo-relationship.

And it’s in genuine, authentic relationships that you are nurtured. You were made for relationship. In fact, do you remember John chapter 4? Remember this woman at the well? She’s not like a Sunday school teacher. She has had five marriages in her past, she’s shacking up with a guy now, she is only out there because she is a social reject. She went out to get the water when the other women weren’t around.

And Jesus strikes up this conversation, it gets a little bit religious and talks about where authentic worship is going to occur and Jesus turns to her finally and says, “Hey, hey, babe, let me,” He probably didn’t call her “babe” but you know what I mean.

He said, “You know, this really isn’t about, this really is not about location.” And then He gives us some of the most profound words in the New Testament about worship. He says, “Those who worship God worship Him in spirit and in truth.”

For such the Father eagerly pursues. God is looking for, God is seeking after, “If you seek Me,” the Bible says, “you will find Me if you search for Me with all your heart.” See, God is looking for people who will be honest.

I put a passage in there for your further study, Psalm 15 is one of my favorite passages. It’s a little passage that I would encourage you to memorize because it starts with a question, it gives the answer, and then it gives you a promise.

The thumbnail sketch on it, the Psalmist says, “O Lord, who may abide or dwell in Your tent? Who may abide on that holy hill?” In other words, who is it that can have an authentic, awesome relationship with You?

And then the answer is verses 2 to 5: “He who walks in integrity and works righteousness and speaks truth in his heart; who doesn’t slander with his tongue, who doesn’t do evil to his neighbor; those who do evil are a reproach to Him but He honors those who fear the Lord. He doesn’t put out his money with interest; he swears to his own hurt, and does not change. The man, the woman who lives like this will never be shaken.”

God is looking for a special kind of person. It doesn’t have to do with intellect, background, education, or socioeconomics. It has to do with a heart that says, God, I am willing to be honest.

Psalm 145:18 is one of those “epiphany” verses for me. See, I grew up with this idea that if you had a bad sin you should feel bad for a day or two. A real bad sin, maybe three or four days or a week. A little sin, you have to feel bad for a few hours. You know what the Scripture says? The Lord is near to those who call upon Him, to those who call upon Him in truth.

And you know what I learned? I learned that God isn’t waiting for me to play some sort of mental penance game, that when Christ died on the cross, He forgave all of our sin and the instant, the millisecond I am willing to be honest with God, He will meet me.

Now, there may be consequences, He may take me through a journey, but He will meet me and when He meets me, I won’t get the boney finger of a father who is down on me. I will meet a Father who says, “Chip, I have been waiting for you to come. I love you. I want to pick you up. I want to clean you off.” The moment you are honest with God, you are a candidate for genuine relationship.

It’s impossible to have a relationship with God unless you are honest. It’s impossible to have a relationship with yourself. There are a lot of people that look in the mirror and they don’t like themselves. And they don’t like themselves because they are in such levels of denial, they don’t even know who they are looking at.

Things that are unpleasant about themselves, I don’t want to look at that. And it produces very negative things. Do you remember the story of David? Remember that great man of God? The Bible says he was a man after God’s own heart. Remember him?

And do you remember that on a weak day, in a bad moment and a bad place when he wasn’t where he was supposed to be, that he looked out and saw a very beautiful woman in the nude, Bathsheba? He took her for his own and then he covered his tracks by killing her husband. He kept the whole thing hush-hush, eventually marries her.

And for a period of somewhere between nine to twelve months, he lives a lie. Complete duplicity. “I’m the king!” He led the people in worship, he played the game, “I love God!” Did the whole nine yards, ruled like a king of Israel would, but behind it all was a lie.

And God sent a prophet named Nathan and he brought him to the reality of the truth. And during the time of that nine to twelve months, I think David wrote a couple of Psalms. Psalm 32, I put the reference because a lot of this message, I want you to check out on your own.

And in Psalm 32, about 2 to 5, David says, “Blessed is the man who lives purely before the Lord.” He says, “In whose spirit there is no deceit. But as for me, my soul was like a parched land. As for me, there was groaning all day long. As for me, the heavy hand of my God was upon me.” And then finally when he confessed, when he got right with God, it is found in Psalm 51.

And what does he do? He didn’t blame people. He said, “Against You and You only have I sinned.” And then about verse 6 he says, “For You desire truth” – where? “in the innermost parts.”

See, I’m asking you to go on a journey with me. I’m asking you to look below the waterline. I’m asking you to say that there is probably a bigger reason behind some of those behavioral patterns you want to change that are a lot bigger than not eating as much or not watching as much TV or these little resolutions.

There is probably something underneath that’s at the core in your thoughts and your values and your belief systems. That’s what God wants to change! But I’m asking you to have the courage to go there. Because if you don’t, you can’t have authentic relationship with God, you can’t have authentic relationship with others, and you can’t have authentic relationship with yourself.

In fact, Ephesians 4, that great book about the Church and then how it’s lived out. Speaking the truth, what are we supposed to do? “Speak the truth in love to one another” – what’s the result? “that we grow up in all aspects, and to love, becoming all God wants us to be.”