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About this series
I Choose Peace
How to Quiet Your Heart in the Chaos of Life
Why is it that as soon as we get that house, that job, that car, that, "you-fill-in-the-blank," the shine wears off so quickly - the horizon just keeps moving, and we never really experience peace? In this series, Chip unmasks a vicious opponent that's constantly poised to steal our peace and create an all-consuming discontent. If you’re ready for a spiritual journey of adventure and an intimacy with God like you’ve never known before, this series, from Philippians, Chapter 4, is the road map you're looking for.More from this series
Pick up your teaching notes, we are going to jump right in. And as we jump right in, I want you to really think about, pause, what is the greatest fear you’re facing today?
Not some generic – you personally, your life sitting here – what is the greatest fear you’re facing? I want you to really name it. Fear of the future, fear of health, fear you’ll never get married, fear the marriage will never get any better, fear for one of your kids, fear about the economy, fear about politics, fear about racism… what is it?
Here’s what I want you ask you – second question. And I want you to think about this. Would you like to overcome that fear? And not casually. Because the way to overcome it is not going to be an easy thing. But I want you to really think. And even say a little prayer to God.
So, how do you experience God’s power and presence that eliminates fear in such a way that in the midst of storms, you’re not a slave to fear? Because so many of us are.
In order to discover that, I’m going to suggest that you need to understand how God has made and wired your mind and your emotions, how they work together, and when you do and when you understand that, then you understand exactly what you need to do.
Because, yes, there are challenging things happening in the world, but I want to tell you how we think some of us are feeding our fears instead of starving them. And I am going to talk this morning about starving your fear and feeding your faith.
There’s a study at the University of Tennessee a number of years ago. It was not very complicated. It was a twelve-year study. There was a control group that heard five minutes of a radio program with just benign information. There was an experimental group that heard five minutes of information that it was all negative. There was an earthquake in such-and-such a city, a child was abducted in Memphis. Just five minutes. No video. Just five minutes.
After twelve years, they did an evaluation of both groups to find out: was there any impact of five minutes of negative audio content over a twelve-year period? The results: the people in the experimental group were more depressed, they believed the world was a more negative place, they were less likely to help others, and they believed that those things that they heard over the last twelve years would happen to them.
Now, pause! Think about this! This isn’t like an hour of the nightly news. This isn’t like a three-hour movie. This isn’t like in front of a screen things blowing up. This is just five minutes of audio.
We all know – right? that you are what you eat, physically. Right? We all know that. It’s sweets today and it’s hips tomorrow, right? What I want you to get is that you are what you eat psychologically. Here’s where science and Scripture are in such alignment.
Three truths about our thinking. Number one, we are the product of our thought life. Who you are today is the product of your past thinking of what you thought was true, what you think isn’t true, your focus, your decisions. It’s your thought life. Proverbs 23:78, I love the King James on this one, “As a man thinketh, so is he,” or, “so you become.” As a man thinks in your heart, so you become.
Second, our emotions flow from our thoughts. In other words, you think and it triggers; your emotions follow your thoughts. Most of us make lots of the decisions based on our emotions but our emotions follow our thoughts. Scripture says, Romans 8:6, “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is,” notice, “life and peace.”
Third truth is that what we allow into our minds is the most important decision we make each and every day. What you think about, what you allow in your mind, what you watch, what you listen to, what is on the radio in your car.
What you listen to. The conversations with people that you have. What you allow into your eye gate and your ear gate that seeps down into your soul, that gives you a perspective of what life is really about is the most important decision you ever make each and every day.
And pause, parents, grandparents, you have no greater obligation than what you allow your kids to watch and hear. And every parent or if you’re a grandparent with a lot of kids in your house and the appropriate kind, non-kamikaze, non-Nazi attitude.
In a loving way, you need to know what is on their phones, you need to know exactly what they are watching, and you need to build a trust relationship and you need to have certain filters. There is a world out there seeking to capture your sons and daughters’ hearts. And it happens when they are unsuspecting.
It happened to one of my sons in high school and, actually, one of my grandchildren just last year. Something popped up and some predator came after a little girl. Thank God her parents are very diligent.
So, what goes into your mind, is paramount. And what I want to encourage you is that what you allow to go in your mind in many ways is what is creating or feeding your fears.
As you turn the page, the apostle Paul – remember, he is speaking from a prison cell. His life is very challenging. It’s very difficult. And, yet, he has this amazing peace. He’s writing to this church that he loves very much, that has grown and he has a wonderful relationship.
And he is trying to help them live in peace, live with joy, live with love.
And in the anxiety of the Roman world and a world that is filled with violence and injustice, especially for a follower of Christ, he writes to them and he is going to teach them: this is how you can, you might underline in your notes, choose. You choose peace. It’s a gift, but you’ve got to choose it in a very broken world, in a violent world, in an uncertain world.
He says, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise,” HERE’S THE FIRST COMMAND, “LET YOUR MIND DWELL ON THESE THINGS.”
I would like you to underline these key words. Underline the word true in your notes, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and then, anything worthy of praise.
And what he is saying is: there is a way to think about life, but this is how God wants you to think about life and this kind of thinking is – we are going to learn what it means in a minute – this is what I want you to dwell on, to ponder, to meditate, to review, to fill your mind with.
And then he is going to move from their thinking to their behavior. “The things that you have learned and received, heard and seen in me,” HERE’S THE SECOND COMMAND, “PRACTICE THESE THINGS.”
Notice, they weren’t just sitting in a room listening to the apostle Paul. “The things you learned,” in other words, they had an appetite, they took it in, that you received; you actually applied it.
“The things you heard,” they heard him talk, and you saw, they watched him model it. He says, “I want you to practice the very kind of teaching and lifestyle that I had,” and then the very last line he says, “Here’s A PROMISE.” It’s not the peace of God this time. What is it? “THE GOD OF PEACE WILL BE WITH YOU.” In other words, the God of shalom, the God of blessing, the God who gives favor, the God who protects, the God who wants to give you the very best in life – not just will He give you His peace, He will be with you.
And so, here’s what I want to do. This is one of the most important messages that I will ever get to give anywhere at any time.
Because think of this. I don’t know if I’ll be here two years or five years or ten years from now. But here’s what I know about me and here’s what I know about you and every person watching this. You are the product of your thoughts. And we are casual with what we allow into our mind and it is shaping your character, it’s shaping your decisions, it’s shaping your emotions.
And if you and I would get very, very serious, he is going to give us six words and I am going to define each one and then I have created a set, a little question out of each one that you and I could say, if you took this seriously, “Before I let this in my eyes, in my mind or in my heart, or in one of my kids or grandkids, or in my house, I am going to ask one of these six questions. And if the answer is: this is good, it comes in. And if the answer is: it’s bad, it doesn’t.” And here’s the deal. You do that for ninety days, you will be shocked at your emotional health. You’ll be shocked at the changes in your life.
Because we have grown accustomed to allowing lots of stuff that disturbs your soul. Lots of lies that tell you that you don’t measure up, that life is terrible, life is violent, life is uncertain, bad things are going to happen. And then you live in fear. And living in fear is the opposite of living in faith.
So, are you ready to go? THE FIRST COMMAND IS TO DWELL ON THESE THINGS. The words means to think deeply, to review, to replay, to meditate, to talk about, to analyze, to ponder, to deduce. Colin Brown is the expert in New Testament dictionary and I love the one, the word is, are you ready? Listen to it. Logizomai. Can anybody hear the English word: logic? It’s a word, he says, that is not unemotional or philosophical thought, but it’s the very process of reasoning and the deduction which separates good from evil. It’s dwelling on what you see, what comes on the screen, the email, the blog and asking yourself: dwell, ponder.
Here’s, though, the things you want to dwell on. Number one: things that are true. This word means objectively true. That which conforms to reality versus things that are deceptive. Illusions that promise peace and happiness.
I want you to think about, okay, so what do you know is true? So, it would be pondering and dwelling on Scripture that is true. It would be pondering on some truth about your life.
This morning, I don’t know if you all ever have this, do you ever just wake up and feel a bit negative and not know exactly why? Just like semi-bummed out? I just taught this. I just taught this last night. You would think I would wake up chippy! And I laid in bed and it was early and just this negative filter. And so, I decided I would practice this, so I prayed through Psalm 23 a couple times slowly. And when I got done I felt slightly less negative. And then I had this thought, I’ve got to do these exercises for my back. Yuck! I hate to do those!
And so, I decided, okay, I’m going to do that. And then, so, as I thought, Okay, here’s what I’m going to do. Whatever verse comes to my mind during all my exercises for forty minutes, I quoted out loud: passage, passage, passage, passage, passage.
And then I decided, You know what? I’m going to declare what is true. I am the son of the Living God. I have been – I have an inheritance from Him. He has already reserved a place for me in heaven. He has deposited spiritual gifts in my life. I have His peace living in my heart. He has blessed me with a wife that is loyal and loves me. And I just started to declare, out loud, with verses all the things that were true. And my emotions went, pssss. Wow! Just filled with gratitude. You have to focus on what is true.
By contrast, there is lots of premises and lies that, over time, in our family of origin, that we tend to believe. In a book by Tommy Newberry, it’s the 4:8 principle. It’s about this verse. He lists some things that we tend to unconsciously tell ourselves that produce emotions that are negative, and often, fear.
Things like: I’ll never be happy again. This is just the way it is. This probably won’t work. If I had more money it wouldn’t matter, I would just probably worry about it. I don’t have what it takes. This always happens to me. The honeymoon is officially over. He doesn’t love me anymore. I’m not worthy. I’m just not very creative. My back is always going out. I like that one. I have to just accept my limitations. I never say the right thing. That makes me so sick. If that happens again, I’m going to be so, so mad. We can’t agree on anything. He doesn’t find me attractive anymore. I just don’t think I have what it takes. I always seem to blow it. When it comes, I say the wrong things. Well, I guess that’s the…
Do you hear those things? Those are things that you and I tell ourselves. I don’t measure up. This marriage will never get better. My kids, my dad was like this, his grandfather was like this, I’ve got this addiction, I have tried hard, I just have to live with it.
Here’s the deal: if you think you can or if you think you can’t, you’re a hundred percent right. Ponder that. You’re the product of your thought life. And, by the way, this is not positive thinking. All the positive thinking, there are big elements of truth, but this is thinking way beyond what is positive. This is what is true. This is what God has said.
Some of the lies that you all believe, they are very, very subtle and they are mixed with truth like: I will be a complete failure as a parent if my children do not get into a very exclusive school and go into a profession like a doctor or a lawyer, etcetera. I’ll be a failure.
And it produces anxiety and it produces pressure on your kids and it produces amazing things that are super unhealthy and very dysfunctional.
I can never be happy unless I get married. I will never be happy until we own our own home. My life will be miserable unless I…
It’s this premise thinking. Premise, premise, premise, premise that some activity, some success, some upward mobility, some job, some patent, some when/then thinking. And so, now you’re trapped into a false belief system.
Now, are those things necessarily wrong? But listen to the difference. Here’s the truth. It would be nice if one of my children get into an exclusive university by the grace of God, walk with Him closely, and are used by God in a profession that would bring glory to Him and happiness to them. It would be nice. But it has nothing to do with my value as a parent.
It would be nice if I get into one of those kind of schools and keep my grades up, but I am going to do the best I can, but my value isn’t dependent in any way on my grades, my athletic ability, or my musicianship because I am sealed and delivered and approved by the living God. I am on my way to heaven and He has a purpose for my life that may or may not include that.
Do you see the difference? You believe a lot of lies. And your kids believe a lot of lies. And you have to focus on what is true and you will see a world of difference in your life.
Second, the preview question then is: when you are watching or listening to something you ask, “Is this true or false?” Is this true or false? I am going to spend the most time on this because all the others flow out of this. Here’s an illustration. You think that your emotions are responding to reality. No, no. Your emotions are responding to your thinking and your thinking is the perception of reality.
Those people who listened to just five minutes of negative things, their perception was: the guy in that car, he probably wants to hurt me. Never pick up a hitchhiker because I heard that story. It’s their perception.
So, pretend you’re out, maybe on Quicksilver Trail or you’re taking a big hike, and as you’re walking, “Ah!” You freeze, it’s coiled up, it’s a snake and you got within – and all of a sudden your stomach tightens up, perspiration, heart rate! “Oh my gosh, it’s a snake!” And you hold someone back and you look at it and you look at it and you look at it. And then, it’s not moving at all, and so you get closer and you get closer and you get closer and you realize it’s a piece of rope that is coiled around.
It was your perception that created all the exact same emotions as though it were a snake. And there’s a lot of snake thinking. It takes an incredible amount of discipline and diligence to be someone who starts to think about what is true.
Second: is it honorable? The word means sober, serious, worthy of respect, inspires awe. It refers to those things that reflect the weighty purpose of a believer’s life. Now, there is a time for fantasy football, there’s a time to get jacked up over the Super Bowl and other things. There’s a time, I suppose, to figure out who won the Globe or the Oscar.
But there’s trivia ad nauseum in the world. And this is saying: in the midst of all that, here’s what you need to think about. You need to think, at times, about some things that are grave, sober, serious.
Things like the living God through His Son, Jesus Christ, has rescued you from eternal damnation by His gift on the cross. And He loves you and favors you with unconditional love and draws you close to Himself and has an amazing plan for your life. Whoo.
He has an Ephesians 2:10 purpose for you that you are His actual workmanship. You are His piece of pottery, His poem, you are made and designed by the living God for a purpose that only you can fulfill that He did before the foundations of the earth.
Question: am I fulfilling it? You are living in a world that is called: window – time. But you are made for eternity. There is a heaven that is real. There is a hell that is real. Those are serious things.
The writer of Ecclesiastes says there is far more wisdom at a funeral than there is at a party. Now, I don’t mean you focus on this all the time, but we are living in a world that is quick, fast, immediate. Those deep kind of thoughts shape your thinking.
My wife asked me after last night’s message, she said, “So, Chip, what are you afraid of?” I said, “I am most afraid that I will squander the life that God has given me and I will not fulfill His purposes.” And she said, “Why?” I said, “Because at least in the world’s standard, I am way more ‘successful’ than I thought I would ever be, God has given us more than I ever dreamed in every arena, and all that creates comfort and a lifestyle that works against the kind of focus and sacrifice of taking up my cross and following Him and taking big risks for the kingdom of God. And so, I just, I am afraid that I could slip into a status quo type life and everyone would think it’s just wonderful except the Lord would know and I would know.”
Ask this question: does this honor or dishonor God? When you’re watching it: does this honor God? Does this really honor God? It might be gray, it might just be evil. That’s easy. But does this show honor God? Does this conversation honor God? Does this movie honor God? Does the book I’m reading, does this relationship honor God?
Third, is it right? The word means righteous. It’s used in the New Testament to refer to the Father, to Jesus, to God’s actions, to God’s character. It pictures doing what is right when tempted. You might write the word integrity.
At the heart of this is there is a standard that is not outside of God but God’s very character creates a standard. And integrity just means there is an alignment with that. And the question you want to ask: is this right or is it wrong? Did I just say the whole truth or a partial truth? Is this what is really clearly I know is true or is it a white lie? Is it everyone does this on their taxes and that time is coming up or is it absolutely pure? Is this: I’m padding my expenses just a little because I can kind of justify it and I know I’ll get away with it or, in fact, is this integrity?
We really love each other, but are we married or are we living together? Is this recreational, just a spicy forty-nine, fifty, fifty-one Shades of Grey? Or is it just absolutely wrong and immoral and should never be in my house?
Is it a game that honors life and love and warmth or is it a game where people get blown up and I put it in front of my kids where their thumbs are killing and mutilating thousands of people hours on hours in addictive behavior? Just ask yourself.