Preaching for Life Change
- Monday, May 05, 2008
Warren: There are 10 things that really form how I figure life can change. The first one is that all behavior is based on belief. If you ask why do I do what I do, it's because I believe something behind the action. If somebody gets a divorce, it is because they have a belief behind that which is causing them to get a divorce: "I think I'll be happier divorced than I will not," or whatever. If you have sex outside of marriage it's because you have a belief behind it.
The second thing, behind every sin is a lie of unbelieving. This has profound implications for preaching. When you sin, at that moment you think you are doing what is best for you. You think you are doing the right thing, but you have been deceived. When your kids do something dumb, at that moment they think what they are doing is smart, but it's dumb. The Bible tells us Satan deceives us.
The third thing: Change always starts in the mind. This principle is taught all the way through the New Testament. Romans 12:2, "be transformed by the renewing of your mind." The Bible teaches real clearly the way we think affects the way we feel, and the way we feel affects the way we act. Because change starts in the mind, and sin starts with a lie, and behavior starts with belief, number four: To help people change, you have to change their beliefs first. You don't work on their behavior; you work on their beliefs, because it always starts in their mind. That is why Jesus says you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
Number five, trying to change people's behavior without changing their beliefs is a waste of time. The illustration I use is: It's like a boat on auto pilot. I've got a boat; it is in a lake, on auto pilot, headed north. If I want it to head south, I want to do a 180 degree turn; I want to do a "repentance" on that boat. I have two options: I could physically grab the steering wheel of the boat and physically force it to turn around, but the whole time it is turning around, I am under tension because I am forcing it to go against its auto pilot. Pretty soon I get tired and I let go of the wheel (i.e., I go back to smoking; I go off of the diet; I stop doing whatever; I go back to my habitual ways of stress relief. So, the better way is to change the auto pilot. The way you change auto pilot is by changing the way they think. Now, that brings up repentance.
The sixth thing that I believe is that the biblical word for changing your mind is repentance, metanoia. When most people think of "repentance," they think of sandwich signs, turn or burn, or they think repentance means stopping all bad actions. That is not what repentance is. There is not a lexicon in the world that will tell you repentance means "stop your bad action." Repentance, metanoia, simply means changing your mind. We are in the mind-changing business; preaching is about mind changing. Society's phrase for repentance, by the way, is "paradigm shift." Repentance is the ultimate paradigm shift, where I go from darkness to light, from guilt to forgiveness, from no hope to hope, from no purpose to purpose, from living for myself to living for Christ. It's the ultimate paradigm shift, and repentance is changing your mind at the deepest level of beliefs and values.
Number seven is you don't change people's minds; God's Word does. So we bring people into contact with God's Word. I can't force people to change their mind. I like 1 Corinthians 2:13; in the New Living version it says, "We speak words given to us by the Spirit using the Spirit's word to explain spiritual truth." There is both a Word and a Spirit element in preaching, and often we leave out the spiritual element. A lot of preaching today has the Word element, but it doesn't have the Spirit element.
We talk about spiritual warfare. I don't think spiritual warfare is like demons. I think the Bible says spiritual warfare is tearing down mental strongholds. Our weapons have power — pulling down every argument, every pretension — that passage in 2 Corinthians 10. By the way, that's why you're exhausted after preaching. If you are trying to pull down strongholds, you're in a mental and spiritual battle that is going to leave you exhausted. After I do five services every weekend, I'm a puddle — there's nothing left!
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