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About this series
Good to Great in God's Eyes
Ten Practices Great Christians have in Common
Are you tired of the status quo Christian life? Do you long for a spiritual breakthrough? Are you looking to go to the next level or get a fresh infusion of faith and spiritual passion? Great Christians live out their faith with purpose. In Mark 10:43, Jesus says, whoever wants to become great among you must - what? You'll explore the idea that there are certain practices available to every believer, at every maturity level, to move us from good to great, in God's Eyes. ACSI approvedMore from this series
I’ve got a little word association game I’d like to play with you very briefly. Tell me what these words have in common: Atkins, South Beach, low-carb, high-carb, high-protein, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers. Are we there? It’s diets, right? It’s what you put in your body. Someone has said, “You are, and we are, what we eat.” And we know it’s true, physically. It’s absolutely, scientifically proven.
If you want to change your cholesterol, you’ve got to change your diet. If you want to change your body, if you want to lose weight if you want your heart, your body, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera to change, you have to change, and I have to change, what I put in my mouth.
But often what we forget, it is just as true psychologically, as it is physically. University of Tennessee did a twelve-year study trying to measure, in some way, the impact of what people put into their minds. They had a control group, and a non-control group, listen to a five-minute daily radio program every day. And then, they tested them.
The results were, if there were four negative items in the five-minute radio program, the listeners were, one, more depressed; two, believed the world was a negative place to live; three, were less likely to help others; and, four, began to believe that what they heard would actually happen to them. Empirical research. Five minutes. Five little minutes of listening to four negative things impacted them that much. Imagine what, in the average home, six to seven hours a day of TV, is doing to the average person in America.
You are what you eat. I am what I eat. It is true, physically. It is true, psychologically. The Scripture says what – Proverbs 23: “As a man thinks” – or as a woman thinks – “in his heart, so is he.” In fact, Ralph Waldo Emerson even gets in. He says, “Life consists of what a man is thinking about all day.” Your life consists merely of what you’re thinking about all day.
But it’s also true, spiritually. And Romans 8 – you might jot this down – verses 5 to 8, when you have some time, are worth looking at.
It talks about this deliverance we have, the Spirit being in us, the Law and the Spirit of life, the Law, spirit of death. And then, after talking about having been delivered by what God has done, it says, “For the mind set on the flesh is death. The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God, and it is not able even to please God.”
I’m going to become, physically, what I put in my body. I’m going to become, psychologically and spiritually, what I put into my mind. I’d suggest that the most important decision you make, and the most important decision your children make, and your grandchildren make, every single day, is this: what they allow to go into their mind. Because you’ll notice, there’s a little graphic on the bottom of your notes. And the idea is: wrong thinking leads to negative emotions, that leads to unwise behavior, that leads to devastating consequences.
Often, what happens in our lives when we want to change – we usually start at the wrong place. We often start with the behavior: I’m eating too much. I’m eating too much. I want to stop eating. I’m drinking too much. I’m not doing enough of this. And we start with the behavior. And we go through cycles, and we can’t figure it out.
Some people get a little smarter, and they start with the emotions, like, Why am I feeling this way? I notice that I eat when I feel this way. I notice I have these outbursts of anger when I feel this way. That’s still not starting far back enough.
You have to start, it all begins with your thinking. Wrong thinking produces negative emotions. Negative emotions will produce behavior that is unwise. And a pattern of unwise behavior – what’s the Scripture say? “If you sow to the flesh, you reap corruption. A man and a woman – don’t be deceived, my beloved brethren, you’re going to reap –” I’m going to reap what I sow.
By contrast, right thinking produces positive emotions. Positive emotions produce wise behavior. And wise behavior, sowing over time, produces fruitful consequences. We are a product of our thought life. And the point I want to make is, change, all change, all lasting change begins with how you think. And the Scripture is filled with it. I gave you Romans 8:5 to 8. Study, sometime, Ephesians 4:22 to 24: Take off the old. Have your mind renewed. Put on…
It’s everywhere. Colossians 3, “Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. Set your mind where your life is hidden with Christ.” Over and over and over and over. Just get out your concordance, and look up the word mind, or look up the word metamorphosis, or transformation, or change, and just watch how it is peppered all through Scripture. Change begins with your thinking.
And that’s why the second practice, to go from good to great in God’s eyes, is to think great thoughts. We are a product of our thinking. Our emotions flow from our thoughts. And what we allow to enter our mind is the most important decision we make every day. That’s the net, net. That’s the summary.
Now, notice, since we’re a product of our thought life, God commands us. I didn’t just make this up. He commands us to think great thoughts. And you say, “Well, where do you get that?” Well, follow along. Let’s look together at Philippians chapter 4, look at verse 8, “Finally brethren –” Verse 6: “Don’t be anxious for anything.” Verse 7 – how God’s going to work as you learn pray, give thanks, and the peace of God.
Verse 8, he says, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true” – that means objectively true, conforms to reality – “whatever is honorable” – that has the idea of that which is worthy of respect or dignity – “whatever is right” – has the idea of justice or righteousness – “whatever is pure” – that’s the idea of moral purity; free from defilement, “whatever is lovely” – that has the idea of something that is winsome, and attractive, and beautiful – “or whatever is good” – and the idea here is “admirable; of good report; worthy of passing on to another” – “and whatever is of any excellence, and if there is anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
A great little biblical exercise is to go through and circle all of those words, and just do a little mini-Bible study on what they mean. And then, they can become a little grid for what I allow to come into my mind: Whatever is true. Whatever is lovely. Whatever is honorable. Whatever is right. Whatever is pure. Whatever is of good repute. And then, Paul kind of thinks, In case I left something out, “If there is any excellence, if there’s anything worthy of praise” – notice what he says – “dwell on these things.” That’s the first command.
Then, notice, the second command is, “The things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me” – then what do you do? Those are all receptive-type words, aren’t they? Learned, received, heard, seen. Take all this data, “Practice these things” – and what’s the promise? “The God of peace will be with you.”
You see, when we’re anxious – really, you know what anxiety is? Anxiety is just dwelling on something. Anxiety is negative meditation. Some people say, “Well, I don’t know how to meditate on Scripture.” Well, just try worrying, and reverse it. It works, right?
Anxiety is, I wonder what’s going to happen? I don’t know. Well, the economy is going kind of south a little bit, and I’ve got some money put away over here. And if that doesn’t come through, then I might have to come out of retirement. Or, you know, I had planning to do with this and, what happened? Well, one of my grandchildren – and if that happens, then they could meet one of those kids at one of those colleges, and I wouldn’t have enough money. I wouldn’t have enough money. And one of my kids with one of those kids – I think I’m hyperventilating! And what do you do?
We take one little thing, and we dwell on it, and then we pull it apart, and then we factor out all the possible negative things that could happen. What happens to your emotions? Tightening of the chest. Start to get depressed. Little panic attack. Depression. See, you are a product and I am a product of my thinking. And when my thinking begins to go south, my emotions begin to really go in a bad direction. And I’d like to tell you I’m really objective, and I make all my decisions just based on good thinking, and objective criteria. I’ve got news for you: Most of us make our decisions in an emotional state. And we are swayed by how we’re feeling, and what we do.
And what the apostle Paul is saying is that, in the area of anxiety, come to God, and learn to offer it. Recognize what’s happening. He uses three or four different words for prayer. He says come, in general. Give thanksgiving. Take the specific issue. Get it before the Lord. And the promise is that the God of peace will be with you. And the peace of God will reign in your hearts.
And then, he says, Now, let’s get rid of that, as a lifestyle. “Finally, brethren, what I need you to do is – I’m going to go back beyond the emotions, beyond the anxiety, beyond the behavior. I’m going to go back to your thinking.” So, “Finally, brethren” – he gives us six or seven things, and then scrapes the Milky Way – basically, think godly, pure, righteous, honorable, winsome, lovely, God-honoring thoughts. And the promise is – what? “The God of peace will be with you.”
The word dwell, there – the command is to “dwell.” Write that word in, will you? It’s, “to dwell.” I actually put the word, in Greek, it’s logizomai. It means “to consider” – the word dwell; to think on; to recon; to deduce; to reason; to calculate; to ponder.
To “dwell” means to deliberate upon, through protracted analysis and thought. When he says “purity,” “honorable,” “justice,” “righteousness,” “lovely,” “beauty,” he says, “I want you to get your mind focused in, and, with a protracted, energetic, intentional ability, think on these things. Meditate on these things. Analyze these things.” It’s not casual thinking. It’s not passive thinking. It’s intentionally focused, protracted thought on what is right, pure, good, lovely, and righteous.
Colin Brown’s Dictionary of the New Testament, of this word, says, “It’s not an unemotional or an unphilosophical word.” This is not just, like, an accountant going through. “But, by contrast, it’s the very process of reasoning and deduction that separates good from evil.” So, it’s thinking on what is right, and pondering what’s right, and thinking of the implications, and looking at situations, and looking at what’s true, and then analyzing in such a way, and saying, I wonder how that would play out in this relationship? I wonder how that plays out in how God looks at me? I wonder if that, over time…?
It’s an analytical dwelling on truth – on God, for who He is, on you, for who you are, on other people, for who they are, looking at future and past circumstances through the lens of truth of God’s Word.
And that’s powerful. It’s powerful, powerful. There’s a reason why people are paid – do you remember what it was, for thirty seconds at the Super Bowl? Huh? How many millions, billions of dollars for – what? Two point five million dollars for thirty seconds, I believe, was the cost. Why would anyone pay that much money to have people’s attention for thirty seconds? I’ll tell you why: Because, whatever they see, whatever they hear, whatever you put in their mind, that’s what they go out and buy. It’s to influence you.
Why do companies spend billions in advertisement? The drug companies, recently – I read a statistic – the number of billions in advertisement. Why? Because when something hurts, and it’s not working, I’m going to say, “Hey doc, you know, did you see that commercial? What about this? Do you think that would help me?” Because it influences. We’re a product of our thought life.
Let me show you how powerful this is. This is not a made-up story. You know, sometimes, you have one of those illustrations that is so over the top you just think, You know what? This guy, he just – he makes these up. A fellow, his name is George. In fact, I’ll give you his full name, because, if he ever hears this – because he’s heard it once – it’ll just encourage him: George Dzindra.
I was involved in campus ministry as a young Christian. I’m now a couple years old in the Lord. And this campus goes from three or four or five kids, and now, we’ve got about forty, fifty, sixty, seventy kids, and we’re meeting in this guy’s basement, and we’re starting to grow. And I’m really a believer, and I’m walking with God, but I’m also on the basketball team. And some of the believers really loved God, but were very uncool. You know what I mean? They didn’t dress cool. They didn’t talk cool. Some of the girls were not the prettiest girls on campus.
But, over here, on the basketball team, they were “the cool guys.” We had the big hats, and the platforms, and had the full-length leather coat, walking in, “Hey what’s happening, dude?” We were cool.
And when I went on Thursday night to Bible study, I loved being around this group, but when I went on road trips, and I was with the basketball team, I had to be cool. But I had this bad situation, where I would be with the basketball team in the cafeteria, and someone that I’m supposed to love and enjoy and be a good friend and be a Christian, like I treated them on Thursday night – would come up to me.
And George would come up to me. And George had a little bit of a lisp. And George, I don’t know about you, and God bless those who have hair. God bless those who do not have hair. But when you’re nineteen, and have no hair, it’s not really good, in college. And George had already, like, three strands, going over to the left. And he came from a Slavic background, came over to this country. He grew up in hardcore New York City, in a neighborhood. His childhood, basically, was getting up, walking to school, getting beat up on the way, coming home, getting beat up on the way home. The guy had a self-image that was about that big, more negative, had a little bit of a lisp, had zero confidence. How he ever made it into college, I’ll never know.
And, “Hey Chip.” And I’m going, “Agggghhh!” You know what I’m saying? Now, none of you have ever done this, because you’re spiritual, and you love everybody, all the time, and you can’t identify with this. But maybe on a bad day, once. And it was like, “Oh, hey, good, George. Hey, man, I’ve really got to go, all right?” This guy is socially, mentally, spiritually – you know those extra-grace-required people? Those people who, when you see them coming, and there’s another stairway, you use it. This is one of those where you pretend not to see them. No eye contact. And you say to the person, “Let’s act like we’re really talking right now, because I do not want to talk to that guy.” He was that kind of guy.
But there was a guy named Jerry on our campus, and he was a little bit older. He came to help out. And Jerry saw something in George. And Jerry allowed him to get involved in an investigative Bible study – George wasn’t a Christian – and, little by little, George got interested, and he began to investigate the Scriptures.
And for him – are you ready for a thought? What a thought, that someone would love him. What a thought, that he mattered to someone, and not just someone, but God. What an amazing thought, that he had value, not because of what he looked like on the outside, not because of what he had done, or hadn’t done, or what he’d accomplished, or how well he did in school, but, just because he was George, he was valued and loved and important. And this message of the grace of God, and the gospel of Jesus Christ, finally gave birth to a new life in George.
And I saw George at the end of the school year, and I headed off, and he headed off. And we came back, and I met George about four or five months later, and, without exception, he was very different. He was cogent in his thinking, and some of the wackiness was sort of gone. I was trying to figure out what was going on. He went somewhere with Jerry – and I cannot tell you all the details, but he went to some seminar, or some conference, where someone was teaching about Scripture memory, and he went ballistic.
And so, by about Christmastime, I happened to be talking to George, and he had these 3x5 cards, about this thick, in his pocket. George had the book of James memorized. George had the book of John memorized. George had the book of Colossians memorized. George was finishing up the book of Matthew. And it was like, “George, what are you doing?” And it was literally – you know those extreme makeover shows? It was like into, it was like, Is this the same guy?
And you’d talk with him – and I could make it a long story, and it would really be fun, because it is so amazing, but all I can tell you is, George ended up on the floor with all the fraternity guys – and he was one of those nerdy-type guys that everyone would like to make fun of.
George’s life changed so much, and George had such wisdom, and God changed him as he continued to memorize the Scripture, that, soon, the fraternity guys – the super cool dudes, guys going out and doing all this stuff – they were lining up at his door, because George had this sense of what God was doing. And he was counseling them about their girlfriends, and counseling about issues when your parents break up.
And pretty soon – and this is gospel truth – about another six or eight months, I remember talking with George, and I was not only not embarrassed, it was like, “George, you think you and I could get a little time? Just hang time, you and me?” “Sure, Chip.” And I would go, and I would meet with George, and I would just ask him questions.
And it was like I have never in my life, ever seen a transformation in about a nine to eighteen-month period of time, that revolutionized a man’s. And he was so – can I say this? – beautiful. He was so beautiful on the inside, I no longer saw the features. And I no longer saw the loss of hair. And the little accent became almost attractive, and drawing, instead of a repellent. George Dzindra life, he became one of the key people in this entire ministry, and he became someone that we wanted to be around, because he renewed his mind at a level like no one I’ve ever met.